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Friday, January 27, 2012

Moments in Texas History ~ 1.27.2012

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Record-setting sharpshooter dies in San Antonio
January 27, 1945
On this day in 1945, Elizabeth Toepperwein died in her home in San Antonio. She was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. At eighteen, while working in a Winchester factory, she met Adolph (Ad) Toepperwein, a member of a vaudeville-circuit shooting act who was also employed as an exhibition shooter by the Winchester arms company. After they married in 1903, Ad gave Elizabeth her first shooting lessons and discovered she was a "natural." By 1904 the Toepperweins were working as a team professionally; their first appearance as a famous husband-and-wife team was at the St. Louis World's Fair. Elizabeth acquired the nickname "Plinky" during her early shooting lessons. After several tries, she shot a tin can, which made a "plinking" sound. Elizabeth exclaimed, "I plinked it"--perhaps the first use of this echoic verb now common in shooting publications. She and Ad performed in a career that spanned forty years. Their displays of expertise included shooting while standing on their heads and while lying on their backs. She was the first woman in the United States to qualify as a national marksman with the military rifle and the first woman to break 100 straight targets at trapshooting. She also held the world endurance trapshooting record, hitting 1,952 of 2,000 targets in five hours and twenty minutes. The celebrated shooter Annie Oakley once said to Plinky, "Mrs. Top, you're the greatest shot I've ever seen." Memorabilia of the Toepperweins' career is on display in San Antonio's Buckhorn Saloon.
San Jacinto fife player advertises his services as a music teacher
January 27, 1838
On this day in 1838, Frederick Lemský advertised in the Telegraph and Texas Register offering his services as a music teacher and teacher of German and French. Lemský, born in Europe, came to Texas in 1836 and enlisted in the Texas army. He was a musician in the army until December 1836 and is said to have played "Come to the Bower" on the fife at the battle of San Jacinto. In 1841 Lemský was a charter member of the German Union of Texas, and in 1842 he was recorded as the employer of thirty men digging the Brazos and San Luis Canal in Brazoria County. Lemský and a partner named Franke drowned while transporting corn on a flat barge in Galveston Bay when a "hard norther" blew in and capsized the barge. According to the probate records in Brazoria County, "1 octave flute" and "1 keyed flute" were included in the inventory of his property. They were sold for $2.25 at auction in June 1844.
Baseball legend Bibb Falk born in Austin
January 27, 1899
On this day in 1899, Bibb Falk was born in Austin. As a boy he sold peanuts and worked as a batboy at the local Texas League ballpark. At the University of Texas he was a star player under Uncle Billy Disch, leading the Longhorns to three conference championships before signing with the Chicago White Sox in 1920. In September of that year, when the Black Sox scandal was revealed, Falk replaced the disgraced "Shoeless Joe" Jackson in left field. During the 1920s he was one of the best hitters in the American League, though he lacked home-run power. Falk enjoyed his best statistical season in 1926, when he batted .345 and led American League outfielders in fielding percentage. Following the 1928 season the White Sox traded him to the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played three more seasons. In 1935 he returned to Austin as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. He replaced Disch as UT baseball coach in 1940 and led the Longhorns to two consecutive conference championships. Falk enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and coached a championship service-league baseball team at Randolph Field in San Antonio. He returned to UT in 1946, and in 1949 and 1950 Texas became the first college team to win back-to-back national championships. Falk remained at Texas until 1967. During his twenty-five years as coach the Longhorns won fifteen conference titles outright and tied for five more, and Falk's crusty demeanor and salty vocabulary became legendary. In 1975 the university honored Falk and his former mentor by naming its new baseball stadium Disch-Falk Field. Falk died in 1989.
Episcopalians organize in Texas
January 27, 1839
On this date in 1839, Rev. Caleb Smith Ives reported the organization of Christ Church, Matagorda, probably the first Episcopal church in Texas. Formerly, during most of the period of Mexican Texas, Protestants could not practice their faith openly in Texas, since the Mexican government required allegiance to the Catholic Church. In 1838 Robert Chapman and Caleb Smith Ives were invited to open schools in the new Republic of Texas. Ives conducted the first Episcopalian service in the republic at Christmas 1838, and reported the first organized congregation a month later.

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