January 29, 2016

Erastus "Deaf" Smith (1787-1837)

Deaf Smith was born in Duchess County, New York, on April 19, 1787, the son of Chilaib and Mary Smith. At the age of eleven or twelve he moved with his parents to Natchez, Mississippi Territory. A childhood disease caused him to lose his hearing. Smith first visited Texas in 1817 but did not remain long. He returned in 1821 and settled near San Antonio, where he married a Mexican widow, Guadalupe Ruiz Durán, in 1822. The couple had four children, three of whom, all daughters, survived to adulthood. In the fall of 1825 Smith and five other men settled on the claim of James Kerr, the surveyor for the new colony of Green DeWitt, about one mile west of the site of present Gonzales. This tiny community was the first in DeWitt's colony and one of the first American settlements west of the Colorado River. Although his loyalties were apparently divided at the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, when a Mexican sentry refused to allow him to enter San Antonio to visit his family, Smith joined Stephen F. Austin's army, which was then besieging the town. On October 15 Charles Bellinger Stewart wrote to Austin that Smith had learned that the troops of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos were "disaffected to the cause which they are serving". Stewart assured Austin that he knew Smith well and found him to be "perfectly disinterested" and trustworthy "to any extent his abilities and infirmity may warrant." After reporting to Richard R. Royall, president of the council at San Felipe, who found him to be "very importantly useful," Smith returned to Austin's army and took part in the battle of Concepción on October 28, 1835. He was responsible for the discovery of the Mexican supply train involved in the Grass Fight. During the siege of Bexar Smith guided Col. Francis Johnson's men into the town. On December 8 he was wounded on top of the Veramendi Palace at almost the same moment that Benjamin R. Milam was killed at its door. Smith, whom Governor Henry Smith called "well known to the army for his vigilance and meritorious acts," remained with the army despite his severe wounds, "as his services as a spy cannot well be dispensed with."

After regaining his health, Smith served as a messenger for William B. Travis, who considered him "`the Bravest of the Brave' in the cause of Texas." Smith carried Travis's letter from the Alamo on February 15, 1836. On March 13 Gen. Sam Houston dispatched Smith and Henry Karnes back to San Antonio to learn the status of the Alamo garrison. "If living," Houston reported to Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Smith would return with "the truth and all important news." Smith returned with Susanna W. and Angelina E. Dickinson. Houston first assigned Smith to the cavalry but later placed him in charge of recruits with the rank of captain. During the San Jacinto campaign he captured a Mexican courier bearing important dispatches to Antonio López de Santa Anna, and on April 21, 1836, Smith and Houston requisitioned "one or more axes," with which Houston ordered Smith to destroy Vince's Bridge, reportedly to prevent the retreat of the Mexican army. Smith accomplished the mission and reported to Houston before the battle of San Jacinto. It was to Smith that Houston entrusted Santa Anna's order to Gen. Vicente Filisola to evacuate Texas. After San Jacinto, General Rusk continued to send Smith out as a scout, and after having been absent from the army for the first two weeks of July he was incorrectly reported as captured by the Mexicans. During this period his family, rendered destitute by the war, was living in Columbia, where it apparently had some dealings with Santa Anna, who was then being held at the nearby port of Velasco. On November 11, 1836, the Texas Congress granted Smith the property of Ramón Músquiz on the northeast corner of San Antonio's Military Plaza as a reward for his military activities. Nevertheless, Smith and his family remained in Columbia. He resigned his commission in the army but raised and commanded a company of Texas Rangers that on February 17, 1837, defeated a band of Mexicans at Laredo. Soon thereafter he resigned from ranger service and moved to Richmond, where he died at the home of Randal Jones on November 30, 1837. On hearing of his death, Sam Houston wrote to Anna Raguet, "My Friend Deaf Smith, and my stay in darkest hour, Is no more!!! A man, more brave, and honest never, lived. His soul is with God, but his fame and his family, must command the care of His Country!" A monument in Smith's honor, paid for by the Forty-first Legislature, was unveiled at his grave in Richmond on January 25, 1931. Smith was the father-in-law of Hendrick Arnold, a free black who served in his spy company. Deaf Smith County is named in his honor. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. The small Episcopal cemetery that Erastus Smith was buried in was originally located on this site, but in the late 1800s it was razed in order to develop the property for housing. His specific grave location has thus been lost, but is known to be somewhere in the immediate area.

