July 25, 2017

Michel Branamour Menard (1805-1856)

Michel Branamour Menard, Indian trader, entrepreneur, and founder of the Galveston City Company, the only son of Michel B. and Marguerite (de Noyer) Menard, was born on December 5, 1805, at La Prairie, near Montreal, Quebec. The illiterate youth became an engagé of the American Fur Company at Detroit about 1820 and worked in the Minnesota area for two years. In 1822 he joined his uncle, Pierre Menard, former lieutenant governor of Illinois, in the fur trade at Kaskaskia, where he learned to read and write French and eventually English. While working for Menard, he became a resident trader to a band of Shawnees living near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He was chosen a chief and moved with the tribe to the White River in Arkansas Territory and later, in 1828, to the Red River below Pecan Point.

On December 1, 1829, Menard applied for citizenship in Nacogdoches, where he continued to collect skins and furs from the Shawnees and other Indians. He also began trading at Saltillo, Coahuila, exchanging horses, mules, and permits to locate Texas land for manufactured goods. By 1834 he owned 40,000 acres scattered from the lower Trinity River above Liberty to Pecan Point. He built a combination sawmill and gristmill on Menard Creek in 1833, which he operated with the aid of his cousin, Pierre J. Menard, and other relatives who moved to Texas. He continued to send forest products to Menard and Vallé and the American Fur Company until 1836. Menard represented Liberty County at the Convention of 1836 and, though he believed independence impractical, bowed to majority will and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. President Burnet chose him to negotiate a peace treaty with the Shawnees, Delawares, and Kickapoos in northeastern Texas. Among Menard's land speculations was the 1834 arrangement to acquire title to a league and labor on the eastern end of vacant Galveston Island, a site forbidden to non-Hispanic Texans without permission from the president of Mexico. Menard was unable to develop it prior to 1836, and his title was questioned by rival claimants during the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. He had to pay the republic $50,000 to clear his title and had to take in many other partners besides the original investors.

The Galveston City Company was organized in April 1838 and began issuing deeds to investors and purchasers. Menard, as Texas commissioner, unsuccessfully sought a loan from the United States for the new republic in 1836-37 and represented Galveston in the Fifth Congress, 1840-41. He married four times. His first wife, Marie Diana LeClerc of St. Genevieve, whom he married about 1832, died of cholera aboard a ship en route to Texas from New Orleans on May 14, 1833. He married his second cousin, Adeline Catherine Maxwell, in late 1837, but she died during the yellow fever epidemic in Galveston in July 1838. Next he wed Mary Jane Riddle in 1843; she died in 1847. His fourth wife was Rebecca Mary Bass, a widow with two daughters whom Menard adopted in 1850, the same year the couple became parents of a son. Menard struggled to make his speculations and businesses more profitable, but financial reverses in 1856 finally hurt him severely. Menard was a Catholic and a Mason and was known as a great raconteur. No two accounts of his life are the same, due to his prodigious tales to friends and family. He died at home in Galveston on September 2, 1856, and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Galveston. Source

29° 17.574
-094° 48.738

Old Catholic Cemetery

July 18, 2017

Wilmer Lawson Allison (1904-1977)

Wilmer Lawson (Lee) Allison, tennis player, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on December 8, 1904, one of two children of Dr. and Mrs. Wilmer L. Allison. His family moved to Fort Worth in his youth, and he graduated from Fort Worth Central High School, where he was an outstanding amateur baseball player. He enrolled at the University of Texas in 1925 after his father refused to permit him to sign a professional baseball contract with the Beaumont team of the Texas League. At UT he began an internationally acclaimed career as a tennis player. Under the tutelage of Daniel A. Penick he won the Southwest Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in 1927. Allison won the Wimbledon doubles title in 1929 and 1930 with partner John Van Ryn. They are considered by many tennis historians to be the best doubles combination of the period. Perhaps Allison's finest moment as a singles player came on June 30, 1930, when he upset the legendary Henri Cochet of France in the quarterfinal round of the 1930 Wimbledon tournament. However, he lost the championship in the finals to fellow American Bill Tilden in straight sets. Allison achieved the number-one ranking in the United States in 1934 and again in 1935 and won the United States National Open Championship in 1935 by defeating Fred Perry in the semifinals and then Sydney Wood for the title at Forest Hills, New York. Along with partner Van Ryn he claimed National Doubles in 1931 and 1935 and finished second in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936. Allison competed on behalf of the United States in Davis Cup competition from 1928 until 1937. He retired from full-time competition in 1937 after a serious injury to his lower abdomen. Upon retirement, he served as an assistant to Penick at the University of Texas from 1938 to 1941, when he left to join the army air corps; he achieved the rank of colonel. After his discharge he returned to the university in 1947 and served as Penick's assistant until 1957. That year he became the head tennis coach at the university, where he served until his retirement in 1972. He instituted a policy restricting athletic scholarships for tennis to players from Texas. His teams won four Southwest Conference team championships, three singles titles, and one doubles title. He was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1957 and is a member of the Longhorn Hall of Honor. In 1963 he was enshrined in both the national and international tennis halls of fame. Allison died on April 20, 1977, of a heart attack, only four days after the dedication of the new University of Texas tennis facility in his and Penick's honor. He is buried at Oakwood cemetery in Austin. He was survived by his wife, Ann (Caswell). The couple had no children. Source

