by Bob Bowman
The Wrong Grave
|Among the towering
monuments in the Texas
State Cemetery -- the final resting place for Stephen F. Austin
and other state titans -- lies the grave of John Alexander Greer
Augustine, a Republic of Texas senator, a lieutenant governor,
and a one-time candidate for governor. But in East
Texas, where Greer spent his life, there is the lingering question
if his bones really lie beneath his Austin tombstone.
Greer died in 1855 and was buried in Greer Cemetery, a small graveyard
in the Ironosa community near San
But in 1929 when the Texas Centennial Commission decided to honor
many of the Texas heroes of the last century by reburying them in
the state cemetery, Greer's remains were among those designated.
Centennial Commission representatives traveled all over the U.S. to
locate the graves of Texas heroes, exhumed their remains, and transported
them to Austin for
Augustine, Greer's heirs, including grandson-in-law and author
Harry Nobles, tells the story of how Greer¹s grave came to be filled
In 1929, Avery Culpepper, a representative of the Centennial Commission,
came to San
Augustine to speak with Jack Greer about removing his grandfather's
brother, John Alexander Greer. Culpepper wanted Jack Greer to help
him locate the old pioneer's grave.
Greer, however, refused, telling Culpepper he felt his ancestor's
remains should remain in San Augustine County.
A month or so later, Greer received a letter from Culpepper advising
him the Commission had located Greer's grave in Greer Cemetery and
would arrive soon in San
Augustine to remove his remains. The Commission, Culpepper advised,
was within its legal rights to exhume John Greer¹s body since he was
a public official.
On Friday, September 13, 1929, two men arrived at Jack Greer's home,
introduced themselves, and asked Greer to lead them to the family
cemetery. Greer was cool, but cooperative.
After bouncing along the red-dirt roads northwest of San
Augustine, Greer's car and the one carrying the Commission bureaucrats
arrived at Greer Cemetery.
The Austin men told Greer they had been advised that John Greer was
buried in one of two graves in the graveyard, but they weren't sure
which. They asked Greer to identify the correct one.
Greer retrieved a wagon axle rod and a hammer from his car, walked
over to one of the two graves, and hammered the rod into the ground
of one. "This is the one you¹re looking for," he said curtly.
The Commission representatives left San
Augustine, but returned with an undertaker on December 8, 1929,
to remove the remains. The bones were reburied in Austin
in time for the 1936 centennial celebration.
Shortly thereafter, Corrie Greer questioned her husband's decision.
She mentioned that all of the Greers had loved the serenity of the
Ironosa area with its red hills, deep sand, giant pines, maples, and
white oaks. "I hated to see John Alexander leave here,"
"Don't worry about it, Corrie," said Jack. "John Alexander
didn't go anywhere."
"What do you mean, Jack?" asked Corrie.
"You remember those fellahs who came here on Friday the 13th?
They had some bad luck that day. The wrong grave got identified."
As it turned out, Jack Greer had driven his axle rod into the grave
of a well-known reprobate in San Augustine County, who just happened
to be resting by his ancestor.
In an Austin cemetery filled with lawyers and politicians, maybe it
is just as well.