July 29, 2011

Amos B. Edson (?-1837)

Recruited in New Orleans for the army of Texas by Captain Amasa Turner, Amos Edson arrived at Velasco, January 28, 1836, aboard the schooner Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the army February 13, 1836 for a period of two years and was assigned to Captain Turner's Company whom he was with at the Battle of San Jacinto. When Turner was promoted, the men of his company were transferred to Company A, First Regiment of Regulars Infantry, under Captain John Smith. He was stationed at Galveston later in the year, but on February 28, 1837, he was transferred to another unit, probably in Harrisburg County. He was discharged early, perhaps from illness or injury, and was living in Houston by August, 1837. He died shortly afterward, date and cause unknown, and was buried in the City Cemetery.

Note: This is a cenotaph. Nearly all of the graves in Founders Memorial Park were lost due to neglect, and although Amos Edson is known to be buried in this cemetery, the exact location is unknown.

29° 45.457
-095° 22.729

Founders Memorial Park

July 26, 2011

Margaret Virginia "Margo" Jones (1911-1955)

Margo Jones, theater director-producer and pioneer of the American resident theater movement, was born on December 12, 1911, in Livingston, Texas, the second child of Richard Harper and Martha Pearl (Collins) Jones. After graduating from Livingston High School at the age of fifteen, she entered the Girls' Industrial College of Texas in Denton (now Texas Woman's University), where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech in 1932 and a master of arts in psychology and education in 1933. Her thesis was about Henrik Ibsen. In 1933 and 1934 she worked and studied at the Southwestern School of the Theatre in Dallas with John William Rogers, Frank Harting, and Louis Veda Quince. In the summer of 1934 she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse Summer School to study with the director and founder, Gilmor Brown.

After a directing stint at the Ojai Community Theatre, in 1935 Margo Jones traveled around the world seeing theater in Japan, China, India, Africa, England, France, and New York. She returned to Texas and became assistant director of the Houston Federal Theatre Project. In 1936 she attended the Moscow Art Theatre Festival, and on the boat home she met Brooks Atkinson, an influential New York Times theater critic, who championed her work throughout her career. Margo Jones founded the Houston Community Players in 1936 and directed the theater until 1942; during this time she discovered such talent as actors Ray Walston and Larry Blyden and writers Charles William Goyen and Cy Howard. She earned national attention as a member of the National Theatre Conference and in 1939 was named by Stage magazine as one of twelve outstanding theater directors outside of New York, the only woman selected. From 1942 until 1944 Jones taught theater and directed plays at the University of Texas. In early 1942 she met playwright Tennessee Williams, and they began their personal and professional association. She directed his play You Touched Me (co-written with Donald Windham) at the Pasadena Playhouse and at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1943, thus bringing Williams to the attention of national theater critics. In 1944 she directed Williams's The Purification at the Pasadena Playhouse.

During this time she had been formulating an idea that would change the shape of theater in America. She wanted to establish a network of nonprofit professional resident theaters outside of New York-theaters presenting new plays and the classics. In early 1944 she met with John Rosenfield, Jr., Dallas theater critic and arts maven, who encouraged her to apply for a Rockefeller fellowship and establish her prototype theater in Dallas. She began her fellowship in 1944 studying theater around the country, but interrupted it to codirect Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. With the commercial success of this play Jones and Rosenfield had the impetus they needed to found the first nonprofit resident theater supported by the Dallas community and such wealthy and prominent Dallasites as board members Eugene B. McDermott (who later founded Texas Instruments) and oil geologist Everett L. DeGolyer (later the publisher of Saturday Review), as well as board members Tennessee Williams and noted theatrical designer Jo Mielziner. The theater, incorporated in 1945 as Dallas Civic Theatre, did not open until the summer of 1947. In the interim Margo Jones raised money, looked for a suitable theater space, and directed Maxine Wood's On Whitman Avenue and Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine, starring Ingrid Bergman, on Broadway.

