I will be writing short vignettes of the earliest known pioneers of Austin and Travis County during the Republic of Texas. A census taken in December of 1839 accounted for 856 people in the new town of Austin. Men numbered 550, woman 61, children 100, and slaves 145.
I have identified about 75 families who resided in the capitol city from October 1839 until February 19, 1846 when the Republic of Texas ceased to exist. I intend to share with you their stories, based on newspaper accounts, letters and Republic of Texas history. These first footers stories will be published periodically in no particular order. If you know of a good story of an early Austin/Travis County Pioneer, please share it with the Westward Sagas website. The next blog will be about the first Travis County Treasurer, Thomas W. Smith.
City of Austin 1840
Texan, Thomas Volney Munson (1843-1913) of Denison saved the vineyards of France from phylloxera in 1868. The disease destroyed most of the grapevines in France, decimating their wine industry. Munson known as T.V., was a renowned horticulturist with expertise in viticulture. The French government requested his help. He developed a phylloxera-resistant rootstock from native Texas vinifera. He shipped cuttings to France, which were grafted onto French vines. The hardy rootstock of Texas grapevines thrived in the French soil, therefore saving the vineyards of France.
The French government sent a delegation to Denison to present T.V. the “French Legion of Honor” in 1888. Cognac, France and Denison, Texas became sister cities. In France, monuments were erected in his honor. One hundred years later, the T.V. Munson Viticulture and Enology Center was established on the campus of Grayson College at Sherman, Texas.
For more information on T.V. Munson I recommend Grape Man of Texas, Authors Roy E. Renfro, Jr. and Sherrie S. McLeRoy.
Malcolm Bowles was born June 24, 1912, on the family ranch located on the east side of the Pedernales River at the confluence of the Colorado River. The nearest community was Mudd, which Lake Travis covered after completion of the Marshall Ford Dam. The area is now known as Spicewood and Briarcliff.
Dad always had cows to tend. He raised cattle like his father, grandfather and three brothers, all Travis County pioneers. Yet, I never heard him referred to as a cowboy by anyone, until his funeral. I remember the neighbors seeking his guidance with calving, parasite control and fencing. He enjoyed working his herd well into his eighties.
Today, he would have been 104 years old, the 13th year since his death. He passed away one minute after midnight, June 24, 2003. His service ended with Willie Nelson’s song “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” He is buried beside his wife of 46 years, Ida, at the Live Oak Cemetery in Manchaca, Texas.
Missed, but not forgotten.
Early Travis/Hays County settler and Texas Ranger, Henry Garrett Thurman, Jr. (1855-1928), will be honored by the Former Texas Ranger Association (FTRA) and Moses Austin Chapter Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT). The Memorial Cross Dedication will be conducted by retired Texas Ranger Captain Carl Weathers of Lubbock, Texas. SRT Color Guard and Black Powder Boys in period uniforms will provide military honors accompanied by musket and cannon salute.
Saturday, October 3, 2015 – 10-11 a.m.
Wallace Mountain Cemetery
Dripping Springs, Texas
Directions from Dripping Springs: Going east on Hwy 290 from Dripping Springs, the cemetery is exactly ½ mile east from RM12 (formerly known as Ranch Road 12), directly across from the water tower. There are NO signs for the cemetery. Look for the letter “S” on the open gate. You will be directed to the private cemetery.
Directions from Austin: Going west on Hwy 290 from Austin, the cemetery is exactly 2 miles west from Deep Eddy Distillery, directly across from the water tower. There are NO signs for the cemetery. Look for the letter “S” on the open gate. You will be directed to the private cemetery.
Henry and Caroline Maxey-Thurman had 10 children, many still live in Travis and Hays Counties. Organizers hope that all their descendants will attend. Some of the earliest family names were Puryear, Pearson, Cox, and Ellis.
February 26, 1836, two hundred Alamo defenders shivered behind the walls of the compound as the morning wind howled across the San Antonio River. Firewood and water supplies were in short supply on this third day of the siege. The water well inside the old mission was not sufficient for the sudden needs of the Texas Army and their horses. A small party of men ventured out to gather firewood and bring water from a nearby acequia.
Santa Anna’s troops fired on the Alamo defenders as they scurried about grabbing dead mesquite wood on the ground, others carrying wooden buckets of water. Cannon fire diverted the Mexican marksmen’s attention, but future such excursions outside the walls would be made under the cover of darkness.
Note to today’s reader: At the siege of Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo looked much different than today; as only the chapel and the long barracks still exist. To appreciate the size of this complex which was large enough to have livestock, horses and grow winter vegetables. The picture above depicts what the 1836 Alamo looked like.