September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
May 21, 1853
In all Christian communities, the Sabbath is esteemed and observed as a day of sacred rest, when the labors and turmoils of the week being ended, peace and quiet conspire to draw the mind to the contemplation of more elevated joys than those of earth. Do our laws contemplate, does our safety permit, or do good morals invite the assemblage of negroes in large groups about the streets on the Sabbath, engaged in wrestling, drinking, playing marbles, cursing and swearing? Are they allowed to gallop horses at a furious rate through the streets, to the imminent danger of all who are compelled to be abroad? Does the law allow slaves to own horses, cattle, fire-arms, &c; or if it does, do masters consult their best interests by permitting such things? If the laws do not authorize such license to our slave population, are our civil magistrates doing their duty in permitting them to be set at defiance, as is done to an alarming extent, openly and boldly? These things, together with the pernicious and unlawful practice of permitting negroes to hire their own time, are the reasons why masters have so much trouble in governing their slaves. Under such a discipline it is not surprising that we have frequent instances of gangs of slaves fleeing into Mexico, mounted and equipped in the best manner with their master’s horses, arms, &c. But the negroes of this community are not the only plagues on the Sabbath, and at nights.
The parent of every son ardently desires to see that son walk in the paths of virtue, temperance, truth and knowledge. In this respect, the wish of the parent may be gratified, but if it is not, who is to blame? A walk past the resorts for gambling and intemperance at night, or through the streets of the city on the Sabbath, will give an answer to this question, such as should fill the heart of every parent with deep anguish. On the last Sabbath, in one part of the city, was a gang of riotous boys from six to twelve years of age, engaged in stoning the house of a deranged and helpless woman, whose cries and the yelling of the boys was a disturbance to all the families in the neighborhood; and in another part of the city, on its principal thoroughfare, was to be seen a crowd of boys of all ages, from five to fifteen, two of whom were engaged in a fierce fight, while the others were gathered around, each encouraging their favorite with hurrahs and the usual exclamations attending upon the contest of two muster-ground bullies!
One of our judges, in charging the grand jury in a neighboring village recently, made remarks to the following import: He said that most of the jurymen had, like himself, been acquainted with the state of society in the town, from its earliest settlement, and they could bear him witness that scarcely a single youth who had grown up within its precincts gave promise of being anything else than a disgrace to his family and an incubus upon society. This he attributed mainly to the sin of gambling and its attendant vices – habits contracted and confirmed in boyhood through the criminal negligence of the parents and the equally criminal leniency of courts and juries. Alas, how true! must be the mournful exclamation of every parent who takes a calm and candid review of our own community.
September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
I have spent several years researching If You Can’t Dance, Get On and Ride: The Jazz Age in Austin. It is as yet yet unpublished, although you can get a PDF version from me. Austin had quite a scene happening, most of which has been forgotten, until now. I will be culling material from this book from time to time for this blog.
The title derives from the motto of one of Austin’s earliest jazz bands, and perhaps it’s most successful, Jimmie’s Joys. Like most all the early white jazz bands in Austin, the members of Jimmie’s Joys were UT students. Their fame was such that in May 1924, when they left Austin in May 1924 to conquer the rest of the country, the Cactus yearbook’s benediction read, May our long to be remembered jazzters be so prosperous that in a few years the motto on the dollar will have been changed from “E Pluribus Unum” to “If You Can’t Dance, Get On and Ride.“
Jimmie’s Joys played Galveston in the summers of 1921-24, where they met Peck Kelly and Jack Teagarden, among others.
Jimmy (Jimmie) Maloney founded and led Jimmie’s Joys, and his claim to fame was playing two clarinets at once, a feat later imitated by a number of other clarinetists.
Jimmy (Jimmie) Maloney founded his first band, the Sole-Killers, in 1920, which morphed into Jimmie’s Joys
And it is at this point that I get to the point of this post. In Jazz Masters of the Twenties, Richard Hadlock states that “almost certainly the first jazz festival on the books” took place in Houston in 1922.
I beg to differ (at least a bit), and offer as evidence the accompanying ad, from November 1921. Depending on your definition of “jazz festival,” I suppose both of us Richards could be right.
Let the debate begin!
