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

October 22, 2010

Angelina Elizabeth Dickinson

   Angelina Dickinson, called the Babe of the Alamo, daughter of Almeron and Susanna (Wilkerson) Dickinson (also spelled Dickerson), was born on December 14, 1834, in Gonzales, Texas. By early 1836 her family had moved to San Antonio. On February 23, as the forces of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna entered the city, Dickinson reportedly caught up his wife and daughter behind his saddle and galloped to the Alamo, just before the enemy started firing. In the Alamo, legend says William B. Travis tied his cat's-eye ring around Angelina's neck. Angelina and Susanna survived the final Mexican assault on March 6, 1836. Though Santa Anna wanted to adopt Angelina, her mother refused. A few days after the battle, mother and child were released as messengers to Gen. Sam Houston.

   At the end of the revolution, Angelina and her mother moved to Houston. Between 1837 and 1847 Susanna Dickinson married three times. Angelina and her mother were not, however, left without resources. For their participation in the defense of the Alamo, they received a donation certificate for 640 acres of land in 1839 and a bounty warrant for 1,920 acres of land in Clay County in 1855. In 1849 a resolution by Representative Guy M. Bryan for the relief of "the orphan child of the Alamo" to provide funds for Angelina's support and education failed. At the age of seventeen, with her mother's encouragement, Angelina married John Maynard Griffith, a farmer from Montgomery County. Over the next six years, the Griffiths had three children, but the marriage ended in divorce. Leaving two of her children with her mother and one with an uncle, Angelina drifted to New Orleans. Rumors spread of her promiscuity.

   Before the Civil War she became associated in Galveston with Jim Britton, a railroad man from Tennessee who became a Confederate officer, and to whom she gave Travis's ring. She is believed to have married Oscar Holmes in 1864 and had a fourth child in 1865. Whether she ever married Britton is uncertain, but according to Flake's Daily Bulletin, Angelina died as "Em Britton" in 1869 of a uterine hemorrhage in Galveston, where she was a known courtesan. Source

Note: Angelina Dickinson's grave is unmarked and likely lost. She originally had a small grave marker, purchased with contributions from the general public, inscribed only with the word "Britton", the last name of the man she was living with at the time of her death. She claimed to be married to him but there are no marriage records to confirm it, and considering that she had a history working as a courtesan, it was probably a respectful attempt by the community to give her grave a semblance of dignity due to her legacy as the "Babe of the Alamo". The stone was swept away during the 1900 hurricane and her exact burial location lost, but according to family lore her grave was located in the far back corner of Evergreen Cemetery, in a section known as Cahill Ground. I searched the four corners of Evergreen and the only corner area that wasn't marked with grave stones predating the hurricane is in the photo below. Whether it is her final resting place or not is uncertain, but it seems to me to be the most likely.

COORDINATES
N/A

Cahill Ground (Defunct)
Evergreen Cemetery
Galveston

October 8, 2010

Joseph Eugene Pillot

   Joseph Eugene Pillot, playwright and song composer, the son of Teolin and Anna C. (Drescher) Pillot, was born on February 25, 1886, in Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas and Cornell University with the intention of studying law, but gave up that pursuit to enroll in the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. He worked for a while as an interior decorator in New York, then entered the workshop course in play-writing at Harvard. He continued there for several years, writing and working with the Boston Community Players. He also took a drama course at Columbia. Pillot became a successful writer of one-act plays, many of which were widely produced on stage, radio, and television. His best-known play, Two Crooks and a Lady (1918), was first produced at Harvard and has been called a model of construction; it has been republished and produced many times. His other plays include My Lady Dreams (1922), Hunger, and The Sundial (probably 1920s). His works have been included in many anthologies and handbooks on the technique of play-writing.

   Pillot was also a writer of songs, the most popular of which were As a Snow White Swan and Let Not Your Song End. Most of Pillot's later writing was sacred music. He also wrote poetry. In 1955 he and artist Grace Spaulding John, in cooperation with the River Oaks Garden Club, produced a prose book, Azalea, the story of a real dog and two iron dogs that had guarded the Pillot residence in Houston for more than 100 years. In 1965 the family home was given to the Harris County Heritage and Conservation Society and moved to Sam Houston Park, where it was restored, furnished, given a historical marker, and opened to the public. Pillot was a member of the Poetry Society of Texas and the 1953 president of its Houston chapter. He never married. He died on June 4, 1966, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston. Source

COORDINATES
29° 46.012, -095° 23.176

Section C2
Glenwood Cemetery
Houston

October 5, 2010

Clara Driscoll

   Clara Driscoll, businesswoman, philanthropist, and historic preservationist, was born on April 2, 1881, to Robert and Julia (Fox) Driscoll in St. Mary's, Texas, near the site of present Bayside. Her ancestors were among the Irish Catholic pioneers who had settled the area between the Nueces and Guadalupe rivers, and both of her grandfathers had fought in the Texas Revolution. By 1890 her father had amassed a multimillion-dollar empire in ranching, banking, and commercial developments centered in the Corpus Christi area. For her education he sent his only daughter to private schools in Texas, New York City, and France.

