This Day in Texas History: Iconoclast Publisher Killed in Waco

This Day in Texas History:

Iconoclast Publisher Killed in Waco

April 01, 1898

On this day in 1898, controversial journalist William Cowper Brann was fatally shot in the back by Tom E. Davis on a Waco street. Brann managed to pull his own gun and kill Davis.

William Cowper BrannEarlier in the decade Brann’s newspaper, the Iconoclast, had launched a series of vitriolic attacks, especially on Baptists, Episcopalians, blacks, women, and anything British. He also went after nearby Baylor University, which he called “that great storm-center of misinformation.”

Brann was subsequently kidnapped on one occasion and beaten on another, and his supporters had a deadly gunfight with Baylor partisans. Davis, who killed Brann, was an irate supporter of Baylor.

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This Day in Texas History: Battleship Texas Continues Outstanding Service

This Day in Texas History:

Battleship Texas Continues Outstanding Service

March 26, 1945

On this day in 1945, the battleship Texas supported the landings for the battle of Okinawa, the final great amphibious assault of World War II.

Battleship TexasThe keel of the Texas, the second battleship to bear this name, was laid at Newport News, Virginia, on April 17, 1911. After serving in the Atlantic Fleet in the First World War, she supported the World War II landings in North Africa, Omaha Beach, southern France, and Iwo Jima.

After more than thirty-four years of naval service she was retired and given to the state of Texas to be used as a memorial. She is permanently moored at the San Jacinto Monument off the Houston Ship Channel.

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This Day in Texas History: Mexican Raiders Strike Texas Ranch

This Day in Texas History:

Mexican Raiders Strike Texas Ranch

March 25, 1918

On this day in 1918, in what proved to be the last serious incident of the border troubles initiated by the Mexican Revolution, Mexican raiders attacked the Neville ranch in northwest Presidio County.

Neville RanchEdwin W. Neville’s isolated ranch stretched for eighteen miles along the Rio Grande, six miles upriver from Porvenir. Neville and his son Glen were discussing the rumors of an attack when they heard a disturbance outside. Neville looked out and saw fifty approaching horsemen who opened fire on the house.

Seeking protection, the Nevilles ran toward a ditch about 300 yards away. The older Neville reached the ditch uninjured, but the raiders shot Glen in the head and beat him with their rifle butts as he lay dying. The Nevilles’ housekeeper, Rosa Castillo, was also shot and her body mutilated. As Neville wandered in the darkness, the raiders stole horses, clothes, bedding, and supplies. U.S. cavalry arrived soon after the raid and followed the trail of the bandits across the Rio Grande.

In a gunfight at the village of Pilares thirty-three Mexicans were killed and eight were wounded. One American, private Carl Alberts, was also killed. The American soldiers destroyed all but one house in Pilares and recovered some of Neville’s stolen property.

It is likely that the Neville ranch raid was not a simple act of robbery, but retaliation for the Porvenir Massacre, which had taken place two months before. It is also likely that the raiders had Villista connections. In addition, soldiers found German-made Mauser rifles at Pilares, a fact that may suggest German involvement in the raid.

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This day in Texas History: Fort Worth Stockyards Incorporated

This day in Texas History:

Fort Worth Stockyards Incorporated

March 23, 1893

On this day in 1893, the Fort Worth Stock Yards were officially incorporated. The Fort Worth livestock market became the largest in Texas and the Southwest, the biggest market south of Kansas City, and consistently ranked between third and fourth among the nation’s large terminal livestock markets for five decades, from about 1905 to the mid-1950s.

When the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in Fort Worth in 1876 promoters built pens to hold cattle, but business leaders were already dreaming of packing plants and stockyards to make their community a permanent focus of the cattle industry. By 1886 four stockyards had been built near the railroads. Boston capitalist Greenleif W. Simpson, with a half dozen Boston and Chicago associates, incorporated the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company and purchased the Union Stock Yards and the Fort Worth Packing Company in 1893.

