Dead head: BHA’s Dave Parsons has friends in low places - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Dead head: BHA’s Dave Parsons has friends in low places

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Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2019 8:00 pm

Sure, Dave Parsons could tell ghost stories, but he chooses not to.

He’s already in a really old cemetery, after all, leading a tour that winds through the weathered, antique graves of the departed — so who needs campfire tales?

Parsons, education and membership coordinator for the Brownsville Historical Association, likes to stress the historical aspects during his Brownsville City Cemetery tours, no matter how close it is to Halloween. And there’s no shortage of intriguing history, not to mention murder.

“There’s a lot of interesting characters,” he said. “A lot of unusual deaths.”

Parsons joined BHA three years ago. Years before, he started documenting as fully as possible who’s buried in the old cemetery on the banks of Town Resaca, though not exactly where they’re buried. The city stopped indexing the burial locations around 1950.

“We’ve ended up with 27,200-plus names,” Parsons said. “Of that, only about 5,000 headstones are readable.”

At the edge of the slope toward the resaca marks the beginning of the potter’s field part of the cemetery, clear by how the plots are laid out differently.

“They never did plat that,” Parsons said. “In the old cemetery books, the city would just say ‘potter’s field.’ ”

Along with the anonymous and forgotten are names notable and familiar: Fernandez, Putegnat, San Roman, Yturria. The Rev. Hiram Chamberlain, Brownsville’s first Presbyterian minister, is buried here. So is Robert Shears, the city marshal who sparked the first Cortina War in trying to arrest one of Juan Cortina’s men, getting a non-fatal bullet in the shoulder compliments of Cortina himself.

Jose San Roman and Humphrey Woodhouse, two of the guys responsible for running a railroad between Brownsville to Port Isabel, are interred there. There’s Adrian Vidal, stepson of Mifflin Kenedy, who fought on both the Confederate and Union during the Civil War before being imprisoned by the French in Bagdad, Tamaulipas.

“His stepfather was in the process of trying to get ransom money together to buy him back when they executed him,” Parsons said.

Finally, there’s poor Daisy Starck, a 4-year-old who became the city’s first pedestrian traffic fatality when she chased a ball under the wheels of a horse-drawn carriage in 1879. To this day, people leave balls and other toys at the child’s grave. Turns out there’s a ghost story in there after all.

“There are stories about Daisy’s ghost,” Parsons said. “They claim that if you take one of her balls she’ll follow you home and haunt you.”

Check BHA’s Facebook page for complete information on cemetery and downtown tours.

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