29° 34.810
-095° 45.738

Long-Smith Cottage grounds

January 26, 2016

John Joseph Linn (1798-1885)

John J. Linn, merchant, statesman, soldier, and historian, was born on June 19, 1798, in County Antrim, Ireland. His father, John Linn, a college professor, was branded a traitor by British authorities for his participation in the Irish rebellion of 1798 but escaped to New York, where he resumed his teaching. Most sources indicate that he brought his family to Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1800 and apprenticed his oldest son in 1816 to a merchant in New York City, where the young man eventually became a bookkeeper. John J. Linn established his own merchant business in New Orleans in 1822 and became interested in Texas during business trips to Mexico. He was attracted to De León's colony and settled in Guadalupe Victoria in 1829. Although he received land grants in both the De León and James Power settlements, Linn maintained his residence and business in Victoria. He also established a wharf and warehouse at Linnville on Lavaca Bay about 1831 as a port of entry for merchandise shipped from New Orleans. Linn was fluent in Spanish and became a liaison between Mexican and Irish colonists; he was called Juan Linn by the Mexicans, among whom he was popular. Linn was intensely loyal to Texas and the De León colony and was among the first to oppose Antonio López de Santa Anna. He helped unite sentiment against the dictator by writing letters to Stephen F. Austin's colonists. With Plácido Benavides he served in Victoria's Committee of Safety and Correspondence and upon advice from friends in Mexico warned that Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos would land at Copano as early as July 1835. Benavides, captain of the Victoria militia, and Linn, who had been a captain in the New Orleans militia, helped train the Texan forces amassing at Gonzales after the skirmish there of October 2, 1835. Upon Cos's landing at Copano, Linn and others proposed intercepting the Mexican general on his way to Goliad and San Antonio. Finding small support at Gonzales, however, Linn and Benavides joined a contingent of about fifty men under Benjamin Fort Smith and William H. Jack, who set out to liberate Goliad from Cos's occupation; another Texan force under George M. Collinsworth gained this victory, however, on October 10. On October 8, 1835, Linn became quartermaster of the Texas army, and with James Kerr joined the Goliad garrison, bringing carts, oxen, supplies, and munitions. Linn and Kerr, together with Thomas G. Western, successfully negotiated a treaty of neutrality with local Karankawa Indians on October 29. Two days later Linn served as adviser in Ira Westover's victorious campaign against Fort Lipantitlán on the Nueces River north of San Patricio, a campaign that removed the only remaining link in the Mexican line between Matamoros and San Antonio.

Linn then traveled to San Felipe to represent Victoria in the Consultation of 1835, already in session, which protested Santa Anna's measures and supported the Mexican Constitution of 1824. He also served in the General Council, the provisional government of Texas as a separate Mexican state. In 1836 Linn was elected alcalde of Guadalupe Victoria and in that capacity entertained the Red Rovers and New Orleans Greys on their way to join James W. Fannin's command at Goliad. Linn's wife used their home as a meeting place for the women of Victoria, who molded bullets there for the cause. With José M. J. Carbajal, Linn was elected to the Convention of 1836, which declared the independence of Texas from Mexico. The two men did not reach Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign the document, however, because the approach of the Mexican army to Victoria necessitated their return. As army quartermaster, Linn supplied Fannin with twenty yokes of oxen to hasten the commander's retreat from Goliad, but in so doing deprived his family and fellow Victorians of a means of escape. Nevertheless, as alcalde he directed his citizens to retreat to Cox's Point, east of Lavaca Bay, and secured his family in the protection of Fernando De León. During the ensuing occupation of Victoria by José de Urrea's forces, Linn's house was plundered. Eventually Linn joined Sam Houston near Groce's Retreat. Because Linn's merchant ship had not been captured, Houston sent him to supervise the evacuation of Harrisburg. Under orders from Houston and ad interim president David G. Burnet, Linn then sailed to Galveston Island at his own expense to pick up $3,600 worth of supplies; then, with about fifty men and two cannons, the quartermaster sought Houston and the Texas army. He found them celebrating victory at San Jacinto, where his supplies were the first to reach the Texans after the battle. At the request of President Burnet, Linn interviewed the captured Santa Anna, who knew the alcalde from Victoria. Linn also supplied the first reports of the San Jacinto victory, which were published in the New Orleans Bee and Bulletin. As part of the surrender settlement he provisioned the retreating Mexican army to prevent plundering. Ironically, Linn was arrested as a spy in June 1836 in Harrisburg and upon returning to Victoria was arrested with some members of the De León family as a potential enemy of the Republic of Texas because of supposed sympathies with Mexico. He was soon released.

