June 25, 2013

William Daniel Jones

W.D. Jones was born on May 15, 1916 to a poor family, his sharecropper father moving them all to Dallas in 1921 where Jones met and became friends with Clyde Barrow, who was seven years his senior. When Clyde left town to begin his criminal career, William stayed behind, learning the "trade" on his own by stealing cars and working for bootleggers. Clyde returned home during Christmas 1930 with his new girlfriend Bonnie, met up with his childhood buddy and asked him to keep watch over their car while the two slept.

The next morning, Jones did some quick repairs on the car and accepted Clyde's offer to ride with them. In a matter of days, he was involved in his first murder. In Temple, Texas, Clyde spotted a car with the keys left in it and instructed Jones to start it up while he and Bonnie switched their things from their old car to the new one. When the owner showed up and tried to struggle over the door, Clyde shot him in the head and ordered Jones to step on it. From then on, Jones was a member of the Barrow gang and would remain so for eight months.

He was more the mechanic or driver than a gunman, usually remaining in the car with Bonnie while Clyde and another member would rob gas stations, taking care of the steering while the others took shots at whomever was following them. He was involved in the several shootouts, from Joplin, Missouri to Platte City, Iowa, driving the gang from one town to another in a perpetual quest to avoid capture. After Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche were captured in Dexter, Iowa, Jones decided he had better jump ship before he was either gunned down or arrested for something more serious than he could handle.

When the gang was in Mississippi, Jones took off and hitched his way back to Texas, where he was quickly captured in Houston. He claimed he was a virtual prisoner of the gang, forced to work for them, tied down at night to prevent his escape; the authorities didn't believe him, but having no evidence of hard crime, they sentenced him to only six years in prison. After he served his term, he drifted from job to job, hooking himself on drugs and alcohol. He surfaced in 1968 to sue Warner Brothers over what he felt was a libelous portrayal of him in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. When the suit was thrown out, he gave an interview with Playboy magazine on his time with the Barrow gang, still insisting he was an unwilling dupe, caught up by circumstance. Six years later, on August 20, 1974, Jones was shotgunned to death during a failed drug transaction.

GPS Coordinates
29° 54.789, -095° 18.927

Garden of the Apostles
Brookside Memorial Park

June 18, 2013

Robert Hardin Kuykendall

Robert Hardin (or Hampton) Kuykendall, an early member of the Old Three Hundred, was born in 1788 near Princeton, Kentucky, to Adam and Margaret (Hardin) Kuykendall. After moves through Sumner County, Tennessee, and Henderson County, Kentucky, the family settled in Arkansas near the Cadron Settlement on the Arkansas River around February 15, 1810. In the fall of 1821, having explored west of the Sabine River for some time, Robert joined his brothers Abner, Joseph, and Peter at Nacogdoches. He and Joseph moved with Daniel Gilleland and their families to the east bank of the Colorado River, near the La Bahía crossing, where they established the river's first settlement.

In December 1822 the Baron de Bastrop arrived at the settlement to organize the Austin colony. The settlers elected Robert Kuykendall captain of the militia for the Mina (Colorado) District and alcalde of the Colorado District. Kuykendall's house was the election site when James Cummins was elected alcalde of the Colorado District. Kuykendall and his men killed a group of horse thieves and placed their heads on tall poles along the La Bahía Road as a warning to others, a warning that evidently succeeded in deterring lawlessness in the colony. After many Indian depredations in the summer of 1822, Kuykendall headed a party of settlers in an attack on the Karankawas at the mouth of Skull Creek, where the Indians were defeated with considerable loss.

In 1824 Kuykendall was involved in further encounters with the Karankawas. On July 15, 1824, Stephen F. Austin granted Kuykendall two leagues of land, one on the east side and one on the west side of the Colorado River. Kuykendall established his home on the east league near the site of present Glen Flora and named it Pleasant Farm Plantation. In an Indian fight sometime after the spring of 1826, he received a serious head injury, which gradually led to paralysis, blindness, and eventual death. Between March 20 and 27, 1830, Dr. Robert Peebles performed a successful trepan on Kuykendall, an event that induced Judge Robert M. Williamson, editor of the Texas Gazette at San Felipe, to commend the doctors of the colony. William B. Travis later turned money over to E. Roddy for Dr. Peebles from the Kuykendall estate for medical expenses.

In 1830 Stephen F. Austin requested that commissioner general Juan Antonio Padilla convey an extra league of land each to two men of particular merit in the early days of the colony, Josiah H. Bell as alcalde and Robert H. Kuykendall as commander of the militia. Kuykendall married Sarah Ann Gilleland at Red Hill, Arkansas, in 1814. They had six children. Kuykendall died in the latter part of 1830 and is presumed to have been buried in the Old Matagorda Cemetery. Subsequent hurricanes washed away most of the grave markers, and his headstone has been lost.

