May 31, 2011

Seth Ingram

   Seth Ingram, surveyor, merchant, and public official, was born in Vermont on June 19, 1790. During the War of 1812 he served as a sergeant in the Eleventh Regiment, United States Infantry. On April 26, 1822, he and his brother Ira, a Nashville, Tennessee, bookstore proprietor, became co-owners of a single share of stock in the newly organized Texas Association. That same year Seth arrived in Texas with letters of introduction and recommendation as a surveyor from Joseph H. Hawkins of New Orleans. He was engaged by Stephen F. Austin as a surveyor for his colony in August 1823 and platted the town of San Felipe de Austin in late 1823 and early 1824. For such work he was paid at the rate of five dollars a mile in property or three dollars a mile in cash. Ingram took part in colony elections in August and December of 1823 and April of 1824.

   In the summer of 1824 he served as first lieutenant in the colonial militia. As one of Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, on July 29, 1824, he received title to two leagues and one labor of land that later became part of Wharton and Austin counties; six years later he obtained an additional league near Matagorda Bay in what became southwestern Matagorda County. By 1827 Seth and Ira had formed a partnership with Hosea H. League to operate a general store in San Felipe. This establishment stood near Stephen F. Austin's cabin on the banks of Bullinger's Creek a half mile west of the Brazos River.

   Late in the summer of 1830 Ira Ingram quarreled with John G. Holtham, a lawyer of unsavory reputation, over Holtham's drunken intrusion into Ingram's yard. Holtham demanded an apology for being expelled from the premises. When Ira ignored him, he circulated handbills defaming Ira as a "coward, a rogue, and a man without honor." On September 2, 1830, Seth Ingram confronted Holtham as he was posting one such notice in the streets of San Felipe and ordered him to remove it. When Holtham refused, pistols were drawn, and Ingram killed Holtham. Ingram was arrested along with Hosea League, who had been a bystander during the incident, and both were confined almost incommunicado for sixteen months, much of the time in heavy irons. As the municipality had no jail, the two were chained to the walls of the half-completed meetinghouse of the San Felipe ayuntamiento. With the colony's inherently cumbersome legal machinery moving at a suspiciously lethargic pace, frustrating the adjudication of their case indefinitely, the pair were finally released on bond in January 1832 but were arrested again a short time later after a murder in the colony.

   Although in the estimation of Stephen F. Austin, Ingram was as fine a citizen as could be found in the colony, League was reportedly a very unpopular man with few friends and many influential enemies. In the fall of 1831, however, more than 700 signatures were obtained on a petition for the prisoners' release. During his confinement Ingram wrote to Austin requesting additional grants of land to alleviate his financial distress, pointing out that his work as a surveyor had profited the colony, while he himself had been forced into poverty through long imprisonment. At last, sometime in late 1832, the pair were tried, acquitted, and released. In December of that year Austin directed Ingram to survey a league on Karankawa Bay for Sam Houston.

   By 1834 the Ingram brothers had moved to Matagorda, where both were members of the Committee of Safety and Vigilance in September 1835. Seth served as one of the executors of his brother's estate in October 1837. As a justice of the peace he appears to have officiated at his own marriage to Susanna Rice on December 5, 1837. He was one of the trustees of Matagorda University upon its incorporation in February 1845. According to Matagorda County marriage records, Ingram took Sarah M. Davis as his second wife on February 9, 1846, and less than four years later, on December 24, 1849, he wed Mary E. Carter. The census of 1850 described Ingram as a notary public owning $2,000 in real property, while his wife Mary held an estate worth $10,000. Ingram died on May 12, 1857, and was buried at Matagorda. Source

28° 42.029, -095° 57.282

Section E
Matagorda Cemetery

May 24, 2011

DeWitt Clinton Giddings

   Dewitt Clinton Giddings, Democratic politician and early Texas businessman, the youngest of eight children of James and Lucy (Demming) Giddings, was born on July 18, 1827, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. His father, a farmer, had been a sea captain. Giddings financed his education as a civil engineer in New York by teaching school part-time. In 1847 he was employed as a railroad engineer, and in 1850 he began legal studies in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. In 1852 he joined his brother Jabez D. Giddings in Brenham, Texas. In 1853 Dewitt Giddings was admitted to the Texas bar, received license to practice before the state district and supreme courts, and became his brother's junior partner in Brenham.

