Texans love their freedom. At the door of a hat, we’ll declare independence and the fight is on! For years, folks have referred to Van Zandt County as the “free state of Van Zandt.” How did this come about? Was it taxes, or was it the civil war? In this episode we’ll look at three of the most common stories about how a certain East Texas county came to be known as a free state.
Texas one of only 17 states that has a pledge of allegiance to its flag. But some would say Texas is the only state that deserves it. Hear a quick take on the Texas pledge of allegiance in this episode of Wise About Texas.
In April, 1836, Texas went to war with the United States by capturing an American ship in the service of Mexico. After the battle of San Jacinto, an international relations nightmare loomed. President David Burnet had to find some way to hold a trial. Without a constitution, laws, courts or judges, Burnet took matters into his own hands and created the Judicial District of Brazos. Judge Benjamin Cromwell Franklin decided the case, then kept the court open! Before the people elected a president or the first congress met, Texas had a judiciary. Hear about the first court of the Republic of Texas in this episode of Wise About Texas.
During 1837, the Mexican government was still reeling from the successful Texas revolution. Bent on reconquering Texas, an army massed at Matamoros. The Secretary of the Texas Navy knew that Texas could keep Mexico at bay by attacking its ports and shipping. Sam Houston, however, thought the Texas Navy an unnecessary extravagance. Despite the President’s orders, Secretary of the Navy Samual Fisher ordered the ships to sea. One day, they landed at Cozumel…
During World War II, Texas played an important role in training pilots and bomber crews. The city of Dalhart contributed to the war effort by building an airfield. Practice bombing missions took place over the panhandle by the famous B-17, B-24, and later the B-29. One night in 1943, a young B-17 crew set out on a 40 mile round trip to bomb a lit square on the practice range. 50 miles later, they bombed Boise City, Oklahoma! Hear more about the night Texas attacked Oklahoma in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has been a trying time for Texans. But we’ve been through much worse. The harsh climate, tropical ports, lack of medicine, etc. has resulted in Texans enduring several pandemics and epidemics through the years. From yellow fever to cholera to smallpox, it seems as though we’ve seen it all. Texas is sometimes a tough place to live, but Texans have always been tougher. Hear some stories from prior pandemics in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Austin is famous for its music scene. Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff and so many others helped Austin become weird. But before any of them there was Kenneth Threadgill. A preacher’s son, Threadgill loved music. He especially loved Jimmie Rogers and his yodel. Threadgill opened a tavern that provided musicians a place to play, and college kids a place to listen. Kenneth Threadgill and his hootenanies gave many Austin musicians their start, and launched one hippie girl to superstardom. Hear about the earliest days of the Austin music scene and get to know one of its pioneers, Kenneth Threadgill.
In April, 1836, two armies converged at Peggy McCormick’s ranch on the banks of the San Jacinto River. In just 18 minutes, the Texian Army routed Santa Anna and the portion of the Mexican Army he commanded. Texas was free! Almost immediately, the area was revered as hallowed ground in the history of Texas. Visitors clamored to see the place where Sam Houston and the Texians claimed victory in what has been described as one of the most consequential battles in world history…the Battle of San Jacinto. Now a Texas State Historic Site, you can walk the ground Sam Houston walked and see the place where Texas independence was finally won. Come explore the Texas Revolution at the San Jacinto Battleground in this interview with Texas Historical Commission personnel in charge of preserving some of the most sacred ground in Texas.
Originally established in 1721 along the banks of the Guadalupe river, Presidio La Bahia was moved to its present location along the banks of the San Antonio river in 1749. Since then it has been a critical location for worship, trade, protection, battle and commerce. The presidio has been taken and re-taken as Texas has earned its reputation as one of the most contested places in North America. Perhaps it’s best known as James Fannin’s headquarters before his ill-fated attempt to reach Victoria, resulting in the Goliad massacre. The chapel has hosted church services since 1749, and still does today. Fort, community center, and even graveyard, there are few places in Texas as historic as Presidio La Bahia. Join me as I interview site manager Scott McMahon and explore the Texas revolution at Presidio La Bahia.
James Fannin fancied himself an accomplished military commander. But in March of 1836 he had trouble deciding where and when to move. He finally headed for Victoria but decided to stop and feed his animals. Fannin didn’t realize how close the Mexican army was but he soon found out. Surrounded, without supplies, desperate, Fannin surrendered to Mexican General Urrea. The battleground where Fannin surrendered was the third historic site acquired by the State of Texas, right after the Alamo and San Jacinto. Enjoy learning what you can see at this sacred site from site manager Bryan McAuley with the Texas Historic Commission.
