Elisabet Ney, Sculptor of Renown

Elisabet Ney

Elisabet Ney

In 1873, perhaps the most unusual and nonconforming couple in early Texas—German sculptor Elisabet Ney and her husband Scotch philosopher and scientist Dr. Edmund Montgomery—bought a former slave plantation outside Hempstead.

“Miss Ney,” as she was called even after her marriage to Dr. Montgomery, had always been beautiful, talented, and self-willed. She shocked her family by going to Munich at the age of nineteen to study art. She soon made a name for herself as a sculptor, but she continued to scorn convention by her open affair with young Montgomery. She undertook many important commissions, even moving into a studio at the royal palace in Munich to execute a full-length state of Ludwig II, the mad king who almost financially ruined Bavaria before he was assassinated.

After Miss Ney and Dr. Montgomery married, it is said that her relations with him and her political activities caused the couple to decide that the United States offered a better environment for them. They lived about two years in a German colony in Georgia before moving to Texas and purchasing Liendo Plantation.

The nineteen years she lived at Liendo, she devoted her life to rearing her two sons and trying to help the neighborhood freedmen, but neither venture was very successful. The blacks ridiculed her, one son died, and the story is told that fear of spreading an epidemic prompted Miss Ney to cremate his body in the family fireplace. The other child separated himself from his mother because of her strict rules and the embarrassment he felt over the community talk generated by her life-style and behavior.

Formosa Studio, Austin

Formosa Studio, Austin

Miss Ney received a commission to execute the statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston for the Texas Exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair. (Both statues stand today in the state capitol in Austin. A copy of Austin is in the U.S. Capitol Hall of Columns and Houston is in the National Statuary Hall.) She moved to Austin, built her studio Formosa, and completed busts of notable Texas politicians and a depiction of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth (the marble is displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art.) She also assembled works of European notables—King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, and Jacob Grimm—that she had created as a young artist in Europe.ney_werk_b

Although she lived at Formosa until her death in 1907, she and Dr. Montgomery continued to visit, and she was buried at Liendo among the oak trees they had planted. Sometime after her death, friends organized the Texas Fine Arts Association, purchased her Austin studio, and developed it into a museum of her work. Dr. Montgomery became a leading local citizen in Hempstead, serving as a county commissioner and helping to found Prairie View College (present Prairie View A&M University).

Queen of Weird’s Book Isn’t Kidding

Two books have just been published that will convince nonbelievers that Austin is weird. Howie Richey just wrote Party Weird: Festivals & Fringe Gatherings of Austin. Chapter 3 is called “Aralyn Hughes.” Aralyn

Myra, Aralyn & Howie in the Texas Assoc of Authors tent at the Texas Book Festival

Myra, Aralyn & Howie in the Texas Assoc of Authors tent at the Texas Book Festival

Hughes is the editor of the second book, Kid Me Not.  The article below offers a sample of Aralyn, “The Queen of Weird.”  You will see how Aralyn and Howie  make a lively Austin team.

By John Kelso

It’s hard to have the blues when you chat with Aralyn Hughes. She can tapdance, paint a picture, tell a story, write a book, throw a costume party, drive an art car covered with pigs, remove a chewing gum stain from a pair of pants, and convince women to be their own boss and do what they want.
Aralyn Hughes, known around Austin as the Queen of Weird, just might be Dan Patrick’s worst nightmare.

It’s not her art car or choice in pets that would make his skin itch. The ’88 Oldsmobile Aralyn bought for $500 is covered with pig figurines. Back when the pig car was running, Aralyn would drive around town selling real estate with her pet pig Ara riding shotgun.

“Lots of people who bought from me wanted to ride in the pig car, and the pig to go along,” Aralyn said. “If I lived in Waco or Lubbock, they’d think I was a lunatic. But here in Austin they just wave.”

So what would ruffle some folks’ shorts? Aralyn, who started Austin’s first abortion clinic when she arrived in town in the mid-1970s, has put together a book called “Kid Me Not.” It’s an anthology of thoughtful stories told by 15 women in their 60s who survived the 1960s and decided not to become mothers for various reasons.

