The Tehuacana Cemetery dates back to the 1840’s. Land for the cemetery was donated by John Boyd, early settler and founder of the town of Tehuacana, but no deed record can be found. A plat map of the City of Tehuacana, dated 1961, has a notation for the cemetery that says, “No deed of record since courthouse fire at Groesbeck.”
John Boyd was born near Nashville, Tennessee on August 7, 1796. He moved with his family to Kentucky as a youth, but later returned to Tennessee where he married Elizabeth McLean in Maury County. He moved back to Kentucky and settled in Trigg County. He lived there until 1835, the year he migrated to Texas. He received a land grant in Robertson County (present-day Limestone County) on July 13, 1835. It was located on a ridge of hills called “Tehuacana Hills,” which were named for the Tehuacana Indians, a friendly Indian group that had previously inhabited the area. Before Anglo settlement in the area began in the 1830’s, most of the Tehuacana Indians were massacred by another Indian tribe.
John Boyd originally settled his family in Sabine County. He served in the Army of the Republic of Texas during the Texas Revolution, and from October 1836 through May 1838, he represented Sabine County in the Congress of the Republic of Texas.
John Boyd settled on his land at Tehuacana in October, 1845. He worked to establish the town of Tehuacana and took an active part in the organization of Limestone County after it was created in1846. A post office was established at Tehuacana in 1847 with the name of Tewakony Springs (sic) with John Boyd appointed postmaster. It was located in Boyd’s mercantile store. The post office was re-established by the Post Office Department in 1869. At that time the name was changed to Tewakana (sic).
In 1849, John Boyd made a bid to make Tehuacana the capital of Texas and published a pamphlet describing the many advantages of the area, but his bid was unsuccessful. Following this, he was determined to interest some group in the town and finally succeeded by persuading the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to establish Trinity University at Tehuacana. He gave 130 acres for the campus and 1,400 acres, which was sold in twenty-acre lots with the proceeds being used to erect the main campus building. Tehuacana was home to Trinity University from 1869 to 1902, the year it moved to Waxahachie. Westminster College soon took over the campus and operated as a four year school until 1916 when it became the first officially accredited junior college in Texas. In 1942, it became a junior college of Southwestern University but was closed nine years later. In 1953, the Congregation Methodist reopened the school as Westminster College and Bible Institute. The campus closed in 1971 when the college was moved to Mississippi.
John Boyd was a strong supporter for secession and represented the Nineteenth Senatorial District in the Ninth Legislature (1862-1863). He was a Cumberland Presbyterian and was a ruling elder in the church for over twenty years. He died in Limestone County on May 4, 1873 and is buried in the Tehuacana Cemetery.
The graves of William E. Beeson and James Lisbon Lawlis can also be found in the cemetery. Dr. Beeson, the first president of Trinity University, was born in Virginia on October 21, 1822 and graduated from Cumberland University in 1849. He came to Texas in 1852 to take charge of Chapel Hill College, a Presbyterian institution, which closed because of the Civil War. He was president of Trinity University from its beginning in 1869 until his death on September 5, 1882.
Dr. Lawlis, the first president of Westminster College, was born July 5, 1856 and died November 25, 1902. He organized the Methodist Protestant congregation of Tehuacana with 36 charter members. His tombstone reads, “Founder of Westminster College, First President 1895.”
Robert Marshall Love is another notable person buried in the Tehuacana Cemetery. He was born in 1847 (probably Franklin, Robertson County, Texas). His father, James M. Love, settled in Tehuacana in 1848 and opened a blacksmith shop, one of the earliest businesses in the area. Robert M. Love served in Company G of Ross’s Brigade during the Civil War, became a deputy sheriff of Limestone County in 1872, was sheriff from 1884 to 1892, was the president of the Texas Sheriff’s Association for five years, served as a United States Marshall from 1894 to 1898, and served as State Comptroller from 1901 to 1903. He was one of the armed men who helped seat the 14th State Legislature in 1873 when incumbent Governor E. J. Davis contested Richard Coke’s election. According to Ray Walter, Limestone County Historian, Robert Love and his brother, John, “stood on the stairway of the capitol and protected the legislators, enabling them to organize and administer the oath of office to Coke.” Robert M. Love was fatally shot in his Austin office on the morning of June 30, 1903 by a depressed and mentally unbalanced former employee in the Bookkeeping Department who also killed himself.
The Tehuacana Cemetery is located on a small knoll sloping down from the Tehuacana Hills. The site has many large trees, mostly pecan and cedar, and a ravine known as John Boyd Ravine. According to local tradition, members of the Tehuacana Indian tribe, as well as many early settlers, are buried along the slopes of the cemetery west of the ravine.
The earliest documented burial in the Tehuacana Cemetery is that of Roxanna B. Campbell, the daughter of John Boyd’s eldest daughter Martha Jane Boyd Lewis Campbell. The child was born on July 24, 1850 and died on November 24, 1850. The cemetery is still an active burial site. There are over 700 marked graves in the cemetery, and it is believed that there is a sizable number of unmarked graves.
The Tehuacana Cemetery Association was organized on September 1, 1957 during the first annual fall memorial service and general membership meeting, which has continued until the present. There are no restrictions on who may purchase a lot. A six-member Board of Trustees oversees the routine operation of the cemetery. In 1998, the cemetery road was extended to curve around the far reaches of the cemetery. It spans the Boyd Ravine with a rustic wooden bridge and circles back to the original section of the road passing by the graves of John Boyd, William Beeson, and Robert M. Love.
Day, Margaret. Tehuacana Cemetery (narrative history for Texas Historical Marker), 2000.
Jordan, Bruce & Linda. Limestone County, Texas Cemeteries: A Survey of 149 Cemeteries Conducted from 2004 to 2013. Limestone County Historical Commission, 2013.
Lewis Publishing Company. A Memorial and Biographical History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone, and Leon Counties, Texas, pp. 344-346. Chicago, 1893.
Limestone County Plat Records, Limestone County Clerk, Limestone County Courthouse, Groesbeck.
Walker, Ray A. A History of Limestone County, pp. 9, 37-39 & 117-120. Von Boeckmann-Jones, Austin, Texas, 1959.