November 25, 2014

Paul Francis Buskirk (1923-2002)

Paul Buskirk, mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist, was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on April 8, 1923, the son of Lottie Mamel and John Everett Buskirk. He lived much of his life in the Houston area. Paul was a popular multi-instrumentalist who appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and at many other venues throughout the United States and around the world. He performed with a number of prominent musicians, including Chet Atkins, Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, and Rex Allen. However, he is perhaps best-known for his close personal and professional relationship with singer-songwriter Willie Nelson. Paul began playing music at the age of eleven and performed with his parent’s family band. He learned violin and applied those lessons to learning the mandolin. He became an accomplished guitarist and later worked for Gene Austin. He also mastered the banjo and dobro. However, it was his skill on the mandolin that garnered him the greatest fame.

He has been described by country music historian Bill Malone as a “superb mandolin player...who was one of the first "modern" exponents of that instrument (that is, jazz-influenced) in country music...” Fellow mandolinist Red Rictor recalled “that during an era when bluegrass king Bill Monroe totally dominated the instrument, Buskirk had a reputation for actually having figured out a different way of playing on mandolin”. He was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Folk (in Texas), which included the Callahan Brothers (Joe and Bill), and toured the Southwest. The group recorded for Decca in 1941. During World War II he served in the United States Army. Back in Texas, reportedly while operating a music store in Pasadena, Buskirk gave a young Willie Nelson guitar lessons and later gave him a job teaching music lessons. Thus began a longtime musical association between Nelson and Buskirk, who is credited as having helped give Nelson his start in the music business. Paul purchased the rights to Nelson’s gospel song Family Bible for fifty dollars. They co-wrote the song Night Life. Originally recorded in Houston with Nelson and the band Paul Buskirk and His Little Men, the song went on to be a country hit for Faron Young and was covered by numerous other artists. At a number of his state fair performances, Buskirk's opening act was a young Elvis Presley. He helped produce and he performed on Nelson’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow album in 1981. In 1992 Nelson helped produce Buskirk’s record Nacogdoches Waltz. Later in life and after retirement, he lived in Nacogdoches. He was a Mason as well as a Shriner. Buskirk died of cancer in Nacogdoches on March 16, 2002, at the age of seventy-eight. Source 

31° 33.913
-094° 28.933

Lower Melrose Cemetery

November 18, 2014

William Sparks (1761-1848)

William Sparks was born on April 3, 1761 in Rowan County, North Carolina. During the American Revolution, he served in the North Carolina Militia under Capt. John Cleveland and later under Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, fighting Cherokee Indians and Tories when he was just 17 years old. At the close of the war, he moved to Franklin County, then Jackson and later Clark County in the state of Georgia, where Sparks married Mary Polly Fielder. The two had five children, Richard, John, James, Sarah and Edith, before moving to Lawrence County, Mississippi, in 1811 and then to Holmes County, Mississippi, where they lived until March 1834. There they had three more children, Levi, Nathan and William Matthew. Sometime in 1834-36, the Sparks family migrated to the Old North Church Community in Nacogdoches County, Texas where he obtained 2,200 acres of land. William served as a deacon in the church for about four years before asking to be relieved of his duties due to the infirmities of old age. He died in 1848 and was buried in the Old North Church Cemetery.

31° 40.053
-094° 39.468

Old North Church Cemetery

November 11, 2014

Haden Edwards (1771-1849)

Haden (or Hayden) Edwards, pioneer settler and land speculator, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, on August 12, 1771, the son of John Edwards. In 1780 the family moved to Bourbon County, Kentucky (at that time part of Virginia), where John Edwards acquired 23,000 acres of land, worked for statehood, and was elected to the United States Senate. Haden was educated for the law but like his father was more interested in land speculation. In 1820 he married Susanna Beall of Maryland, and they moved to the area of Jackson, Mississippi, where he and his brother Benjamin W. Edwards acquired a plantation. He and Susanna eventually had thirteen children. In Mississippi the Edwards first heard the news of Moses Austin's plans for colonization in Texas. In 1823 Edwards traveled to Mexico City, where he joined Stephen F. Austin, Robert Leftwich, and others in a three-year attempt to persuade various Mexican governments to authorize American settlement in Texas. Because of his wealth Edwards was often called upon to finance Austin. Their efforts resulted in the colonization law of 1824 in Mexico City and of 1825 in Saltillo, which allowed empresarios to introduce settlers to Texas. Edwards suffered more than he profited from his relationship with Austin, at least in his own mind, since he believed that Austin claimed the best lands and tried to push his boundaries in every direction at the expense of other empresarios.

