The Texas Legislature set up a system of County Historical Commissions to assist local Commissioners Courts and the Texas Historical Commission in the preservation of each county's historic and cultural resources.
The duties and responsibilities of the County Commission are set forth in detail in Texas Local Government Code, Chapter 318. The statue is fairly broad, leaving latitude for each County Commission to organize and undertake activities appropriate to the county's size and resources.
In identifying cultural resources, one special type of survey is a cemetery inventory which involves the recording of the resources (grave markers, fences, buildings, etc.) within the boundaries of the cemetery. This needs to be done before time, neglect and vandalism have taken their toll. Such an inventory can help to preserve the valuable history that the cemetery can relate.
One of the roles with the San Saba Count Historical Commission is to conduct a complete inventory of all of San Saba County's many cemeteries. In conducting an inventory I do the following:
1. Locate the cemetery. Notify proper individuals as to what I will be doing there, gain permission and access; get keys to locked gates and clear directions to the cemetery.
2. Write clear directions to the cemetery from a specific point such as the city limit sign, including exact mileage from each point to the next.
3. At the cemetery I record GPS information, take measurements of boundary fences and size and location of buildings and other structures and get appropriate photos.
4. I create a Site Map of the cemetery that includes the location of trees, bushes, fences, gates, roads, and other relevant landscape features. I note the location and orientation of each grave marker, including all marked and unmarked graves. A control number is assigned to each marker that will tie together the written, photographic and map records.
5. A written record called the Listing is made that includes the following: the exact inscription of the name of the deceased, dates of birth and death, any other identifying information such as wife, or son of, or military service, in some cases the type of marker, size of marker, material used to make the marker, condition of the stone, and the control number for that grave.
6. Create a Plat Map that corresponds to the written Listing by recording each headstone in a systematic method so as to give the exact location of a specific grave in the cemetery.
7. Take pictures of selected grave markers, such as the first burial, last burial, burial of donor of the land for the cemetery, etc. A Photo Log is made which includes the control number of each grave shown.
8. Next I create the following maps:
•Layout and dimensions of the cemetery.
•Vicinity Map to show location as to roads, highways, landowners, lakes, rivers, town, churches, etc
•Plat Map with control numbers to show exact location of each identified gravesite in the cemetery.
9. Finally, I provide Footnotes that give the history of some of the folks buried in the cemetery. This information is obtained through a search of marriage, birth, death and deed records and from Census data.
Once I find a cemetery the real work begins: cutting away brush, removing debris, digging up sunken tombstones, piecing together broken tombstones and scrubbing the mold off old weathered tombstones with a soft brush and water so that inscriptions can be read, exterminating wasps and bees and checking for other hazards. Then the inventory can proceed.
I began this project in the spring of 2006 with the Spring Creek Cemetery. A total of 58 cemeteries have been inventoried as of February 1, 2011 with 3 more underway. 24 more that we know of remain to be done. There may still be some small family or individual gravesites that we do not know about. Other members of the Commission have inventoried the city cemeteries at San Saba and Richland Springs. The Hanna Cherokee Cemetery is yet to be done.
The inventories are being placed online by other Commission members as they are completed. They can be accessed at www.sansabachc.org. There will also be a hard copy directory placed in Rylander Memorial Library when all the cemeteries in the county have been inventoried. Many families have contacted me personally in searching for the grave of a loved one since I started doing these inventories. We do not know how many have used the inventories that are already on line.