Moonbeams on the Brazos MISSISSIPPIANS SEEK INDUSTRY IN TEXAS AUSTIN When I was writing for the San Antonio Express Sunday Magazine some years ago, I ran upon a story that appealed to me as having both pictorial and human interest : It was the story of an old house. This house, in a region fairly dotted with historic houses, was like no other. It had been built by a pioneer businessman of San Antonio who came from the North before 1840. As he was passing through Ohiohe was then a stripling of 19 or so, with scarcely a dime in his jeanshe saw a big stone house sitting on a hilltop. There was a verandah around the four sides; a flat roof edged with a stately parapet held a cistern from which pipe’s carried water; a fountain played before the broad steps leading to the entrance between two circular drives bordered with flowers; gaily appareled people strolled about. “Some day,” the young man vowed, “I am going to build me a house exactly like this one.” And he did. He was a successful merchant in San Antonio; he acquired immense tracts of land; he was one of the first to bring merino sheep to Texas. And when he was middle-aged, corpulent, and wealthy, he sat in his chair at the summit of a hill, a great knob of solid red sandstone that he owned, and directed his men as they blasted out the native rock and raised it into walls of undressed stone nearly three feet thick that would keep out heat in summer and cold in winter. The excavation where the rock had been blasted out became the basement, really an air-conditioned lower floor. Above this rose, rock on rock, two massive stories, topped by a stately parapet and a water tank. There were pipes through the house, to a showerbath on the top floor, to a tub in the basement \(I am not sure, but I believe the water was pumped up from the river ,far below, and this was in of the place, when I saw it, was the barn, a long low curving structure of stone, shaped to fit the crest of a hill; here too was water running through troughs, and a pair of huge fireplaces would keep the lambs warm in freezing weather. There was to be a fountain at the front of the house, between the circular drives, but it was never built. The Civil War made an end of superfluities; death soon thereafter made an end of the planner. I think he died broke. His family was forced to sell everything, but the place was bought by a nobleman from Europe, and then by other prosperous folk; it was famed in the nineties for fashionable parties, and Richard Harding Davis was entertained there; on week-ends gaily appareled people strolled about the verandahs. The planner, though he is not remembered nowadays, was a remarkable man who conceived any number of enterprises, all of them on a grandiose scale. He showed better taste than is common any time, but in his magnificence of plan and steadfastness of purpose, he was the arch-American of his epoch, a dreamer, a pioneer, a builder. When I visited the house to write my story, it had been bought by a modern businessman. It had been “done over”: a ruthless \(and to alter the character of the place, tearing out monumental walls, adding porticoes … THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 8 January 15, 1960 To what purpose? “My wife wanted to have a house like the one in ‘Gone With the Wind’,” the businessman told me. He chewed savagely on his cigar. “I’ll never try to remodel another old house, that’s for sure. This place was built to last forever.” HERE. I thought, was one more instance of a tawdry legend, a moony fiction, effacing an honest work of art, a poem in stone, the monument to a rugged life. The picture of the Old South that persists in. the popular imagination is so shopworn, so obviously phony, indeed it would seem silly to attack it. Charles Ramsdell And yet, an image, nomatter how phony, that is treasured in the popular mind will have its effect on history. The argument of Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi that the vapid chivalry of Walter Scott’s heroes was responsible for the Old South’s self-immolation in the Civil War infuriates the academic historians, who are almost illiterate and so recoil from the idea of giving any weight to literature as a factor in history. There is a good deal to be said for Mark Twain’s point of view, just the same. Only the question may be raised here, whether the Old South was literate enough to be much influenced by any book. We are familiar, of course, with the popular picture of Ole Massa ensconced in his library, where he reads Herodotus in the original Greek. Leisure produces culture. They tell us. We may also be familiar with the authentic heartcry of a Southern poet: Alas for the South; her books have grown fewer; She never was much given to literature. Since the influence of the Old South was strong enough to toll Texas into the Confederacy, there Teacher Status Is Discussed SAN ANTONIO With a group singing of unionism’s “Solidarity Forever” opening the program, Carl J. Megel, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Tuesday presented the AFT charter to Local 1357, representing the Edgewood independent school district. In his principal speech he told local teachers that they and other teachers must enter politics and assume community leadership. Megel met with San Antonio Superintendent of Schools Thomas Portwood earlier in the day. Portwood reiterated an earlier promise to remain neutral to unionization moves. Megel quoted Portwood as ‘saying, “Oh, I’m not opposed to a teachers’ union, but it’s not going to do them any good.” Megel criticized those who claim unionizing damages the professional stature of the teacher, at the same time spelling out the differences between professional teachers and members of various traditional professions. “Except in educational requirements, there is no relation between a teacher and a doctor or lawyer, who sets his own hours, fees, and even selects his clients,” he said. He pointed out that the teacher has his hours set and his salary fixed and is given his assignment of work. “Sure they are professional people, but they are professional employees,” he said. can be no doubt that it had considerable force in this state, and especially in the region of the cotton plantations along the lower Brazos and Colorado Rivers. Let us take a look at a successful cotton planter of Fort Bend County, which covers the Brazos bottoms just west of Houston \(accepting the data given -by the late ClarThis planter came from North or South Carolina in 1840. He had “small means, but tremendous energy, and began planting cotton.” By 1850 he was the owner of an entire league of bottom land, the largest -sugar and cotton plantation in Fort Bend