The twin sisters were two cannons graciously manufactured and donated to the cause of Texas liberty from the people of Cincinnati. They served Texas well at the Battle of San Jacinto and played a key role in Texas independence. You can see these great guns of liberty at….wait minute…no you can’t. We’ve lost them. Where could they be? Theories abound, but evidence is thin. Some say they are buried by a bayou in Houston. Some say they are in the bayou. Some say they’re in Austin somewhere. Some think they were sold for scrap. Nobody knows. Listen to the latest episode of Wise About Texas and form your own opinion, and maybe start your own search for two of the most important artifacts in Texas history…the Twin Sisters.
Old Washington, better known as Washington on the Brazos, began with a ferry crossing on the Brazos River along the La Bahia road. The convention of 1836 would cement Washington’s place in Texas history. In an unfinished building, donated to the convention for free, the Texians declared independence, elected a government and drafted a constitution. In this episode you’ll hear from Texas Historical Commission site manager Jonathan Failor as he describes what you can see and experience when you explore the Texas revolution at Washington on the Brazos.
Stephen F. Austin chose to set up the capitol of his colony on the banks of the Brazos River where the El Camino Real crossed the river. He envisioned a major metropolitan area as the center of immigrant activity in his colony. He named the town San Felipe. San Felipe de Austin became the second largest town in Texas before Sam Houston ordered it burned in advance of Santa Anna’s army in 1836. It was at San Felipe that land titles were issued, commerce thrived and politics was done. Today, it is a very interesting historic site at which you can get a feel for life in pre-revolution Texas. In this episode, learn more about the San Felipe State Historic Site with site manager Bryan McAuley.
184 years ago, the Texas Army was long on spirit, but short on guns. Artillery, that is. How would they take on Santa Anna without some “hollow ware?” Enter the good people of Cincinnati, Ohio. They formed a committee, the “Friends of Texas,” to support our war effort. They sent two cannons to Texas and they reached the Texas Army just in time. Used to great effect at the Battle of San Jacinto, the “twin sisters” disappeared from history. Where are they now? Theories abound but nobody has located them yet. In Part 1, hear the story of how the twin sisters came to be and the important role they played in winning the fight for freedom.
On December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant Doris “Dorie” Miller was doing laundry, one of the few jobs available to African American sailors in the U.S. Navy at the time. When his ship came under attack, Miller rushed to help his fellow sailors. Though not trained, and not allowed, he manned an anti-aircraft gun and engaged the attacking Japanese planes. For his bravery and his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, Miller was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. But his heroism affected not only the Navy, but the entire military. Recently, the U.S. Navy announced yet another tribute to Dorie Miller, a Texas war hero. Learn more about this brave Texan in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In 1629 a group of Jumano Indians suddenly appeared at a New Mexico mission, eager to learn more about Christianity. The excited and grateful Franciscan priests wondered what motivated this sudden interest. The tale the Indians told seemed unbelievable. A “lady in blue” had appeared to them instructing them to seek out the priests and teaching the Indians the sign of the cross. That sounded incredible enough but what really stunned the priests was that they had just received a letter from Spain relating the story of a nun telling the exact same tale…half a world away. Is the Lady in Blue a myth…or a miracle? You decide in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In 1891, one cowboy murdered another over the ownership of a brindle bull. Other cowboys branded the bull so that all would remember the crime. Some say the bull wanders the trans-pecos to this day, appearing whenever a certain crime occurs. Hear about a bull branded MURDER in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Brian Kilmeade, best known as a host of Fox & Friends and the Brian Kilmeade show, is also a lover of history. In his latest book, Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers, Kilmeade takes on the story of Texas independence. As a Texan, I couldn’t resist finding out why a New York author might want to write about Texas independence. In this interview, you’ll learn why he loves history and how his love of history has shaped his values. Kilmeade also shares why he believes the fight for Texas independence is so important to the American story. I hope you enjoy this interview with TV personality and author Brian Kilmeade. ADVISORY: Because this interview was conducted by phone, the audio is a little loud.
