We all enjoy the Memorial Day holiday and while we’re having fun, we also probably remember that its true purpose is to remember those in the military who have died for their country. Each was an individual and (of course) each had a family and friends – many of whom may still live in our community.
As one drives through the front gate of the Athens Cemetery, the area immediately to the right is called the Pioneer Section. It is appropriately named because it contains so many of Athens' pioneering families within its hallowed ground.
One such internment is that of early Athens resident and prominent citizen, William T. Eustace. Eustace was born in Virginia on August 24, 1845 and was a veteran of the War Between the States, serving in the 47th Virginia Regiment and then the 1st Richmond Howitzers. He was a captain in the units. Eustace served under Generals Beauregard, Johnson and Lee. He served throughout the entire war and was in all the principal engagements of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendering with Lee in April 1865.
In 1876, he was elected to his first public office, District Clerk of Henderson County. In 1880, he was elected County Clerk and in 1888, he was elected County School Superintendent. In 1890, his eyesight failing, he withdrew from public life and entered the practice of law. He was with the Eustace and McDonald firm when he accepted the post of City Assessor and Collector and was later the first City Secretary of the newly incorporated town of Athens.
Eustace was a staunch Methodist and was elected to its board of Stewards where he was ultimately named a board member for life. He was a long-time member of the Athens Masonic Lodge No.165 and had served as its Worshipful Master and then as Secretary. He was also a member of the local Chapter, Council and Commandery of the York Rite.
After the Texas and New Orleans railroad extended its line through Athens in 1900, it had by-passed the established community of Goshen. A new settlement sprang-up along its right of way. The new settlement was named Eustace in honor of the prominent County leader. Eustace never lived there, but he was held in such high esteems by the citizens of the county and was honored by having the new town named after him.
On January 6, 1927, Captain Eustace died peacefully while eating his lunch. He was buried in the Athens Cemetery on January 7th with the usual customs of the Masonic craft. The Minutes of Athens Lodge No. 165 reflect that the Lodge was busy burying two of its members on that day with two funerals at the Athens Cemetery. Captain Eustace's was the second of the day by the Lodge.
In one of Captain Eustace's run for public office, he received every vote cast., but one and it was speculated that someone had mistakenly mismarked their ballot. Such was the popularity of one of Athens and Henderson County's leading citizens.
You can read additional stories about some of the colorful individuals interred at the Athens Cemetery by visiting our website at www.athenstxcemetery.com and following the links for Yearly Newsletters and/or Cemetery News.
Story provided by local historian, Art Hall