SHE DID IT HER WAY

Born in 1892, when females were not expected to have a career, Waldine Amanda Tauch received encouragement to draw from her father who was a photographer. He allowed her to copy his photographs. In an interview conducted in the early 1980s, Waldine said that the

Waldine Amanda Tauch,
Wikipedia

day before she started school in Schulenberg, someone showed her an ivory bookmarker. She was so taken with the image on the piece that she asked her teacher for one of the large pieces of chalk. Using her father’s pocket knife, she carved the image with such detail that she earned immediate praise. She knew at that time that she intended to be a sculptress. She worked in clay and later she used soap, wood, chalk, and stone.

The family moved to Brady when Waldine was in her teens and some stories claim she caught the attention of ladies in the Tuesday Study Club when she carved butter into a centerpiece for a tea table. The women’s organization raised money for her art education and a friend of the renowned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini asked him to accept Tauch as his student.

Waldine said that her mother “wanted me to get married and have children, but my father who was a photographer was so happy someone was going to help me be a sculptress.” Ten days before she graduated high school in 1910, Waldine moved to San Antonio to study with Coppini. When her scholarship funds ran out, he and his wife claimed her as their foster daughter.

Waldine followed Coppini’s naturalistic style in classical sculptor, but she refused to listen to him when he warned that she was too small for the physical rigors needed to follow her dream of creating larger-than-life-sized works.

In 1923 Waldine followed Coppini to New York to help care for his wife and assist in his creation of the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next twelve years in New York, she received commissions primarily for portrait busts and for small genre figures produced by Gorham for the mass market.

“The First Shot Fired For Texas Independence” (1836)
Texas Centennial celebration
Battle of Gonzales site.

She returned to San Antonio in 1935 to win the commission inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936) to carve The First Shot Fired for Texas Independence, a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite honoring the 1836 Battle of Gonzales.

Waldine had moved from assistant to a partnership when she and Coppini shared the cost of opening a San Antonio studio that grew into an academy dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. After Coppini’s death, Waldine renamed it the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in honor of her mentor.

The commissions kept coming, including the eight-foot bronze of General Douglas MacArthur when Tauch was seventy-four years old. Her biographer, Alice Hutson, explained that the skeleton of a figure begins with arranging boards to form the shape and pose. Then pipes are bent within the board frame to form the right curve before the figure is packed with clay. Even clothed figures are first created nude in order to get the muscular structure correct. In an interview, Tauch said that when she was creating the MacArthur figure, she used his army physical record to get his weight and height and that Mrs. MacArthur loaned his uniform. Tauch laughed when she disclosed that a man had written a poem after he came into her studio while she was working on MacArthur. The nude figure wore only his shoes and his cap. The startled gentleman wrote that “nobody in San Antonio knows the man the way Waldine does. She knows him from head to foot.”

“Douglas MacArthur” (1966-68)
Howard Payne University, Brownwood

Biographer Hutson says when Tauch created the heroic-sized bronze Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965) she used three male models. Seems she liked the facial contour of one model for the head, but his body was too slender. So, she used the torso of another man. His legs did not look good, so she used a third model whose legs she admired.

“Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World” (1965) Trinity University campus

In 1964 Tauch was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. Five years later the Texas Senate presented Tauch an award for sculpting outstanding Texans, stating that her general patriotism added to the culture of Texas.

“Pippa Passes” (1956) Armstrong-Browning Library, Baylor University campus

Her work is found in front of the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University and at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon. Figures are housed in workshops and at exhibitions, at the MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and in the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

Waldine Tauch died in 1986 and is buried in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park in a plot beside Pompeo Coppini and his wife.

Alice Hutson points out that Waldine Tauch created her grand bronze figures in an era before the Women’s Movement before women were allowed to do such things. In that early 1980s interview, Waldine Tauch said “I am happy I had my career. I did what I wanted to do. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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Houston’s Civil War Hero

A handsome, redheaded Irish saloonkeeper lead a group of forty-six Irish dockworkers in a Civil War battle that Jefferson Davis called the most amazing feat in military history.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Richard “Dick” Dowling, owner of three popular Houston saloons, joined the Davis Guards, and soon became the company’s first lieutenant.  After gaining a reputation for its artillery skills in the January 1, 1863, Battle of Galveston in which the Confederates regained control of the island, Dowling’s company was assigned to Fort Griffin, a nondescript post at the mouth of Sabine Pass on the Texas/Louisiana border.

