November 29, 2011

William Bacon Wright (1830-1895)

William Bacon Wright, Confederate legislator, was born in Columbus, Georgia, on July 4, 1830, the son of John Wright and a relative of George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. According to his obituary in the San Antonio Daily Express he graduated from Princeton at the age of seventeen, but the university has no record of his attendance. He is also said to have established a law practice in Georgia in 1849. After residing briefly in Eufaula, Alabama, he moved to Texas in 1854 and established a law practice in the Lamar County community of Paris, where he soon became one of the region's foremost attorneys.

In 1857 he helped to found a male academy in Paris. Wright was elected as an alternate Democratic statewide elector for the 1860 presidential election. In December of that year he was appointed chairman of a committee to draw up a plan of secession for the state. In October 1861 he was elected to represent the Sixth Congressional District in the first regular session of the Confederate House of Representatives, where he served on the Patents, Claims, Enrolled Bills, and Indian Affairs committees. Although an opponent of taxation, in general Wright supported the policies of the Jefferson Davis administration. His most significant contributions to Confederate legislation were the exemption from conscription of all militiamen serving in frontier defense and the exemption from impressment of all slaves employed in the cultivation of grain. He was defeated in the congressional race of 1863 by Simpson H. Morgan and served for the remainder of the war as a major in the quartermaster corps on the staff of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.

After the war Wright practiced law for a time in Clarksville before returning to Paris in 1873. He is said to have defended the accused in ninety-three murder trials without losing a single case. He also remained active in politics, serving as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875. Wright married a Miss Greer of Georgia in 1849, and they had four children. After her death he married Pink Gates of Mississippi in 1868; they had six children. In 1885 Wright moved to San Antonio, where he engaged in banking until his death on August 10, 1895. He is buried in Dignowity Cemetery. Source

29° 25.416
-098° 28.047

Section B
Dignowity Cemetery

November 25, 2011

James A. Chaffin (?-1879)

James A. Chaffin came to Texas in 1835 to enlist in the Texas Revolutionary Army. He served in Captain Jacob Eberly's Company from September 28 to November 23, 1835, then transferred to Captain William Kimbro's Company from December 19, 1835 to September 6, 1836. He fought at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 and in 1839 was awarded 320 acres of land for having served in the army. Chaffin settled in San Augustine and ran a saloon for a number of years. He died in 1879 and was buried in an unmarked grave five miles south of San Augustine.


Parker Cemetery
San Augustine

November 22, 2011

Hamilton James "Nick" Nichols (1924-2013)

Nichols attended Mirabeau B. Lamar High School in Houston and excelled at collegiate football at Rice University. He was so impressive that he was elected a member of the 1944 College Football All-America Team. His studies yielded to his service with the United States Navy during World War II, where he was stationed in the South Pacific Theater. He returned to resume his athletics and was a contributor to the 1946 Owls squad which won the Orange Bowl. Nichols was selected by the Chicago Cardinals during the 1946 NFL Draft and appeared in 43 regular season games. During his years with the Cardinals, he served as a blocker for quarterback Paul Christman and experienced a world championship with the 1947 team which captured the NFL Title. The following season, he was a member of the Cardinals' squad which earned their second appearance in the NFL Championship Game. After concluding his football career with the Green Bay Packers in 1951, he went onto become a successful claims attorney. He died in Houston on July 6, 2013 at the age of 89.

29° 42.669
-095° 18.374

Section 31
Forest Park Lawndale

November 18, 2011

Joseph Edgar Smith (1818-1837)

Smith was born in 1818 to James and Selah Smith in Maury County, Tennessee. In late 1835, Joseph went to Texas and enlisted as a member of Capt. Robert Calder's Infantry Company K, 1st Regiment, Texas Volunteers, which he fought alongside at the Battle of Jacinto. As a veteran of the Texas Revolution, Joseph was awarded a donation grant of 640 acres for his service at the Battle of San Jacinto and a bounty grant of 320 acres for his service in the Texas Army in general. Joseph died before he ever saw any of the land he had earned. He passed when he was 19, on July 9, 1837 at the home of a family friend, Capt. James Gibson Swisher, on the Swisher Farm near the Old Gay Hill community in Washington County. Source

Note: His grave is unmarked but believed to be somewhere in the area shown below.


Old Independence Cemetery

November 15, 2011

Nancy Spencer Gray (1801-1863)

Nancy Gray, early Texas settler, moved to Texas from Tennessee with her husband, William S. Spencer, by April 1824. Karankawa Indians killed William in a fight on Bay Prairie in Brazoria. On August 19, 1824, as the widow of one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, Mrs. Spencer received title to a sitio now in Fort Bend County on the Brazos River eight miles above the site of present Richmond. In 1825 she married Thomas Barnett, and the colony census of March 1826 listed her as his wife. The Barnetts had six children. Barnett died on September 20, 1843. In 1845 Nancy married Thomas M. Gray. They had one son. Nancy Gray died on August 4, 1863, and was buried in the family cemetery.