In June 1947 the theater opened under the name Theatre '47 (the name to change with the year), and was housed in the Gulf Oil Building, a sleek stucco-and-glass-block building designed in the International style by Swiss-born architect William Lescaze, on the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas. The theater was the first professional arena theater (theater-in-the-round) in the country and was the first modern nonprofit professional resident theater. From the beginning the resident company performed new plays and classics of world theater. The inaugural season introduced the first play of William Inge, Farther Off from Heaven, later revised as The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams. Later seasons included classics by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekhov and new works by Dorothy Parker, Sean O'Casey, George Sessions Perry, and Joseph Hayes. With her personal and professional partner, Manning Gurian, Margo took new plays from her Dallas season, including Williams' Summer and Smoke, and produced them with varying degrees of success on Broadway and on tour. While running the Dallas theater, she continued to work "to create the theatre of tomorrow today" and establish resident theaters like hers around the country. She lectured widely and in 1951 published Theatre-in-the Round, which inspired other theater leaders like Zelda Fichandler and Nina Vance to follow in her path. In 1955, after it had been turned down by Broadway producers as too controversial, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play Inherit the Wind was produced by Theatre '55 in Dallas, then moved to Broadway.

During Margo Jones's management of the theater, from 1947 to 1955, 70 percent of the plays she produced were world premieres. Many actors, among them Jack Warden, Larry Hagman, Brenda Vaccaro, and Louise Latham, got their start at the Dallas theater. The theater closed in 1959. Margo Jones died in Dallas on July 24, 1955, accidentally poisoned by carbon tetrachloride that had been used to clean the carpet in her apartment. The Texas Historical Commission has declared her birthplace a state landmark. After her death Eugene and Margaret McDermott donated $200,000 for the founding of the Margo Jones Theatre at Southern Methodist University. In 1961 playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee established the Margo Jones Award, given annually to a producing manager whose policy of presenting new work continues in the tradition of Margo Jones. After twenty-five years the award was changed and now goes to a "theatre statesperson." Today, the commercial theater of Broadway depends on and showcases the work of more than 300 nonprofit resident theaters across the country, which constitute the national theater for America that Margo Jones envisioned and pioneered. Source

30° 41.686
-094° 55.930

Division 7
Forest Hill Cemetery

July 22, 2011

George Washington Petty (1812-1901)

Born April 7, 1812 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Petty emigrated to Texas in the fall of 1835 and settled at Cole's Settlement (now Independence). As the Texas Independence movement took hold in early 1836, he was sworn into the Texican militia by Captain Joseph P. Lynch on March 1 as a soldier in Captain William W. Hill's Company. He remained in the service for just three months, during which time he fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, before being discharged from the army on June 1. Petty died during services at a revival meeting at Alexander Camp Grounds at Kenny, Austin County, on July 27, 1901.

30° 09.331
-096° 24.526

Section 3
Prairie Lea Cemetery

John Wilkinson (1802-1840)

Born in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina, June 16, 1802, John Wilkinson came to Texas via Tennessee in 1835. He served in the Texian army from March 19 to June 19, 1836 as second sergeant in Captain Thomas H. McIntire's Company. He fought with that unit at the Battle of San Jacinto, and after his enlistment expired, he re-enlisted in Captain Thomas Stewart's Company of Matagorda Volunteers from June 17 to September 11, 1836. He returned to his residence in Matagorda after this, and died there four years later on December 12, 1840.

28° 42.027
-095° 57.317

Section D
Matagorda Cemetery

Andrew J. Briscoe (1810-1849)

Andrew Briscoe, merchant, patriot, judge, and railroad promoter, was born on November 25, 1810, on the plantation of his father, Parmenas Briscoe, in Claiborne County, Mississippi. He made several trips on horseback between Mississippi and Texas before settling in Texas, where he registered in 1833 as a citizen of Coahuila and Texas. With a shipment of goods he opened a store in Anahuac in 1835. Briscoe opposed the irregular collection of customs dues by Mexican authorities at Anahuac and presented resolutions of protest at a mass meeting there and later at Harrisburg. When he attempted to trade to DeWitt Clinton Harris goods with unpaid duties, both he and Harris were arrested by Mexican officials. They were released when William B. Travis and his volunteers came to drive Antonio Tenorio out of office. In July Briscoe wrote to the editor of the Brazoria Texas Republican justifying the action taken. In August he received a congratulatory letter from Travis.