30° 16.565
-097° 43.517

Section 2
Oakwood Cemetery

July 11, 2017

Isaac Van Dorn (1801?-1860)

Isaac Van Dorn, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, was born in Pennsylvania about 1801. At the age of fourteen he was indentured to a farmer for seven years, whom he eventually left. He traveled first to Kentucky and by 1822 to Texas, where he sojourned first at San Felipe de Austin and the Cedar Lake area before settling on Live Oak Creek in what is now Matagorda County. In July 1826 he petitioned for land in the Austin colony, and on April 14, 1828, with partner Daniel E. Balis as one of the Old Three Hundred families, received title to a sitio of land on Caney and Live Oak creeks, now in southeastern Matagorda County. In January 1827 Van Dorn attended a meeting supporting the Mexican constitution and condemning the Fredonian Rebellion. In February 1830 one Isaac "Vandoin" (probably Van Dorn) was serving as síndico procurador at the regular meeting of the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin. In June 1832 Van Dorn fought in Aylett C. Buckner's company at the battle of Velasco. He was a member of the committee of safety and correspondence at Matagorda in October 1835 and in December was recommended by Joseph W. E. Wallace to Henry Smith as a lieutenant in the artillery. On May 3, 1837, Van Dorn married Amanda Malvina Reader of Adams County, Mississippi; the couple had ten children and were members of Christ Episcopal Church in Matagorda. In July 1837 Van Dorn was elected the first sheriff of Matagorda County, and in late January 1840 he was appointed a commissioner to examine for fraudulent land title claims in the county. In the 1850 census he reported owning three slaves. He died on May 30, 1860, and is buried in the Matagorda Cemetery. Source 

28° 42.011
-095° 57.330

Section D
Matagorda Cemetery

July 4, 2017

Milford Phillips Norton (1794-1860)

Milford Phillips Norton, lawyer, publisher, judge, and civic leader, the son of Peter and Aseneth (Blossom) Norton, was born in 1794 at Readfield, Maine. He was admitted to the bar and practiced at Bangor and Readfield. In 1830-31 he was state land agent; in 1838 he served in the Maine legislature and was on the commission to locate the northeast boundary of the state; he was a member of the state Senate in 1839. Norton was married first to Sarah Ann Gilman and after her death to Mary Stevens Russell. After financial reverses due to suretyship, Norton moved to Texas in early 1839 to look after his father-in-law's lands. He decided to remain in the republic permanently and sent for his family. He formed a law partnership with Alexander H. Phillips and practiced at Galveston until December 26, 1840, when the firm's business required his removal to Black Point in Refugio County, where a client, Joseph F. Smith, was planning the townsite of Saint Mary's. The Norton family resided at Black Point until September 1841, when they moved to Montgomery County, where Norton practiced at Bayou City. Norton was appointed postmaster of Houston and moved there to assume his duties on January 8, 1844. At the same time he bought the Civilian, which he renamed the Democrat and turned into an Anson Jones-for-president and annexation organ. Shortly after Jones's election President Sam Houston appointed Norton judge of the Sixth Judicial District. He assumed office on September 8, 1844, but the validity of the recess appointment was challenged. Norton considered the argument well-taken and resigned but was elected by Congress at the next session. He was chairman of the Convention of 1845. After annexation he requested of Governor J. P. Henderson a transfer to the Western District of Texas. The governor acceded, the nomination was confirmed on April 14, 1846, and the Nortons moved to Corpus Christi. At the end of his term Judge Norton and his family moved to Refugio County, where his son, Henry D. Norton, had established a store at Copano. Norton practiced law at Copano until Henry L. Kinney, who was arranging to embark on his filibustering expedition against Nicaragua, employed him to return to Corpus Christi and manage the Kinney business. When Judge James Webb died in November 1856, Norton accepted appointment as judge of the Fourteenth District but continued to manage Kinney's affairs until 1858. Norton was an outstanding civic leader and prominent Mason. He died at San Antonio on June 8, 1860. Source 

29° 25.279
-098° 27.947

City Cemetery #5
San Antonio