Former educator recalls bone that led to grave site
Victoria Advocate
Henry Wolff Jr. - Henry's Journal
EDITOR'S NOTE:
This column originally appeared on Nov. 6, 1997.

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004
 

Milton Hausmann remembers when Scout Troop 10 of the Guadalupe Valley Council found a bone that helped lead to the location of the mass burial ground of Col. James W. Fannin and his men at Goliad.

In a recent column (Oct. 29, 1997), mention was made of a gopher having kicked a bone to the surface. Hausmann recalls it was after a Friday night campout on the San Antonio River, where Goliad State Park is now located, when the bone was found.

"William Bennett and I were assistant junior Scout leaders," he says. "I had to go to work at Walker Cash Store early that Saturday morning and wasn't there, but William took the boys out for a hike across the river in back of Presidio La Bahia. They were just messing around, as boys do.

"One of the boys found a bone and showed it to William."

Bennett then showed it to his father, Dr. W.B. Bennett, a dentist, and they went out and looked at the place. His father also took the bone to Judge J.A. White, who was instrumental in the 1930s in getting Goliad State Park established and in having a monument erected at the Fannin burial ground after the site was verified. Hausmann, now of San Antonio, was for many years a band and choral director and principal at Port Lavaca High School before it became Calhoun High School, and also operated a music store.

The Scouts' role in discovering the burial ground was not mentioned in a May 6, 1934 article in the Houston Post, which I had referred to in the previous column regarding the discovery of the burial ground, though it is mentioned in various other accounts.

The finding led to further research at the location.

Mary Elizabeth Martin of Goliad recalls being there with a group that included Dr. Bennett and her father, Edward A. Martin, when a portion of a jaw bone was found that Bennett determined to be human. The Post article gives her father credit for locating the site where Gen. Thomas J. Rusk had buried the collected remains of the 342 men who had been massacred by the Mexican army on March 27, 1836.

The site had been marked for some years with a pile of rocks that were later scattered along nearby fences after the area was put into cultivation.

Archaeologists at the University of Texas determined that bones from the site were indeed human and subsequent excavations resulted in a definite location of the gravesite.

"They sent a bus load of students to Goliad and they dug a cross trench," Hausmann recalls, "on a little mound and found the bones.

"Martin recalls, from when she was there with her father and others after the jaw bone was found, that one of the Cabrera family had come up and showed them where the rock was scattered, verifying the site by local tradition. The family had lived near the burial site for years, as some family members still do.

"Near the center of that field," the Post article noted, "at the peak of the hill, the gopher unearthed some small, partly charred bones, and Mr. Martin did his part by discovering the bones."

While various sources give credit to one or the other, the find can be attributed to a combination of factors and individuals.

The gopher having cared less about what it had found.

Both the Oct. 19 and Nov. 6, 1997 columns on the discovery of the mass grave at Goliad are in Henry's book, "Ghosts of Goliad and Other Stories of Presidio La Bahia," available at the Advocate, Presidio La Bahia, and Soho Goliad, the Emporium. The book may also be ordered by mail from Henry's Journal, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas, 77902, for $10 (includes the sales tax, P&H).

 
 
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