December 30, 2014

Hal Woodeshick

Born on August 24, 1932 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Harold Joseph Woodeshick signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1950. His time with them consisted of only one inning pitched for the Carbondale Pioneers, the Phillies' North Atlantic League team. He split his 1951 campaign with a pair of independent minor league clubs: the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League and the Youngstown A's of the Middle Atlantic League. He joined the New York Giants organization in 1952, winning thirteen decisions that year with the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League and fourteen in 1955 with the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League. He served in the United States Army during the two years between those seasons.

He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the minor league draft on November 27, 1955. A twelve-game winner with the Charleston Senators in 1956, he made his major league debut later that year on September 14 with a loss against the New York Yankees. His only other appearance with the Tigers came ten days later on September 24 in another start at home which resulted in him yielding four runs again and earning his second straight loss. He returned to the minors in 1957, dividing his time between Charleston and the Augusta Tigers. He was traded to Cleveland Indians on February 18, 1958. Woodeshick split the 1958 campaign between the Indians and its top farm team in San Diego, and began the next one with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was dealt to the Washington Senators on May 25, 1959. After that franchise moved west and became the Minnesota Twins, he was picked in the 1960 MLB expansion draft by the second Washington Senators on December 14, 1960. He returned to the Detroit Tigers just under six months later on June 5, 1961.

Woodeshick was on the Houston Colt .45s roster for the expansion team's inaugural opening day in 1962. The acquisition was a big risk because Woodeshick was prone to wildness with his pitches and had problems with his fielding. He spent most of his first Colt .45s spring training working to correct his inability to make accurate throws to the first baseman after cleanly fielding ground balls. He started in 26 of his 31 appearances in 1962. In the Colt .45s' second-ever regular season contest on April 11, its first at night, he pitched eight innings and endured a one-hour rain delay in the fourth to earn a victory over the Chicago Cubs. He finished the campaign with a 5-16 record due to a pair of nagging injuries. A slow-healing throat infection had left him out of playing shape at midseason. By the time he was released at year's end, his back pain was so debilitating that his wife had to drive him back to their Pennsylvania home. After two spinal taps failed to provide a cure, his problem was remedied by a chiropractor who prescribed an exercise regimen.

He returned to the Colt .45s as its first-ever legitimate closer in 1963, winning eleven games with a team-leading ten saves and a 1.97 ERA. Woodeshick pitched two scoreless innings in the 1963 MLB All-Star Game, striking out Joe Pepitone in the sixth and Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew in the seventh. His best year in the majors was 1964 when he led the senior circuit in saves with 23. A trade deadline deal on June 15, 1965 sent him to the Cardinals. As a member of the 1967 World Series Champions, Woodeshick's only appearance in the Fall Classic was a scoreless bottom half of the eighth inning in Game Six. His professional baseball career ended when he was released by the Cardinals on October 20, 1967, only eight days after The Series concluded. Hal Woodeshick died on June 14, 2009 after a long illness and was buried in Houston's Memorial Oaks Cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
29° 46.734, -095° 36.893

Botanical Garden
Memorial Oaks Cemetery

December 23, 2014

Christopher Scott Kyle

Christopher Scott Kyle was born April 8, 1974, in Odessa, Texas. The son of a church deacon, Kyle grew up on a ranch and experienced a childhood that was shaped by outdoor pursuits. He loved to hunt deer and pheasant and later competed in a number of bronco busting contests. For two years he studied agriculture at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, before leaving for a job as a ranch hand. His lifelong interest in the military eventually led him to the Navy in 1999, where he quickly gained admittance to the SEALS, the force’s elite special operations unit.

After weathering a demanding selection process, Kyle was selected for and trained as a sniper. Over the course of his 10-year military career, Kyle served four combat deployments to Iraq. His marksmanship became renowned not just within the American military, for whom he was charged with protecting, but among insurgents as well, who nicknamed him “The Devil of Ramadi.” His enemies had also put a $20,000 bounty on the head of any U.S. sniper. Kyle’s steel nerves and patience for tracking his subjects earned him two awards of the Silver Star and five awards for the Bronze Star. In all, Kyle claimed to have killed more than 160 people, a record for a U.S. military sniper though the number could not be officially substantiated. “After the first kill, the others come easy,” he later wrote in his bestselling 2012 book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

Kyle left the military in 2009. In his post Navy life, Kyle followed a number of different pursuits, many of them no doubt aided by the fame his book brought him. With his hulking presence and quiet demeanor, Kyle encapsulated the image of a military hero and as sales of his books soared, he appeared on talk shows and participated in the NBC competition show, Stars Earn Stripes. In addition, Kyle co-launched a non-profit group, FITCO Cares Foundation, which supplies fitness equipment to war wounded veterans. Kyle’s childhood passion for guns remained with him. He founded Craft International, a security company that is marketed with the motto, “Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems.” Kyle was also an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s push to tighten gun controls.

