A Fitting Day for Texas Ranger Day for 2018

We feel that this year's Texas Ranger Day falls on a particularly fitting day... St. Patrick's Day.  Why, you might ask?  Because of the heritage of this man...


Leander Harvey McNelly.

McNelly was born March 12, 1844 to parents Owen and Mary Katherine Killian McNelly in Brooke County, Virginia. Around 1832, Owen and Mary had migrated to Virginia from Newry, County Down, Ireland.  In 1859, Leander's older brother Peter J. came to Texas and specifically Washington County to raise sheep. By 1860, McNelly had joined his family in the Burton area. McNelly's military career included service in the Civil War, as a captain in the Texas state military police of the Reconstruction-era, and as head of a special force known as the "Washington County  Volunteers."  McNelly returned to Burton throughout his career and at the end of his life.  He is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery.

In 1983, the Burton Heritage Society began Texas Ranger Day as a way to honor McNelly and the history of the Texas Rangers.  So this year in addition to honoring his connection with the Texas Rangers, we can also honor his Irish heritage!  So come join us Sat. March 17th from Noon to 5pm at the Burton Railroad Depot & Museum for a day of food, fun and history.

Gravestone studies at Mt. Zion?

I initially assumed that this was simply a reference to heaven but thought it might be interesting to start digging a little deeper.   A quick online search reveals two great websites, Texas Gravestone Studies (TGS) and the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS).  It turns out that TGS is actually a state chapter for the larger, national AGS.  And both of these groups are devoted to the “appreciation of the cultural significance of gravestones and burial grounds through their study and preservation.”  So back to our topic at hand (oops, sorry for that pun), information on some of the different symbols that can be seen throughout the cemetery.

Hello again!  With this entry, I want to continue with some of the wonderful symbolism to be found throughout Mt. Zion Cemetery.   I so enjoyed my last venture and taking photos of all of the different symbols that adorn the gravestones and decided that this topic definitely deserves more attention AND what better time to dive into this than right before our upcoming event?  So here goes.

When you wander around at Mt. Zion Cemetery, you will notice several with variations of a finger pointing upward.   







The weeping willow - mourning and sorrow.

The weeping willow - mourning and sorrow.

Luckily for us, AGS has posted a list of the common symbols for the 19th Century and here are a few examples that are found at Mt. Zion:

The pointing finger - “gone home, until we meet again (in heaven), with Jesus, Jesus calls, heavenly sleep, departed, no longer on earth.”

The bible - religious faith.


Angels - “symbolic messengers between God and man.”




Gates - “portals to the promised land; entry into the kingdom of heaven.”


As with many things, especially in the area of historical research, the list is meant to offer possible meanings for the symbols and as Jessie Lie Ferber notes, “There is more than one interpretation for some symbols so interpretations must be used as possibilities, not certainties.”

So with this great list, I will continue to explore the symbols that can be found at Mt. Zion and hopefully unlock more and more of the mysteries at this wonderful historic treasure in our community!


The church and its story continues...

I would like to pick up where our blog left off a few weeks ago... with the "adventures" of our little white church as of 1880-1881.  According to the Brenham Weekly Banner dated May 18, 1881, the church had been rebuilt in Burton and was to be dedicated.  And for those of you wondering, yes, the church got their lovely organ!  :)

But of course, the story doesn't stop there.  From 1881 to 1900, the church served the Burton Baptist congregation for services, weddings, funerals and the community as well.  Other churches even used the building for services during their own construction projects.  Then not quite 20 years after the church's move into Burton, it is faced with another challenge---the 1900 storm.  Many of you have probably read about the terrible storm that hit Galveston on September 6, 1900 where 6,000 people (and more) were lost.  But some might not know that the storm was felt as far inland as Burton and Brenham.  Our little white church was also not immune to the storm and its wrath.

According to the church minutes, the storm "blew off the building's roof" and it had to be replaced.  As of 16 years later, the building still suffered from damages caused by the storm and on October 1st, 1916, the church decided to rebuild.  Local builders, A.G. Homeyer and Will H. Weeren of Burton Lumber Company were given the contract to build and work began and was completed by 1917.

We currently have no pictures of the building in those years.  Our earliest glimpse of the building actually dates to the early 1940s after a rare snowfall in Burton.  Luckily, Miss Mildred Buck chose to pose in her front yard facing the church and thanks to her we have this lovely gem to share!

From 1917 to 1983, the little church would remain at this site in Burton and serve for countless church services, church revivals with visiting preachers, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, through three wars, as extra school space during Burton School construction, for summer Vacation Bible School and much, much more.  It truly served its community and congregation well.  And while all of the other church buildings in town would be dismantled during these years, our little white church would not.  Thanks to the Burton Baptist Church/ First Baptist Church of Burton, it served them until 1982-1983 and was donated to the Burton Heritage Society to begin its NEXT chapter!

And that almost brings us full circle (whew! a bit of a whirlwind) as we prepare for Texas Ranger Day on March 12th and raising the much-needed funds to restore this hardworking part of our community!  So come join us and become a part of this most exciting chapter in the story of Mt. Zion Historical Chapel!

Oh how the plot thickens...

So as I was writing the short blog entry last week about lovely Mt. Zion Historical Chapel... I remembered a blog post from our previous website and wanted to share it again.  It ties in pretty perfectly with this current post as it shows a bit more about the history of Mt. Zion Baptist Church... the church that would have been built here sometime in the 1850s.   My "funny" (or not so funny) ;/ blog title here will be more clear when you read on... (at least I hope).


New website adventure!

Hello fellow Burton history lovers!

We are very excited to be working on a totally new website.  We will have more wonderful Burton history, more pictures and of course, more information on our current exciting projects and how you can be part of it!  In the meantime, please check our Facebook page for current info.  If you have questions, don't hesitate to email us at burtondepot@burtonheritagesociety.org or call 979-353-0050 and leave us a message.  Please check back very soon for our progress.

Thanks for your support and talk to you soon!

Your friends at the Burton Heritage Society