Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery

EpiscopalMasonicCemetery
[Detail of Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery from 1895 Map, showing location near intersection of Bagby and Lamar]

Newspaper articles about neglected and abandoned Houston cemeteries are not that uncommon.  What may surprise some, though, is that a newspaper article on the subject appeared over a hundred years ago, when the city of Houston was relatively new. Because of the length of the article, only the first part of the article (which concerns the old Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery) is reprinted below.  The other two parts of the article, which concern two other early Houston cemeteries, will be featured here on later dates.

A number of the words in the discussion of the Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery are difficult to read in the copy of the article that Houstorian viewed.  Bracketed words below are best guesses – bracketed question marks indicate a word is missing, and no guess was made.

The article is titled “Houston’s Oldest Cemeteries: Cities of the Dead of Past Generations Neglected and Some of Them Almost Obliterated,” and it appeared in the Houston Daily Post on February 15, 1903:

Within a dozen squares of the business [district] of Houston, almost hidden from [view] with a matted growth of rank vegetation, that at this season is sere and dead, [sits] the city’s oldest cemetery.

[It is] unkempt and forlorn and presents [an] appearance that is too often characteristic of old age.  In the hallowed spot [sleep] many of those who helped to hew [?] of Houston’s greatness.  Their [bodies] have long since changed to ashes [and] time has corroded the slabs that [marked] their resting places until the [?] letters on the perishable marble [are] no longer legible.

The younger generations and later residents of Houston, perhaps, do not even [know] of the presence of this sacred old [burial] ground.  But the old-timer who has [helped] to fashion the destinies of the city [in] the last half century is aware of its [presence] and not unlikely has dropped [?] within its inclosure.

Adjoining the Sam Houston city park on [the] north side is a narrow strip of ground [embracing] some six or seven acres.  It approaches within 100 feet of Bagby street, [?] a view of it is obstructed by houses [that] have long been built between it and the thoroughfare.  A high board fence [separates] it from the city park, like the [?] partition between the realms of life and death.

Many gay people as they have strolled through the park have paused and wondered what lay beyond the high fence.  At [one] point a stone structure, bereft of roof, [?] its scarred walls, like the ruins of [some] miniature monastery, above the [?].  A half century ago it was a vault [?] within it were coffined forms.  Now it is a mere shell.  A later generation has [removed] the bodies and placed them in [?] graves.

The burial ground is known as the old Episcopal cemetery.  No records are obtainable as to when it was laid out, but [?] common consent it is accredited the [?] of the most venerable cemetery in the city.

Years ago the city sought to condemn it, and similar steps have been taken at various times since.  The right of the city to do so was always questioned and with sufficient force to prevent the action being carried out.  Some two years ago the city [?] attempted to purchase the grounds.  If the deal had been consummated it was the [?] to remove the bodies and add the [?] to the city park.

Burials have practically ceased there and [?] one is recorded during the past two years.  In fact, from time to time bodies have been removed and placed in more modern cemeteries, until now the little [city] of the dead has not half its former inhabitants.  A number of family lots in which reposed all that was mortal of whole [?] of two generations ago have been [?] depopulated.

[?] slabs still lie scattered about and their simple graven announcements give [thoughts] to conjure by.  With but few exceptions the graves are entirely overgrown and the mattes mass of vegetation is so dense that parts of the grounds can not be penetrated at all.  In many lots [?] which are fragments of iron fences [?] have grown from the seed and the [?] reproduction of weeds and briers have flourished and withered, obliterating [?] traces of graves.

A few rambling notes gathered from old [?] and vault slabs may be of interest and may recall faces that smiled generations ago and hands that performed their [?] in the ceaseless struggle of human
[?].

“Sacred to the memory of R. Wallace, [died] September 8, 1858.  Age 25 years.”

“[In] memory of Dr. B.C. Dewey. Formerly a resident of Coldwater, Mich.; died in Houston, October 13, 1858.  Age 35 years.”

“Abraham Payne, died January 11, 1840.”

“Catherine Cartright Payne. Died 1841. Age 22 years.”

“Mrs. Hannah Payne, native of England. Died November 10, 1870.”

[One] vault bears the following inscription:

“Here lies the remains of Remi Miville De [?], born Quebec, Canada, May [20, 17??]. Died 1860.”

“[?] J.B. Anderson, born New York, October 15, 1807.  Died September 1, 1858.”

