July 30, 2010

William Harris Wharton

   William Harris Wharton, orator and leader in the Texas Revolution, son of William and Judith (Harris) Wharton, was born in 1802 in Virginia. His parents died when he was a child, and he and his brother, John A. Wharton, were reared by an uncle, Jesse Wharton, in Nashville, Tennessee. William H. Wharton was graduated with the first class from the University of Nashville and was admitted to the bar in 1826. He was in Texas by December 5, 1827, when he married Sarah Ann Groce, daughter of Jared Ellison Groce. They had one child, John Austin Wharton. William Wharton returned to Nashville until April 1829, when he returned to Texas and established Eagle Island Plantation on land given to the couple by Jared Groce as an inducement to stay in Texas. Wharton early identified himself with the party of the colonists agitating for a more energetic policy toward Mexico. Sources conflict, but many believe Wharton served at the battle of Velasco and was one of those who signed the document of final surrender. He was a delegate from Victoria to the Convention of 1832, which asked for separate statehood for Texas and drew up a provisional constitution for a state government. Wharton wrote the petition to Mexico asking for statehood, a document which has become a political classic in Texas. At the Convention of 1833, he held the office of president. By 1835 Wharton and others were openly agitating for complete independence from Mexico, in opposition to the conservative policy of Stephen F. Austin. Wharton was elected a delegate to the Consultation, where the majority of the members were still in favor of a moderate policy; so the group merely stated loyalty to the Republican Constitution of 1824 as the reason for the war. Austin was elected to command the army, and Wharton was chosen judge advocate. He went with the army in the siege of Bexar, then resigned his commission a few days before he was notified of his appointment as a commissioner to the United States with Austin and Branch T. Archer to secure aid for the Texans.

   United by common bonds of patriotism and common responsibilities, Wharton and Austin forgot their enmity of the preceding years and cooperated in the cause to which they were both devoted. Upon completing their mission, Wharton and Archer urged Austin to be a candidate for president of Texas, and they supported him in the campaign in which he was defeated by Sam Houston. In November of 1836 President Houston appointed Austin Secretary of State and Wharton first minister to the United States, hoping to secure recognition by and possibly annexation to the United States. The appointment necessitated Wharton's resignation from his seat as senator in the First Congress from the Brazoria District. Recognition was won on March 3, 1837, but annexation at that time was hopeless in spite of Wharton's persuasive pleas.

   After he resigned as minister in early 1837, Wharton was captured at sea by a Mexican ship and carried to Matamoros, where he was imprisoned. He succeeded in escaping and making his way back to Texas in time to be elected to the Texas Senate in 1838. Though he resigned before the beginning of the Adjourned Session in May 1838, he was reelected the same year. In December 1838 he introduced a bill to modify the flag and the seal of the republic. Wharton was killed on March 14, 1839, when he accidentally discharged a pistol as he was dismounting at the home of his brother-in-law, Leonard W. Groce, near Hempstead. He was buried in the family cemetery at Eagle Island Plantation near Brazoria. The addresses and political documents that Wharton wrote reveal that he had rare ability as a diplomat and statesman. Wharton County was named in his honor. Source

29° 01.306, -095° 25.071

Wharton Lawn Crypt Garden
Restwood Memorial Park

July 27, 2010

Lightnin' Hopkins

   Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins, blues singer and guitarist, was born in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, probably in 1911. Though some sources give his year of birth as 1912, his Social Security application listed the year as 1911. He was the son of Abe and Frances (Sims) Hopkins. After his father died in 1915, the family (Sam, his mother and five brothers and sisters) moved to Leona. At age eight he made his first instrument, a cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. By ten he was playing music with his cousin, Texas Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, who encouraged him to continue. Hopkins also played with his brothers, blues musicians John Henry and Joel.

   By the mid-1920s Sam had started jumping trains, shooting dice, and playing the blues anywhere he could. Apparently he married Elamer Lacey sometime in the 1920s, and they had several children, but by the mid-1930s Lacey, frustrated by his wandering lifestyle, took the children and left Hopkins. He served time at the Houston County Prison Farm in the mid-1930s, and after his release he returned to the blues-club circuit. In 1946 he had his big break and first studio session - in Los Angeles for Aladdin Recordings. On the record was a piano player named Wilson (Thunder) Smith; by chance he combined well with Sam to give him his nickname, Lightnin’. The album has been described as “downbeat solo blues” characteristic of Hopkins’s style. Aladdin was so impressed with Hopkins that the company invited him back for a second session in 1947. He eventually made forty-three recordings for the label.

