When Mr. OTC first learned about the Corn Hill Cemetery, the message board included some geographic coordinates and nary a mention that there was also a New Corn Hill adjacent to “old” Corn Hill. The geographical coordinates were only marginally more accurate than closing our eyes and smelling our way there, so it took us a while to find the Corn Hill Cemetery. Before we came close to our final destination, we found the Catholic cemetery in New Corn Hill, a herd of longhorns, a five-grave cemetery in the middle of a cornfield, a cemetery in someone’s front yard in Weir which is a completely different city, and eventually we found Corn Hill.
The cemetery was presented online as a cemetery in a ghost town. Really, it’s an active cemetery in a town that moved and got absorbed into another town. We were green in terms of such explorations at the time and now know the difference between “abandoned” and “located within a ghost town.” Ghost towns in Texas can be remarkably lively towns, teeny-tiny bucolic places among larger bucolic places. Corn Hill is such a ghost town and its cemetery, while very rural appearing with some very old graves (for Texas), is maintained and contain some recent burials.
I photographed this cemetery several years ago and didn’t intend to include it here for Halloween 2017, but decided to because of a bit of equipment failure that lost new photos. I also want to mention that this cemetery had some souls of the living variety when I photographed it. Some edgy teens were having a literal tea party at the edge of the cemetery where there were no graves. Because this is sort of a visually grim cemetery, they weren’t sitting on a blanket under a big tree or near a gazebo or benches. They were just out there in the corner of a chain link fence, quietly hanging out. They watched me for a while then realized I had no plans to hassle them and ignored me as I went about my business. They were still there when I left. If I were buried in a place like Corn Hill, I think I’d welcome well-behaved teens and their tea parties. I didn’t photograph them because they seemed like good kids, and also because if I had I might have upset them and a scene would have ensued. I don’t want to cause a scene among the dead.
There are some war heroes, from the Civil War and the Texas War for Independence buried here, but their stones were the least interesting to me. Other people have documented those graves online, and you can see all the photos I took that day here on my Flickr account.
I tend to be interested in visually interesting graves or when I find same-name clusters. That happened enough in Corn Hill for me to consider it a pretty cemetery in spite of how exposed and brown it appears. This is my favorite stone I photographed that day.
There are a lot of children buried in Corn Hill, but unlike many cemeteries, there is no real “baby land” where babies and small children are buried apart from adults. I find this both comforting and a little upsetting, as I will show in a moment.
I took far more photos than the ones I present here. You can see all of them, including several graves of veterans of the Civil War and the War for Texas Independence, at my Flickr account. You’ll also see lots and lots of dead children. Grave for grave this cemetery had the most children of any I have encountered. I cannot find where I saved the research but there were three major illness outbreaks that correspond with clusters of the dates many of the babies (and even adults) died. Texas was a rough place back then.
Cemeteries like this never measure up visually with some of the more interesting New England cemeteries, and definitely pale in comparison to most European cemeteries. But cemeteries like this preserve history for a while, showing us little dramas (if you find BF Bridges in my photos, his wife in Arkansas divorced him because she was for the Union and he fought for the Confederacy), the differences between burial customs among religious groups, and you can even track down cholera epidemics.