Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Joseph Hawkins Grave Found

The historic Madisonville Cemetery is the final resting place of noted historical figure Joseph H. Hawkins. In a recent posting to the Friends of the Madisonville Cemetery Facebook Page, Iris Lulu-Simoneaux Vacante and Joseph Yarbrough printed details on the life and death of Hawkins, whose grave in the cemetery should be designated with some sort of historical marker. 


According to their information, Joseph H. Hawkins died in 1823, but during his life he was a United States Congressman from Kentucky. He was born in Lexington, Kentucky and pursued law and was admitted to the bar. He was a member of the Kentucky State House of Representatives from 1810 to 1813 and served two years as Speaker of the House.

He was elected as a Republican to the Thirteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Henry Clay (1814–1815). Hawkins was not a candidate for renomination in 1814 and resumed the practice of law. He also engaged in mercantile pursuits.


The Austin/Texas Connection

He moved to New Orleans in 1819 where he met Stephen Austin, a fellow Free Mason who was down on his luck. Hawkins took him in and helped him get back on his feet. He talked Austin into pursuing his deceased fathers dream of colonizing Texas. Austin and Hawkins became partners. Hawkins purchased a schooner and personally paid for provisions for families to travel to Texas where Austin would be there to greet them and help with the colonization.


Yellow Fever was spreading in New Orleans so Hawkins purchased a home on the Tchefuncte river and moved his wife and six children to Madisonville, the cemetery Facebook account continued. 


Hawkins caught yellow fever and shortly after, he died.


His financial contributions, as well as the sacrifices of his children, aided Stephen F. Austin in the colonization of Texas. His nine year old son also got yellow fever and died.


Hawkins' wife purchased 6 marble columns representing their six children and a marble headstone. "These items are no longer in the cemetery," noted Vacante. "They were either stolen or have been washed away during a storm. Hawkins gravesite is only marked by a concrete slab with his name engraved."

He also lost a son who was executed in what is known as The Goliad Massacre in 1836 during the Texas War for Independence.