Written by Art Hall
This small cemetery is a pioneer grave yard completely surrounded by development in Universal City, Bexar County, Texas. It is located immediately across from the municipal animal shelter and inside a fenced area which encompasses various municipal facilities. The cemetery contains only six marked graves, all members of the Banister Edens family which came to the area and established a farm and ranch on Cibolo Creek in 1855.
Banister Edens was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina on June 29, 1804, the eldest child of John Edens (1783-1857) and Luvinia Langford (ca. 1785 – ca. 1830). As a small boy, Banister moved with his family to Tennessee in 1808 and from there to St. Claire Co., Illinois Territory around 1812. From Illinois the family moved to Hempstead Co., Arkansas in 1817 and eventually into Claiborne Parish, Louisiana around 1822. In Claiborne Parish, Banister grew to manhood and married Mary Walker, the daughter of Dr. Hugh Walker and Jane Greene Walker.
Banister and Mary Edens had nine children, all born in Claiborne Parish between 1830 and 1846. In 1850, the seven youngest children, including son Napoleon Augustus Edens, were still living in the family home.
In 1831, Banister’s father, John Edens, and Banister’s younger, unmarried siblings moved to the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, settling in that part that eventually became Houston County, Texas. It was there, about ten miles north of present day Crockett, that John Edens received a league and a labor of land in David G. Burnet’s colony. In 1838 Indians attacked the home of John Edens and killed eight women and children and severely, wounded a number of others in what became known in Texas history as the Edens-Madden Massacre. Among those killed were Banister Edens’ step-mother (whose given name is unknown but who was a sister of George Pollitt of Nacogdoches), his sisters Emily, age 16 and Caledonia, age 3; and his nephews Robert and Seldon Madden, ages 7 and 5 respectively. Also killed were neighbors Mary Madden, age 3, Mrs. Sarah Hall Murchison, and Mrs. Mary Murchison Sadler.
Banister and his family had remained in Louisiana when his father made the move to Coahuila y Tejas in 1831, but in 1855 decided to follow him into Texas. He sold his land holdings in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana to his son-in-law, Samuel R. Clinton and Samuel’s brother, David Clinton. According to family tradition, when they first arrived in Texas, Banister and his family stayed briefly with Banister’s father in Houston County before moving on down the El Camino Real to Bexar County, near San Antonio. In Bexar County, Banister acquired 350 acres of land on Cibolo Creek which he farmed and ranched. In the 1856 tax roll of Bexar County, Banister was shown owning these 350 acres, 6 Negroes, 5 horses, 70 cattle and a wagon. Most of this old Banister Edens farm now lies within the perimeter of Randolph Air Force Base.
On January 10, 1856, Banister’s wife, Mary Walker Edens died after a short illness and was buried on the family farm near the house. She had been born on March 11,1810, in Illinois Territory. She was the first recorded burial in the Edens Cemetery.
Soon after Mary’s death, Banister moved his family back to East Texas to be near his father, brothers and sisters who were living in Houston and Anderson Counties. Banister settled near Elkhart, Anderson County. However, he retained his land in Bexar County although he disposed of or moved his other property. The 1858 tax roll of Bexar County showed Banister still with his 350 acre farm on Cibolo Creek but with no other taxable property.
In Anderson County, Banister married Elizabeth Bennett Grigsby, the widow of William Grigsby in 1857. In 1866, Banister moved back to his farm on Cibolo Creek in Bexar County.
Napoleon Augustus Edens, one of Banister’s sons, married his step-sister, Mary Faith Grigsby, in Anderson County in 1859. During the Civil War, Napoleon enlisted in the CSA at Dailey’s Store, Houston County, being among the group enlisting in Capt. R. Pridgen’s Co., Mounted Horse Division (aka Elkhart Cavalry, later a part of Greene’s Brigade.
After the war, Napoleon and Mary Faith joined Banister in the family’s move back to the Edens’ farm in Bexar County in 1866. They resumed farming and ranching with Napoleon, eventually buying the farm from his father. After selling the farm, Banister and Elizabeth moved to near Center Point in Kerr County, Texas, to be near another son. Here Banister died in 1889 and Elizabeth in 1892. Both are buried in the Center Point Cemetery.
Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens lived on the old family farm on Cibolo Creek for over 35 years, eventually selling the place in 1901 and moving into San Antonio where they lived the remainder of their lives. It is interesting to note that when the farm was sold, the deed contained the following provision:
“We reserve from the sale out of the above lands our family graveyard, same being near the house, same is 60 feet square, and is to be fenced and kept fenced by us and our heirs, and we reserve the right to enter the said land and bury members of our family in said graveyard, and to repair the same.”
I think it unlikely that some later disposition would have been made of this 60 x 60 plot, so it would appear that the descendants of Napoleon and Mary Faith still retain their interest in it.
While Napoleon and Mary Faith were living on the farm, the five other burials in the Edens Cemetery took place, as follows:
- Mattie H. Edens, died on October 22, 1886 at the age of four years. Her tombstone says simply “Little Mattie – Aged 4”. She was the daughter of Hugh Banister Edens, another son of Banister Edens, who was living nearby.
- Roy Edens died on July 21, 1887 at the age of two years. Roy was the son of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens.
- Next to be buried here was John Napoleon Edens, age 35, who died on July 21, 1899. He was another son of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens.
- William Grigsby Edens, another son of Napoleon and Mary Faith, died in California on February 9, 1901. According to his wishes, his body was transported back to Texas to be buried in the family cemetery. He was 25 years old.
- The last known burial in this cemetery was that of W. K. Kellam, who died on March 5, 1902, just prior to the sale of the farm. Kellam was the husband of Nora B. Edens, a daughter of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens. He was 29 years of age when he died.
As far as is known, there are no unmarked graves in the Edens Cemetery.