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Dessau Lutheran Cemetery

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13300 Dessau Road
Austin Travis
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The nearby city of Pflugerville hints at a German influence in the Central Texas area. City names such as Fredericksburg and New Braunfels further present the case. A more intimate example of German influences can be found at the Dessau Lutheran Cemetery on Dessau Road in north east Austin.

The church at the back of the cemetery now serves as the home of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.
Like cemeteries along Decker Lane, this small resting place features deceased from a fairly homogenous group of European settlers and their more recent descendents. Whereas Decker saw a concentration of Swedes, Dessau saw a gathering of Germans. Many of the headstones bear all German script, an indication that though they had set out to start a new life for themselves in a new land they continued to find comfort in the familiarity of the Old World.

A wide angle view of the cemetery with a Ganzert family marker in the foreground.
A plaque near the small church in back of the cemetery indicates that it was built in 1876, though there is no indication exactly when the cemetery was first used. At least one tombstone appears to indicate a burial in 1874, so the cemetery appears to predate the church by at least a couple of years. This is consistent with the plaque that states that local families worshipped in their private homes until the church was constructed.

The church held mass in German up until the mid-1900's. Coinciding with the change in language at mass changes are also evident in the headstones. All deceased within the last few decades bear English on their markers, a signal of trans-generational assimilation into the melting pot of America. The family names remain. Several family names predominate including Grosskpf, Nehring, Nauert, Krueger and Prinz. Some of these families are mentioned on the historical marker as being founders of the Dessau Community, which was first established in 1854.

German phrases on tombstones are similar to those found on English-language headstones. A few common ones found here include:

  • Vater - Father
  • Geb. (short for Geborenes) - Born
  • Gest. (short for Gestorben) - Died
  • Mutter - Mother
  • Hier Ruhl - Here Lies
  • Hier Ruht In Gott - Here Lies In God
  • Ruhe Sanft - Rest Gently


Photos

Joricke Many of the oldest markers in the cemetery, such as this one, bear only German phrases. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Raised Letters This marker indicates that an entire family, or much of it, perished on the same day. Note the family name in raised letters. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Border This grave features an interesting marble border with rounded corners and flower pot in front. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Baby Many families in the past did not pick names for their children until after birth. If they perished young enough they failed to ever bear a name. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Casket One of the more touching graves in the cemetery belongs to Ida Prinz who died at the age of one. The casket on top of the grave reinforces Ida's smallness. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Crown The tallest marker in the cemetery bore this "crown" with the letters "MIVIENA". I could not translate this successfully and may have transposed letters. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Cross The marker on the left bears an intricately carved cross. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Grosskopf This Grosskopf couple were remembered by their descendents with elaborately carved renditions of the Pearly Gates. (Photo by Austin Explorer) Tree The marker here faces right into the heart of the tree so that it's hard to get a good look at the lettering. Was this tree intentionally planted by relatives long ago? (Photo by Austin Explorer)

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Winner, Journalistic Achievement Award, Texas Historical Foundation, 2004