There’s the pain of childbirth, the lifelong commitment, pursuing a career instead of a crib, and some women simply aren’t cut out to be Mom. You’ve heard the expression, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That includes the children.

The stories are well told by some successful women, among them CK Car-man, who worked as a bartender, a crop duster and finally a radio and TV broadcaster; Austin writer and horse rancher Lin Sutherland; and Aralyn, who can tap dance, paint and make you laugh.

Aralyn has done nine solo performances that include, among other things, a straightforward marching order: Gals, you’re the boss of your own life, so do what you want and get after it.

Of course, announcing that you’re not fixing to raise a family sometimes brings the look that asks, “What’s your problem?” In her book, Aralyn writes about a friend she helped through childbirth twice. Later, the friend dropped Aralyn like a bad habit.

“When I asked why, she said, ‘Because you don’t have children and don’t want to have children,’” Aralyn writes. “My feelings were hurt beyond measure.”

Some folks won’t appreciate Aralyn’s outrageous humor. There’s the dominatrix outfit she wears in her movie “Love in the Sixties.” And she’s known around town for her costume parties. She once dressed as a pregnant Girl Scout. The pork and beans ensemble was benign by comparison. The pig went as the pork, while Aralyn filled in as the beans.
“People say, ‘You’re going to ruin your reputation,’” she said. “I’m 68 years old. Do you really think I have to worry about my reputation now?”

Aralyn sees herself as a pioneer. She remembers when “the pill” came along and gave women a choice. Aralyn wants young women today to realize who got the ball rolling for them a half-century ago.

“I was told if I wanted to go to college that was fine,” Aralyn said. But there was a caveat. “I was also told I was going for an MRS degree, because all the men I wanted to be married to were in college.”

So Aralyn attended Oklahoma State and got a degree — in home economics. “For gosh sakes, I thought I was going to be the stitch and stir woman,” she said. “I’m also known around town as the stain queen. I can get a stain out of anything.”

Aralyn’s background certainly wasn’t radical. She grew up in Elk City, Okla., an oil town on Route 66 she describes as “a peek and plum town. Take a peek and you’re plum out of town.”

But Elk City wasn’t a hotbed of activism.

“When the church bells tolled, everybody was there,” she said.

Aralyn was a cheerleader in high school and was president of the Tri Delta sorority at Oklahoma State. She married a Navy man, and nine years later, she split the sheets. He wanted kids; she didn’t. She was flamboyant. Apparently he wasn’t.

“He said it looked as if somebody from the circus lived here because my side of the closet was colorful hats and scarves,” she said. “And I just kind of joked that the circus came to town and I just left with it.”

Aralyn jumped into real estate. Then in 2008, when the housing market went sour, she switched gears and took to the stage. She put together nine monologues. “I just got up and told my story.”

Last year, one of her shows made it to New York for a major solo theater festival.

“I’m a person who gives people permission to do what they want, even if they’re getting along in years,” Aralyn said. “How often do you hear people say, ‘I’m saving for a rainy day?’

“Folks, I say the rainy day is here. You’re in your 60s. Get with it.”

John Kelso’s column appears on Sundays in the Austin-American Statesman. Contact him at jkelso@statesman.com or 512-445-3606.

He Came to Texas Seeking Revenge

It’s hard to know what’s truth and what’s myth about the adventures of William Alexander Anderson Wallace. He was a nineteen-year-old working in his father’s Virginia fruit orchard in 1835 when he heard that his brother and a cousin had been killed in the Goliad Massacre during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico. That was all the six foot two inch, 240-pound fellow needed to send him to Texas to “take pay out of the Mexicans.” He arrived after Texas had won independence and become a republic, but he wasn’t ready to stop fighting. He tried settling on a farm near La Grange, but the life didn’t suit him. According to his own account, which he embroidered to suit his audience, it was while living on the edge of frontier that he woke to discover that Comanches had raided in the night, taking all his horses except for one old gray mare that had been staked away from the other animals. Wallace jumped on the old horse in pursuit of the Indians. He dismounted in a hickory grove and crawled near their camp where the band of forty-two Indians had started eating his horses. Tying off his pant legs and his shirtsleeves, he filled his clothing with the hickory nuts until his body bulged into a new grotesque size. He claimed to have crawled (how did he manage that?) near the camp, shot one of the Indians, and then stood to his bulging height. The startled Indians quickly regained their composure and began firing arrow after arrow into his hickory nut armor. When Wallace continued standing the Comanches ran for the hills. Now, the story takes on a new level of interest. Wallace untied his clothing, and the hickory nuts tumbled out three inches deep on the ground. He brought his wagon, gathered the nuts, which the arrows had already cracked, and took them home to feed his pigs.

