January 31, 2012

Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz (1788-1836)

Lorenzo de Zavala, first vice president of the Republic of Texas, the fifth of nine children of Anastasio de Zavala y Velázquez and María Bárbara Sáenz y Castro, was born in the village of Tecoh near Mérida, Yucatán, on October 3, 1788. After graduating from the Tridentine Seminary of San Ildefonso in Mérida in 1807, he founded and edited several newspapers in which he expressed those democratic ideas that were to be the hallmark of his political career, ideas which he continued to advocate while serving as secretary of the city council of Mérida from 1812 until 1814. His support of democratic reforms led to his imprisonment in 1814 in the fortress of San Juan de Ulloa in the harbor of Veracruz, where he gained enough knowledge from reading medical textbooks to qualify him to practice medicine upon his release from prison in 1817. He also taught himself to read English during his imprisonment. After serving as secretary of the provincial assembly of Yucatán in 1820, Zavala went to Madrid in 1821 as a deputy to the Spanish Cortes. Upon his return to Mexico, he joined the leaders of the new nation in establishing a republican government. From 1822 until his death, he was one of the nation's most active political leaders, representing Yucatán as a deputy in the First and Second Mexican Constituent congresses of 1822 and 1824 and in the Mexican Senate from 1824 to 1826. In the following two years, marked by the internecine struggle between the Federalists and Centralists for control over both national and state governments, Zavala served intermittently as governor of the state of Mexico. When Vicente Ramón Guerrero became president, Zavala was appointed secretary of the treasury and served from April to October 1829. When the Centralist party, led by Vice President Anastacio Bustamante, ousted Guerrero late in the year, Zavala, a strong Federalist, was forced to abandon politics and, after a period of house arrest, to go into exile in June 1830.

Upon his arrival in New York, Zavala sought to interest eastern capitalists in the empresario grants he had received on March 12, 1829, which authorized him to settle 500 families in a huge tract of land in what is now southeastern Texas. In New York City, in October 1830, he transferred his interest in the grants to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company. After spending several months during 1831 in France and England, Zavala resided in New York City until his return to Mexico in the summer of 1832. From December 1832 until October 1833 he again served as governor of the state of Mexico, before returning to the Congress as a deputy for his native state of Yucatán. Named by President Antonio López de Santa Anna in October 1833 to serve as the first minister plenipotentiary of the Mexican legation in Paris, he reported to that post in the spring of 1834. When he learned that Santa Anna had assumed dictatorial powers in April of that year, Zavala denounced his former ally and resigned from his diplomatic assignment. Disregarding Santa Anna's orders to return to Mexico City, he traveled to New York and then to Texas, where he arrived in July 1835. From the day of his arrival, he was drawn into the political cauldron of Texas politics. Although he first advocated the cause of Mexican Federalism, within a few weeks he became an active supporter of the independence movement; he served in the Permanent Council and later as the representative of Harrisburg in the Consultation and the Convention of 1836. Zavala's legislative, executive, ministerial, and diplomatic experience, together with his education and linguistic ability, uniquely qualified him for the role he was to play in the drafting of the constitution of the Republic of Texas. His advice and counsel earned him the respect of his fellow delegates, who elected him ad interim vice president of the new republic.

In the weeks after adjournment of the convention, Zavala rejoined his family at their home at Zavala Point on Buffalo Bayou, from where they fled to Galveston Island as Santa Anna's army pursued Zavala and other cabinet members across Texas. In accordance with the provisions of the Treaties of Velasco, Zavala was appointed, on May 27, 1836, one of the peace commissioners to accompany Santa Anna to Mexico City, where the general was to attempt to persuade the Mexican authorities to recognize the independence of Texas. The frustration of this plan by certain Texas military units brought an end to the peace commission. Shortly thereafter, Zavala returned to his home in poor health and relinquished his part in the affairs of state. He resigned the vice presidency on October 17, 1836. Less than a month later, soaked and half-frozen by a norther after his rowboat overturned in Buffalo Bayou, he developed pneumonia, to which he succumbed on November 15, 1836. He was buried at his home in a small cemetery plot marked by the state of Texas in 1931. The plot has since sunk into Buffalo Bayou and all existing monuments moved across the bayou to the San Jacinto Battleground. In the twenty-five years after 1807 when Zavala became politically active, he demonstrated his skills as a writer in uncounted articles and editorials in newspapers in Mérida and Mexico City, and in a large number of pamphlets and memorials. He is best known as an author for his two-volume history of Mexico, which first appeared under the title Ensayo histórico de las revoluciones de México desde 1808 hasta 1830 (Paris and New York, 1831 and 1832), and for his Viage á los Estados-Unidos del Norte de América (Paris, 1834), in which he described economic, political, and social phenomena he observed during his visit to the United States in 1830-31.

