Crazy Ben Dolliver was said to be touched. Sporting a 6 inch scar from an old sword fight, Crazy Ben circulated around Galveston in the 19th century barefoot, shirtless, and mostly drunk. He camped on the beach and fished for his sustenance. But Crazy Ben always paid for his drinks with Spanish Doubloons. Every now and then he’d sail away from the island and return with more Spanish gold. Where did the gold come from? Everyone knew Crazy Ben had served as one of Jean Lafitte’s crew as a pirate. Did he know the location of some treasure? Nobody figured it out, though they tried and tried. Then one day a ship arrived from New Orleans and Ben left….with some cargo. Hear a true pirate tale in this latest episode of Wise About Texas
I received some great feedback on the San Antonio Chili Queens episode so I thought I’d share a couple of stories that didn’t make it into the main episode and answer some questions. I also try a diplomatic (and historically correct) solution to the bean controversy! So bring your bowl and spoon up a second helping of chili in this bonus episode of Wise About Texas!
In late 1800’s San Antonio, the plazas were busy marketplaces during the day. But at night, the Chili Queens took over. These ladies brought the exotic flavors of Mexico to the population of San Antonio. Music, laughter and the pungent aroma of chili con carne filled the air. From the greatest to the least, every citizen and tourist had to make a pilgrimage to see the Chili Queens and sample the food that would later become known as Tex-Mex. Learn more about this scene in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Every fall, the most feared cavalry the world has ever known, the Comanche Indians, would leave their home on the great plains and raid deep into Mexico taking horses, and humans, back with them. They followed an ancient trail that came to be known as the Great Comanche war trail. The Comanche were not prosperous until the Spanish introduced the horse which turned around the fortunes of an entire people. The Comanche Indians managed to convince the Spanish to help them defeat the Apache, which then opened up unfettered access to Mexico via the war trail. From the panhandle to the Rio Grande, the raiders followed a well-defined trail almost a mile wide at points. Famous springs and river crossings were used for centuries. Even today, you can drive the same trail used by traders, Indians, stagecoaches and travelers. The Great Comanche War Trail.
William Ranney was one of the first American artists to capture the legendary characters, events and spirit of the American west. One critic pointed out that he was the only artist who had the first hadn’t experience to paint scenes of the west. Where did he get that experience? Texas of course! Ranney had served in the Texas Army from May through November of 1836. After this time in Texas, Ranney returned east and became a prolific painter of the things he had seen. he also produced a large body of genre paintings that began to shape the collective identity of America. He painted the American revolution as its history was just being formed in the minds of his audience. He painted the early trappers and mountain men that blazed the trails for western expansion. He captured many scenes of the pioneer families that truly settled the west and fulfilled the manifest destiny of America. Learn a little about William Ranney and the shaping of the American identity in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Josiah Wilbarger was one of the earliest Anglo settlers of Texas. He also settled way outside the safe boundaries of the frontier. He chose a league of land in the hostile territory of the Comancheria, near present-day Bastrop. He eventually gained a neighbor in Reuben Hornsby but things were still very, very dangerous. One day he and others were attacked by Comanches. Josiah took a musket ball to the neck and was paralyzed. Unable to move or speak, but still conscious, he felt himself being scalped by an Indian. Still alive, he dragged himself to a tree where he had a vision that saved his life. But was it a vision, or a visit from the spirit world? Learn more of this ghostly tale in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, as a category 4 storm. It was only the second Cat 4 to hit that area of Texas in recorded history. The track of Hurricane Harvey also resulted in a rain event in the Houston area, the likes of which has never been seen in American history! up to 50 inches of rain fell right on top of Wise About Texas world headquarters. Listen to this bonus episode to hear a bit about what it was like as well as the positive side of this historic disaster.