Right after the civil war, women weren’t really expected (or even thought capable) to be in business. But of course, Texas women proved them wrong. Lizzie Johnson was a school teacher, but she was also a writer and discovered how lucrative the cattle business could be. So she became a cattle baroness and Austin real estate mogul. Learn more about the Texas Cattle Queen in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Award-winning author Stephen Harrigan visits Wise About Texas to discuss his new book–a history of Texas titled Big Wonderful Thing. Mr. Harrigan talks about how, as a journalist and novelist, he approached the colossal task of writing an entire history of Texas. Among other topics, he discusses his favorite Texas stories, the impact of our history on Texas, and a writer’s view of the Texas history we all love. Learn how one of Texas’ greatest writers approached Texas history in this episode of Wise About Texas.
What could be better than a good vaudeville show? A runaway mule, of course! One day in Nacogdoches, it’s said that a runaway mule changed the course of comedy history. Is it true? You bet your life…
Ben Kilpatrick was an outlaw. He rode with Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Wild Bunch into western infamy. The law caught up with him and he went to prison where he met Ole Hobeck. They two decided when they got out, they’d go into business together. Being outlaws, that business was train robbery. So they set out for the barren landscapes and lonely railroad tracks of West Texas to score big. But they didn’t count on meeting Wells Fargo agents David Trousdale and J.K. Reagen. They would soon wish they had thought twice…Hear about one of the last train robberies in Texas in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Oliver Loving was a trailblazer…literally. He drove cattle to Illinois, Louisiana, and Colorado. With Charles Goodnight he blazed a new western trail intended to avoid the Indian threat. Impatient as he was brave, he rode ahead to Santa Fe and was immediately attacked. However, he held off hundreds of Comanches while one of his men went for help. Through luck, or fate, or toughness, or all of it, he survived the attack. But his wounds were too severe. Before he died, his best friend promised to take his body back to Texas. Get a taste of the cattle drives, the danger, the bravery, and promises kept in this latest episode of Wise About Texas.
When Texans talk about the Declaration of Independence, they usually mean the one signed at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836. Occasionally, we refer to the Goliad declaration of 1835. But there was one before all of them. In 1813, Texans in San Antonio de Bexar declared the province of Texas to be independent. The wording sounds familiar in places but the principals are timeless, and very familiar to Texans and Americans. Learn more about what motivated the Texans of 1813 to declare independence, which ultimately led to the Battle of Medina a few months later. (PHOTO BY BOB OWEN/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS/ZUMA PRESS)
Texas has 254 wonderful counties. But we might have 284, or maybe we did but are down some. Or are we? What??? Learn about counties of Texas that were created, disappeared, were repealed, or maybe still exist. Oh yeah, we gave a couple to the USA (you’re welcome, New Mexico) and Oklahoma stole one. Learn more in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Born into poverty and raised in north central Texas, Bessie Coleman wanted to fly. But in the early 20th century, nobody in the United States would teach a black woman to fly an airplane. So Bessie Coleman learned a new language, traveled a world away, and realized her dream. A pioneer pilot, Coleman came home and became famous. She used her talent and her perseverance to show everyone what was possible. Learn more about a true pioneer aviator in this episode of Wise About Texas.
This bonus episode features an interview with Dr. Jody Edward Ginn, Ph.D., who was a consulting historian on the new Netflix movie The Highwaymen. The movie stars Kevin Costner as former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and Woody Harrelson as former Texas Ranger Maney Gault. The movie tells the story of the chase and killing of two of the most vicious killers in American history. In the interview, Dr. Ginn talks about historical movies, the myths surrounding Bonnie and Clyde and what its like to take Texas history to the big screen. Enjoy this bonus episode of Wise About Texas.
Bonnie & Clyde were on the run for two years. They committed small time thefts but big time murders. They were killers, pure and simple. They drove fast and far, laid low, and had help all over their territory. But they always came home. Over 1000 men from various law enforcement agencies, including the new FBI, couldn’t catch them. So we needed one Texas Ranger, and that man was Frank Hamer. Hamer, his friend and fellow Ranger Maney Gault, along with two Dallas deputy sheriffs, tracked the outlaws and set them up to get what they had coming. The posse did in a few weeks what the rest of the country couldn’t do in two years. They got justice. Hear about the chase and dramatic end to the crime spree of Bonnie & Clyde in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
The great depression was hard on everyone everywhere, and Texas was no exception. People couldn’t work, could barely eat and just needed a break. The people wanted excitement, they wanted romance, they wanted something to cheer for…even if it was evil. That’s when a petty chicken thief met a beautiful wanna-be movie star, both from the poor side of town. They set off on one of the most wide-ranging, violent, notorious, and legendary crime sprees in American history. Pretty soon, everyone knew their names…Bonnie & Clyde. Meet two of America’s most notorious outlaws in this episode of Wise About Texas.
