November 28, 2017

Norman Downs "Red" Branch

   Norman D. “Red” Branch was born on March 22, 1915 in Spokane, Washington. He played baseball at the University of Texas and signed with the New York Yankees in 1937. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander pitched for Norfolk of the Piedmont League his rookie year posting an impressive 14-4 record and earning promotion to Kansas City of the American Association.

   By 1939, Branch was with Newark of the International League where he worked primarily as a relief pitcher and appeared in 41 games that season. The 25-year-old made 30 appearances for Newark in 1940 and joined the Yankees in 1941. He made his major league debut on May 5, 1941 and appeared in 27 games for a 5-1 record and 2.87 ERA although he didn’t pitch in the World Series against Brooklyn.

   In 1942, he made just 10 appearances for the Yankees and entered military service with the Coast Guard at the end of the year. Branch was initially stationed at Groton in Connecticut before moving to the Coast Guard Academy at New London where he spent the rest of the war and pitched for the Coast Guard Dolphins. Returning from service at the end of 1945 with an injured arm, Branch pitched briefly for Newark and Beaumont in 1946 before retiring from the game. He returned to his home in Texas and played semi-pro ball for a number of years. He passed away in Navasota on November 21, 1971. He was only 56. Source 

30° 23.170, -095° 42.240

New Cemetery

November 21, 2017

James Morgan

   James Morgan, pioneer Texas settler, merchant, land speculator, and commander at Galveston during the Texas Revolution, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 13, 1787, the son of James and Martha (Prudun) Morgan. As a child he was taken to North Carolina, where he grew to manhood and married Celia Harrell. In 1830 he visited Brazoria and decided to open a mercantile business in Texas. After returning to the United States, he bound his sixteen slaves as indentured servants for ninety-nine years in order to get around the Mexican prohibition on slavery, and set out for Texas with his wife, two daughters, and a son. In New Orleans Morgan formed a partnership with John Reed, and the two of them purchased a schooner, Exert.

   Morgan went by land to Anahuac, where he opened a store. Reed soon arrived with a cargo of merchandise, upon which George Fisher, collector of customs, levied a tariff. Morgan's defiance of Fisher's evaluation established him as a leader and was possibly the reason for his being chosen to represent the Liberty Municipality in the Convention of 1832. In 1835 Morgan was appointed agent for a company called the New Washington Association, organized in 1834 by Lorenzo de Zavala and a number of New York financiers to develop Texas real estate. He immediately purchased for the company an enormous quantity of real estate in Harrisburg and Liberty municipalities, including the point at the mouth of the San Jacinto River variously called Rightor's, Hunter's, Clopper's, and later Morgan's Point. Here he laid out the town of New Washington. The company brought to Texas a number of Scottish highlanders and free blacks from New York, including Emily D. West, the so-called Yellow Rose of Texas, and planned a colony of free blacks from Bermuda. As agent, Morgan also operated one of two ships belonging to the company.

   During the Texas Revolution these ships were often used by the Texas government. Morgan also supplied the civil and military branches with merchandise from his store. From March 20, 1836, to April 1, 1837, with the rank of colonel, he was commandant of Galveston Island and, as such, planned and effected the fortification of the island during the spring campaign of 1836. President Sam Houston later charged him with mismanagement in this work. After the revolution Morgan returned to the site of New Washington, which had been destroyed by the Mexicans, and erected for himself a dwelling named Orange Grove.

   For some time he continued to act as agent for the New York company and as such projected the town of Swartwout (named for Samuel Swartwout, one of the prime movers of the company) on the Trinity River. Morgan sought election to one of the congresses of the republic, but he lost because his neighbors were suspicious of his wealth. In 1843 he and William Bryan were the commissioners charged with the secret sale of the Texas Navy. During the 1850s Morgan was active in promoting the improvement of what later became the Houston Ship Channel. He owned extensive herds of cattle and reputedly imported the first Durham shorthorns into Texas. He also experimented with the cultivation of oranges, cotton, and sugarcane. At his home he entertained such notable guests as John James Audubon and Ferdinand von Roemer. Though he was completely blind during his last years, he twice saved himself from drowning when squalls overturned the boats in which he was crossing Trinity Bay. He died at his home on March 1, 1866, and was buried on his plantation. The family cemetery is now a public one, and the stones marking the graves of the Morgans have disappeared. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. Morgan's family plot was at one time marked by a large tombstone bearing the names of family members. The stone disappeared and was found by fishermen years later submerged in the bay. Stolen again after its replacement, it was never recovered.