   Giddings specialized in civil and probate cases and developed a lucrative legal practice and statewide reputation in state and federal courts before the Civil War. In 1859 he was construction superintendent of the Washington County Railroad. The Giddings brothers arranged a county school-fund loan and contributed financially to make possible completion of the railroad in 1860. In 1862, despite Unionist sentiment, D. C. Giddings enlisted as a private in the Confederate Twenty-first Texas Cavalry (First Texas Lancers). He was elected captain and then lieutenant colonel. In absence of Col. William Carter, Giddings was actual commander of this regiment during the war. He was briefly captured and exchanged in 1862. He participated in Arkansas and Louisiana campaigns and John S. Marmaduke's Missouri raid.

   In 1867 Giddings aided yellow fever victims in Brenham; the same year, he was elected foreman of Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, which, despite its name, was organized to resist the actions of Union troops. Giddings was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1866. He served on the Resolutions Committee of the conservative state convention in 1868. As a Democrat, he won the 1871 special election for United States congressman from the Third Texas District, in part because of his efforts to gain broad ethnic support. After Republican governor Edmund J. Davis certified the reelection of his opponent, William T. Clark, Giddings won his appeal to the United States House of Representatives, which unanimously seated him in 1872 . He was the first Southern Democrat to enter Congress during Reconstruction. He was reelected to the Forty-third Congress and as an advocate of silver defeated independent candidate George Washington Jones to serve in the Forty-fifth Congress (1877-79).

   After the Civil War Giddings and his brother J. D. became land agents and owners of holdings throughout Texas. They founded the Giddings and Giddings bank at Brenham in 1866. Dewitt Giddings earned a large commission during Governor Richard Coke's term when he successively recovered $339,000 in proceeds from state-owned bonds sold in Europe during the war. After his brother's death, Giddings managed bank operations and in 1884 became sole owner of the Giddings bank. By 1874 he was a large stockholder in Texas Mutual Life Insurance of Galveston. He chartered the short-lived Brazos Valley, Brenham and Gulf Railway Company in 1888 to promote lower railroad rates. His activities focused on banking after 1875.

   Giddings was a Texas presidential elector at large in 1876, a member of the Platforms and Resolutions Committee at Texas Democratic conventions in 1884, 1888, 1892, and 1894, and a Texas delegate to the national Democratic convention in 1884, 1888, and 1892. In 1886 he ran unsuccessfully against Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Giddings campaigned against a proposed state prohibition amendment and was chairman of the Anti-Prohibition State Convention in May 1887. As an opponent of Governor James S. Hogg's reelection, Giddings was chairman of the June 1892 state Democratic platform committee, coauthor of the committee's minority report opposing free silver at the Car-Stable Convention (August 1892), and member of the Turner Hall Convention platform committee. In August 1894 he supported the national Democratic party platform as chairman of the state Democratic platform committee. He was a delegate of the Texas Gold Democratic Conference to the Memphis Convention (1895) and delegate at large of Texas Gold Democrats to the Indianapolis Convention. He also served on the state Deep Water Convention Resolutions Committee to promote federal appropriations for a Gulf of Mexico port in 1888.

   In the 1880s he supported Populists within Washington County to destroy Republican domination of county politics. Giddings was the leading proponent of the establishment in Brenham of the state's first public schools. In 1860 he married Malinda C. Lusk, the daughter of Samuel C. Lusk. They had five children. Mrs. Giddings died in 1869. Giddings died of heart disease in Brenham on August 19, 1903, and was buried in Prairie Lea cemetery. Source 

30° 09.329, -096° 24.559

Section 3
Prairie Lea Cemetery

May 10, 2011

Jose Mendoza Lopez

   Jose Mendoza Lopez, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on July 10, 1910, the son of Cayetano and Candida Mendoza de Lopez. Although military records list his birthplace as Mission, Texas, he was born in Santiago Atitlán, Mexico. In 1935 he purchased a false birth certificate in order to join the United States Merchant Marines. His early years were difficult. Lopez never knew his father and had been told by his mother that he had drowned. After his mother’s death from tuberculosis when he was eight and with no way to support himself, the boy headed to the Rio Grande Valley. As a youngster, Lopez attended little school and worked in the cotton fields around Brownsville to support himself while living with an uncle or other friends.

