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Monday, December 26, 2011

Moments in Texas History ~ 12.26.2011

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Future Eagle Pass civic leader born in Hungary
December 26, 1885
On this day in 1885, Sam Schwartz was born in Patrelin, Hungary. He came to America about 1900 and worked for his uncle at El Paso's Popular Dry Goods Company, where his customers included Pancho Villa. In 1910 he relocated to Eagle Pass and, casting his lot with the new motion-picture technology then sweeping the country, bought and renovated an old pool hall and opened the Majestic Theater. The business was a success, thanks in part to the 16,000 National Guard troops garrisoned in Eagle Pass during the Mexican Revolution. In 1915 Schwartz built the Aztec Theater, which remained in family hands until closing in 1982. Schwartz served as mayor of Eagle Pass from 1920 to 1924. He was co-founder of Maverick County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, which he served as president from 1930 to 1967, and which irrigated tens of thousands of acres in the county; its main canal was the largest in the state. Schwartz served in many other civic roles in the community. At the time of his death in 1969, he was the oldest independent theater owner in Texas.
Independence Heights is independent no longer
December 26, 1929
On this day in 1929, the city of Independence Heights was formally annexed by Houston. The Wright Land Company had originally secured the land, incorporated in 1910, and developed a new community for blacks. By doing its own financing the company made it possible for people with small incomes to become homeowners. Resident contractors built most of the houses and churches. Independence Heights incorporated in 1915, with a population of 600; according to a Houston Post story dated January 17, 1915, it was the first incorporated black city in Texas. In November 1928 Independence Heights residents voted to dissolve the city's incorporation because of their desire to become a part of Houston. In 1989 a Texas Historical Commission marker was placed on the grounds of Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church to mark the city site.
First commercial buffalo hunt in Texas
December 26, 1874
On this day in 1874, Joseph McComb led a party out from Fort Griffin on the first commercial buffalo hunt in Texas. The party consisted of McComb; two assistants, John Jacobs and John W. Poe; and teamsters, skinners, and an ox-drawn wagon. The season's kill brought 2,000 hides, which were marketed at Fort Griffin at $1.50 and $2.00 each. Other hunting trips headed by McComb followed in 1875, 1876, 1877, and 1878. McComb estimated that he killed no fewer than 12,000 buffalo during his five hunting seasons. The completion of the transcontinental railroad was a catalyst for the slaughter of buffalo in the 1870s and 1880s, since the railroad made possible the profitable shipment of hides from the Great Plains to eastern markets. Thousands of hunters and skinners participated in the hunts. By 1884 the great herds had been exterminated.
Pro-Union Tejanos lynch secessionist judge
December 26, 1862
On this day in 1862, an armed group of 100 pro-Union Tejanos captured and hanged the wealthy rancher Isidro Vela, the chief justice of Zapata County and an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy, in the presence of his family. Vela was born in Mexico in 1798 and served as president of the secessionist meeting held in Zapata County in December 1860. He and the other landowners in the area strongly supported secession, in contrast to the mostly Hispanic local populace. Guerrilla warfare ensued, as pro-Union, anti-Anglo bands staged raids into Texas and retreated into Mexico. In April 1861 Vela had faced down a band under the leadership of Antonio Ochoa, a follower of Juan N. Cortina who threatened pro-Confederate county officials, and later that year had been forced to seek refuge with a neighbor when another such band raided his ranch. After Vela's death, Capt. Refugio Benavides caught and defeated the raiders near Camargo, Mexico. Papers seized in the battle implicated Leonard Pierce Jr., the United States consul in Matamoros, as an instigator of the raid.
posted - 12.26.2011  -  The Texas State Historical Association
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