“James B., W.P. and Hellen Massie.  Died October 8, 1859.  Age 5.”  In the [same] lot is a shaft on which is carved the [square] and the compass, with the inscription, “William P. Massie, died March 7, [?], age 50.”

“In memory of Sarah E. J., wife of Dr. [?] Earl Hartridge, who departed this life [?], 1855.  Age 28.” Also “Luzetta, [?] 2 years, died 1858.”

“[?] A. Harris –” the rest illegible, the [?] being shattered and very old.

“Anna Marie, only daughter of U. and S. [?], born February 6, 1851; died January [?], 1856.”

“[?] loving memory of Kate, daughter of [?] and H.T. Rottenstein.  Died November [?], 1850.  Aged 4 years.”

“[?] M. Duval, born December [?], 1779.  Died April 30, 1860.” The inscription is [?] a massive vault, now partially uncovered.

“Sacred to the memory of Dr. John S. [Duval], born October 19, 1829.  Died November 14, 1858.”  This record is likewise [?] a large vault slab, but it is in a fair state of preservation.

“[In] memory of W.D. Smith, died February 13, 1858, in the fifty-second year of his [life].”

“Sacred to the memory of John Dawson, native of Northumberland, England.  Died [October] 1849, aged 27 years.”

“In memory of Daniel M. Cutter, born October 21, 1790.  Died April 26, 1866, aged 75 years.”

“James W. Oats, born 1797, in Sampson county, North Carolina.  Died in Houston March 5, 1870.”

“George Morgan, infant of G.A. Jones.  Died 1850.”

“Sacred to the memory of S.H. Skiff.  Died October, 1859.”

“Alberta Foster, died 1857.”

“Agness, daughter of L.S. and H.B. Perkins, died August 6, 1846.”

“This mortal must put on immortality.  In memory of Leonard S. Perkins, aged 49.  Died October 22, 1858.”

“Sarah M. Perkins, wife of Rev. J.W. Tays, died at Oxford, N.Y., September 24, 1870. Eunice, daughter of A.S. and F. Perkins, died November 13, 1859. They rest in hope.”

An old iron fence bears the inscription, “J.N. Dupree, 1857.”

On what is perhaps the largest shaft in the grounds is the following: “Sacred to the memory of Captain D.C. Farmer. Called from labor to reward August 4, 1870.”

. . . .

“Mason, Holland lodge No. 1, A.F. and A.M.
Who wears the square upon his breast does in the
Sight of God attest and in the face of man
That all his actions will compare with the
Divine, the unerring square, that square
Great nature’s plan.

Over the River company Fifth Texas regiment, Hood’s brigade.
On Fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.”

Near the entrance of the cemetery is a shattered shaft bearing the following:

“Henry Benchley, died February 24, 1867, age 46 years.  Erected by the Houston and Texas Central Railway company as a tribute of respect to an upright man and a faithful officer.”

“Enter rest eternal, the kindest husband and most indulgent father, the truest friend and the most generous man.”

The reference to the graves of Abraham Payne (died January 11, 1840), Catherine Cartright Payne (died 1841, at the age of 22), and Mrs. Hannah Payne, “native of England” (died November 10, 1870) is interesting.  These appear to be the father, older sister, and step-mother of Kezia Payne DePelchin, the founder of the DePelchin Faith Home (which now operates as the DePelchin Children’s Center).  DePelchin herself died in 1893, and some sites mention that she and her “parents” were relocated to Forest Park Cemetery on Lawndale.

The Masonic references in the article suggest that the author was exploring not just the grounds of the old Episcopal Cemetery, but also those of the adjacent Masonic Cemetery.  The two are often referred to as the “Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery”, and it’s quite possible that the boundary between the two wasn’t clearly marked, especially in later years.

William P. Massie, whose year of death is not legible, appears to have been a Mason.  He may be the William Massie who fought at the Battle of San Jancinto in 1836.  (The gravestone of a William P. “Massey” is mentioned in a 1960 Houston Chronicle article as one of a handful of gravestones still visible in the Masonic Cemetery next to the Episcopal Cemetery.)

The poem excerpted above was written in honor of Captain D.C. Farmer (died 1870), a captain in Hood’s Brigade in the Confederate States Army.

Leonard S. Perkins (died 1858) once owned a 10-acre parcel of land on Buffalo Bayou, near Frost Town.

S.H. Skiff (died 1859) appears to have been a charter member of the Houston Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 (a predecessor of the fire department), which was formed in 1858.  Dick Dowling was another of the handful of charter members.