He soon ventured west to the new Texas capital of Austin, which was being carved out of the hills and cedar trees in hostile Indian country. In fact, it was Wallace’s encounter with an Indian who was a lot bigger

Bigfoot Wallace

Bigfoot Wallace

than Wallace that earned him the life-long nickname of “Bigfoot.” He claimed to have earned two hundred dollars a month hewing logs for the new buildings being quickly constructed for the capital. He and a partner went out into Comanche Territory, cut cedar and other logs and floated them down the Colorado River to the new town. During one of his absences, a neighbor discovered that his house had been ransacked and huge moccasin tracks led from his house to Wallace’s home. Since Wallace wore moccasin, the neighbor stormed over accusing Wallace of the robbery. It seems there was a Waco Indian, much taller and much heavier than Wallace who also wore moccasins. Everyone called him Chief Bigfoot because his foot measured over fourteen inches and his big toe protruded even further. To calm the neighbor, Wallace took him home and placed his own foot in the giant prints to prove that Wallace was not the guilty party. Wallace’s roommate, William Fox, thought the encounter so funny that he began calling Wallace “Bigfoot,” a moniker that lasted the rest of his life. Ironically, the next year Chief Bigfoot killed and scalped William Fox. Wallace tried to take revenge, but the giant Indian survived Wallace’s attack.

After Bigfoot Wallace saw the last buffalo run down Austin’s Congress Avenue, he decided the capital was getting to crowded and moved on to San Antonio, which lay on the extreme edge of civilization. He joined local residents in their fight against encroaching Indians and Mexicans who, having not accepted Texas independence, made forays into the new country as far north as San Antonio. In 1842, after another Mexican raid of San Antonio, Bigfoot Wallace joined the Somervell and Mier expeditions, which were intended to put a stop to the Mexican incursions. Some of the volunteers turned back, deciding their Texas force was not large enough to counter the power of the Mexican Army. Bigfoot Wallace was among the 300 who determined to continue into Mexico. A strong Mexican force at Mier promptly defeated them and began marching them to Perote Prison in Vera Cruz. The prisoners tried escaping into the Mexican desert, but were quickly found and under orders from Santa Anna, were sentenced to a firing squad. Army officials convinced Santa Anna to execute only every tenth man, and to accomplish that plan, seventeen black beans were placed in a jar of white beans. The unlucky seventeen who drew a black bean were quickly shot. Bigfoot Wallace drew a gray bean, and the Mexican officer decided to classify Wallace as one of the lucky white bean drawers. Instead of a quick death, he and the other fortunate men were marched to Perote Prison where they remained in dungeons for two years before being released.

Bigfoot Wallace and his Gun

Bigfoot Wallace and his Gun

Bigfoot Wallace had not gotten the urge to fight out of his system. Upon returning to San Antonio he joined Jack Hayes’ Texas Rangers in the Mexican-American War and when it ended in 1848, he served as a captain of his own ranger company, fighting border bandits and Indians. They were known for forcing confessions, hanging those they believed were guilty, and leaving the dangling bodies as a warning to other outlaws. One of his ranger buddies, Creed Taylor, complained of constantly loosing his stock to bandits and Indian raids. When a Mexican raider known as Vidal and his gang stole a bunch of Taylor’s horses, Bigfoot and his rangers went after the Vidal gang. They found them asleep and by the time the fracas ended, all the bandits were dead. That’s when Bigfoot and his rangers decided to make an example of Vidal. They beheaded him, stuffed his head in his sombrero and secured it to his saddle pummel. They tied Vidal’s body in his saddle, mounted it on one of the stolen horses, and sent the horse off in a run. The vision on a dark night of a body swaying wildly on the back of the galloping black stallion with the gruesome head hanging in plain sight, may not have stopped horse thieves, but it scared so many people that as late as 1900, people from Mexico to New Mexico to Texas were claiming to have seen El Muerto: The Texas Headless Horseman.