   After almost a decade of study and travel abroad, Clara Driscoll returned to Texas at the age of eighteen, imbued with an appreciation of the importance of preserving historic sites in Texas for the benefit of future generations. She was shocked to discover the disrepair of the three-acre plaza and the old convent (also known as the Long Barrack) adjoining San Antonio de Valero Mission, familiarly called the Alamo, and to learn that the property might soon be converted into a hotel. Although the state of Texas owned the iconic Alamo church, the Long Barrack was owned by local merchants and plastered with signs and billboards. From 1903 to 1905 Driscoll worked with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) to draw attention to their efforts to acquire and preserve the structure, and in 1905 she personally paid most of the purchase price. The state of Texas later reimbursed her and granted custodianship of both the Alamo church and the Long Barrack to the DRT. The attractive young philanthropist received extensive national publicity as the "Savior of the Alamo."

   She then pursued a writing career. She wrote a novel, The Girl of La Gloria (1905), a collection of short stories, In the Shadow of the Alamo (1906), and a comic opera, Mexicana, the production of which she financed on Broadway in 1906. That same year she married Henry Hulme (Hal) Sevier at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The Seviers, who had met several years earlier in Austin, when Sevier was serving in the Texas legislature, remained in New York. Hal served as financial editor of the New York Sun, and Clara served as the president of the Texas Club and entertained extensively at their opulent villa on Long Island.

   After Clara Sevier's father died in 1914, the Seviers returned to Austin to be near her family's financial interests. Sevier established a daily newspaper, the Austin American, and his wife became active in the Austin Garden Club and Pan American Round Table and served as president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She also directed construction of Laguna Gloria, a fine Italianate mansion located on the Colorado River near the city.

   At the death of her brother, Robert Driscoll, Jr., in 1929, Mrs. Sevier closed Laguna Gloria and moved with her husband to her family's Palo Alto ranch headquarters to manage extensive land and petroleum properties and to serve as president of the Corpus Christi Bank and Trust Company. Under her astute leadership the financial dominion almost doubled in value. After a two-year residence in Santiago, Chile, while her husband served as the United States ambassador there, the Seviers returned to Texas in 1935 and shortly thereafter legally separated. When the childless, thirty-one-year marriage was dissolved, Clara legally resumed her maiden name and was thereafter officially known as Mrs. Clara Driscoll.

   During the next decade much of her time, energy, and money were devoted to historic preservation, civic betterment, and club activity. She assisted the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs in liquidating the mortgage on its Austin clubhouse, served as vice chairman of the Texas Centennial Exposition executive board, and presented Laguna Gloria to the Texas Fine Arts Association to be used as a museum. To memorialize her brother and to improve the economic life of Corpus Christi, she constructed the lavish twenty-story Hotel Robert Driscoll, where she occupied the large penthouse apartment. Colorful, outspoken, and independent-minded, Driscoll relished participation in the political arena. She was elected the Democratic party's national committeewoman from Texas in 1922 and served in that position for an unprecedented sixteen years. In 1939 she promoted the candidacy of her friend John Nance Garner for president. After Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected for a third term, however, she remained loyal to what she considered the best interests of her party and supported Roosevelt's fourth-term efforts during a bitter battle at the 1944 state convention. Her political acumen and activity were acknowledged to be of national importance, and it was said that "political potentates and Texas voters knew her equally well."

