Community volunteers to help save part of Bexar County history by restoring forgotten cemetery

Community looks to restore, save a part of Bexar County history in forgotten cemetery
Community looks to restore, save a part of Bexar County history in forgotten cemetery

CONVERSE, Texas – Nearly 100 volunteers will be helping to spruce up a family cemetery in Converse that holds a part of the area’s history.

The Panteon de Guadalupe Cemetery, once known as the segregated Mexican Cemetery, has been falling to ruin in recent years as its members are older and unable to keep up with the maintenance.

Conception “Joanie” Samudio says many of her relatives -- including her father, uncles and aunts -- are buried in the cemetery along Upper Seguin Road, where it meets FM 1516.

“Our members that we do have are very old members already. They’re not -- they don’t make the meetings anymore,” Samudio said.

The upkeep was once a men’s only club, but she says, recently, it’s primarily women who have taken up the task or can physically do some of the upkeep.

She says about 200 children were buried on one side of the cemetery, but there are only about 60 stone markers.

It was that sight that caught the attention of Converse Fire Chief Luis Valdez.

“We think that this land here has just settled over the years. And you can see that the stones are toppled over and kind of moved and broken, and it just didn’t look right,” he said.

With the help of UTSA archeologists, Valdez hopes to find out if there are headstones underground.

Bexar County Historical Commission Chair of Cemetery Committee Scott Baird says he’s helping find the history to designate the plot as a historical site to protect it from any development in the future.

“First of all, that it was moved. The bodies were moved off of Randolph property and because Randolph wanted the cemetery. So that itself makes this historical. I’ve never heard of that being done before,” Baird said.

World War I and World War II veterans are buried there, and it was a segregated cemetery. He says that also adds to the history of the area.

Valdez is encouraging the descendants of those buried at the cemetery to be a part of the clean-up and future upkeep.

“Cemeteries are really a museum. You know, it’s really a history of the community and tells us who was here first and the families you know, the farmers or the workers and, you know, who really built the community,” Valdez said.

The clean-up is from 7 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, at Upper Seguin Road and FM 1516. Participants should bring gloves and water. The group will also spruce up a German cemetery -- Hermann Sons Cemetery -- across the street.

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Black cemeteries are reflection of deep segregation history


About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.