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Medium 9780876111123

4. Times of Change at the Villa

Hafertepe, Kenneth Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

4.

TIMES OF CHANGE AT THE VILLA

AFTER THE DEATH OF J. M. BROWN, the household at Ashton Villa consisted of Rebecca Brown, her mother Mrs. Rhodes, and Miss Bettie. Soon they were joined by Mathilda and her three children, Alice, Moreau, and Charles James. Mathilda Sweeney had filed for divorce from Tom Sweeney after thirteen years of marriage. Although she retained ownership of their house on Avenue L, she rented it out until she sold it in 1905.

With a young family living in the house again, the Brown women decided to undertake another expansion of the house. The dining room and the northeast bedroom were extended to the east. The eastern end of these rooms had angled corners, creating a semi-octagonal bay In the dining room a round-headed stained-glass window was installed in the end wall, and the Eastlake sideboard was placed just beneath it. The dining room now had one additional door and two additional windows; Renaissance Revival valances, perhaps those which used to grace the Gold Room, were installed. The enlarged bedroom above the dining room was occupied by Mathilda and her daughter Alice.

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Medium 9780876111123

1. From New York to Galveston

Hafertepe, Kenneth Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

1.

FROM NEW YORK TO GALVESTON

JAMES MOREAU BROWN was born in New York State on September 22, 1821. His parents, John M. and Hannah Krantz Brown, were of Dutch descent, and had sixteen children, of whom James Moreau Brown was the last. Young James seems to have been full of restless energy: according to one biographical account, he ran away from home at age twelve and was gone for two years. This account further claims that after another year at home he ran away to work on the Erie Canal, then returned home to be apprenticed to a brick mason. Another account says that he was apprenticed at age twelve to learn the brick mason’s and plasterer’s trades and that he remained an apprentice until age sixteen. Around 1838 he left New York, sailing to Charleston, South Carolina. He worked his way across the South, building courthouses, jails, and cisterns. He stayed briefly in New Orleans before settling for several years in Vicksburg, Mississippi.1

In the mid-1840s James M. Brown moved to the recently founded island city of Galveston, Texas. Galveston Island divides Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, and the landward side of the island is thus an excellent natural harbor, capable of receiving inland trade which came down the Trinity River into the bay and providing ample wharfage for seagoing vessels.2

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Medium 9780876111925

Appendix: “U.S. Forts in Texas Named for Mexican War Personalities”

Robinson, Charles M. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub
Medium 9780876111925

1. Texas, Manifest Destiny, and National Honor

Robinson, Charles M. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

1.

TEXAS, MANIFEST DESTINY, AND NATIONAL HONOR

THE UNITED STATES FOUGHT a war with Mexico for several reasons: annexation of Texas to the United States, the American belief in Manifest Destiny, political instability in Mexico, and a desire for war in both countries. The last reason is perhaps the most important and, in our time, the most overlooked. The current opinion, which arose even as the war was entering its final phases and has been accepted ever since, was that the United States, a great power, arbitrarily provoked a war with Mexico, a weak power, for territorial aggrandizement.

The idea took hold in Mexico as military disasters followed one another in rapid succession, culminating in the loss of almost half its territory. The situation was further aggravated by the generally condescending attitude of the United States government toward Mexico in the years since the war and by what Mexicans perceive as various and routine U.S. infringements on their national sovereignty.

In the United States, there are several causes for the view that the war was unprovoked and unpopular. Although the antiwar Whig Party was entering the final decade of its existence as the war ended, the American press still was largely Whig controlled. Whig authors, such as Nathaniel Covington Brooks with his exhaustive and appropriately titled Complete History of the Mexican War, and Col. Albert C. Ramsey of the Eleventh Infantry, who translated, edited, and annotated a compilation prepared by a group of Mexican participants in the war, appear to have been more numerous than expansionist authors like John Stilwell Jenkins, whose equally competent History of the War between the United States and Mexico appeared almost simultaneously with Brooks’s work.1 The claim of Whig politicians that the war was nothing more than a Southern conspiracy to create a slave empire in the West seemed validated with the free soil controversies that arose during the following decade, culminating in the Civil War.2 The fact that future notables like Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant opposed the Mexican War also lent credence to a modern view of the war as an act of aggression, and in the 1960s and 1970s it became fashionable to compare the Mexican War with the ongoing conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia. Finally, one must not overlook the fact that, in terms of deaths against the number of troops in the field, it was the costliest war in U.S. history. As the casualty lists grew, so did opposition to the war.