Asa Borger was a town builder with an eye for opportunity and a nose for the Texas oil fields. He came to the panhandle in 1926 and made millions establishing the boomtown of Borger. But the thousands of residents weren’t all of the best sort. Drinking, gambling, prostitution and violence were rampant. “Booger Town,” as it came to be known needed law enforcement. Unfortunately, the towns chief law enforcement officer as well as the mayor encouraged the crime and profited handsomely. Even the famous Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Tom Hickman couldn’t control it. After the District Attorney was murdered because he wasn’t corrupt, the law and order Governor Dan Moody brought in the National Guard and declared martial law. Even after the dust settled there was one more shooting…find out the rest in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
The Mexican invasion of San Antonio gave rise to two expeditions against the Mexican army that had disastrous results. Nicholas Dawson led a group of men from La Grange to San Antonio into battle on Salado Creek only to be massacred when they tried to surrender. A group of men under William Fisher attacked Mier only to be imprisoned and every tenth man executed after drawing a black bean from a jar. The bones of the Texas fighters languished on the banks of Salado Creek and in Mexico until they were returned to Fayette County in 1848 and buried on a bluff overlooking LaGrange, Texas. The tomb’s builder bought the land on the bluff and turned it into a thriving community center. How did he do it? Well, he did the most German thing possible–he built a brewery. The brewery brought folks that honored the heroes and the folks honoring the heroes bought beer. Life on Kreische’s bluff was good. Learn more about this beautiful and sacred site in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
After the battle of San Jacinto, it wasn’t certain just how victorious the Texians were. Several Mexican generals commanded several thousand Mexican troops west of the battleground. Santa Anna indeed ordered them to leave Texas but if they could get resupplied, who knows what could happen? Enter Issac Burton and his horse marines! After failing out of West Point, Issac Burton commanded a company of Texas Rangers charged with patrolling the Texas coast near Refugio, looking for Mexican warships. It didn’t take long before he found one. Through a series of clever maneuvers, a few Texas Rangers managed to capture a total of three ships bound to supply the Mexican Army. Issac Burton’s Texas Rangers may very well have saved the Texas republic as they coined a new term that would be used by the U.S. military for over a century…the Horse Marines.
One of the greatest example of resilience in Texas, indeed United States, history was the building of the Galveston seawall and the raising of the city. After the Great Hurricane of 1900, the easiest thing to do would have been to abandon Galveston Island. But that wouldn’t be the Texan thing to do. Instead, the people of Galveston appointed three engineers to figure out how to defeat the next big hurricane. The 3-member board suggested the construction of a 3-mile seawall to protect the city against a storm surge. But they went even further. They proposed raising the city as much as 17 feet in some places, houses, buildings an all. So the citizens of Galveston went to work and created the Galveston we know today. Buildings as large as 3000 tons were raised one-half inch at a time! It worked. For over 100 years, the Galveston seawall has been a center of tourism in Texas as well as a barrier against destruction. It passed its first test in 1909 and its first big test in 1915–with flying colors. Tune in to this latest episode of Wise About Texas and get ready for hurricane season!
In 1777 Bernardo de Galvez became governor of Louisiana. As a Spaniard, he was cheering for a colonial victory in the revolution. He made sure supplies made it up the Mississippi to George Washington’s Continental Army. When the Spanish crown authorized Galvez to fight the British, he called on Texas! Galvez turned to Texas to feed his army and in doing so, invented the cattle drive! He was very successful against the British and was a tremendous asset to the liberation of the colonies and the birth of the United States. Hear about the important role of Texas in the American Revolution in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
181 years ago this week, the Texian Army surprised the Mexican army and won the Battle of San Jacinto. The battle lasted a mere 18 minutes, but its effects changed the world. After the initial 18 minute rout, many of the Texans pursued the fleeing enemy into the bayous and swamps around San Jacinto while others took stock of what could be found in the Mexican camp.
From champagne, to silver, to fancy camp equipment, the Texians found a creative way to dispose of the spoils as well as improve the fiscal affairs of the hours-old Republic of Texas. But it wasn’t all celebration. A reckless youth set the prairie on fire and a lone guard almost changed world history with his bayonet!
Learn more about the immediate aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto and hear about how the victors handled the spoils of war.
