By Kevin Ladd
The City of Austin contains many historic properties, but one of the most impressive is the eighteen-acre tract that is known as the Texas State Cemetery. The imposing monuments honor such important figures as Stephen Fuller Austin, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and twelve or more Texas governors. Some of our local residents might be surprised to learn that at least three local Texas patriots and one recent day public servant from Chambers County are buried in "The Arlington of Texas."
Robert Orson William McManus (1812-1885) rests on Republic Hill, the choicest piece of real estate within the state burial ground. McManus rests only a short distance from the Stephen F. Austin's grave. A native of Troy, New York, McManus came to Texas with his colorful sister, Jane (McManus) Storms Cazneau in the early 1830s. He appears to have settled in the Moss Bluff area of Liberty County about 1835, and a few months later joined a local militia company commanded by William M. Logan. Erastus "Deaf" Smith afterward added McManus to his small but highly effective "Spy Company," which not only contributed to the victory at San Jacinto, but also helped hundreds of women and children on the Runaway Scrape. His land grant, located just north of Wallisville, actually falls into both Chambers and Liberty counties. He was married three times: (1) Sarah Isabella Spinks, (2) Mary E. Turner, and (3) Sadie Sweetman.
Wallisville merchant Micajah "Cage" Byerly (1842-1928) was a native of Jasper County, Texas. His parents were Adam and Nancy Ann (Andrews) Byerly. He entered the Confederate military service on June 2, 1861 as a private in Company G, Thirteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment. He was honorably discharged on April 30, 1865 and two years later settled at Wallisville, where he operated a general merchandise store and ice cream parlor for many years. He was married in 1869 to Miss Louvisa Ann Hart (1850 - 1889). Their daughter, Stella, was married to Emmett Waverly LaFour. Toward the end of his life, Cage Byerly went to live at the Texas Confederate Home in Austin. He died there on November 5, 1928 and, like many veterans from that facility, was buried in the Confederate section of the State Cemetery.
John Hamilton Sherman (1845-1909) was born in Springfield, Illinois, one of several stops his family made before settling down here in the early 1850s. He was a son of Leverett and Margaret (Ness) Sherman. Shortly after turning seven-teen years of age, Sherman enlisted in Company F of the Twenty - Sixth Texas Cavalry Regi-ment. This fighting force, commanded by the dashing General Xavier Blanchard DeBray, made up for the monotony of camp life by staging elaborate, showy dress parades. They came to call themselves "The Menagerie." He was married first to Mary Ann White and secondly to Mary Susan Wallace. Sherman went to live at the Confederate Home in Austin and was buried in the Confederate section after his death in July 1909.
The fourth person from Chambers County to be buried there is Cynthia Ann Latiolias Jenkins (1952-2004), who was appointed to the State Board of Medical Examiners in 1984 by Governor Mark White with reappointment in 1991 by Governor Ann Richards. She was elected to the State Democratic Executive Committee in 1982-84, and the highlight of her term was participating in the nomination of the first woman vice presidential candidate (Geraldine Ferraro on the Mondale-Ferraro ticket) as a delegate to the 1982 Democratic convention in San Francisco.
The Texas State Cemetery was given a major $4.5 million renovation in the mid-1990s.