This is a cenotaph. Over the course of several decades during the mid-to-late 1800s, many of the older grave markers in Matagorda Cemetery were washed away by a series of severe storms. Although Robert Kuykendall is believed to have been buried in the immediate area, his exact grave location has been lost. 

GPS Coordinates
28° 42.033, -095° 57.281

Section E
Matagorda Cemetery

June 11, 2013

Frederick Benjamin Gipson

Frederick (Fred) Benjamin Gipson, author, was born on a farm near Mason, Texas, on February 7, 1908, the son of Beck and Emma Deishler Gipson. He graduated from Mason High School in 1926 and after working at a variety of farming and ranching jobs entered the University of Texas in 1933. There he wrote for the Daily Texan and the Ranger,but he left school before graduating to become a reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in 1937. A year later he worked for the San Angelo Standard-Times, then briefly for the Denver Post. Soon afterward he began to sell stories and articles to pulp Western magazines and to such slick magazines as Liberty and Look. By 1944 Gipson had published a story in the Southwest Review. Many of his short stories appearing in that journal in the 1940s were prototypes for the longer works of fiction that followed.

His first full-length book, The Fabulous Empire: Colonel Zack Miller's Story (1946), was moderately successful (25,000 copies sold), but it was his Hound-Dog Man (1949)that established Gipson's reputation when it became a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and sold over 250,000 copies in its first year of publication. Many critics and general readers maintain that Hound-Dog Man was Gipson's best work, and it remains popular with a large audience. The Hill Country writer earned increasing attention for the rapid succession of books that followed: The Home Place (1950; later filmed as Return of the Texan); Big Bend: A Homesteader's Story (1952); Cowhand: The Story of a Working Cowboy (1953); The Trail-Driving Rooster (1955); Recollection Creek (1955); Old Yeller (1956); and Savage Sam (1962).

Old Yeller was the novel that Gipson considered his best work; it sold nearly three million copies by 1973. The novel, set in the Hill Country in the 1860s, narrates several months in the life of a fourteen-year-old boy left in charge of the household while his father is away. Old Yeller, a stray dog adopted by the boy, helps in the formidable task of protecting the family in the frontier wilderness. Though the dog is given considerable status in the novel, Gipson always allows the human element to predominate in his work. Old Yeller, one of four Gipson works made into films, had its world premiere in San Angelo in 1957; its sequel, Savage Sam, dealing with the same family a few years later, had its first showing in Mason in 1963. The movie versions were produced by Walt Disney Studios and continue to be popular attractions.

Gipson was the recipient of the William Allen White Award, the first Sequoyah Award, the Television-Radio Annual Writers Award, and the Northwest Pacific Award. He was president of the Texas Institute of Letters in 1965. His first marriage, which ended in divorce, was to Tommie Wynn; they had two sons. In 1967 he was married to Angelina Torres. Gipson died at his ranch near Mason on August 14, 1973, and by a special proclamation of the governor was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. According to one critic, Gipson "made the term Southwest literature legitimate and meaningful" and "accomplished the rare but admirable feat of turning the bits and pieces of folklore into myth." His novels were translated into Danish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. Two posthumous publications were Little Arliss (1978) and Curly and the Wild Boar (1979).

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.921, -097° 43.613

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

June 4, 2013

John Gordon Chalmers

John Gordon Chalmers, editor and political figure in the Republic of Texas, was born in Halifax County, Virginia, on August 25, 1803, the son of James Ronald and Sarah Lanier (Williams) Chalmers. After graduation from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, he received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where his uncle, Rev. Thomas Chalmers, was a leading theologian. On his return from Scotland, he served for several years in the Virginia legislature. In 1827 he married Mary Wade Henderson of Milton, North Carolina; they had seven children.

Chalmers moved his family to Texas in 1840 and settled first in La Grange and then in Austin. He held office for a time as secretary of the treasury for the Republic of Texas under President Mirabeau B. Lamar and later chaired the committee that drafted the resolution approving the annexation of Texas to the United States. Chalmers helped establish the Democratic party in Texas. In 1845 he became editor and proprietor of the Austin New Era. He also formed a partnership with Michael Cronican to publish the Austin Texas Democrat. On January 1, 1847, he became involved in a heated argument with Joshua Holden; a fight resulted and Chalmers was mortally stabbed. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.

GPS Coordinates
30° 16.566, -097° 43.703

Section 1
Oakwood Cemetery