Davy Crockett born
August 17, 1786
On this day in 1786, frontier icon and Alamo defender Davy Crockett was born in Tennessee. He began his military career as a scout in the Tennessee militia in 1813 and was elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1821. After a turbulent political career, during which he split with President Andrew Jackson, a fellow Tennessean, and acquired a national reputation as a sharpshooter, hunter, and yarn-spinner, Crockett grew disenchanted with the political process and decided to explore Texas. He set out in November 1835 and reached San Antonio de Béxar in February 1836, shortly before the arrival of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Crockett chose to join Col. William B. Travis, who had deliberately disregarded Jackson sympathizer Sam Houston's orders to withdraw from the Alamo, and died in the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. No matter how many fabrications gathered around him, the historical David Crockett proved a formidable hero in his own right and succeeded Daniel Boone as the rough-hewn representative of frontier independence and virtue.
Pioneer settler's death prematurely announced
August 17, 1842
On this day in 1842, the Telegraph and Texas Register announced the death of John Henry Moore. Like the famous announcement of Mark Twain's death, however, the news was exaggerated; Moore lived for thirty-eight more years. He was an early settler who was involved in numerous important events in early Texas. As a member of the Old Three Hundred, he received a land grant from Stephen F. Austin. He built a blockhouse called Moore's Fort at the future site of La Grange. He was an outspoken advocate of Texas independence, and fought against the Mexicans both in the Texas Revolution and afterward. Moore commanded the Texans in the battle of Gonzales (October 2, 1835). He was involved in several campaigns against Indians. It was between the two Mexican invasions of 1842--in both of which he fought--that the newspaper announced his death. He was sixty-one when he enlisted with Terry's Texas Rangers for service in the Civil War; since he was too old to fight, he was put to selling war bonds. After losing most of his property, including slaves, in the Civil War, he died in 1880. This would have given the Telegraph an opportunity to state Moore's death date correctly, if the paper had not itself died three years before.
Black Jack Ketchum is captured in New Mexico
August 17, 1899
On this day in 1899, the criminal career of Thomas Edward (Black Jack) Ketchum ended. Tom and his brother Sam were members of a gang of outlaws that terrorized Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. Tom was born in San Saba County, Sam in Caldwell County. Tom left Texas about 1890, and Sam joined him in New Mexico in 1894. There the brothers began a life of crime that included killing a merchant in Carrizo and robbing post offices, stagecoaches, trains, and a railroad station. On September 3, 1897, the gang held up the Colorado Southern passenger train near Folsom. On July 11, 1899, apparently without Tom, the gang held up the same train again. Sam was wounded and captured. He died two weeks later in prison. Tom, unaware of Sam's failed attempt, tried singlehandedly to rob the same train on August 16. He was wounded by the conductor and was picked up from beside the tracks the next day. He was sentenced to death and was hung at Clayton, New Mexico, on April 26, 1901. The Ketchum gang was blamed for many crimes they may not have committed. Black Jack Ketchum may have inherited the nickname and reputation of Will "Black Jack" Christian.
posted by Jeff - 8.17.2011 The Texas State Historical Association