February 24, 2015

Oran Milo Roberts

Oran M. Roberts, jurist and governor of Texas, son of Obe and Margaret (Ewing) Roberts, was born in Laurens District, South Carolina, on July 9, 1815. He was educated at home until he was seventeen, then entered the University of Alabama in 1832, graduated four years later, and was admitted to the bar in 1837. After serving a term in the Alabama legislature, where he was an admirer of John C. Calhoun, he moved in 1841 to San Augustine, Texas, where he opened a successful law practice. Roberts was appointed a district attorney by President Sam Houston in 1844. Two years later, after Texas had become a state, he was appointed district judge by Governor James Pinckney Henderson. In addition to his duties on the bench, he also served as president of the board and lecturer in law for the University of San Augustine, where he showed marked talent as a teacher.

In 1856 Roberts ran for and won a position on the Texas Supreme Court, where he joined his friend Royal T. Wheeler, the chief justice. During this time Roberts became a spokesman for states' rights, and when the secessionist crisis appeared in 1860, he was at the center of the pro-Confederate faction. In January 1861 he was unanimously elected president of the Secession Convention in Austin, a meeting that he had been influential in calling. Along with East Texas colleagues George W. Chilton and John S. Ford, Roberts led the passage of the ordinance removing Texas from the Union in 1861. In 1862 he returned to East Texas, where he helped raise a regiment, the Eleventh Texas Infantry of Walker's Texas Division. His military career was brief. After seeing very little combat and after an unsuccessful attempt to gain a brigadiership, Roberts returned to Austin as chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1864. He held this position until he was removed along with other state incumbents in 1865.

During Reconstruction he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866 and also, along with David G. Burnet, was elected United States senator. As Roberts had anticipated, the new majority of Radical Republicans in Congress refused to seat the entire Texas delegation along with the delegations of other southern states. After his rejection, about which he later wrote an article entitled "The Experience of an Unrecognized Senator," published in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association (now the Southwestern Historical Quarterly) in 1908. Roberts eventually returned to Gilmer, Texas, where he opened a law school in 1868. Among his students were a future Texas Supreme Court justice, Sawnie Robertson, and a Dallas district judge, George N. Aldredge. With the return of the Democrats to power in Austin in 1874, Roberts was first appointed, then elected, to the Texas Supreme Court. He served as chief justice for four years and was involved in rewriting much of Texas civil law. In 1878 he was elected governor of Texas on a platform of post-Reconstruction fiscal reform. His two gubernatorial terms were marked by a reduction in state expenditures. His plan for countering the high taxes and state debt of the Reconstruction years became known as "pay as you go." A major part of this plan involved the sale of public lands to finance the debt and to fund public schools. Though ultimately successful in both reducing the debt and increasing the public school fund, the decreased government appropriations under Roberts halted public school growth for a time. Also, his land policy tended to favor large ranchers and companies in the development of West Texas. Nonetheless he remained popular with rural landowners, largely because he lowered taxes, as well as with land speculators. The present Capitol in Austin was contracted during Roberts's terms, and the cornerstone for the University of Texas was laid in 1882. Railroad mileage increased across West Texas, and the frontier became more secure.

In 1883, shortly before Roberts's term as governor ended, the University of Texas opened in Austin. Upon his retirement Roberts was immediately appointed professor of law, a position he held for the next ten years. During this period he was immensely influential in the state's legal profession. His impact on a generation of young attorneys was symbolized by the affectionate title "Old Alcalde" bestowed on him by his students. During his tenure at the university, Roberts wrote several professional works, among them a text, The Elements of Texas Pleading (1890), which was used for decades after his retirement from teaching. In 1893 he left the university and moved to Marble Falls, where he turned his attention to more general historical writings.

His essay The Political, Legislative, and Judicial History of Texas for its Fifty Years of Statehood, 1845-1895 was published in an early general history of the state, Comprehensive History of Texas, 1685 to 1897 (1898), edited by Dudley G. Wooten. Roberts's chapters on Texas in volume eleven of C. A. Evans's Confederate Military History (1899) stress the role of the Lone Star State in the Civil War. With his interest in Texas history unabated, Roberts returned to Austin in 1895. Here, along with several other prominent Texans, he participated in forming the Texas State Historical Association. He served as the organization's first president and submitted several of the first articles published in its Quarterly. Roberts was married to Francis W. Edwards of Ashville, Alabama, from 1837 until her death in 1883. They were the parents of seven children. In 1887 Roberts married Mrs. Catherine E. Border. He died at his home in Austin on May 19, 1898, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

GPS Coordinates
30° 16.534, -097° 43.483

Section 2
Oakwood Cemetery
Austin

February 17, 2015

Mary Stanley Shindler

Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer Shindler was a poet of the southern United States. Her father, the Rev. B. M. Palmer, was pastor of a Congregational Church at Beaufort, and when she was three years old he moved with her to Charleston, South Carolina, where she was educated. In Charleston, she was educated by the Misses Ramsay, the daughters of David Ramsay, the historian. The summer of 1825 her parents spent in Hartford, Connecticut, and she was placed for six months at a female seminary in the neighbouring town of Wethersfield. In 1826 she was placed at a young ladies’ seminary in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. She pined for her Southern home, and at the expiration of six months was allowed to return to the arms of her parents. She subsequently spent several months at a seminary in New Haven, Connecticut.

