Two Brothers and Texas Rangers

As I've written about before, I like to visit cemeteries. I love the spirituality of cemeteries where I'm reminded of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 7.2
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
The other day I was riding my bike to work from Downtown Abilene rather than from my house. This route led me by a different part of the Abilene Municipal Cemetery. I pass this cemetery everyday on the way to work but the cemetery is bisected by North 10th street. Daily I pedal by the part of the cemetery that is north of 10th. But this day I was pedaling by the part of the cemetery which is south of 10th.

The part of the Abilene Municipal Cemetery which is south of North 10th is, I believe, the oldest cemetery in Abilene. The town was settled in 1881 and that's the date of the oldest burial in the cemetery. Many of the city founders are buried here.

I turned my bike into the cemetery and was looking around. And as I looked I came across a unique arrangement. Two matching obelisks with two matching crosses with a small iron fence in front. It's pictured above.

I got off the bike and approached. Looking at the crosses this is what I saw:

Buried here were two Texas Rangers.

I examined the obelisk on the left and read this:

In fond remembrance of our darling brother
Aged 28 years
Jan. 8, 1884

On the side of Walter's obelisk were the words of this short poem:
Dear Walter, sweet brother
How we miss thee now
save God can tell.
Walter was, I believe, a younger brother who was buried and mourned by his older brother.

A brother who was also a Texas Ranger.

Why do I think that? Well, when I turned to look at the obelisk on the right I read this inscription:

In loving memory of my precious husband 
Aged 32 years 
Mar. 14, 1884 

Walter Collins and Joel Collins. Two brothers. Two Texas Rangers. Buried side by side. In January of 1884 it looks like Joel buried his younger brother Walter. And then, three months later, another tragedy struck the Collins family with the death of Joel. Joel left behind a family. A wife and children.

On the side of Joel's obelisk I read this poem:
Husband dear take thy rest,
The summer flowers will bloom.
While you my dearest and my best,
Doth wither in the tomb.
Fast my tears are falling,
O'er thy memory sweet,
While I catch the echo,
Of thy passing feet.
But thro' summer starlight,
And thro' wintry rain,
Never oh, my babies,
Will he come again.

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7 thoughts on “Two Brothers and Texas Rangers”

  1. When I was in college I did some freelance work for a local cemetery in Central PA, investigating the older graves, finding out who people were and what their stories were. It was so fascinating

  2. Thanks, Richard. I too have a long history of loafing and lying in the peace of "marble orchards" (as my father called them). (In fact, there is one right across the street from my house, attached to the local Welsh chapel). You can tell a lot, not only about the dead, but also about the society and culture in which they lived, from tombstone theology. It deserves more attention than it gets.

  3. When I was a teenager in the sixtes, my grandparents who lived in Tennessee, told me of an abandoned cemetery close to their home. They mentioned a plot with eight graves, one family, parents and children, all buried around the years nineteen eighteen or nineteen. Their best guess was they all died from the nineteen eighteen flu epidemic. I never saw the cemetery, but I have often thought of my grandparents conversation about it. I am not sure who died first, the parents or the children; but in knowing the area I can imagine a poor rural family, not affording any medical treatment, if any was available, watching one another pass from this life. I'm glad my grandparents passed their memory to me. And I have passed their memory to my children. I will ask them to do the same.

  4. Thank you for sharing as ever Richard. As a fellow cemetery aficionado (so to speak), I can't but recommend you perhaps stop into one of London's 'Magnificent Seven' on your UK trip next year.
    Highgate Cemetery is really unparalleled for its Victorian Gothic Grandeur, but I have a particular soft spot for Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It was used for the nameless C19th poor of many of London's East End until being closed for burials in the sixties. Saved from clearance it is now is a tumbledown wilderness park teeming with deciduous beauty and sad stories.

  5. I know what you mean about cemeteries and have had similar moments where there's both grief and a sense of some transcendence too.

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