September 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
“Free Love” did not start at UT in the 1960s.
September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
In accordance with previous arrangements, such of the citizens as were able to procure horses assembled at 11 o’clock, on the morning of the 17th of November, 1839, for the purpose of escorting his Excellency, President Mirabeau Lamar, into town. The Honorable Edwin Waller was appointed orator, and Capt. Lynch and Mr. Alexander Russell were appointed marshalls for the day. Col. E. Burleson, at the special request of his fellow citizens, took command of the whole. After proceeding about two miles beyond the city limits, they met his Excellency.
The text of Waller’s address follows:
“Having been called upon by my fellow citizens to welcome your Excellency on your arrival at the permanent seat of government for the republic, I should have declined doing so on account of conscious inability, wholly unused as I am to public speaking, had I not felt that holding the situation here that I do, it was my duty to obey the call. With pleasure, I introduce to you the citizens of Austin, and at their request give you cordial welcome to a place which owes its existence as a city to the policy of your administration.
“Under your appointment, and in accordance with your direction, I came here in the month of May last for the purpose of preparing proper accommodations for the transaction of the business of the government. I found a situation naturally most beautiful, but requiring much exertion to render it available for the purpose intended by its location. Building materials and provisions were to be procured, when both were scarce; a large number of workmen were to be employed in the lower country and brought up in the heat of summer, during the season when fever was rife; and when here, our labors were liable every moment to be interrupted by the hostile Indians, for whom we were obliged to be constantly on the watch; many-tongued rumor was busy with tales of Indian depredations, which seemed to increase in geometrical progression to her progress through the country. Many who were on the eve of immigrating were deterred by these rumors from doing so. Interested and malicious persons were busy in detracting from the actual merits of the place, and every engine of falsehood has been called into action to prevent its occupation for governmental purposes. Beauty of scenery, centrality of location and purity of atmosphere have been nothing in the vision of those whose views were governed by their purses, and whose ideas of fitness were entirely subservient to their desire for profit. Under all these disadvantageous circumstances, and more which I cannot now detail, a capitol, a house for the chief magistrate of the republic, and a large number of public offices were to be erected and in readiness for use in the short period of four months. Not discouraged at the unpromising aspect of affairs, I cheerfully undertook to obey your behests. Numbers of the present citizens of Austin immigrated hither, and with an alacrity and spirit of accommodation, for which they have my grateful remembrance, rendered us every assistance in their power.
“To the utmost extent of my abilities I have exerted myself and have succeeded in preparing such accommodations as I sincerely hope will prove satisfactory to your excellency and my fellow citizens of Texas.
“In the name of the citizens of Austin, I cordially welcome you and your cabinet to the new metropolis. Under your fostering care may it flourish, and aided by its salubrity of climate and its beauty of situation, become famous among the cities of the New World.”
September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
April 15, 1841
In the last Matagorda Gazette that we received, we were amused at reading a kind of sketch of the observations, adventures, etc., attending a visit made to our city some time since, by the “Fat Boy,” whom capricious destiny has placed at the editorial head of that cachetic sheet. We should judge from the wit and vivacity of his style, and the oleaginous vein of humor that runs through his remarks, and gives such zest to his inimitable descriptions, that the knight of the Soap Locks had borrowed a portion of the genius of Boz, to aid his delineations. He had evidently recovered his equanimity, which was so much disturbed whilst here, by the intrusion of our savage neighbors. In addition to the intellectual olla podrida which he is serving up to his neighbors, we can inform him that our town, though upon the border, will shortly contribute something to increase his notoriety, and entertain the public. A literary friend of ours, who was a quiet observer of the agitation and conflicting emotions that moved the “Fat Boy” during the alarm, is now preparing and will shortly have in press, a full account of his various adventures in our city. The work will be published in octave form, illustrated by a wood cut, representing the “Fat Boy” en passant, with his hands clasped upon those beautiful ringlets that adorn his caput, his lower extremities in rapid locomotion, and his face turned rearwards, with an expression of feature that might well have become Hamlet, when he suddenly encountered the ghost of the buried majesty of Denmark. To give stronger effect to the picture, the figure of a Comanche may be seen in the background en couchant. We can assure the obese gentleman, that when he sees this picture, so correctly drawn by the artist, he will laugh as heartily at the ludicrous position of his own image, as his readers do at the buffoonery of the original. We are told that the rapidity which he shortened space as he “larded the lean earth” in his efforts to obtain safety and succor, astonished beholders, and gave the lie to the established principles of gravitation.
