October 28, 2016

Willis Avery

   Willis Thomas Avery, Republic of Texas veteran and Texas Ranger, was born in North Carolina on October 15, 1809, to Vincent and Catherine Overton Avery. After the death of his father, Avery's mother married William McCutcheon, Sr. and moved to Lincoln County, Missouri. The McCutcheons had one son, William. While in Missouri, Avery met and married Elzina Weeks. Together, they had nine children, Nancy, Malinda, Vincent, Willis, Lucinda, Henry, Calvin, Harriet, and W.T. On November 12, 1832, the Avery's arrived in what is now Bastrop County.

   During Texas' fight for independence, Avery's step-father, Jennings, was said to have perished at the siege of the Alamo, while Avery joined Captain Jesse Billingsley's Company of Mina (Bastrop) Volunteers on February 28, 1836. The Mina Volunteers eventually became Company C of General Edward Burleson's regiment, fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Company C was made up of settlers who lived in and around Bastrop County.

   Because of his service for Texas, Avery was issued, on May 22, 1838, 640 acres of land. On March 20, 1840, he also received another 320 acres for serving in the army from February 28 to June 1, 1836. Ultimately, the Averys moved to Williamson County and settled on Brushy Creek, near Rice's Crossing, where Elzina died on March 1, 1870. Willis died on July 17, 1889, and both were buried in the family cemetery on their property. On July 3, 1938, the Averys' remains were moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Source

30° 15.923, -097° 43.649

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

October 25, 2016

J. Frank Wilson

   John Frank Wilson, singer, known as J. Frank Wilson, was born in Lufkin, Texas, on December 11, 1941. He was the son of a railroad engineer. Wilson became a one-hit wonder in the early 1960s when he was the lead singer of the hit song Last Kiss. He and the Cavaliers, his own band, recorded Wayne Cochran's teenage-death melodrama, which rose to the top of the American pop charts in 1964. The lugubrious song was the last exemplar of a genre that flourished in the early 1960s. Last Kiss remained on the charts for twelve weeks.

   Wilson had listened carefully to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. After graduating from Lufkin High School in 1960, he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo. He joined the Cavaliers (guitarist Sid Holmes, bassist Lewis Elliott, saxophonist Bob Zeller, and drummer Ray Smith), a group that had formed in San Angelo in 1955; moved to Memphis in the early 1960s; and returned to San Angelo in 1962. Wilson enhanced the group's appeal and enlarged its audience. The Cavaliers and J. Frank Wilson became a popular attraction at area clubs.

   In 1962, at the Blue Note in Big Spring, record producer Sonley Roush heard Wilson and the Cavaliers perform. At Ron Newdoll's Accurate Sound Recording Company on Tyler Avenue in San Angelo, the group recorded Cochran's song. Newdoll and his production company, Askell Productions, produced the recording and acquired ownership of the masters, with royalties, in exchange for the group's right to use the studio. Major Bill Smith, a recording executive in Fort Worth who had released Bruce Channel's hit Hey! Baby and Paul & Paula's Hey Paula, signed Wilson and the Cavaliers to record the song on the Josie label. The record was released in June 1964, entered the charts on October 10, and reached Number 2 on the Billboard Top 40 charts on November 7. The album sold more than 100,000 copies the first few months. Wilson and the Cavaliers earned a gold record for Last Kiss.

   On October 22 Roush was killed in a car wreck in which Wilson was injured. The press whooped up the connection between the accident and the lyrics of Last Kiss, which is about a teen-aged girl who dies in the arms of her boyfriend after a car accident. Wilson was touring again within a week of the crash. On American Bandstand - and on crutches - he lip-synced Last Kiss and introduced a new single, Six Boys, produced by Smith with studio musicians. Wilson and Josie Records put together a new group under the name Cavaliers, although the original Cavaliers were continuing to perform with Lewis Elliott as leader and James Thomas as vocalist. Wilson recorded with session musicians. He continued as a single act, traveling with Jerry Lee, the Righteous Brothers, the Animals, and other well-known performers until he bottomed out from alcoholism.