Finally, Henry Benchley (died 1867) was the namesake of the town of Benchley, Texas.  Early in his life, he served as a state senator and lieutenant governor in Massachusetts and, in the 1850′s, he helped found the Republican party.  He is said to have moved to Texas to operate a station on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves, and to have been arrested and jailed in Texas for having done so.  His grandson, Robert Benchley, was a famous humorist and contributor to the New Yorker.

As noted in the Louis F. Aulbach article on the Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery, some remains were moved from the cemetery in the 1870′s, to Glenwood Cemetery.  Additional remains were moved to Brookside Cemetery in 1938, when City Hall was constructed.  Then, in 1959, 80 additional bodies were moved to Glenwood Cemetery.  However, in light of the information the Daily Post article gives about the neglected state of the Episcopal-Masonic Cemetery as early as 1903, it is unlikely that all remains in the cemetery were located, much less relocated.

Luna Park


[Luna Park - 1924 newspaper advertisement]

Rollercoaster.jpg
[1920's photo (looking west toward Luna Park) by Mary Bavouset, published with her permission in J.R. Gonazales' Bayou City History blog]


[1920's postcard of Houston showing Luna Park roller coaster in distance (top left)]


[Panoramic photo posted on HAIF by Kevin Jackson, reproduced from a panoramic photo that hangs or hung on the wall of the Harris County Smokehouse restaurant - the photo gives the park's address as 2212 Houston Avenue]


[Detail from photo on cover of Houston Then and Now showing Luna Park coaster in distance (top center)]

Luna Park was an amusement park located in the Heights area – on Houston Avenue, on the banks of White Oak Bayou – in the 1920′s and early 1930′s. The park opened as Luna Park on June 26, 1924, though it may have been open under a different name before that, as images of the park purporting to be dated prior to 1924 exist. For example, the above panoramic photo of “Venice Park – Houston, Texas”, dated 1923, appears to show what became known as Luna Park.

A July 27, 1924 newspaper article described the park as follows:

The park has virtually every variety of amusement device known in the world of showdom. One of its biggest features is the giant skyrocket, a roller coaster larger and higher than any other operating in the United States. The skyrocket is a mile and a quarter long and at its highest point soars 110 feet in the air. The first drop on this mammoth devide is eighty-four feet. Some 2,500 to 3,000 persons ride the twelve cars of the big ride each night. Many other amusement devices dot the thirty-six acre park, which is located within five minutes’ ride from the heart of Houston. A monstrous seaplane swing also has been installed in the park, as has a caterpillar, a merry-go-round, dodgem, baby airplane swing, junior Ferris wheel, miniature railway and other devices.

Three shows now are operating. The Mysterious Sensation, a weird novelty, is proving the stellar attraction. Williamson’s Midget City, a show that has played at many fairs and expositions, also is operating. Another show, “See America First,” described as the latest sensation from Coney Island, is the third show now operating in Luna’s joy lane.

The park is featuring a picnic grove of several acres in area. Here more than a hundred rustic benches and tables have been installed. Picnickers throng the park every afternoon, there being a large number of fraternal, church and Sunday school picnics booked before the end of the summer season.

Luna Park will be an all-year resort, remaining open winter and summer. During the winter months the park’s big dancing casino will prove to be the main attraction. Free automobile parking within the gates is attracting many motorists to the playground each night.

The park’s “scenic railway” was reported to be two feet higher than Coney Island’s, and the dance pavillion was at the time the largest in the south. Luna Park also hired stunt flyer Francis H. Rust to stage night-flying stunts overhead.

Tough Times

Nearly as soon as it opened, however, Luna Park was a center of controversy. A lawsuit was filed against it in July 1924, by a woman who said she was “roughly treated” while standing in line for the roller coaster. She claimed that a park employee “caught her by the arms and desisted only after the crowd threatened to lynch or mob him.”

The park was sued again that August, for noise pollution. A Heights resident complained that “sleep is impossible” when the park’s roller coaster and other devices are operating, though the park’s witnesses testified that the street cars along Houston Avenue made far more noise than all the attractions combined.