Briscoe was captain of the Liberty Volunteers at the battle of Concepción and followed Benjamin R. Milam in the siege of Bexar. He was elected a delegate from his municipality with Lorenzo de Zavala and attended the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos, but evidently because of the urgency of reentering military service he did not remain until its close. At the battle of San Jacinto he was captain of Company A, Infantry Regulars. In 1836 Briscoe was appointed chief justice of Harrisburg by Sam Houston. When his term ended in 1839, he began dealing in cattle and trying to promote a railroad. In 1839 he planned a road from Harrisburg to the Brazos River. In 1840, when the project was abandoned, about two miles had been graded and laid with ties. That year, in a paper entitled "California Railroad," he gave a complete plan for building a railroad from Harrisburg to San Diego via Richmond, Prairieville, Austin, and El Paso. In 1841 he secured a charter from the Republic of Texas for the Harrisburg Railroad and Trading Company, of which he was president. In the spring of 1849 Briscoe moved his family to New Orleans, where he engaged in banking and brokerage until his death. Source

30° 15.917
-097° 43.645

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

July 19, 2011

James Pinckney Henderson (1808-1858)

James Pinckney Henderson, statesman, soldier, and first governor of the state of Texas, the son of Lawson and Elizabeth (Carruth) Henderson, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, on March 31, 1808. He attended Lincoln Academy and the University of North Carolina, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1829. After serving as aide-de-camp and major in the North Carolina militia in 1830, he was elected colonel of a regiment. He moved to Canton, Mississippi, in 1835, became interested in news of the Texas Revolution, and began enlistments for the Texas service. He arrived at Velasco, Texas, on June 3, 1836, and was commissioned by David G. Burnet as brigadier general and sent to the United States to recruit for the Texas army. Henderson organized a company in North Carolina and sent it to Texas, reputedly at his own expense. Upon his return to Texas in November 1836, he was appointed attorney general of the republic under Sam Houston and in December 1836 succeeded Stephen F. Austin as secretary of state. Early in 1837 Henderson was appointed Texas minister to England and France and was commissioned particularly to secure recognition and treaties of amity and commerce. Largely through his efforts both England and France entered into trade agreements with the republic and ultimately recognized Texas independence. While in France, Henderson met Frances Cox of Philadelphia, whom he married in London in October 1839. He returned to Texas in 1840 and set up a law office at San Augustine.

In 1844 he was sent to Washington, D.C., to work with Isaac Van Zandt in negotiating a treaty of annexation with the United States. The treaty was signed on April 12, 1844, but was rejected by the United States Senate on June 8, 1844, and Henderson, over his protest, was ordered home by President Houston. Henderson was a member of the Convention of 1845, was elected governor of Texas in November 1845, and took office in February 1846. With the declaration of the Mexican War and the organization of Texas volunteers, the governor asked permission of the legislature to take personal command of the troops in the field. He led the Second Texas Regiment at the battle of Monterrey and was appointed a commissioner to negotiate for the surrender of that city. Later he served with the temporary rank of major general of Texas volunteers in United States service from July 1846 to October 1846. After the war he resumed his duties as governor but refused to run for a second term. He returned to his private law practice in 1847. After election by the Texas legislature to the United States Senate to succeed Thomas J. Rusk, Henderson served in the Senate from November 9, 1857, until his death, on June 4, 1858. He was buried in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington. In 1930 his remains were reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin. Henderson County, established in 1846, was named in his honor. Source

30° 15.924
-097° 43.628

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

July 12, 2011

John William Smith (1792-1845)

John William Smith, christened William John Smith and also known as El Colorado, the last messenger from the Alamo and the first mayor of San Antonio, was born in Virginia on March 4, 1792, the son of John and Isabel Smith. As a youth he moved to Ralls County, Missouri, where he served as tax collector and sheriff and married Harriet Stone in 1821. They had three children. In 1826 Smith followed the empresario Green DeWitt to Texas. When his wife refused to join him, he parted from his family, after extracting a promise for a divorce. He lived in Gonzales, then in La Bahía, and by 1827 had moved to San Antonio, where he changed his name to John William Smith because it was easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce. In 1828 he became Catholic. In 1830 he married María de Jesús Delgado Curbelo, a descendant of Canary Islanders, and they had six children, whose descendants remained prominent citizens of San Antonio. Between 1827 and 1836 Smith served as military storekeeper, developed mercantile interests, and received a sizable Mexican land grant. He also worked as a civil engineer and surveyor. In December 1835 he escaped the occupying Mexican army of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos and joined Gen. Edward Burleson and the Texas army in besieging San Antonio. Smith used his familiarity with the town and his surveying skills to draw the detailed plat that made possible the successful house-to-house attack; he also acted as a guide for one of the assaulting parties.

