This Day in Texas History: Plane Crashes Into Religious Shrine

This Day in Texas History:

Plane Crashes Into Religious Shrine

October 23, 1970

On this day in 1970, the lower Rio Grande Valley town of San Juan made international headlines when Francis B. Alexander smashed a rented single-engine plane into the Virgen de San Juan del Valle Shrine.

San Juan Plane CrashThe town of San Juan was organized in 1909 by John Closner near his San Juan Plantation. In 1949 Father Joseph Azpiazu brought to his San Juan parish a replica of the image of Our Lady of San Juan, venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico. The image is a statue about three feet high, clothed in traditional robes. Soon the church became a place of pilgrimage for many Mexican Americans in Texas; on weekends hundreds of pilgrims would come to San Juan to pray. The crowds grew, and in 1954 the construction of a larger shrine was completed and dedicated by Father Azpiazu.

On the day of the 1970 crash the pilot had reportedly radioed a warning that all Methodist and Catholic churches in the lower Rio Grande Valley should be evacuated, then twenty minutes later struck the shrine, which at the time was occupied by more than 130 people. The pilot was the only fatality. Two priests were able to save the statue of the Virgin, but damages to the shrine were estimated at $1.5 million and were a devastating blow to the community.

A mass effort was initiated to reconstruct the church. In April 1980 San Juan again made international headlines when the new shrine was dedicated; the televised ceremonies were shown nationally on the Spanish Information Network.

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This Day in Texas History: Aaron Burr Acquitted of Treason

This Day in Texas History:

Aaron Burr Acquitted of Treason

October 20, 1807

On this day in 1807, the treason trial of Aaron Burr, former vice president of the United States and a minor player in Texas history, came to a characteristically ambiguous ending.

Aaron BurrAfter leaving the vice presidency in 1804, Burr made a tour of the western states and became leader of a conspiracy supposed to have been aimed toward an invasion of Texas. He was arrested for treason and, after a prolonged trial, Justice John Marshall ruled that while Burr was not guilty of treason, he was guilty of contemplating an invasion of Spanish territory.

Burr’s exact intentions have never been ascertained, but they probably included crossing the Sabine River and marching across Texas.

 

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This Day in Texas History: On Texas Soil, Presidents Meet for the First Time

This Day in Texas History:

On Texas Soil, Presidents Meet for the First Time

October 16, 1909

On this day in 1909, presidents William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz met in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, the first meeting in history between a president of the United States and a president of Mexico.

William Howard TaftThe local press described the meeting as the “Most Eventful Diplomatic Event in the History of the Two Nations.” An El Paso historian has added that it was a “veritable pageant of military splendor, social brilliance, courtly formality, official protocol, and patriotic fervor.” The proceedings for the meeting were planned in the greatest detail by the United States Department of State and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to matters of protocol, the two governments made the most elaborate arrangements for the protection and safety of the two presidents. Significantly, the area in dispute in south El Paso known as the Chamizal was declared neutral territory, the flags of neither nation to be displayed during the meeting.

Porfirio DíazBecause both presidents were bilingual there was no need for interpreters, and no one else attended the meeting. Although official reports of the meeting stated that nothing of political or diplomatic significance was discussed, some have suggested that the basis was laid there for the treaty of arbitration that the two nations signed a year later.

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This Day in Texas History: Emmett Scott Appointed to Reduce Racial Tension

This Day in Texas History:

Emmett Scott Appointed to Reduce Racial Tension

October 15, 1917

On this day in 1917, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker appointed Emmett Jay Scott his special assistant to urge the equal and impartial application of Selective Service regulations, to improve the morale of black servicemen, and to investigate racial incidents and charges of unfair treatment.

Emmett ScottFor Scott, born in Houston in 1873, the appointment became a small part of an outstanding career as a public servant, editor, and author. He was awarded a master of arts degree from Wiley College in 1901 and an LL.D. by Wiley College and Wilberforce University (Ohio) in 1918. He founded the Houston Texas Freeman, the oldest black newspaper published west of the Mississippi, which he edited from 1894 to 1897. He then moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he worked with Booker T. Washington until 1915; he became Washington’s chief adviser, confidant, and even ghostwriter. Scott also served as secretary of the National Negro Business League from 1902 to 1922, as a member of the American Commission to Liberia in 1909, as secretary to the International Conference on the Negro in 1912, and as secretary-treasurer of Howard University from 1919 to 1934.

During World War II he was personnel director for the Sun Shipbuilding Company in Chester, Pennsylvania. His books include Booker T. Washington: Builder of a Civilization (1916), which he coauthored with Lyman Beecher Stowe; Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919); and Negro Migration During the War (1920). Scott died on December 11, 1957, at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., after a long illness.

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This Day in Texas History: Future General and President Born in Denison

This Day in Texas History:

Future General and President Born in Denison

October 14, 1890

EisenhowerOn this day in 1890, Dwight David Eisenhower, general of the army and thirty-fourth president of the United States, was born in a two-story frame house in Denison, Texas.

Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas. Other presidents have had strong ties to the Lone Star State. Lyndon Baines Johnson was born near Stonewall in the Texas Hill Country, and George H. W. Bush and son George W. Bush have called Texas home for many years.

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This Day in Texas History: Salt War Turns Bloody

This Day in Texas History:

Salt War Turns Bloody

October 10, 1877

On this day in 1877, Charles H. Howard shot and killed Louis Cardis in a store in El Paso. The killing was merely the latest, though hardly the last, violent episode in a long dispute known as the Salt War of San Elizario.

