Magnolia Grove: Galveston’s Lost Victorian Era Cemetery


An article I wrote about the history of Magnolia Grove Cemetery (established 1871) will appear in the September issue of Galveston Monthly Magazine. Now, lost this once elegant, Vithrasher-gravectorian Era cemetery was the most beautiful burial ground on the island.

Not all of the bodies were moved, but the grounds of the cemetery now lie beneath the runways of Scholes Airport and the back nine fairways of the Moody Gardens Golf Course.

My investigation led me to many of the usual resources for history in Galveston, such as the Galveston & Texas History Center (always wonderful), but led me on new research paths as well. No single source seemed to MagnoliaCemeteryJournalhave all of the pieces of information, and many whom I contacted had no knowledge of the lost cemetery at all.

There unfortunately simply wasn’t room to include all of the fascinating information that I found about the lost cemetery, so I will list some of the details here for those who are interested or researching their families.

Magnolia Grove was comprised of 100 acres, divided into 25 sections. They were identified as Sections A through X, and City Circle, otherwise known as Rest of Honor. This circle was reserved for the interment of people of distinguished merit or achievement. The first two burials in this section were the first and last presidents of Texas, David Burnet and Aaron Jones, who were moved from previous burial sites.

Sections 6 and 7 (also known as F & G), which were located on the waterfront, were consecrated by the Catholic Church and reserved for exclusive use of members of that faith.

A portion of Section 2 (B) was purchased by the Masonic lodges and used for burials of Masons and their families. The Tucker faMagnoliaCemeteryInvitationmily, headed by the president of the Magnolia Grove Cemetery Association, was also located in this section.

Many of the larger lots in the cemetery were purchased by wealthy families and organizations.

Less expensive public lots for white “clients” were located in Section 4, and for “colored” loved ones in Section 5 of the Eastern Division of Magnolia Grove.

The Spanish Benevolent mausoleum still stood after 1900 in Section D on lots 31 and 32, which was part of the southern half of lot 258. Although heavily damaged by weather and vandalized, the mausoleum still stood in the 1920s.

MagnoliaGroveBylawsGalveston’s Fireman’s Relief Association purchased a portion of Section B for their members in August 1878.

Plots in Section J were purchased by Joseph W. Rice and David Guthrie; Section M included family plots for Adriance and Trueheart; Section N for August Kleinecke; and Section P plots belonged to the Sealy, Ball and Hutchings families.

General Wigfall’s plot was in Section Q, and J.P. Davie purchased four lots in Section R.

Section S was home to the The French Benevolent Society lot, as well as the Nahor Biggs Yard and Grover families.

Adolph Flake chose his plot in Section T, but now rests in the Historic Broadway Cemetery District.

John Sidney Thrasher, who married the widow of Galveston’s founder Michel Menard, was buried in the City Circle in 1879.

Of the many illustrious citizens in Galveston who were interred in Magnolia, some remain on the grounds, some were moved to other cemeteries, and some were lost to weather events.

Among the well-known Masons interred at Magnolia Grove who remain there are Henry S. Pearce, First Master of Hope Lodge in another part of the state; Adolph Cycoski, a Civil War veteran and teacher of French in Galveston, also a prominent Mason; and Dr. Benjamin Ball, a prominent businessman who was buried with Masonic ceremonies Feb. 13, 1880.

French native Achilles Mingell; Captain John Price, who formerly owned part of this property, and a residence in the early days; and Isaac McGary, veteran of Texas Revolution,; Mexican American War: and the Battle of San Jacinto are just two of the illustrious people whose graves wer never relocated and are now lost.

6475360_130510553456David Burnet (pictured at left) , the first president of Texas, was moved from Magnolia Grove and now rests in the Sherman plot at Lakeview.

William Tennant Austin of early Texas revolutionary fame, was mo3753_1018045175ved from Magnolia to Lakeview Cemetery.

Anson Jones (pictured at right), the last president of Texas, was originally buried in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery, moved to Magnolia Grove Cemetery five miles away in 1871 as part of the opening ceremonies. His remains were moved to Glenwood after 1892.

After the article runs in Galveston Monthly, I will share more information about this fascinating, and sad, loss of history.


15 thoughts on “Magnolia Grove: Galveston’s Lost Victorian Era Cemetery

  1. Tom Green says:

    I started a Memorial ceremony on October 22, 2013, because this was the anniversary of his last day at President of the Republic of Texas. I serve at the Chairman of the Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT) Speakers Bureau, and our objective is to promote our history. We try to involve school children in all our events, and this year the David G. Burnet School will join us for the ceremony on Thursday, October 20, 2016 (October 22, 2016 is on Saturday this year) and we hope you will join us.

