July 18, 2014

Thieves steal metal from mausoleums in historic Fort Worth cemetery

The theft of outer doors of the Waggoner family mausoleum and damage to another mausoleum were discovered Wednesday at Oakwood Cemetery.

Large metal outer doors of the W.T. Waggoner family mausoleum at the historic Oakwood Cemetery have been stolen, and the outer doors on the Jewell-Wylie family mausoleum were damaged, a cemetery manager said Friday.

The cemetery association is asking the public to help find the thieves and get the property returned.

The theft was discovered Wednesday by a maintenance man who was preparing to cut the grass at Fort Worth’s second-oldest cemetery, said Sarah Biles, the cemetery office manager. The maintenance man saw hinges and broken pieces of metal around the Waggoner mausoleum, investigated and saw that the doors were gone, Biles said.

The doors are heavy — exactly how heavy isn’t known — and may be made of brass, Biles said.

“Our first thought was that the metal must be worth quite a bit,” Biles said. “But they were also quite ornate. So they could have been sold to an individual buyer if there was someone out there.”

The last time employees remember seeing the doors to the Waggoner mausoleum was Sunday, Biles said.

It is believed that the person or persons responsible for the theft did it while the main gates to the cemetery were open, Biles said.

At the Jewell-Wylie family mausoleum, someone cut the metal handles off the doors, and it looks as though the metal grill work was cut into, “but we could not see that anything was actually taken besides the handles,” Biles said.

“As far as we know the damage and the theft took place about the same time,” Biles said.

None of the other properties seemed disturbed, Biles said.

Waggoner is a famous name in Texas history. The family once owned the largest ranch in Texas under fence, enclosing more than half a million acres in the area where the Panhandle juts north from the Red River at the Texas border.

After his father died, W.T. “Tom” Waggoner assumed control of the ranch and established lease agreements with Texaco. He moved the ranch headquarters to Vernon but remained a fixture in both Decatur and Fort Worth.

In 1903, fearing that his daughter, Electra, might move East with her new husband, Waggoner commissioned the Fort Worth architectural firm of Sanguinet and Staats to design and build a three-story Georgian revival home for the newlyweds. The home was later named Thistle Hill and still stands on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Waggoner built Arlington Downs Racetrack in Arlington and a 20-story office building that still stands in downtown Fort Worth. He died in 1934.

Oakwood Cemetery, which is a registered Texas historic landmark, was founded in 1879 with land donated by John Peter Smith. It is on the north bank of the West Fork of the Trinity River across from downtown.

This includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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