29° 58.625
-95° 88.680

Barnett Cemetery

November 11, 2011

Francis Jarvis Cooke (1816-1903)

Francis Cooke, Texas revolutionary fighter and merchant, was born on July 13, 1816, in Beaufort, Carteret County, North Carolina, the son of Henry M. and Frances Barry (Buxton) Cooke. Mrs. Cooke died in February 1833. Henry Cooke, a successful merchant, shipper, and collector of customs, remarried the following January and soon departed for Texas with his new wife, Naomi, and with Francis and his six brothers and four sisters. On the journey Henry grew ill and died, on March 4, 1835, in Randolph, Tennessee. Naomi returned to North Carolina, but all eleven children continued to Texas, where they arrived on April 3, 1835. They originally settled in Matagorda County and planted crops, but were forced by a flood to flee. In Montgomery County they settled in a log cabin by a creek, but were again flooded out; this time they lost all they owned. They moved to higher land, were helped by neighbors, and started over again.

Francis and his brother Tom heard William B. Travis's plea for help from a courier and, with ten or twelve others from the area, joined Col. Albert C. Horton's company on its way to join James W. Fannin, Jr. The two brothers traveled to Victoria and there volunteered with seventeen others to transport a wagonload of lead and powder from Dimitt's Landing to the main army at Beeson's Ford. They were successful in this mission and fortunate to have volunteered for it, as most of the men who stayed at Victoria were killed. In the meantime, the rest of the Cooke family was fleeing in the Runaway Scrape; they eventually returned to their home after the war.

At Beeson's, Tom and Francis joined Capt. Robert J. Calder's company, in which Francis and his brother fought at the battle of San Jacinto. The night before the battle a friend in his company, Benjamin Brigham, asked someone to stand guard duty in his place, since he had been on duty the last two nights. Francis gave Brigham his bed for the night. Brigham was one of the first to be killed the next day in battle, and it is said that Mirabeau B. Lamar wrote his poem on the battle after viewing the body of Brigham and others. Francis Cooke continued to serve for a short time after the battle and served as one of Santa Anna's guards.

After the war he received 320 acres of land for his service from March 17 to June 20, 1836, and later 640 acres of land for his part at San Jacinto. In 1842 he enlisted again in the army for three months in Col. Joseph L. Bennett's regiment to take part in the campaign against Adrián Woll, though he did not join the Mier expedition. He served in the Texas Rangers for six weeks in 1843.

Cooke tried his skills as a merchant in both Houston and Brenham. While in Brenham, he fell ill and was nursed back to health by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McIntyre, Sr. On December 28, 1845, he married their niece, Emily Stockton. He was involved as a partner in businesses in Brenham, Houston, Chappell Hill, and Hempstead before retiring to his farm near Hempstead. He and Emily had eleven children, one of whom grew up to be "Senator" Annie Cooke, an influential figure in Texas politics in the first half of the twentieth century. Cooke died on November 11, 1903, and was buried in Salem Cemetery, near Howth. He was a member of Holland Masonic Lodge No. 1 of Houston and of the Texas Veterans Association. Emily died on September 4, 1908. In 1936 the state had a Texas Centennial monument placed at their graves, probably under the influence of Annie Cooke. Source

30° 10.145
-096° 05.565

Salem Cemetery

November 8, 2011

Clark Wallace Thompson (1896-1981)

Clark Thompson, politician and military leader, was born on August 6, 1896, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the son of Clark Wallace and Jesse Marilla (Hyde) Thompson. He grew up in Oregon and from 1915 to 1917 attended the University of Oregon, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta. On May 25, 1917, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After basic training he was stationed at Fort Crockett in Galveston, Texas, where he met Libbie Moody, daughter of William L. Moody, Jr. He was discharged from the marines as an enlisted man on December 15, 1918, and commissioned a second lieutenant in the marine reserves on December 16, 1918. Thompson married Libbie in Richmond, Virginia, on November 16, 1918. They had two children. Shortly after he was commissioned, the Thompsons moved to Galveston.

In 1919, Thompson became treasurer of the American National Insurance Company. In 1920 he left that business to open a mercantile firm, Clark W. Thompson Company, which he owned until 1932. In 1927 he became involved in the Cedar Lawn Development Company; he served as its secretary-treasurer until 1934. He was appointed public relations counsel for the Moody interests in 1936 and served until 1947, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Continuing his connection with the United States Marine Corps as a member of the reserve, Thompson organized the Fifteenth Battalion of the USMC Reserves in 1936. He was called up to national service in 1940, attended the Naval War College in 1941, and in 1942 was sent to the Southwestern Pacific Theater with his unit; he was the oldest officer in his theater. In 1943 he was returned to Washington, D.C., to become director of the marine reserves, a position he held until he retired as a colonel in 1946. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service.