   Over his career Hopkins recorded for nearly twenty different labels, including Gold Star Records in Houston. On occasion he would record for one label while under contract to another. In 1950 he settled in Houston, but he continued to tour the country periodically. Though he recorded prolifically between 1946 and 1954, his records for the most part were not big outside the black community. It was not until 1959, when Hopkins began working with legendary producer Sam Charters, that his music began to reach a mainstream white audience. Hopkins switched to an acoustic guitar and became a hit in the folk-blues revival of the 1960s.

During the early 1960s he played at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and in 1964 toured with the American Folk Blues Festival. By the end of the decade he was opening for such rock bands as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. During a tour of Europe in the 1970s, he played for Queen Elizabeth II at a command performance. Hopkins also performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In 1972 he worked on the soundtrack to the film Sounder. He was also the subject of a documentary, The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins, which won the prize at the Chicago Film Festival for outstanding documentary in 1970.

   Some of his biggest hits included Short Haired Women/Big Mama Jump! (1947); Shotgun Blues, which went to Number 5 on the Billboard charts in 1950; and Penitentiary Blues (1959). His albums included The Complete Prestige /Bluesville Recordings, The Complete Aladdin Recordings, and the Gold Star Sessions (two volumes). Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums and toured around the world. But after a 1970 car crash, many of the concerts he performed were on his front porch or at a bar near his house. He had a knack for writing songs impromptu, and frequently wove legends around a core of truth. His often autobiographical songs made him a spokesman for the southern black community that had no voice in the white mainstream until blues attained a broader popularity through white singers like Elvis Presley. In 1980 Lightnin’ Hopkins was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

   Hopkins died of cancer of the esophagus on January 30, 1982, in Houston. He was survived by his caretaker, Antoinette Charles, and four children. His funeral was attended by more than 4,000, including fans and musicians. He was buried in Forest Park Cemetery in Houston. In 2002 the town of Crockett in Houston County, east of the birthplace of Hopkins, erected a memorial statue honoring the bluesman in Lightnin’ Hopkins Park. He is also honored in the Houston Institute for Culture's Texas Music Hall of Fame. In the 2010s a documentary, Where Lightnin’ Strikes, was in production. Source

29° 43.184, -095° 18.159

Section 23
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery

July 23, 2010

John McFarlan

   John McFarlan (McFarlane or McFarland), one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, with his brother Achilles McFarlan, owned a cabin at the Atascosito Crossing of the Brazos River as early as May 1823; he was thus apparently the first settler at the site of San Felipe de Austin. McFarlan was judge of the alcalde election in December 1823 and was issued a life-time license by Stephen F. Austin and the Baron de Bastrop to operate the ferry at San Felipe, with the condition that he render an account every six months. On August 10, 1824, McFarlan received title to 1¼ sitios of land that later became part of Waller County. The census of March 1826 classified him as a single man aged over fifty, a farmer and stock raiser who owned five slaves. He apparently died before December 1826, when Samuel C. Hady wrote Austin that McFarlan`s estate lacked sufficient funds to pay his debts. In March 1827 John Sibley asked Austin to settle his accounts against the John McFarlan estate. Source

Note: Unmarked. During the Texas Revolution, the town of San Felipe was largely destroyed by Mexican troops chasing after the Texan army. Nothing was spared, not even the town graveyard. The majority of those buried here prior to 1836 are no longer marked, so although John McFarland is known to be buried here, the exact location has been lost. The photo below shows the oldest section of the cemetery where it is possible he still rests.


