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Session for the Holidays

Usually, the Texas Legislature is not in session around Christmas time. Since the 16th Legislature (1879), the regular session has begun in January and adjourned in May, generally avoiding winter holidays. (See Article 3141 of the 1879 Revised Statutes of Texas that established this schedule.) However, there were a few instances when sessions started in December and/or continued through the holidays.

 

In 1847, the 2nd Legislature began work on December 13, 1847, and concluded on March 20, 1848. The representatives and senators worked on Christmas Eve, which fell on a Friday that year. They did take a long weekend and reconvened on Tuesday, December 28. 

 

The 3rd Legislature not only convened on Christmas Eve in 1849 and returned to work on the day after Christmas, they also had a called session in 1850 that ran into the first few days of December. 

 

From the 3rd Legislature through the 8th Legislature, the senators and representatives convened in November and adjourned in February. Typically they met on Christmas Eve, then adjourned until December 26, but they sometimes took a longer break, particularly when the holiday fell on a weekend.

 

During the Civil War and Reconstruction years, the legislature’s regular sessions were less consistent. The 9th and 10th Legislatures convened in November, but adjourned in January and December, respectively. The 11th Legislature didn’t convene until August 1866, and the 12th Legislature didn’t begin its regular session till January 1871. During these years, if session fell around Christmas, the legislators generally only took Christmas Day off before returning to work.

 

After an act was passed by the 16th Legislature setting the day and time for session to begin biennially (now Government Code § 301.001), the possibility of session running into the winter holidays was mostly history. However, there are those special sessions! The 71st Legislature had six called sessions, with the second adjourning on December 12; the 72nd Legislature’s fourth called session adjourned on December 3.

 

These days, Government Code § 662.003 designates December 24-26 as a holiday, but in the days before Texas’ regular session had an officially mandated start time, anything was possible for the legislature! The LRL hopes you enjoy a wonderful holiday season. 

 

Images: top right, House Christmas tree; bottom left: Senate Christmas tree; cover image: detail of House tree.

Who Is...Paschal?

Every now and then, LRL patrons will ask a question like, "who is Vernon and why is his name on the Texas statutes?" To which we say, "good question!" People often conduct legislative history research with a tight deadline that doesn't leave much time for musing over the origins of the sources, but it can be instructive to learn about who has worked to compile Texas' laws over the years. In our occasional "Who Is…" series, we'll take a look at some of the important resources for studying Texas legislative history and the publishers, lawyers, and legal scholars behind them. Check out our previous entries on Vernon and Sayles; in this post, we're looking at George W. Paschal.

 

From Arkansas Supreme Court justice to newspaper editor, lawyer to court reporter, George W. Paschal wore many hats over his life and never seemed to follow the crowd—in fact, one could argue he relished the path of most resistance. He is responsible for the most successful of the early compilations of Texas statutes, A Digest of the Laws of Texas (commonly referred to as Paschal's Digest).

 

Born in Skull Shoals in Greene County, Georgia, in 1812, Paschal worked his way through the State Academy in Athens, Ga., by teaching and keeping books.[1] He was admitted to the Georgia Bar before he turned 20 in 1832. He practiced law in Georgia for four years before receiving orders to serve as the aide-de-camp to General John E. Wool with the Georgia Militia, which had been charged with suppressing a Cherokee uprising. Here we get one of our first hints of Paschal's unconventional ways: he married the daughter of one of the Cherokee chiefs, Sarah Ridge. That military campaign led to the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, and ultimately to what we know today as the Trail of Tears.[2]

 

The couple moved to Arkansas in 1837 to be closer to Sarah's now-relocated family. Paschal began his law practice in Benton County, where he sometimes jointly represented clients with Royal T. Wheeler (future chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court). Sadly, Sarah’s father, brother, and cousin were assassinated in 1839 by Cherokees who were angry about the family’s support of the Treaty of New Echota. The Paschals chose to remain in Arkansas, and in 1843, the Arkansas Legislature selected George as an associate justice on the state’s Supreme Court.[3]