Kyle’s life came to a tragic end on February 2, 2013, when he and a colleague, Chad Littlefield, were shot at a gun range outside of Forth Worth, Texas, by Eddie Ray Routh, an ex-Marine who had a long history of mental illness. Chris Kyle was 38 years old.

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.979, -097° 43.577

Statesmans Meadow
Texas State Cemetery   

December 16, 2014

William Rabb

William Rabb, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, the eldest son of Andrew and Mary (Scott) Rabb, was born on December 21, 1770, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He married Mary Smalley about 1789 and they eventually had four sons, Andrew, John, Thomas, and Ulysses, and a daughter, Rachel, who later married Joseph Newman. Rabb and his family left Pennsylvania about 1803. After a brief sojourn with relatives in Ohio, Rabb reached his destination near the Mississippi River in Indiana Territory (later Illinois Territory) in 1804. There he built and operated a large gristmill on Cahokia Creek near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. He also served as Madison county judge and in 1814 was elected to the legislature of Illinois Territory, where he served for two terms. In 1818 the Rabbs moved to Clear Creek settlement on the north side of the upper Red River in Arkansas Territory, in what is now Choctaw County, Oklahoma. From there, Rabb made an exploratory trip into Texas in 1819 and chose an area on the east side of the Colorado River as the site he wished to acquire. When the federal government ceded the land north of the Red River to the Choctaw Indians in 1820, Rabb moved his family south of the river to Jonesborough, an area now in Red River County, Texas. Although the Arkansas Territory authorities attempted to exercise civil jurisdiction over the Jonesborough settlers, the Rabbs were technically in Spanish territory. In 1821 Rabb wrote a letter to the Spanish governor in San Antonio de Béxar which stated, among other things, that he intended to settle soon on the Colorado River as a member of Austin's colony. When and where Rabb first became involved in the plan of Moses Austin and his son, Stephen, to establish a colony in Texas is uncertain. Since Rabb is believed to have been a longstanding acquaintance of the Austins, he probably was aware of their plan at an early date. Somewhere along the line they reached an agreement whereby Rabb would build a gristmill in the proposed colony to help supply the settlers in exchange for a sizable grant of land.

Rabb and his wife and two unmarried sons left Jonesborough and arrived at his site on the Colorado River in December 1821. Probably for security reasons plus availability of fresh water from springs, they initially settled on the high ground west of the river at a place Rabb called Indian Hill. Located a short distance above present-day La Grange in Fayette County, it was directly across the river from the rich bottom land that he had chosen on his exploratory trip in 1819. When Stephen F. Austin returned from a journey to Mexico City in 1823 with the news that the Mexican authorities had reconfirmed his colonization contract and would honor land titles in the colony, Rabb returned to Jonesborough to fetch the remaining members of his family. They arrived in December 1823, and for a while the entire family remained at Indian Hill. However, in early 1824, they moved downriver to the little settlement of Egypt in present-day Wharton County in order to escape Indian harassment.

Title to Rabb's land grant was signed by Stephen Austin and Commissioner Baron de Bastrop on July 19, 1824. It was one of the earliest and largest grants made in Austin's first colony and comprised a total of five square leagues, or one "hacienda," of about 22,000 acres. Two leagues of approximately 9,000 acres were located in the area near the Gulf of Mexico known as Bay Prairie in present-day Matagorda County. The other three leagues of over 13,000 acres comprised the land granted to Rabb as the result of his agreement to build a gristmill in the upper portion of the colony. Situated on the east side of the Colorado River in present-day Fayette County, it is the site Rabb chose in 1819 and is the tract known today as Rabb's Prairie. Although he soon left Egypt and returned to Rabb's Prairie to begin work on the mill, Rabb was forced to abandon the project on several occasions due to threats of Indian attack. In 1830 the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, the governing council of Austin's colony, reviewed Rabb's situation and reconfirmed his title. Also, because of delays caused by Indian harassment, it approved an additional eighteen months for him to finish construction of the mill. With the help of his sons, Rabb completed his mill in 1831. Some of the material used in its construction came from New Orleans, but it was the transportation and installation of two large grinding stones, or burrs, that proved to be an accomplishment of considerable ingenuity and determination. The mill stones, each weighing around a ton, had been imported from Scotland and off-loaded at Matagorda at the mouth of the Colorado River. The problem facing Rabb was how to move these two ponderous objects to his mill in Rabb's Prairie, a distance of about 100 miles. Driftwood rafts and shallow water made it impractical to float them upriver on a barge. His solution was to make an axle, attach the mill stones on the ends to serve as wheels, and use oxen to pull the resulting vehicle overland to his mill. Rabb lived to see his mill in operation but died later in 1831.

