Visiting the Historic Washington Cemetery in Houston, Texas

Updated on April 16, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Top portion of angel on Cudlipp monument in Washington Cemetery, Houston
Top portion of angel on Cudlipp monument in Washington Cemetery, Houston | Source

Historic Washington Cemetery

On the day my husband and I decided to visit this 13.5-acre cemetery, we had to access it by driving through the adjacent Glenwood Cemetery, which is also beautiful and worth a visit. A "closed" sign appeared at the Washington Avenue entrance. Taking the road and always bearing right in Glenwood Cemetery, a sign points the direction to Washington Cemetery.

The address is 2911 Washington Avenue, Houston, Texas 77007-6034.

Washington Cemetery Historical Marker
Washington Cemetery Historical Marker | Source

Texas Historical Markers

Once one has entered the cemetery, there is an official Texas Historical Marker, which tells the story of what initially began as a German cemetery. This is what is written upon the marker:

Washington Cemetery

The Deutsche Gesellschaft von Houston, founded in 1875, established the German Society Cemetery in February 1887 by purchasing this property, then located outside the city limits, from the heirs of John Lawrence and Thomas Hart. Twelve-space family lots were sold to society members for $10 and to the public for $25. It was renamed Washington Cemetery in July 1918 due to anti-German sentiment during World War I.

Though headstones of reinterred persons show birth dates as early as 1800 and death dates as early as 1855, the earliest known burial is that of three-year-old Pauline Ottilie Zeitler, on March 31, 1887. At least 15 citizens of the Republic of Texas and immigrants from more than 20 nations lie at rest here. Eighteen lots are owned by fraternal, labor, or veterans groups. More than 7600 persons are interred here, with more added each year.

Also buried here are more than 300 veterans of nine wars, from the Black Hawk War of 1832 to Vietnam, including more than 135 Confederate and Union veterans. Sarah Emma Evelyn (Edmonds) Seelye, aka Franklin Thompson, is noted for writing a book about her service as a man in the Federal Army, 1861-63.

After the last charter expired in 1947, the superintendent's widow and her housekeeper tried to maintain the cemetery, but they did not have the resources needed. By the 1970s, it was severely overgrown. Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care (CCWCC) was founded in 1977, cleared away the jungle-like growth, and cared for the cemetery over the next 22 years. In 1997, CCWCC became the first group in Texas legally granted the authority to "restore, operate, and maintain a historic cemetery" under a 1995 Texas law; that authority was transferred to adjacent Glenwood Cemetery in 1999.

Historic Texas Cemetery - 2012

Marker is the property of the State of Texas.

Parker Monuments in Washington Cemetery, Houston, Texas
Parker Monuments in Washington Cemetery, Houston, Texas | Source

Different Types of Grave Markers

There are monuments of all types in Washington Cemetery. Some are rough-hewn monuments such as the ones labeled Weiss. There are also smooth obelisk markers and ones of many different types. The Weiss family plot caught my attention as I have a dear friend who lives in Herrenberg, Germany, bearing that last name.

Notice the outlines of the gravesites below. There are many instances of concrete borders with the affectionate designations of Papa, Mama, Mother, Father, and the like at the foot of each outlined space. That seems very endearing to me over and above just their names at the top of the grave.

Koch Family Graves in Washington Cemetery
Koch Family Graves in Washington Cemetery | Source

Words on Gravestones

There are poignant words on many of the headstones, such as the ones noted on the Seegar monuments.

On the monument of Louise F. Seegar who died in 1895:

A precious one from us has gone.

A voice we loved is stilled.

A place is vacant in our home,

Which never can be filled.

Gravestone of W. L. Seegar who died in 1896:

Lo! where the silent marble weeps

A friend, a husband, a father sleeps.

A heart within whose sacred cell,

The peaceful virtues loved to dwell.

On the monument of Fannie T. Caperton-Seegar who died in 1907:

"Gone, but not forgotten.

She was a kind and affectionate wife, A fond mother, and friend to all."

Words on the Robert F. Weeder Tombstone

My husband Robert F. Weeder died April 3, 1896.

All my plans of life are broken,

All my hopes of life are fled.

Counsel, comfort, and adviser:

Alas! Alas! for thou art dead.

Charles Hartmann Gravestone

Losing a child is always heartbreaking. The parents of Charles Hartmann, who lost an infant in 1897, undoubtedly found comfort in this inscription:

"Sleep on sweet babe and take thy rest.

God called thee home. He thought it best."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fannie T. Caperton-Seegar Monument in Washington CemeterySeegar Monuments in Washington Cemetery
Fannie T. Caperton-Seegar Monument in Washington Cemetery
Fannie T. Caperton-Seegar Monument in Washington Cemetery | Source
Seegar Monuments in Washington Cemetery
Seegar Monuments in Washington Cemetery | Source

Woodmen of the World Gravestones

There are many and varied Woodmen gravestones in the Washington Cemetery. Some of them also have Masonic emblems. The artistry varies.

To read about both of those types of tombstones, see my article about visiting the Historic Masonic Cemetery in Chappell Hill, Texas. You will find information about that and much more of historical interest!

