September 25, 2012

John Montgomery

   John Montgomery, San Jacinto veteran, was born in 1796, Baker's Creek, Blount, Tennessee, the son of William and Mary Polly (James) Montgomery and brother of fellow San Jacinto soldier Andrew Jackson Montgomery. He first arrived in Texas in 1831, after traveling through Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas and settled in what is now Montgomery County. He entered the Texas army on March 1, 1836, as a soldier in Captain James Gillaspie's Company, fought at San Jacinto on April 21 and left the service on May 13, 1836. On October 12, 1838, while living in Walker County, he married Elizabeth Julia Robinson and the couple had three children before she died in 1845, possibly from complications after having their last child. He remarried in 1848 to Sarah Allen in Collin County, and the two had five children. John continued his habit of moving often throughout his life, living in Walker County in 1850 and Trinity County in 1861, until finally settling in Grimes County, where he died in 1863. He was buried next to his brother Andrew in Stoneham Cemetery.

30° 21.468, -095° 55.373

Stoneham Cemetery

September 18, 2012

Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner

   Weldon Philip H. (Juke Boy) Bonner, blues guitarist, vocalist, and harmonica player, was born in Bellville, Texas, on March 22, 1932, one of nine children of sharecroppers Emanuel and Carrie (Kessee) Bonner. His parents died when he was young, so he was raised by another family on a nearby farm. Bonner became interested in music when he was six and sang with a local spiritual group when he was in elementary school. By the time he was twelve he had taught himself to play the guitar. He quit school when he was a teenager and moved to Houston to find a job. When he was fifteen he won a talent contest held by Trummy Cain, a local talent coordinator. This led to an appearance on KLEE radio.

   For the next decade Bonner worked as a one-man band in lounges, bars, and clubs throughout the South and in California. He frequently worked in juke joints accompanied only by jukebox music; hence his nickname. In 1956 he cut his first record, Rock Me Baby, with Well Baby as the flip side, on Bob Geddins's Irma label. Bonner made his next record for Goldband Records in 1960 and continued to record for Liberty, Sonet, and other labels during the 1960s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he toured Europe, where he recorded on the British Flyright and Storyville labels. His best work, however, came in the late 1960s on the Arhoolie label. Songs such as Going Back to the Country, Struggle Here in Houston, and Life Is a Nightmare reflected his impoverished youth and the dangers he had faced living in big cities. Bonner continued to tour, work local venues, and record. He was married in 1950 and was later divorced. He died in Houston on June 29, 1978, of cirrhosis of the liver. Five children survived him. Source 

29° 52.667, -095° 25.768

Restlawn Cemetery

September 11, 2012

Edwin Waller

   Edwin Waller, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, on November 4, 1800. In April 1831 he arrived in Texas from Missouri, where his family had moved. A few months later, on July 20, 1831, Waller received one league of land from the Mexican government in what is now Brazoria County. Soon thereafter, as owner of the Sabine, a vessel used to transport cotton from Velasco to New Orleans, he refused to pay custom duties at Velasco and was arrested by Mexican authorities. After being held but a short time he was released without punishment. He participated as a member of Henry S. Brown's unit in the battle of Velasco on June 26, 1832, and was wounded.

   In 1833 Waller became alcalde of Brazoria Municipality. He represented the municipality of Columbia at the Consultation in San Felipe de Austin in 1835 and was chosen by its members to serve in the General Council of the Provisional Government of Texas. Waller was elected on February 1, 1836, as a delegate from Brazoria to the Convention of 1836, which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence. As a member of the convention he served on the committee that framed the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Afterward Waller returned to his plantation in Brazoria and in 1838 served as president of the board of land commissioners for Brazoria County. In 1839 he was chosen by President Mirabeau Lamar to supervise the surveying and sale of town lots and the construction of public buildings at the new capital at Austin, located on the fringe of the Texas frontier. After being bonded on April 12, 1839, Waller, protected by a group of armed citizens, began in earnest to carry out his new duties. While in Austin he helped organize Austin Masonic Lodge No. 12 at his residence in 1839. In December of that year he was appointed Texas postmaster general; the Senate confirmed him on December 10, and he resigned the next day.

