This Day in Texas History: First Texas Newspaper Begins Brief Life

This Day in Texas History:

First Texas Newspaper Begins Brief Life

August 14, 1819

The Nacogdoches Texas Republican, believed to be the earliest newspaper published in Texas, was first printed on August 14, 1819.

NacogdochesEli Harris printed the paper for the James Long expedition. No copy of the paper is known to have survived, but the St. Louis Enquirer noted that the content was “principally occupied with the military and political operations going on in that quarter.” The paper, a weekly, appeared twice in August and possibly a few times in September and then ceased publication.

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This Day in Texas History: Black Infantrymen Allegedly Attack Brownsville Citizens

This Day in Texas History:

Black Infantrymen Allegedly Attack Brownsville Citizens

August 13, 1906

On this day in 1906, black soldiers of the Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry allegedly attacked citizens of Brownsville. The event resulted in the largest summary dismissals in the history of the United States Army.

Fort BrownThe soldiers, newly arrived at Fort Brown from the Philippines and Nebraska, confronted racial discrimination from some businesses and suffered physical abuse from some federal customs collectors. A reported attack on a white woman during the night of August 12 so enraged the citizens that Maj. Charles W. Penrose, after consultation with Mayor Frederick Combe, declared an early curfew.

Just after midnight on the thirteenth, a bartender was fatally shot and a police lieutenant was wounded. Various citizens claimed to have seen soldiers running through the streets shooting, even though it was dark. Several civilian and military investigations presumed the guilt of the soldiers without identifying individual culprits. When suspects were not forthcoming, the army inspector general charged a “conspiracy of silence.”

On November 5, President Theodore Roosevelt discharged “without honor” all 167 enlisted men garrisoned at Fort Brown. This action fueled political and “due process” arguments for more than sixty years. In 1972 the Nixon administration awarded honorable discharges, without back pay, to the soldiers involved. The only surviving veteran, Dorsie Willis, received a $25,000 settlement.

 

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R.I.P. Robin Williams

For me, Good Morning Vietnam will always be the highlight of Robin’s career. A tour de force unequaled by most actors, this movie was – and is – nothing short of brilliant. While Williams’ many other cleverly-crafted roles, especially Armand Goldman in Birdcage, were all inventive, unique and brilliant, his characterization of Adrian Cronauer will always be my favorite.  Possibly his most obscure, yet perfectly crafted role was as Doctor Cozy Carlisle in Dead Again with Kenneth Branagh.   It is a great loss for his family and fans.  We will all miss you, Robin.

           

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This Day in Texas History: Mysterious Fire Destroys Parr Political Machine Evidence

This Day in Texas History:

Mysterious Fire Destroys Parr Political Machine Evidence

August 11, 1914

On this day in 1914, a mysterious fire destroyed the Duval County courthouse and most of the evidence of illegal activity by South Texas boss Archer Parr and his political machine.

Archer ParrParr arrived in Duval County in 1882 at the age of twenty-two. In 1907 he took command of the Democratic machinery and established himself as the political boss of Duval County. The key to his success was the Hispanic vote, which he controlled through a combination of paternalism, corruption, and coercion. He also converted the county treasury into a political slush fund for the benefit of himself, his associates, and his impoverished constituents, who received informal and modest welfare payments.

In 1914 a preliminary audit of the county financial records conducted by his opponents revealed fourteen types of illegal activity, but the courthouse fire crippled the investigation. Undeterred, a local grand jury still indicted Parr, who had just won election to the Texas Senate, and ten Duval County officials on various charges of corruption. The cases, however, collapsed for lack of evidence.

By the time of his death in 1942, Parr had used his control of Duval County to build a vast personal fortune, and his son George, who had pleaded guilty to income tax evasion in 1934 and had served a brief term in prison, was already in control of the political machine that continued to dominate Duval County until 1975.

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This Day in Texas History: “Bet-a-Million” Gates Dies

This Day in Texas History:

“Bet-a-Million” Gates Dies

August 9, 1911

On this day in 1911, barbed wire promoter and oilman John Warne (Bet-a-Million) Gates died.

John W GatesGates was born in Illinois in 1855. Gates arrived in Texas as a barbed wire salesman for the Washburn-Moen Company in 1876. He rented San Antonio’s Military Plaza, constructed a barbed-wire corral, and filled it with longhorn cattle to demonstrate the holding power of barbed wire. His demonstration resulted in orders for more wire than the factory could produce.

Gates returned to Illinois and, upon being refused a partnership in Washburn-Moen, quit. He went to St. Louis, where he helped build the Southern Wire Company into the largest manufacturer and distributor of unlicensed “moonshine/non-patented” barbed wire. Gates became a prominent industrialist and a notorious bon vivant. He controlled the Kansas City Southern Railway and formed the Texas Company (now Texaco), in which he owned 46 percent of the stock, to finance the drilling efforts of Pattillo Higgins at Spindletop.

Gates’s nickname derived from his fondness for gambling at poker, the stock market, and horse races. According to rumor, he bet a cool million and won two million in a 1900 horse race in England; in actuality, he bet $70,000 and won $600,000.

