Solving the Mystery of Noah T. Byars' two tombstones
Noah T. Byars has two monuments on his Greenleaf Cemetery grave. Since presidents, governors and generals usually have only one tombstone, I
was intrigued why a lowly Baptist preacher has two?
I searched for clues from his life. He was born in South Carolina in 1808. He died in Brownwood, Texas, in 1888. He certainly lived long enough to have two monuments over his grave.
When Noah T. was 27 he came to Texas and opened a blacksmith-gunsmith
shop at Washington-on-the Brazos. General Sam Houston liked his work and appointed him armorer and blacksmith of the whole Texas army.
Legend has it the Texas Declaration of Independence was drawn up in his blacksmith shop. After Houston defeated Santa Anna and set up the
Republic of Texas, Noah became the sergeant-at-arms for the Texas senate.
He was an associate judge of Travis County when he felt the call to
preach the gospel. He was one of the eight charter members of the first Baptist church ever formed on Texas soil (it was organized sometime just
before the Alamo fell). This was Z. N. "Wildcat" Morrell's church at Washington-on-the-Brazos (somewhere near Navasota). "Wildcat" is a whole
At Noah's ordination to the ministry, Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Republic
of Texas' second president, and members of his cabinet were present. With such a start Reverend Byars began organizing Baptist churches and
associations all over the place. He began the First Baptist Church of Waco in 1851 and the First Baptist Church of Brownwood in 1876. In all
he is credited with helping begin over 60 churches in the state.
I once wrote he officiated at the wedding of Katherine Anne Porter's
parents, Harrison and Mary Alice Porter at Indian Creek, May 15, 1890. My source must have some dates wrong as this was two years after Rev.
Byars died. Pulitzer Prize winner, Porter is Brown County's greatest claim to literary fame.
Brother Byars had definitely done enough to warrant two monuments on his grave. But it still seemed strange since even the governors graves I have visited have only one obelisk or gravestone
Then it was that I discovered that back in 1936 when Texas celebrated 100 years of freedom from Mexico, a blue marble spire was erected to Byars on the Howard Payne University campus. That turned out to be the second monument now on Byars' grave. Why was it moved? Byars was a Baptist till the day he died. He was all for Christian education. He died in Brownwood.
As the mystery deepened I got some leads. A former HPU professor who
shall remain nameless told me the story Byars' grave has two monuments. Back in the late 1930s, when a certain college in Abilene came to play
Howard Payne in football, the visitors from said Abilene school drenched Byars' blue marble monument on the campus with red paint. HPU officials
grew weary of paying for scrubbing off the paint and moved the monument from the campus to Bryars' grave site at Greenleaf. That is the reason
that Noah T. Byars has two huge gravestones. It is not because of his accomplishments, but because Howard Payne's administration ran out of
patience and paint remover.
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