Austin History Blog

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April 11, 2012 -

Tim Ziegler, the new editor of the Austin Post, has kindly asked me to write a regular Austin history blog for the online publication.  Check out the first installment, "How did Austin End Up in Austin?" here.

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There Oughta be a Marker

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February 26, 2012 -

While I love stopping to read Texas historical markers, I find that some of them commemorate mundane landmarks or people of little true historical significance.  I came to understand this better when I learned years ago that landmark placement relies upon individual initiative.  True, the Texas Historical Commission oversees the process and must approve final placement, but there is no state body responsible for initiating placement of a particular marker.  Nor does the state pay for the markers, leaving this up to the person or group wishing to see it erected.  Wanna let folks know that your great-great-granddaddy fought in the Civil War and was born in a log cabin in Your Town, Texas on this very spot?  Be prepared to fork over about a thousand bucks.

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Fooling the Commandante: Celebrating San Jacinto Day in a Mexico City Prison

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February 5, 2012 -

The walls surrounding George Wilkins Kendall and his Santa Fe Expedition comrades during their imprisonment had long symbolized conquest and oppression.  The Church and Convent of Santiago stood at the very spot in Mexico City at which the Aztecs had made their final stand against the ruthless conquistador Hernan Cortes.  Tens of thousands had died by Spanish steel.  His victory secured, Cortes ordered the demolition of the Aztec temples occupying the plaza.  Upon their foundations arose the massive colonial church and convent.  At the time of his 1842 arrival, George Kendall estimated that 10 to 15 monks still occupied the complex.  For them it was home.  For Kendall and the Texans it was a dungeon.

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"Disgusting and Horrible:" The Mexican Imprisonment of George Kendall

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January 15, 2011 -

Captured with his half-starved colleagues as they approached Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1841, George Kendall survived a brutal forced march across hundreds of miles of scorching desert, rugged mountains, and freezing plains to reach Mexico City.  Several members of Mirabeau Lamar's disastrous Santa Fe Expedition did not.  Within days of his imprisonment Kendall witnessed the executions of two men; others who could not keep up the demanding pace of the march were summarily shot, their ears cut off and saved as proof that the men had not escaped.  Smallpox infiltrated the Texans as they approached the Mexican capital.  Mexican physicians provided what care they could but the disease claimed several lives.  Hopelessness seemed to afflict some of the doomed.  Men who appeared fit enough one day lay dead under their blankets the next.  Their ears nevertheless completed the journey that their bodies could not.

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Schulenburg's Sparkling Treasure

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November 19, 2011 -

I figured the building was closed.  My friend and I had arrived at noon on a Saturday to nose around the town of Schulenburg.  We stood in front of historic Sengelmann Hall, restored and reopened in 2009 after a decades-long absence from the Texas entertainment scene.  The locked front door and lack of stirring from within seemed to confirm my disappointing assessment.  But when we entered the bakery next door I was surprised to notice an open hallway leading directly into Senglemann's.  I discovered only later that the bakery and saloon are part of the same establishment.

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Dr. Weideman and the Cannibals of San Antonio

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October 31, 2011 -

Mary Maverick's "Day of Horrors" began with a visit to her neighbor Mrs. Higginbotham.  San Antonio in 1840 consisted of dusty streets lined with adobe walls and neat frame houses, all clustered around San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River.  The Maverick family occupied the house at the corner of Commerce and Soledad; the Higginbothams lived just across the street.  Both houses bordered San Antonio's Main Plaza within view of its centerpiece, the San Fernando Cathedral.

 

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