By Alan Bernstein
The identity of Alwiene S. “Sophie” Goerlitz Weise was never in doubt.
She was born in the Austin area, during the Civil War, on Dec. 23, 1863. Among her parents and siblings, she was the only American from first breath. The rest of the Goerlitz family had come from Germany.
She married freight hauler Ephraim Weise, had at least four children, died of pneumonia at age 41 and was buried near McDade, Texas, 134 miles west-northwest of Aldine.
But the shadowy fate of her narrow, marble gravestone — 2 feet, 9 inches high and engraved with German words — created a decades-long mystery.
The 101-pound stone was found more than 20 years ago on land in East Aldine, where seemingly no one knew who she had been — or how, or why, or when, the object bearing her name came to rest on the northeast edge of Houston.
Back at the Three Oaks Cemetery near McDade, which is marked by a Texas Historical Commission plaque, all that was visible on Sophie’s burial plot, at Row F of Lot F 2, was the base that had held the stone. It says “Weise.” Next to it was, and is, the gravestone identifying one of her daughters, who died at age 3 or 4.
The story goes that one day around 2001, an East Aldine man hefted Sophie’s stone into what was then office of the Northeast News at Aldine Mail Route Road and U.S. 59/69. He said he had found the stone in the neighborhood — he may have said it had turned up on his property — and was hoping the newspaper could help find out where it belonged.
After the newspaper changed locations, the stone remained in place to be “inherited” by the staff of the East Aldine Management District, which took over the office space following its formation in 2001.
The tale of the well-traveled tombstone stayed hazy until a few weeks ago, as the District staff moved into the District’s new Town Center office building on Aldine Mail Route Road.