March 31, 2017

William Vanoy Criswell

   William Vanoy (Vannoy) Criswell, Republic of Texas Veteran, was born on April 16, 1858, 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 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

March 28, 2017

Thomas Henry Ball

   Thomas H. Ball, lawyer, prohibitionist politician, and promoter of publicly owned Houston port facilities, son of M. O. (Spivey) Cleveland and Rev. Thomas Henry Ball, was born on January 14, 1859, in Huntsville, Texas. His father, a Methodist minister, had moved to Huntsville from Virginia in 1856 to become president of Andrew Female College. Ball's parents died, and he was left at the age of six in the care of his uncle, Lt. Sidney Spivey, a Confederate veteran, who sent him to private schools for his primary and secondary education.

   After graduating from Austin College in 1871, Ball worked as a farmhand and clerk and attended lectures at the University of Virginia, where he was elected president of the law class. He returned to Texas, was admitted to the bar in 1888, and was thrice elected mayor of Huntsville, a post he held from 1877 to 1892. He practiced law in Huntsville until 1902, when he moved to Houston.

   Ball first became active in Texas politics in 1887 as an advocate of a prohibition amendment to the state constitution. He held many state Democratic party posts and was elected to the United States Congress in 1896. He resigned in 1903 to return to a Houston law practice that primarily served railroad and corporate clients. In 1911 he was selected chairman of the Prohibition Statewide Executive Committee, and many prohibitionists encouraged him to run against incumbent governor Oscar Branch Colquitt, who was up for reelection in 1912. Ball declined, and lent his support to Judge William F. Ramsey, who was easily defeated by the anti-prohibitionists.

   In 1914 at a pre-primary elimination convention, Ball emerged as the prohibitionist standard-bearer with the slogan "Play Ball." Both wet and dry forces assumed he would win the coming gubernatorial nomination. But political newcomer James Edward Ferguson won support by focusing on farm tenant reform. Late endorsements of Ball by President Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan backfired when Ferguson also asserted that national politicians should stay out of Texas politics. Ferguson won the nomination in July. Ball lost because of his refusal to embrace other prohibitionist demands, growing uneasiness about his legal service for large corporations, his friendship with Joseph Weldon Bailey, his own lackluster campaigning, and Ferguson's skillful demagogy.

   In addition to Ball's prohibitionist activities, he was also a lifelong, vigorous promoter of publicly owned port facilities in Texas. As a member of the Rivers and Harbors Committee in the United States House of Representatives, he secured the first federal aid for development of the Houston Ship Channel in 1899. After leaving Washington he lobbied the state legislature and the United States Congress heavily, determined to facilitate local, state, and federal efforts to upgrade Houston port facilities. Both bodies soon passed measures significantly aiding local navigation districts. Following the development of Buffalo Bayou, Ball served as general counsel to the Port Commission of Houston. He married Minnie F. Thomason in 1882. They had three children and adopted three more. In 1907 the community of Peck, just northwest of Houston, was renamed Tomball in Ball's honor. Ball died in Houston on May 7, 1944. Source

29° 43.164, -095° 18.239

Mimosa Section 11
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery

March 24, 2017

George A. Lamb

   George A. Lamb, participant in the battle of San Jacinto, was born in Laurens District, South Carolina, on October 3, 1814. Orphaned as a child, he made his home with a family named Bankhead and accompanied one of the sons, Richard, to Texas in 1834. There they established a farm in the western part of what is now Walker County. When Bankhead died on January 17, 1835, Lamb remained to care for his family. Lamb married Bankhead's widow, Sarah, on June 27, 1835, and adopted his two young children. He joined Capt. William Ware's Company D of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers, on March 12, 1836, and was elected second lieutenant. He was killed in action on April 21, 1836, at San Jacinto. Lamb County was named in his honor in 1876. His widow later married Jonathan A. McGary, who became the administrator of Lamb's estate. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. In 1881, a decision was made to place permanent memorials at the graves of those men who had been killed in the Battle of San Jacinto and buried on the battlefield. It was discovered, however, that all of the original wooden grave markers, except for Benjamin Brigham's, had rotted away and no one could remember exactly where the others rested. As a compromise, since the soldiers had been buried closely together, it was decided to place a cenotaph over Brigham's grave as a memorial to all of them.

