Postcard from the Cowboy Cemetery

The two men worked for W. G. S. Hughes and his wife, Sarah. They were riding to fix a broken section of fence on the remote central Texas ranch when they found him. When they found his body anyway. Nobody knew his name or where he came from. He had no wallet, no papers, nothing to tell who he was. He had been shot once in the chest and now he lay dead under a large oak tree, his un-branded horse quietly grazing just a few feet away. The men buried him where he lay, a flat rock placed at the head of the shallow grave. It would be the only mark of his passing. If he had friends or family they would never know what happened to him, but this lonesome, wandering cowboy would have a cemetery named in his remembrance.

Later, in 1882, W.G.S. and Sarah's 4-year-old son, William, died and they donated 2 acres of their ranch at the cowboy's burial spot, 1 acre for a cemetery and 1 acre for a school. They named the burial ground Cowboy Cemetery after the unknown cowboy buried there, and the school became  the Cowboy School. Within a few years the population on the surrounding ranches had grown enough that dances were being held in the school building and a post office was opened. The building and cemetery became the focal point of the area and unofficially became known as Cowboy Town.

In 1930, with the need for a larger building and more teachers, the Cowboy School merged with the Rochelle school and the post office was eliminated. In 1932, Sarah took back the 1 acre where the school building had been and in turn donated another 33.5 acres around the cemetery which had run out of space for additional burials. A committee, called the Cowboy Cemetery Association, was formed to oversee the maintenance and operation of the cemetery.

Today, Cowboy Cemetery contains the graves of Mr. & Mrs. Hughes, their four children and numerous family members as well as many of the original settlers of the area and their descendants. The large number of graves for babies and young children indicate just how hard life was on this Texas prairie in the 1800's. Also buried here is Texas Border Patrol Agent Jefferson Barr who was killed by drug smugglers on the Texas border in 1996.

Cowboy Cemetery is one of the most pleasant, well-maintained cemeteries in all of rural Texas. Inside the rock fence enclosure is a small chapel and a working windmill which furnishes water for the many lantana bushes and trees. Of the 375 graves, 347 are identified. One of the unidentified is that lonesome cowboy whose name was never known and whose grave is now lost as well.