The account of the Texas revolution makes for glorious telling, retelling and reading. It seemed that every man, woman and child in early Texas just couldn’t wait to rebel against the tyrannical Mexican government and win another glorious war for independence. Didn’t they? Well, not exactly. Just like the 13 American colonies, Texas had its tories too. Learn more about “differences of opinion” in revolutionary Texas in the latest episode of Wise About Texas
The late 19th century saw Texas industry expanding west. The railroads were laid and towns were springing up everywhere. That quintessential Texas opportunity was knocking once again. One railroad entrepreneur gave one aspiring town builder the idea to layout a new town near the Big Bend called…what else…Progress City. He surveyed, he platted, and he sold. He sold thousands of lots. Deeds were filed and taxes were charged and paid. The problem was…it never existed. Hear the story of Progress City in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Over 5000 Texans served in World War One. Many returned to Texas and continued their service to their home State. Here are just a few stories of men who returned from war and continued their service. A tribute to all our men and women who served so bravely in the Great War.
December 23, 1927 was a typical day in Cisco, Texas. People going about their Christmas shopping, ready for holiday time with family and friends. The kids even saw Santa Claus walking down Main Street! He engaged with the kids, wishing them Merry Christmas. Then he walked to the First National Bank, and into history, in what would be one of the most sensational gunfights and manhunts in Texas history. Hear the story of the Santa Claus Bank Robbery in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Before they can fight, our soldiers must be trained. General Sherman decided that the dwindling U.S. Army would be consolidated into two garrisons, one being based in San Antonio, Texas to protect the frontier and conduct the Indian wars necessary to western expansion. When war in Europe beckoned, San Antonio was ready. But the Army was running out of room. So the Army began buying ranches until San Antonio became the huge military city it remains today. Learn about San Antonio’s role in equipping our troops for world war in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
A Tribute to our 41st President…a Texan.
The early 20th century brought chaos to the Texas/Mexico border. The Mexican revolution(s) created opportunities for raiders, bandits and criminals to run rampant. The law was hard to enforce and depredations hard to prevent. Germany fostered this chaos to distract the U.S. from the war in Europe. Soon, two documents were discovered that would focus U.S. attention on either quelling the chaos, or joining the war. Hear the story of the role Texas played in the U.S. entering World War I in the latest episode of Wise About Texas: Texas and the Great War, Part 1.
In the early 20th century Japan sought to extend its relations around the world. Texas made imminent sense. A Japanese professor saw the Alamo as a perfect companion to one of ancient Japan’s most famous battles. The Emperor saw Texas as a perfect place to relocate some of his brightest farmers. Learn about the early connections between Japan and Texas in this latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In the first days of 1836 revolution was brewing in Texas. The battle of Gonzales had spawned the Texian conquest of La Bahia and Bexar. The Texians were sure the Mexicans would soon see the wisdom of allowing the Texians their own government. The Indians, however, just saw opportunity. Depredations continued and the further up the Guadalupe river you lived, the more danger you faced. That danger reached Sarah Hibbens and her family. This wasn’t her first suffering at the hand of the indians and it wouldn’t be her last. But after a harrowing escape from the horror of captivity, she ran into a new force that would change the course of Indian/settler relations forever: The Texas Rangers. Captain Tumlinson and his men chased the Indians into the area that would later become the capital of the Republic of Texas. Hear the story of the first battle between Texas Rangers and Comanche Indians in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
San Antonio was founded 300 years ago in 1718. From day one, the residents, priests and soldiers faced a constant and menacing threat from the Apache Indians. Raids from the indians and retaliatory campaigns from the soldiers made life in early San Antonio stressful and difficult. Attempts at peace never seemed to work. But all of a sudden, in 1749, the Apache wanted not only to make peace, but also to enter mission life and convert to Christianity. The reason for the Apache’s sudden change of heart is a matter of perspective. But rather than look a gift horse in the mouth, the Spanish held a grand peace ceremony in San Antonio’s main plaza, the likes of which has never been seen in North America. Learn about this unique event in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Dr. Lytle Adams had bats in his belfry. He had visited Carlsbad cavern right before Pearl Harbor was attacked. He came up with a great idea for weapon(s) of mass destruction hat would burn up the paper and wood cities of Japan. All he would need was a one ounce incendiary bomb, a breakaway bomb case, and millions of bats. So the Marines set up guards at several Texas caves containing millions of 3-inch winged warriors on their way to the Pacific. Testing sacrificed thousands of these brave flyers but the concept worked…until one worked better. Hear the wild story of the World War II Bat Bomb in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