Thompson's concern with national defense led him into politics. In 1933 he was elected to represent the Seventh (later the Ninth) Texas Congressional District to fill the seat left vacant by Clay Stone Briggs. He made a mark with his legislative efforts to strengthen the military before he was redistricted and chose to step down. He was elected in 1946 to the same seat, on the death of Joseph Jefferson Mansfield, and held it until he retired on January 3, 1967. In the Congress he was a member of the Agricultural, Maritime and Fisheries, and Ways and Means committees. He and his wife were also an important part of the Washington, D.C., social scene; their home was known as the "Texas Embassy" or "Texas Legation," a central feature in the life of Washington during the 1950s and 1960s. Thompson played an important role in bridging the gap between different factions of the state Democratic party. In 1968, after retiring from the House, he became legislative consultant for Hill and Knowlton and director of the Washington office of Tenneco. Thompson was a member of the Episcopal Church. He was president of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce in 1931 and 1935–36 and a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Texas State Society; he was also a thirty-second-degree Mason and a Shriner. He died in Galveston on December 16, 1981, and was buried in Galveston Memorial Cemetery.

29° 21.256
-095° 00.360

Galveston Memorial Cemetery

November 4, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Sweeny (1812-1869)

Thomas J. Sweeny, soldier and planter, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 10, 1812, the son of John W. and Ann (Fuller) Sweeny. The family entered Texas on January 20, 1835. At Brazoria on August 9, 1835, Sweeny added his signature to a petition calling for a convention "to quite the present excitement and to promote the general interest of Texas," and on March 25, 1836, he and his brother William Burrell Sweeny enlisted as privates in Capt. William H. Patton's Fourth Company-the "Columbia Company"-of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. The brothers served at the battle of San Jacinto, where William was on detached duty in Capt. Henry Wax Karnes's cavalry company. Thomas Sweeny was discharged from the army on June 6, 1836. William was murdered in Brazoria in September 1840. In 1844 Sweeny married Diana Frances Haynie, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. They had five children. In 1850 their Brazoria County property was valued at $4,140. In January 1851 Sweeny was involved in a legal dispute over the ownership of a number of slaves that was argued before the Supreme Court of Texas. By 1860 he was a wealthy planter with $32,000 worth of real estate and $43,000 in personal property, including thirty-nine slaves, in Brazoria County. The topsoil on his plantation is said to have been twenty feet deep. At the time he employed a full-time overseer and a tutor for his children. Sweeny died at La Grange, Fayette County, in 1869 and was buried near the southwest Brazoria County community of Sweeny. His widow died in Angleton in 1904. Source 

29° 02.833
-095° 42.773

Sweeny Cemetery

November 1, 2011

Bill Goyens (1794-1856)

William Goyens (or Goings), early Nacogdoches settler and businessman, was born in Moore County, North Carolina, in 1794, the son of William Goings, a free mulatto, and a white woman. He came to Galveston, Texas, in 1820 and lived at Nacogdoches for the rest of his life. Although he could not write much beyond his signature, he was a good businessman. He was a blacksmith and wagonmaker and engaged in hauling freight from Natchitoches, Louisiana. On a trip to Louisiana in 1826, he was seized by William English, who sought to sell him into slavery. In return for his liberty, Goyens was induced to deliver to English his slave woman and to sign a note agreeing to peonage for himself, though reserving the right to trade on his own behalf. After his return to Nacogdoches, he successfully filed suit for annulment of these obligations.

During the Mexican Texas era, Goyens often served as conciliator in the settlement of lawsuits under the Mexican laws. He was appointed as agent to deal with the Cherokees, and on numerous occasions he negotiated treaties with the Comanches and other Indians, for he was trusted not only by them but also by the Mexicans and Anglo-Americans in East Texas. He also operated an inn in connection with his home near the site of what is now the courthouse in Nacogdoches. In 1832 he married Mary Pate Sibley, who was white. Sibley had one son, Henry Sibley, by a former marriage, but Goyens and Mary had no children.

During the Texas Revolution, Goyens was given the important task of keeping the Cherokees friendly with the Texans, and he was interpreter with Gen. Sam Houston and his party in negotiating a treaty. After the revolution he purchased what was afterwards known as Goyens' Hill, four miles west of Nacogdoches. By 1841 his property included 4,160 acres of farmland, several town lots, and nine slaves. He built a large two-story mansion with a sawmill and gristmill west of his home on Moral Creek, where he and his wife lived until their deaths. During his later life Goyens amassed considerable wealth in real estate, despite constant efforts by his white neighbors to take away what he was accumulating. He always employed the best lawyers in Nacogdoches, including Thomas J. Rusk and Charles S. Taylor, to defend him and was generally successful in his litigation. By 1856, Goyens owned 12,423 acres of land, including 4,428 acres in Angelina County. He died on June 20, 1856, soon after the death of his wife; they were both buried in a Nacogdoches County cemetery near the junction of Aylitos Creek with the Moral. At his grave a marker was erected by the Texas Centennial Commission in 1936. Many traditions grew up in Nacogdoches about this unusual man, and sometimes it is hard to tell just what is true and what is tradition. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. When construction encroached on the original gravesite, his marker was moved to the county courthouse grounds.

31° 36.209
-094° 39.384

Nacogdoches County Courthouse grounds