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).

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The Cattle Baron’s Daughter

An elegant 1930s Greek revival temple in Victoria, the Royston Nave Museum, has a story to tell of vast wealth, cultural challenge, creative genius,

Royston Nave Museum

Royston Nave Museum

and high living as broad as the Texas landscape. In 2012 the Nave Museum held a month-long exhibit titled “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931).”

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

Emily McFaddin McCan Nave by Royston Nave

The cattle baron’s daughter was Emily McFaddin, a beautiful, artistic young woman born in 1876 on a vast cattle ranch outside Victoria. The cattle baron was James Alfred McFaddin, son and brother of the Beaumont McFaddins, owners of vast stretches of ranch land, including Big Hill, site of the world-changing oil discovery in 1901 known as Spindletop.

James McFaddin had moved to Refugio County and began ranching in 1858 with 130 head of cattle from his father’s herd. After serving in the Civil War, James McFaddin returned to Refugio, served as a one-man bank, loaning money to his neighbors, and buying land where the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers converge. As his holdings increased, James McFaddin built a three-story mansion in Victoria with an art studio for Emily in the tower above the center of the home.

The first artist in this story was the lively James Ferdinand McCan from County Kerry, 416814_10150616754062037_1560116650_nIreland, who arrived in the United States at age seventeen. He settled in San Antonio and opened an art studio. An exhibition of his work caught the eye of Henrietta King, wife of the wealthy cattleman Richard King. Henrietta moved McCan to the King Ranch where he served as artist-in-residence for two years. During that time his reputation blossomed. Al McFaddin, Emily’s brother, commissioned McCan in 1896 to paint a portrait of his and Emily’s parents, James and Margaret McFaddin. Emily and McCan married the following year and moved happily into Victoria’s social whirl, entertaining in the home her parents gave them as a wedding gift. Their son, Claude Kerry McCan, was born in 1899.

The second artist in the saga was Royston Nave who was born in LaGrange and began his studies under his mother Lou Scott Royston, a well-known Texas painter. He studied under several

Royston Nave, WWI

Royston Nave, WWI

New York artists and became renowned with many one-man exhibits of his portraits. After serving in WWI, he movied to Victoria to study art with James McCan. The two artists became such good friends, that Nave painted a self-portrait that he gave to McCan with the inscription, “To my friend, J.F.M.” and signed “Royston Nave.” The portrait hangs today in the front hall of the home built for Emily when she married McCan.

Emily and McCan divorced in 1916, and McCan moved to Boerne where he continued to paint the Hill Country scenes he loved until his death in 1925.

McCan Hill Country scene

McCan Hill Country scene

A year after her divorce, Emily and Nave were married. The couple began a whirlwind life of worldwide travel with her brother Al and his wife. They finally settled for two years in New York where Nave enjoyed continued success with portraiture. In the late 1920s they returned to Victoria where Nave painted in his studio, and they enjoyed the social and cultural life of the city until Nave died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age forty-four.

The family was devastated, and after a year of mourning Emily commissioned the father/son architectural team of Atlee and Robert Ayers to design a fitting memorial for Royston Nave. The Greek revival temple opened in October 1932 as the Royston Nave Museum to house the work of Royston Nave and the library of the Bronte Study Club. Nave’s portraits and his landscapes hung above the stacks of books until 1976 when the city of Victoria constructed a new library.

Emily continued her cultural and community interests until her death in 1943, even hosting Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940 when the first lady visited Victoria.

After Victoria built its new library, Emily’s heirs deeded the Nave Museum to the city to be used as a regional art museum, and in 2003 it became the property of the Victoria Regional Museum Association. Noted for six to eight compelling exhibits each year that range from classical to modern, the McFaddin and McCan descendants agreed to sponsor an exhibit of the works of both artists, which had never been shown under the same roof. Family and friends generously loaned their private works from both artists to create the delightful exhibit know as “The Cattle Baron’s Daughter and the Artists Who Loved Her—James Ferdinand McCan (1869-1925) and Royston Nave (1886-1931.”

Emily by Royston Nave

Emily by Royston Nave

Buffalo Soldiers in Texas

During the Civil War more than 180,000 black soldiers served in segregated Union Army regiments.  Realizing that many of the black units had achieved outstanding combat records, the U.S. Congress reorganized the peacetime army to include black enlisted men in the Ninth and the Tenth United States Cavalry and by 1869 the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth United States Infantry—all under the

Buffalo Soldier National Museum

Buffalo Soldier National Museum

leadership of white officers. As these soldiers moved to posts in Texas and across the Southwest and the Great Plains, several explanations surround the Indians’ calling them “Buffalo Soldiers.”  Most accounts claim they earned Indian respect for their fierce fighting ability.  Others say the title came from a combination of the Indians’ regard for the buffalo and the black soldiers’ tightly curled hair that resembled the hair on the bison’s face. Accepting the respect of their adversaries, the Buffalo Soldiers

Crest of the Buffalo Soldier

Crest of the Buffalo Soldier

adopted the image of the bison on their regiment crest.

The army paid the black recruits $13 a month plus food, clothing, and shelter—more than most black men could earn after the Civil War.  Their enlistment was for five years and when they reached Texas they took part in most of the major Indian campaigns.  They were stationed at almost every fort on the frontier from the Rio Grande to the Panhandle—helping to build and repair the outposts.  They escorted mail teams, stagecoaches, cattle herds, and survey crews.  They built roads, strung miles of telegraph lines, and performed ordinary garrison duties in the isolated western outposts.  They recovered thousands of head of stolen livestock and spent months on the trail of horse thieves and Indian raiders.