 

However, he served just one term on the court, then resigned in August 1843 so he could represent the Cherokees in claims against the United States.[4] A victory in that case led to ratification of the Treaty with the Cherokee in 1846, which awarded reparations to the Cherokee.[5]

 

George and Sarah then moved to Texas around 1846, and George was admitted to the Texas Bar in December 1847. In 1850, Sarah began treating Galvestonians suffering from yellow fever in their home. The couple divorced later that year.[6]

 

George moved to Austin and remarried (Marcia Duval Price), practiced law, and began work in 1856 as editor of the Southern Intelligencer, an antisecessionist, pro-Union publication. The paper quickly developed a rivalry with the Texas State Gazette, which promoted states’ rights and reopening the slave trade in Texas. The rivalry went as far as a duel challenge, and Paschal resigned his post in 1860.[7] It should be noted that although Paschal was against reopening the slave trade, he also was against abolition and was himself a slave holder.[8]

 

Paschal further acted on his Unionist principles by representing a captured Confederate conscript, F.H. Coupland, in 1862. He obtained a writ of habeas corpus from his old friend (now Texas Supreme Court Justice) Wheeler, but before it could be served, Coupland was drafted into the army, and Paschal was arrested and jailed for a short time by Confederate authorities.[9]

 

Indeed, times were tough for a Unionist lawyer in Texas during the Civil War, so Paschal committed himself to preparing the Digest of the Laws of Texas. He writes about this decision in the preface to the Digest’s first edition “…differing as the editor did with the majority of the people of his state, as to the right of secession, and the necessities of the measure, as well as to the possibility of success, and not wishing to seek a professional field elsewhere, had that been possible, he thought that he could not more usefully employ his time than to give those years to the preparation of a book, which should answer the double object of presenting the Statutes, and a pretty full Digest of the decisions of the Supreme Court, in the same volume.”[10]

 

Paschal’s Digest offered a few things not seen in previous legislative publications. Current statutes can trace their history to the sections in his Digest—previously, statutes had been arranged chronologically.[11] Additionally, his statutes presented “the old law, the mischief and the remedy, in the same view”—meaning, he printed the current law alongside the repealed law or judicial changes, using different typefaces to illustrate the development of the law.[12] Finally, and most significantly, “…his digest of laws appeared in five editions, the last one being the basis for the first official compilation of statutes in 1879. Many articles in the [1925] statutes retain not only the substance but also the verbatim phrasing of Paschal’s sections.”[13] (See image of Articles 42-46 from the 1879 Revised Civil Statutes, which includes marginal notes crediting where language was taken from P.D.—Paschal's Digest.)

 

After the war, Paschal was appointed by provisional governor Andrew Jackson Hamilton as Texas’ agent in a case concerning the Confederacy’s attempts to redeem U.S.-issued bonds to help pay for the Confederate war effort. He ultimately argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and won, helping to provide the definitive ruling on the constitutionality of secession. Paschal also served as counsel in the “Emancipation Cases” to determine on what date enslaved peoples officially gained their freedom in Texas. (The majority ruling settled on the date of ratification of the 13th Amendment.)[14]

 

In 1868—about the same time that the constitutionally illegitimate Military Court began—Paschal was appointed as court reporter. Drummond observes that “Paschal's reports are characterized by his sometimes polarizing, always frank, and consistently entertaining (and subsequently essential) historical asides contained in the prefaces to each [Texas Reports] volume.” He additionally used the Texas Reports to advertise his other publications. Paschal’s signature candor likely contributed to him losing this job, as he published in Texas Reports his negative commentary on changes to court reporter guidelines.[15]

 

Paschal then moved to Washington, D.C., where he opened a law office with his sons, George Jr. and Ridge. He also married his third wife, Mary Scoville Harper, and lectured at the Georgetown University law school. He died in Washington in 1878.[16]

 

In addition to his work with Texas laws, George W. Paschal found himself at the crossroads of many historical events. And as a man dedicated to the law, the defense of them seemed to guide his principles: “Human rights are of all sciences those which most affect human happiness. They can only be preserved by the eternal vigilance of the masses. That vigilance should constantly be directed to our laws, organic or statute. It is under the forms of these that liberty is preserved or lost.”[17]

 

Photograph of George W. Paschal courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Title page of Paschal's Digest taken from the LRL's digitized 5th edition. Excerpt of Title VI, Articles 42-46 from the 1879 Revised Civil Statutes, courtesy of the Texas State Law Library's Historical Texas Statutes digital collection.