This is likely a cenotaph

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.925,  -097° 43.591

Confederate Field
Texas State Cemetery

December 9, 2014

Teala Loring

Teala Loring, American actress, was born Marcia Eloise Griffin on October 6, 1922 in Denver, Colorado. She was the sister of actors Debra Paget, Lisa Gaye, and Reull Shayne. At the start of her film career, she was sometimes credited as Judith Gibson. From 1942, Loring appeared in uncredited or bit parts in films at Paramount, turning up as a cigarette girl in Holiday Inn and as a telephone operator in Double Indemnity, for example. In 1945-46, she appeared in ten films released by the low-key Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures, including Fall Guy (1947), the Charlie Chan vehicle Dark Alibi (1946), and two films starring Kay Francis, Allotment Wives (1945) and Wife Wanted (1946). Having failed to achieve the success that her sister Debra would capture in the 1950s, Loring made her final film, Arizona Cowboy in 1950. She died at the age of 84 on January 28, 2007 from injuries she sustained in an automobile accident in Spring, Texas.

GPS Coordinates
29° 55.948, -095° 27.333

Section S1
Houston National Cemetery

December 2, 2014

George Duncan Hancock

George Duncan Hancock, soldier of the Republic of Texas, merchant, legislator, and civil leader, was born in Tennessee on April 27, 1809, the son of John Allen and Sarah (Ryan) Hancock. He moved with his family to Alabama in 1819 and was educated there. In 1835 he moved to Texas. At the battle of San Jacinto he served as a private in Capt. William Kimbro's company of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. He was one of the five men who accompanied Erastus (Deaf) Smith in the destruction of Vince's Bridge. For his military service, which lasted from March 15 through November 15, 1836, Hancock received a total of 1,280 acres in Lampasas County.

Subsequently he worked as a surveyor, locating lands on the frontier. In 1840 he was residing in Bastrop County, where he owned 5,907 acres of real estate, a saddle horse, and a watch. On October 26, 1842, after Adrián Woll's capture of San Antonio, Hancock enlisted in Capt. Bartlett Sims's company of Col. James R. Cook's regiment of the South Western Army, and marched with Gen. Alexander Somervell to the Rio Grande. He returned to San Antonio with Somervell and was discharged on November 21, 1842, thus avoiding the Mier expedition.

In 1843 he opened a highly successful retail store in La Grange, Fayette County, which he later moved to Bastrop and then in 1845 to Austin, where he established himself at the corner of Congress and Pecan (now Sixth) Street. There he was regarded by the editor of the Texas State Gazette as "an experienced merchant of acknowledged good taste in the selection of goods," and as offering "as large and complete a has ever been brought to the city."

By 1850 Hancock owned assets valued at $40,000 and was residing in an Austin boardinghouse. On September 5 of that year the state legislature granted him, Thomas J. Hardeman, John Rabb, John W. S. Dancy, and nine other men a charter to incorporate the Colorado Navigation Company to promote Colorado River traffic and commerce, and on February 16, 1852, Hancock and six other men were granted corporate rights for the Brazos and Colorado Railroad Company to link Austin and Houston. Hancock was married to Eliza Louisa Lewis, the daughter of Ira Randolph Lewis, on November 2, 1855. In 1861 Hancock, an ardent Unionist like his brother, John Hancock, retired from business.

At the end of the Civil War Hancock was a member of a committee that welcomed Governor A. J. Hamilton to Austin in August 1865, and later that month Hamilton appointed him to the board of trustees of the State Lunatic Asylum (later the Austin State Hospital). In 1866 he was elected to the Eleventh Texas Legislature. In 1872 he served as chairman of a committee formed to keep Austin the capital of Texas.

Hancock died on January 6, 1879, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin. He was survived by his wife, who died on April 27, 1890, and a son, Lewis, who became mayor of Austin. Hancock was an active member of the Texas Veterans Association, which he helped to organize in 1873, and a vestryman at St. David's Episcopal Church. He was also a Mason and in 1852 took an active role in establishing Austin Masonic High School.

GPS Coordinates
30° 16.515, -097° 43.616

Section 1
Oakwood Cemetery