    • admin says:

      This sounds wonderful. Can you please provide a few more details, such as time and location, and I will do my best to add it to my calendar! Thank you for the invitation.

    • admin says:

      There is no complete list, unfortunately. The original records were destroyed. I am in the process of compiling some of the names from a variety of sources. Is there a name in particular you are researching?

  2. Jerry Jackson says:

    I’m looking for Thomas Payne Matthews – Born about 1811, died 1/20/1886
    Sarah Ann Wiggins – Born 3/26/1827, died 1/20/1886

    Any help is appreciated


  3. John Edward Stark says:

    According to my research on my blog – which might well be wrong, considering the mess that are the Galveston cemetery records – Isaac McGary’s grave was moved from Magnolia to the Soldier’s Rest section of Oleander Cemetery in the Cemetery district in the late 1870s. Ironically, the 1900 hurricane wiped it out as well.

    Excellent blog, by the way. I am going to link it to mine, if that is alright with you.

    • admin says:

      Yes, John. A few graves were moved but many were not, unfortunately. It’s hard to understand why locals would have allowed this to happen, isn’t it?
      Thanks for the kind words, I would be happy to be linked to your blog.

    • admin says:

      Some are from the GTHC at Rosenberg, but I used a variety of different resources. Good luck with your search!

  4. Denise Brennan says:

    I’m wondering if you have the name Rev. Albert J. Burnett listed for this cemetery. He died August 3, 1900 of pneumonia in Galveston, according to his obit. He had family in Dickinson, ND and I’m doing genealogy research to find his grave. My great uncle married Albert’s daughter Mary Constance. In his obit it says: “He was laid to rest by the Masons in their own lodge ground in sight of the waters of the Gulf.” If you have any other ideas where the cemetery referred to might be, I’d love to know. Thanks in advance!

    • admin says:

      Hi, Denise! I found a listing of his passing on August 3 due to enteritis, but no mention of where he was buried. To have been interred in Magnolia Grove he would have been quite wealthy. You mention that he was buried in Masonic lodge ground, which would now be in the Historic Galveston Cemetery District, composed of 7 cemeteries all together. There doesn’t seen to be an existing marker for him, which is not unusual. His marker may not have been created by the time the 1900 Storm struck, which might have delayed it indefinitely. If you know which church he was associated with, I would contact them next because a surprising number of church records have survived.

    • admin says:

      Although I don’t see him listed anywhere, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t buried where stated. He passed away just one month before the tragic 1900 Storm, so possibly did not have a monument in place by then. After the hurricane people’s focus was obviously elsewhere, so it may have been that he ended up not receiving one. If he was indeed buried in the Masonic lodge ground, that would most likely have been the Harmony Lodge plot that is now within the boundaries of Trinity Episcopal Cemetery. I walked that section and didn’t see any sign of his marker.

  5. Eddie Best says:

    Kathleen, I have dug and dug looking for my Greatx3 Grandfather. Dr. George W Peete. Some documents indicate his body was never found after the 1875 storm. He and his grandson , Willie Blunt, were swept from the Fort Poi t Quarantine Station during the storm. His body was found several days later and his funeral and interment were on or around September 24th,1875 at Magnolia Grove. I found most of this info in the September 24th Galveston News. Just wondering if you had come across his name anywhere. Trying to put old pieces of the puzzle together.

    • admin says:

      Eddie, I don’t have anything in my notes, but will certainly keep him in mind as I research in the future. Thanks for sharing his story.

  6. Ann says:

    I finally solved the mystery of my 3rd Great Grandfather Col. Charles L. Bolton’s (1798-1874) whereabouts. Apparently he was one of the folks that were relocated from Magnolia Grove. I had read in the old newspaper that Magnolia was his original resting place. He ended up in Hearne and is buried next to his second wife Mary Stroud, who proceeded him in death. Now I would like to locate his first wife (My 3rd Great Grandmother) Mary “Polly” Nolan Bolton 1802-1853. I think Col. Bolton married Mary Stroud the same year his first wife died. I believe that had come to Galveston from Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia. He was a wealthy man, so Magnolia Grove makes sense. I have always wondered if the first Mary Bolton was buried there. And if so, what became of her.

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