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Medium 9780876111734

A Prayer for the Dying

Francell, Lawrence J. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

A PRAYER FOR THE DYING

(A Song of the Old Army)

We meet ’neath the sounding rafters,

The waits alt around us are bare.

They echo the peals of laughter,

It seems that the dead are there.

So stand by your glasses steady,

This world is a world of ties.

Here’s a toast to the dead already;

Hurrah for the next man who dies.

There’s a mist on the glass congealing,

’Tis the hurricane’s fiery breath.

And thus does the warmth of feeling,

Turn ice in the grip of death.

Oh, stand to your glasses steady,

For a moment the vapor flies.

A cup to the dead already,

An hurrah for the next who dies.

Who dreads to the dust returning?

Who shrinks from the sable shore?

Where the high and haughty yearning,

Of the soul shall sting no more.

So stand to your glasses steady,

’Tis all we have left to prize.

A toast to the dead already,

And hurrah for the next who dies.

Cut off from the land that bore us,

(Betrayed by the land we find.

Where the brightest have gone before us,

And the dullest remain behind.

So stand to your glasses steady,

The world is a web of lies.

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Medium 9780876110874

5. The Contents of the House

Hafertepe, Kenneth Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

5.

THE CONTENTS OF THE HOUSE

TWO PIECES OF FURNITURE IN THE HOUSE are said to remain from the days when it was the mansion of the French Legation, the sofa and armchair in the parlor. Miss Emma Kyle Burleson, a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, donated the chair to Miss Lillie Robertson and the sofa to the DRT Museum in 1917. (The sofa returned to the Legation in 1956.) Miss Emma had purchased this furniture in 1907 from Virginia Wilson Spence, who came from an old Austin family. In a letter preserved in the Texas State Archives, Mrs. Spence explained that her father, Captain William McFarland Wilson, had bought these pieces from his good friend Colonel Thomas William Ward, who had purchased them from Dubois when Texas was admitted to statehood. Actually, Ward would have had to purchase them from Eugene Pluyette in April, 1842, the last Austin saw of the French Legation, but Mrs. Spence’s letter contains convincing details. She wrote that her father bought the furniture when Colonel Ward was appointed U. S. consul to Panama; indeed, President Franklin Pierce did appoint Ward to this post in 1853. Moreover, the rosewood frames of the sofa and chair are of a type made in New Orleans in the 1840s. Dubois could certainly have purchased them while on his way to Texas or on one of his numerous visits. This simplified version of the Louis XV style must have appealed to his patriotism as well as to his taste.76

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Medium 9780876111628

3. The Quest for “Permanent Prosperity”

David C. Humphrey Texas State Historical Assn ePub

3.

THE QUEST FOR “PERMANENT PROSPERITY”

AT PRECISELY 10:45 A.M. ON CHRISTMAS day, 1871, the sound of a train whistle pierced the crisp morning air as the first locomotive ever to enter Austin crossed the city limits. Eager crowds lining the track cheered lustily, exhilarated that the capital city was connected by rail to Houston and Galveston.40 At long last it seemed that Austin was about to become the commercial center anticipated by its founders.

