Book Review and Giveaway: What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards by Cynthia Leal Massey | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


Cynthia Leal Massey
Genre: Regional History / 19th Century/ Landmarks & Monuments/ Travel Pictorial
Publisher: TwoDot
Date of Publication: August 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 400 pages w/77 B&W photos
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Texas, the second largest state, both in land mass and population, has more than 50,000 burial grounds. As the final resting places of those whose earthly journey has ended, they are also repositories of valuable cultural history. Pioneer cemeteries provide a wealth of information on the people who settled Texas during its years as a Republic (1836-1845), and after it became the 28th state in 1845. In What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, Cynthia Leal Massey exhumes the stories of these pioneers, revealing the fascinating truth behind the earliest graveyards in the Lone Star State, including some of its most ancient. This guide also provides descriptions of headstone features and symbols and demystifies the burial traditions of early Texas pioneers and settlers.
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I have long been fascinated by cemeteries and gravestones. Growing up in the South, I was expected to attend funerals and graveside services from an early age, and I always liked walking around cemeteries to see what interesting tidbits I might find on the grave markers. So when I had a chance to review What Lies Beneath, I jumped at it.

The book is divided into ten sections, based on the ten Texas Heritage Trails established by the Texas Historical Commission. That makes it easy to read in smaller chunks (if you can bear to put it down – I found it quite engrossing!), and if you’re interested in traveling to see any of these places in person, the book’s structure will make it easy to find and visit several in one area.

I lived in Texas for a time, and while I didn’t grow up there, I appreciate its history and culture. Massey doesn’t just give you a coffee table book full of pretty pictures. She really digs into the pioneer stories, the life and times of the folks whose grave markers she’s writing about. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know and was introduced to some fascinating characters. Some of the people whose burials she highlighted were lawmen. While many were good, honest men who strove to uphold the law, a couple turned out to be just about as bad as the criminals they were supposed to go after!

I’ve said before how much I enjoy books that both entertain and educate. What Lies Beneath does both admirably. It’s not a dry historical read at all. Massey’s prose brings the people she writes about to life, and I particularly enjoyed the sidebar facts. For instance, did you know that a “cemetery” is not the same thing as a “graveyard”? I’d never given it much thought. The terms have always been used interchangeably in my experience. But there is a difference. I also learned how women were identified on their tombstones if they died before or after their husbands. I had really never given that any thought at all.

We’d like to travel more, and I hope we can see at least some of the locations mentioned in the book. I’d love to go take pictures and share them on the Find A Grave site.

This is a great read for “the spooky month,” as my kids call October, and one I’d highly recommend for any student of history and anyone who, like me, feels the pull of the past coming from a graveyard.

Five stars as bright as the ones you’ll see in an old country cemetery on a moonless night.

Award-winning author Cynthia Leal Massey is a former corporate editor, college instructor, and magazine editor. She has published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and eight books. A full-time writer who publishes history columns for community publications, Cynthia was raised on the south side of San Antonio. She has resided in Helotes since 1994, and has served on the Helotes City Council since 2008, serving twice as Mayor Pro Tem. She is also president of the Historical Society of Helotes.
Cynthia, a former president of Women Writing the West, is a recipient of the Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award for her nonfiction book, Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier, which also won the San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award. She is the recipient of several literary awards, including the WILLA Literary Finalist Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction for her novel, The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas, called by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry, “a vivid picture of the Rio Grande Valley as it was fifty years ago and a very good read.”

Three autographed copies of
What Lies Beneath, Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/15/21)

or visit the blogs directly:
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One Response to Book Review and Giveaway: What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards by Cynthia Leal Massey | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

  1. Love this review & how it inspires the reader to get out there and see these places and learn this history. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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