The present Old Bayview Cemetery in Corpus Christi, Texas, comprises approximately three and a half acres bounded by West Broadway St., Waco St., Ramirez St., and the I-37 access road. It is owned and managed by the City of Corpus Christi. The cemetery has been designated a Historic Cultural Landmark by the City of Corpus Christi, a Historic Texas Cemetery and a State Archeological Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission. The documentation of the cemetery has been a project of members of the Nueces County Historical Commission using standards provided by the THC’s Historic Cemetery Preservation program. The web site was established by the Corpus Christi Public Libraries to provide additional documentation and information about those interred there and their roles in the early development of the city. The web site has over 1.500 pages of primary source material including photos, obituaries, documents, newspaper articles, and journals. The effort of volunteers, principally Rosa Gonzales, Geraldine McGloin and Msgr. Michael A, Howell, and the library has produced a significant site, making local history easily accessible to the general public.
Old Bayview was laid out by the U. S. Army Engineers during the encampment of Brig. General Zachary Taylor just prior to the American War with Mexico. Col. H. L. Kinney provided the land, and Lt. Col. Ethan Allan Hitchcock chose the location. Although soldiers who died of disease or natural causes were interred in the cemetery, the best known burial of that period was of at least seven soldiers who died as a result of the explosion of the steamship Dayton in September, 1845.
Subsequent to 1846, the cemetery became a community burial ground, but any burial records prior to 1896 have been lost. The witness to those burials are found in the gravestones of the site and the obituaries from extant newspapers. The Bayview Cemetery Association kept records of burials in both the Old and New Bayview Cemeteries between 1896 to 1913. For many years it has been known that the records were incomplete but recent research has uncovered numerous individuals who most probably are buried in the cemetery. That information will be added to the Ward and Noel database to help complete the record.
With the establishment of Rose Hill, a privately owned cemetery with perpetual care, many bodies and tombstones were transferred to that new cemetery between 1914 and 1916. Others were transferred to New Bayview. Still others were transferred out of town to be buried with relatives who died in the 1900s.
EARLY SETTLERS REFLECT DIVERSITY
Nevertheless, the Old Bayview Cemetery contains the remains of many early settlers of Corpus Christi and mirrors the rich diversity of the population, with the exception of Catholics, primarily buried in Holy Cross Cemetery which was established in 1866, and the Jewish citizens, primarily buried in Hebrew Rest Cemetery which was established in 1875. Individuals interred in the cemetery came from at least 14 different countries and 26 different states of America. They spoke at least five different languages and served in the development of the agricultural, commercial, educational, social, and religious life of the community. Many of those in Bayview served the community as mayors, postmasters, alderman, sheriffs, and soldiers. There are veterans of six wars there. Many are victims of yellow fever and other epidemics, tropical storms, and bandit raids. Some are murder victims, other died at their own hands because of the stresses of those days. Some were young children taken by diphtheria and small pox; others are elders who yielded to the burden of years.
There are a large number of African Americans interred in the cemetery. A number of these are former slaves now buried within a short distance from former slave owners. The earliest know burials are from 1845, and the latest burial is believed to be from the 1980s.
Though much has been lost, stolen or destroyed, the site still contains a number of interesting tombstones and artifacts. There are fine examples of Victorian grave adornment: marble and granite tombstones and obelisks, iron fences, and concrete curbing popular in the 1870’s. Several monuments are by noted sculptor, Frank Tiech.
In 2002 the City of Corpus Christi appropriated funds for the development of a master plan for the restoration and preservation of the cemetery. It is hoped that with the renewed interest in Old Bayview it will be fully restored and then maintained not only as a cemetery for our dead but also as special type of living history book which tells a part of the story of Corpus Christi and how it came to be.
Contributed by Geraldine D. McGloin and Msgr. Michael A. Howell