[1] Amelia W. Williams, "Paschal, George Washington," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 29, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpa46.

[2] Dylan O. Drummond, "George W. Paschal: Justice, Court Reporter, and Iconoclast," Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society 2:4 (Summer 2013), accessed 2017 October 17, http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/george-w-paschal-justice-court-report-22105/, p. 7.

[3] Drummond, p. 8.

[4] Drummond, p. 8.

[5] Treaty with the Cherokee, 9 Stat. 871, 874 (1846)

[6] Drummond, p. 8.

[7] Williams; Drummond, p.8.

[8] Williams; Kevin Ladd, “Pix, Sarah Ridge,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 15, 2017, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpi30; Fannie E. Rachford, “O’Connor, Elizabeth Paschal,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 15, 2017, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/foc12.

[9] Drummond, p. 8.

[10] "Preface [to the first edition, 1866], " A Digest of the Laws of Texas, 5th edition, edited by George W. Paschal. Houston, TX: E.H. Cushing, 1878, p. iv, http://www.lrl.texas.gov/collections/Paschal.cfm.

[11] "Legislation," rev. by Linda Gardner, A Reference Guide to Texas Law and Legal History, edited by Karl T. Gruben and James E. Hambleton, Austin, TX: Butterworth Legal Publishers, 1987, pp. 16-17.

[12] "Preface [to the first edition, 1866], " p. iv.

[13] Marian Boner, "The Attorney as Author: Books Written and Used by Texas Lawyers, " Centennial History of the Texas Bar, 1882—1982. Austin, TX: The Committee on History and Tradition of the State Bar of Texas, 1981, p. 145.

[14] Drummond, pp. 9-10.

[15] Drummond, p. 11.

[16] Williams.

[17] "Preface to the fourth edition [1874], " A Digest of the Laws of Texas, 5th edition, edited by George W. Paschal. Houston, TX: E.H. Cushing, 1878, pp. xi-xii, http://www.lrl.texas.gov/collections/Paschal.cfm

Who Is...John Sayles?

Every now and then, LRL patrons will ask a question like, "who is Vernon and why is his name on the Texas statutes?" To which we say, "good question!" People often conduct legislative history research with a tight deadline that doesn't leave much time for musing over the origins of the sources, but it can be instructive to learn about who has worked to compile Texas' laws over the years. In our occasional "Who Is…" series, we'll take a look at some of the important resources for studying Texas legislative history and the publishers, lawyers, and legal scholars behind them. Check out our previous entry on Vernon; in this post, we're looking at John Sayles.

 

John Sayles was a prolific legal mind for Texas, producing more than 15 works on Texas law. Most notably, he prepared what can be considered the last important unofficial compilation of Texas laws, Sayles' Early Laws of Texas. Additionally, the state's first set of annotated statutes were edited by John and his son, Henry, in 1888.[1] Father and son kept these statutes and annotations up to date until the 1911 revision, when the Vernon Law Book Company bought the copyright.

 

Born in Ithaca, New York, in 1825, Sayles taught in various schools as a young man to finance his education. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Hamilton College in New York in 1845, then moved to Texas, seeking opportunity in the country's newest state. He taught school in Brenham, read law, and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1846. He purchased a plantation and in 1849, married Mary Elizabeth Gillespie. They went on to have six children.[2] According to the U.S. Eighth Census in 1860, Sayles was reported as holding 44 enslaved people, $15,000 in real property, and $61,000 in personal property[3]—which, taking inflation into account, would have made him a millionaire by today's standards.