   In his teens, Lopez hitched a ride on a freight train and ended up in Atlanta, Georgia. A local boxing promoter, impressed with Lopez’s athleticism, arranged some amateur fights for the youngster. Needing shoes, Lopez turned professional. From 1927 to 1934 Lopez, billed as “Kid Mendoza,” compiled a record of fifty-two wins and three losses in the lightweight division. Years later, he stated that the highlight of his boxing career was when he shook hands with Babe Ruth in Atlanta before a bout.

   From 1935 through 1941 Lopez found employment in the Merchant Marine working on ships and traveling the world. After a period of employment in Hawaii, he was on a ship headed to the United States when he heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After his arrival in California, authorities wanted to arrest him until he convinced them he was Mexican not Japanese. In 1942 Lopez returned to Brownsville and married his girlfriend, Emilia Herrera; she was his wife of sixty-two years until her death in 2004. Together they had four daughters and a stepson from his wife’s previous marriage. With his wife’s support, he enlisted in the United States Army and spent a brief time at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio before going to Camp Roberts (California) for basic training. Assigned to Company K of the Twenty-third Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division, Lopez’s unit trained in Northern Ireland where it prepared for the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe: D-Day.

   Described as short and stocky, the five-foot-five, 130-pound Lopez excelled in combat. Assigned to a weapons platoon, he set foot in Normandy on June 7, 1944. Although wounded on D-Day plus 1, Lopez refused treatment and evacuation and was determined to remain with his unit. He participated in the hedgerow action near Saint-Lô, the fight to take Brest, and was involved in steady combat in France and Belgium for the rest of 1944. For his efforts, Lopez was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

   On December 17, 1944, Sergeant Lopez witnessed the Germans launch their offensive in the Ardennes against Allied forces in the Battle of the Bulge. Situated with Company K near Krinkelt, Belgium, Lopez took action on his own. Holding a heavy machine gun, Lopez found cover in a shallow hole and positioned himself. Taking aim at the soldiers surrounding a German Tiger tank, he immediately fired and killed ten of the enemy. Despite enemy fire from the tank, Lopez held firm and killed twenty-five additional Germans who were attempting to outflank him. He avoided blasts from the tank until one landed close enough for the concussion to lift him off the ground and throw him backward. Lopez recovered quickly, avoided being outflanked by the Germans again, reset his weapon, and fired to protect Company K. Then, using the dense forest for cover and constantly on the move, Lopez continued to fire and kill Germans. Eventually he met up with a few of his fellow soldiers to establish another defense point, where he continued fire until his ammunition was exhausted. In an operation that lasted from 11:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Lopez killed more than 100 enemy soldiers - more than any other American serviceman during World War II. His efforts stabilized the flank and provided time for his company to regroup which eventually caused the Germans to bypass Krinkelt.

   In a ceremony in Nuremberg, Maj, Gen. James A. Van Fleet presented Jose Mendoza Lopez the Medal of Honor on June 18, 1945, for his “gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive.”

   With the end of the war in Europe, Lopez returned to Texas and worked for the Veterans Administration in San Antonio. Shortly after the war, upon a visit to Mexico City, he was honored with la Condecoracion de Merito Militar, Mexico’s highest award for military valor, by Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho. Lopez also took great pride when Mexican President Miguel Alemán Valdés invited him to Mexico City and honored him with the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 1948. In 1949 he reenlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the Second Infantry Division. At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Sergeant Lopez returned to combat until a ranking officer, learning he was a Medal of Honor recipient, ordered him to the rear. For several months, he retrieved bodies and registered them for burial until being reassigned to Japan. Lopez remained in the military serving as a recruiter and working in a motor pool where he was responsible for its maintenance operations and crew. In 1973 he retired with the rank of master sergeant.