Bigfoot Wallace’s next encounter with danger came when he began freighting mail over the 600-mile route from San Antonio to El Paso. A month of hard riding was required to get through the Texas desert and cross the old Comanche Trail leading into Mexico. Although killing or wounding the fearless fighter would have been a feather for any warrior, Bigfoot managed to make the trips, suffering only one badly shot up mail coach. He claimed that on one occasion he lost his mules to Indians and had to walk all the way to El Paso. Just before reaching town, he stopped at a Mexican house, where he ate twenty-seven eggs, then went on into town and had a “full meal.”

The Civil War brought new challenges for Bigfoot Wallace. He did not agree with secession, but refused to abandon his own people. Instead, he spent the war guarding the frontier settlements against Comanche raids.

Bigfoot Wallace never married, and he spent his later years in Frio County in a village he founded named Bigfoot. He welcomed visitors and delighted in regaling them with

Replica of Wallace home in Bigfoort

Replica of Wallace home in Bigfoort

his stories of life on the Texas frontier. He told his friend and novelist John C. Duval in The Adventures of Bigfoot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter that he believed his account (with the Mexicans) had been settled. Soon after his death on January 7, 1899, the Texas legislature appropriated money to move his body to the State Cemetery in Austin.

The Adventures of Bigfoot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter by John C. Duval

The Adventures of Bigfoot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter by John C. Duval

Angelina Eberly, Innkeeper/Cannoneer

Famous for firing the howitzer that started Texas’ “Bloodless War,” Angelina Eberly was really a smart businesswoman.  Born in Tennessee in 1798, Angelina Belle married her first cousin Jonathan C Payton in 1818 and began a journey that ended in 1825 in San Felipe de Austin, headquarters of Stephen F. Austin’s colony.  The couple operated an inn and tavern with the help of several slaves.  After Jonathan died in 1834, Angelina continued running the inn and raising their three children until the Texas War for Independence from Mexico when the town was burned to keep General Santa Anna’s army from benefiting from its stores.

After Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836, Angelina married Jacob Eberly and moved to Austin the new capital of the republic, which sat on the far western edge of Texas settlement.  They opened the Eberly House, an establishment that must have been the best in the little village because on October 18, 1839, the president of the republic Mirabeau B. Lamar and his cabinet had dinner at Eberly House.  When Sam Houston won the presidency for the second time in 1841, he moved into Eberly House rather than live in the president’s residence.  Despite being widowed again in 1841, Angelina continued operating her hotel.

Austin residents were kept on alert because of potential Indian attack, and because Mexico had never accepted Texas independence, frequent reports reached Austin of Mexican forays into Texas.  The remote location provided President Sam Houston with an excuse to begin moving the congress, the courts, and the embassies back toward his namesake town of Houston.  Austin residents realized that with Houston removing all the government offices, the only hope of retaining their little town as the capital lay in keeping the land records that detailed how the republic had been paying its bills through the issuance of land titles.  After Mexican troops occupied San Antonio for the second time in December 1842, President Houston sent two officers with eighteen men and two wagons to Austin with instruction to quietly remove the records from the General Land Office.

Austin, 1844, A. B. Lawrence, Courtesy Dorothy Sloan-rare books

Austin, 1844, A. B. Lawrence, Courtesy Dorothy Sloan-rare books

Who knows why Mrs. Eberly was out in the middle of the night, but she saw the wagons pulling away from the land office, ran to the cannon Austin used to protect itself from Indian attack, and lit the fuse.  One account says she blew a hole in the Land Office Building, but did not injure anyone.  Warned of the impending loss of the records, Austin residents gave chase.  Houston’s men made it as far as Kinney’s Fort, outside present Round Rock where they spent the following night.  When they awoke the next morning, the Austin residents had surrounded the fort and had the cannon ready to fire.  Without a single shot being exchanged, Houston’s men gave the records back to the angry Austinites.  By 1845 when Texas voted to join the Union, Austin was again named the capital of Texas.

