Clifton Knoll was elected President of the Blanco Cemetery Assn. in the year 2000 when Hilmar Bindseil passed away. Hilmar had been President for almost 30 years. At that time I, (Joyce Knoll), was elected Secretary of the Blanco Cemetery Assn. Cora Bindseil was Secretary and Treasurer for almost 30 years and wanted out from under so much responsibility. She remained as Treasurer until 2005 when she retired and I was elected as Treasurer along with the Secretary duties I already had. I took these jobs unwillingly but seriously. I was a banker for about 20 years, and I was a bookkeeper for 20 years also, and the people who voted me in felt I had the requirements to do the job and do it well, so I agreed. Cliff and I both have treated the Cemetery with kid gloves and with the board’s approval, have made many improvements. After my letter of apology about the public meeting, there were letters of disagreement in the paper the following week. Well, at least I know someone read my letter. Of course these letters were expected. I would like to address their concerns item by item and hopefully put some misconceptions to rest.
TRIMMING TREES: We trim trees regularly and we have even had Girl and Boy Scouts help with the projects from time to time to help them earn badges and give them a chance to volunteer in a worth while project. Some of the kids got so caught up reading the stones that it took them a little longer than expected to finish, but it was an education for them and they really enjoyed it. We were very proud of these kids and hope they will return and help us again. There is always more to do than time to do it in, but we do as much as possible every day the weather allows.
FIXING TILTING HEADSTONES: We have spent lots of Cemetery money having stones that are leaning straightened and set in cement. Most of the stones that lean have tree roots under them, or they were not set properly and some of them are over the grave itself. So when the grave sinks, the stone leans.
RAISING SUNKEN STONES: It is the same with the leaning stones. If they are not set in cement, with steel rods in the cement, the stones will lean and sink. Since it has been so dry, we have more and more all the time leaning or sinking due to the cracking and the shifting of the ground. We walk the cemetery about once a month and always find more. The man who fixes them for us has been gone, so we are a few stones behind, but it will be done in a timely manner. Repairing and re-setting the stones, old and new, is a very difficult job, and not just anyone can do it due to the sizes and weight of some of the stones. We are very picky about who we allow to do these jobs. According to the Rules and Regulations of the Blanco Cemetery, the families of the deceased are responsible for the care and repair of all stones and the up keep of the grave itself, but when the families can’t or won’t do the repairs and upkeep, or when family members can’t be located, the Association steps in and does the work to ensure the Cemetery will continue to look good. We do this out of respect for the deceased, not because we have to do it.
CAVED-IN GRAVES: In the last couple of years the cemetery board made it mandatory to have a liner in the grave to help prevent the grave from caving in as much. We still have a great many graves without liners that continue to cave in. When the dirt settles around the coffin, the dirt sinks from the top and continues to do so for about a year. We fill in graves weekly, but in all honesty, we do miss some now and then. We have noticed that there are graves that date back fifty years or more that have begun to sink also. This is because time has finally caused the coffin to crack and bow inward. Therefore the grave sinks some. We are on the look out for those also. We get phone calls now and then from people to let us know that their loved one’s grave has sunken in and we appreciate those calls because we want to make sure nothing bad happens to any of the graves. If we miss one, we want to take care of it right away. Again, the up keep of the graves is the responsibility of the families. However, we perform this service because not everyone has the means to do it, and we have the material on hand and know how and when to fill them in. We do this out of respect and honor for the deceased.
REPAIRING OLD STONES: We have already repaired some stones that you could call historical because they were very old and they belonged to people who died in the 1800s. This is where the Historical Society and the Cemetery Board disagree. The Historical Society says that we cannot do anything to the stones because it is a Historical Cemetery. I spoke with someone at the Texas Historical Commission about this because we did not want to do anything wrong in the cemetery. I was told that, even though the Blanco Cemetery was put on the list of Historical Cemeteries in Texas, it was still a working cemetery and therefore did not fall under historical guidelines. A working cemetery is one where there are still vacant plots that will still be used in the future, so we could repair old stones and walls as long as we did it with loving care and dignity. That is what we have done. Most of the people under these old stones have no known family and so the repair and care fall to the Association. We take on these jobs with much pride.
