13 Apr 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Boot Hill Cemetery: “They died with their boots on.”

3 min read

Boot Hill cemetery is located in downtown Tilden, Texas. It is one of the only two authentic cemeteries of its kind in the southwest and was named Boothill because so many of those who were interred there died violently, literally “with their boots on.”

Tilden was founded in 1858, and was first known as Frio Rio. It was one of the first two settlements in McMullen County, and it had eight to ten crude dwellings that housed about thirty people. Soon afterward the townspeople built a road connecting their settlement to the old San Antonio-Laredo road, which lay to the west and, in the early 1860s, the town grew slowly.
Then, in the early 1860s, it began to be known as “Dog Town”.
The reason?
According to a local story one night drunk cowboys shot up the town and eventually around 15 dead dogs were left in the street.
It was 1879 when the name was changed to a much more pleasant-sounding moniker, Tilden. The town was probably named for Samuel J. (locally known as Whispering Sammy) Tilden, an unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate in the election of 1876.

As I have already said, Tilden cemetery is named “Boot Hill” due the number of violent and unusual deaths of its occupants.
The cemetery was established sometime after Frio Rio came into existence in 1858. Many of the early graves were those of people killed in accidents, murdered, died of cholera during the epidemic in 1869, but some were known to have died of natural causes.
Even from the beginning, it started off with its very first person being a suicide casualty.
One man, for instance, was fatally thrown from his horse, while one was a confederate veteran who died of cholera in 1869. Another buried at Boot Hill was a murderer presumed to be a member of the infamous Dalton Gang, a group of outlaws in the American Old West during 1890–1892 specialized in bank and train robberies.
Tilden was on the caravan route between San Antonio, Fort Ewell, Laredo and Mexico. Some time during the Civil War a stage route was also added and saloons began to spring up in the area. These all brought many undesirable characters to the town as well as men who were on the run from the law that used the surrounding area and brush to hide. Some of these undesirables provided quite a few occupants for Boothill.
In any case, the cemetery was used from around 1858 to 1877, when it was abandoned in favor of the present Hill Top Cemetery, that still serves the community today.

Boot Hill Cemetery was neglected for more than half a century. During this time the old timers past away, the markers deteriorated and they became lost.
And, of course, more and more of the Boothill lore and history went with them.
In 1955 when the Cenizo Garden Club was organized they began at once to clean up and restore the cemetery. They cleaned the plots, cleared out the brush, and located as many graves as possible. The grounds were enclosed by a low border of native stone and the Boothill Cemetery Sign with a large boot made of masonry mounted on a huge slab of a petrified palm stump was added to the cemetery grounds.
A historical marker was erected by the Texas Historical Commission to commemorate the site in 1964.
Today many of the graves are unmarked, while some are marked by large stone slabs.
The grave of Glenn Greer, the man thrown from his horse in 1874, has a marble slab and metal fence marking his final resting place.

Images from web – Google Research