Also in August 1924, a local newspaper reported:

The Mexican consulate in Houston may be closed in protest against “discriminatory tactics” against Mexicans, according to Consul H. Valdez. The protest grew out of the arrest and beating of a Mexican boy Wednesday night, after he had been refused admission to the Luna Park dance floor. The boy is Jesus Prieto Laurens, a graduate of Ohio University. He escorted to the dance a prominent Mexican girl, who recently won a beauty prize offered by the Salesmanship Club. He was sold tickets, but was not allowed to enter the dance hall, and when he asked for an explanation he was arrested and charged with assault. While being taken to the police station, the boy says, he was beaten and cursed. His brother, G. Prieto Laurens, former consul here, was held off at the point of a gun when he attempted to aid his brother, it was stated. Another brother of the boy formerly was mayor of Mexico City and governor of the state of San Luis Potosi. The grand jury today began an investigation of the case.

Houston Deputy Constable Frenchy Naquin was charged with assault in the matter, but was ultimately acquitted. At the time he was acquitted, he was also standing charges for assault on a man who was a “keeper of a parking place” near Luna Park.

Sadly, the history of Luna Park soon darkened further. On a single afternoon in October 1924, in two separate incidents, three people died at the park. A professional parachutist, Montie LeMay, was killed when her parachute failed to open. At nearly the same time, Mary Alta Watson and Charles C. Johnson were killed in a fall from the Luna Park roller coaster.

A year later, in August 1925, the Rice Hotel’s barber was stabbed several times at Luna Park.

Happier Days

However, the park remained a popular attraction, as demonstrated by a newspaper report on the Labor Day events of 1925:

The sturdy hands that provide the skill and man power to carry on Houston’s vast trade and industry were busy today at sports, atheltics and amusements at Luna Park. Between 10,000 and 15,000 members of labor unions and crafts, their families and friends thronged into the park throughout the day to enjoy the Labor Day festivites arranged in their honor. There were wrestling and boxing matches in the mammoth inverted bowl of a dancing casino, beginning at 1 p.m. Then there were races and other contests, with prizes to the winners; children’s games; awards to the best looking woman, the oldest couple, the fattest, the tallest, the shortest, the ugliest, and so on. Diving horses performed at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.

A month later, the Houston and Galveston chapters of the Red Men fraternal organization held a joint “powwow” at the park, described as “one of the most spectacular and interesting of the typical celebrations held under the auspices of Texas Red Men.” The meeting featured “an outdoor initiation and war dance staged by the Galveston degree team in full regalia.” The war dance was staged just after dark, in the picnic grove, which was “appropriately lighted.”

By 1928, even the Mexican consulate appears to have made its peace with Luna Park. In observation of Mexican Independence Day, the consulate organized a two-day program at the park featuring “patriotic speeches, patriotic music; several entertainment features; and a reading of the Mexican Declaration of Independence.”

Marathons

Another noteworthy event in 1928 was a dance marathon at the dance casino:

Fifteen couples and a lone youth shuffled about the Luna Park dance casino today, the third day of a marathon which so far has seen the elimination of only five couples. One little blonde was eliminated from the marathon by her husband of three weeks who went to the dance hall last night. She argued with him, holding the hope of a “first payment on a home” with the prize money, but friend husband was obdurate, and home with him she went. One mother sat up all last night, holding a shoe box in her lap with food and first aid equipment to minister to her daughter who milled about in the long grind. The lone boy will be allowed ten hours, and unless a partner is provided, he will be ruled out. If some girl survives a boy partner in the grind, he will draw her for a partner.

Surprisingly, a report following several days later found the dance marathon still in progress:

Twenty-three pairs of blistered, burning feet were still shuffling about the Luna Park dance hall today in the dance marathon which started a week ago from from last Thursday. There are thirteen boys and ten girls still in the long grind; the three boys being without partners, who succumbed to weariness. The marathon has become grim business; the contestants rush to their cots for the fifteen-minute rest periods each hour; and sleep till roused. Some doze on their feet as they dance. The contestants are spurred on by $1,000 in prize money, three-fourths of which will go to the winning couple.

As the third week of the dancing marathon began, it was reported that the dancers were “continuing by dint of much smelling salts and determination.” But the marathon was clearly taking a toll on its participants:

Two girls, Phyllis Dreyer and Lucille Nelson, fainted last night on the floor, but were revived within the alotted five minutes by nurses and continued the grind. Fred Bradford fell asleep while dancing and tumbled forward on the floor, bruising a knee. He started dancing again, and shuffles along with a limp. Two of the stonger contestants aided Jean Inglehart to stay on his feet last night after he fainted, until he recovered sufficiently to proceed under his own power. The contestants help each other, rather than trying to get them out. The dancers shuffle for forty-five minutes and then rest fifteen in each hour.

