The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 565
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NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
Texas Graveyards: A Cultural Legacy. By Terry G. Jordan. (Austin:
The University of Texas Press, 1982. Pp. 147. Acknowledgments,
illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index. $19.95.)
Few historians have written about the Texas way of death, but schol-
ars in other fields have begun to explore limited aspects of it. This book
by cultural geographer Terry G. Jordan, newly appointed to the Walter
Prescott Webb Chair of History and Ideas at the University of Texas
at Austin, makes a major contribution to the study of regional death
customs and, more broadly, Texas culture. Based on twenty years of
fieldwork and extensive reading of relevant secondary literature in
many disciplines, the book argues that the rural burial places of Texas
"provide one of the best indices to the cultural diversity of the state" (p.
Jordan discusses the material culture found in the graveyards of
three Texas ethnic groups-Southerners, Mexicans, and Germans. He
focuses most attention on the first group, which he defines to include
Anglo-American whites, blacks, and Alabama-Coushatta Indians. He
examines such specific customs as scraping, mounding, and decorating
graves, the Decoration Day ritual of caring for burial places, the use of
flowers and other adornments, the spatial orientation and arrangement
within the graveyards, the uses of fences and lichgates, religious atti-
tudes displayed in cemeteries, and, in a separate chapter, distinctive re-
gional grave markers. Jordan concludes that, as one would expect, the
predominant Anglo-Americans made the greatest contribution to shap-
ing Texas cemeteries, but he also finds a major black influence on
regional deathways and Southern culture. Jordan's examination of
Mexican and German cemeteries provides a striking perspective, dem-
onstrating for the reader how deathways vary from culture to culture
within a geographical area. Mexican burial places, for example, tend to
be sanctified ground, containing large public crosses, colorful grave
decorations, and a haphazard internal spatial arrangement, all of which
differ from the Southern tradition. The German graveyard represents
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/623/?rotate=270: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.