   He made records and performed into the 1970s, but without much income or effect. On the tenth anniversary of the Last Kiss success, he was working in Lufkin as a nursing-home orderly for $250 a week. The depressed one-hit singer attempted marriage eight times and sank into alcohol addiction. Suffering from seizures and diabetes, he died in a nursing home in Lufkin on October 4, 1991, not long before his fiftieth birthday. In 1999 Last Kiss once again became a hit when the rock group Pearl Jam released its version, and in 2000, VH1 fans voted Last Kiss Number 3 in the all-time Top 10 cover songs. The song received a BMI 2-Million air-play award. J. Frank Wilson is honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. Source 

31° 15.933, -094° 44.496

Last Supper Section
Garden of Memories

October 21, 2016

John N. O. Smith

   John N. O. Smith, soldier, state legislator, and newspaper publisher, was born in Massachusetts in 1815. Smith came to Texas prior to 1836. On February 1, 1836, he enlisted for service with Sam Houston’s forces in the Texas Revolution. He served as a sergeant major and participated in the battle of San Jacinto. He served until May 1, 1836. On April 12, 1838, Smith received a grant for one-third league of land in Harris County for his service in the revolution, but he lost his certificate and obtained a replacement certificate in 1840 and sold his headright certificate in 1845. Smith was also the original grantee for 320 acres of land in present-day Erath County in 1847.

   On April 24, 1842, he married Margaret Farrell. In September 1842 Smith was elected captain of a company for a new foray against Mexico - the Somervell expedition - but remained in Gonzales County due to illness. Around this time he settled in Houston, Harris County, and established himself in the newspaper business. In 1841 Smith published the Houstonian. From December 1843 to October 1844, he published a newspaper which was issued under several titles, including The Citizen, the Weekly Citizen, and the Texian Democrat. He was also president of the first Typographical Association of Texas.

   In 1846 Smith served as representative for Harris County in the House of the First Texas Legislature. He was a member of the Education Committee, Public Printing Committee, and several select committees, and he chaired the Select Committee on An act for the incorporation of all Lodges of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of the State of Texas. Politically, Smith was a Democrat, his constituency consisting of “Farmers, Mechanics, and Working Men.” Smith died in Houston on May 5, 1851, and was buried in City Cemetery (now known as Founders’ Memorial Park) in Houston. Source 

Note: Unmarked. 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. John Smith's is one of them.


Founders Memorial Park

October 18, 2016

William Smith Herndon

   William Smith Herndon, legislator and Confederate soldier, was born in Rome, Georgia, on November 27, 1837, and in 1851 moved to Texas with his parents. In 1859 he graduated from McKenzie College, near Clarksville, after which he read law at Tyler and was admitted to the bar in 1860. On November 11 of that year he married Louise McKellar; they had eight children. At the outbreak of the Civil War Herndon was elected first lieutenant in Capt. W. F. Hamilton's company of Col. Joseph Bates's Thirteenth Texas Infantry; he eventually rose to the rank of captain. This regiment served coastal guard duty between Galveston and Matagorda through almost all of the war. After the war Herndon returned to Tyler, where he resumed his legal practice in partnership with Judge John C. Robertson and began to specialize in railroads. He served as counsel for a number of lines, on the board of the Tyler Tap line, and as vice president of the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad. He was elected from the First Congressional District to the United States House of Representatives of the Forty-second Congress in 1871 in a closely contested election and served until 1875. He attended a number of Democratic national conventions and is said to have engineered the nomination of Winfield Scott Hancock for president at the Cincinnati, Ohio, convention in 1880. In 1892 Herndon was one of the leaders of the opposition to James S. Hogg. Herndon died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 11, 1903, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Tyler. Source 

32° 21.216, -095° 18.520

Oakwood Cemetery

October 14, 2016

John Edward Lewis

   John Edward Lewis, Republic of Texas Veteran, was born on October 3, 1808, to Joseph and Mary Lewis, one of three children. Lewis arrived in Texas in March 1834, where he settled in Stephen F. Austin's fourth colony, present-day Fayette County. At some point, Lewis returned to New York, because he married his wife, Anna Scott, of Albany.