Zavala's first wife was Teresa Correa y Correa, whom he married in Yucatán in 1807. They had three children, including Lorenzo, Jr., who served his father in Paris as secretary of legation and, after the battle of San Jacinto, served as translator for Sam Houston in his negotiations with Santa Anna. Zavala's wife died in the spring of 1831, and he married Emily West, a native of Rensselaer, New York, in New York City on November 12, 1831. To this union were born three children; Augustine, the eldest, was the father of Adina Emilia de Zavala, who long will be remembered for her spirited role in the fight to preserve the Alamo. Zavala's memory is preserved in Texas in a number of place names, notably Zavala County, a village in Jasper County, and a rural settlement in Angelina County, and in numerous street and school names. Source 

Note: This is a cenotaph. The Zavala family cemetery, where Lorenzo was laid to rest, was originally located on a curve of Buffalo Bayou, directly across from the San Jacinto battlefield. In the early 1900s, it was discovered that due to natural erosion the graves were slowly sliding into the water. The Zavala family decided against exhuming and relocating the bodies for religious reasons, so as a compromise the remaining headstones were transferred to the battlefield. No bodies were recovered.

29° 45.210
-095° 05.388

Zavala Plaza
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
La Porte

January 24, 2012

Carl Nettles Reynolds (1903-1978)

Carl Reynolds was born into a farming family in LaRue, Texas, on February 1, 1903, the third child born to Robert and Ann (Nettles) Reynolds. He attended the local schools there, batting a reported .500 in high school. He went on to Lon Morris College, named the outstanding student there, and continued his education, earning a B.A. from Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas. He was captain of the football team, was All-Conference, MVP on the basketball team, and excelled at track and baseball. On the diamond, Reynolds played shortstop, with occasional work at third base and on the pitching mound. He was discovered by accident by White Sox scouts in June 1926 and signed up with the team for the 1927 season. Reynolds worked out for about a week with the White Sox and was assigned to play for the Palestine Pals, in the Lone Star League. Palestine finished first in league standings, and Reynolds - who mostly played outfield for them - led the league in base hits (180 in the 124 games he played), and in batting average, with .376. He also stole a league-leading 32 bases. The White Sox finished in fifth place that year, 12 games behind fourth-place Detroit.

They decided to give Reynolds a look in the majors and called him up in September. His major-league debut came on September 1, where he was hit by a pitch. He appeared in 14 games, playing left field exclusively, with a .214 average and seven runs batted in. It was 10 years before he returned to the minors. Beginning in 1931, he was traded to a new team every year - the Washington Senators (1931), the St Louis Browns (1933), the Boston Red Sox (1934-1935), back to the Washington Senators (1936) and finally, the Chicago Cubs (1937-1939), with whom he stayed the rest of his career. After a brief turn as a scout/coach for the Pacific Coast League California Angels in 1941, he retired from the game for good. After baseball, Reynolds retired to Wharton, Texas, where he had purchased a farm back in 1934. In 1971 Reynolds was enshrined in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in its first year of existence. In 1990 he was inducted into the Southwestern University Hall of Honor. Carl Reynolds suffered from myelofibrosis and myeloid metaplasia for the last three years of his life, and acute blastic crisis the last six weeks. He died on May 29, 1978, at Methodist Hospital in Houston.

29° 18.601
-096° 05.490

Wharton City Cemetery

January 17, 2012

Benjamin Cromwell Franklin (1805-1873)

Benjamin C. Franklin, judge and legislator, the eldest son of Abednego and Mary Graves Franklin, was born in Georgia on April 25, 1805. He was educated at Franklin College in Athens, Georgia, and admitted to the bar in 1827. In 1835, he traveled to Velasco, Texas, and at a public meeting at Columbia he was among those who favored immediate declaration of war against Mexico. On April 7, 1836, he was commissioned a captain in the Texas army by President David G. Burnet, but since he was not assigned to the command of a company at San Jacinto, he fought there as a private in Capt. Robert J. Calder's company. On April 23, 1836, Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk directed Franklin to proceed to Galveston Island and inform President Burnet and his cabinet of the victory at San Jacinto. Franklin later received a bounty warrant for 320 acres for his service and was among the first to purchase land at the future site of Houston. He was the first man to hold a judicial position in the Republic of Texas.