In early 1836 he joined William B. Travis in defense of the Alamo; he was sent by Travis as the final messenger to the Convention of 1836. Subsequently Smith continued as an army scout and participated in the battle of San Jacinto. After Texas independence was gained, he and his family returned to San Antonio, where Smith became an influential citizen and held a number of offices. He was mayor of San Antonio for three one-year terms during the 1830s and 1840s. He was also alderman, Bexar County tax assessor, clerk of the Bexar County Court, clerk of the Board of Land Commissioners of Bexar County, clerk of the Bexar County Probate Court, treasurer of Bexar County, postmaster of San Antonio, Indian commissioner of the Republic of Texas, and senator from 1842 to January 12, 1845. At one time he held as many as eleven different commissions under presidents Sam Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar. The bilingual Smith also began a law practice and formed a real estate company that acted as a middleman between Spanish-speaking owners of land headrights and English-speaking land speculators. He also speculated in land. The combined tax lists of Bexar County for 1842, 1843, and 1844 indicate that he owned eleven town lots and 51,113 acres of undeveloped land, of which 4,428 acres was from his Mexican grant, 320 acres from his bounty grant, and 640 acres from his donation grant. During these years he participated in a real estate partnership with Enoch Jones, which held an additional 41,129 acres. Much of this property was sold to pay Smith's debts and support his family after his death. He died on January 12, 1845, after a brief illness, possibly pneumonia, at Washington-on-the-Brazos and was buried at the site of the current Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. His remains were later relocated to the Washington City Cemetery, where they are marked by a stone monument. Source

30° 19.565
-096° 10.167

Washington Cemetery

July 8, 2011

Fielding Grundy Secrest (?-1840)

Secrest came to Texas in 1835, some time prior to May 2. He enlisted in the Texas army as a member of Captain Henry W. Karnes' Company early in 1836, fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, then enlisted in the Washington Cavalry, commanded by his brother Washington H. Secrest, from June 25 to December 25, 1836. Early in 1838, he was issued one-third of a league of land in Brazoria County where he married Eliza H. Sneed on September 25. He moved to Harrisburg County in 1839, where he received two-thirds of a league and one labor of land for his military service. Eliza Secrest died in Houston in 1839, leaving behind her husband and an infant daughter, Elizabeth, who died two months later. Fielding himself died in Houston on June 1, 1840 of unknown causes, possibly of yellow fever.

Note: This is a cenotaph. Founders Memorial Park, originally founded in 1836 as Houston's first city cemetery, was rapidly filled due to a yellow fever epidemic and closed to further burials around 1840. The cemetery became neglected over a period of time, often vandalized and was heavily damaged by the 1900 hurricane. In 1936, despite a massive clean up effort, a century of neglect had taken its toll. The vast majority of grave markers were either destroyed or missing and poor record keeping prevented locating individual graves. Several cenotaphs were placed in random areas throughout the park in honor of the more high-profile citizens buried there, but a great number of graves go unmarked to this day.

29° 45.434
-095° 22.740

Founders Memorial Park

July 5, 2011

Louis Richard Rocco (1938-2002)

Louis Rocco, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on November 19, 1938, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the third of nine children of an Italian-American father and a Mexican-American mother. In 1948, the family moved to a housing project in the San Fernando Valley and later to a barrio called Wilmington. He joined a local gang and was frequently in trouble with the law. Rocco dropped out of high school and in 1954, when he was 16 years old, was arrested for armed robbery. He was in court for his sentencing and during a break he walked into a United States Army recruiters office. The recruiting officer, Sergeant Martinez, accompanied Rocco to the court and spoke to the judge. The judge gave him a suspended sentence and told him that he could join the Army when he was 17 if he stayed in school, obeyed a curfew and shunned his gang. He joined the Army in 1955 and, after completing his basic training, was sent to Germany. He earned his high school G.E.D. during his tour there. A few years later, Rocco was serving as a medic at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California, when he spotted his recruiter, Sgt. Martinez, lying badly wounded on a litter. Rocco ensured that the sergeant received special attention and constant care.

