In May 1837, when the Republic of Texas was young and Austin had not been founded, Jim Coryell and two friends hiked about a mile from a frontier fort and cut down a bee tree.
Indians attacked, and Coryell — one of Texas’ earliest Rangers — fell at the first shot. He was buried a short distance away in an unmarked grave.
Decades later, its location became a mystery that has puzzled and intrigued Texas historians and researchers — and clouded just where lay the final resting place of the storied figure for whom a county, hills, a creek and various towns in Texas have been named.
In recent weeks, thanks to some chance sleuthing and pure luck, state archaeological officials say they may have found Coryell’s grave — a discovery that, if confirmed, could reveal new details about Texas’ time as its own country and about how Coryell died.
It could be among the most significant Texas historical finds in years, officials agree.
If human remains are found at the site, they can be tested to confirm whether they are those of the childless Coryell, using DNA samples from his family’s descendants. Scientists also could use skeletal remains to determine how the person lived, gleaning information ranging from diet to broken bones and other diseases. Forensic experts may also be able to determine if the person was scalped or shot, or both.
“This is a very significant find, if true — very rare and absolutely fascinating,” said James Bruseth , chief archaeologist for the Texas Historical Commission who is leading a cadre of historical detectives on the case — including an expert from the Smithsonian Institution.