Students care for small cemetery in Spring to preserve history

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 18 at 11:00 PM

SPRING, Texas -- It is a cemetery that holds one of the oldest murder mysteries in Houston history, but most of the thousands who drive past it every day might not even know it is there.

Olena Wunsche was just two months shy of her 21st birthday when she disappeared with her boyfriend in May of 1929. He was found murdered on one side of the then fledgling town of Spring.

Olena, found in a roadside ditch on the other side of town, had been shot in the back.

In an interview months later in the Galveston Daily News, her father Frank O. Wunsche said he remained haunted by the unsolved slayings.

“I keep seeing her face and hearing her voice around the house. I guess maybe if I could sell the farm I could forget about it a little. But I kind of hate to cave just the same,” Wunsche was quoted as saying in October of 1929.

And the mystery lingers in one of the most unusual cemetery locations in all of Texas.

Wunsche, and his daughter, are buried along with 21 other Spring-area pioneers of the Wunsche and Kuhnle families in the Wunsche Family Cemetery.

The area, settled in the late 1800s by German immigrants like the Wunsches, was once a vast farming and timber harvesting community.

And on what were at the time the far outskirts of town the Wunsches buried their dead in two primary locations: Budde Cemetery and the Wunsche Family Cemetery. Budde is now surrounded by homes on the west side of I-45.

The Wunsche Family Cemetery is sandwiched between I-45 and the north feeder road at the Cypresswood exit. Freeway planners in the 1960s, and subsequent expansions through the 90s, preserved the small cemetery that is now surrounded by daily traffic and shopping centers just a city block south of Spring High School.

The earliest burial dates back to 1885. The most recent 1959.

“No I don’t think most people know it’s there,” said Margaret Mallott Smith, a long-time Spring resident and part-time historian who traces the cemetery’s history in her book Spring Through the Seasons.

"It's a landmark. A very important landmark,” Smith said. "Yes, very odd that here's this cemetery right on the edge of this busy artery between Houston and Dallas."

But what she does not find odd is that this little preserved piece of Spring history has modern caretakers. Twice a year students from the FFA program at Spring High School pick up trash, mow tall weeds, and place fabric flowers at the graves.

"People that throw trash out their window it comes in here and we don't like that,” said student Aaron Cook.

“The grass gets so tall you can't hardly see that it's a cemetery. So that's why we like to come out and clean it up and try to make it look nice,” said FFA instructor Courtney Musterman.

"It's something that our community doesn't really know is here but it's a huge part of the Spring history,” said student Britni Hickey.

"And you should be proud of yourself for doing that,” Smith said of the efforts by the students. “Because you're doing a great service to the community."

Historians like Margaret Smith are thankful freeway planners preserved this small corner of Spring history and saved it from bulldozers all those years ago.

"Oh yes,” Smith said. “I thought it was a very fine thing that they did."

And another fine thing, if you ask her, is that students on a busy, noisy corner surrounded by the pavement of a fast-moving modern world, continue to honor those who paved the way for them.

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