Magnolia Cemetery History

The Magnolia Cemetery was established by members of the First German Methodist Church of Houston, Texas (Later known as Bering Memorial Methodist Church) on November 20, 1884.

The original name was Magnolia Graveyard and it was for the exclusive use of members of the First German Methodist Church. (Bering Memorial Methodist Church does not show any record of the Cemetery's connection to it in their records) The first two burials that of John P. Steiner and Arthur Steiner actually occurred on November 13, 1884, a date prior to the organizational meeting.

The original trustees of the cemetery were the Reverend William Knolle, of First German Methodist Church, Houston, Texas; August Bering and his brother Conrad Bering (for whom the Bering Memorial Methodist Church was named and who are buried in Glenwood Cemetery), Joseph Issac, Charles Beneke, Jacob Bader, Henry Stabe, R. H. Roco, Charles Zink, F. Bonewitz, and George Henrichsen.  Lots were priced according to location at $50, $35, and $20.

The cemetery was officially registered when, on March 4, 1886, the Secretary of State of the State of Texas issued Charter No. 75842 to the Magnolia Cemetery Company.

Approximately two months later, a ten acre tract which included the original graveyard was purchased from August and Conrad Bering. The Bering's, two of the original trustees, arranged for the cemetery to acquire the tract from them after they had purchased it from Joseph Barton and his wife. Both transactions were in the amount of $1,350.00.  The property extended northward from what is now West Dallas Avenue to the edge of Buffalo Bayou. Joseph Barton was later interred in the cemetery on Lot No. 50, Section B.

On February 8, 1892, August Bering, George Henrichsen, Conrad Bering, C.H. Beneke, Ernest Fuchs, and William J. Frederick, applied for and received an amendment to the charter to extend the privileges of membership to churches other than the First German Methodist Church of Houston. The value of the ten acre tract at this time was estimated at $5,000.00. By the turn of the century in 1900, over 500 interments had occurred at Magnolia Cemetery.

In 1929, the City of Houston decided to pave Buffalo Drive.  Buffalo Drive, now called Allen Parkway, extended west from downtown Houston across the northern portion of the cemetery property. Due to lack of funds the cemetery could not pay the paving assessments for its portion, and a compromise between the City and the Cemetery was arranged.  In order to pay the paving assessment, the cemetery ceded to the City of Houston all of the Cemetery's property north of Buffalo Drive to the south bank of Buffalo Bayou. At a special meeting of Magnolia Cemetery on June 20, 1929, the deed to the City of Houston was signed.

The Cemetery's application to operate as a non-profit Corporation was approved on September 5, 1939. The affidavit accompanying the approval stated the property and improvements would be used as a public cemetery and for no other purpose. By 1939, the Cemetery had accommodated 2200 interments.

By 1970, with 3,663 interments, a majority of the cemetery lots had been sold. The money was used for the care and maintenance of the grounds and gravesites.  A majority of the lot sales had occurred many years ago and the original lot owners were deceased so that the lot ownership was in second or third generation successors.  As a result, dues for these lots became more and more difficult to collect.  Due to lack of funds, the cemetery was in a general state of disrepair.  Many of the remaining lot owners had decided not to have any additional burials on their lots. (Dues, many past due for years, had to be paid before new interments could be made on the plots.)

The Cemetery trustees realized the need to establish a permanent cemetery maintenance fund administered on a perpetual care basis. Fortunately, the south 1.01 acres of Magnolia Cemetery, bordering on West Dallas Avenue, had been reserved and withheld from lot sales.

On September 21, 1970, the south 1.01 acre tract was sold to the American General Corporation and a perpetual care fund for the cemetery was established. In 1973, the north end of the cemetery was also sold to American General.

Curently, with more than 3,800 interments, Magnolia Cemetery Corporation operates as a non-profit perpetual care cemetery insuring proper care and maintenance for all future generations. Magnolia Cemetery has an endowment fund to manage operational expenses and occassionally receives aid from American General whose founder Gus Wortham now has a prominent Mausoleum on the north end of Magnolia Cemetery.

Author: A. Hardy Roper, appended by William Bammel, Jr.