We regret extremely that one part of his performance was of such a nature, that a sense of it can neither be conveyed to the eye by the engraver or writer, without offending the taste of the public.
April 29, 1841
We mentioned two weeks ago, that there was a work in course of publication, containing a true historical account of the adventures of the “FAT BOY” of Matagorda, whilst in this city sometime since. We regret that owing to some difficulty in procuring plates for the illustrations, the publication will be delayed longer than expected. We have, however, been favored with an extract from this interesting volume, which we give below, as a specimen of the powers of the author, and the character of the incidents. The book is entitled “The Fat Boy’s Pilgrimage.”
“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for my stage, princes my actors,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene.”
“The city on that memorable evening was an almost indescribable scene of tumult and confusion. The deep gloom of night overspread the earth, and the thick darkness was only rendered more palpable and terrific by occasional vivid flashes of lightning, that for a moment revealed the consternation and excitement that prevailed. Some of the bravest spirits quailed before the threatened danger of massacre, and sought refuge in secret nooks and hiding places. The confused noise made by the voices and the tread of many men, in a state of alarm and commotion, — the shrieks of frightened women, and the startling wail of terrified children, together with the pawing and charging of horses, the braying of mules, barking of dogs, and unmitigated babbling of niggers, all mingled en masse, formed a scene that might have well appalled the stoutest heart, and caused a hero to tremble. Congress Avenue, usually so quiet, was the place of rendezvous on that eventful and disastrous night. Had the obscurity of night permitted, a curious and startling spectacle might there have met the view of a wondering beholder. Crowds of citizens were moving rapidly to and fro, — some calling for arms, some asking direction to the post of danger and assault; while many were seeking shelter from the expected carnage. Dismay and confusion for a time reigned paramount over this apparently doomed “City of the Hills,” and the general uproar, told in terms too plainly understood, that “chaos was come again!” A small but determined body of the “Travis Guards” were cautiously and warily moving up the Avenue towards capitol hill, followed by a number of citizens, many of them not at all equipped for a fight, but impelled by a spirit that rendered them indifferent to fate! Suddenly their progress was checked, and their attention arrested by a sound proceeding from the right of the Avenue, — it was a startling — thrilling — wonderful, and terrific noise — it was “horrid!” At first it sounded as the heavy tread of an armed host, or the thundering of a heard of buffaloe, but as it approached nearer, it appeared like the rush of a whirl wind. “Stop men, what’s that?” Cried the leader of our heroic defenders. On came the new and strange cause of alarm, moving almost with the swiftness of thought, and carrying terror and amazement in its progress. All at once, sounds somewhat resembling the human voice were heard, emanating from the phenomenon. “Where are you, Governor. Save me! Oh my God! The Indians! Where’s my boots? Give me my boots! Oh! my wife! my God! I’m gone! I’m gone!”
“If you ain’t gone, you are going pretty fast anyhow,” said our auctioneer, as the phantom passed him with the velocity of a sunbeam. “What was it?” asked fifty voices at once; and the crowd was instantly filled with speculation and conjecture. We had imagined previous to this time, that we had some tolerable correct notions in regard to motion, but we give it up, and acknowledge that our ideas on that subject, were, to say the least, indistinct and erroneous, if not absurd. It is now admitted by all that the flight of this wonderful creature is without parallel in the history of the world since the Hegira. On went the thing with a vim and fury unequaled, and with a speed most awful. “Great God! what is that?” exclaimed an old man, as it passed him. “It’s a storm,” said one; “No, it’s a mustang,” said another. “It’s a cabalado broke loose,” said Jones. “It’s a buffaloe,” said Smith. “It’s the Wandering Jew,” said the Colonel. “It’s a skunk,” cried the Major, “for I smelt him.” “It’s an epidemic,” observed Dr. Ipicac. “It’s a damned fool,” hallowed Snooks in a rage. “Shoot him, ” “throw a rock at him,” “pull him,” “kick him,” “give him hell,” echoed from fifty voices. “Kill him with a big stick,” shouted John Thomas Church, whose “high upreared and abutting front,” just then protruded through the amazed crowd. “Go it,” said Johnson; and go it he did too, with a perfect looseness. But it has been decreed that everything must have an end, and in obedience to that fiat, this unexampled run terminated at the lower end of the Avenue. The object that had caused such a universal panic, having fallen, overcome either by fright or fatigue. “It’s stopped down yonder, let’s go see what it is,” observed someone. “Let’s take a drink and then go,” said the Captain. And after that preliminary operation had been performed, down went the crowd.
