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Calhoun County recognized for historical preservation work

By Elena Watts
Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.

Only a few headstones remain in the Old Town Cemetery in Indianola, bearing the marks of time, with rust decaying the iron gates and fencing. Hurricane Carla heavily damaged the site, washing away many wooden markers, and time has claimed the rest through flooding and theft.

PORT LAVACA - Mary Belle Meitzen finds preservation work rewarding because from the past come lessons for the future.

"I want the next generation to be able to see what happened where their parents and grandparents lived," said Meitzen, a sixth-generation Calhoun County resident and the chairwoman of the Calhoun County Historical Commission.

The Texas Historical Commission honored the Calhoun County Historical Commission with a distinguished service award Thursday for its 2012 preservation work.

Calhoun County judge Michael Pfeifer presented the certificate to Meitzen and other members during a commissioners court meeting.

In 2012, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, led by Shirley Barnett, completed a six-year project to restore the Indianola Cemetery.

The local historical commission recognized that organization's efforts with a plaque and dedication June 9, 2012.

Meitzen has belonged to the county's historical commission for many years but became immersed in its efforts eight years ago. A tour of the Indianola Cemetery with County Commissioner Roger Galvan was the catalyst. She saw the need to preserve what was left of the cemetery she visited as a child.

"The fence crumbled in your hands," Meitzen said. "We propped it up as best we could."

Headstones, monuments, markers and one above-ground crypt dot the sparse landscape within the new fence.

The body of James Mainland, captain of the Morgan Steamship Line who died in 1873, was housed in the mausoleum until his body was reinterred in a Cuero cemetery.

Meitzen remembers a healthier Indianola Cemetery filled with numerous mausoleums and monuments, but vandals and hurricanes took their toll.

Leonard McCown, of Port Lavaca, compiled a list of the Indianola Cemetery's grave sites in 1958 that the commission still uses as a reference.

The commission intends to replace at least one missing marker that belonged to a family buried near the front of the cemetery.

In addition to building a new fence, the DRT had grave sites leveled, tombstones repaired and leveled and the captain's crypt refurbished.

Historical commission members helped wash markers and install a plaque near the crypt.

"We had to remove a cactus growing on top of the crypt first," said Don Jones, owner of Jones Family Monuments in Victoria.

Steven Maxwell, a stonemason from England employed by Jones, repaired the underlying brick before he applied the stucco shell.

He also reset about 30 monuments that were falling down or loose. Those too brittle and thin to repair were embedded in flat concrete markers.

Other accomplishments last year also helped earn the commission distinction.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Relics, Trails and Historic Sites awarded Calhoun County with the Indianola Trail Medallion.

The DRT also installed medallions in recognition of Republic of Texas citizens and defenders in area cemeteries.

The commission purchased a camel and soldier silhouette sculpture that was installed near the LaSalle monument on Indianola Beach and applied for six historical markers that were approved.

"When I accept this award, it is for all the work accomplished by commission members, not just me," Meitzen said.



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