Dick Dowling

The twenty-five-year-old Dowling showed leadership beyond his years by keeping his rowdy men occupied with artillery practice—firing the fort’s six cannons at colored stakes placed on both sides of a shell reef that ran down the middle of the pass dividing it into two channels.  The east side of the passage led along the Louisiana border and the west paralleled the earthen embankment of Fort Griffin.

Battle of Sabine Pass

On September 8, 1863, Dowling’s Company F watched a Union navy flotilla of four gunboats and 5,000 men approach the pass.  Waiting until the first two gunboats entered the parallel channels, the little band of forty-six Irishmen opened fire with all six cannons, striking the boiler and exploding the USS Sanchem on the Louisiana coast and then striking the steering cables of the USS Clifton on the Texas side of the pass.  With both channels blocked by disabled ships, the Union force sailed away.

USS Clifton on left, USS Sanchem on right

In less than one hour Dowling’s men captured both Union vessels, killed nineteen, wounded nine, and took 350 prisoners without suffering a single casualty.

Dick Dowling rose to the rank of major before the end of the war and he returned to Houston as its hero, hailed as the man who stopped federal forces from coming ashore and marching westward to capture Houston and Galveston.  Jefferson Davis presented a personal commendation, calling the Sabine Pass Battle the “Thermopylae of the Confederacy.”  The ladies of Houston presented Dowling’s unit with medals made from Mexican coins smoothed down and inscribed on one side with “Sabine Pass, 1863.”

Medal inscribed on Mexican Coin “Sabine Pass, Sept 8th 1863”

Dowling claimed genuine Irish roots.  Born in County Galway, Ireland in 1838, he moved with his parents and six siblings to New Orleans to escape the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845.  Orphaned by the 1853 Yellow Fever epidemic that took the lives of his parents and four siblings, Dowling finally made his way to Houston and within four years opened his first saloon.

By 1860, the mustached Irishman with a good sense of humor owned three saloons; the most popular, called “The Bank,” sat on the square with the Harris County Courthouse and became Houston’s social gathering place.  Dowling also immersed himself in Houston’s business community–investing in local property, helping set up Houston’s first gaslight company, and installing gaslights in his home and in “The Bank.”  He helped found Houston’s Hook and Ladder Company fire department and the city’s first streetcar company.

After the war, Dowling returned to his earlier business interests and expanded into real estate, oil and gas leases, and ownership of a steamboat.  Unfortunately the 1867 Yellow Fever Epidemic, which swept across Texas from the Gulf coast, ended Dowling’s life on September 23, 1867.

Survived by his wife Elizabeth Ann Odlum and two children Mary Ann and Felize “Richard” Sabine, Dowling was honored by the city of Houston’s first public monument, which stands today in Hermann Park.

Dowling Monument

WILLIAM COWPER BRANN–THE ICONOCLAST

His supporters called him a visionary and a brilliant writer.  Some even dubbed him the “Prairie Voltaire” and the “American Carlyle.”  His detractors called him the “Devil’s Disciple.”  Even his biographer Charles Carver described him as “a mean Mark Twain.”  Upon his death, after a gun battle that also killed his assailant, those who hated him said, “At long last he’s in hell where he belongs.”

W.C. Brann acquired a third grade education, ran away at age thirteen in 1868 from the Illinois family who took him in after his mother’s death, and bounced around the country until he found work as a printer’s devil and cub reporter.  He wrote for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, Galveston Evening-Tribune, Austin Statesman, San Antonio Express, and Houston Post, soon gaining a reputation as a brilliant though vitriolic editorialist.