During the Republic of Texas era, Linn, the last alcalde of Victoria, was elected the town's first mayor, on April 16, 1839. He served in the House of the Second and Third congresses of the Republic of Texas, 1837-39, where he ardently supported the policies of President Houston. After 1836 the port of entry he established at Linnville attracted settlers and promised growth, but it was sacked and burned in the Comanche raid of August 1840 and never rebuilt. In 1842 Linn joined a reconnaissance force to discover the location of the invaders led by Rafael Vásquez and supplied the Texas army with beef. By 1850, at age fifty-two, Linn had $20,000 in property, and the 1860 census listed him as owning seven slaves. He served Victoria again as mayor in 1865 and was a leader in the establishment in 1850 of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railway. He was also a charter member of the Powderhorn, Victoria and Gonzales Railroad Company, which planned a road to bypass Port Lavaca and connect Indianola with Victoria and Gonzales, but was never built. In 1883 he published his memoirs, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, significant for its account of the revolutionary period. Although these memoirs are Linn's own retrospection, the book was actually ghostwritten by his close friend, the historian Victor Marion Rose. On October 27, 1885, Linn died in the home he had built fifty-six years earlier as a De León colonist. Among his brothers were Edward, a civil engineer, county surveyor, and Spanish translator in the General Land Office; Henry, a lawyer in New Orleans; and Charles, a doctor who died administering aid in Candela, Coahuila, during a cholera epidemic in 1833. John J. Linn married Margaret C. Daniels of New Orleans in 1833, and among their fourteen children were Charles Carroll, an inspector of hides and animals and a captain in the Fourth Texas Mounted Volunteers; John, Jr., who fought for the Confederacy and died at Brownsville; William F., a druggist and the editor and publisher of the Wharton Spectator; and Edward Daniel, a four-term congressman and three-term senator in the Texas state legislature, editor and publisher of the Victoria Advocate in the 1870s and 1880s, author of his father's lengthy Advocate obituary of October 31, 1885, and a director of the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway Company; in the Advocate building. Edward Linn also maintained a small collection of animal fossils now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Source

28° 48.660
-097° 00.558

Evergreen Cemetery

January 22, 2016

William Vannoy Criswell (1815-1858)

William Vannoy (Vanoy) Criswell, Republic of Texas Veteran, was born on April 16, 1815, in Knox County, Kentucky to John Yancy Criswell, Sr. and Mary Eleanor Vannoy. At the age of 14 he moved to Texas and settled in or around Bastrop in February 1830. During Texas' fight for independence, Criswell joined Jesse Billingsley's Mina Volunteers, which became Company C of the 1st Regiment of the Texas Volunteers, which in turn fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Because of his service to Texas, Criswell received one-third of a league of land by the Fayette County Board on January 5, 1838. On February 7, 1840, he received 640 acres of land for taking part in the Battle of San Jacinto. He later received another 3,250 acres of land for serving in the army from September 28 to December 13, 1835, and another 320 acres for his service from March 27 to June 27, 1836. On February 3, 1842, Criswell married Mary "Polly" E. Michin (McMicken) in La Grange. Together, they had six children: Bettie, Sallie E., Mollie, John H., James Yancy, and Lillie. Criswell, a member of the Lyons Masonic Lodge # 195, died on January 19, 1858, and was buried on the Kubena farm one mile south of Praha, Texas. During Texas' centennial celebration, Criswell's body was moved to the Texas State Cemetery. Source