 

From 1855-1856, Sayles represented Washington County in the House of Representatives of the 6th Legislature.[4] Historian Ralph A. Wooster identified Sayles as a member of the Texas Know-Nothing party.[5] Following Sayles' term in the legislature, he taught at Baylor University in its newly formed law department from 1857-1860. He also started his publishing work, with such titles as A Treatise on the Practice of the District and Supreme Courts of the State of Texas (1858), which the Handbook of Texas describes as a "forerunner of special studies on probate law, justice of the peace jurisdiction, business transactions, and Masonic jurisprudence."[6]

 

Baylor's law department became inactive when many male students and faculty, including Sayles, left to join Confederate troops in the Civil War. He served in the 4th Infantry Regiment as a Colonel, then attained the rank of Brigadier General and served with Brigade No. 23.

 

When the war was over, Sayles resumed his legal practice and teaching at Baylor. He also continued to compile and publish Texas law, including various editions of the Texas Constitution. The HathiTrust makes available digital versions of many of his works.

 

Users of Sayles' texts, then and now, note that he does not discuss all of the Early Laws of Texas—he omits many statutes. His interest seems to fall primarily in the land and colonization laws of Spain and Mexico, and so the publication is most useful for land-title research. Among other information, Sayles provides a glossary of terms used in the old surveys and land grants and a table of land measures, which can be very helpful to researchers unfamiliar with the jargon of the day and industry.[7]

 

John moved to Abilene around 1886 with his son, Henry, where they practiced as Sayles & Sayles and collaborated on legal publications. John died in 1897, but Henry continued the work of updating the annotated statutes until the Vernon company bought the copyright and took over the publication.[8]

 

Photograph of John Sayles courtesy of the Texas Jurists Collection, 1936-1992, Tarlton Law Library, Jamail Center for Legal Research. Photo of Sayles volumes at the Legislative Reference Library courtesy of LRL staff.

 
[1] "Legislation," rev. by Linda Gardner, A Reference Guide to Texas Law and Legal History, edited by Karl T. Gruben and James E. Hambleton, Austin, TX: Butterworth Legal Publishers, 1987, pp. 16-17.

[2] Handbook of Texas Online, "Sayles, John," accessed August 29, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsa42.

[3] Ralph A. Wooster, "An Analysis of the Texas Know Nothings," The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70, July 1966-April 1967, Texas State Historical Association. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101199/: accessed August 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association, p. 446.

[4] "John Sayles," Texas Legislators: Past & Present, Legislative Reference Library of Texas, accessed August 29, 2017, http://www.lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=5202.

[5] Wooster, p. 416.

[6] Handbook of Texas Online.

[7] "Legislation," p. 16

[8] Handbook of Texas Online.

Capitol Spirits: Bats!

For the past few years around Halloween, we've shared ghostly stories relating to Texas—see last year's post and our "Capitol Spirits" Pinterest board. This year, we thought we'd do something a little different and write about one of Texas' official state symbols that is commonly associated with Halloween: bats.

 

After all, Texas' official flying mammal is the Mexican free-tailed bat, per SCR 95, 74R. Did you know that Texas is home to the world's largest known bat colony, in Bracken Cave Preserve in Comal County? Bracken Cave is host to more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, making it one of the largest concentrations of mammals on Earth. Texas also boasts the world's largest urban bat colony, with about 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats residing under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, right down the street from the Texas Capitol.

 

These bats live in Texas from around March through late October, then migrate to warmer southern climes in Mexico. Both the bridge and Bracken Cave are maternity colonies, meaning that millions of baby bats are born in these locations each summer, too. 

 

Some people are concerned about bats, with practical worries about rabies and guano and/or fears of the supernatural connotations of the creature. However, Bat Conservation International (headquartered in Austin) works to educate the public that bats are safe as long as people don't try to handle them, guano is good fertilizer, and bats offer excellent natural pest control services! A nursing mother bat consumes up to her body weight in insects each night. It's been estimated that all together, the Bracken Cave bats eat 250 tons of insects, and that the Austin bats eat five to ten tons of insects.

