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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Moments in Texas History ~ 12.21.2011

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Political boss Jim Wells dies
December 21, 1923
On this day in 1923, Jim Wells, the longtime Democratic boss of South Texas, died. James B. Wells Jr. was born on St. Joseph Island in 1850, the son of a lieutenant in the Texas Navy. In 1878 the younger Wells formed a law partnership with Stephen Powers and settled at Brownsville, where he lived for the rest of his life. Powers was active in local politics and was a cofounder of the Democratic Blue Club of Cameron County. Wells married Powers's niece, Pauline Kleiber, in 1880 and soon emerged as Powers's chief lieutenant and heir apparent. Wells consolidated his control over the Cameron County Blue Club and eventually extended his influence over the Democratic organizations of Hidalgo, Starr, and Duval counties, where he oversaw the rise of bosses who acknowledged Wells's leadership on regional, state, and national questions. Wells influenced national politics as well by shepherding the early congressional career of John Nance Garner. Despite his political astuteness and record of accomplishment, Wells could not survive the changing demographic structure in the region, the rising tide of racial hatred following the Mexican border raids of 1915 and 1916, and his loss of favor at the state level. His death came three years after the collapse of his Cameron County machine. Jim Wells County is named in his honor.
Legislature passes act to encourage transcontinental railroad through Texas
December 21, 1853
On this day in 1853, the Texas legislature passed the Mississippi and Pacific Railroad Act, designed to encourage the construction of a southern transcontinental railroad through Texas. The act authorized Governor Peter H. Bell to request proposals for a railroad from the eastern boundary of Texas to a point at or near El Paso. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, a New York corporation, was the only company to submit a bid meeting the act's provisions. However, the securities the company submitted for its bond were rejected by Governor Elisha M. Pease, who declared the contract void and advertised for new proposals. There were no bidders on the second round. The first transcontinental railroad through Texas (and the second in the nation) was not completed until 1881, when the Texas and Pacific and the Southern Pacific met near Sierra Blanca.
Governor Wood takes office
December 21, 1847
On this day in 1847, George Tyler Wood took office as the second governor of the state of Texas. The Georgia native had fought in the Creek Indian War at the battle of Horseshoe Bend, where he met Sam Houston and Edward Burleson. He moved to Texas in February 1839 and settled on the Trinity River. Wood served in the Texas Senate in 1846 and fought in the Mexican War. He was elected governor in 1847, defeating James Miller, Nicholas Darnell, and Jesse J. Robinson. Wood's administration devoted much time to the debt question, frontier defense, and the New Mexico boundary dispute. Wood was defeated by Peter Hansborough Bell in his bid for reelection in the fall of 1849 and died in 1858.
Legislature establishes Frontier Regiment
December 21, 1861
On this day in 1861, the state legislature established the Frontier Regiment to patrol west of the line of settlements from the Red River to the Rio Grande. Less than a month later, the Confederate Congress authorized the secretary of war to receive the regiment into Confederate service for the protection of the Indian frontier of Texas. President Jefferson Davis vetoed the bill, however, because it withheld the control of the executive of the Confederate States over the troops. In early 1863 Governor Francis R. Lubbock attempted once more to transfer the regiment to Confederate service, but President Davis again refused to accept the regiment if it remained under Texas control. The Frontier Regiment achieved its greatest successes during the summer and fall of 1863, after James E. McCord replaced James M. Norris as commander. State authorities finally transferred the regiment to Confederate control in 1864, but only after the legislature approved the establishment of the Frontier Organization to ensure the continued protection of the frontier. During the last eighteen months of the Civil War the regiment increasingly devoted itself to enforcing Confederate conscription laws, arresting deserters, and tracking down renegades and outlaws.
posted - 12.19.2011  -  The Texas State Historical Association
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