Brann and his wife had two daughters and a son.  After his thirteen-year-old daughter committed suicide in Houston in 1890, the family moved to Austin where Brann decided his editorial experience and the publication of three of his plays offered reason enough for him to use the limited family savings to begin publishing his “journal of personal protest,” the Iconoclast.  It quickly failed. 

Brann sold the journal to William Sydney Porter, the Austin writer who later became famous as O. Henry.  After several more moves Brann ended up in Waco in 1894 as chief editorialist for the Waco Daily News.  The following year he acquired the journal from Porter and started publishing the Iconoclast.  This time the savagery of his writing coupled with the wisdom, wit and well-turned phrase gained attention across the U.S. and it many foreign countries, growing the circulation in three years to almost 100,000.

His articulate criticisms, even cruel comments fascinated his readers.  He raged against the status quo and insulted people and institutions he viewed as overly sanctimonious or hypocritical. He held Episcopalians and Baptist in equal disdain but his attacks on Baptists garnered even more sensation because he published the Iconoclast in Waco, home of Baylor University, Texas’ premiere Baptist institution.  He wrote that Baylor was “that great storm-center of misinformation.”  He is quoted in a local publication as saying, “I have nothing against Baptists.  I just believe they were not held under long enough.”

He wrote about a potential sex scandal involving the son-in-law of the president of Baylor University and he accused male faculty members of having sex with their female students saying Baylor was “a factory for the manufacture of ministers and magdalenes.”

Despite his screeds against fundamentalism and its preachers, he wrote very little about religion and did not attack theology.  In one essay he deplored the commercialization of Christmas.  In another he said, “Remember that God is everywhere—even in church.”  The subjects of his opinion pieces ranged from cats, to cows, to cold feet.  He called politics an “unsavory stew of Macbeth’s witches.”

Brann attacked wealthy eastern socialites such as the Vanderbilts, anything having to do with Great Britain and its people, the New York social scene, and women.  He reserved his most vicious remarks for African Americans, and after reading one of his essays it is hard to imagine his popularity even in a day when lynching was accepted in many communities.

Despite his many friends and supporters, the anger he stirred in Waco boiled over in October 1897 when a group of Baylor students kidnapped Brann and demanded he retract his statements about the university.  A few days later a Baptist judge and two other men beat Brann.  A year later a street fight between one of Brann’s supporters and two Baylor loyalists resulted in the supporter losing his arm and both men in the Baylor faction being killed.

Finally, on April 1, 1898, Tom E. Davis, father of a female Baylor student, shot Brann in the back on one of Waco’s downtown streets.  Despite having taken a bullet, Brann turned and began firing at his assailant, emptying his borrowed Colt Single Action Army Revolver into the body of Davis.  Davis, writhing in agony on the ground, continued firing until he emptied his gun.  Both men died the following day.

The word TRUTH is engraved on Brann’s monument in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery.  Beneath the word is Brann’s profile with a bullet hole in it.

photo credit: Sara Gail Cranford

One source claims Brann’s wife Carrie Belle moved the Iconoclast to Chicago and continued covering Texas issues.

Baylor University holds the William Cowper Brann Collection in its Texas Collection.

LA SALLE LEGACY

Two years after his death in 1687, explorer, fur trader, Frenchman, and visionary René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle deserves credit for the government of New Spain’s decision to construct missions in East Texas.

The story springs from the massive colonization and exploitation of the New World by powerful European countries.  Although Norse explorers reached the Canadian mainland as early as A.D. 1000, Spain, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492, undertook the most aggressive campaign of colonization, spreading after 1500 from the Caribbean islands to the interior of North, Central, and South America.  Although Portugal acquired what is present Brazil, the Spanish didn’t have serious competition until the 17th century when the English, French, and the Dutch began their incursions into the New World.

The Spanish discovery of rich silver mines in Northern Mexico in the last half of the 16th century, led to settlements in the region.  When dreams of finding riches in present New Mexico and Texas did not materialize, Spanish interest lagged until England began exploring the New World.  The threat of competing empires prompted the Spanish crown to commission Juan de Oñate in 1595 to colonize present New Mexico.  When Oñate reached El Paso, he claimed for Spain all the land drained by the Rio del Norte (present Rio Grande). For almost 100 years as Franciscans established more than twenty missions in New Mexico and travelers made the journey through El Paso, the Spanish government ignored the interior of Texas.