 

However, Bracken Cave and Austin are not the only places bats live in Texas, and our state is home to 32 of the 47 species of bats found in the United States. For information about where to go to view a bat emergence (when they come out to hunt insects at dusk), visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Bat-Watching Sites of Texas guide.

 

In addition to bats, there are a couple of other Texas state symbols associated with Halloween. The pumpkin was declared the official state squash in 2013 (HCR 87, 83R), with Texas being the fourth leading state in commercial pumpkin production. And while the official rodeo drill team (HCR 136, 80R) is distinctly of this plane, the Ghostriders' eerie name evokes the story of a cattle drive gone awry that inspired ghost stories and the famous song, "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

 

Sources:

"Bat-Watching Sites of Texas," Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/bats/bat-watching-sites/, accessed 2017 September 29.

 

"Bracken Cave: Protecting a Jewel in Texas," Bat Conservation International, http://www.batcon.org/our-work/regions/usa-canada/protect-mega-populations/bracken-cave, accessed 2017 September 29.

 

"Protect Mega-Populations: Congress Avenue Bridge," Bat Conservation International,  http://www.batcon.org/our-work/regions/usa-canada/protect-mega-populations/cab-intro, accessed 2017 September 29.

 

Images:

Top right: Bats emerging from the Bracken Cave, photo by Flickr user U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters.

Bottom left: People watch the bat emergence from the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and from boats on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, photo by Flickr user Woody Hibbard.

Who Is…Vernon?

Every now and then, LRL patrons will ask, "who is Vernon and why is his name on the Texas statutes?" To which we say, "good question!" People often conduct legislative history research with a tight deadline that doesn't leave much time for musing over the origins of the sources, but it can be instructive to learn about who has worked to compile Texas' laws over the years. In our occasional "Who Is…" series, we'll take a look at some of the important resources for studying Texas legislative history and the publishers, lawyers, and legal scholars behind them.

 

Many of the people we've come to associate with Texas law book publications were Texans or resided in Texas at some point. Despite having his name on the statutes we use today, Joseph W. Vernon is not one of them. Born in Wisconsin in 1860, Vernon graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1885 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1886. In September 1902, Vernon organized the Vernon Law Book Company.[1]

 

Texas' first set of annotated statutes were published by John and Henry Sayles in 1888. (More on the Sayles in a future post.) Before their 1911 revision, the copyright was bought by Vernon, and in 1914, an edition called Vernon's Sayles was produced. The Sayles name was dropped with the 1925 edition, which was the last official edition of the Texas statutes.[2] Vernon was noted as an active member of the Kansas City community before he died in 1928 at the age of 68.[3]

 

Vernon Law Book Company published an unannotated Centennial Edition in 1936, and another unannotated compilation in 1948.[4] In 1969, West Publishing took over the company and its operations, and Vernon's compilations were certified by the Texas Secretary of State.[5] Despite changes in publisher (which is now Thomson Reuters), the statutes volumes are still familiarly known as Vernon's, or as the Black Statutes (so called because of their black binding).

 

Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated are a critical first stop when conducting legislative history research. Annotations provide background on revisions to sections of code, references to law reviews, attorney general opinions, and more.

 

In the course of legal research, you may also come across the "Red Statutes," unannotated biennial supplements which were published from 1948 through 1974, with a supplement for each legislature; and their successors, the  "Green Statutes," also unannotated statutes that were produced in two forms: hardback and paperbacks filed in a binder. 

 

You can see the current statute publication dates for each bound volume of Vernon's Statutes here. In 1963, the Texas Legislature passed legislation requiring the Texas Legislative Council to make a complete, non-substantive revision of Texas statutes. When the program is complete, all general and permanent statutes will be included in one of 27 codes. Look on our statutory revision page to see a list of these codes, along with links to statutory revision documents.

 
Texas does not currently have an official print code (as in, officially designated by the state or with a copyright held by the state), but Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated are essentially held as the "quasi-official" statutes.[6] The General and Special Laws of Texas, also known as the "session laws," are the official source and should be used for citation purposes. Vernon's may not have Texas origins, but its volumes are indispensable resources in the study of Texas legislative history.
 


