Back in June
of 1998, I came across a story about a mass grave that was discovered
in Gonzales, Texas,
in 1905. Since then, because I was so fascinated with the story,
I have written several more columns
about that haunting discovery. The idea keeps gnawing at me
that, maybe somewhere, there may be ancestors of the folks in the
grave who are searching for the history of their lost relatives.
And just so the rest of us won't forget, what follows is a revised
version of the first article I wrote about the mysterious tomb.
wonder what would happen if an old grave containing numerous human
skeletons was discovered in present day Gonzales,
Texas. Don't you know that the town would be descended upon,
promptly, by the news media? They would all be here: CNN, TNT, CBS,
NBC, ABC, etc. But it seems apparent that 113 years ago, old mass
graves didn't receive that much attention.
In April of 1905, human remains were found in Gonzales
while excavation work was underway at a site on St. Michael Street.
According to The
Gonzales Inquirer, workmen uncovered the bones while working
on the foundation of the T.F. Harwood brick warehouse. This structure
was to be built on land known as the old A. Fischer homestead.
One of the amazing things about this discovery was just how casually
it was treated by the local paper. It wasn't even considered important
enough for the front page. Instead, the article was a mere one column
by about ten inches and was buried on the inside of the paper!
The reporter who wrote the article didn't seem the least bit interested
in following up the story by seeking new information; in fact, the
writer closed by saying, "The find is a very interesting one from
an historic standpoint, for it gives evidence of events in human
history of which the present generation is in total ignorance."
Were finding old graves a common thing in Gonzales
back then? I sure wouldn't think so. It makes me wonder if folks
here had experienced so much in the way of violence and hardship
in their lives that a few old bones just didn't impress them. We
have to remember that many of the people living there in 1905 had
experienced the most devastating conflict in American history; the
Gonzales Inquirer did do a good job of describing the grave
site. It reported that, "… protruding from either side of the excavation
could be seen pieces of ribs, skulls, thigh bones, etc." The report
also included information that the grave was about two feet wide
and ran north and south. It was about 30 feet long and people at
the scene estimated that there were approximately nineteen skeletons.
Another interesting observation was that the remains were only two
to three feet under the ground.
There is no way for us to know just how old this discovery was in
1905. Reports from the newspaper described the bones as being in
advanced stages of decay. Also, there wasn't any precise order in
the way the bodies were buried. According to the Inquirer:
"In one place were noticed two skulls lying close together, the
remains extending in opposite directions, while above both were
seen the remains of others."
The information depicting the grave as being more like a trench
- makes me wonder if it was the site of an execution. The Inquirer
reporter made the observation that the burial seemed to have been
done in haste. Again, the reporter came to this conclusion because
of the lack of any order to the way the bodies were situated in
The folks at the Inquirer in 1905 had different theories
as to who might have been in the grave. Some thought the remains
were of Indian braves who died in battle. Others believed it to
be the bones of Mexican or French soldiers - their death being caused
by some hostile tribe of Native Americans.
about this discovery seems very strange to me. Why weren't there
any other artifacts found? Were these poor souls stripped of their
clothing before they were thrown into the grave? I can understand
them having their weapons taken away but there should have been
some personal items.
I'm no archaeologist, but wouldn't a metal belt buckle or button
last as long as bones? If other artifacts were found, I can't believe
that any competent reporter would have disregarded that kind of
information. Also, nothing was said about what happened to the remains
after they were discovered. Were they re-buried or simply just thrown
From reading the article, I got the impression that the workmen
only investigated the area where the foundation was to be built.
That location was just a narrow trench and bones were sticking out
from both sides of the excavation. It's very possible that this
was a much larger grave and could very well have contained more
Here is something else to consider - the remains were found just
two to three feet below the surface of the ground. One good metal
detector (if there is any metal) shouldn't have any problems finding
There is another little twist to this story. It seems one of the
skulls (the only one completely intact) was presented to the Inquirer.
The newspaper reported that, "… it is now on exhibition in the office,
where it has been viewed by a number of people. The skull is rather
small, with retreating forehead, and is of unusual thickness. The
teeth are in a fair state of preservation."
What happened to the skull? We know it was on display at the Inquirer
office. So, where is it now? With the technology available today,
DNA and all - I'll bet if we had that skull - the mystery could
Think about it; the historic old town of Gonzales
could be sitting on the remains of yet another important piece of
Montgomery March 3 2018 Column