EVERT RESTING PLACE HAS A STORY
The region surrounding Van Horn was familiar territory for travelers crossing the Chihuahuan Desert region of far west Texas long before the community rose up among the creosote and cholla. The nearby Van Horn Wells were already well known to resident Hispanics and nomadic Apaches frequenting the area, springs at the foot of the Van Horn Mountains that later served the stagecoaches and mail coaches traveling the 1859 Butterfield Overland Stage, as well as military operations..
But a settlement only seems to make its mark once the community begins to bury its dead. Van Horn ’s first official cemetery was established when an infant, child of locals James H. and Nancy Beach and known only as “Baby Beach”, died a mere twenty days after birth on September 15, 1888. Today, history enthusiasts may visit the grave in the historic Van Horn Cemetery where a small plot, not much bigger than a crib surrounded by decorative iron grillwork, features a commemorative gate informing visitors that the Baby Beach burial was the first grave in the cemetery.
The first adult buried in the cemetery, however, is accompanied by a far less somber story. Local rancher Augustus Sanders Goynes, in an effort to market the dry Van Horn climate, reportedly suggested that the town adopt the motto “This Town is So Healthy We Had to Shoot a Man to Start a Cemetery”, a refrain that gained enough popularity to hang in the lobby of the downtown Clark Hotel. Goynes, born on June 30, 1840, was shot and killed by his brother-in-law after inventing the town’s motto during an argument over a watering hole on his fifty-second birthday, June 30, 1892, becoming the first adult buried in the Van Horn Cemetery.