Built in 1831 for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, the steamboat Yellowstone was the first steamboat to travel past the Council Bluffs. She reached parts of the upper Missouri River previously unreachable by other boats. After conquering the fur trade, she was sold to Thomas Toby & Brother of New Orleans and registered under an American flag. But she was secretly at work in Texas. Sam Houston happened upon her on the Brazos river and commandeered her for his army! After saving the Texas Army, the Yellowstone raced full speed past the Mexican Army (avoiding bullets, cannon and over-eager ropers) and onward to Galveston. She later carried Sam Houston and Santa Anna–at the same time! Her last errand for Texas brought the Father of Texas to his final resting place. Author Donald Jackson called Yellowstone “the engine of manifest destiny.” Hear more about the exciting service of the Steamboat Yellowstone in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
We all remember the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto but there were many more battles in the Texas revolution than are commonly discussed. A big issue at the time of the Texas revolution was whether to attack Matamoros, Mexico in hopes that federalist sympathizers would join forces with the Texians and achieve glorious victory over the centralists. The issue split the provisional government and almost dissolved into total chaos. Multiple individuals each thought they were in charge of the army. In the meantime, fighting began in various places between the center of the Texas colonies and Matamoros, usually with poor results. Two of those battles, San Patricio and Refugio are covered in this latest episode of Wise About Texas.
When discussing the Texas revolution, the battle of the Alamo, the Goliad massacre and the great victory at San Jacinto get most of the airtime. But there were several other military events in the time period leading up to Texas independence. One of these events was General Jose Mexia’s attack on the Mexican port city of Tampico. General Mexia thought he had organized federalist resistance to Santa Anna and that he would be welcomed to Tampico as a revolutionary leader. He ran into some bad luck and it didn’t quite work out as planned. Learn more about this incident in this episode of Wise About Texas.
In the late 1820’s, the Mexican government assessed the conditions in Texas and decided to clamp down on anglo immigration and try to prevent too much revolutionary fervor. The American immigrants “traveled with their constitution in their pockets, always demanding their rights.” Mexican President Bustamante issued a decree in 1830 that prevented any further immigration from the United States. That did it. The citizens began meeting in consultations, councils and conventions but not everyone agreed on the goal. All they knew was they had to do something. No less than 6 different organizational meetings were held and the goals of each progressed toward revolution. Finally, in a convention at Washington on the Brazos in 1836, Texas declared independence. The rest is history–Texas history. Learn more about the various attempts to organize the revolution in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In 1914, San Antonio beer magnate Otto Koehler was killed by his mistress, Emma. His former mistress, also named Emma, was present. Was it self defense? Was it planned? Did she get him before he got her? What became of his wife named, yes, Emma? Some said it was murder, some said self defense. Some said Otto attacked his killer, some said he would never have done that. One Emma claimed Otto was desperately in love, another Emma advised he was just desperate. What did the jury say? Hear the strange story of the death of one of Texas’ most prominent citizens in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In 1818, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s top generals, and many of his former officers, tried to establish a French colony in Texas. They said it was for agriculture, but they brought a ship full of weapons and built a fort on the Trinity River. Were they going to incite revolution in Mexico, or did they have their sights set on Spanish Florida? Why was the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte so eager to offer them help? Somehow they were going to free Napoleon and use Texas to establish his empire! Learn about the failed French colony of Champ D’Asile in this episode of Wise About Texas.
Merry Christmas to all! In this episode we take a light look at some of the traditions that make a Texas Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and Merry Texas Christmas!
Virginia Point was a transportation hub, civil war fort and cotton producing town on the shores of Galvesston Bay. It was part of Austin’s “coast colony” and was considered as an early port of the Republic. The Confederate forces launched the attack that recaptured Galveston from Virginia Point. Learn more about this Texas town in the latest episode in the Texas Towns series of Wise About Texas.
An 1818 map was used to negotiate a boundary treaty between the United States and Spain, then Mexico, then the Republic of Texas, then the State of Texas. The only problem was, the map was wrong! Learn about a boundary dispute between Texas and Oklahoma that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and beyond!
In honor of the one-year anniversary of Wise About Texas, I take the show professional. I conducted an interview with professional historian Dr. Jody Edward Ginn, PhD. Dr. Ginn discusses his varied career in museums, books and even movies. His insights into why Texas history is important will educate and inspire your love of Texas history. Pull up a chair and listen to a professional discuss how to preserve and promote Texas history.
Happy 1 year anniversary to Wise About Texas! This episode thanks you for listening and previews the next year(s). Thanks for listening!
For over 50 years, Texans gathered at the Walls Unit in Huntsville Texas to watch the toughest convicts compete in the Texas Prison Rodeo. The rodeo was a fixture of Texas Octobers until budgets and changing times brought an end to the roughest rodeo around. In this episode, you’ll relive those days and hear the story of the Texas Prison Rodeo.