The dancing marathon was apparently a promotional success, as a “floating marathon” was scheduled in the park in 1929, and a water tank constructed specially for the event. The floating marathon was billed as the first ever held in the state, and possibly in the world – the winner was to be named the floating champion of the world. Early favorites were 300-pound Tony Roselli and “star long distance swimmer” Lee Colombo.

Park Closes

But the 1930′s brought a return of the park’s early bad luck. In 1930, a man was discovered dead in the picnic grounds, his body having “apparently been there for several days” before police received an anonymous tip. And, in 1932, a Webster farmer was hijacked in his car outside Luna Park. It is unclear exactly when, but the park appears to have closed sometime in the early 1930′s, perhaps a victim of the Great Depression.

More information:
HAIF discussion re Luna Park
Another HAIF discussion re Luna Park
SixFlagsHouston.com discussion re Luna Park
PBS special that includes Luna Park

1910 Crime Report

In 1910, Houston’s Chief of Police, George Ellis, reported the following crime statistics for the city in the year ending February 28, 1910:

ARRESTS

White Men: 3,022
White Women: 142
Colored Men: 1,479
Colored Women: 382
Total: 5,092

VIOLATIONS OF STATE LAW

Assault, aggravated 27
Assault, simple 249
Assault to murder 78
Assault to rape 1
Arson 2
Arson, attempted 1
Allowing minor to play pool 3
Abusive language 67
Burglary 152
Cruelty to animals 4
Carrying a pistol 26
Carrying knucks 2
Carrying dirk 3
Contempt of court 1
Cattle theft 2
Drunk 1,167
Disturbing the public peace 497
Disorderly house, keeping 10
Embezzlement 2
Fighting 310
Forgery 17
Fugitive from justice 6
Fornication 2
Gaming 150
Horse theft 6
Lunacy 15
Leaving dead animal in public place 1
Liquor selling, without license 1
Murder 17
Malicious mischief 12
Passing forged instrument 1
Robbery, by firearms 6
Robbery 4
Rape 1
Seriously threatening life 2
Seduction 2
Swindling 5
Theft (felony) 84
Theft (misdemeanor) 120
Theft (from the person) 22
Train jumping 95
Vagrancy 735
Violating Sunday law 12

VIOLATIONS OF CITY ORDINANCES

Automobile speeding 104
Automobile (no lights) 25
Automobile (no number) 3
Accompanying lewd women on streets 3
Bicycles (no lights) 25
Bicycles (riding on sidewalk) 32
Cursing over telephone 2
Causing a collision 9
Conversing with prisoners without permission 2
Driving over fire hose 10
Driving faster than six miles an hour 22
Driving fast over bridge 3
Driving through funeral 6
Discharging firearms in city limits 3
Excavating without a permit 8
Exposure of person 1
Failure to abate a nuisance 1
Hauling dirt from streets 1
Hitching on market awning 1 
Impersonating an ofticer 1
Interfering with an officer in discharge of duty 3
Jumping street cars 3
Loitering in house of prostitution 25
Leaving team unhitched 130
Leaving team hitched on Main St. over 30 minutes 32
Operating theatre without a license 2
Obstructing the streets 7
Obstructing the sidewalks 2
Overcharge in telephone 1
Overcharge in hack hire 1
Preaching without a permit 1
Peddling without a license 6
Refusing right of way to Fire Department 1
Registering as man and wife in rooming house 12
Racing on public streets 2
Spitting on sidewalk 2
Spitting in street car 2
Sleeping in public place 4
Selling unsound eggs 3
Selling beer (no license) 2
Turning in false fire alarm 4
Turning on public water hydrant 1
Trespassing 29
Using horse without consent of owner 4
Violating sweeping ordinance 45
Violating Article 444, City Ordinance 15
Violating “Move On” Ordinance 3
Violating Depot Ordinance 2
Violating Street Car Ordinance 2
Violating Article 639, City Ordinance 1
Violating Slop Ordinance 4
Violating Article 695, City Ordinance 2
Violating Hack Ordinance 7
Violating Article 350, City Ordinance 3
Vicious dog running at large 1

“Knucks” appear to have been brass knuckles, while a “dirk” is a dagger.

