On Walkabout At: Concordia Cemetery In El Paso, Texas

The West Texas town of El Paso has a long and colorful history that began when the first Spanish Conquistadors established a colony here on the Rio Grande River.  From these early beginnings El Paso would go on  from being a Spanish colony, to becoming a Mexican city, and than finally the major American city that it is today.  Over the centuries many people were responsible for the development of the city of El Paso into what it is today and the memory of these El Pasoans lives on at the historic Concordia Cemetery located in the center of El Paso:

concordia cemetery

According to the below marker, the current location of the cemetery became known as Concordia during the 1840s’s when this area was the home of Chihuahua trader Hugh Stephenson.  In 1856 his wife, Juana (Ascarate), was buried in what is now part of Concordia Cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
From then on the graveyard gained widespread use in the 1880s when El Pasoans drove three miles to Concordia to bury their dead. It is amazing to think that this cemetery was once on the outskirts when today it has been totally surrounded by dense urban sprawl to include being surrounded on two sides by the highway intersection in the center of El Paso known as the “Spaghetti Bowl”:
concordia cemetery 2
Here is a view from the cemetery with the Spaghetti Bowl as a backdrop:
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Besides being backdropped by the busy highway turnpike, the cemetery has much nicer natural backdrop on its west and north sides with the Franklin Mountains:
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Getting back to the history lesson, by 1890 various sections of Concordia Cemetery had been purchased by different groups and were designated Catholic, Masonic, Jewish, Black, Chinese, Military, Jesuit, city, and county.
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

These various sections in the cemetery remain to this day with the newest section being where the Buffalo Soldiers of Old West fame were relocated:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
According to the plaque at the memorial site, in 1866 one year after the end of the Civil War and more than 18 months after the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was enacted, Congress had the need to reorganize the peace time regular Army.  Recognizing the military merits of black soldiers, four black Infantry Regiments and two Segregated Regiments of black Cavalry were authorized.  The 9th and 10th US Cavalry were destined to become the most decorated of all US Military Regiments.
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
It is believed that the nickname Buffalo Soldiers began with Cheyenne warriors in 1867.  Out of respect the Cheyenne referred to the hard fighting blacks as Buffalo Soldiers because their hair resembled that of the revered Bison.  Here is a close up of one of the graves:
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
This new memorial section is actually really nice and well done.  What I did find odd though was that I have never seen sponsorship advertisements on headstones before, but I guess they had to pay for this memorial some how:
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
If you are wondering there are plenty of other veterans buried at the cemetery as well:
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Another section of the cemetery located to the north of the new Buffalo Soldier Memorial is where the French family is buried:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Captain A.H. French married into the Hugh Stephenson family that originally owned this property and is buried here with his family to include Hugh Stephenson’s wife Juana Ascarate.  Located to the south of the Buffalo Soldier Memorial is the are  reserved for members of the Masonic Lodge:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

This section for the Mason’s was quite large:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

They even had a large obelisk to designate their corner of this large cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Most of the graves had a Masonic symbol on it such as this grave below of Charles Dyer who I wondered was the same person that the infamous Dyer street in El Paso is named after:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

However, some of the graves did not have any symbols such as this section of graves for the Biggs family:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

The grave for Lieutenant James Biggs is the person that Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso is named after.  Lt. Biggs died in combat during World War I and his body was moved from Europe to where it rest today with the rest of his family at Concordia Cemetery.  I also saw in the Mason’s section someone that was buried recently and his grave had no Masonic symbols for some reason:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Someone else also buried in this section of the cemetery is Captain James H. White:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

He came to El Paso in 1869 after serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  In the 1870′s White served in both the Mexican and American armies before getting a job as a US Marshal in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  He would later go on to become both the Sheriff and then a tax collector for the city of El Paso.  He was a Mason, Shriner, and a Knight of Templar before passing away in 1907.

At the corner entrance into the Masonic section of the cemetery is this tomb:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

According to the Concordia Cemetery map I had this tomb was once used as the resting place for the deceased Mexican President Huerta Victoriano.

