Secrets unearthed at Presidio cemetery

The grave of Juan Elias Lozano is one of many interesting stories found within the Presidio cemetery. (Photo by Lynda Breeding)

The La Bahia Cemetery, located behind the Presidio La Bahia, and in the community of La Bahia on land that belonged to a Cabrera who was granted a labor of land east and south of the Presidio in 1832 by the Government of Mexico. Cabrera families still own a few acres and live in the area. Manuel was the grandson of one of the 15 families that came to San Antonio in 1732. He was Spanish and later a Mexican soldier and guard at the Presidio, he died in 1838. In the late 1850’s his grandsons, Mariano and Macario Cabrera turned this piece of land into a cemetery and Cabreras have been buried there since then, unfortunately wooden markers were used. Manuel’s grandparents who came from the Canary Islands were Juan Manual Cabrera and Maria Perez de Bega, both died in Vera Cruz, Mexico, where they had landed. They would have walked to San Antonio, but a cholera epidemic was raging and parents died in Vera Cruz. Their children were Joseph, 14; Anna, 13; and Marcos, 4, the father of Manuel. Most of the families who came over from the Canary Islands were related and the orphans were taken care of by the other families. Joseph became a soldier stationed at the Presidio in Mission Valley and came to La Bahia when they moved the Presidio to its present location in 1749.  

The cemetery has been in use since 1877, when Juan Elias Lozano was buried here. Juan Elias was also a Confederate soldier one of his descendants; Estella Zermeno acquired this marker for him. The cemetery has been used by families considered descendants of the Spanish and Mexican soldiers who lived in the region after the Presidio La Bahia was established. The nationalities of those buried there are Spanish, Native American, Mexican, French and Anglos who came to the region at various times.  

In 1928 the Commissioners Court of Goliad purchased the Fannin burial site and the La Bahia Cemetery property from Manuel Cabrera and his wife, Lupe Cabrera. Then in 1946, the County of Goliad transferred the deed to Rev. E. B. Ledvina, Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas and his successors in office for cemetery purposes the Lot 3, Block 13 of the town site of La Bahia.  

Among the graves at La Bahia are Captain James E. Cummings and Juanita Benavidez, his wife. Capt. Cummings was the first lighthouse keeper on Matagorda Island, and Juanita was the niece of Placido Benavides, who was the son in law of Don Martin De Leon in Victoria.  Capt. Cummings was born in Maine, in 1810 and died in 1882; he lived in Goliad County, with his family, from 1860 through 1880, and was a farmer on the census. Sgt. Alfred F. Salazar was a casualty of the Vietnam War and is buried there. His grave has a replica of an Army M14 carbine and his helmet and dog tags. He was with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Unit E Troop, 2nd Squadron. He died in Binh Thuy, South Vietnam, on Dec. 31, 1970. Among the other veterans that are buried (and there are over 40 veterans buried in this little cemetery) is one Macario C. Cabrera, who served in the Civil War. He served in Campbell’s Company, 8th Texas Infantry, and was also a Citizen of the Republic of Texas. These are just a few of the men and women that are buried in this quite little cemetery.

There is an unusual (as far as I am concerned at least, it is unusual) practice and that is the practice of burying more than one person in a single grave. One grave has the remains of three male family members in one grave; this practice is no longer in practice. According to my friend, Estella Martinez Zermeno, there are a large number of unnamed graves due to the common placement of markers that did not stand the test of time over several generations.   

This cemetery is one of our cemeteries that though small in size is huge in the history of our county. In a few weeks the blue bonnets and the other wild flowers will begin to bloom and make a beautiful time for you to get out and visit some of our cemeteries and remember those that have gone before us. I hope you have enjoyed the few stories that I have shared with you this week in Tales from the Grave. Remember, if you have a story about a cemetery or about someone that is buried in one of our 60+ cemeteries in Goliad County, come see me or call me at the Market House Museum, 205 So. Market St. My phone is 361-645-8767. See ya in a cemetery!

Recommended for you