A 1905 newspaper article noted with regard to the “crime” of lunacy:

If it be true that the laws of a Nation or a people are an index of their civilization, Texas must admit with some degree of humiliation that she is not yet in the forefront of the world’s great march of progress, for we cling to ancient and obsolete practices; we maintain a custom and follow a law designed when lunacy was regarded as a crime, not a disease.  While our laws have been amended from time to time, the essence and substance have remained the same for the last half century.  We still follow criminal methods of procedure in the apprehension, trial and commitment of our insance to the hospitals.

The nature of Houston’s “move on ordinance” is suggested by an 1889 newspaper article:

The way men stand on the sidewalks, especially about the block corners, has for some time been a provoking nuisance and annoyance to gentlemen passing along on business and to ladies.  This is suffered by the leniency of the police, but it should be broken up.  Complaints from ladies are repeatedly heard of this nuisance.  Two or four or eight men will cluster about the center of the sidewalk and not one of them moves at the sight of a lady who wants to pass, but will stand and see her thread her way around or step over the gutter into the street.  These evidently have not decency or politeness or sense enough to give way.  These sidewalks are for walking, and men who stand should be made to do it so that no interference will be felt by those walking.  There is a move on ordinance here that should not be forgotten.

Audubon’s 1837 Visit to Houston

Mockingbirds
[Audubon print of Mockingbirds]

The great naturalist John James Audubon visited the Republic of Texas, including Houston, in 1837.  The Texas State Historical Association reports that “important parts of John James Audubon’s journal, including information on his 1837 Texas trip, were lost.”  Some portions of his journal writings on Houston appear to have survived, however, as they have been reproduced in various sources.  In 1875, the Galveston newspaper, excerpting from a piece in the San Marcos newspaper, reproduced Audubon’s account of his visit to Houston as follows:

May 15. We landed at Houston, the capital of Texas, drenched to the skin, and were kindly received on board the steamer Yellow Stone, Captain West, who gave us his state-room to change our clothes, and furnished us refreshments and dinner.  The Buffalo bayou had risen about six feet, and the neighboring prairies were partly covered with water; there was a wild and desolate look cast on the surrounding scenery. We had already passed two little girls encamped on the bank of the bayou, under the cover of a few clapboards, cooking a scanty meal; shanties, cargoes of hogsheads, barrels, etc., were spread about the landing; and Indians drunk and hallooing were stumbling about in the mud in every direction. These poor beings had come here to enter into a treaty proposed by the whites; many of them were young and well looking, and with far less decorations than I have seen before on such occasions. The chief of the tribe is an old and corpulent man.

We walked towards the President’s house, accompanied by the Secretary of the Navy, and as soon as we rose above the bank we saw before us a level of far-extending prairie, destitute of timber and of rather poor soil. Houses, half finished, and most of them without roofs, tents and a liberty pole, with the capitol, were all exhibited to our view at once.  We approached the President’s mansion, however, wading through water above our ankles. This abode of President Houston is a small log house, consisting of two rooms, and a passage through after, the Southern fashion. The moment we stepped over the threshold, on the right hand of the passage we found ourselves ushered into what in other countries would be called the ante-chamber; the ground floor, however, was muddy and filthy, a large fire was burning, a small table covered with paper and writing materials was in the center, camp-beds, trunks and different materials were strewed around the room. We were at once presented to several members of the Cabinet, some of whom bore the stamp of men of intellectual ability, simple though bold, in their general appearance.  Here we were presented to Mr. Crawford, an agent of the British Minister to Mexico, who has come here on some secret mission.

The President was engaged in the opposite room on national business, and we could not see him for some time. Meanwhile we amused ourselves by walking to the capitol, which was yet without a roof, arid the floors, benches, and tables of both houses of Congress were as well saturated with water as our clothes had been in the morning. Being invited by one of the great men of the place to enter a booth to take a drink of grog with whim, we did so; but I was rather surprised that he offered his name, instead of the cash to the bar-keeper.

We first caught sight of President Houston as he walked from one of the grog-shops, where he had been to prevent the sale of ardent spirits. He was on his way to his house, and wore a large coarse gray hat; and the bulk of his figure reminded me of the appearance of Gen. Hopkins, of Virginia, for, like him, he is upward of six feet high, and strong in proportion. But I observed a scowl in the expression of his eyes that was forbidding and disagreeable.  We reached his abode before him, but he soon came, and we were presented to his Excellency. He was dressed in a fancy velvetcoat, and trowsers trimmed with broad gold lace; around his neck was tied a cravat somewhat in the style of seventy-six. He received us kindly, was desirous of retaining us for a while, and offered us every facility within his power. He at once removed us from the ante-room to his private chamber, which, by the way was not much cleaner than the former. We were severally introduced by him to the different members of his cabinet and staff, and at once asked to drink grog with him, which we did, wishing success to his new republic. Our talk was short, but the impression which was made on my mind at the time by himself, his officers, and his place of abode, can never be forgotten.