“Lights having been procured, they all proceeded to the place of deposit, where was found prostrate on the earth, a large round body, presenting an indistinct appearance of a human being. Impelled by the spirit of humanity, the spectators were going forward involuntarily to bestow relief upon what seemed to be a suffering victim, but their approach was suddenly checked when within a few yards of the carcass by an odor that almost suffocated all who came within certain distance. “He smells like a dead man,” said one fellow. “He’s wounded,” said another. “Doctor, examine him and see what’s the matter.” “I can’t stand it,” replied the Doctor, holding his nose, “I think he’s shot in the bowels.” “Well, here’s the Governor; he can tell all about it,” observed somebody, and the crowd immediately opened to admit the venerable seer who is as well acquainted with zoology as with finance. As soon as the Governor’s eyes rested for a moment on the wonder of the night, he exclaimed in a tone of surprise. — “Why bless my soul, gentlemen, that’s my lost friend, the editor; it’s the Fat Boy of Matagorda!” The voice of the Governor acted like a charm on the Fat Boy, for he instantly drew up his legs, opened his eyes, and put his hands on his head, just as if he was feeling something.
“He soon recognized his old friend, and cried out in the most piteous tone, “My God, Governor, what shall I do? Where shall I go?” “Do go!” answered the Governor, “Why, my dear fellow, judging from the circumstances I think you had better conduct yourself to the river as soon as possible.”
September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
I have just returned from the epicenter of the great Bastrop County Complex fire, near the junction of Park Road 1-C and Alum Creek Road. Some friends of mine, including the great-great grand-daughter of the famous pistolero, gambler and Austin City Marshal, Ben Thompson, lost their house, guest house, shop — in short, everything — to the fire. Their losses included priceless Ben Thompson memorabilia, including his roulette wheel. She did escape with his famous, custom-made City Marshal’s badge. But they made it out alive. Square miles of pine trees stand like burned toothpicks, while as many more acres stand fatally singed. Most of adjoining Bastrop State Park wildlands burned to the ground, save most of the CCC-era buildings at the park’s eastern edge. Scattered pockets of pine trees have survived, given the vagaries of wildfires (much like tornadoes), but anyone old enough to be reading this post will not see again in their lifetime the Lost Pines as they appeared just a few weeks ago. Under normal circumstances, the Lost Pines will grow back. But these are not normal times. Texas, according to climate experts, may be undergoing a long-term climatic shift, with the state’s dry line moving east from its traditional Balcones Escarpment boundary. If this is the case, chances of the Lost Pines growing back to their former beauty will all but disappear, since the rainfall they need will drastically diminish. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer, do a rain dance, tickle your prayer beads, think good thoughts, hope for the best … . Only time will tell the fate of the Lost Pines.
September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
April 10, 1841
Indians in Austin. Part 3.
The person whose astonishing nerves riveted our attention was seated at the piano, banging away most unconcernedly amid the din, which was confusion worse confounded. What a remarkable taste he had for music! Mozart himself, who used to eat, drink, and sleep on music, would not have been so completely absorbed by la douce passione under such circumstances, for the rattling tramp of three or four hundred armed men, as they hurried to and fro; the crying of lots of children, not knowing what to make of the muss; and the anxious chatter of 50 or 60 female tongues formed an accompaniment sufficient to drive all Italy mad.
We involuntarily turned our eyes from the piano player to the various groups formed in and about the house and yard.