The first man to fly a powered aircraft was a Texan named Jacob Brodbeck. History credits the Wright brothers but it’s time to correct the record! Learn about German immigration, a fascinating Texan, and the first airplane flight in this episode of Wise About Texas.
One hump or two? Camels came to Texas in the 1850’s and the ships of the desert proved themselves great Texans! There might even be one or two still wandering around! Learn more about the great camel experiment in this episode of Wise About Texas.
When faced with the most destructive hurricane to date, the city of Galveston faced an unspeakable tragedy with extraordinary resilience. As the city struggled to recover, the citizens were already planning to rebuild. As it turns out, they would go farther than anyone ever they thought possible. Hear about the incredible spirit of Texas as expressed in the recovery from the Great Storm of 1900.
On September 8, 1900 a monster hurricane slammed into Galveston Island, resulting in the largest natural disaster in American history. In this bonus episode, learn what it was like for the residents of the island as they struggled desperately to survive the storm.
The worst natural disaster in American history occurred on September 8, 1900 when a massive hurricane hit Galveston, Texas. At the time, Galveston was the largest city in Texas and one of the most prosperous in the country. Weather forecasting was not keeping pace with prosperity, however, and the folks in Galveston had no way to know what was about to hit the island. In part 1, you’ll learn about victorian-era Galveston and the weathermen who thought they understood hurricanes. This episode will take you through the morning of September 8, a day that changed Galveston, and Texas, forever.
In 1837, John James Audubon needed a trip to Texas to complete his legendary Bird of America. He came to Galveston and collected many wonderful specimens. But the story is about a lot more than birds. We have rattlesnakes, sawfish, secret agents, soldier skulls and Sam Houston. Hear about Audubon’s visit in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Meet Temple Lea Houston, youngest son of Texas hero Sam Houston and one of Texas’s first great trial lawyers. He was known for his quick mind, a silver tongue, fancy dress and a fast gun. All of those were helpful in the early courtrooms of Texas. He turned down the chance for high political office in exchange for the excitement of frontier justice. He also delivered one of the greatest closing arguments in history. Come to court in frontier Texas and get Wise About Texas.
In the middle of a hot Texas summer, let’s head for the beach! San Jose Island is bordered by Matagorda to the north and Mustang to the south. Texas barrier islands all have their unique stories and San Jose is no different. It has seen explorers, ranchers, entrepreneurs and soldiers. These islands together hold the last of an endangered species as well as the first private space flight. Learn how San Jose island, and its neighbors, played an important role in U.S. political history.
Merry Christmas…that’s Cowboy Christmas of course. July 4 is called Cowboy Christmas because of all the great rodeos held around the 4th of July holiday. In this episode we take a look at the history of rodeo going all the way back to the 16th century. Learn how the modern sport of rodeo evolved from old Mexico to modern day Texas. It all seemed to happen on and around July 4! Saddle up and hang on for a great ride through Texas history and learn about the surprise 1843 rodeo that led to an indian peace treaty!
In the first of a new series on Texas Towns we take a look at the town of Texana, once a booming Texas port city, now claimed by the water she once commanded.
Two generals decided to fight a duel to decide who would command the Texas Army. Find out what happened and whether a wound suffered in the duel eventually affected the outcome of the Civil War!
In the first episode of a periodic series on Texans you should know, learn about the interesting, active and controversial life of General Thomas Jefferson Chambers. Lawyer, surveyor, judge, land baron. Chambers had an entrepeneurial spirit and a nose for a deal. Was he a smart business man or an unscrupulous dealer? No matter what you conclude, he is certainly a Texan you should know!
Crush, Texas was the second largest city in Texas for a few hours in September, 1896. Learn about a Texas-sized publicity stunt that was the biggest and, unfortunately the deadliest in Texas history. It was a train wreck in more ways than one. Travel back to the glory days of rail travel and learn about the great “Crash at Crush!”
Review the battle of San Jacinto. 18 minutes that changed the world.
