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May 23, 2011 | Carol E. Barnwell

Blessing Land Marks Change of Guardian

Nash Prairie BlessingOn Saturday, May 21, 2011, under a cloudy sky, the Rev. Peter Conaty, rector of St. Mary’s, West Columbia, blessed the Nash Prairie as members of the church and the Nature Conservancy looked on. It was a farewell of sorts for St. Mary’s, who have protected the prairie from development since receiving the bequeath from former parishioner Kitty Nash Groce. The local hospital district also received part of the bequest and it has taken several years to finalize the sale to the Conservancy.


During that time, Conaty, his wife Susan, a master gardener, and the members of St. Mary’s planted a prairie garden at the church and have done much to educate the community about the vast botanical wealth of the prairie, which has never been ploughed or grazed. The property, willed to St. Mary’s in 1957, came into the church’s possession following the death of Nash’s last relative in 2004 and officially sold to the Nature Conservancy in January 2011.


“This prairie has a botanic and a human history,” Conaty said in his remarks during the blessing. “It used to go from Mexico to Canada.” Sam Houston and Santa Ana also experienced this prairie in its earlier years. Conaty gave thanks to Nash for her gift and remarked that the church community had been grateful to care for it and were further grateful that the Nature Conservancy would secure its future.


The Nash Prairie is about 300 acres of pristine coastal prairie northeast of West Columbia, probably the largest remaining remnant of this rare plant community on the upper Texas coast.  Texas A&M botanists worked for three years identifying more than 300 plant species (14 considered rare and one thought to be extinct). Seeds from the prairie will help to establish and strengthen other locations in the country.


A representative of the Nature Conservancy presented Conaty with a framed photo of the prairie to commemorate the partnership of both in preserving the prairie. 


The Rev. Peter Conaty is currently undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Visit for updates.