County, and he built a brick mansion on it. “On down through the ’50’s he went working with feverish haste, increasing his wealth, driving his slaves and his mules from dawn to dark. At the first light of day he could be seen riding up and down the plantation turn-rows on a splendid black stallion and often at twilight he had changed mounts and was still going. It was the talk up and down the Brazos that he overworked mules and men, and himself as well, and it was also told that he never fed his Negroes anything but cornmeal mush cooked in huge boilers. Since he had more than five hundred Negroes it took a great quantity of cornmeal mush to keep them going.” This planter had a quarrel about some land with a neighbor, “a boisterous fellow,” who declared he was not afraid of the great’ man and would, if provoked further, kill him and throw his heart on his wife’s lap. The planter and a few friends went over to the neighbor’s house where they found him unarmed and slew him in the presence of his wife, according to the Houston Telegraph of March 15, 1847, which said the details were too horrible to be printed. “Plantation splendor in Texas” tide in his farms as they were maintained at the beginning of the Civil War. In 1860 he was the richest man in the County.” He died, broken in fortune and in health, a few years, after the war. Here we have plantation culture in Texas at its apogee. But somehow the picture of Old Massa ensconced in his library, reading Greek, does not seem to fit in. IF THERE WAS any leisure unI der this system in Texas, it did not produce a single book that anyone can remember today, a single poem, a single line. Unless you want to except the poetry of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas, who was not actually a product of plantation life, but came to live in Brazoria and Fort Bend counties When he was not, as a professional bureaucrat, seeking or holding office somewhere else. Here is a specimen of Lamar’s verse, which he dedicated to “Bonnie Jane,” the beauteous widow of the unfortunate “General” \(or some years ran a hotel in Brazoria: The moon, the cold, chaste moon, my love, Is riding in the sky; And like a bridal veil, my love, The clouds are floating by. Oh, brighter than that planet, love, Thy face appears to me; But when shall I behold its light, Through bridal drapery? We owe our gratitude, my love, To Sol’s enlivening rat; And yet I prize the moonlight, love, Above the glare of day. 0 bonnie Jane, thou art to me Whate’er in both is best Thou art the moonbean to mine eye, The sunbeam to my breast. Lamar got mad at Mrs. Long and inscribed the same poem to at least one other lady. This is a fair sample of his style, and a fair OSen. Jarrard Secrest asked abandonment, Sen. Grady Hazlewood changes in the auto insurance rating plan, while Sen. George Parkhouse called Rep. Charles Whitfield a liar after Whitfield had argued with him Thursday. The House chamber in Austin was packed for the Insurance Board’s hearing. Principal objections: retroactivity and inclusion of moving traffic violations. OMississippi’s segregatio n i s t governor-elect, Ross Barnett, the new lieutenant governor, legislators, and businessmen from Mississippi flew into Houston and conferred several hours with Humble Oil officials on how to get new industry to Mississippi. Barnett said that the football team at Ole Miss will be better next year than this year”and this one could beat anything in the nationincluding Syracuse.” OSpeaking of Syracuse, Uni versity of Texas President Logan Wilson asked the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. to investigate “irresponsible, false, and slanderous” charges of “dirty football” by U.T. against Syracuse in the Cotton Bowl. Wilson said television, news, and sports reports “were accepted as bases for derogatory comments in influential newspapers and magazines.” The Week in Texas OProtesting a case in which two policemen wind o wpeeped into the home of a Negro man before raiding ‘a party there New Year’s Eve and another in which a fleeing Negro theft suspect was shot by a policeman, Francis Williams, president in Houston of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, said to Houston city council that it’s “shameful” when some graduates of the police academy “indulge in flagrant violations of civil rights.” Firing Strikers is Threatened KERRVILLE “Thanks to the Texas right to work laws,” said a Kerrville aircraft executive threatened with a strike here, “employees who want to may continue to work in the event of a strike. Those who continue to strike will be replaced.” Members of the International Machinists Union voted to call a strike whenever necessary. They work at Mooney Aircraft. They want 30 cents more an hourtheir average wage now is $1.70 an hourtwo weeks’ paid vacation after a year’s work, as well as other benefits. If they strike they will allege unfair labor practices. Herbert Anderson, vice president of Mooney in charge of manufacturing, made the statement about replacing striking workers. ” . . . we have enough non-union employees to keep up production,” he said. He said that the union’s demands, amounting to 45 cents an hour more, would make it impossible for Mooney to produce aircraft competitively and stay in business. sample of Old Southern style poetry in general. If you do not believe me, I have discovered quite a large anthology of the very best Old Southern poetry and am willing to read it aloud to any challenger, as long as the challenger remains on his feet. OAttorneys for ‘ the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People ‘sued for integration of an all-white elementary school at Reese Air Force Base children. Attorneys included W. J. Durham of Dallas and Thurgood Marshall of Washington. The Texas Commission on Higher Education recommends that faculty members in the state-supported colleges and universities should be paid 12.3 percent more in 1962 and 18 percent more in 1963 than they are paid now. OA federal grand jury indicted the Southeast Texas chapter of the electrical contractors’ assn., local 716 of the electrical workers’ union, and officials of both in Houston on a charge that since 1948 they conspired to fix prices and monopolize electrical jobs in Houston, with the contractors designating one low bidder among them for each job and the union agreeing not to furnish labor to other contractors, or to supply only i n f e r i o r or incompetent workers, and to instigate work stoppages unless contractors cooperated. OBack to work after a strike that lasted almost 200 days, oilworkers at American Oil Co.’s Texas City refinery have won a
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.