   Clara Driscoll was a Catholic. She died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 17, 1945, in Corpus Christi. After her body had lain in state at the Alamo chapel, she was interred at the Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio. She bequeathed the bulk of her family fortune to establish the Driscoll Foundation Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi. Source

COORDINATES
29° 25.191, -098° 28.155

Driscoll Family Mausoleum
Alamo Masonic Cemetery
San Antonio

October 1, 2010

Leander Harvey McNelly

   Leander H. McNelly, Confederate Army officer and Texas Ranger captain, was born in Virginia in 1844, the son of P. J. and Mary (Downey) McNelly. His family seems to have sojourned briefly in Missouri about 1855 before moving from Virginia to Texas in the fall of 1860. P. J. drove a herd of sheep overland to western Washington County while the rest of his family sailed to Texas. For the next five years Leander herded sheep for a neighbor, T. J. Burton. During Gen. Henry H. Sibley's New Mexico campaign, McNelly served as a private in Capt. George Washington Campbell's Company F of Col. Thomas Green's Fifth Texas Cavalry until he was detached to Sibley's escort company. In 1863, after taking part in the battle of Galveston, he served as a volunteer aide-de-camp on the staff of General Green, who was then commanding the Texas cavalry brigade of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department. For what Theophilous Noel characterized as "his daring gallantry," Green promoted McNelly to captain of scouts and on November 25, 1863, recommended him for a captain's commission. In Green's southern Louisiana campaign of 1864 McNelly played major roles in the battles of Brashear City and Lafourche Crossing. He was seriously wounded at the battle of Mansfield in April 1864, and command of his company devolved upon his lieutenants, William D. Stone and Thomas T. Pitts, who led the unit with distinction at Pleasant Hill, Blair's Landing, and Grande Écore. After recovering from his wound, McNelly returned to his command in May in time to participate in the battle of Yellow Bayou. He was then ordered into the Bayou Lafourche country of southern Louisiana to scout and harass the enemy. On July 1, 1864, after Green's death at the battle of Blair's Landing, Louisiana, McNelly was transferred to Gen. John A. Wharton's cavalry corps and on July 6 was ordered with his company east of the Atchafalaya River "to procure and transmit to these Headquarters the latest and definite information of the enemy's movements in that section." In 1864 McNelly commanded a scout company on Bayou Grosse Tete west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Noel's words, his company "betook themselves to the swamps and canebrakes where they confined their operations until the enemy commenced their retreat." Typical of McNelly's exploits was the capture of 380 men in the Union garrison at Brashear City, Louisiana, by his party of fifteen or twenty scouts. After a period of "hunting up Jayhawkers on the Calcasieu," McNelly was transferred to Gen. George G. Walker's cavalry corps and ordered to Washington County, Texas, to arrest deserters.

   After the war he turned to farming near Brenham and there married Carey Cheek. They had two children. He later worked for a time in the General Land Office. During the Edmund J. Davis administration, McNelly served as one of the four captains of the State Police from July 1, 1870, until the force was disbanded on April 22, 1873. In February 1871, after arresting four white men for the murder of a freedman in Walker County, McNelly was wounded by friends of the accused. In July 1874 a thirty-man company of volunteer militia from Washington County was mustered into the Texas Rangers as the seventh company of the Frontier Battalion. McNelly was appointed its captain and assigned to duty in DeWitt County, where the Sutton-Taylor feud was then raging. After four months of attempting to suppress civil violence there, McNelly reported that the presence of his men had been beneficial but that he was sure fighting would flare again as soon as the troops were withdrawn.

   In the spring of 1875 he was commissioned to raise a new company for service in the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande known as the Nueces Strip. This area, wrote historian Walter Prescott Webb, "stood out as something special in the way of brigandage, murder, and theft. It had more than its share" of such outlaws as John King Fisher and Juan N. Cortina. Thomas C. Robinson served as McNelly's first lieutenant, J. W. Guyon as his second lieutenant, and John B. Armstrong as his sergeant. The forty-man company saw two years of active duty, 1875-76. Nineteenth-century ranger historian Wilburn Hill King wrote that the company was "active, vigilant, daring, and successful in dealing with lawless characters" in the border region. But McNelly's methods were questionable. His men were known to have made a number of extralegal border crossings in violation of Mexican territorial sovereignty, for which he was removed from command of the company and replaced by Jesse Lee Hall. After his removal, at the request of DeWitt county judge H. Clay Pleasants, McNelly served as an unofficial ranger during the trials of several leading defendants of the Sutton-Taylor feud in October 1876. Thereafter he retired to his farm at Burton, where he died of tuberculosis on September 4, 1877. He was buried at Burton. Remembered as "a tallish thin man of quiet manner, and with the soft voice of a timid Methodist minister," McNelly nevertheless was party to many illegal executions and to confessions forced from prisoners by extreme means. To the present day his tactics remain a subject of controversy on the border, where many remember him best for his torture and hanging of prisoners. Nevertheless, citizens of South Texas erected a monument, paid for by public subscription, to his memory. Source

COORDINATES
30° 12.843, -096° 34.585


Mount Zion Cemetery
Burton