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"Time is what we want most, but what we use the worst."
~William Penn

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Moments in Texas History ~ 2.11.2012

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First railroad in Texas chartered
February 11, 1850
On this day in 1850, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway was chartered, marking the beginning of the railroad age in Texas. The BBB&C was the first railroad to begin operating in the state, the first component of the present Southern Pacific to open for service, and the second railroad west of the Mississippi River. Gen. Sidney Sherman was a member of the group that received the charter. Construction began from Buffalo Bayou to Harrisburg in 1851; the first locomotive, which was named for Sherman, arrived in 1852; and the first twenty miles of track, from Harrisburg to Stafford's Point, opened in 1853. Although Harrisburg did not develop into the major city on Buffalo Bayou as a result of the construction of the BBB&C, the railroad otherwise fulfilled the expectations of its early backers. The first railroad in Texas, now a part of Southern Pacific's transcontinental Sunset Route between New Orleans and Los Angeles, handles heavy freight traffic as well as Amtrak's Sunset Limited west of Houston.

Texas marines mutiny in old New Orleans
February 11, 1842
On this date in 1842, the first and only mutiny in the Texas Navy began. The schooner San Antonio was anchored in the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Although the high- ranking officers were ashore, the sailors and marines were confined aboard because of fear of desertion. But they evidently got drunk on smuggled liquor and, under marine sergeant Seymour Oswalt, began a mutiny in which Lt. Charles Fuller was killed. Eventually, Commodore Edwin Moore brought some of the mutineers to trial. Three were sentenced to flogging, and four were hanged from the yardarm of the Austin on April 6, 1843. Oswalt himself escaped from jail in New Orleans and was never brought to justice.

Legislature passes bill to pay for governor's "chicken salad and punch"
February 11, 1915
On this day in 1915, the state legislature passed an appropriations bill to pay for expenses incurred by former governor Oscar Branch Colquitt for "chicken salad and punch," among other items, during his term in office. An ensuing legal battle, known as the "Chicken Salad Case," lasted until June 1916, when Justice William Seat Fly ruled that the legislature could appropriate for fuel, water, lights, and ice necessary for the Governor's Mansion, but not for groceries and other personal needs of the governor. Colquitt's successor as governor, Jim Ferguson, had continued to purchase groceries with state money under this appropriation. Ferguson testified under oath that he would repay the state if the Supreme Court decided against him, but failed to do so. In September 1917 the High Court of Impeachment held that Ferguson was guilty of a misapplication of public funds. The Court of Impeachment, by a vote of twenty-five to three, removed Ferguson from office and made him ineligible to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the state of Texas. Ferguson continued to exert considerable political influence, however, through the political career of his wife, Miriam (Ma) Ferguson.


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