Most of the Woodmen of the World markers appear as portions of trees. Some are more intricate than others. They vary in height and girth. The simplest one in this cemetery looked like a simple log on the ground engraved with the Woodmen signage.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Woodmen of the World (Hayner Monument) in Washington Cemetery Woodmen of the World (Lenk Monument) in Washington Cemetery Woodmen of the World (Floeck Monument) in Washington Cemetery
Woodmen of the World (Hayner Monument) in Washington Cemetery
Woodmen of the World (Hayner Monument) in Washington Cemetery | Source
Woodmen of the World (Lenk Monument) in Washington Cemetery
Woodmen of the World (Lenk Monument) in Washington Cemetery | Source
Woodmen of the World (Floeck Monument) in Washington Cemetery
Woodmen of the World (Floeck Monument) in Washington Cemetery | Source

William Gammell

One of the interesting Texas Historical Commission Markers in Washington Cemetery tells about William Gammell (1812 - 1869), who was born in Scotland. After immigrating to the U.S. with his parents, he eventually enlisted in the Texian Army. He fought at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Serving as a gunsmith with the Republic of Texas, he fought at the Battle of Salado Creek, defending San Antonio against a Mexican army. He eventually owned a gunsmith shop from 1851 to 1866 in what is now the fifth ward in Houston.

Woodmen of the World Gravestone with Cross on Top next to Gammell Grave and historical marker in Washington Cemetery
Woodmen of the World Gravestone with Cross on Top next to Gammell Grave and historical marker in Washington Cemetery | Source

Charles August Albert Dellschau

Another notable person interred in this cemetery is Charles August Albert Dellschau (1830 - 1923). Born in Brandenburg, Prussia, he came to the U.S. at age 25 in 1853.

In the late 1800s, there were many UFO sightings from California to the midwest and even in Texas. Dellschau created a journal and even more interesting a compilation of fantastic pencil, pen, and watercolor painted collages showing flying machines he called "aeros."

A secretive group called the Sonora Aero Club was located in California not far from Yosemite National Park. Supposedly they had created a formula that defied gravity and powered the motors of unusual flying machines. These discoveries preceded the famous first flight of the Wright Brothers.

After retiring from being a butcher, Dellschau lived for a time with his stepdaughter and husband Anton Stelzig, Jr., who was a successful saddle maker and leatherworker. That Stelzig company business still exists today. It was in their attic that Dellschau started creating these unique images on paper using cutouts from newspapers as well as his drawings and paintings.

Are these stories fact or fiction? We may never honestly know the answer, but scholars, as well as mystery enthusiasts, can keep researching and delving into this subject.

Long after his death, 12 large notebooks that had been put out for the trash were recovered and brought to the attention of several people. One was an art history student at the University of St. Thomas. Dominique de Menil ended up purchasing several of these notebooks, and they are now a part of the Menil Collection. Others have ended up in art museums in San Antonio and elsewhere. Dellschau is now a recognized, well-known artist.

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Washington Cemetery at Sunset
Washington Cemetery at Sunset | Source

Washington Cemetery Historic Trust

The Washington Cemetery Historic Trust (WCHT) is a non-profit entity. Research, site improvements, and the restoration of monuments is a part of what they undertake, making a visit to this site even more enjoyable. The WCHT welcomes donations as well as the work of volunteers.

Many people like to do gravestone rubbings. If this is of interest to you, you will find many tombstones of note in this cemetery voted "Houston's Best Cemetery - 2015" by the Houston Press.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Schuplinsky Family Plot in Washington CemeteryWeiss Family Plot in Washington CemeteryCouch Memorial in Washington CemeteryMoeller Monument in Washington CemeteryStelzig Family Plot shown behind Lieb Memorial in Washington Cemetery
Schuplinsky Family Plot in Washington Cemetery
Schuplinsky Family Plot in Washington Cemetery | Source
Weiss Family Plot in Washington Cemetery
Weiss Family Plot in Washington Cemetery | Source
Couch Memorial in Washington Cemetery
Couch Memorial in Washington Cemetery | Source
Moeller Monument in Washington Cemetery
Moeller Monument in Washington Cemetery | Source
Stelzig Family Plot shown behind Lieb Memorial in Washington Cemetery
Stelzig Family Plot shown behind Lieb Memorial in Washington Cemetery | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        Thanks! Our computer was down for a few days, and now I am having to catch up with loads of comments. Hope you are doing well!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        7 weeks ago from UK

        You have captured the detail of this interesting cemetery well with your well chosen words and excellent photos.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Manatita,

        Perhaps you will remember that password in a dream. Haha!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        Old cemeteries have so much of interest to those interested in history. I am right there with you and Bev!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        Like you, we found the story of Charles August Albert Dellschau fascinating.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        7 weeks ago from london

        Powerful tablets, monuments and stones and some truly exquisite poems and charming-protective angels. Won't mind being buried there. Costly, I expect.

        P.S. I am a UFO. My father is the Micardo of my world, The Galaxy World. I came to earth for surveillance and fell in love with an earthling, so I forget the password to regain my ethereal form. So I'm stuck here. Lol.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        Bev and I would spend hours there. We just love old cemeteries.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ann,

        I have seen gravestones of some of my older relatives, some of whom lived several generations before I was born. It is interesting and also nice to see them grouped together.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        7 weeks ago from USA

        What a fascinating place! The monuments and written tributes are lovely. You often never know much about the famed people who lied beneath some of those headstones, especially the lesser known and eccentric souls like the UFO guy. He was uniquely inspired at bare minimum.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        7 weeks ago from SW England

        So much can be learnt by reading the inscriptions on grave stones. Some are alone, some in family groups and even that says much about a community.

        My sister and I have gone into our family line and it digs up all sorts of things!

        Ann

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