Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let's Protect Our Cemeteries

Historic cemeteries are among our most valuable cultural resources. they are also, unfortunately, vulnerable to loss and destruction. They are increasingly threatened by development, natural deterioration, neglect, vandalism and even misguided preservation efforts. Those cemeteries that are highly endangered could potentially be lost forever, along with the history they represent.

Texas state law states that as long as there is a clear indication that a grave or graves exist, the land on which they lie is considered a cemetery. Property owners may not construct improvements on the property in a manner that would disturb the cemetery. Desecration of a cemetery is "a state jail felony if the damage or destruction is inflicted on a place of worship or human burial."

The Texas Historical Commission (THC) is the state agency for historic preservation, responsible for identifying, protecting and interpreting our historic resources. The THC works with interested citizens, County Historical Commissions and heritage groups to preserve our historic resources, including cemeteries.

The Historic designation program has been around since 1998 and provides an additional layer of protection by requiring site information to be included in county deed records. Having the designation does not restrict the use of the private land surrounding the cemetery, nor does it interfere with a cemetery association's ability to make changes to the cemetery.

Your County Historical Commission (CHC) is the first step in applying for this designation. We are available to assist you with researching the history and gathering the necessary documentation to be submitted to the THC.

If you know of a cemetery in Atascosa County that is neglected or endangered please contact Norman Porter, Sr. at 830 569-2680, Roger or Mary Jane Cumpian at 830 466-5522, or Barbara Westbrook at 830 769-4333, or for more information on the Historic Designation process visit the THC website at

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