San Felipe de Austin Cemetery
San Felipe

July 20, 2010

George Whitfield Terrell

   George Whitfield Terrell, early settler, jurist, and diplomat, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1803, the son of Col. James Terrell. As a youth he moved to Tennessee, where he was admitted to the bar in 1827 and in 1828 was appointed district attorney by Sam Houston, then governor of Tennessee. Terrell was Houston's attorney general when Houston resigned the governorship. He served in the Tennessee legislature from 1829 to 1836 and moved to Mississippi, where he met financial reverses that caused him to move to Texas in 1837. Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed him district attorney of San Augustine County in 1840; he later served as district judge. In December 1841 Terrell was made Attorney General of the Republic by Sam Houston. From 1842 to 1844 Terrell was Indian commissioner and as such negotiated the Indian treaty at Bird's Fort on September 29, 1843. He was appointed chargĂ© d'affaires to France, Great Britain, and Spain in December 1844 and continued in that capacity under President Anson Jones. Upon his return to Texas in 1845, Terrell was again made Indian commissioner. He was known as an opponent of annexation. He died on May 13, 1846. Source

Note: His stone is incorrect in stating that he came to Texas in 1840, as he actually arrived on December 20, 1839. It is also incorrect in that he served as Secretary of State in 1841. He was nominated and confirmed by the Senate for the position, but he declined it for personal reasons.

30° 16.589, -097° 43.691

Section 4
Oakwood Cemetery

July 16, 2010

Walter Gresham

   Walter Gresham, lawyer, legislator, and railroad executive, the son of Edward and Isabella (Mann) Gresham, was born near Newton, Virginia, on July 22, 1841. He was educated at the Stevensville and Edge Hill academies in Virginia. He enlisted in W. H. F. Lee's rangers, the Twenty-fourth Virginia Cavalry, at the beginning of the Civil War and afterwards served in other regiments. He took part in most of the battles fought in northern Virginia and surrendered at Appomattox. In 1863 he graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia. On December 31, 1866, he moved to Galveston, Texas, where he began the practice of law.

   In 1872 Gresham was elected district attorney for Galveston and Brazoria counties. He was a stockholder, director, and attorney for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway and served for a time as its second vice president. In the infancy of the railroad he was much in the field, selecting routes, securing rights-of-way, locating towns, and superintending other business. In 1887 and 1888 he represented Galveston at conventions in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Topeka, Kansas. At Topeka he was made chairman of a special committee to petition the United States government to finance a deepwater harbor at the best point on the Texas coast. He was instrumental in having the Fifty-first Congress amend the River and Harbor Bill to provide for contracts for work to give Galveston one of the finest harbors on the American coast. Gresham's home, known now as the Bishop's Palace for the Catholic bishops who later resided there, was designed by architect Nicholas J. Clayton. Gresham represented the Sixty-fourth District in the Texas House of Representatives from 1887 to 1891. He was elected on the Democratic ticket from the Tenth District to the Fifty-third Congress in 1892 but was unsuccessful in the race for reelection. In 1901 he served as president of the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress.

   On October 28, 1868, Gresham married Josephine C. Mann, with whom he had nine children. He died in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1920, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston. Source

29° 16.353, -094° 49.502

Section E
Lakeview Cemetery

July 13, 2010

Joan Lowery Nixon

   Joan Lowery Nixon, author, was born on February 3, 1927, in Los Angeles, California, to Margaret (Meyer) and Joseph Lowery, an accountant. At the age of two, she approached her mother and asked her to write down poems she composed. Her first piece, a poem called Springtime, was published in a children’s magazine by the time she was ten. Nixon had a happy childhood living with her parents and maternal grandparents, which meant always having someone to read to her and her sisters. Her mother, a former kindergarten teacher, had the family put on puppet shows across Los Angeles for hospitals, schools, and orphanages. At age seven, she had her first encounter with mysteries, which would later become her forte, through the I Love a Mystery radio program and was hooked. In her book The Making of a Writer (2002), Nixon credited these and other early formative experiences with her choice to become a writer. At the end of her senior year, she was paid for her first article, a testimonial written for The Ford Times.

   After graduating from Hollywood High during World War II, she attended the University of Southern California. There she was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority and graduated in 1947 with a degree in journalism, much to the chagrin of her father who saw newspaper reporters as drinkers. Unable to find a job as a journalist, however, she took a job as an elementary teacher and went to night school to earn her teaching credentials. She met her husband Hershell Nixon, a naval officer and geologist, at college, and they married in 1949. The couple had three daughters, Kathleen, Maureen, Eileen, and a son, Joseph. The family moved to Texas, first to Midland and Corpus Christi, and finally settled in Houston. Nixon began her career as an author in 1964 when, after being turned down by twelve publishers, her first novel, The Mystery of Hurricane Castle, was accepted by the final thirteenth publisher.

