It’s hard to believe that it was four years ago when I was working on two Texas historical marker applications for the small Texas German town known as Nazareth. Time really does fly.
With any historical marker application, extensive research must be conducted to prove the history of the subject, the building, or the cemetery. Both markers in Nazareth fell into the category of a subject marker and a cemetery marker.
Learning how the local mercantile store brought in oysters and had weekly boxing matches was quite revealing. Who would’ve thought in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Panhandle oysters were shipped in for the residents as a staple? Who would’ve thought that boxing matches held in the middle of the store gave the boys a much-needed outlet besides school and farming to vent their frustrations? Or that gingersnap cookies were sold from big barrels that you could grab them by the handfuls?
Back then it was not considered dangerous to store arsenic, mouse poison, calcium cyanide right across from bulk flour in the store. At least cyanide was in quart jars labeled as rat poison with skull and crossbones on the jars.
Researching the cemetery history revealed how the small German community did not escape TB, smallpox, typhoid fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, or dysentery. Some men died in WWII. Some women died during childbirth. Remarkably, there were no deaths in 1918 in Nazareth even as the Spanish Flu swept through the community and later claimed one-half million lives in the U.S. I discovered that lightning caused four deaths.
I walked amongst the tombstones of that cemetery many times often with a great horned owl opening its eyes occasionally to see what I was up to. I came to see the names in a different light. Discovering how each person left this world gave me the understanding that no matter what – people endure and survive. Some of the tombstones gave me a little bit more – I had to learn some German.
I’m humbly proud of these two historical markers for the history they represent. I’m eternally grateful for the getting to know Father Ken Keller (who passed earlier this year), Mary Helen Flores, and other people in this little community. I think a little part of my heart will always be tied to Nazareth.
Photographs: ©Christena Stephens