The following excerpt is from an extensive and very interesting article about an abandoned paupers’ cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. The article itself is in answer to a question in Paula Allen’s column, found in the November 1, 2009 edition of

Back in the 1930s, there was a paupers burial ground just south of Stinson Field. My brother, Nicholas Ely Delgado Jr., who died at birth in 1933, is buried there. There are still some rusted markers lying in the tangled underbrush just south of the field property. I talked to the crew who were constructing a helipad for a police helicopter port there, and some workers said they dug up bones. They also said they dug up some bones at a site just south of the larger cemetery on the north side of the field when they were digging a drainage ditch. I can find no information on this cemetery listed. My father told me that part of this cemetery is now partially under the Stinson field property. From what I gather, no one is allowed to go into this area. Some years back, before the brush took over, one could see the crosses there, but no more. I don’t understand why someone wanting to examine the site would not be allowed to do so. — Ben Delgado

Your brother’s birth and death do not appear to have been reported in San Antonio’s daily newspapers, nor are his birth or death certificates on file. Frank Faulkner, manager of the Texana/Genealogy Room at the central San Antonio Public Library, says this is not unusual for the time; he also checked with the city’s Cemetery Division and found no record of the burial of baby Nicholas.

The concept of a “potter’s field” as a public burial ground for individuals who are unknown or whose survivors are unable to pay for their burials dates back at least as far as biblical times. The term was used in San Antonio through the first half of the 20th century, when the cemetery at Stinson was just one of several places used for indigent burials, including the grounds of the county poor farm and a played-out city gravel pit.

While churches, religious orders and other charitable organizations provided space in their cemeteries or other property, responsibility for most such burials has been left up to city or county government since the late 19th century. Unproductive public lands could be repurposed; for instance, a former sewage farm was converted during the 1890s to a burial ground after the city failed to interest farmers in leasing it. The land was turned into San JosÈ Cemetery, with the lower portion between Six Mile Creek and what’s now the airport reserved for paupers.

Read the full column.