   In retirement, Lopez remained active and spent time with his wife, children, and grandchildren in San Antonio. The Mexican-born Lopez also took the opportunity to talk with young people about his love for America. He found civilian employment, sometimes holding two jobs at a time. To stay in shape, Lopez jogged until he was eighty-eight and met with a physical trainer three times a week until early 2005. In January 2004 Lopez attended the inauguration of President George W. Bush; having attended earlier ones for: John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. In his final years, Lopez was hindered by frail health and used a walker. Before his wife’s death in 2004, he devoted much effort to taking care of her. On May 16, 2005, he died of cancer at the home of his daughter, Maggie Wickwire, in San Antonio. At the time he had been the oldest surviving Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient in the United States. Lopez, a Catholic, was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. Jose M. Lopez Middle School in San Antonio and Jose M. Lopez Park in Mission were named in his honor. A statue of Lopez also commemorates the veteran in Veterans Park in Brownsville. Source 

On his own initiative, he carried his heavy machine gun from Company K's right flank to its left, in order to protect that flank which was in danger of being overrun by advancing enemy infantry supported by tanks. Occupying a shallow hole offering no protection above his waist, he cut down a group of 10 Germans. Ignoring enemy fire from an advancing tank, he held his position and cut down 25 more enemy infantry attempting to turn his flank. Glancing to his right, he saw a large number of infantry swarming in from the front. Although dazed and shaken from enemy artillery fire which had crashed into the ground only a few yards away, he realized that his position soon would be outflanked. Again, alone, he carried his machine gun to a position to the right rear of the sector; enemy tanks and infantry were forcing a withdrawal. Blown over backward by the concussion of enemy fire, he immediately reset his gun and continued his fire. Single-handed he held off the German horde until he was satisfied his company had effected its retirement. Again he loaded his gun on his back and in a hail of small arms fire he ran to a point where a few of his comrades were attempting to set up another defense against the onrushing enemy. He fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted. Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group to Krinkelt. Sgt. Lopez's gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive.

29° 28.579, -098° 25.976

Section AI
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

May 3, 2011

Lorenzo de Zavala

   Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz, first vice president of the Republic of Texas, the fifth of nine children of Anastasio de Zavala y Velázquez and María Bárbara Sáenz y Castro, was born in the village of Tecoh near Mérida, Yucatán, on October 3, 1788. After graduating from the Tridentine Seminary of San Ildefonso in Mérida in 1807, he founded and edited several newspapers in which he expressed those democratic ideas that were to be the hallmark of his political career, ideas which he continued to advocate while serving as secretary of the city council of Mérida from 1812 until 1814. His support of democratic reforms led to his imprisonment in 1814 in the fortress of San Juan de Ulloa in the harbor of Veracruz, where he gained enough knowledge from reading medical textbooks to qualify him to practice medicine upon his release from prison in 1817. He also taught himself to read English during his imprisonment.

   After serving as secretary of the provincial assembly of Yucatán in 1820, Zavala went to Madrid in 1821 as a deputy to the Spanish Cortes. Upon his return to Mexico, he joined the leaders of the new nation in establishing a republican government. From 1822 until his death, he was one of the nation's most active political leaders, representing Yucatán as a deputy in the First and Second Mexican Constituent congresses of 1822 and 1824 and in the Mexican Senate from 1824 to 1826. In the following two years, marked by the internecine struggle between the Federalists and Centralists for control over both national and state governments, Zavala served intermittently as governor of the state of Mexico. When Vicente Ramón Guerrero became president, Zavala was appointed secretary of the treasury and served from April to October 1829. When the Centralist party, led by Vice President Anastacio Bustamante, ousted Guerrero late in the year, Zavala, a strong Federalist, was forced to abandon politics and, after a period of house arrest, to go into exile in June 1830.