29° 45.232, -095° 05.363

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
La Porte

March 17, 2017

Jacob Littleton Standifer

   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

March 14, 2017

Donald Yearnsley "Trey" Wilson

   Don attended Bellaire High School, where he fell under the tutelage of storied drama director Cecil Pickett, who also mentored Randy and Dennis Quaid, Brent Spiner, Brett Cullen and several other successful actors. He majored in English and theater at the University of Houston.  It was there that Wilson met Judy Blye, a well-known New York soap opera casting agent, and they were married on August 25, 1975.

   He eventually moved to Los Angeles, finding some work in soap operas and local theater, but had to come back home when he ran out of money. In Houston he worked as an assistant manager at a Windmill dinner theater, but continued to peck away at Hollywood, eventually scoring his first film role in the little-seen Drive-In (1976). Two years later, he appeared with his friend Randy Quaid in Three Warriors (1978). That same year he adopted an alter ego, and, as "Terry Wayne", acted in a low-budget film called Vampire Hookers (1978). He did some well-regarded work on Broadway, where he appeared in Sandy Duncan's Peter Pan, portrayed Teddy Roosevelt in Tintypes, and even landed a role in Pat Benatar's iconic music video Love is a Battlefield.

   The Coen brothers writer Ethan and director Joel gave Wilson his big break with their film Raising Arizona (1987) and even wrote a choice role in their period piece gangster film Miller's Crossing (1990) specifically for him. On January 13, 1989, two days before he was to fly to Louisiana to start filming it, he was at his New York City apartment where he and his wife planned to celebrate his birthday early. However, when she got home, he complained of a severe headache. He was taken to the hospital where he slipped into a coma and died two days later of a cerebral hemorrhage. Wilson's final film, released after his death, was Great Balls of Fire (1989), the biopic of Jerry Lee Lewis, where he played legendary American record producer Sam Phillips.

29° 42.970, -095° 18.266

Section 16
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery

March 10, 2017

Andrew May Clopper

   Born in Pennsylvania in 1791, Andrew Clopper came to Texas in January, 1828 and settled in the Matagorda Municipality (now County). He enlisted and served in the army from April 6 to October 3, 1836 as a member of Captain William H. Smith's cavalry company with whom he fought under at San Jacinto. Clopper died on September 16, 1853, and buried in Morris Cemetery in Seabrook until May 17, 1936, when his remains were exhumed and reinterred in Founders Memorial Park, Houston as part of Texas' Centennial celebration.

29° 45.460, -095° 22.745

Founders Memorial Park

March 7, 2017

Seth Lathrop Weld

   Seth Weld was born on February 19, 1879 in Washington County, Maryland, the sixth child of George and Emily Weld. The family moved to Altamont, North Carolina while he was young. He enlisted in 1899, lying about his age to get in the Army, and was assigned to 39th Company, Coast Artillery at Fort McHenry. Within three years, he had reached the rank of first sergeant. In late 1905, Weld transferred to the 8th Infantry, which was scheduled to move to the Philippine Islands to fight the Philippine-American War, also known as the Philippine Insurrection. He requested the transfer even though it meant moving back to the rank of private. Weld served in the Philippine Islands from April 1906 to April 1908, with the rank of corporal at the time of the 1906 incident that earned him the medal.

   On December 5, 1906, he saved the lives of a wounded officer and a fellow soldier who were surrounded by about forty Philippine insurgents. Although wounded himself, he used his disabled rifle as a club and beat the assailants back until the three were rescued. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this courageous action on October 20, 1908. The day after, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Philippine Scouts. He remained in the Army his entire life until physical disability forced his retirement as a lieutenant colonel in September 1933. A few months later, he  was advanced to the honorary rank of colonel. He settled in San Antonio, where he died at the age of 79 on December 20, 1958. Source

With his right arm cut open with a bolo, went to the assistance of a wounded constabulary officer and a fellow soldier who were surrounded by about 40 Pulajanes, and, using his disabled rifle as a club, beat back the assailants and rescued his party.

29° 28.511, -098° 25.972

Section AH
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
San Antonio

March 3, 2017

James Austin Sylvester

   James Austin Sylvester, captor of Antonio L√≥pez 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 Gen. 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