Monday, November 5, 2007

Brite Cemetery Gets Historical Marker

More than 200 people attended the dedication of Brite Cemetery near the Verdi community on Saturday, October 20. Some traveled from as far away as Mexico City.

Those present came to honor the memory of those brave early settlers who ventured into Atascosa County just a few years after the Battle of the Alamo.

The Atascosa County Historical Commission joined with the Brite Cemetery Association for the momentous occasion.

Commission chairman Norman Porter welcomed the crowd and Pastor Ray Bean, Pleasanton Church of Christ, gave the invocation. the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tabitha Lee Sang, great granddaughter of the pioneer Byrd family and the Pledge to the Texas Flag was led by Haley Booth, granddaughter of the early Fuller family. Joe Wayne Vickers, descendant of Thomas R.Brite, upon whose land the first burials occurred, sang the Texas anthem.

Honored guest Sgt. Ray Martinez, a former Texas Ranger and hero of the UT tower sniper incident, spoke about the importance and activities of the Former Texas Ranger Association. As the ceremony began two former rangers buried in the cemetery-Robert Elijah Neill (1827-1878) and Thomas Ransdele Brite (1824-1859)- were remembered by their descendants.
Marcy Williams Porter, descendant of Robert E.Neill, told the story about Robert having his arm crushed at the age of 12, served as a private in Captain Highsmith's Company of the 1st Regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers. He came to what is now Atascosa County in 1853 and served in the Texas Rangers at least two more times following the Mexican War.

In 1855 Neill served with the Mounted Rangers for the protection of the western frontier. In 1859 he participated in defeating the Mexican bandit, Cortina, and later fought in the Battle of La Bolsa Bend. As a 1st Lt., Neill served in the Civil War as part of the Atascosa County Mounted Minute Men, Texas State Troops.

Iris Brite Porter, granddaughter of Ranger Thomas R. Brite, told about him moving to what is now Atascosa county in 1854. At the age of 18, Brite served as a mounted volunteer in the Republic of Texas Volunteer Army. Other service periods included the Woll Campaign with Texas Volunteers pursuing Mexican General Woll to the Mexican border. After Texas became a state, Brite served in a volunteer Ranger Company on the Mexican Border near Brownsville during the Mexican Border War (1846-1848). His third son, William T. Brite, was reportedly the first child of Anglo descent born (July24, 1856) in Atascosa County. When the county was formed, Thomas R.Brite was elected the first Tax Assessor-Collector. The following year, he became the County Treasurer.

President of the Brite Cemetery Association Tommy Caraway was presented with the Historic Texas Cemetery Certificate issued by the Texas Historical Commission, and the Brite Cemetery Texas Historical Marker was unveiled by cousins Mabel Lee Neill Miller of San Antonio, grandmother of Olympic gymnastic winner Shannon Miller; J.B.Moseley of Poteet; and Judge J.Taylor Brite of Pleasanton.

Members of the Brite Cemetery Association provided a huge meal for those who attended the ceremony. Pastor Bean offered the benediction and a recorded rendition of TAPS, courtesy of Bob Hurley, followed.

The history of the Brite Cemetery was researched and written by Commission Chairman Norman F.Porter. It was the basis of the application for the Historical Texas Cemetery marker.

The Atacosa County Historical Commission is eager to assist other organizations hoping to make application for a Texas Historical marker. According to Porter, "By recognizing and dedicating historical cemeteries and buildings, citizens of today are helping to insure that these revered sites will not become the parking lots and shopping malls of tomorrow".

(taken from article in Pleasanton Express on 10-24-07)

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