   Upon his arrival in New York, Zavala sought to interest eastern capitalists in the empresario grants he had received on March 12, 1829, which authorized him to settle 500 families in a huge tract of land in what is now southeastern Texas. In New York City, in October 1830, he transferred his interest in the grants to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company. After spending several months during 1831 in France and England, Zavala resided in New York City until his return to Mexico in the summer of 1832. From December 1832 until October 1833 he again served as governor of the state of Mexico, before returning to the Congress as a deputy for his native state of Yucatán. Named by President Antonio López de Santa Anna in October 1833 to serve as the first minister plenipotentiary of the Mexican legation in Paris, he reported to that post in the spring of 1834. When he learned that Santa Anna had assumed dictatorial powers in April of that year, Zavala denounced his former ally and resigned from his diplomatic assignment. Disregarding Santa Anna's orders to return to Mexico City, he traveled to New York and then to Texas, where he arrived in July 1835. From the day of his arrival, he was drawn into the political cauldron of Texas politics. Although he first advocated the cause of Mexican Federalism, within a few weeks he became an active supporter of the independence movement; he served in the Permanent Council and later as the representative of Harrisburg in the Consultation and the Convention of 1836.

   Zavala's legislative, executive, ministerial, and diplomatic experience, together with his education and linguistic ability, uniquely qualified him for the role he was to play in the drafting of the constitution of the Republic of Texas. His advice and counsel earned him the respect of his fellow delegates, who elected him ad interim vice president of the new republic. In the weeks after adjournment of the convention, Zavala rejoined his family at their home at Zavala Point on Buffalo Bayou, from where they fled to Galveston Island as Santa Anna's army pursued Zavala and other cabinet members across Texas. In accordance with the provisions of the Treaties of Velasco, Zavala was appointed, on May 27, 1836, one of the peace commissioners to accompany Santa Anna to Mexico City, where the general was to attempt to persuade the Mexican authorities to recognize the independence of Texas. The frustration of this plan by certain Texas military units brought an end to the peace commission. Shortly thereafter, Zavala returned to his home in poor health and relinquished his part in the affairs of state. He resigned the vice presidency on October 17, 1836. Less than a month later, soaked and half-frozen by a norther after his rowboat overturned in Buffalo Bayou, he developed pneumonia, to which he succumbed on November 15, 1836. He was buried at his home in a small cemetery plot marked by the state of Texas in 1931. The plot has since sunk into Buffalo Bayou.

   In the twenty-five years after 1807 when Zavala became politically active, he demonstrated his skills as a writer in uncounted articles and editorials in newspapers in Mérida and Mexico City, and in a large number of pamphlets and memorials. He is best known as an author for his two-volume history of Mexico, which first appeared under the title Ensayo histórico de las revoluciones de México desde 1808 hasta 1830 (Paris and New York, 1831 and 1832), and for his Viage á los Estados-Unidos del Norte de América (Paris, 1834), in which he described economic, political, and social phenomena he observed during his visit to the United States in 1830-31.

   Zavala's first wife was Teresa Correa y Correa, whom he married in Yucatán in 1807. They had three children, including Lorenzo, Jr., who served his father in Paris as secretary of legation and, after the battle of San Jacinto, served as translator for Sam Houston in his negotiations with Santa Anna. Zavala's wife died in the spring of 1831, and he married Emily West, a native of Rensselaer, New York, in New York City on November 12, 1831. To this union were born three children; Augustine, the eldest, was the father of Adina Emilia de Zavala, who long will be remembered for her spirited role in the fight to preserve the Alamo. Zavala's memory is preserved in Texas in a number of place names, notably Zavala County, a village in Jasper County, and a rural settlement in Angelina County, and in numerous street and school names. Source 

Note: This is a cenotaph. The Zavala family cemetery, where Lorenzo was laid to rest, was originally located on a curve of Buffalo Bayou, directly across from the San Jacinto battlefield. In the early 1900s, it was discovered that due to natural erosion the graves were slowly sliding into the water. The Zavala family decided against exhuming and relocating the bodies for religious reasons, so as a compromise the remaining headstones were transferred to the battlefield. No bodies were recovered.

29° 45.210, -095° 05.388

Zavala Plaza
San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
La Porte