ACCOUNTABILITY OF FUNDS: It has been suggested that we get an accountant to handle our funds and bookkeeping. If the volume of money flowing into the Cemetery account was high, I would agree, but I make deposits to our operating account about once or twice a month. Some months there are no deposits at all. If we do not sell a plot, the only money deposited is payments from people paying out their plots. Otherwise we would be paying out more to the accountant than we would be putting into the bank. When I took over this job, it was to keep the money and books of a small cemetery straight and correct for the small town I live in, where almost everyone knows almost everyone, trusts almost everyone, and respects most everyone. Cliff and I came into this Association with the guidance and information of officers past. We have carried on the same rules and the same work as the others did, including paying someone to mow and keep the grounds clean and graves filled, and paying the person who sells and marks graves for opening, and the Secretary/Treasurer for all the work and supplies that are required. Jake White has been caring for the cemetery grounds for many years now. He is there in all kinds of weather, hot and cold, and makes sure the area where a funeral is going to take place is mowed and clean if he hasn’t gotten to that area that week. He is very good at what he does and we are very proud of the work he has done. The $150 a month that Cliff and I receive has been done for at least 35 years or more. We just continued the same routine that was done before us. It is not called a salary because it is just to help us with the expenses we incur doing the work that needs to be done, be it gas, fire ant powder, or supplies for bookkeeping and paper for printing out letters and statements. I wish we could say we could handle all that on our own, but we can’t. In the long run we save the cemetery money because we do supply a lot of the materials we need and use, and it has been our pleasure to do so.
PUBLIC MEETINGS: When the Bindseils were in charge, they would call a public meeting every month. They met in the little office at the cemetery. At first ten or twenty or more people would show up, not counting the board, but as time went on, less and less people came or even cared, so the public meetings were stopped. Cliff and I have wanted to have a public meeting just to prove that we were doing the best job we can, but we kept finding errors in the listing of people and plots. We have a book of Alpha listings, a book with the sections and plots, and copies of the certificates that have been written. I discovered that the section and plot numbers were not always the same in both books and on the certificate. That is when I decided to re-map the cemetery and re-do the listings. I am not nearly through with that task, but it doesn’t seem to matter to some people, so I guess we will have to have the meeting without the corrections I have tried so hard to make. I know that some people want a meeting in January, but it will have to wait until February because I have to get the financial statement for 2008 ready to publish, and get my tax report information ready to file our 2008 Income Tax Report. Then I can bring the tax report to the meeting for all to see. A suggestion was made that maybe we should publish our meeting time 6 weeks in advance, and that is something that we could possibly implement in the future,with the time and place being published in the Blanco County News. There has been talk of starting up the membership dues again, but that would be a mistake because we are now tax exempt. If our income exceeds the amount set by the IRS, we will lose that exemption. We have to be very careful on creating more income than we need. Last year we sold lots of plots, and we almost exceeded that IRS amount, but we squeaked by because of the expenses we had in some of the road repair in the cemetery. I watch our books very carefully so our tax exempt status can continue. This is something that can be discussed at the public meeting.
RECORD KEEPING: As I have said before, the records from the past were done in a spiral notebook. It worked for awhile, but as time went on and more and more people bought plots and were buried here, it got more complex, however, the notebook record-keeping continued. That is why we found so many errors. They are just simple human errors, but over the years more errors were made and now finding all of them and correcting them has been a much bigger job than I ever thought possible. I was told that there was a list of Confederate graves, but I have yet to find it. I received one from Laura Mabrito and we helped her add to it. She has done a good job, but it has not been an easy one.
CEMETERY BEGINNING: I have seen a copy of a document from 1867, stating the Pittsburg Land and Cattle Company set aside a section of land to serve as a “public” graveyard in the town of Pittsburg. This graveyard is now part of The Blanco Cemetery. Even though the cemetery has rules and regulations, there is nothing written about who can and can not be buried there, no matter what their race, color, religious beliefs, or place of residence. The old graveyard was used for farmers, ranchers, people who lived in town, and, I am sure, some ranch hands and farm workers. There is even a nun from France that was visiting here when she died many years ago. There was no money to return her to France, so she is buried in the cemetery with a pink granite slab over her and her information is all in French. It is beautiful. The front part of the cemetery where it looks vacant is where all of the children that died from a scarlet fever epidemic in the late 1800s are buried. Many children died every day and were put in mass graves to try to stop the sickness. There are no stones with names, just a few large rocks where people marked which area their child was in. The history is huge in this cemetery, not of famous people, just plain ordinary people who lived ordinary lives. If you want to take a walk in history, just walk through the old part of the cemetery and read the stones. It will amaze you. The middle section, known as the New Cemetery, and the far southern side of the cemetery, known as the Pecan Section, were purchased from the Anderson family. The out of town people that we have sold plots to are people who grew up here and then moved away, but want to be buried near their families. Since Cliff and I started taking care of records we have not sold to anyone from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, or anywhere else who just wanted to be buried here because of the price of plots. I am sure that some day it may happen, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I hope I have answered at least some of your questions and/or concerns. The Blanco Cemetery Association is open to any and all suggestions and only wants the best for the Blanco Cemetery. We have worked very hard to make it better and keep it clean and neat to honor all who lie there. We hope that in the future of the Blanco Cemetery will have the community involved more than ever to ensure a beautiful resting place for our loved ones.