Thieves take antique doors from Evergreen Mausoleums

 

Last updated 2/13/2024 at 9:57pm

Doors made of bronze and glass were stolen from the Lutcher mausoleum in Orange's Evergreen Cemetery sometime during the past week. Doors to two other mausoleums of prominent Orange residents were also discovered missing from the cemetery, which dates back to 1840. Anyone with information about the doors should contact the Orange Police Department at 409-883-1026.

Thieves at historic Evergreen Cemetery in Orange have stolen glass and bronze doors off three mausoleums of people related to the 19th Century timber baron Henry Jacob Lutcher, who died in 1912.

Some of the people interred in the Lutcher mausoleum include three people instrumental to the early development of the University of Texas with their names still prominent on the Austin campus.

According to the Texas Historical Marker at the cemetery, the first burial there is believed to have been in 1840. The cemetery is on Border Street a couple of blocks south of the Orange County Courthouse.

A descendant of the family, Corey Stark of Orange, said he fears the thieves may melt down the doors for the metal. He discovered the missing Lutcher mausoleum doors on Friday and reported them missing to Orange police.

He talked with Dr. Frank Brown, a retired college professor and descendant of the family, and learned the Brown mausoleum doors were also missing, along with those of the Slade family. One of the Browns married a Slade. Those doors may have been missing for two weeks.

Stark said the Lutcher mausoleum doors were taken sometime last week and he estimated they may weigh 600 to 800 pounds. He said he knows someone with a business on Border Street and will review the security camera recordings to see if any trucks passed by at night that may have been carrying heavy loads.

Stark has worked before in the funeral and cemetery business and recalls when some 300 metal grave vases were stolen from a Beaumont cemetery.

He said it is against the law in Texas and other states to sell statuary or other items taken from cemeteries. Antique dealers may recognize that the doors have come from cemetery mausoleums, he said. Reputable antique dealers will report to police anyone trying to sell such funerary items.

However, thieves looking to sell scrap metal may break down the doors and melt the metal, he said.

Evergreen Cemetery is operated by a non-profit board and has more than 7,500 people interred there. The cemetery is fenced, but gates are left open and in recent years, some of the drives have been paved.

The theft of the mausoleum doors are all that appear to be disturbed at this time. Urns with ashes in some of the mausoleums have been taken into the cemetery's offices for safe keeping until the doors can be replaced.

Sergeant Henry with the Orange Police Department said Monday afternoon the thefts were reported on Friday afternoon and were assigned to detectives on Monday. At this time, the investigation is in the beginning phases. If anyone sees anything that resembles such antique doors, they should contact the Orange Police Department at 409-883-1026.

Henry Jacob Lutcher, his wife, Frances Ann Lutcher, and their two daughters moved to Orange from Pennsylvania in 1876 for the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company. The company once owned vast amounts of acreage in Texas and Louisiana, plus operated a number of sawmills.

Daughter Miriam Lutcher married William Stark, and daughter Carrie Lutcher married Dr. Edgar Brown Sr.

William Stark served as a regent for the University of Texas and sent his and only surviving child, H.J. Lutcher Stark, to the university. Lutcher Stark had the first automobile on campus and served as manager of the school's football team. He is given credit for naming the university team as Longhorns.

Lutcher Stark and his father later served on the UT board of regents at the same time, and Lutcher was named chair of the committee to build Memorial Stadium in the 1920s. He served as chairman of the board of regents for a number of years and oversaw the growth of the campus.

He married Nita Hill, the daughter of prominent Austin physician Dr. Homer Hill, who served as the football team's doctor from 1893 until his death in 1923. Moore-Hill Hall at the university is named in the physician's honor. Hill and his wife, along with Nita, are interred in the Lutcher mausoleum.

The Stark Library in the UT Tower serves as the president's office and the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is next to Memorial Royal Stadium on the campus.

William, Miriam, their infant daughter who died in the 1800s, along with Lutcher and Nita Hill are among those in the mausoleum.

 

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