   Throughout her life, Nixon wrote more than 140 books, some that were published in twenty different languages. Most were her renowned suspense-filled mysteries for children and young adults, but she also wrote historical fiction, nonfiction for adults, Biblical adaptations, and coauthored children’s science books with her husband. Defining herself as half-Californian and half-Texan, many of her novels are set in Texas, including A Deadly Game of Magic (1982), The Stalker (1985), A Candidate for Murder (1990), Shadowmaker (1994), Search for the Shadowman (1996), and Laugh Till You Cry (2004). Nixon was noted for empowering girls and young women. When commenting on her knack for crafting strong heroines, she said: “My girls are all self-sufficient. They may be scared to death, but they make their own decisions and do them. Some get good grades, some don’t. But they’re still smart.” She was also instrumental in getting the Girl Scouts to adopt a writing badge, and she wrote My Baby that was aimed at teenage mothers and is provided for free at hospitals, schools, and churches through the Mental Health Association.

   Nixon’s writing earned her much praise. She was the recipient of a record four Edgar Allan Poe awards and was nominated for an additional five from the Mystery Writers of America, an organization for which she also had served as president. The awards were for The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore (1979), The Seance (1980), The Other Side of Dark (1986) and The Name of the Game Was Murder (1993). Other honors included Two Golden Spur awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters award, and numerous state-by-state awards. The Golden Spurs were for her celebrated series, Orphan Train Adventures, for which she did original research on an overlooked historical event, the transport of more than 100,000 homeless children from New York City to new homes in the West starting in 1854, turning it into a work of fiction for young readers. But despite her numerous accomplishments, Nixon was most proud of letters she got from young readers saying something to the effect of: “I hated to read. But my teacher gave me one of your mysteries, and I loved it. I'm going to read everything you've ever written.” She also said she could not ask for a better award than a letter from a girl who wrote, “Thank you for the gift of reading.” Nixon, in return, encouraged young writers by publishing a how-to book and memoir on creative writing for elementary students and hosting a website where children could send in their writing that she personally reviewed and gave positive suggestions and feedback.

   The woman often referred to as “the grande dame of mystery fiction” died at the age of seventy-six on June 28, 2003, in Houston, due to complications of pancreatic cancer. In an interview shortly before her passing, Nixon said she did not see that times had changed drastically since she was a kid. Whether trying to cope with life during war, or having a crush on a boy, she found teens’ worries were still the same. Forever young at heart, she was able to relate to this core audience, publishing at least one book a year up until her death. Nixon is buried at Memorial Oaks Cemetery in Houston. She was survived by her two sisters, children, and numerous grandchildren. Her son Joseph (Joe) Nixon has been a representative in the Texas House. Source

29° 46.992, -095° 36.802

Section 18
Memorial Oaks Cemetery

July 9, 2010

Amy Comstock White

   Amy Comstock White, early settler, was born on March 10, 1775, in Rhode Island to William and Rachel (Aldrich) Comstock, who migrated to St. Martinville in Spanish Louisiana. She was baptized a Catholic in the church at Opelousas on July 25, 1789, and married William White, older brother of James Taylor White in St. Martin's Church on January 31, 1791. She and her husband settled near his brothers on the lower Vermillion River below Abbeville, where she bore eleven children between 1792 and 1819 and became a widow on October 8, 1821. On the advice of Humphrey Jackson, her widowed brother-in-law, Amy White decided to move in 1824 to Galveston Bay, where she and her married sons could each receive a league of land. She claimed her 4,428 acres on the west side of the San Jacinto River on August 16, 1824, while her eldest son, Reuben White, located his on August 19 on the east bank, opposite his mother and below Jackson's plot. White then returned to Louisiana where she and the other heirs of her husband settled his estate on September 14, 1824. Soon thereafter the widow and her four minor children left for the San Jacinto River in company with Reuben and his wife and three children; son George; and her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and William Whitlock and their four children. Another son, Jesse, arrived in 1830. Amy White did not depend on her male relatives to take care of her business, and in June 1825 she wrote to Stephen F. Austin that surveyor Isaac Hughes had included another person's home in her league without her knowledge, and the man was not willing to sell the improvement. By May 28, 1828, Amy White had married William Swail and deeded her league to him. The couple moved to his league on the west side of the Trinity River, just above Liberty, where Swail probably died some time before 1838. At age sixty-two Amy White Swail petitioned the Liberty board of land commissioners (as Amy White) for her allotted labor of land, which was granted on January 19, 1838. The biographer of the White clan says that she died in 1853 in either Harris County or Liberty County. Source