Huerta had ceased the Mexican Presidency in a coup in 1913.  He was later implicated in the German attempt to form a military alliance with Mexico in order for the Mexicans to attack the United States during World War I.  He was later exiled in 1915 and worked his way from Europe and then to the United States as he plotted to return to power.  He was arrested just up the road from where I live, in Newman, New Mexico by American authorities for violating the US’s neutrality laws.  He was imprisoned at Ft. Bliss in El Paso.  He would later die in jail and was buried in Concordia Cemetery.

Easily the most famous person buried in Concordia is John Wesley Hardin:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery
Hardin was an outlaw that spent 15 years in prison for murder before being pardoned for his crimes in 1893.  Hardin claimed to have killed 30 people before being imprisoned at the Huntsville, Texas prison.  During his time in prison Hardin studied law and a few months after his release he passed the Texas state bar exam.

John Wesley Hardin

The outlaw and excon had now officially become a qualified lawyer.   He then moved to El Paso to practice law and while gambling at a local bar Hardin was shot in the back of the head by 56-year-old constable, John Selman, Sr. who shot him after Hardin earlier that day had a verbal dispute with his son.  It is an incredibly inglorious way for such a deadly gunfighter to go out.
Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

From Hardin’s grave I next walked over to the Chinese section of the cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

The Chinese community was first established in El Paso when 300 Chinese laborers came to the city to work on the construction of the railroads in the area in the late 1800′s.  Some stayed and became permanent fixtures in the community.  When they passed away they were buried in their own part of the cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

I have seen plenty of Chinese cemeteries before in various areas around the world, but I have never seen one with grave coverings like these:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Here is a close up of the grave coverings, has anyone seen Chinese grave coverings like these before:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

By the way here is an example of how Chinese immigrants in Australia were buried.

Here is an El Paso ethnic Chinese that passed away a few years ago who was also a military veteran:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Here was a marker located in the middle of the cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Here is something that I see in every Chinese cemetery, which is a burning tower:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Something strange about the Chinese portion of the cemetery is that they have been given a huge chunk of land to bury their dead, but there is hardly anyone buried here:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

In the above picture in the top right you can see where the earlier pictured grave coverings are located.  On this opposite end of the cemetery is a few more grave coverings, but most of the tombstones are of the variety pictured above.  After checking out the Chinese Cemetery I decided to call it a day because it was 106 degrees out and I had been walking around in the cemetery for an hour and a half.  There was still more sections of the cemetery to see such as the Jewish area, but I was spent from the relentless sun beating down on me.  So I will just have to make another visit to this cemetery some time.

Anyway on the way out I happened to notice this gravestone of Olaf Cornelius Ellison who came to be buried here in El Paso after being born all the way in Norway:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

However, he ended up all the way out here I’m sure is an interesting life story.  Also on my way to the exit I also noticed this sign that provided some various facts about the cemetery:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

Finally if you are wondering what the hours are for the cemetery here they are posted on the entrance gate:

Picture from El Paso's Concordia Cemetery

The easiest way I found to reach the cemetery is by exiting US 54 on to Montana Street.  Follow Montana to the west and then take a left on Houston followed by a right on Yandell Drive.  Yandell runs parallel to the cemetery, so just follow it until you see the cemetery entrance on the left.  The cemetery is actually pretty easy to find even for people visiting from out of town.  The cemetery does have security guards for anyone worried about their safety while visiting because it is located in a somewhat run down neighborhood.  The biggest thing I warn people of is what I mentioned earlier, the heat because there is little shade and no water available unless visitors bring their own.  Another concern are the rattlesnakes that are known to live in the cemetery.  It is best to keep an eye out for them when visiting, but likely visitors will not see any.

So for anyone deciding to visit Concordia Cemetery just keep these few tips in mind and their shouldn’t be any issues while visiting this historic cemetery.

