for the occasional thunder-like sound of a jet taking off or landing
at Austin’s Bergstrom International
Airport, the small cemetery could be out in the middle of nowhere.
But while the family-owned burial ground appears isolated – the only
way in is a narrow, one-lane road bordered with barbed wire fences
– the Hornsby Bend Cemetery is entrapped by the modern urban
sprawl of Travis County.
It’s still out in the country in comparison with other parts of metropolitan
Austin, but less and less
so every year.
The oldest cemetery in the county, laid out so long ago its size is
recorded in land records by the antiquated Mexican measurement of
varas (200 by 300), the grave yard is the final resting place for
many members of one Texas’ pioneer families, the Hornsbys. Among the
graves are those of 15 former Texas Rangers. The cemetery also has
monuments honoring four other rangers who while not buried there are
part of the Hornsby clan.
In a way, all the graves trace to Reuben Hornsby Sr. and his wife
Sarah Morrison Hornsby, who on Oct. 16, 1832 received the first Mexican
land grant approved for Travis
County. (Texas did not have counties back then, but eventually
the area became part of Bastrop County, and later Travis.)
Originally from Mississippi, the couple came to Texas
in 1830. They lived briefly at Matagorda
and then in Bastrop, with
Hornsby helping empresario Stephen F. Austin survey the land in the
upper portion of his colony. That’s when Hornsby first saw a piece
of land along the Colorado River he reckoned would suit him “just
In July 1832, the Hornsby family settled in a bend of the river nine
miles downstream from future Austin.
Three months later they received a grant of a league and a labor of
land, totaling 4,604.1 acres. While the area became known as Hornsby’s
Bend, the well-fortified Hornsby cabin was called Hornsby Station.
The elder Hornsby not only served as a ranger and later as a volunteer
soldier in the Texas Revolution, he planted the first corn ever sown
in Travis County, sat on the county’s first jury, helped lay out the
county’s earliest roads, assisted in the surveying of Austin
when it became capital of the Texas republic in 1839 and fathered
the first Anglo child born in the county.
graves in the cemetery include:
1. The family patriarch, Reuben Hornsby Sr.
2. Malcolm McLaurin Hornsby
3. William Watts Hornsby
4. Reuben Hornsby, Jr.
5. Josephus Hornsby
6. Emory Hornsby
7. Malcolm Morrison Hornsby
8. Daniel Hornsby
9. Tom Platt
10. Jacob “Jake” Platt
11. Samuel Malcolm Platt
12. Walter Mikle Robertson
not a part of the Hornsby family also are buried there:
13. Howell Hargett
14. John Williams
15. William Atkinson
The Hornsby rangers not buried in the cemetery, but with commemorative
markers in the cemetery, include:
16. John William Hornsby (Oakwood Cemetery, Austin)
17. Moses Smith Hornsby (killed in action in Williamson County and
buried at the scene)
18. Radcliff Platt, Jr. (Oakwood Cemetery, Austin)
19. John Radcliff Platt (Gila, AZ)
In ceremonies on October 25, the Former Texas Ranger Association
placed sturdy metal Ranger markers (crosses bearing a symbolic Ranger
badge) on the 19 graves or monuments.
“When you put on the Ranger badge, you remember those who came before
you,” FTRA President Joe Davis said at the dedication. “And when
somebody dies, after the last song is sung and prayer is said, the
only thing left you can do for them is keep their memory alive.”
With its 15 rangers, the Hornsby Bend Cemetery has the third most
ranger burials of any cemetery in Texas. The largest number of ranger
graves is in the Center Point Cemetery in Kerr
County. Thirty-two men who served as rangers lie in that cemetery.
in second is the Texas
State Cemetery in Austin,
which has 19 ranger graves.
So far, the FTRA has placed ranger crosses on more than 400 graves.
Most of the markers are on graves in Texas, but some have been put
up in other states.
How many men have been in the rangers? No one has ever done a precise
count, but in 1982, genealogist Frances Ingmire compiled the names
of more than 10,000 men who served from the 1820s to 1900. Another
1,500 to 2,000 men (and now women) have worn Ranger badges in the
20th and 21st centuries, including 134 current rangers.
The Hornsby family-maintained Web site www.hornsbybend.com features
an excerpt from a 1921 Dallas Morning News article about the Hornsby
Bend written by Edward Dealey, son of the newspaper’s founder:
"There is a peculiar fitness that here in a lonely spot among the
mesquite trees, within calling distance of the spot where once stood
the first house in Travis
county, are buried together all the dead members of the Hornsby
family. In their lives, amid these very scenes, they did much to
make Texas history and pave the way for those who followed in the
more secure paths of civilization. It is meant that they should
lie here in perpetuity, the little forest of their headstone serving
as a lasting memorial, not only to their own bones, but to the vivid
scenes and stirring times in which they took so large a part."
Hard to come up with a better joint epitaph for a cemetery than
© Mike Cox
October 30, 2008 column
See Texas Cemeteries
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