We saw all sorts of people in the crowd – soldiers, border ruffians, government clerks, newspapermen, Mexican traders, cow drivers and ox drivers, and one man who kept shouting “Hurrah for Old Virginia!”
We next turned our attention to the people in the street, which was crowded with men in arms. We soon discovered that a sort of regular engagement was going on there, for some of the soldiery, seeing the red men had escaped, had turned to combating another enemy, which, they, apparently with one consent, conceived to be red enough for exercising on. They were attacking brandy and its kindred allies. Attacking it – some in squads of two or three, some in sections of five or six, some in platoons of twelve or fourteen, and again, others by companies.
And they fought manfully indeed. They managed it upon the regular fire-and-fall-back principle; for no sooner would one squad discharge their pieces but another standing ready to take their places, would advance heroically up to the breastwork, behind which the enemy were drawn up in perfect military order, and each selecting his particular adversary, would, in the twinkling of an eye, toss him down.
For a long time the engagement was kept up on our side with great spirit, until by the increase of noise and confusion it was plain to perceive that the battle was at its height. In a little while, however, a few of our men, who, up to the middle of the engagement had manifested the most vociferous heroism, began to show very evident signs of declining prowess, more especially by reeling up to the charge out of their squad or platoon’s regular turn. It was therefore not to be wondered at, that these gallant fellows should give in, or rather give out.
Some of our disabled could be seen laying helpless in the gutter, others sitting stupidly. One by one they slowly withdrew from the field, leaving it in the enemy’s possession.
And thus ended the chronicle of the adventures of William D. Wallach, editor
Not surprisingly, Editor Teulon took exception to Editor “Fat Boy” Wallach’s memoir. His editorial revenge will be the subject of Indian Attacks in Austin, Part 4 (the conclusion).
September 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
April 3, 1841
Indians in Austin. Part 2.
His scattering grey hairs, long lank legs, which were poked out some six or eight inches below the threadbare pantaloons encasing them, and the very venerable stoop in his shoulders, at once brought to our mind the beautiful, simple and touching old English excerpt, “Pit the sorrows of a, etc.” which in its tune touched our tenderest chord. But the rapid approach of a large reinforcement of field officers, as they appeared to be, if one could judge from the titles they were lavishing each other with. “Now, General,” they were saying, “Yes, Captain,” “We’ll make mince meat out of them, Major,” and “Certainly, Colonel.” This induced us at first to believe that the main army, which seemed from the noise to be concentrating down about the doggeries, had sent them up. But our error was soon dissipated, for on closer inspection, they turned out to be a band of citizens who had snatched up their arms and were hastening to the rescue.
The whole party now wended their way up the hill towards Cook’s to ascertain what hell was to pay. On the way up, an individual, after satisfying himself that we were not Indians, cautiously protruded his head out of a window and screamed at the top of his voice, “What’s kicking up all that dust, hey?” To which a wag, pointing to Teulon, returned answer. “That fellow’s sword, I reckon.” We involuntarily cast our eyes in the direction his finger designated, and there was the long hanger on the short man, going jingle, jingle, clinkety, clankety, leaving almost a small plough trail on the ground to shew where the hero had trod. George took the hint, and grasping the weapon firmly in his left hand, hurried towards the Colonel’s, at the head of the column. In a minute we were there, when simultaneously all commenced questioning him upon the character and extent of the damage done. Who did it? Comanches or Caddos? Was the baby safe? etc., etc.
There we were, panting, blowing, and questioning around him, as though bedlam had broken loose. We soon got to the jist of the matter. His gardener, a Dutchman, was walking about 50 yards from the front gate, when the Indians politely gave him to know they were taking the evening air in the same neighborhood, by sending an arrow through his arm. He bounded off for the house. They attempted to arrest his progress by a rifle shot, in answer to which he set up a yell that brought the Colonel to the door, armed with his pistols.
As he sprang out, he observed a red skin run around his house, apparently making for the woods. As soon as the rascal turned the corner, he fired away with his rifle, but without effect. Whereupon, he immediately squatted and the Colonel then wounded him with a pistol shot, which took effect we cannot say where, for the fellow rolled himself down the steep hill, on the brink of which the house stands, and made for the woods. In the meanwhile, other rifles and arrows were shot at the Colonel, who, it delights to say, escaped unhurt.