All that changed in 1685 when Spanish officials heard that the Frenchman, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle landed on the Texas coast.

La Salle began his adventures in 1666 at age twenty-two when, with a small allowance from his family, he sailed from his home in Rouen, France to Canada to join his brother Jean, a Sulpician priest.  La Salle worked in the lucrative fur trade, which led to his exploring the river systems connected to the Great Lakes and to his dream of establishing trading posts along the Illinois River and down the Mississippi.

Originally believing the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico and offered a western passage to China, he canoed in 1682 to the mouth of the river, named the territory La Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV, and claimed all the lands drained by the river for France.

Upon his return to France in 1683, La Salle obtained the king’s blessing for a voyage to the mouth of the Mississippi to establish a colony, secure French Canada’s access to a warm water port for its fur trade, and challenge the Spanish Empire’s claim to all the land from the coast of Florida to Mexico.

La Salle departed France on July 24, 1684, with four ships and 300 colonists. Plagued from the beginning with misfortune–pirates captured one ship in the West Indies, and recent discoveries of early documents indicate La Salle’s “lack of geographical understanding” caused him to miss the mouth of the Mississippi and sail another 400 miles to Matagorda Bay on the mid-Texas coast.

As the expedition entered the mouth of the bay on February 20, 1685, the rough waters of Pass Caballo sank the storeship Aimable. Her crew and several disenchanted colonists returned to France on the naval vessel Joly.  Before La Salle’s colony moved off Matagorda Island, their numbers dwindled to 180.  Malnutrition, Indian attack, and overwork reduced their numbers even more after they moved inland and constructed Fort St. Louis on Garcitas Creek in present Victoria County.

The following October La Salle left Fort St. Louis to explore the region and determine his exact location.  Upon his return in March 1686 La Salle learned a winter storm wrecked La Belle, the colonists only remaining ship. Finally realizing the bay they entered lay west of the Mississippi, La Salle made two marches back toward East Texas into Hasinai, or Tejas Indian territory hoping to find the Mississippi and reach the fort he had established on the Illinois River.  On March 19, 1687, during his second march on which he took seventeen colonists with him, a dispute in a hunting camp resulted in the death of seven of his followers. Then one of La Salle’s own men asassinated La Salle.  Six of the survivors finally reached Canada and eventually returned to France to tell their story.

About twenty women, children, handicapped, and those out of favor with La Salle remained at Fort St. Louis. One of the children later recounted the story of all the adults being killed in a Karankawa attack around Christmas 1688.  Karankawa women saved the children whom the Spanish eventually rescued and sent as servants to Mexico.

When Spaniards learned of La Salle’s intrusion into Spanish Texas, they began the search–five sea voyages and six land marches–in pursuit of the French intruders.  They found the wrecked Belle and parts of Aimable on April 4, 1687, but it took another two years before Alonso De León discovered the destroyed settlement.

The French arrival in Spanish Texas, coupled with concern over French intrusion into East Texas from Louisiana, prompted Spanish officials to establish six missions in East Texas to Christianize the Indians, turn them into good Spanish citizens, and establish the region as a buffer against French Louisiana.  The first, Mission San Francisco de los Tejas opened in 1690 and lasted only three years before the padres fled.  The endeavor taught the Spanish about the land, the Indian culture, and convinced them future missions must be accompanied by presidios and civilian settlements.  The East Texas missions by 1772 moved permanently to San Antonio.

Today a statue of La Salle looks out into Matagorda Bay near the ghost town of Indianola and streets, cities, counties, hotels, causeways, and schools bear the explorer’s name from Texas to the Canadian provinces.

In 1995 the Texas Historical Commission led an archeological excavation in the muck of Matagorda Bay to raise La BelleHer artifacts, which the commission holds in trust for France, are displayed in nine Texas museums.  The wreckage of L’Aimable has not been found.