29° 40.736, -094° 59.568

Morgan's Point Cemetery
Morgan's Point

November 14, 2017

Jerry Denny

   Jeremiah Dennis Eldridge was born in New York City on March 16, 1859, to Irish immigrants who moved the family to the Bay area of California in 1861. Shortly after the relocation, Eldridge’s parents died leaving him and his sister Mary to be raised in orphanages. He attended St Mary's College in San Francisco in the late 1870s, and played semi-professional baseball during the summer months (changing his name to Jerry Denny to hide his professional play from the college), when he wasn't playing for the college as an amateur. He started playing in the minor leagues for the San Francisco Eagles in 1878, and the Stars and Athletics teams from 1879-1880. On May 2, 1881, he went pro and began playing with the Providence Grays of the National League. In 1884, the Providence Grays won the NL pennant and played in the first-ever World Series against the New York Metropolitans. In the second game of the series, Denny hit a three-run homer, the first-ever hit in World Series play, enabling the Grays to win the game, 3-1.

   He was one of the few ambidextrous major league players in the game; although he threw primarily with his right arm, he could also toss with his left. This gave him a defensive advantage at his customary field position - in ranging to his left on a ground ball, if he saw a play at second base, instead of having to transfer the ball to his right hand while pivoting and repositioning his body (as third basemen would customarily do), Denny could dispatch the ball to second with his left hand. This skill contributed to his refusal to wear a glove in the field, long after most players considered gloves essential. He holds the distinction of being the last Major League position player (non-pitcher) to play his entire career on the diamond without wearing a fielding glove.

   When attendance dropped off in 1885, the Providence team became cash short and left the National League, Jerry Denny signed with the St. Louis Maroons, a new NL team. When the Maroons ballpark burned to the ground in 1886, the team folded. Denny then played three years for the Indianapolis Hoosiers. The Hoosiers, never ending higher than 7th place, folded in 1889. From this point, Denny bounced from team to team; playing for the New York Giants in 1890, the Cleveland Spiders in 1891, the Philadelphia Phillies in 1892 and finally the Louisville Colonels from 1893-94. Denny's last major league appearance was on July 10, 1894 for the Louisville Colonels. His career totals are 1,237 Games and 4,946 At Bats, 714 Runs, 1,286 Hits, 74 Home runs, and a Batting average of .260. He still holds the Major League record for most chances by a third baseman in a single game, handling 16 chances during an 18-inning match on August 17, 1882. He led the National League in games (85) in 1881 and strikeouts (79) in 1888.

   Following his baseball career, he travelled to Connecticut and took over a men’s furnishing store. He became quite a businessman, his gentlemen’s stores prospered, and he went into the hotel business in Derby and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Lured back into baseball, he played in the Connecticut State League from 1897-1902 and also served as manager for the Derby franchise from 1897-1901. After that he contented himself with family life, working at his hotel business and as a city inspector for Bridgeport, Connecticut. He also occasionally appeared at old-timers get-togethers. During a visit to his daughter in Houston, Texas, during the summer of 1927, he was stricken with a heart attack and died at the age of 68 on August 16, 1927.

29° 47.309, -095° 22.139

Section N
Holy Cross Cemetery

November 7, 2017

Pete McClanahan

   Robert Hugh "Pete" McClanahan was born in Coldspring, Texas on October 24, 1906. He began his baseball career in 1927, as pinch hitter for the Palestine Pals of the Lone Star League. In 1929, he was traded to the Shreveport Sports in the Texas League, then traded again in 1931 to the Fort Worth Panthers. He was given his major league shot on April 24, 1931, for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but after only seven games he was sent back down to the minors. In 1933, he played for the Henderson Oilers of the Dixie League before retiring for the sport entirely. McClanahan died at his home in Mont Belvieu on October 28, 1987 and buried in Coldspring.

30° 36.118, -095° 07.916

Oakwood Cemetery