OLD CITY CEMETERY
4201 Broadway Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
No Official Website
Bella Morte Rating: 1 Tombstone
Galveston’s Old City Cemetery more closely resembles a parking lot for gravestones than a cemetery. A perfectly rectangular plot of land bisected precisely at its centre by Avenue K and bordered by Broadway Avenue, 43rd Street, 40th Street and Avenue L, the grounds are parsed into hundreds of tiny square and rectangular sections. It is easy to picture some poor soul with more rulers and square templates than imagination drawing up the plans. Indeed, the designer of Old City obviously heard not the faintest whisper of the Garden Cemetery Movement which inspired the beauty of Houston’s Glenwood only an hour’s drive from Galveston.
The cemetery is a flat expanse devoid of almost all vegetation save for some grass and a dozen or so palm trees. It is divided into numbered sections (Old City Cemetery 5, 6, 7, etc.) some of which are dedicated to certain specific populations. Old City Cemetery 8, for instance, lies in the purview of the Hebrew Benevolent Society.
There are a few small, private mausoleums on the property, a number of which have fallen into ruin. Some are vacant, their empty interiors visible through broken or missing doors.
The only monument in the cemetery we found worthy of photographing was that of the Tramonte family. Erected in memory of their mother, the monument features the figure of a veiled woman, perhaps the Virgin Mary, who appears to be comforting a man on his deathbed.
Old City Cemetery contains the graves of some poor souls who perished in the Great Hurricane of 8 September, 1900 which devastated Galveston, pummeling the island with waves of up to 15 feet in height and submerging the majority of the city. In its wake, the hurricane left an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 dead.
In researching the cemetery, we unearthed the story of an unfortunate soul named Thomas “Nicaragua” Smith, a nickname earned for an 1856 scheme to raid Nicaragua during a stint as a soldier of fortune. Found guilty of desertion by the Confederate Army on 6 January, 1863, Smith and his coffin were loaded into a wagon and driven to his already-waiting grave in the Old City Cemetery at daybreak just two days later. Smith, cursing the firing squad, made his last request, which was to be buried face down. He was promptly executed and buried in an unmarked grave. Needless to say, stories of Smith’s shade haunting the cemetery abound to this day.