[1] Lydia M.V. Brandt, Texas Legal Research: An Essential Lawyering Skill, Dallas, TX: Texas Lawyer Press, 1995, p. 348.

[2] "Legislation," rev. by Linda Gardner, A Reference Guide to Texas Law and Legal History, edited by Karl T. Gruben and James E. Hambleton, Austin, TX: Butterworth Legal Publishers, 1987, pp. 17-18.

[3] Brandt, p. 348.

[4] Gardner, p. 18.

[5] Paris Permenter and Susan Fischer Ratliff, Guide to Texas Legislative History, Austin, TX: Legislative Reference Library, 1986, p. 11.

[6] Gardner, p. 18.

 

Photograph of Joseph Whiteford Vernon courtesy of findagrave.com. Drawing of Vernon can be found in Kansas City in Caricature, digitized by HathiTrust. Cover image of the 1948 Vernon's Texas Statutes courtesy of the Texas State Law Library's Historical Texas Statutes digital collection.

 

New Texas African American Monument

The newest monument on the Texas Capitol grounds, unveiled on November 19, 2016, is dedicated to African Americans in Texas. Located on the South Capitol grounds, the monument is made up of bronze panels depicting the historical contributions of African Americans to Texas over the state's long history.

 

Legislative History

The monument has a legislative history that goes back over 25 years. In 1991, Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Al Edwards passed SCR 49, 72R, directing the State Preservation Board to explore opportunities to revere and honor some of the outstanding historical figures from all ethnic cultures with regard to new monuments on the Capitol grounds. In the following session in 1993, Ellis and Rep. Garnet Coleman passed SCR 97, 73R, directing the State Preservation Board to include in its long-range master plan for the Capitol grounds a permanent monument in tribute to African American and Mexican American Texans.

 

Later, in 1997, Rep. Al Edwards and Sen. Jerry Patterson passed HB 1216, 75R. The bill created the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission and gave it a mission to collect and commemorate the history of Juneteenth, the day that marks the arrival of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. At that time, Edwards envisioned the monument as an Emancipation Juneteenth memorial monument.

 

The 1997 bill was followed by several more legislative measures:
    •  HB 1865, 76R, by Edwards and Sen. Royce West, Relating to the operations of the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission.
    •  HB 1368, 76R, by Edwards and Sen. Chris Harris, Relating to the site of the Emancipation Juneteenth memorial monument.
    •  HCR 176, 81R, by Edwards and Sen. Tommy Williams, Expressing continued support for the establishment of a Juneteenth memorial monument on the grounds of the State Capitol at the location previously approved by the State Preservation Board.

 

In 2011, during the 82nd Regular Session, legislators expanded the scope of the monument to provide a broader representation of African American history in Texas. The bill that made these changes was SB 1928, 82R (by Ellis and Rep. Alma Allen), relating to an African American Texans memorial monument on the Capitol grounds; SCR 51, 82R (by Ellis and Allen) expressed the legislature's support for this shift in the monument's subject matter. The dedication program includes lists of those who served on the Texas African American History Memorial Committee, donors, and others who have been involved with the project.

 

The monument features notable Texas African Americans including Estevanico de Dorantes (the first African to set foot on Texas soil), Hendrick Arnold (a special agent in the Battle of the Republic and in the Indian wars), and Sam McCullough (one of the first casualties of the Texas Revolution). Emancipation is the central core element of the memorial, featuring a 9-foot-high image of a male and female slave having broken the bonds of slavery, dedicated to the 182,500 slaves that were freed on June 19, 1865. Also illustrated are the slave experience, from arrival to slaves' work in the fields and industry, and depictions of Black Texans' contributions to the state, from the Buffalo Soldiers to musicians to astronauts. To learn more about the monument, please see https://taahmf.com/the-monument/.

 

Did you know?