Imagine the anxiety of the 2000 souls, men, women and children, white, black, and ginger cake colored, who, we took it for granted, had congregated below to hear the news, a few good natured creatures of us hurried downtown to tell the history of the night’s adventures. The hum and buzz of the crowd directed our steps to the corner of Pecan street and Congress Avenue, and when there, the hard swearing that came to our ears from in and about the yard of Bullock’s Tavern, satisfied us that the headquarters were certainly there, and we therefore proceeded directly to that spot.
There were frightened women, yelping children and armed men in profusion, for the whole house and its ample court yard was overflowing. There was the graceful, nonchalant Major H., whose mild, yet brilliant blue eye, and mouth which always smiles whether he will or not, looking so “devil may care” as he swaggered to and fro among the feminine, all bristling as he was with knives and pistols. His red sash, grey undress military jacket, and shining sombrero gave his appearance a decided guerilla turn, and we thought as we gazed on him, what an admirable study he would have made for an artist, intending to portray a dashing, love-making, fire-eating, modern novel hero.
Leaving the major to assure the ladies of their safety, we directed our attention to other objects about us, and saw somebody whose nerves were so strong as to make surrounding him – to be continued next week.
September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
Humorous Indian attacks are about as hard to find as 7-leaf clovers. During my years of research, I have uncovered one, which occurred in Austin, in 1841. Due to its length, it will be presented in installments.
During the first two or so years of life in Austin, Indian attacks were a common occurrence and resulted in several tragic deaths. But public hysteria, no matter how well founded, produced at least one humorous episode, the first installment of which follows. It first ran in the Matagorda Colorado Gazette and Advertiser, William D. Wallach, editor, in March 1841, following a visit by Wallach to the new capital.
Indians in Austin. Part 1.
On February 15, I, along with my friend Dr. B., mounted up and headed for Austin. Few and uninteresting were the adventures which befell our humdrum self, until we dismounted safely in Austin, and having washed and dressed we sallied out after tea to find Gov. Smith’s (old Henry) office. We soon got into a discussion about the shortest way of making every body rich without work, for that seems to be the upshot of most modern scheming on that subject.
The governor had just waxed sufficiently warm in the matter to be himself, in his glory. He was sawing the air with his hands when whiz! bang! pop! went the pistols and rifles within 100 yards of us. That cut short our interesting colloquy, and between the shots our friend Col. L.P. Cook’s voice must have been heard a good mile, crying out, “Indians! Indians! Indians!” – whiz! “The damned rascals are here murdering my family!” bang! “Come up here to rescue us, you damned cowardly _______ pup!”
Whew, how the late secretary of the Navy swore!
We sprang up in our confusion to run across the street to his assistance, but the Governor, who knew a thing or two, seized us by the coattail, with preemptory orders to stay still. He assured us the best policy was to blow out the light, cover the fire and keep as quiet as two little rabbits. We yielded consent to the old gentleman’s wishes, and kept still amid the banging of firearms and swearing of the Colonel. Our mentor would not let us budge. “No,” said he, “if you run bulging into town, you’ll be sure to find drunken men enough to shoot you for an Indian.”
As soon as they drew sufficiently near to hear our voices, the Governor opened the door and we hastened out to meet them. What a martial sight met our eyes, as we closed with the accidental advance guard of the pell mell volunteers for the occasion. If we mistake not it was a battalion of three. There was our little friend Teulon [editor of the Austin City Gazette newspaper – Ed.] in the van; looking like a venerable bellweather, with his musket, fixed bayonet, and long sword. There he was puffing and blowing under his load, yet apparently ready to eat a Comanche raw, if he could catch him. Close in his rear came a denizen, with a fragment of rock in each hand, whose stalwart proportions and iron grey hair, and underdone roast beef complexion, looked as though he might have been of real service in an Indian “scrimmage” had he been properly armed. The rear was brought up by the very man we should expect to see turn out promptly in time of danger. We mean his honor, the Secretary of War, whose manner of carrying his musket, trailing far back on his shoulder, showed quite plainly that his day for doing his country effective service in the ranks, had departed. – (To be continued next week.)