Although thirteen enlisted men and four regiments earned the Medal of Honor by the end of the Indian wars in the 1890s, and many went on to serve in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico against Pancho Villa, by the turn of the last century the Buffalo Soldiers faced increasing racial prejudice.  Resentment and anger that developed during

Texas forts served by Buffalo Soldiers

Texas forts served by Buffalo Soldiers

Reconstruction in the South drove a wedge between citizens and anyone in a Federal uniform, especially a black man transformed from slave to person of authority.  Buffalo Soldiers were stationed outside segregated communities and were subjected to increasing harassment by local police, beatings, and occasional sniper attacks.  One example of the increasing tensions between white citizens occurred in Brownsville in 1906 when the newly arrived Twenty-fifth regiment was falsely accused of a murder.  When members of the unit could not name the culprits, President Theodore Roosevelt followed recommendations to dishonorably discharge 167 men because of their “conspiracy of silence.”  It was 1972 before an inquiry found them innocent, and President Nixon granted the two surviving soldiers honorable discharges, without backpay.  When Congress finally passed a tax-free pension the following year, only one Buffalo Soldier survived, and he received $25,000 and was honored in ceremonies in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.

Buffalo Soldier regiments were not called to duty during WWI, however many of the experienced personnel served in other black units.  After the Ninth and Tenth cavalries were disbanded, their men served in other units during WWII.  The Twenty-fifth saw combat in the Pacific before being deactivated in 1949.  The Twenty-fourth, the last Buffalo Soldier regiment to see combat, served in the Pacific during WWII and in the opening days of the Korean War, before being deactivated in 1951.

In 1948 President Truman issued an executive order abolishing racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces, but it was fifteen years later before Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara issued a directive obligating military commanders to stop discrimination based on sex or race in facilities used by soldiers or their family.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum was founded in 2000 as “the only museum dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier.”  It is located in Houston and will honor military heroes at the 14th Annual Gala on February 28, 2014.

Elissa: Texas’ Tall Ship

She is a pricey lady, but Galvestonians claim her as their own and money seems not to be a concern when it comes to preserving this beauty. As far as anyone knows she only visited the island twice but she is a prize the city is proud to sail and show.  Built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland, at the beginning of the age of steam, she is one of the last of her kind—a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship—measuring 205 feet from her stern to the tip of her jibboom.

After years of traveling the world, by 1961 she had been reduced to smuggling cigarettes between Italy and Yugoslavia.  Aware the Galveston Historical Foundation wanted a sailing vessel to display as a visual link between the city’s thriving 19th century port and its major businesses lining The Strand, Peter Throckmorton, a marine archeologist, spotted the much-altered old square-rigger in a Piraeus, Greece, scrapyard.  Once aboard, Throckmorton discovered a plaque identifying the Elissa.  More investigation revealed the dilapidated hulk as the oldest ship registered with Lloyds of London and its log confirmed two visits to Galveston.

When she first arrived in Galveston on December 26, 1883, she carried one passenger and a cargo of bananas.  The following January 25 she left port loaded with cotton, bound for Liverpool, England.

Her next visit occurred on September 8, 1886, when she arrived from Paysandú, Uruguay, probably carrying a cargo of hardwood or sugar.  She sailed for Pensacola, Florida, on September 26 carrying only her ballast.

Over the years, the Elissa knew at least seven owners and carried names such as Fjeld, while berthed in Norway; Gustaf, while sailing out of Sweden; and even Christophoros when purchased by GreeksEach new name reflected the identity of her owners and brought physical changes such as losing some of her grand sails and acquiring her first engine in 1918 and having her bow snubbed in 1936.

Even after Throckmorton discovered the Elissa, the Galveston Historical Foundation waited  until 1975 to purchase her for $40,000.  Despite the GHF sending a restoration team to Greece to make her seaworthy, removing tons of rust and rotten wood and replacing 25 percent of the hull, the Elissa had to be towed across the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston.

As she made the journey across the Atlantic, the Elissa became the first object to be granted placement on the National Register of Historic Places while still outside the bounds of the United States.

No blueprints existed to guide the restoration, but the new owners realized she must be made seaworthy to attract the support needed to complete the enormous task.

Experts arrived from Europe, Africa, and all over the United States to direct a corps of volunteers who descended on the fine old ship, varnishing the woodwork and going aloft to “tar” the rigging to keep it from rotting.

On July 4, 1982, with the restoration completed at a cost of $3.6 million, Texas had its “Tall Ship.” The Elissa sailed the Gulf of Mexico and began receiving a long list of awards for her restoration, for her volunteer program, and the most prestigious accolade from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984—the Preservation Honor Award.

In 1985 Elissa made her first voyage as a restored sailing ship to Corpus Christi, Texas.  The following year she sailed to New York harbor for the Statue of Liberty celebration and tall ship parade where she held the honor of being the oldest of the event’s Class A vessels.

Over the years the Elissa represented Texas from Brownsville to Pensacola and received designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Anchored at Galveston’s Pier 21 next to the Texas Seaport Museum, Elissa reigned as one of Galveston’s prime tourist attractions until January 2011, when her trip to dry dock for regular maintenance revealed corrosion penetrating spots in her hull.  Apparently Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused far worse damage than inspectors recognized.  With hull repairs estimated at $2.1 million and an additional $1 million to replace the wood deck, THC officials expect the Elissa to be ready to sail in the annual Harvest Moon Regatta from Galveston to Port Aransas in October and to resume her regular day sails in March 2013.  Again, Elissa meets the challenge to retain her place in Texas history.