Ed Dwight, the sculptor who designed and created the African American Texans monument, also created the memorial to Congressman (and former Texas legislator) Mickey Leland at Houston's Intercontinental Airport.

 

Capitol Spirits

Leading up to Halloween each year, we gather spookie stories and tales of ghostly hauntings that add to the aura of the Texas Capitol and the Lone Star State. Below you'll read about mysterious lights, a quack medicine doctor, and a man whose corpse was buried standing up. 

From the Legislative Reference Library, we hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!!

Radam's Microbe Killer

Radam's Microbe Killer

In the 19th century, death from tuberculosis, a.k.a. "consumption," was widespread and William Radam of Austin claimed to have a remedy. Perhaps Austin's original "weird" character, Radam, operated a seed store at 907 Congress Avenue, and developed, bottled, and sold "Radam's Microbe Killer." Although deemed a quack, sales of his "miracle cure" made him a wealthy man. The building at 907 Congress Avenue has been vacant for over 20 years; does his spirit linger, handing out samples of his microbe killer?

 

Legislative Reference Library

Ghosts in the Legislative Reference Library

This photo of the Capitol's Legislative Reference Library space shows the room as it appeared circa 1902-1907, when used for the Supreme Court Library.  A ghost-like figure can been seen sitting at a table, near the door to a hidden staircase.  It is reported that a "lady in red" frequents this staircase and the office above it, perhaps hoping to meet up with her lover who once worked in that office.

 

The Old Rock Store

The Old Rock Store in Oak Hill

The Old Rock Store in Oak Hill has watched over travelers since 1898 when James Andrew Patton, Texas Ranger, and unofficial "mayor of Oak Hill" built the stone building to house his mercantile business.  His daughter, Rosa Patton White, worked in the store after the untimely death of her Texas Ranger husband, John Dudley White, Sr., in 1918 at the hands of army deserters.  Is Ranger White the mischievous ghost who inhabits the building (now home to Austin Pizza Garden) looking for his wife?

 

UT Tower

Foreboding in the UT Tower

Completed in the 1937, the University of Texas Tower has long been a landmark on the Austin skyline, but it is also notorious for other reasons -- the construction worker who fell to his death, a number of suicides, and the most infamous event of all, the 1966 tower shootings by Charles Whitman. Some visitors report general feelings of foreboding and claustrophobia, as well as encountering cold spots in the stairwell.  Many believe Whitman, himself, is the spirit who turns lights on and off.

 

Historical marker for James Briton

Mysterious Lights Near Bailey's Prairie

James Briton "Brit" Bailey was a larger than life character who settled in Stephen F. Austin's colony.  He let it be known that when he died, he wanted to be buried standing up, facing west, with his gun, powder horn, rifle balls, and a jug of whiskey.  Legend says all but one of those requests was carried out.  An unexplained light is seen from time to time near Bailey's Prairie on Highway 35 between Angleton and West Columbia.  Perhaps it's just old Brit and his lantern searching for that whiskey jug.

 

Lights of Marfa

The Lights of Marfa

Strange lights have been reported between Alpine and Marfa, across Mitchell Flat with the Chinati Mountains as a backdrop since the 1880s.  They appear in various colors as they move about, disappear and reappear.  Some believe the logical explanation is car headlights from U.S. 67, while others point to a natural, scientific explanation.  A legend persists that Alsate, the last Apache chief who lived in the area, is lighting watchfires. The lights are definitely there but for what reason? 

 

Enchanted Rock

Legends of Enchanted Rock

Various Indian tribes have held Enchanted Rock in both religious awe and supernatural fear.  Their legends speak to attempts to explain the natural phenomena they saw. Noises and lights were attributed to a great devil trapped in the rock or various other spirits who linger, such as the last of a tribe's warriors who fought to their end here.  Indentions on the rock's summit are the footsteps of a doomed chief forced to walk the rock forever as a punishment for the sacrifice of his daughter.

