“People are fascinated with cemeteries.” Those are the first words of a charming new book researched and written by Margaret Byron and Dr. Robert Meaux.
It’s an exhaustive examination of the Humble Cemetery, a small piece of land at the corner of Old Humble Road (South Houston Avenue) and Isaacks Road.
Hundreds drive by the cemetery every day and thousands have seen but never noticed it, even though it’s across the street from St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
“A few months back, I was doing a presentation on the cemetery to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR),” said Meaux. “I realized my cemetery research was spread out in a lot of files, so I decided to get all my information together and put it into a book.”
- A fascinating history told by Humble residents -
Meaux co-authored the book, “The Old Humble Cemetery,” with Byron. She was reared in Humble, is a graduate of the Charles Bender High School (now the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center), is a long-time activist with the City of Humble Beautification Committee and, along with Meaux, a director of the Humble Museum Board.
“Margaret does so much work on the cemetery,” said Meaux. “She’s the one who usually puts flags out on the veteran tombstones. Naturally, I would ask her to partner with me and write the book.”
Research shows that the first burials in the 3.2-acre graveyard occurred in 1850. The first mention was 1870.
“You can’t find much information about the cemetery,” admitted Meaux. “The DAR published ‘The History of Humble’ in 1976 that contains some information, but it’s only a mere six pages. The DAR book lists the graves in rows, but the older part of the cemetery isn’t in easily identifiable rows so, using their list, it’s still difficult to figure out where to look for a grave.”
Byron and Meaux decided their book would be true, telling the complete history of the cemetery, identify where the graves were, and provide as much information as they could find about those buried in the cemetery. Byron and Meaux found themselves pulling birth certificates, death certificates and obituaries.
“It was tough,” Meaux said, “three months of solid research to find all that information.”
What they found was a treasure trove of intriguing and downright absorbing information about an area rich in history.
The book includes maps of each known plot as well as an exhaustive alphabetical listing of known burials, their names, births, deaths, age and causes of death.
“These are local folks all tied into the history of Humble itself,” said Meaux. “Tracing ownership was enlightening; lots of historical information when we found the obituaries. D.A. Peters, the original owner of Humble Power and Light, is buried there. One of the prominent early merchants, Morris Jamison, who died unexpectedly, is there.”
Jane Elizabeth Humble, the wife of the man Humble is named after, is buried there. So is Civil War veteran Houston Young and several World War I veterans.
“It was alarming to see how many children are buried there, dying from childhood diseases or horrific accidents. We also noted many suicides. Some of the bios are fascinating. Read the one on John West,” he teased.
There are 360 marked graves but Meaux and Byron have identified at least 100 more. They’re sure there are many more because large areas without markers can be seen and are probably occupied.
Meaux discovered two errors. While there is no map locating the names of the burials, there is an original survey of Section II which allowed him and Byron to easily identify 66 large burial areas. As for who owned the cemetery, most listed never owned it, he said.
“Ownership changed hands lots of times. In fact, Pleasant Humble, after whom the city is named, owned it at least three times,” he said.
The cemetery now is in good hands. As reported in The Tribune, on Feb. 13 the Humble City Council voted to assume legal ownership. The Humble Cemetery Association owned the cemetery for 90 years, but the last association member died in 2002 and with the assistance of the Humble Beautification Committee and the local DAR, the city has been maintaining the cemetery since 1967, installing a sturdy wrought iron fence in 2006 and providing landscaping for decades.
Meaux admits that there’s more to learn.
“Margaret and I would like to discover everyone buried there,” he said. “Once our book is published, we hope it opens the door to others who can provide us with the information.”
Meaux has a couple more books in the works. First, though, he’s focusing on the refurbishing and revitalizing of the Humble Museum, now relocated next to the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center.
A museum board is in place, The Tribune is a major supporter of the Humble Museum, and Meaux has hopes for the museum to open its doors sometime this summer.
“The Old Humble Cemetery” is self-published by the Humble Museum and will be available only at the museum. Check out their website, still a work in progress, at humblemuseum.com.