It Was A Sad Day When That Great Ship Went Down

One hundred six years ago in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the RMS Titanic went down on her maiden voyage. Ernest Van “Pop” Stoneman recorded his first song in 1924 entitled It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down. The popular song was also known as the Titanic Song or The Sinking of the Titanic which sold over one million copies. In the 1920’s, very few had a Victrola to turn that vinyl record and most of the targeted market for country music had no electricity in their homes for a radio. One million copies was a lot of vinyl in those days.

According to his daughter, Patsy, early in his career he couldn’t afford a Montgomery Ward autoharp, so he made one from parts of an old piano. From 1924-1929, he recorded well over two hundred songs. Pop was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008, forty years after his death. The patriarch is pictured below with his family. His children would carry on the tradition of Stoneman mountain music. The Stoneman name is still the longest continuously active name in country music.

Information or to order Stoneman Music, contact Patsy Stoneman Murphy, P.O. Box 17044, Nashville, TN 37217.

Assassination Conspiracy

More documents related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination will soon be released. Many still believe JFK’s death was a government conspiracy. I was a believer of a conspiracy for 32 years. Until I heard first hand from Waggoner Carr, one of the few people that had seen all the evidence of the Warren Commission and personally conducted the Texas criminal investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination. At the time of President Kennedy’s death and the wounding of Texas Governor John Connally, Waggoner Carr was the Attorney General of Texas.

His investigation and the Warren Commission report, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I had known and admired the former AG who had served as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives from 1951-1961. He was a true Texas gentleman.

As an attorney, Waggoner Carr, had done pro-bono legal work for a non-profit organization when I served as its President. In 1995, I invited Attorney Carr to speak to the members of the organization at our monthly breakfast meeting at the Petroleum Club in San Antonio. He had known my parents and graciously accepted. Waggoner and Ernestine, his wife of many years, drove in from Austin the evening before the early morning meeting.

I took them to dinner at the Petroleum Club. We were joined by Mr. and Mrs. Bob Davis and Rob Sutherland. As the women conversed about children and grandchildren, the men listened intently to Waggoner, who was a great storyteller. When the conversation turned to the Kennedy Assassination, I learned the Carr’s attended the breakfast for President and First Lady at the Rice Hotel in Houston the morning before that fateful day in November 1963.

They left the Presidential entourage to fly to a luncheon in Dumas. President Kennedy, VP Johnson, Governor Connally and their wives flew to Carswell AFB near Fort Worth. Waggoner Carr and Ernestine would meet the Presidential Party in Dallas for a luncheon at the Trade Center the next day. They did not know about the assassination until landing in Dallas.

The AG and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade first thought it was a conspiracy. There were many theories about this strange little man that pulled the trigger. Did he act alone? He had made trips that drew suspicion. Several theories were discussed, which our guest addressed adequately. Eventually the gentleman Waggoner was, smiled and shook his head and said, “Never was a crime so thoroughly investigated as the JFK assassination and, like Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, there will always be those that have their own theory.”

Knowing him as I did, I accepted the fact that Oswald acted alone. I’m sure many authors will research the newly released material and write a book or two. I will not be one of them! Driving the Carr’s back to their hotel, I asked Waggoner why all the documents hadn’t been released. He answered, “I suppose…out of respect for the President’s family.”

In the sixties, regardless of your political affiliation, American’s respected our President and his family. Something that I see missing today.

Waggoner Carr

A True Texas Gentleman


Reliving a Great Adventure

Friday night, Becka and I arrived at Dick’s RV Park in Great Falls, Montana. We will rendezvous with other RVers for a sixty-three day tour of Canada and Alaska. A get acquainted party is planned the night before departing Great Falls on the Fourth of July.  Thirty-eight adventurous travelers plus four Adventure Caravan guides and staff make up the caravan. For logistical purposes, the caravan is limited to only twenty RVs. Each RV may tow a vehicle.

Our group is the first of two Adventure Caravan tours that include the Calgary Stampede; billed as the world’s largest rodeo. It was twenty years ago that I attended my first Stampede. Riding my motorcycle from San Antonio to Calgary and back in twenty-one days. I enjoyed the ride and the rodeo but missed much of the scenic beauty of the Northwest.

I made a promise to go again. Twenty years later, here I am following the same trail, but at a much slower pace. We look forward to participating in the many celebrations of Canada’s 150th Birthday.


Austin’s First Teacher

My recent submission was published in the March 2017 quarterly journal of the Texas State Genealogical Society. The prologue and first part of the article titled A Tribute to Rebeckah Mitchell-Smith, Austin’s First Teacher can be found on page 34 of Stirpes. Membership in the TSGS is open to anyone interested in genealogy or Texas History. In addition to other benefits, annual membership of $25.00 includes the quarterly journal, Stirpes.

Austin Man Patents Side-Saddle

Austin saddle maker, Fenwick Smith, perfects the western side-saddle. Women and sissy men can now enjoy riding their favorite steed without need to straddle an uncomfortable saddle. The rider will enjoy the absence of the obtrusive horn. The U.S. Patent #105734 was issued July 26, 1870.

Mr. Smith states in his patent application, “a new and useful improvement in side-saddles. It consists in forming the saddle-tress hollow with air-chambers within.” He also developed a special saddle for roping wild mustangs on the open prairie. Its oversized saddle-horn could better manage an unruly mustang.

Fenwick Smith was born June 5, 1821. When he was eighteen he left Coosa, Alabama in a wagon train that included twelve members of his family spanning four generations. Eleven members of the family arrived in the Spring of 1839; at the site for the first permanent Capitol. In December, the Capitol City was named Austin.

Off his horse on January 21, 1841 in the woods near Shoal Creek, Fenwick witnessed his brother, Judge James W. Smith, murdered by Comanche Indians. Unarmed, out manned and on foot, Fenwick watched the Indians whisk away his nephew Fayette Smith; it was Fayette’s ninth birthday.

Seven months’ later on August 7, 1841, Fenwick’s father and Travis County Treasurer, Thomas W. Smith, was killed by Indians. Half of the male members of his family were victims of Indian depredations.

Records show he served as Justice of Peace for Travis County 1860-1866. No record of marriage, children, or death has been found.

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