Note: Unmarked. The modern-day White Cemetery evolved from the original White family cemetery, now located to the rear left of the grounds. Although Amy White's grave location has been lost, she is likely buried in the area shown in the photo below, as this site contains the oldest graves and the still-standing tombstone of her son William. 


1824 Lawn Crypts A-B Section
White Cemetery

July 6, 2010

Wayne Gaffney "Nubbin" McLeland

   Wayne McLeland was an American professional baseball player, a right-handed pitcher whose 11-year (1942; 1946-1955) career included ten games played in Major League Baseball for the 1951-1952 Detroit Tigers. Born in Stockport, Iowa, August 29, 1924, and nicknamed "Nubbin", he stood 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. He was a veteran of the United States Army, serving during World War II. Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals after his 1940 graduation from Stockport High School, McLeland was named the 1950 "pitcher of the year" in the Double-A Texas League, as he won 21 of 29 decisions and compiled an earned run average of 2.49 in 267 innings pitched for the unaffiliated Dallas Eagles franchise. He was acquired by the Tigers after that season and spent most of the 1951 and 1952 campaigns at the Triple-A level of minor league baseball, with three brief trials with the Tigers. In his only starting role in MLB, against the Chicago White Sox on September 9, 1951, he allowed four earned runs in 4 innings and took the loss in a 4-3 defeat. During his brief ten-game Major League tenure, McLeland allowed 24 hits, 13 runs (all earned), and ten bases on balls in 13 total innings of work; he failed to record a strikeout. He settled in Houston, Texas, after his baseball career ended and spent 35 years working for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He died on May 9, 2004 in Houston and buried in Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Note: Wayne McLeland's grave is unmarked. It is located between the graves of Herman P. Wilson and A. DeWitt Chaddick.

29° 43.118, -095° 18.208

Section 11
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery

July 2, 2010

Owen Shannon

   Owen Shannon, Texas pioneer, son of Eleanor and Thomas Shannon, Sr., was born around 1762 in Georgia. He, two of his brothers, and their father received certificates of service in the Revolutionary War and bounty grants of 287½ acres each. Owen, who was fourteen years old when he fought, received bounty land in Franklin County, Georgia. He married Margaret (Margit) Montgomery in Wilkes County, Georgia, on October 22, 1792. They had six children, most of whom settled on empresario grants in Texas. Their daughter Ellinder married Jonas Harrison, in whose honor Harrison County was named, and immigrated to Texas in January 1821. Another daughter, Ruthy, married James Miller; they were listed in the 1826 Atascosito census and received a league in Joseph Vehlein's colony. Nancy Shannon married Charles Garrett, a member of the Old Three Hundred. Another daughter, Polly, was the wife John Hauk, and did not come to Texas. A son, John, received a league in Austin's second colony. Jacob Montgomery Shannon married Catherine Yoakum and received a league in Austin's second colony that became known as Shannon Prairie). Shannon came with his family to Texas in 1821 as a member of the Old Three Hundred. He and his sons are listed on the June 9, 1826, muster roll of the Ayish Bayou District. Shannon was listed by Stephen F. Austin as seventy years of age when he and Margaret received their league of land in Montgomery County, where the Shannons operated the Montgomery Trading Post. Margaret was a member of the Montgomery family for whom Montgomery County was named, and Owen was one of forty-six veterans of the American Revolution who came to Mexican Texas. He died in 1839. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. Differing contemporary accounts have Owen Shannon as being buried either on his homestead or in the now defunct Joel Greenwood family cemetery in Plantersville. However, in both cases, his grave was never marked and the location lost.

30° 23.316, -095° 41.845

Old Methodist Churchyard