Along with everything else, Hurricane Harvey took with it decades worth of files, maps, notes, coordinates, names and research I had on my external hard drive; so for the time being, this site will be on hiatus until I finish republishing. I will upload as I go, so each post will reappear on its original date and can be found in the Archive section in the right sidebar. If you need to contact me for any reason in the duration, my contact info is found in my profile. Wish me luck, guys. - JES

February 16, 2010

May Esther Peterson

   May Esther Peterson Thompson, opera star, was born on October 7, 1880, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She was one of nine children of a Methodist minister. She began singing at the age of four in church meetings and later joined her sister Clara, an accomplished organist, to give recitals and concerts. She began her formal training at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and then traveled to Europe, where she raised money for her voice studies by teaching English and singing concerts. After spending two years in Florence, she went to Germany, where she was reduced to eating bread and water and was near starvation after a companion absconded with her funds. Nevertheless, she managed to secure the tutelage of a singing master in Berlin and gave a command performance before Kaiser Wilhelm II. Weakened by a severe illness, she was advised to seek a milder climate, and thus set her sights on the Opéra Comique in Paris. After her arrival there in 1913, she studied under tenor Jean de Reszke, for whom she worked as an accompanist.

   When World War I broke out, she returned to the United States to pursue a career in opera. After a six-week tour through her home state, in which she gave twenty-six concerts, she went back to Paris and was offered the lead in Manon at the Opéra Comique. She performed the role in rented costumes and makeup borrowed from Mary Garden. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Peterson visited and performed at various army camps. In 1918 she signed a six-year contract with the Metropolitan Opera of New York, where she sang with Enrico Caruso and John McCormack. Among her favorite roles were Micaela in Carmen and Mimi in La Bohème. Her golden voice and personality soon won her international fame as the "Golden Girl" of opera. Even then, she continued giving benefit concerts for the Methodist Church during the off-season. She made several records under the Vocalion label and was one of the first American artists to sing on radio.

   In 1921 Emil Myers arranged to have May Peterson appear in concert at the First Methodist Church in Amarillo. The local civic committee selected attorney Ernest O. Thompson to be her escort. A romance ensued, and the two were married on June 9, 1924, in Bronxville, New York. Afterward they returned to Amarillo to a glittering reception held in the ballroom of the Amarillo Hotel, which Thompson had built and owned. May Thompson retired from the opera after her marriage, but she continued doing concert tours for several years. In 1925 she sang in the first musical festival to be staged at the Amarillo Municipal Auditorium, and she regularly assisted with local musical programs. In 1932, after Thompson was appointed to the Railroad Commission, the couple moved to Austin, where Mrs. Thompson became a leading figure in musical circles. The Thompsons had no children. On October 1, 1952, May Thompson suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at their summerhouse in Estes Park, Colorado, and lapsed into a coma. She was flown back to Austin, where she died in Seton Infirmary on October 8 without regaining consciousness. She was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. Source

30° 15.908, -097° 43.624

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

February 5, 2010

Abner Pickens Blocker

   Abner (Ab) Pickens Blocker, trail driver, youngest of the three sons of Abner Pickens and Cornelia Randolph (Murphy) Blocker, was born on January 30, 1856, on the family ranch near Austin, Texas. He spent his youth in farm and ranch work and in 1876 joined his older brothers, William B. and John R. Blocker, on their range in Blanco County. In 1877 he helped deliver 3,000 steers to John Sparks in Wyoming. Over the next seventeen years he drove longhorn cattle up the trails from Texas to various buyers in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, and as far north as the Canadian border. In the summer of 1885 he delivered 2,500 head from Tom Green County to B. H. (Barbecue) Campbell, manager of the Capitol Syndicate's Buffalo Springs division in Dallam County. Campbell had contracted to buy cattle for the newly established XIT Ranch, and this was the first herd from South and West Texas to arrive. Blocker devised the XIT brand, for which the syndicate's ranch was named. Afterward he was involved in the dispute at Fort Supply, Oklahoma, resulting from the attempts of Kansas ranchers to quarantine the herds of his brother and other South Texas cattlemen and keep the Texans from crossing their land.

   Beginning in 1887 Blocker tried cotton farming for two years, but a period of drought soon put him back in the saddle. In 1890 he was made range boss of his brother's Chupadero Ranch, near Eagle Pass. His last overland trail drive was to Deadwood, South Dakota, with Harris Franklin's herd in 1893. In 1896 he married Florence Baldwin; they had a daughter. The family resided on a ranch in La Salle County, fifteen miles southeast of Cotulla, until a prolonged drought ruined them financially. In 1903, after living in Oklahoma for a year, the Blockers returned to Eagle Pass and subsequently took up residence again at the Chupadero Ranch. There they remained until 1912, when Blocker began working for the Texas Cattle Raisers Association (later the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association). He died in San Antonio on August 9, 1943, and was buried in Dignowity Cemetery. Source

29° 25.408, -098° 28.020

Section B
Dignowity Cemetery
San Antonio