Rocco served two tours of duty in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. His first tour was from 1965 to 1966. In 1969, Rocco, who was by then a sergeant first class, returned for another tour of duty in Vietnam and was assigned to Advisory Team 162 of the U.S. Military Assistance Command. On May 24, 1970, Rocco volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to pick up eight critically wounded South Vietnamese soldiers near the village of Katum. The helicopter in which the team was riding in came under heavy fire as it approached the landing zone. The pilot was shot in the leg and the helicopter crashed into a field. Under intense fire, Rocco was able to carry each of the unconscious crash survivors to the perimeter of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Despite having suffered a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back, he was able to help administer first aid to his wounded comrades before collapsing and losing consciousness. Lieutenant Lee Caubareaux, the helicopter's co-pilot, later lobbied for Rocco to receive the Medal of Honor. On December 12, 1974, President Gerald Ford formally presented Rocco with the medal during a ceremony at the White House.

Rocco made a career of the Army and earned an associate degree. He retired from the military in 1978 as a Chief Warrant Officer Two. Returning to New Mexico, Rocco was named director of New Mexico's Veterans Service Commission. During his tenure, he established the Vietnam Veterans of New Mexico organization, opened a Veterans' Center which provided peer counseling to Vietnam veterans, started a shelter for the homeless and a nursing home for veterans, and persuaded New Mexico legislators and voters to waive tuition for all veterans at state colleges. He returned to active duty in 1991 during the Gulf War and was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where he recruited medical personnel. When he returned home, he met his fourth wife, Maria Chavez Schneider, an assistant director of New Mexico AIDS Services. The couple lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from 1992 until 1998, when they moved to San Antonio, Texas. On July 11, 2000, Rocco was appointed the new Deputy State Director for Texas in San Antonio. He became instrumental in promoting Veterans Against Drugs, a nationwide school program. In 2002, Rocco was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; he died at his San Antonio home on October 31 of that year. He was buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. The local government of San Antonio honored Rocco by naming a youth center the Louis Rocco Youth & Family Center. The Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) offers a scholarship named in his honor.

WO Rocco distinguished himself when he volunteered to accompany a medical evacuation team on an urgent mission to evacuate 8 critically wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, it became the target for intense enemy automatic weapons fire. Disregarding his own safety, WO Rocco identified and placed accurate suppressive fire on the enemy positions as the aircraft descended toward the landing zone. Sustaining major damage from the enemy fire, the aircraft was forced to crash land, causing WO Rocco to sustain a fractured wrist and hip and a severely bruised back. Ignoring his injuries, he extracted the survivors from the burning wreckage, sustaining burns to his own body. Despite intense enemy fire, WO Rocco carried each unconscious man across approximately 20 meters of exposed terrain to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam perimeter. On each trip, his severely burned hands and broken wrist caused excruciating pain, but the lives of the unconscious crash survivors were more important than his personal discomfort, and he continued his rescue efforts. Once inside the friendly position, WO Rocco helped administer first aid to his wounded comrades until his wounds and burns caused him to collapse and lose consciousness. His bravery under fire and intense devotion to duty were directly responsible for saving 3 of his fellow soldiers from certain death. His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty and were in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and courage of the military service.

29° 28.583
-098° 25.976

Section AI
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

July 1, 2011

Nathaniel C. Hazen (1808-1836)

Born in 1808, Nathaniel C. Hazen came to Texas in January, 1836, likely just to enlist in the Texian army. He arrived in Nacogdoches on January 14 and subscribed to the oath of allegiance, then enlisted two days later for a ten month period with eight others to Lieutenant Samuel Sprague. The nine men traveled south towards Goliad to meet up with James Fannin, who was to be their acting commander. They arrived on March 19, and within a week, they, and the rest of Fannin's command, were captured by the Mexican army and sentenced to death for treason. On March 27, Hazen and the others were led out of the presidio where they were being held and marched to a spot near the river, where the Mexicans opened fire, killing hundreds of men in what would come to be known as the Goliad Massacre. Hazen, however, along with perhaps a dozen others, ran towards the wooded area along the river and made his escape.

   He discovered that the main force of the Texian army under Sam Houston was moving east towards Louisiana, and was able to catch up with them at the Brazos River, where he told the men about the details of Goliad and was assigned to Captain William H. Patton's Company. Two weeks later, Hazen fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, fiercely determined to avenge his slaughtered comrades at Goliad. After the battle, he continued to serve the rest of his enlistment, leaving the army for good on November 10, 1836. He traveled to Columbia in Brazoria County to look for property to build a homestead, but sadly died of unknown causes on December 27. He was buried in the Old Columbia Cemetery in what is now West Columbia. His grave went unmarked until 1936, when the Texas Historical Commission placed a granite stone there.

29° 08.396
-095° 38.852

Columbia Cemetery
West Columbia