30° 15.919
-097° 43.649

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

January 19, 2016

George Frank Robie (1844-1891)

A native of Candia, New Hampshire, George Frank Robie was a sergeant in Company D, 7th New Hampshire Infantry, during the Civil War. As part of the Union army, he was commended for his performance during a reconnaissance mission (September, 1864) near Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, for which he was later awarded the Medal of Honor (June 12, 1883). Unfortunately, during his time in Virginia, he contracted “rheumatism” -  probably polymyalgia rheumatica, a particularly virulent form of arthritis, which could have resulted from sleeping on cold, wet ground, and he was mustered out of the army with the rank of first lieutenant. In 1869, Robie went to Galveston where he worked as a bookkeeper in a railroad office, but eventually his condition forced him to stop working entirely. He managed to visit friends and relatives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1883, but his return trip to Galveston exhausted him completely and he never left the city again. He died June 5, 1891 (some records say June 10) as a result of his illness.

Note: His original stone lies only inches behind a prominent headstone and is easily overlooked; in fact, it was considered lost after the hurricane of 1900. A Civil War scholar rediscovered it while researching Union soldiers in the Houston-Galveston area and a new, more prominent military marker for Robie (shown below) was dedicated on November 11, 1997.

Gallantry on the skirmish line.

29° 17.588
-094° 48.822

New City Cemetery

January 15, 2016

Jacob Littleton Standifer (1818-1902)

A native of Illinois, Jacob Standifer came to Texas in 1829 with his family. In 1836, at seventeen years old, he and his brother William enlisted in the Texas militia as a member of Captain Jesse Billingsley's Company. He fought with them at San Jacinto and was discharged June 1, 1836. Jacob was married twice, first to Martha Eggleston, who gave him four children, then after her passing, to Martha Childs. He died on January 7, 1902 while living in Elgin and buried in the city cemetery.

30° 20.885
-097° 22.678

Elgin City Cemetery

January 12, 2016

Benjamin Briggs Goodrich (1799-1860)

Ben Goodrich, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, son of John Goodrich, was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, on February 24, 1799. After the family moved from Virginia to Tennessee, Goodrich went to Maryland, where he graduated from a medical college in Baltimore and began to practice medicine. He later practiced in Vicksburg, Mississippi; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; and again in Alabama, where he served one term in the state legislature. Goodrich and his brother, John Calvin Goodrich, arrived in Texas on April 30, 1834. Dr. Goodrich purchased a lot in Washington on December 16, 1835. As one of the four representatives from the Municipality of Washington at the Convention of 1836 he signed the Declaration of Independence. While attending the convention he secured from each delegate present his age, place of birth, and the name of the state from which he emigrated to Texas. Goodrich married Serena Corrothers, a native of Kentucky; they were parents of nine children. Sometime after 1836 he settled near the site of present Anderson in Grimes County. He died on November 16, 1860, and was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Anderson, where the state of Texas erected a joint monument at the graves of Goodrich and his wife in 1932. Source

30° 29.261
-096° 00.299

Odd Fellows Cemetery

January 8, 2016

James Austin Sylvester (1807-1882)