In June 1835, Mary Palmer married Charles E. Dana, and moved with him first to New York City, and in 1837 to Bloomington, Iowa. During this time she occasionally wrote little pieces of poetry, but did not publish them. Before her marriage, however, she had written considerably for the Rose-Bud, a juvenile periodical published in Charleston by Mrs. Gilman. On her husband's death, she returned to her family in Charleston.

To give herself mental occupation, she now began to indulge in literary pursuits. She had always been very fond of music, and finding very little piano music that was suitable for Sunday playing, she had for several years been in the habit of adapting sacred words to any song which particularly pleased her. To wean her from her sorrows, her parents encouraged her to continue the practice, and this was the origin of the first work she published, The Southern Harp. At first she had no idea of publishing these little effusions, but having written quite a number of them, she was advised to print a few for the use of herself and friends. The work, however grew under her hands, until finally, becoming much interested in the design, she decided to publish, not only the words, but the music. She visited New York for this purpose in 1840, and the work appeared early in 1841.

In the early 1840s, she experienced a change in her religious views, which attracted considerable attention, and led to her next publication. She had been bred a Calvinist, but during the year 1844 she began to entertain doubts about the doctrine of the Trinity, and finally, to the grief of her revered parents, and numerous friends, early in the year 1845, she avowed herself a Unitarian.

Both her parents died within weeks of each other, and in 1848, she became an Episcopalian. In May of that year, she married the Rev. Robert D. Shindler, a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, who was for a time professor in Shelby College, Kentucky. She moved with her husband in 1850 to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and in 1869 to Nacogdoches, Texas, where she passed away in 1883.

GPS Coordinates
31° 36.187, -094° 38.932


Oak Grove Cemetery
Nacogdoches

February 10, 2015

Freeman Wilkinson

As is often the case with early Texas settlers, little is known of Freeman Wilkinson's history. He came to Texas in 1835 and served in the Texas Army from March 5 to June 5, 1836. He fought at San Jacinto with Thomas McIntire's Company, then transferred to Peter Dexter's Company a few days later. In 1838, he was living in Harrisburg County in and there married Delia Semore on January 23, 1839. Wilkinson died a few months later of yellow fever in Lynchburg and was buried on the San Jacinto battlefield.

GPS Coordinates
29° 45.249, -095° 05.349


San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
La Porte

February 3, 2015

Michel Branamour Menard

Michel Branamour Menard, Indian trader, entrepreneur, and founder of the Galveston City Company, the only son of Michel B. and Marguerite (de Noyer) Menard, was born on December 5, 1805, at La Prairie, near Montreal, Quebec. The illiterate youth became an engagé of the American Fur Company at Detroit about 1820 and worked in the Minnesota area for two years. In 1822 he joined his uncle, Pierre Menard, former lieutenant governor of Illinois, in the fur trade at Kaskaskia, where he learned to read and write French and eventually English. While working for Menard, he became a resident trader to a band of Shawnees living near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He was chosen a chief and moved with the tribe to the White River in Arkansas Territory and later, in 1828, to the Red River below Pecan Point.

On December 1, 1829, Menard applied for citizenship in Nacogdoches, where he continued to collect skins and furs from the Shawnees and other Indians. He also began trading at Saltillo, Coahuila, exchanging horses, mules, and permits to locate Texas land for manufactured goods. By 1834 he owned 40,000 acres scattered from the lower Trinity River above Liberty to Pecan Point. He built a combination sawmill and gristmill on Menard Creek in 1833, which he operated with the aid of his cousin, Pierre J. Menard, and other relatives who moved to Texas. He continued to send forest products to Menard and Vallé and the American Fur Company until 1836.

Independence Hall, location of the Declaration signing
Menard represented Liberty County at the Convention of 1836 and, though he believed independence impractical, bowed to majority will and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. President David G. Burnet named him to negotiate a peace treaty with the Shawnees, Delawares, and Kickapoos in northeastern Texas. Among Menard's land speculations was the 1834 arrangement to acquire title to a league and labor on the eastern end of vacant Galveston Island, a site forbidden to non-Hispanic Texans without permission from the president of Mexico. Menard was unable to develop it prior to 1836, and his title was questioned by rival claimants during the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. He had to pay the republic $50,000 to clear his title and had to take in many other partners besides the original investors, Samuel May Williams and Thomas F. McKinney. The Galveston City Company was organized in April 1838 and began issuing deeds to investors and purchasers. Menard, as Texas commissioner, unsuccessfully sought a loan from the United States for the new republic in 1836–37 and represented Galveston in the Fifth Congress, 1840-41.

The Menard Home, 2017
He married four times. His first wife, Marie Diana LeClerc of St. Genevieve, whom he married about 1832, died of cholera aboard a ship en route to Texas from New Orleans on May 14, 1833. He married his second cousin, Adeline Catherine Maxwell, in late 1837, but she died during the yellow fever epidemic in Galveston in July 1838. Next he wed Mary Jane Riddle in 1843; she died in 1847. His fourth wife was Rebecca Mary Bass, a widow with two daughters whom Menard adopted in 1850, the same year the couple became parents of a son. Menard struggled to make his speculations and businesses more profitable, but financial reverses in 1856 finally hurt him severely. Menard was a Catholic and a Mason and was known as a great raconteur. No two accounts of his life are the same, due to his prodigious tales to friends and family. He died at home in Galveston on September 2, 1856, and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Galveston.

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.574, -094° 48.738


Old Catholic Cemetery
Galveston