Monthly Archives: August 2013

Houston Co-Founder Dead at 28 From Yellow Fever

John K. Allen, who with his brother Augustus founded the town named for the hero of San Jacinto, succumbed to yellow fever on August 18, 1838 at the age of 28. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the health benefits of living in Houston!

The New Yorkers were such enthusiastic supporters of the Texas Revolution that they bought and equipped a ship to guard the coast against the Mexican navy.  Augustus Allen, the older brother by four years, outlived John by a quarter century and had the good taste to die somewhere other than Houston.

Seawall Saves Galveston From Repeat of 1900 Disaster

A hurricane packing 120-mph winds hit Galveston on August 16, 1915 leaving downtown under six feet of water and at least 275 dead.

But the new seawall saved the island from a repeat of the 1900 storm, the deadliest natural disaster in North American history.  That calamity killed eight to 12,000 people in Galveston proper and in towns as far inland as Houston.  A seawall had been talked about ever since the Civil War, but local leaders had dismissed the idea as an unnecessary extravagance.

One-Two Punch Knocks Out Galveston

On August 13, 1856, the Texas Legislature designated Houston the hub of the soon-to-be-built state rail system.  Convinced the Island would always be Texas’ top port, Galveston leaders had not put up much of a fight.

But 58 years later, the Houston Ship Channel opened for business making it possible for deep-water ships to bypass Galveston.  The fate of the city that once had been the state’s largest was sealed and it began a steady decline that has never been reversed.

Traveling Across Texas By Wagon Train

Ever wondered what it must have been like to travel across Texas before cars, trains, planes and air conditioning?  That is the subject of the Wednesday, August 14 through Tuesday, August 20 installment of “This Week in Texas History,” the oldest and most widely read newspaper column of its kind.

This column is based on a daily journal kept by a member of an 1857 wagon train that crossed Texas from east to west.  It makes for very interesting reading, but then my weekly stories usually do.

“Hee Haw” Host Has Highway Named for Him

Three years after he was born on a farm outside Sherman on August 11, 1923, Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. announced he liked the donkey’s name better and Buck Owens it was.

Even though he had 21 Number One hits on the country music chart, Owens is best known for “Hee Haw,” the TV show he co-hosted from 1969 until 1986.  He died in his sleep from a heart attack in 2006 after a final show at his restaurant, club and museum in Bakersfield, California.  The folks back in Sherman named the stretch of Highway 82 that runs through town the “Buck Owens Freeway.”

Samuel Morse Offered Texas Free Use of His Invention

In an August 9, 1860 letter to Gov. Sam Houston, Samuel Morse withdrew his generous offer of free use of his telegraph.

The Republic of Texas was just two years old, when the inventor informed the new government that it could have his creation for no charge.  Why Texas failed to take Morse up on his incredible offer is not known, but after 22 years he finally nixed the deal.

Women Workers Go On Strike In Depression Dallas

Four hundred Dallas dressmakers, who made a fourth of what other garment workers earned in other states, joined the union in 1934.  Factory owners retaliated by firing them all.

The locked-out women started a picketing campaign of their former bosses that climaxed on August 8, 1935 with an action that attracted press coverage around the country and the world.  The picketers stripped ten strikebreakers and fought with police that tried to intervene.

The Great Comanche Raid of 1840

“We of Victoria were startled by the apparitions presented by the sudden appearance of 600 mounted Comanches in the immediate outskirts of the village.”  That was how more than 40 years later a survivor remembered the unprecedented raid of August 6, 1840.

For an encore, the Comanches attacked the coastal community of Linnville on August 8.  The inhabitants ran for the water and watched from small boats and a schooner as the Indians stripped their little town bare and burned it to the ground.  When the smoke cleared, 23 Texans were dead including eight slaves.

Gulf Coast Town Mourns Passing of Robber Baron

The day John “Bet a Million Gates” died in 1911 there was no outpouring of grief at his passing.  The exception was the Gulf Coast town of Port Arthur, where many people had gotten to know the kinder, gentler side of the reviled robber baron.

That’s the topic of the “This Week in Texas History” column for the week of Wednesday, August 7 through Tuesday, August 13.  It’s a look back at a time when the super-rich were not worshipped just because they had most of the money.

Texas Republic Presents Annexation Petition

On August 4, 1837, four months after the United States finally recognized the Republic of Texas, minister Memucan Hunt raised the issue of annexation for the first time with the presentation of an annexation petition.

Hunt, President Sam Houston and most Texans were shocked by the lack of interest from the Van Buren administration, which said in effect “nothing doing.”  Disappointed and more than a mite angry, Houston officially withdrew the offer the next year and the Republic turned to charting an independent course.