Swift Meat Packing Plant

Swift Meat Packing Plant

In 1896 the company began a fat-stock show that has survived to the present as one of the largest livestock shows in the nation, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show. An agreement with Armour and Swift brought in two of the nation’s largest meatpackers, who constructed modern plants adjacent to the stockyards. By 1936 Texas had become the largest-producing state for both cattle and sheep, with Fort Worth as the industry’s hub. The stockyards began to decline in the 1950s as the industry became more decentralized, and today the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District is primarily a tourist attraction.

Fort Worth Stockyards

Fort Worth Stockyards

Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort Worth, Texas

Copyright 2013 Warren Paul Harris
all rights reserved

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This day in Texas History: Preservationist Rebecca Fisher Dies

This day in Texas History:

Preservationist Rebecca Fisher Dies

March 21, 1926

On this day in 1926, Rebecca Fisher died in Austin. She was born Rebecca Gilleland in Philadelphia in 1831. Her family came to Texas around 1837 and settled in Refugio County.

Rebecca FisherIn 1840 Comanches attacked their home, killing Rebecca’s parents and taking Rebecca and her brother. The children were rescued by Albert Sidney Johnston and a detachment of Texas soldiers. Rebecca married Orceneth Fisher, a Methodist minister, in 1848. In 1855 the Fishers left Texas for the Pacific coast. They returned to Texas about 1871 and eventually established a home in Austin, where Fisher died in 1880.

Mrs. Fisher was a charter member and state president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She also aided Clara Driscoll in saving the Alamo from destruction, and for several years she gave the opening prayer when the Texas legislature convened. She was the only woman elected to the Texas Veterans Association and was its last surviving member.

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This day in Texas History: Possum Kingdom Reservoir Completed

This day in Texas History:

Possum Kingdom Reservoir Completed

March 20, 1941

4th of July on the Lake

4th of July on the Lake

Possum Kingdom Reservoir, popularly known as Possum Kingdom Lake, is on the Brazos River in Palo Pinto, Stephens, Jack, and Young counties It has a capacity of 724,700 acre-feet, a surface area of 19,800 acres, and a shoreline of 310 miles. Here Morris Sheppard Dam impounds 1,500,000 acre-feet of water annually for municipal, industrial, mining, irrigation, flood-control, recreational, and power-generation uses. Area hills and valleys, post oaks, and cedars make a “veritable paradise” for possums around the lake.

The dam, named for Senator John Morris Sheppard and authorized by the United States Congress in 1935, was the first erected by the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District. It was begun on May 29, 1938, under general contractors C. F. Lytle and A. L. Johnson and completed on March 20, 1941.

The dam, a heavily buttressed concrete structure with adjoining earth embankment, was built at a cost of $8,500,000, which represented a $4,500,000 grant from the federal government, supplemented by $4,000,000 from ad valorem taxes in ten counties along the lower Brazos watershed. Drainage area above the dam is 22,550 square miles, of which 9,240 are noncontributing. The dam is 2,747 feet long and has a maximum height of 189 feet; the spillway is 987 feet above mean sea level.

The average output of the dam’s power-generating plant is estimated at 73,000,000 KWH. The lake and reservoir are currently owned and operated by the Brazos River Authority.

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This day in Texas History: Council House Fight Waylays Comanche-White Relations

This day in Texas History:

Council House Fight Waylays Comanche-White Relations

March 19, 1840

On this day in 1840, Republic of Texas soldiers killed some thirty Penateka Comanche leaders and warriors and five women and children in the Council House Fight in San Antonio.

Buffalo HumpThe Comanches had come to San Antonio seeking to make peace. Texas officials had demanded that the Comanches return all captives, but the Penatekas brought only a few prisoners, including the severely abused Matilda Lockhart. After a dispute about the other captives, Texas soldiers entered the Council House, where the peace talks were being held, and informed the assembled chiefs that they were to be held as hostages until the remaining captives were released.

The Comanche chiefs attempted to escape and called to their fellow tribesmen outside the house for help. In the ensuing melee, the soldiers killed most of the Comanches who remained in the Council House courtyard. Six whites were killed and twenty wounded as well. Texas authorities freed a single Comanche woman with orders to secure the release of the remaining white captives in exchange for twenty-seven Comanches captured in the fight. The Penateka leaders refused to respond to Texas demands, and most of the Texans’ captives escaped.

