Stephen F. Austin State University

The Wrong Grave (June 2011)

The Wrong Grave
By Bob Bowman

Among the towering monuments in the Texas State Cemetery at Austin is the simple grave of John Alexander Greer of San Augustine, a Republic of Texas Senator, a lieutenant governor and a one-time candidate for governor.
But in East Texas, where Greer spent his life, there is the lingering question if his bones really lie beneath the Austin tombstone.
Greer was born in Shelbyville, Tennesee, in 1802, moved to Texas in 1830 from Kentucky, and was serving as Texas' Lieutenant Governor when he died in 1855 while campaigning for Governor. He was buried on his farm's cemetery nine miles west of San Augustine.
In the 1930's, when the Texas Centennial Commission decided to honor many of the state's early heroes by reburying them in the state cemetery, Greer's remains were among those designated.
A Centennial Commission official came to San Augustine to speak to a relative, Jack Greer, about moving the grave. Greer, however, said he felt his ancestor's bones should stay at home.
In a few weeks, however, a Centennial Commission team came back to San Augustine, armed with a court order, and asked Greer to direct them to the cemetery. They had been advised that Greer was buried in one of two graves, but they didn't know which one.
Green walked over to a grave, hammered an old wagon axle rod into the grave, and told them, "This is the one."
When Greer's bones were buried in Austin, Jack Greer's wife questioned the action, and said, "I hated to see John Alexander leave here."
"Don't worry," said Greer, "John Alexander didn't go anywhere".
"You remember those fellahs from Austin who came over here on Friday, the 13th. They had some bad luck. They left with the wrong bones."
As it turned out, Greer had driven his axle rod into the grave of a well-known reprobate in San Augustine, who just happened to be resting nearby.
In an Austin cemetery filled with politicians, maybe it is just as well.

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 51 books about East Texas. He can reached at