Angelina Eberbly, like many other business people, cast her eyes south to Matagorda Bay on the Central Texas coast where the huge influx of German immigrants had increased the development along the coast.  She moved first to Lavaca (present Port Lavaca) and initiated a one-year lease for a tavern, paying $180 every three months for the property while charging the owner $30 a month for his family to remain on the premises.  At the end of that year, it was clear that Indian Point (soon renamed Indianola) was the place to begin a new business.  She promptly moved to the thriving seaport and opened the American Hotel.

The census of 1850 listed the forty-six year old widow as the principal property holder of Indianola with assets of $50,000.  In March she was acknowledged as a force in the community when she was publically thanked for serving as hostess for the celebration held for the United States Boundary Commission tasked with establishing the border between the United States and Mexico.  Despite stiff competition from other hotels that attracted travelers, the American Hotel catered to families and remained in constant demand.  Community events, including a March 2nd celebration of Texas Independence that started with flags flying on ships in the harbor and a parade of military officers, the Sons of Temperance, and the local residents, ended at the American Hotel with the reading of the Declaration of Texan Independence.

After a nineteen-day illness in 1860, the sixty-three year old Angelina died of “oscillation of the heart.”  She left her entire estate to her ten-year-old grandson, Peyton Bell Lytle, whom she had raised since his mother’s death.

Today Austin honors Angelina Eberly with a seven-foot, 2,200-pound bronze statue near the corner of Congress Avenue and Sixth Street.  The gigantic, barefoot woman, created by Pat Oliphant, the widely syndicated Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, is lunging forward to light the howitzer that led to saving the capital for Austin

Angelina Eberly, Cannoneer

Angelina Eberly, Cannoneer

Book Signing Invite

9781491709542_COVER.inddTo all you lovers of Texas history who faithfully read my weekly blog, I am sending a very personal invitation to two book signings for Stein House.  If you have been on board for a few months, you already know that Stein House is historical fiction (the history is accurate) set in the thriving Texas seaport of Indianola between 1853 and 1886.

I’ve already written about how I came to tell the story of Helga Heinrich the German immigrant and her children who sail into Indianola determined to overcome the memory and haunting legacy of Max, her husband and their papa, who drowned in a drunken leap from the dock as their ship pulled away from the German port.

The family operates Stein House for boarders of all stripes whose involvement in the rigors of a town on the edge of frontier influences and molds all their lives: the cruelties of yellow fever and slavery, the wrenching choices of Civil War and Reconstruction, murder, alcoholism, and the devastation wrought by the hurricane of 1886.

If you, dear reader, are in Sweden or Australia or India or one of the iced-over states in the U.S., I know you probably can’t make it to the book signings, so here’s my offer:  The publisher of Stein House has given me some free E-book stubs. If you would like to read Stein House, just let me know, and I’ll be tickled to send you the secret code for downloading a copy to one of your electronic devices.

I have ten copies to give away. Of course, I am secretly hoping that you will like Stein House, and that you will write a gentle review, and that you will spread good words about Stein House to your many friends.  If you prefer a real, between the covers copy of Stein House, you can order it by clicking on the link on the right side of this blog.

Meantime, here’s the invite for dear readers who live in this neck of the Texas woods:

 Meet and Greet the Author at Barnes & Noble, Arboretum

10,000 Research Blvd., #158

Austin, TX 78759

Saturday, February 1, 2014

 2 to 4 pm

Meet and Greet the Author at Hastings Books

5206 N. Navarro

Victoria, TX 77901

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Noon to 4 pm

I hope to see you there. 

