Commission discusses making Marble Falls Cemetery a historical feature

Some of the older gravesites at Marble Falls City Cemetery. Staff photos by Jared Fields

MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commissioner Charles Watkins said he has been considering a question for awhile.

“When it comes to the Marble Falls Cemetery,” he said, “how can we get more value or make it more appealing to the general public?”

Watkins voiced his questions during the commissioners regular meeting Sept. 8. Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss offered one solution, while Watkins had another.

Moss said he and Lewis Fincher, the city’s parks superintendent, met with Jane Knapik, the Parks and Recreation’s special cemetery member, and concluded it’s time to create a cemetery association, which would be a nonprofit made up of volunteers.

The association would be charged with obtaining a historical designation and ensuring the cemetery’s history and historical significance is preserved.

“We want it to be a benefit and start transforming it into a park,” Moss said. “It’s sitting there and dying, no pun intended. There’s some rehabilitation that could stand to be done. There’s an opportunity to highlight the cemetery.”

“Any cemetery can have a designation,” Knapik said. “I think the association is a better way to help people be more aware of what they can do to help.”

Watkins’ solution was creating a historical guide to the city’s cemetery, which is already in the works.

It was pitched to the Falls on the Colorado Museum board of directors, and Frances McSpadden, the board treasurer, already has begun writing it.

The guide will focus on about 20 prominent citizens who are buried at the cemetery and will include a biography, photo and location of the gravesite. To help visitors find those sites, Watkins recommended placing an indicator.

“Something that will make it more lovely other than a marker,” he said.

One of the citizens buried at the cemetery is Ophelia Birdie Harwell, the state’s first elected female mayor in 1917. Commissioners have been wanting to find a way to honor her for several years. Watkins suggested a statue at the cemetery created by sculptor Dan Pogue of Pogue Sculpture Gallery and Foundry, who is finishing the statue of honky-tonk pioneer Floyd Tillman, who moved to the city in 1985. That statue is scheduled to be unveiled at FiestaJAM next month.

“I think that makes (Harwell) a significant person,” Watkins said. “We might want to put that memorial in the cemetery near her grave.”

Moss said citizens might be surprised to find out how much of the city’s history can be found at the cemetery.

“We have a lot of founding fathers buried out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of history and stories that are already documented.”

The booklets will be placed at the museum, the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center and the cemetery, so guests can easily find them.

Moss said the department can provide a booklet stand at the entrance of the cemetery for the guides. Volunteers can drop by to replenish the guides.

The goal is to sell advertisements to pay for the guide to local businesses, Watkins said, including to those who specialize in funeral services.

As for hiring Pogue to create a statue, Moss recommended following the same format used by musician John Arthur Martinez and former Houston orchestra conductor Robert Linder, who both live in the area. They launched fundraisers and presented the idea to other entities such as the city’s Economic Development Corp. for backing.

Commissioner Kendra Lewis said she liked the idea of honoring Harwell with a statue but noted it might be better to place it in a different part of the city because of how significant the former mayor’s contributions are to the state.   

The ideas for turning the cemetery into something more than a final resting place simply reaffirmed to Commissioner Mark McCary that the city’s Hike and Bike Trail should go through it, and Moss concurred.

In the end, the commissioners voted to support placing the guides at the cemetery and the creation of an association that will assist in cemetery preservation and historical significance.

“We all in agreement,” Moss said. “It’s all overdue.”

Contact Moss at for more information.

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