The commissioners who selected the site for Austin in 1839 envisioned not just a political city but an “emporium”: an entrepot for the rich agricultural lands of the Colorado and Brazos River valleys and a hub of two great trading routes extending acrossTexas, one running east-west from Santa Fe to Texas’s seaports and another north-south from the Red River valley to Matamoros in Mexico. Austin’s earliest Anglo inhabitants shared the vision. One of their favorite pastimes, recalled an early resident, was “to get together and discuss the possibilities of Austin’s future. The two favored propositions were ‘Opening trade with Santa Fe’ and ‘the navigation of the Colorado.’”41 The dream of wresting the lucrative Santa Fe trade from Missouri-based traders died quickly. With an eye to winning the political allegiance of Mexican Santa Fe as well as its trade, Mirabeau Lamar organized an expedition in 1841 that assembled near present-day Round Rock and headed west into uncharted Comanche country—Austin newspapers had predicted a fairly easy trek along “450 miles of good road” through “rich and well watered country abounding in game and bees!” Three excruciating months later, its health and spirit broken by thirst and hunger, the expedition was captured by Mexican soldiers in eastern New Mexico and marched to Mexico City. Penned a contemporary: “A chase of silly hopes and fears, Begun in folly, closed in tears.” 42

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Medium 9780876111413

1. The Spanish Era

Roell, Craig H. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

1.

THE SPANISH ERA

This place affords no advantages as to situation, for good drinking-water is very far off, and timber still farther. The water of the stream is very brackish, so much so that in five days during which the camp was pitched there all the horses sickened.

—FRAY DAMIÁN MASSANET, DE LEÓN EXPEDITION SITE OF LA SALLE’S FORT ST. LOUIS, 1689

These Indians are very dirty and the stench which they emit is enough to turn one’s stomach. They are fond of all that is foul and pestiferous and for this reason delight in the odor of the polecat and eat its flesh.

—FRAY GASPAR JOSÉ DE SOLÍS INSPECTION OF LA BAHÍA MISSIONS, 1768

THE “GREAT KINGDOM OF THE TEXAS.” SO did early Spanish explorers christen the vast northern frontier of New Spain, named for the ancient Indian greeting “techas” or “tejas” meaning “friends” or “allies,” and applied by the Spaniards to the whole region and its inhabitants. But this so-called “land of the friends” became pivotal in the New World contest of empires between Spain and France. This rivalry intensified in the Texas wilderness in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries following the establishment of Fort St. Louis, the first French colony in Texas, by Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. The French explorer founded his settlement near the shores of La Bahía del Espíritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit) in 1685. The Spaniards launched five sea voyages and six land marches to find the intruders. Finally, on April 22, 1689, an expedition under Alonso de León, accompanied by the missionary Fray Damián Massanet, discovered the somber ruins of the ill-fated French colony; La Salle’s venture was unsuccessful and ended in death for him and most of his 280 settlers and soldiers, victims of the wilderness, Indians, disease, and mutiny. Nevertheless, the possibility of French claims on the region inspired Spain to establish a system of missions and presidios as part of a formidable plan to colonize the area, encourage and protect trade routes, and Christianize native inhabitants. Among the many outposts that the Spaniards established, two would prove crucial in future events. In 1718 Martín de Alarcón, governor of the provinces of Coahuila and Texas, founded San Antonio de Béxar presidio and San Antonio de Valero mission (whose chapel would popularly be called the Alamo), laying the foundation for what became the foremost settlement in Spanish Texas.

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Medium 9780876111390

3. Reestablishing the Federal Presence

Wooster, Robert Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

3.

REESTABLISHING THE FEDERAL PRESENCE

ALTHOUGH THE CONFEDERACY collapsed in 1865, the need to establish the federal government’s supremacy in the South delayed the return of regular troops to West Texas. In the interim, Congress slowly reorganized the nation’s ground forces. By 1869, the army had been reduced to twenty-five infantry, ten cavalry, and five artillery regiments. Subsequent measures set an effective ceiling of twenty-seven thousand men. The reduced postwar army included four regiments (the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry) consisting of black enlisted personnel, each of which was eventually posted at Fort Davis. Only after federal control over the former Confederate states seemed increasingly certain did the War Department begin shifting troops to the western frontiers. In 1867, the Ninth Cavalry spearheaded the reoccupation of the Trans-Pecos. Composed largely of former slaves, more than one-half of the Ninth Cavalry’s enlisted personnel were Civil War veterans. The steady income, food, clothing, and education offered by the army seemed promising to many blacks faced with limited employment options.30

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Medium 9780876111635

3. Growing Pains

Hazel, Michael V. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

3.