Flapper Bandit

Just before Christmas in 1926, Rebecca Bradley, a twenty-one-year old student at the University of Texas in Austin, decided to rob banks to pay her college tuition.  First, she set fire to a vacant house near downtown Round Rock and rushed into the nearby bank thinking the employees would be distracted by the blaze.  When that plan failed, she drove south of Austin to the Fa

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rmers National Bank in Buda and pretended to be a newspaper reporter as she made careful notes while interviewing local farmers about their crops and government policies.  She secured perm

ission to use the bank’s typewriter inside the teller’s cage.  After a time, she pulled a .32 automatic, herded both employees into the walk-in safe and fled with $1,000 in five-dollar bills.  Her Ford Model T coupe got stuck in the mud on the way back to Austin; the bank employees used a screwdriver to jiggle their way to freedom; and by the time she reached home she was arrested.

Newspapers across the country went nuts reporting on the pretty little coed who they dubbed the “flapper bandit.”  Rebecca’s story soon emerged.  With the help of a student loan and part time jobs she had earned a bachelor’s degree in history and was beginning a master’s degree program when her mother became ill and moved to Austin to live with Rebecca.  To further complicate matters, Rebecca had been secretly married for a year to her high school sweetheart Otis Rogers, a UT law student who could not afford to care for his wife and her mother.

Rebecca worked for a university professor who managed the business affairs for the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) and planned to be away during the summer of 1926.  In his absence and apparently thinking Rebecca would be eager to bring in new members, he allowed Rebecca to keep $1.40 of the $3.00 membership dues she collected.  She jumped into the new opportunity, used personal funds to hire secretaries to send membership invitations to thousands of names, and ended up overwhelmed by poor record keeping and errors that resulted in her owing over $1,200 to the TSHA.  In the meantime she went to work as a secretary for Texas Attorney General Dan Moody who was elected governor in November 1926.

Justice ground forward as a witness in the arson trial testified to seeing Rebecca enter the vacant house and leave again just before the fire erupted.  The jury could not agree on a verdict.  The December 1927 trial for the bank robbery resulted in a conviction and maximum sentence of fourteen years.  Finally, her husband Otis Rogers joined the defense team that won an appeal and after lengthy legal wrangling she was granted a new trial.  While many professionals wondered at the sanity of a young woman who would rob a bank, her husband actually argued that she was insane at the time of the robbery.  One account claims that he pleaded passionately for the court to “hang her high or send her to the electric chair” instead of allowing her to suffer in prison.  Again, a hung jury failed to convict.  Before it all ended in September 1929, Rebecca Bradley Rogers had been tried four times for either arson or armed robbery.

Later, the sheriff reported that as he and Rebecca drove through Buda she laughed and said, “I have a whole lot to live down, but not as much as those men back there who let a little girl hold them up with an empty gun.”

Rebecca Bradley Rogers became a free woman the day before she gave birth to their first child.  She and Otis moved to Fort Worth where he became a successful criminal attorney with Rebecca serving as his legal secretary.

Read about other famous Texas gangsters in Dr. T. Linday Baker’s Gangster Tour of Texas.

Gangster Tour of Texas T. Lindsay Baker

Gangster Tour of Texas
T. Lindsay Baker

rebecca

Mystery of the Twin Sisters

In November 1835, three months before Texas declared its independence from Mexico, war clouds had grown into a full rebellion and the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio, eager to lend support, began raising money to purchase two cannons for the looming battle.  Since the United States remained neutral throughout the war, the two iron six-pound cannons were secretly shipped down the Mississippi River labeled as “hollow ware.”  Stories abound about how they actually reached General Sam Houston’s volunteer army camped about seventy-five miles up the Brazos River from its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.

Most accounts say the guns traveled from New Orleans aboard the schooner Pennsylvania to Galveston where Dr. Charles Rice’s nine-year-old twin daughters Elizabeth and Eleanor were invited to be part of the official handing over of the cannons to Texas.  Since the ceremony consisted of twins presenting the two cannons, the six-pounders became known as the “Twin Sisters.”  The Pennsylvania continued to the mouth of the Brazos River and traveled inland about eighteen miles to Brazoria.  It was still nearly sixty miles upriver to Houston’s camp and according to an account taken from General Houston’s correspondence and orders, worry over the terrible condition of the roads and concern that Santa Anna’s army might intercept the Twin Sisters, the cannons were shipped back to Galveston.  Over the next eleven days the guns moved through Galveston Bay and up Buffalo Bayou to Harrisburg (near present Houston) and then ox-carts, pulled by horses, slogged through the rain, mud and fiercely cold weather to General Houston’s campsite on the Brazos River.