   Edwards received a grant in the vicinity of Nacogdoches where he could locate 800 families. Like other empresarios he agreed to honor pre-existing grants and claims made by Spanish or Mexican officials. Of all empresarios, Edwards probably had the most such claims, some over a century old. In 1825 he posted notices to inform all potential claimants that they must come forward with proof of their claims or he would consider the land his, subject to sale to new settlers. This angered the older settlers, who opposed Edwards until he was expelled two years later. He also became involved in an election dispute between the representative of the older settlers, Samuel Norris, and Chichester Chaplin, Edwards's son-in-law. As empresario, Edwards certified the election of Chaplin. Norris then protested to Governor José Antonio Saucedo in San Antonio, and Saucedo upheld Norris's claim to office. However, Chaplin continued to hold the position until Norris requested aid from the local militia. Continued complaints from the area caused Edwards to come under suspicion, and his brother Benjamin, who handled business affairs while Haden was absent from Texas in 1826, addressed such strident correspondence to government officials that it resulted in the revocation of the Edwards grant in October of that year.

   Edwards was shocked by this turn of events. He had invested more than $50,000 to secure and launch the grant, and he did not willingly surrender it. Additionally, the cancellation of his grant resulted in the forfeiture of the claims of all settlers who had moved onto his lands. Thus, when the events known as the Fredonian Rebellion, which the Edwards brothers eventually headed, began the following month, the Edwards grantees were most supportive. In November 1826 Edwards was arrested as a ruse. When no one appeared at his trial as an accuser he was freed, but Norris and militia chief José Antonio Sepúlveda were found guilty and judged deserving of the death sentence, which was commuted to banishment from office by this extralegal tribunal. News of the uprising reached the Mexican authorities, who dispatched Lt. Col. Mateo Ahumada to Nacogdoches. Learning that troops were on their way, Martin Parmer and Benjamin Edwards recruited the Ayish Bayou militia to come to town as well. They signed articles establishing the Fredonian Republic, with Haden Edwards as its leader. An alliance was also made with Cherokee Indians led by Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter, who also had grievances against the government. Before an armed clash occurred the Fredonians dispersed, in early February 1827, and Edwards fled to Louisiana for safety. He returned to Texas during the Texas Revolution and made his home in Nacogdoches until his death, on August 14, 1849. Edwards was the first worshipful master of Milam Lodge No. 2 when it was organized in 1837, a fact that indicates his status in the Anglo leadership. Until his death he was engaged in the land business. Source

31° 36.173
-094° 38.965

Oak Grove Cemetery

November 4, 2014

James Love (1795-1874)

James Love, jurist and legislator, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, on May 12, 1795, and attended the common schools in Bardstown, Kentucky. He was orphaned at an early age and moved to Clay County, Kentucky, where he was employed in the office of the clerk of the courts. At the age of seventeen he volunteered for service in the War of 1812. After his military service he returned home to study law, was admitted to the bar, and established a practice at Barbourville, Kentucky. There he married Lucy Ballinger, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Jennings Ballinger. Love served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1819 to 1831 and was speaker of the House for at least one term. He served in the Twenty-third United States Congress from March 4, 1833, to March 4, 1835. Afterward he declined nomination for another term, moved south, and lived for a time in Helena, Arkansas, then in New Orleans. He moved to Houston in 1837 and settled in Galveston in 1838. He was a bitter enemy of Sam Houston and, with Mirabeau B. Lamar and David G. Burnet, a leader of the opposition. Houston, in a speech to militia volunteers in 1842, said these leaders should be executed as traitors. In a speech to the same volunteers Love threatened to put Houston on a ship to the United States. Love was a member of the first board of directors of the Galveston City Company and was elected in 1845 to represent Galveston County at the annexation convention, which framed the Texas constitution. When the state government was formed Love was appointed judge of the first judicial district; he resigned after two years. In 1850 he was appointed clerk of the federal court in Galveston, a position he held until the onset of the Civil War. He had been among the few to argue against secession and predicted its dire consequences; however, when only thirty Galvestonians voted against secession, he entered wholeheartedly into the conflict and served two years with the Eighth Texas Cavalry (Terry's Texas Rangers). When the war ended he was elected the first judge of the Galveston and Harris County Criminal District Court but was removed, with the governor and most Texas officials, by the military commander as an "impediment to reconstruction." Love was confined to his home by ill health for the last several years of his life. He died in Galveston on June 12, 1874, and was interred at Trinity Church Cemetery. Source 

29° 17.629
-094° 48.677

Trinity Episcopal Cemetery