After the fall of the Alamo and the massacre at Goliad, times in Texas were uncertain at best. General Sam Houston took the army on a retreat to the east. In this episode learn how the Texian army made it to San Jacinto and some of the side stories and important questions raised during that time. Follow the Texian army as it marches across Texas to its destiny at San Jacinto.
One of the darkest events in Texas history was the massacre of the Texians at Goliad. Learn stories of deceit, escape and even kindness in the midst of sorrow in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
180 years ago, every Alamo defender lost his life. But not everyone who was in the Alamo died. Learn some stories of the folks who survived the battle and a little about the effect of the defeat on the government of the young Republic of Texas.
180 years ago today, March 6, 1836 the final assault on the Alamo began. Wise About Texas pays tribute to the fallen in this bonus episode.
180 years ago, the Mexican army surrounded the Alamo. For 13 days, the defenders worked on the fortifications, sheltered some townspeople, entreated their fledgling government for food and supplies, and plead for reinforcements. Learn who took shelter in the Alamo and follow the course of the siege through the letters of the garrison commander William Barrett Travis, including one of the most stirring and inspirational letters in world history.
Texas was in a state of confusion in February, 1836 and Santa Anna was on the march to quash the rebellion. The government was split and the military command was in disarray. But time was running out. Learn how things stood in Texas 180 years ago this month as events started to concentrate around San Antonio de Bexar–and the Alamo.
Texas elections are always exciting but not all of them result in an armed standoff in the capitol between two Governors. The election of 1873 did! The Texas Supreme Court used a semicolon to cause the conflict and, change Texas history and end reconstruction! Learn more in Episode 9 of Wise About Texas.
In Episode 8, you learned how Bob Fitzsimmons won the heavyweight championship on a sandbar in the Rio Grande. In this bonus episode, learn how Fitzsimmons’ next fight cost the legendary Wyatt Earp his gun…and his reputation!
In 1896, the biggest sporting event in the nation was to be a fight for the heavyweight championship. But its location was a secret! Armed Soldiers from Mexico, Arizona, and the Texas Rangers had it stopped, until the “Law West of the Pecos,” Judge Roy Bean managed to take it international–sort of. Learn about Texas ingenuity in Episode 8 of Wise About Texas.
170 years ago today, December 29, the United States admitted Texas as the 28th State. Learn about what Texas President Anson Jones called the “great drama” in this episode of Wise About Texas!
In December, 1835, the Mexican army surrendered the major city of Bexar to the rebellious Texans. Learn about the grass fight and the capture of the pots and pans! You’ll also learn about the pivotal role BBQ played in the cause of Texas independence!
Houston was the capital of Texas, but not for long. After the capital moved to the new town of Austin, President Sam Houston kept trying to move it again…leading to an armed conflict and a cannon fired on Congress Avenue! The only question is whether the war is really over…
The story of the first thanksgiving is not the one you might think. Before the pilgrims, Texas already had a thanksgiving–and now we have two! Learn more in this bonus episode of Wise About Texas. Happy thanksgiving!
There are several lists of the capitals of the Republic of Texas but they are incomplete! Come travel with the provisional government of Texas from the declaration of independence on March 2, 1836 onward as it flees the advancing enemy and tries to conduct the business of the new republic. Part 1 covers the period through the election of the first congress and one of its early votes–to move the capital again!
Download this episode and hear the story of the first large battle of the Texas revolution. While the first shots of the Texas revolution were fired at Gonzales, the first larger battle, and the first Texan casualty, was fought near a mission south of present-day San Antonio. This episode takes you back 180 years to the battle of Concepcion.
In this episode, we celebrate the rough and tumble world of Texas politics by examining the 1948 Senate election. This election had strange events, Texas Rangers, guns and lawsuits! Download this episode to learn how a small precinct in a small South Texas county changed the course of U.S. history!
This episode introduces two of the first judges of Texas–Josiah Hughes Bell and Benjamin Cromwell Franklin. Download this episode to hear stories of Austin’s Colony and how the provisional Texas government learned of the victory at San Jacinto. You’ll also hear about the time Texas engaged in an act of war against the United States!
Welcome to Wise About Texas, the podcast about Texas history and culture. This introductory episode tells you about the show, the host, and the goals of this podcast. Subscribe to the show and enrich your knowledge of the Texas history stories you know and learn some Texas history you don’t know!