Sylvester, captor of Antonio López de Santa Anna, was born at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1807. At an early age he moved with his parents to Newport, Kentucky. Later he became a printer's devil with the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he continued to work until the beginning of the Texas Revolution. On December 18, 1835, Sylvester and fifty other men joined Capt. Sidney Sherman to form a company of Kentucky riflemen to fight for Texas independence. The newly formed company arrived in Nacogdoches early in 1836. On January 10 the provincial governor of Texas, Henry Smith, commissioned Sylvester a captain in the reserve army. Sylvester and his company left Nacogdoches on February 26 for Gonzales, where the Texas army was reorganized. Sylvester was appointed second sergeant and color bearer in the active army, but he still maintained his captain's rank in the reserves. After the Alamo fell on March 6, 1836, Sylvester marched with General Sam Houston's army from Gonzales to San Jacinto. Meanwhile, Santa Anna, after his victory in San Antonio, marched to Harrisburg, which he burned to the ground before proceeding to San Jacinto. According to one account, the Mexicans captured Sylvester at Harrisburg, but he managed to escape. On April 21, during the decisive battle of San Jacinto, Sylvester carried the flag of the Kentucky volunteers that the women of Newport had presented to them. The day after the battle, the Texans began looking for members of the Mexican army who had not yet been captured. Sylvester was with the main body of men under Gen. Edward Burleson. With a small party of men, he left the main group at Vince's Bayou to hunt. He was alone when he found a Mexican dressed in a private's uniform. Not realizing he had captured the president of Mexico, he escorted the leader to the main camp of the Texas army. Not long after the battle of San Jacinto, Governor Henry Smith commissioned Sylvester a captain in the cavalry. He served under Gen. Thomas Jefferson Chambers. He remained in the army until June 1837, when he was discharged from the service. He moved to Texana in Jackson County and became the deputy county recorder. In 1842 he participated in the Somervell expedition. The next year Sylvester, who never married, left Texas and took a position on the New Orleans Picayune. He remained with that newspaper until his death on April 9, 1882. His remains were later removed from the Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery in New Orleans and reinterred at the State Cemetery in Austin. Source

30° 15.917
-097° 43.637

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery

January 5, 2016

John Reynolds Hughes (1855-1947)

John R. Hughes, Texas Ranger, was born on February 11, 1855, in Henry County, near Cambridge, Illinois, to Thomas and Jennie (Bond) Hughes. In 1865 the family moved to Dixon, Illinois, where John attended country schools sporadically. Later they moved to Mound City, Kansas. At age fourteen Hughes left home to work on a neighboring cattle ranch but soon left there for Indian Territory. He lived among the Choctaw and Osage Indians for four years before moving to the Comanche Nation in 1874; there he traded in the Fort Sill area and became friends with Quanah Parker. After six years in Indian Territory and after a brief stint as a traildriver on the Chisholm Trail, Hughes bought a farm near Liberty Hill, Travis County, Texas, and entered the horse business. In May 1886 he set out to find a band of men who had stolen horses from his and neighboring ranches, and after trailing them for several months he killed some of the thieves and captured the rest in New Mexico; he returned the horses to his neighbors. This exploit gained the attention of the Texas Rangers. Hughes was persuaded to enlist in the rangers at Georgetown, sworn in on August 10, 1887, and assigned to Company D, Frontier Battalion, at Camp Wood. He served mainly along the border between Texas and Mexico. In 1893 Hughes was a sergeant in charge of a ranger detachment at Alpine. After Texas Ranger Capt. Frank Jones was killed that year, Hughes was made captain in command of Company D in El Paso. He was later appointed senior captain, with headquarters in Austin, and on January 31, 1915, having served as a captain and ranger longer than any other man, he retired from the force. Zane Grey's novel The Lone Star Ranger (1914) is dedicated to Hughes and his Texas Rangers. Hughes never married. He spent his later years prospecting and traveling by automobile. He became chairman of the board of directors and largest single stockholder of the Citizens Industrial Bank of Austin but maintained his residence in El Paso. In 1940 he was selected the first recipient of the Certificate of Valor, an award inaugurated to call attention to the bravery of peace officers of the nation. Hughes moved to Austin to live with a niece, and on June 3, 1947, at the age of ninety-two, he took his own life. Source

30° 15.939
-097° 43.636

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

January 1, 2016

Charles Stephanes (1806-1868)

Charles Stephanes, veteran of San Jacinto, was born in 1806 in Burgundy, France, and was known to be living in what is now the Houston area as early as 1835. A soldier in the Texas army, he fought at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 as a member of McIntire's Company. When his term of enlistment expired, he opened a grocery store in the Old Market Square in Houston and was evidently quite successful, acquiring a lot of property and stock in the Texas Central Railroad. As a charter member of St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, he was buried in its churchyard (now St Vincent's Cemetery) upon his death on November 7, 1868.

Note: Portrait photo courtesy of Nicole Girard, Stephanes' ggggranddaughter.

29° 45.519
-095° 20.672

St Vincent's Cemetery