We returned to our boat through a melee of Indians and blackguards of all sorts. In giving a last glance back we once more noticed a number of horses rambling about the grounds, or tied beneath the few trees that have been spared by the axe. We also saw a liberty pole, erected on the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto, on the 21st of last April, and were informed that a brave tar, who rigged the Texan flag on that occasion, had been personally rewarded by President Houston with a town lot, a doubloon and the privilege of keeping a ferry across the Buffalo bayou at the town, where the bayou forks diverge in opposite directions.

More information:

TSHA, Handbook of Texas Online, “Audubon, John James”

100 Years Ago – February 18, 1909

Denton, Tex., Feb. 18, 1909: The Denton Record and Chronicle noted that the Houston Chronicle had featured a Texas Railroad Commission report showing that damages paid by railroads in lawsuits had risen between 1891 and 1908 from $223,749 to nearly $2 million. The Denton paper commented, in an article titled “Damage Suit Industry”:

Although Texas has a barratry law the damage suit lawyer is still able to make trouble and especially have the railroads suffered from the activities of the ambulance chaser. . . . As the Commission points out, all this is figured in when it comes to making the rates, so after all, the people who patronize the railroads in Texas – and who does not in one way or another? – pay indirectly for the damages paid out. No defense of railroads particularly is intended in this. They themselves, by their dilatoriness and refusals to pay just claims, are to no small extent responsible for the disrepute in which they are held and which aids in the assessment of large verdicts, but when the people discovery that they themselves are paying these damages indirectly, they are going to see things differently.

The Denton Record and Chronicle was formed when William C. Edwards merged two competing Denton papers. His brother, Robert John Edwards, became co-owner and editor in 1906. The Handbook of Texas Online states that the Edwards brothers were “active in state politics,” and that the newspaper, “reflecting the concerns of its owners, consistently supported Democratic candidates and policies.”

100 Years Ago – February 16, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 16, 1909: Mayor H. Baldwin Rice announced that there would be no Mardi Gras ball in 1909, and that the police had been instructed to keep “masked women” out of saloons. Explaining the cancellation of the Mardi Gras ball, Mayor Rice said: “One of our police officers lost his life as a direct result of the ball last year, and we will have no more of it.” As for masked women in saloons, he commented: “It is no place for woman, and such conduct can only have a demoralizing effect on the community.”

The death to which Mayor Rice referred was that of Houston police officer J.S. Simpson. Simpson and another police officer, Henry Lee, were on duty all night at the 1908 Mardi Gras ball. When they got off duty in the morning, they went to a saloon. Simpson was shot at the saloon, and Lee was charged with killing him.

Horace Baldwin Rice served as mayor of Houston from 1896-1898, and from 1905-1913. Rice was the newphew of William Marsh Rice (founder of Rice University), and his great-aunt, Charlotte Baldwin Allen, was the first wife of Augustus Allen (one of the founders of Houston). Rice’s grandfather, Horace Baldwin, had also served as mayor of Houston. Mayor H. Baldwin Rice is best remembered as a supporter of the development of the Houston Ship Channel.

100 Years Ago – February 15, 1909

Houston, Tex., Feb. 15, 1909:  Around 7:00 a.m., a man was found dead beside the stove of the city jail. A police officer had run across him on Milam Street the night before, and he “appeared to be suffering from the cold, being poorly clad and almost helpless.” He was offered shelter in the police station, and was “allowed to enter the runway and rest beside the big coal stove.” He talked with some of the prisoners during the night, and had responded as late as 4:00 a.m. An inquest was held, and the justice of the peace declared that the man, Stoge “Tobe” Townsend, was found to have come to his death by natural causes, induced by exposure to the cold. The newspaper noted: “There were no signs of struggle, and it was evident that the sands of life had run out while the man was asleep.”

The man’s death was more notable than it might otherwise have been given that he was a member of the Townsend family, “who at one time were engaged in the famous Reese-Townsend feud.”