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12 Responses to On Walkabout At: Concordia Cemetery In El Paso, Texas

  1. Pingback: On Walkabout At: Concordia Cemetery In El Paso, Texas | On Walkabout | El Paso Taxi

  2. Robert Ackerson says:

    Very intriguing presentation-well done!

  3. Dobbs says:

    Robert thanks for visiting the site and I am glad you enjoyed the posting. I recommend you check out my list of postings to see if there are any other presentations you may find of interest.

  4. Good day Dobbs,

    My name is Melissa Sargent and I am a Board Member and the Volunteer PR and Web Mistress for Concordia Heritage Association a 501 c 3 Non profit association who cares for Concordia Cemetery.

    I just stumbled on your Blog while looking to update the Concordia Cemetery Website.

    Loved your pictures and your "Walk About Blog", thank you so much.

    I wanted to list your site on a new page that will have blogs pictures and stories about Concordia Cemetery and I was wondering if I can make your blog the first Link on that page?

    If yes, I would like to use your full name (if that is possible) and I am making an assumption that you are Australian…..

    You have my email and I would love to hear from you and ask a few questions about how you found our cemetery, etc. Also find out have you been to our website.

  5. John Jaso says:

    Thanks for the mini tour….

    Just wondering if Gen. Huerta & Orozco are still
    buried there ?

    Thanks,

    John (interested in History )

  6. Melissa says:

    Hi John,
    Presidente Huertes is still in EL Paso at Evergreen Cemetery across I-10 on Paisano near the Univeristy Medical Center. I beleive his family moved him there in the 1930′s. Mexico would never allow the family to bring him back.
    On 3 September 1915 Orozco’s remains were buried in El Paso, Texas, at the decision of his wife in Concordia Cemetery, dressed in a full Mexican general’s uniform, with the Mexican flag draping his coffin, in front of three thousand followers and admirers. In 1923, his remains were returned to his home state of Chihuahua.

    Have you been to our website? http://www.concordiacemetery.org
    Thanks for the question hope this was helpful

  7. Dobbs says:

    Melissa thanks for the info. I will have to stop by Evergreen Cemetery some day to find Huertes’ grave site.

  8. Just a note of thanks for your photos and narrative about Concordia Cemetery. The Buffalo Soldier Memorial Monument (dedicated 11/11/2009) is made up of memorial headstones to honor the known Buffalo Soldiers buried at Concordia. the original gravesites were not ‘relocated’. Since it was a memorial, funding was raised by sponsorship of the 42 headstones, hence the answer to your query. Concordia Heritage Association is a private 501 c3 organization dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and security of Texas Historic Concordia Cemetery, made up of a handful of volunteers. Our association partners with community groups to continue our efforts. Thanks again for your interest!

  9. Dobbs says:

    Patricia, thanks for commenting and providing the clarification about the Buffalo Soldier memorial. Concordia Cemetery really is a hidden historical gem in El Paso that more people should go and visit.

  10. Nikki says:

    My family lived in El Paso during the late 1800s. My mother’s uncle Edwin Eugene Casey is buried in the Independent Order of Odd Fellos Cemetery in El Paso but I can’t find info on the cemetery. Others are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery but while they are listed as being buried there, the markers are gone. The boundaries for the IOOF are Compress Road and Brown Road. Does the cemetery still exist? EE Casey was in Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and at one time had an oblisque marker on his grave. Any help you could give would be appreciated! — Nikki

  11. This note is for Nikki.

    Hi Nikki as for your Relative Edwin Eugene Casey. Go to the Concordia Cemetery Website and go
    to the grave research page and fill out the form and email or send it in, Our Volunteer Researchers will find his
    grave location for you.

    I cannot help you with Evergreen, but will ask around and post if I get the info.
    Melissa

  12. Marie Navarro says:

    I am in El Paso now – looking for the grave site of my husbands great grandfather. His death certificate says he is buried here. This website has some very useful information that I’m sure will help us to find it, and I appreciate the time you took to create it!

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