A Scout, a headstone, and markings on a map
Edward Timmerman and Jacob Raphael De Cordova are two names separated by 151 years in Central Texas, but they’ve come together in the present.
The recent headstone reclamation project of Texas historical figure Jacob De Cordova gave present-day Boy Scout Edward Timmerman, of Dripping Springs Troop 101, an opportunity to step into Texas history through his Eagle Scout Project.
De Cordova, who died in 1868, was a Texas land speculator who at one point owned over a million acres in the state. A big proponent of Texas, he sank his wealth into Confederate war bonds and was financially wiped out shortly before his death. When a flood disturbed his gravesite in 1935, he and his wife Rebecca were re-interred in the Texas State Cemetery, leaving the old tombstone useless to the State. The discarded tombstone came into the possession of the Johnson family in Wimberley—and so begins our story.
The stone was scheduled to be moved and put on display at the Wimberley Valley Museum; and Timmerman, a family friend of the Johnsons, asked if he could help with the restoration.
“I wanted to do something with the museum,” Timmerman said. “It was hands on for all components. I worked with Dale Hood…and five different entities. Grady Burnette [president of the Wimberley Institute of Culture who run the museum] also helped.” Through the restoration process, Timmerman became involved with the toil and logistical problems of moving a very heavy object.
Moving the stone was the first order of business. After the cemetery gate surrounding the headstone was removed from its location at the Wimberley Community Center, the headstone came next. It had lain there for about a decade or so.
The headstone itself was set in concrete to keep the pieces together. It then had to be cut down in order to fit into the museum’s doors. “And I got dirty along the way,” Timmerman said. “We rolled it on dollies, barely off the dirt and once we reached the road, it just kept on going.”
The stone was cleaned with baking soda so as to not to hurt the original marble. “Baking soda and a nylon brush cleared away a lot of mildew,” Timmerman said.
The most interesting part of his Eagle Scout project was being involved with the concrete cutting, according to Edward. “The project was meaningful.. it involved a lot of Texas history, so we had to be very careful,” Edward said.
At the end of the process, “The stone was laid in the front room on metal stands that were custom-made to hold it, and it now sets proudly in the Wimberley Valley Museum-- it was very rewarding” Timmerman said.
The Dripping Springs connection
Perhaps it was circularly fitting that a Dripping Springs Scout help restore the De Cordova tombstone. One of De Cordova’s many accomplishments was compiling a state map upon which much subsequent Texas cartography was based. On that map, first published in the mid-1850s, was what is believed to be the first marking of Dripping Springs on a map. Not the settlement of Dripping Springs, but the water source for which settlement was later named. “The Dripping Springs, on the road to Fredericksburg, was one of only two Hays County springs marked on the map, so was an important water source at the time, “ Hays County Historical Commissioner Marie Bassett said. “ The Mosses, Pounds, and Wallaces had just settled in the yet unnamed area. It wasn’t until 1857, when John Moss became first postmaster, that it was named for the iconic Dripping Springs.”
The James Bond connection
De Cordova was also a publisher and Journalist. Before moving to Texas, while in Jamaica, he established The Jamaica Gleaner—a newspaper that is still in existence today. James Bond fans will also recognize the Gleaner’s name as the newspaper is prominently mentioned in several of Ian Fleming’s Bond books. In the Fleming books, the British Secret Services uses the Gleaner’s classified section, and some of its employees, to put out intelligence notices to its agents. Fleming wrote the bulk of his Bond books while living in Jamaica, in a house he called GoldenEye, and read The Gleaner.
Upon arrival in Texas, De Cordova also established two newspapers- the Southwestern American and the Texas Herald. Sadly, neither of those Texas papers survived to the present day.
So there you have it. How things came full circle from the markings of some springs on a map, to the restoration of the map maker’s tombstone by a Scout who now lives where those obscure markings were made. And how a Texas legend’s time ripples affected even a certain famous British spy.