   During Texas' fight for independence, Lewis fought with Captain William J.E. Heard's Company of Citizen Soldiers, where he participated in the Battle of San Jacinto. According to his service record, Lewis served in the army from February 28 to May 24, 1836. After the war, Lewis received 320 acres of land for his service, which he later sold. He received another 640 acres for taking part in the Battle of San Jacinto.

   In 1883, the Lewis family moved from Fayette County to Austin, where John, a member of the Texas Veterans Association, died on April 1, 1892. Anna died at age 84 on May 24, 1896. Together, John and Anna had 13 children: William, John, James, Jacob, Alfred, Lettie, Phebe, Emily, Mary, Annie, Nellie, Jesse, and Betty. After their deaths, Emily had her parents' remains moved to the Texas State Cemetery, where the State of Texas erected a monument over their grave.

30° 15.912, -097° 43.632

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery

October 11, 2016

George Washington Teel

   George Washington Teel (Teal), member of the Old Three Hundred, was born in Maryland on May 4, 1784, and was married in Missouri in 1823 to his second wife, Rebecca Johnson. He entered into Texas with the Stephen F. Austin colony in 1824, and on August 3, 1824, received title to a Spanish sitio of land in what is now Fort Bend County. After making some improvements to the land he transferred his title to Michael Turner. By December 22, 1824, Teel was in San Felipe, where he participated in the alcalde election, and by the fall of 1828 he was in the Ayish Bayou District, where he settled six miles west of what is now San Augustine. Sometime in the late 1820s he established a cotton gin in the vicinity of San Augustine. Teel fought in the battle of Nacogdoches, August 1-3, 1832, and was enrolled in Capt. William Kimbrough's company in the summer of 1836. Teel became a successful farmer and landowner. He took an active part in the early Methodist movement in the newly formed San Augustine Municipality. The noted Stevensons, preachers of the Louisiana circuit, held a meeting in Teel's home in 1835. He was selected as one of the fifteen trustees to form the board of the University of San Augustine. George Teel died on August 20, 1856, and his wife Rebecca died on August 10, 1866. They were buried in the family cemetery near their homesite. George Teel's will was probated in San Augustine County. In the early 1990s all that remained of the Teel family cemetery was parts of five broken monuments piled under a nearby tree. Source 

31° 32.243, - 094° 12.873

Teel Family Burying Ground
San Augustine

October 7, 2016

Elijah Votaw

   Elijah Votaw was born in Saint Louis County, Missouri, on February 1, 1817 and came to Texas via Arkansas with his parents in April, 1835. The Votaws settled early in what is now Grimes County. He served in the army from March 1 to July 1, 1836 and was wounded at San Jacinto while a member of Captain James Gillaspie's Company. Votaw moved often after he left the army, first settling in Oakville, then Cotulla where he remained until 1885 when he moved to San Antonio. He died there at his home on November 17, 1890 and buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

29° 25.315, -098° 28.168

Odd Fellows Cemetery
San Antonio

October 4, 2016

Timothy Pilsbury

   Timothy Pilsbury, Republic of Texas and United States congressman, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1780. After moving to Maine, where he engaged in shipping, he served as representative in the Maine legislature in 1825-26 and Executive Council member from 1827 to 1836. After a brief period in Ohio and New Orleans, he moved in 1837 to Brazoria County, Texas, where he engaged in farming. Pilsbury represented Brazoria County in the House of the Republic in 1840 and 1841 and the Senate in 1842. After serving as Brazoria County chief justice and probate judge, he returned to the Senate in 1845 and on March 30, 1846, was elected by the Texas legislature as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives. In Washington he represented a district that included all of Texas west of the Trinity River until March 13, 1849. He ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1848. Pilsbury, who was a Mason, died in Henderson, Texas, on November 23, 1858, and was buried in the Henderson City Cemetery. Source 

32° 09.249, -094° 48.089

Henderson City Cemetery