GROWING PAINS

DALLASITES GREETED the new decade optimistically. Construction began for a new courthouse (the county’s sixth), and for a new luxury hotel, the Oriental. In May 1893 citizens crowded the banks of the Trinity River to greet the steamboat H. A. Harvey, Jr., which had traveled from Galveston in a mere two months.67 But the United States was soon swept by a financial “panic,” a recession triggered by the failure of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad and a subsequent run on the banks. Five Dallas banks failed, and the price of cotton dropped to less than five cents a pound. Dallas’s population actually declined.68

Dallas was one of the two most industrialized cities in Texas, and the recession hit it hard. A majority of laborers worked in three areas: the manufacture of leather goods (mostly harness and other farm equipment), printing and publishing, and machine-tool production. Poor working conditions in some of these industries had encouraged the organization of labor unions and occasional strikes.69 The recession threw hundreds of men out of work and dealt a setback to the infant unionizing effort.

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Medium 9780876111635

2. A Boom Town

Hazel, Michael V. Texas State Historical Assn Press ePub

2.

A BOOM TOWN

CONSTRUCTION OF THE Houston & Texas Central railroad resumed after the Civil War, and within a few years Dallas began experiencing some of the differences rail transport could make. Instead of goods being shipped from New Orleans up the Red River to Jefferson and then overland, they now tended to come through Houston and up the railroad to whatever the northernmost terminal happened to be, then loaded on wagons for delivery to North Texas.

The exact route which the railroad planned to take was not precisely fixed. But Dallas citizens were determined that it would be through their town. As early as 1866, there was a community meeting, presided over by John Neely Bryan himself, to discuss strategies for attracting a railroad. In 1871, when it appeared that the H&TC might lay its tracks eight miles east of Dallas, town leaders met with railroad officials to see what it would take to persuade them to route closer to town. The railroad owners asked for free right-of-way for their tracks and enough property for a depot, and they expected a cash grant. Dallas voters were asked to approve these inducements, and by an overwhelming vote of 177 to 11, they did so. The H&TC got 115 acres of land, including the right-of-way that is today Central Expressway, and $5,000 in cash.43

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Medium 9780876112052

4. Fort Concho Blues: The Soldiers’ Life on Post

James T. Matthews Texas State Historical Assn ePub

4.

FORT CONCHO BLUES: THE SOLDIERS’ LIFE ON POST

THROUGH ALL THE SCOUTING EXPEDITIONS, explorations, and Indian campaigns, the daily routine of army life continued at Fort Concho. Soldiers woke to the sounds of a “morning gun” and the bugles blowing reveille at sunrise. After breakfast, the garrison assembled to post the guard. Officers inspected the companies and their quarters. Those soldiers not on guard performed various fatigue duties including the cleaning and repair of equipment and buildings, hauling wood and supplies, and care of the animals. The largest meal of the day was served around noon. Soldiers then returned to fatigue and guard duties for several hours followed by military drills and target practice until sunset. At dusk retreat sounded and supper was served. In the summer the day ended around 8:30 P.M. During the winter, with limited daylight, the soldiers’ day ended even earlier.68

At all of the posts along the frontier this general routine was followed. To sustain them in their duties, the troopers received a daily ration that consisted mainly of beef, bread, and coffee. Even at breakfast, beef and bread remained the standard fare. For supper, soldiers ate food warmed over from the large noon meal. When possible, cooks supplemented the unappetizing ration with potatoes, bacon, hominy, bean soup, and even fresh fruits and vegetables. Gardens were cultivated on the post with some success, while officers pooled company funds to provide occasional delicacies. Soldiers returning from hunting trips sometimes brought fresh game, including buffalo, antelope, and turkey.69 Yet the supply of vegetables and items such as butter, honey, or lemons remained scarce.

