Audio Tour of Dowling Markers in St. Vincent's Cemetery

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Audio Tour of Dowling Markers in St. Vincent's Cemetery


This 5-minute audio tour, prepared by an undergraduate student at Rice University in 2011, was made to be heard while visiting St. Vincent's Cemetery at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Houston. It provides information about the various markers to Dowling in the cemetery.


Alex Honold
Elizabeth Shulman
Jocelyn Wright

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When he died of yellow fever in 1867, Dick Dowling was buried here, in St. Vincent’s Cemetery. As you walk around, you’ll see that there are several memorials to Dowling scattered throughout the cemetery created by various groups wishing to commemorate Dowling’s rich heritage and legacy. These markers were not always in existence, though, in fact, the first one did not come into being until more than 65 years after Dowling’s death.

As early as the 1880s, editorials appeared in newspapers in Houston and Galveston expressing dismay that Dowling was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery which, at the time, was already in a forgotten corner of Houston. Concerns that Dowling’s grave was not adequately marked were somewhat assuaged when his statue was unveiled in front of City Hall in 1905 but, in the following decades, the statue fell into disrepair. A 1929 newspaper article described the statue as “somewhat weather beaten.”

At the time, there was growing consternation in Texas that many of the graves of the state’s greatest heroes remained unmarked. Some men, such as L.W. Kemp, a Houstonian, made it their life’s work to raise funds to mark the graves of Texas’s heroes. Others, such as Houston attorney and historian Ingham Roberts, repeatedly urged a suitable monument be placed on Dowling’s grave. Roberts even suggested Dowling’s statue be moved from in front of City Hall to St. Vincent’s Cemetery where he was buried. Another man in the early 1920s even went so far as to steal one of the guns from the ruins of the fort at Sabine Pass and place it at the head of Dowling’s grave but soon after he said “some scoundrel stole it” from Dowling’s grave.

After nearly 70 years of various efforts to properly mark Dowling’s grave, the marker you see in front of you--this giant stone structure with a cross and partially covered by leaves--was unveiled in St. Vincent’s Cemetery on Saturday, November 2, 1935. This date, All Souls’ Day, a Roman Catholic Holy Day that honors the dead, was specifically chosen to honor Dowling’s strong Catholic faith.

(sound of rain)

Rain fell as 800 men, women and children gathered at the dedication ceremony for the monument. Among the guests were several soldiers from the South, as well as some widows. Many of Houston and Texas’s elites attended and participated in the event, including the Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe of Houston, Texas Attorney General William McCraw, and the bishop of Galveston, Bishop C.E. Byrne. Because of the rain, the ceremony was kept relatively short, but it included three major speakers, a poem extolling the heroic deeds and virtuous character of Dowling, prayers for those buried in the cemetery, and the actual unveiling of the statue. Annie Dowling Robertson, Dowling’s only living child, unveiled the monument and recited the poem about Dowling. At the end of the ceremony, flowers were heaped on the monument.

Mayor Holcome noted the ceremony stood in sharp contrast to Dowling’s actual burial, saying “It is a great thing for us in this day to ponder a little over our carelessness in recognizing our heroes.”


This marker was the first of many to appear in St. Vincent’s Cemetery and now, if you walk around, you will find several tributes to Dick Dowling and the Battle of Sabine Pass made by various groups interested in preserving Dowling’s memory. When you walked into the cemetery, you probably noticed the large sign over the entrance way, which notes the cemetery houses not just Dick Dowling but also heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and other important Houstonians. On September 8, 1949, another monument to Dick Dowling was placed in the cemetery by the Order of the Alhambra to honor the 86th anniversary of the battle. The Order of the Alhambra was a Catholic group interested in preserving Dowling’s memory as a great Catholic. Even more recently, in 1988, Dowling’s descendants put another marker at what is presumably Dowling’s grave site to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Sabine Pass.



5 minutes, 20 seconds