   Waller was elected Austin's first mayor on January 13, 1840, but gave up that position before his term expired. On August 12 of that year he participated in the battle of Plum Creek. Afterward he moved to Austin County and engaged in farming and merchandising. In addition to his private economic endeavors, Waller served as chief justice of Austin County from 1844 to 1856. Meanwhile, he campaigned unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1847. In 1861 Waller was elected to represent Austin County at the Secession Convention. Because he was the only delegate present who had signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, the members voted to allow him the honor of signing the ordinance of secession immediately after the president of the convention signed. The delegates also elected him major of the mounted defense regiment mandated by the secession ordinance. Waller returned to Austin County after the conclusion of the convention.

   In 1873 the legislature formed a new county from Austin and Grimes counties and honored Waller by naming it for him. When the Texas Veterans Association was organized in 1873, he was elected its first president. At the time of his death Waller was in Austin working as a commissioner to submit names of Texas Revolution veterans entitled to special recognition by the state. Waller married Juliet M. de Shields, a native of Virginia. They had seven children, including Edwin Waller, Jr. Waller died on January 3, 1881, and was buried in the family cemetery in Waller County. In 1928 his remains, along with his wife's, were moved to the State Cemetery in Austin. Source 

Note: The place of death on his stone is incorrect, he did not die in Waller County - he died in Austin.

30° 15.924, -097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

September 4, 2012

Josiah Hughes Bell

   Josiah Hughes Bell, Brazoria county planter, founder of East and West Columbia, Texas, and one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, was born on August 22, 1791, in Chester District, South Carolina, the son of John and Elizabeth (Hughes) Bell. His father died when he was five, and at age eleven the young man was apprenticed to two uncles in the hat business in Tennessee. He later moved to Missouri Territory, where he became justice of the peace of Bellevue Township in 1813 and served in the Indian wars growing out of the War of 1812. He was discharged from service by 1815 and manufactured hats and dealt in pelts for a time. In 1818 he sold his farm in Missouri and on December 1 of that year married Mary Eveline McKenzie of Kentucky, with whom he had eight children. Bell's son, Thaddeus C. Bell, was the second white child born in Austin's colony.

   After a period in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Bell came to Texas with Austin in 1821. He brought with him a family of slaves and settled on New Year Creek, near old Washington. There he served as síndico procurador in 1821 and alcalde in 1822. From 1822 until August of 1823, when Austin was in Mexico, Bell took charge of Austin's colony. Horatio Chriesman made the colony's first survey on February 10, 1823, to locate Bell's land grants on the west side of the lower Brazos. Bell moved to what became known as Bell's Creek in January 1824, was made a militia lieutenant the same year, and was joined by his family in the fall. By 1829 a community known as Bell's Landing or Marion, which became an important inland port, grew up around a landing he constructed near his home. Bell developed a sugar plantation along the creek's banks and subsequently laid out the two towns that came to be known as East Columbia and West Columbia. He built the area's first hotel in 1832, constructed a school, and as an innovative town planner provided garden plots for new residents.

   In 1834 he called a meeting of the colonists to draw up representations to Mexico for Austin's release from prison. He was Austin's friend and dependable agent in settling differences and publicizing new regulations among the colonists. He followed Austin's conservative policy in dealing with Mexico before the Texas Revolution, but he was loyal to the Texas cause during the war. Bell sold the tract embracing both Marion and East Columbia to Walter C. White and James Knight in October 1837 and moved to West Columbia, where he died on May 17, 1838; he was buried there. The value of his estate was estimated at $140,000. Source 

29° 08.422, -095° 38.863

Columbia Cemetery
West Columbia