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6. The Last Bugle Call: Abandoning Fort Concho

James T. Matthews Texas State Historical Assn ePub

6.

THE LAST BUGLE CALL: ABANDONING FORT CONCHO

ON JANUARY 27, 1881, A COMPANY of Texas Rangers under Capt. George Baylor rode into the Sierra Diablo and engaged and defeated the remnants of Victorio’s Apache band in the last Indian battle fought in the state of Texas. As the Apaches moved further west into New Mexico and Arizona territories, the army followed. The Tenth Cavalry began its westward trek in 1882 when their headquarters transferred to Fort Davis in the trans–Pecos region. The War Department was not prepared to abandon Fort Concho in 1882. In August of that year the outpost on the Conchos became headquarters for the Sixteenth U.S. Infantry.111

Lt. Col. Alfred L. Hough arrived with the regimental headquarters staff only days after a flood had destroyed the county seat at Benficklin and badly damaged areas of San Angelo. Soldiers of the Sixteenth spent their first week on duty at Fort Concho providing rations, shelter, and medical care for the survivors. Gradually life in town returned to normal, while the Sixteenth Infantry established a daily routine on post. The army’s assistance in combating local disasters such as the flood and several fires brought about a marked improvement in the previously strained relations between Fort Concho and San Angelo.112

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Medium 9781603444668

4. Another Colorado: The Highland Lakes and Lady Bird Lake

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub

THE HIGHLAND LAKES AND LADY BIRD LAKE

“Who knew,” the ruddy-faced man seated in front of me whispered to his wife, “that bald eagles are really bald? That one doesn’t have a single feather on its ugly red head.” His wife lowered her binoculars and said doubtfully, “That’s a bald eagle?” Meanwhile, the enthusiastic birdwatcher had pushed her way out of the cabin and onto the foredeck of the Eagle II to misidentify more birds. I scanned the sky, “Oh look!” I called and pointed. A dozen sets of binoculars snapped to the section of sky above the limestone canyon. “Oh heck, it’s just another turkey vulture.” I announce. The couple murmurs to each other. “Bald eagles aren’t bald,” she says with satisfaction. “But turkey vultures are,” he replies.

I’m on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise1 with a group of birdwatchers and tourists; we are cruising up the limestone canyons at the head of Lake Buchanan, the first of the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) Highland Lakes. Our boat, the Eagle II, is a big, broad vessel with a shallow draft and a glass-enclosed cabin protecting us from the raw January day. A few hardy souls stand outside in the drizzle and wind scanning the skies for bald eagles, osprey, and other winter residents of the canyons. Ferns embellish the cliffs near the waterfalls. Slender trees and shrubs, cactus, yucca, clumps of wiry grasses, and other determined survivors knot their roots into crevices and narrow pockets of soil along the rock face.

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Medium 9781603444668

5. Living Downstream: East Austin through the Blackland Prairies

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub

EAST AUSTIN THROUGH THE BLACKLAND PRAIRIES

The river pours out of Longhorn Dam and starts a series of lazy, looping curves on its way to the coast. It changes in temperament and character. The way people look at it alters; there can be no mistaking that it is a river again, in name and nature. Just downstream from the last dam (for the present), the river glides underneath the soaring buttresses and pillars of the Montopolis Bridges. The river feels like an anachronism after the high-priced estates and manicured lawns bordering the reservoirs upstream. City of Austin parks bordering the river on either side (Guerro Park on the south and the Colorado River Preserve on the north) are not akin to the mowed and maintained hike and bike trails just upstream around Lady Bird Lake. Erosion eats at the banks of Guerro Park. In the Colorado River Preserve, eroded trails score the woods, heaps of dumped household and construction trash clog the gullies, and debris washed downstream laces the brush.

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