The Lamar Cemetery lies in an acre of wooded land in Lamar Community, ten miles north of Rockport, Texas, near Goose Island State Park.
In 1838, James W. Byrne and associates bought a league of land on Lookout Point and laid out the townsite of Lamar, named for Mirabeau B. Lamar, then president of the Republic of Texas.
Byrne’s family of County Wicklow, Ireland had fled British persecution, and the sons were educated at the University of Belgium. After immigrating to America, Byrne fought the British in the war of 1812.
Byrne married Harriet Odin, a relative of the Rt. Reverend Jean-Marie Odin, the first Catholic Bishop of Texas. After prosperous careers in Ohio and New Orleans, Byrne came to Refugio. He fought in the Texas Revolution, surviving the Battle of Goliad. He served as Senator in the 5th, 6th and 7th Congresses of the Republic.
With the founding of Lamar, an area was set aside for a cemetery. The oldest grave marker is that of Patrick O’Connor (1822-1854), a direct descendent of Roderick O’Connor, the last king of Ireland. O’Connor was the New Orleans bookkeeper of James Byrne and was married to his niece, Jane Gregory. O’Connor was sent west for his health, but died only hours after arriving in Lamar. Jane came to Lamar with her infant son and in 1855 bought land on Aransas Bay where she established her school. Families moved to Lamar so their children could attend Mrs. O’ Connor’s famous school.
Harriet Odin Byrne died in Lamar in 1858; Captain Byrne died in Lamar in 1862. He left his interests in Lamar to his granddaughter, Anna Willie Byrne Vineyard. Mrs. Vineyard writes that James Byrne had her burn ’12 barrels of personal papers to keep then from the hands of Union soldiers. It is logical that James and Harriet are buried in Lamar, but it cannot be proven.
The earliest known soldier buried in Lamar is John Fagan (1820-1860). In the Texas Revolution, he fought at the battles of Lipantitlan and Goliad. He and his sixteen-year-old daughter Mary both died of pneumonia in May of 1860.
In the mid 1800’s schooners sailed between Lamar and points east. Four known sea captains are buried in Lamar: Captain James B. Wells, Sr. (1811-1880); Murdock McRae (1812-1889); Peter Johnson (1832-1895) and Philip C. Paul (1809-1860); as well as many descendants of Captain Theodore Johnson.
In 1856-1861, Samuel Colt, the gunmaker, acquired from Byrne an approximate ½ interest in the Lamar townsite. He died in 1862 without paying Byrne. His heirs issued a quit claim deed in 1870. Although the myth lingers that Colt is buried in Lamar, he actually lies beneath an imposing 20-foot statue in Hartford, Connecticut.
John Jacob Thomas (1800-1884) came from Switzerland in 1844. Tradition says he walked from Galveston, his family following in a sailboat. It was at his ranch on Salt Creek that his daughters Eve and Sarah were kidnapped by the Comanches. Eve was stabbed several times and left for dead but had merely fainted. She did in a tree until found by a search party. Sarah was held captive for two months, then traded for an Indian boy and some blankets.
At least nine members of the Wells family are buried in Lamar, three children within days of each other in a "fever epidemic". Jim Wells County was named for James, Jr. who became a prominent judge in South Texas.
When Henry L. Kroeger (1820-1908) came to Lamar, he worked for the McRaes and lived in a house made of hides in their yard. He married Eve Thomas (1833-1908), and they operated a hotel in Lamar until bout 1880 when they moved to their ranch on Salt Creek. Sarah Thomas married Anton Strauch (1823-1875), who grew the first tobacco ever gown in this area. He dried, rolled and processed his own tobacco and made cigars.
Leonard Roberts (1860-1912) served under Captain John Mercer at the Aransas Life Savings Station until 1882. He was the last person buried in the Lamar Cemetery until the 1940’s. When the railroad passed it by and in 1915 the post office closed, Lamar dwindled and nearly vanished. The cemetery, covered with vines and brambles, had become the "Lost Lamar Cemetery", and only the old timers knew its exact location. In 1914 the land surrounding and including the cemetery was apportioned to Kate Edwards in a famous lawsuit involving most of the early families of Lamar.
When, after World War II, the Kroeger family wished to bury John Henry, Jr. (who had died in a plane crash in Africa in 1944) in the Lamar Cemetery, few remembered where it was. A quit claim deed was acquired from the Edwards Estate, and Mae Delisle Kroeger, John Henry Jr.’s sister, organized a cemetery association and raised money to have the cemetery cleared and restored.
In 1968, the Lamar Woman’s Club sponsored the reorganization of the Lamar Cemetery Association, and a historical marker was obtained and dedicated on February 14, 1982. Members of the pioneer families attended from all over Texas.
The oldest structure in Aransas County, Stella Maris-Star of the Sea-was moved to its location across from the cemetery in May 1986. (It was previously located on House Schoenstatt property overlooking Aransas Bay.) James Byrne gave the land for the chapel in 1854; the family of Empresario James Power furnished the shell dobey; it was designed by the French carpenter John D’Abadie; and everyone pitched in, including slave Moses Ballou.
The history of the Lamar Cemetery, including biographies of each person buried here, has been compiled and can be seen, upon request, at the Aransas County Library.
The Lamar Cemetery Association is a non-profit organization and relies on volunteer workers, donations and memorials to meet its obligations.
Members of the community have worked in the cemetery for many years, mowing, watering, weeding and planting. A Maintenance Committee was formed in 1986 to care for the grounds. The grass is not mowed during the spring months when the wildflowers are in bloom.
DONATIONS AND MEMORIALS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED.
Please mail to:
LAMAR CEMETERY ASSOCIATION
222 HAGY DRIVE
ROCKPORT, TX 78382