El Paso Salt FlatsThe trouble began in 1866 when a group of prominent El Paso Republicans, including Cardis, W. W. Mills, and Albert J. Fountain, sought to acquire title to the salt deposits at the foot of Guadalupe Peak, 100 miles east of the city, and to begin charging fees of the local Mexican Americans, who had for years collected salt there free of charge. The so-called Salt Ring fell apart in 1868, but the plan persisted, and in 1872 Cardis allied himself with Howard, a transplanted Missouri lawyer and a Democrat. After Howard became district judge in 1874, however, he and Cardis had a falling-out of their own.

Howard filed on the salt lakes in the name of his father-in-law and set off a riot in September 1877 by arresting two men who had threatened to go for salt. After being held for three days by a mob at San Elizario, Howard agreed to give up his claim and leave the country, but sought out and killed Cardis instead. Howard was arraigned for murder, but in early December returned to San Elizario to press trespassing charges against a caravan of salt-seekers. There he was besieged by a mob. After five days and the deaths of two men, Howard gave himself up to save the lives of his party, but he and two allies were shot by a firing squad of men from Mexico.

Although more violence ensued, no one was ever arrested or brought to trial. A congressional investigation attempted to get at the facts, but no positive action was taken except the reestablishment of Fort Bliss, which had been abandoned earlier in the year.

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This Day in Texas History: Alamo Survivor Dies

This Day in Texas History:

Alamo Survivor Dies

October 7, 1883

On this day in 1883, Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson, survivor of the Alamo, died in Austin.

Susanna Wilkerson DickinsonThe Tennessee native married Almaron Dickinson in 1829 and moved to Gonzales, Texas, in 1831. Susanna’s only child, Angelina Elizabeth Dickinson, was born in 1834. Her husband went off to serve in the Texas Revolution in October 1835. She joined him in San Antonio, probably in December, and lodged in Ramón Músquiz’s home, where she opened her table to boarders (among them David Crockett).

On February 23, 1836, the family moved into the Alamo. After the battle of the Alamo on March 6, Mexican soldiers found her–some accounts say in the powder magazine, others in the church–and took her and Angelina, along with the other women and children, to Músquiz’s home. The women were later interviewed by Santa Anna, who gave each a blanket and two dollars in silver before releasing them.

Legend says Susanna displayed her husband’s Masonic apron to a Mexican general in a plea for help and that Santa Anna offered to take Angelina to Mexico. Santa Anna sent Susanna and her daughter, accompanied by Juan N. Almonte’s servant Ben, to Sam Houston with a letter of warning dated March 7. On the way, the pair met Joe, William B. Travis’s slave, who had been freed by Santa Anna. The party was discovered by Erastus (Deaf) Smith and Henry Wax Karnes. Smith guided them to Houston in Gonzales.

After the tragic events at the Alamo, Susanna lived a long and troubled life, marrying five times and sometimes making a living as a prostitute before achieving a measure of stability and prosperity with her last husband, Joseph William Hannig.

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This Day in Texas History: Freethinker Whipped in Bell County

This Day in Texas History:

Freethinker Whipped in Bell County

October 6, 1877

On this day in 1877, botanist and doctor Levi James Russell was whipped for being an infidel and free thinker.

Levi James RussellThe Georgia native was born in 1831 and in 1868 moved to Harrisville, Texas, where he bought a farm and practiced medicine. Russell was for several years the chairman of the committee on medical botany of the Texas State Medical Association (now the Texas Medical Association), which published his report in the Transactions for 1886. He was an incorporator of the Little River Academy, devoted to the study of science; in 1875 he became a charter member and president of the Association of Freethinkers of Bell County.

Because of his radical views he was expelled from the Masons and Knights of Pythias. On the night of October 6, 1877, Russell was assaulted for being an infidel. He continued his medical practice and his natural-science collection in Bell County until his death in 1908 at Temple.

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Join Us for Southlake’s Oktoberfest

Howdy everyone!

We will be at Southlake’s Oktoberfest this weekend.  Stop by and say Hi if you have time.  It will be fun.  We will be in booths 66 & 67 facing north toward the Town Hall – right next to Die Festhalle in the center of the exhibit area.

Hillside Motel

Hillside Motel

We will have our usual double booth with lots of large Limited Edition prints, 16×20 prints and some new images.  A large selection of note cards will be on hand as well.

We are almost out of books, so this is your last opportunity in 2014 to pick up a signed / personalized copy of Texas As I See It.

We will be launching a crowdfunding program for the reprint shortly. This will be a good way to pick up the 2nd printing at a discount, but delivery will be early next year.

( I did not create the map, so I am not responsible for typos… ;-)

Oktoberfest Map Southlake, Texas

Oktoberfest Map Southlake, Texas

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This Day in Texas History: Radio Broadcasting Comes to South Texas

This Day in Texas History:

Radio Broadcasting Comes to South Texas

September 25, 1922

On this day in 1922, WOAI-San Antonio, the first radio station in South Texas, began broadcasting.

1200 WAOI

1200 WAOI

The station, founded by G. A. C. Halff, had an initial power of 500 watts. It grew to 5,000 watts by 1925–considered powerful at that time. On February 6, 1928, WOAI joined the world’s first communication network, the National Broadcasting Company. It eventually became a clear channel operating with 50,000 watts.

WOAI was one of the first stations to employ a local news staff. One of its greatest achievements was a regular Sunday broadcast of “Musical Interpretations,” featuring Max Reiter, conductor of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra.

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