As soon as the Twin Sisters arrived, nine men drew assignment to each cannon and the drilling and firing began as the Texan Army moved back east along the very route the Twin Sisters had just covered.

Sam Houston’s army of about nine hundred men set up camp on April 20 in a thick growth of timber where Buffalo Bayou flowed into the San Jacinto River.  The Twin Sisters spent the afternoon in their first combat dueling with Santa Anna’s Mexican cannon.

The following afternoon the Twin Sisters led the charge across the rise in the prairie toward Mexicans who, convinced the Texans would not dare attack, were enjoying their usual siesta.  At 200 yards the two little cannon opened fire with the Texans’ only ammunition–handfuls of musket balls, broken glass, and horseshoes.  The battle cry of the Texans’ split the air with “Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad.”  In eighteen minutes the startled forces of Mexico’s superior army of over 1,200 men had been defeated. The carnage did not stop, however, as the Texans continued to use rifle butts and bayonets to kill the enemy in a furious retaliation for the brutal deaths of almost 600 Texans at the Alamo on March 6 and the massacre at Goliad on March 27.

Although the Twin Sisters secured their place in history, their travels did not end at San Jacinto.  After being moved to Austin, probably to help protect the frontier capital from Indian attack, the two cannons appeared again on April 21, 1841, when they were fired to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.  Later that year as Sam Houston kissed the Bible at the conclusion of his inauguration for his second term as president of the Republic of Texas, the cannons roared to life in a salute to the new president and hero of the Battle of San Jacinto.

The Twin Sisters made no further public appearances and became part of the property—fortifications, barracks, ports, harbors, navy and navy yards, docks, magazines, and armaments–ceded to the United States in 1845 when Texas joined the union.  All Texas’ military stores were moved to the federal arsenal at Baton Rouge.

When secession talk reached full tilt with the election in 1860 of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin McCulloch who as a young man had served on the crew manning the Twin Sisters and was destined to become a general in the Confederate Army sent a letter to then Governor Sam Houston asking him to bring the Twin Sisters back to their home in Texas.  In the years after the cannons reached the federal arsenal in Louisiana, the Twin Sisters had been sold as scrap iron to a foundry.  An investigation found that one cannon remained at the foundry in poor condition and the other had been sold to a private individual.  The Louisiana legislature purchased and repaired the cannons at a cost of $700 and returned them to Texas on April 20, 1861, the twenty-fifth anniversary of their first skirmish with the Mexicans at San Jacinto.

The Twin Sisters performed again at the January 1, 1863, Battle of Galveston in which Confederate forces regained Galveston Island.  Ironically, Lt. Sidney A. Sherman, son of Sidney Sherman one of the heroes at the Battle of San Jacinto, was killed while commanding one of the Twin Sisters.

Stories abound about what happened to the Twin Sisters after the Battle of Galveston.  One account says they were sent to Colonel John “Rip” Ford in San Antonio as he prepared to recapture the Rio Grande from federal troops, but no record exists of the cannons reaching San Antonio.  Some veterans claim to have seen the Twin Sisters at various locations around the Harrisburg area of Houston.  Another account claims that several Confederate veterans, concerned the Twin Sisters would fall into the hands of the federal troops during Reconstruction, buried the cannons in an area hugging Buffalo Bayou.  For years history buffs and souvenir hunters have searched without success for the burial site.

In 1985 two graduates of the University of Houston’s College of Technology supervised the making of replicas of the Twin Sisters.  They stand today on the San Jacinto Battlegrounds waiting for the mystery to be solved that will return the original Twin Sisters to the site where they made Texas and world history.

Replica of Twin Sisters at San Jacinto Battleground

Replica of Twin Sisters at San Jacinto Battleground