The Council House Fight outraged Comanche sensibilities, for they considered ambassadors immune from acts of war. Led by Buffalo Hump, the Penatekas retaliated by raiding deep into Texas. Comanche hatred of Texans deepened and contributed much to the violence of the frontier.

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This day in Texas History: Script Writer / Future Texan Born in Chicago

This day in Texas History:

Script Writer / Future Texan Born in Chicago

March 16, 1939

On this day in 1939, Carol O’Brien Sobieski, television and film writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois. When she was five the family moved to the Frying Pan Ranch in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo.

Frying Pan Ranch

In 1964 she was hired as a scriptwriter for the television series “Mr. Novak.” She also wrote scripts for “The Mod Squad” and “Peyton Place.” Her writing credits for television movies included The Neon Ceiling, Sunshine, Sunshine Christmas, Amelia Earhart, and Harry Truman: Plain Speaking.

 

 

Fried Green TomatoesIn the 1980s Sobieski became known for her film screenplays, which included Annie, Winter People, Honeysuckle Rose and Fried Green Tomatoes.

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This day in Texas History: Big Band Leader Born

This day in Texas History:

Big Band Leader Born

March 15, 1916

On this day in 1916, Harry James, jazz trumpet player and big-band leader, was born in Albany, Georgia.

Harry JamesThough thought by many to be a native Texan, he did not arrive in Texas until the 1930s, when he and his parents moved to Beaumont. There he played trumpet and led a band. In 1936 James joined Benny Goodman‘s orchestra. He made a name for himself with fiery trumpet solos and an appearance in the band’s 1938 movie, Hollywood Hotel.

After he started the Harry James Band in 1940, his hit song “You Made Me Love You” (1941) sold over a million copies. A true virtuoso, Harry, along with his band, developed the boogie-woogie style for big-band swing. His romantic ballads were the key to his success and shot him to fame as a big-band leader.

Still an active musician in the 1970s, he was quoted then as saying, “I don’t look at people as changing, being old or being young. I just look down from the stand to see if people are having fun.” Harry James died in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1983.

Harry James “You Made Me Love You”

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This day in Texas History: Bluebonnet Proclaimed State Flower

This day in Texas History:

Bluebonnet Proclaimed State Flower

March 07, 1901

On this day in 1901, the Texas legislature proclaimed the bluebonnet the state flower.

Bluebonnet Pollination

Bluebonnet Pollination

In the 1930s the state began a highway-beautification program that included scattering bluebonnet seed beside roadways, thus extending the flower’s range. The flower-called in some Indian lore a gift from the Great Spirit-is the subject of countless photographs and paintings. It usually blooms in March and April.

The annual legume Lupinus subcarnosus, derives its popular name from its resemblance to a sunbonnet. It has also been called buffalo clover, wolf flower, and, in Spanish, el conejo (“the rabbit”). On March 8, 1971, the legislation was amended to include L. texensis and “any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.” At least four other species of bluebonnet grow in Texas: L. havardiiL. concinnusL. perennis, and L. plattensis. Contrary to various folk stories and legends claiming that the plant originated outside the state, L. texensis and L. subcarnosus are native to Texas.

In 1933 the legislature adopted a state flower song, “Bluebonnets,” written by Julia D. Booth and Lora C. Crockett. Also in the 1930s the Highway Department began a landscaping and beautification program and extended the flower’s range. Due largely to that agency’s efforts, bluebonnets now grow along most major highways throughout the state. The flower usually blooms in late March and early April and is found mostly in limestone outcroppings from north central Texas to Mexico. Its popularity is widespread.

Although early explorers failed to mention the bluebonnet in their descriptions of Texas, The bluebonnet continues to be a favorite subject for artists and photographers, and at the peak of bloom, festivals featuring the flower are held in several locations.

Ennis was designated by the 1997 State Legislature as the home of the “Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail” and was designated the “Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.” Their Bluebonnet Trails Festival takes place during the month of April, featuring arts and crafts booths, food vendors and entertainment.

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