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This Day in Texas History: Soul Legend Born in Rogers

This Day in Texas History:

Soul Legend Born in Rogers

August 8, 1935 Joe TexOn this day in 1935, Joseph Arrington Jr. was born in Rogers, Texas. Arrington, who later gained fame as a soul singer under the name Joe Tex, moved to Baytown at age five with his mother after her divorce from his father.

In Baytown he performed song and dance routines to enhance his business as a young shoeshine and paper boy. He also sang in school and church choirs. As a high school junior, Arrington won first prize in a Houston talent contest and won $300 and a week’s stay at a hotel in Harlem. During a four-week period he won the Apollo Theater’s amateur night competition four times.

Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater

After graduating from high school in 1955, he returned to New York City to pursue a music career. He landed his first contract with King Records and in the coming years, as Joe Tex, recorded a number of hits, including “Hold On To What You Got,” “Papa Was Too,” “Skinny Legs and All,” and his biggest seller, “I Gotcha,” which went platinum in 1971. In 1972 Arrington gave up show business and began a three-year speaking ministry for the Nation of Islam, which he had joined in 1968.

Arrington returned to show business in 1975 and enjoyed moderate success until the 1977 smash “I Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” put him back on the top of the charts. Arrington died of heart failure in 1982 at his home in Navasota.

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This Day in Texas History: Alexander Cockrell Buys Dallas Townsite

This Day in Texas History:

Alexander Cockrell Buys Dallas Townsite

August 7, 1852

On this day in 1852, Alexander Cockrell paid $7,000 for the portion of the John Neely Bryan homestead that included the Dallas townsite and the Trinity River ferry concession.

Bryan, a Tennessee native born in 1810, had settled at a natural ford on the east bank of the Trinity in 1841. In 1844 he persuaded J. P. Dumas to survey and plat the site of Dallas; he was also instrumental in the organizing of Dallas County in 1846 and in the choosing of Dallas as its county seat in August 1850.

Cockrell, born in Kentucky in 1820, first came to Texas in 1845 and later established a claim on 640 acres in the Peters colony, about ten miles west of Dallas. He and his wife moved to Dallas in 1853 and began operating a brick business, one of several Cockrell enterprises that established the main lines of trade and development in Dallas. Cockrell replaced the toll ferry with the first bridge across the Trinity River; to protect the toll bridge, Cockrell acquired hundreds of acres of land on the river. In 1858, Cockrell was killed in a gunfight with a city marshall. Bryan died in the State Lunatic Asylum in 1877.

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Calatrava Bridge

Calatrava Bridge

 

Calatrava
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Dallas, Texas

Copyright 2013 Warren Paul Harris

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This Day in Texas History: First Permanent Settler Arrives at Point Bolivar

This Day in Texas History:

First Permanent Settler Arrives at Point Bolivar

August 5, 1838

On this day in 1838, Samuel D. Parr arrived at Point Bolivar and claimed a league of land there, thus becoming the first permanent settler in the area.

Point Bolivar is at the western tip of Bolivar Peninsula, across from the eastern end of Galveston Island. The point has long held importance for coastal navigation and fortification. It served as a rendezvous place for Indians, pirates, freebooters, privateers, filibusters, and other transients, including Henry Perry, Francisco Xavier Mina, and James Long, among others. The place was briefly called Parrsville for Parr, who surveyed the area and was later granted a patent by the Republic of Texas.

In the Civil War Confederate forces erected a fortification known as Fort Green to protect the bay. Settlers who arrived in the area as a result of activity at the fort eventually established the community of Port Bolivar. When the federal government began to develop the port of Galveston in 1898, it established the county’s second Fort Travis at the point. In World War I and World War II the government built concrete gun emplacements at Fort Travis.

The property was subsequently converted into a park operated by the county for recreation and camping. The fort’s underground fortifications are tourist attractions and provide hurricane shelter for area residents.

Bolivar Texas

Ominous Lighthouse
Point Bolivar, Texas
Copyright 2013 Warren Paul Harris

 

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Warren’s advice du jour: Never post…

Warren’s advice du jour:

Never email, tweet, text or post
anything you don’t want to see
on a billboard tomorrow.

 

 

I slept with your brother...

I slept with your brother…

 

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This Day in Texas History: Pirate Resigns as Ruler of Galveston Island

This Day in Texas History:

Pirate Resigns as Ruler of Galveston Island

July 31, 1817

On this day in 1817, pirate Louis Michel Aury resigned his Mexican commission to rule Galveston Island.

Louis Michel AuryAury, born in Paris about 1788, served in the French navy and on French privateers from 1802 or 1803 until 1810, when he became master of his own vessels, which cruised the Caribbean in search of prizes. He joined a group of New Orleans associates who were planning a Mexican revolt against Spain in 1816. Rebel envoy José Manuel de Herrera proclaimed Galveston a port of the Mexican republic, made Aury resident commissioner, and raised the rebel flag on September 13 of that year.

Aury’s tenure was stormy. Henry Perry, who commanded troops sent by the New Orleans associates for the invasion of Texas, refused obedience to Aury, who also initially refused to cooperate with Francisco Xavier Mina, leader of a filibustering expedition that reached Galveston in November. In the spring of 1817, while Aury was convoying Mina’s forces to the Santander River, Jean Laffite seized the opportunity to undermine the skeleton “government” left behind.

After resigning his commission, Aury sailed to Florida. He is believed to have died in 1821, though some sources claim he was living in Havana in 1845.

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