 

W.B. Dewees

More Enchanted Rock Tales

In an 1834 letter, W.B. Dewees said of Enchanted Rock, "The Indians have held it sacred for centuries, and go there once a year to worship it.  They will not permit any white person to approach it." In the fall of 1841, Captain John Coffee "Jack" Hays, singlehandedly held off a party of Comanches because the band would not pursue Hays when he climbed to the rock's summit.  

Cover image by J.W. Remington Photographics

How Food Caused Santa Anna to Lose His Leg (Twice)

This week, we're bringing you an excerpt from our permanent exhibit on Santa Anna's chair, located in the northwest corner of the library. In addition to his chair, Santa Anna left behind another relic - his wooden leg.  
 
The story of Santa Anna's wooden leg begins in 1838 with the brief conflict between Mexico and France known as the "Pastry War." Angry about unpaid Mexican debts incurred during the Texas Revolution, French officials demanded compensation from the Mexican government, including 60,000 pesos for damage to a bakery owned by a French pastry chef. Mexico refused to respond to the ultimatum for payment, and the French navy answered with a blockade of key Mexican ports. The "Pastry War" was born.
 
When French marines raided Veracruz, Santa Anna had the opportunity to come out of his disgraced retirement caused by the loss of Texas. He rallied his troops and the French were forced out of the city. Unfortunately for Santa Anna, cannon fire took his horse out from under him and horribly wounded his leg. Doctors amputated the limb and Santa Anna buried it at his hacienda.
 
With his victory against the French, Santa Anna was able to rise again to prominence in Mexico - after all, he had sacrificed a limb for his country. In 1842, his countrymen elevated him to the presidency again. As if to remind his country of his sacrifice, the shriveled leg was exhumed, paraded to Mexico City in an ornate coach, and buried in an elagant state funeral.
 
Sadly, there was no eternal rest for his leg. In 1844, the popular sentiment turned against him again, and rioters dug up his leg and dragged it through the streets shouting, "Death to the cripple!"
 
Santa Anna's story still had several more acts. After another exile, he was called back to the military for service in the Mexican-American War. At the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847, Santa Anna was breaking for a lunch of roast chicken and had removed his artificial leg. Surprised by the 4th Regiment Illinois Volunteers, he escaped on a horse, leaving behind his lunch and his cork-and-wooden leg. The Illinois soldiers ate the chicken, gave the gold they found to their superiors, but kept the leg as a prize of war. Today the wooden leg is housed in the Illinois State Military Museum, despite attempts to relocate it to Texas
 
Images from "Texas fighting for Santa Anna's leg," Houston Chronicle, May 16, 2014.
 

New Legislative Desk Exhibit

The Library invites you to view its newest exhibit, "Legislative 'Desk' of Rep. Charles B. Metcalf - 1918." The exhibit displays what might have been found on the desk of Rep. Charles B. Metcalfe as he witnessed the passage of his historic bill on women's suffrage in primary elections. House Bill 105, 35th Legislature, 4th Called Session, was the first bill on woman's suffrage to pass the Texas Legislature. It was approved by the governor on March 26, 1918.

The display includes reprintings of the original House Bill 105; Metcalf family photographs; postcard scenes from the early decades of the 1900s in Tom Green County, Rep. Metcalfe's home district; and World War I posters, calendars, and a savings certificate. Also displayed are re-creations of stationery used by members of the Texas House of Representatives in 1918; desk supplies invoking the feel of the era; an original Capitol spitoon; an invitation based on a 1917 newspaper ad in the Corsicana Daily Sun, and a calling card utilizing designs from other political officials around the time period.

Photos in the exhibit were provided courtesty of the Tom Green County Historical Society Collection, West Texas Collection, Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas, as well as the State Preservation Board, Austin, Texas.

Rep. Charles B. Metcalf.
The library invites you to view its latest exhibit: Legislative Desk of Rep. Charles B. Metcalfe.
 

Capitol Spirits on Pinterest

Our Capitol Spirits Pinterest board is back! During the month of October, we'll be adding new tales of ghostly hauntings and unfortunate events that occured in the Capitol building and surrounding area. Click below to view.
 
Cover image by Daniel Mingus.
 
 
 

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