Such a peaceful, magical place. An appealing invitation to spend an eternity there. Hidden from cars traveling the Old San Antonio Road. Nestled in a thick cedar patch providing restful shade. Protected by a wall of stones quarried on the ranch and topped by jagged honeycomb rock.
It was a place I wanted to rest.
Before my father-in-law broke the news to me: the original Howard Cemetery deed restricted any increase in population in their cemetery to direct descendants and their spouses. I was crushed they would not accept the company of even their cousin Spencers. I considered leaving instructions for my ashes surreptitiously to be scattered among the graves.
Why would I want to end up somewhere uninvited? A spot so purposefully restricted to keep some late-arrival import, such as a Brennan, out?
After all, those who reside there are not mere Howards. They are Howard Howards – really Howardly – originally from King’s Stanley, Gloucestershire, England.
For the answer, refer to paragraph one.
But that temptation is gone.
After visiting the Howard Cemetery yesterday – no easy task – I particularly was struck by an article on the Herff Farm in today’s Rivard Report. The efforts of the Cibolo Nature Center to preserve the Herff farmhouse amidst Boerne’s explosive growth are so needed. The Herffs and the Howards were neighbors.
There will be no explosive growth in the Howard Cemetery because there are no direct descendants remaining anywhere nearby. When “Aunt Minnie,” Minnie Knox Spencer, born in 1883 in Galveston and only eligible by her marriage to Fitz-Alan Forester Howard (1878-1956), became a permanent resident of the cemetery in 1972, she left no direct descendants. I just missed getting to know her, much to my loss. Despite coming out of the Hutchings of Galveston and marrying into the Howard-Howards, Aunt Minnie evidently was down to earth. She could care less about money; she cared more for her goats.
The 280 acres of the Howard Ranch were divided among grand nieces, nephews and their children – meaning tracts as small as seven acres a piece, for which all were grateful. But that fragmentation eventually led to the demise of a bucolic tract of land.
And the cemetery, although restful within its walls, is now an isolated oasis in a sea of concrete. Swallowed by Boerne’s growth. By people who, like many of us, have more stuff than they need. People who have so much stuff, they rent storage. And people with major recreational vehicles in need of a place to rest.
So now they rest next to the cemetery. The cemetery encircled by concrete and yellow tape. Like crime tape confessing to the concrete sins.
While the current owner was required to keep the cemetery, keeping the original main house – Ten Oak Hill Cottage – of John Howard Howard (1834-1894) was certainly not mandatory. But the owner of the Ten Oaks Storage Unit in Boerne did. Mercifully. There amidst the rows of metal sheds, it stands. Out of place, yet preserved.
A sliver of history that makes one mindful of the importance of the larger slice saved by the Cibolo Nature Center.