What is it about Texas women? Independent, smart, strong, spirited, they can do it all! Ask any Texas man and he’ll tell you, the ladies run the show! But this is nothing new. Back before the Texas revolution, the women of Texas formed the spirit of Texas. Some were because their husbands moved the family to this new land of opportunity. These women did their best to build a household in the harsh Texas frontier, and they did it well. But some came on their own, and brought their spirit with them. That was Pamelia Mann. She was a Houston entrepreneur, hotelier, rancher, businesswoman, forger, possibly a thief, and willing to be a killer. She was even sentenced to death…but slipped the noose. During the Texas revolution she handed Sam Houston himself the only defeat he would suffer in command of the Texas Army. Celebrate the spirit of Texas women in this latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Fredericksburg Texas has a very interesting history. Created during the massive German immigration to Texas in the middle 1800’s, Fredericksburg was not intended to be the city it soon became. A treaty with the Comanche Indians and the California gold rush made Fredericksburg a prosperous place to set up a store. John Hunter did just that. Hunter supplied his patrons with everything they need, including whiskey. He was also the county clerk. But Hunter’s temper got the better of him, his store, and the entire early history of Fredericksburg. Learn more in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
In June of 1865, Texas was in chaos. Robert E. Lee had just surrendered the Army of Northern of Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. But without a government or functioning economy, it was every man for himself. Many former Confederates were heading for Mexico, while others tried to bring order to chaos. A few dozen men decided they’d get their money the old fashioned way–they’d steal it. But they weren’t satisfied with small potatoes, they were going big. The were going to rob the Texas treasury.., Learn more about the coldest case in Texas in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
The Trinity River flows from roughly Fort Worth to Trinity Bay in Chambers County. For several years boats navigated the river but never all the way. Several attempts were made to promote the Trinity River as a commercial asset but none were more enthusiastic than the 2-year, 9000 mile, yes 9000 mile, journey of Basil Muse Hatfield. The grandson of a San Jacinto veteran and steamboat man, Hatfield boasted a family that not only had many “Basil Muse’s” but also one of the most famous “Devil’s” in American history. He fought wars in South Africa, South America and China, hunted ivory and mined diamonds in Africa, mined silver in Mexico and even studied with Tibetan Lamas. Or so he claimed. He did find oil in Texas. One of the great characters of Texas, meet Basil Muse Hatfield, the First Admiral of the Trinity, in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
The Flash was a schooner built in Connecticut for a new enterprise in Texas. She came to Texas in possession of James Morgan to support his new endeavor, a town and community called New Washington. But as war clouds gathered, Morgan mounted an 18 pounder on her foredeck and commissioned her Captain into the Texas Navy. From commerce to combat, rescuing refugees to carrying cannon, the Flash did it all during the Texas revolution. Her noble service ended quickly after her Captain was replaced with someone who apparently couldn’t find the largest harbor in Texas. The Flash carried some of the most important cargo in Texas history, presidents, cannon, even important groceries. Hear the story of the schooner Flash in this latest episode of Wise About Texas.
Texas Ranger. Two words that strike fear in the heart of the lawbreaker and hope in the heart of the law abiding. Since before there was a Texas, there were Rangers. How this elite force officially began is the subject of some controversy. There is no doubt that Stephen F. Austin realized the need to take the fight to the hostile Indians he encountered in his new colony. In this episode, you hear Austin’s own words describe his ideas to defend his new colony and his personal funding of a group of rangers. I also discuss the various rangers that are often considered the first and why such men were even necessary. I also cover the first battle between Texas Rangers and comanches, beginning a war that would last decades. Hear about the origins of the most famous law enforcement organization in history–the legendary Texas Rangers.
In early 1853, Jane Wilson and her new husband James set out with 62 others to strike it rich in California. They never made it. After two months of traveling they reached El Paso where successful thieves ruined their dreams of fortune. They decided to return to East Texas but what seemed like the end of a dream was just the beginning of a new nightmare. Hear tales of murder, torture at the hands of Indian captors, rescues by comancheros and friendly Indian tribes, starvation, thirst, and ultimately survival. Join Jane Wilson on her incredible journey and learn what tough really means in the latest episode of Wise About Texas.
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!