The Pocket, a brig owned by a United States citizen, was captured in March 1836 by the Invincible, a Texas armed schooner. Realizing that the affair might alienate the United States, the government of Texas took immediate steps to have the matter thoroughly investigated. The judiciary not having been organized, the government established the judicial district of Brazoria in which to try the case, and Burnet appointed Franklin district judge. The exact date of his appointment has not been ascertained, but it was before June 15, 1836. The position had been tendered to James Collinsworth on April 12, but he declined. On December 20, 1836, Franklin was appointed judge of the Second or Brazoria Judicial District by President Sam Houston. The appointment automatically made Franklin a member of the Supreme Court of the republic, of which James Collinsworth was chief justice. Franklin held his first court at Brazoria on March 27, 1837. He resigned from his judgeship on November 29, 1839, and moved to Galveston to practice law. He was elected to represent Galveston County in the House of Representatives of the Third, Fifth, and Eighth state legislatures. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was too old for military service and was suffering from rheumatism. He retired to a small farm near Livingston, Polk County, and remained until 1870, when he returned to Galveston. Governor E. J. Davis appointed him commissioner to revise the laws of Texas, but he declined the appointment. Franklin's first wife was Eliza Carter Brantly, whom he married on October 31, 1837; they had two children. After her death on September 24, 1844, Judge Franklin married Estelle B. Maxwell of Illinois, on November 3, 1847. He died unexpectedly on December 25, 1873, after several weeks of illness and was buried in Galveston. The act establishing Franklin County does not state for whom the county was named, but it is generally accepted as having been named for Judge Benjamin C. Franklin. Source

29° 17.550
-094° 48.819

New City Cemetery

January 10, 2012

John W. Moore (1797?-1846)

John W. Moore, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and early Texas official, was born in Pennsylvania about 1797. He traveled to Texas from Tennessee in 1830 and settled in Harrisburg Municipality. In December 1831 the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin announced his election as comisario of the precinct of San Jacinto. Moore was a friend of William B. Travis and was with him on July 30, 1835, when a company of volunteers under Travis forced the capitulation of Antonio Tenorio at the fort at Anahuac. Moore was a delegate from Harrisburg to the Consultation and was elected contractor for the army by the General Council on November 18, 1835. He was one of the three representatives from Harrisburg at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and signed the Declaration of Independence. On October 3, 1836, Moore was seated in the House of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas as a member from Harrisburg County, but his election was contested and Jesse H. Cartwright was seated in his stead on October 11. In January 1837 Moore was elected captain of the Second Militia District and sheriff of Harrisburg County; he held the latter post at least until November 30, 1840. In 1839 he served as a trustee for the newly formed Harrisburg Town Company. On January 6, 1840, he was elected an alderman of the city of Houston. He was a charter member of the first Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge of Texas, organized at Houston on July 25, 1838. Moore's first wife died sometime after April 28, 1831. On February 21, 1839, he married Eliza Belknap in Houston. He died in Houston in 1846 and was buried there. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission placed a monument in the cemetery in his honor. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. Founders Memorial Park, originally founded in 1836 as Houston's first city cemetery, was rapidly filled due to a yellow fever epidemic and closed to further burials around 1840. The cemetery became neglected over a period of time, often vandalized and was heavily damaged by the 1900 hurricane. In 1936, despite a massive clean up effort, a century of neglect had taken its toll. The vast majority of grave markers were either destroyed or missing and poor record keeping prevented locating individual graves. Several cenotaphs were placed in random areas throughout the park in honor of the more high-profile citizens buried there, but a great number of graves go unmarked to this day.

29° 45.461
-095° 22.768

Founders Memorial Park

January 3, 2012

Kelsey Harris Douglass (?-1840)

Kelsey Harris Douglass, Nacogdoches merchant and Republic of Texas congressman, came to Texas sometime before the Texas Revolution. In March 1836 he sold several large orders of apparel and dry goods to the Texas army. He issued paper notes in Nacogdoches, payable either at his store or at his office in New Orleans. These notes circulated at or near par alongside Republic of Texas currency. In 1837-38 he represented Nacogdoches County in the House of the Second Congress in Houston. He joined Col. Edward Burleson, who along with his volunteers from East Texas, succeeded in pushing the Cherokee Indians from Texas. Douglass was in command at the battle of the Neches. He was also a charter member of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas. He married Minerva Benton. He died in Nacogdoches on October 4, 1840, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. His wife went bankrupt paying off his debts and currency after his sudden death. The town of Douglass is named in his honor. Source 

31° 36.174
-094° 38.990

Oak Grove Cemetery