Linking faces to the Howard headstones: Cricket and tea in the Texas Hill Country

howards kendall county cricket match

Cricket players on the sideline in the Texas Hill Country

When the family of John Howard Howard (1834-1894), obviously serious about being Howards, emigrated from England to Texas about 1885, they brought many of their British customs with them. The family of ten lived in Galveston briefly before settling into what they called their “cottage” on the more than 300-acre Ten Oak Hill Ranche (Yes, that’s the way they spelled it.). Their property was on the Cibolo next to the Herff family ranch, south of Boerne on what is now the Old San Antonio Road.

The Howards found there were enough British ex-pats living in the Hill Country to scare up cricket and polo matches. A picnic out in the countryside under the trees was civilized to the point that Fanny D’Argent Howard (1841-1919) poured hot tea into china cups with saucers. Daughter Eleanor Pratt Howard (Burt) (1876-1975) retained refined manners to ride sidesaddle.

John Howard Howard left Fanny a widow in 1894, which made him the first resident of the family cemetery which was the subject of a blog several years ago. With his death, the journals for the Ten Oak Hill Ranche indicate Fitz-Alan Forester Howard (1878-1956) took over the business end of running the “ranche,” at least until he married the Mister’s great aunt, Minnie Knox Spencer (1883-1972) in the mid-teens.

A box of photographs made it from Minnie to the Mister’s father, George Hutchings Spencer, and eventually to us, and self-quarantine-times led me to tackle it. I was hoping for photos of Minnie, the lover of goats more than people whom I was deprived of meeting by not entering the family until three years after her death. But, alas, no Minnie photos.

At least that is my best guess. Aside from the formal portraits taken prior to the Howards’ departure from England, almost none of the subjects are identified. All eight children are represented by headstones (if not actual remains) in the Howard Cemetery though, so I undertook to try to determine who was who and encountered several family tragedies along the way.

The youngest of the Howard clan, Marion Kathleen (1880-1899), joined her father way too soon. Marion was enrolled in classes in Galveston Business College in 1899. Two weeks after her 19th birthday, a treacherous undercurrent off an old jetty at the foot of Broadway dragged Marion and two other young women to their deaths.

While John (Jack) Simpson Howard (1871-1913) had tempted fate by signing up with the Rough Riders to join Teddy Roosevelt in the charge of San Juan Hill in Cuba, it was another brother who first fell while in the service. West Point-trained, Thomas Ferrers Howard (1874-1903) transferred from the 2nd Cavalry to the 7th in June 1898, possibly just in time to participate in the Battle of San Juan Hill on July 1. He was retired as a Lieutenant in September 1899 due to disabilities incurred in the line of duty. He remained in St. Louis, Missouri, until his death at age 28, possibly from those injuries.

But back to Jack. The Customs Service of the Department of Treasure hired Jack as a mounted inspector scouting the Rio Grande for smugglers of livestock. In West Texas, he met and married Mary Mason Kilpatrick (1882-1970) in 1907. The couple had two young daughters in Candelaria. Mary must have lived in constant fear every time Jack rode off to work based on the dangerous entanglements confronting him she described in an April 2013 letter to her brother-in-law, (Fitz-)Alan Howard. Bandits from across the border would steal cattle and alter their brands in remote mountain areas.

In February of 1913, Jack, a former Texas Ranger and a brand inspector for the Cattlemen’s Association captured Francisco “Chico” Cano near Pilares. Cano and his gang were well known as smugglers of horses and mules. Jack was in front as the men and their prisoner rode single file through a deep ravine. Protected by boulders above, five or six men, including two of Cano’s brothers, ambushed the men, shooting Jack and his horse from under him. Cano fled with his rescuers, leaving behind the three wounded officials. Help did not arrive for 15 hours. Jack lingered from his wounds for more than two days in Pilares, allowing Mary time to be by his side. The San Antonio Express reported the sniper who shot Jack had used a soft-nosed bullet, which split after striking him, causing extensive internal damage in his lungs and throat. The internal hemorrhaging could not be stopped.

Other family members fared better. Frances Edith Howard (1866-1952) remained single, the primary occupant of Ten Oak Hill Cottage. James Hammet Howard (1867-1956) managed mines in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, where he married Maria Ignacia Martinez (1876-1953). Brother William D’Argent Howard (1869-1953) found Guadalajara to his liking as well, investing in two houses there, and serving as Assistant General Manager of Amparo Mining Company under James. Upon his retirement, he joined Edith at Ten Oak Hill Cottage.

While visiting her brothers in Guadalajara, Eleanor Pratt Howard was introduced to a New York-born businessman, John Lucius Burt (1868-1955). Up until his death, the couple lived in Guadalajara, San Antonio and Los Angeles. Eleanor outlived all her siblings, dying in Washington, D.C. in 1975. Perhaps she moved there to be close to her niece. Mary Ignacia Howard (1902-1988) was an opera singer who married a Russian-born concert pianist and composer, Basil Peter Toutorsky (1896-1989). The couple operated a music academy in their landmark Dupont Circle mansion, recently acquired by the Republic of Congo for use as its embassy.

Ten Oak Hill Cottage and the Howard Cemetery are now surrounded by mini-storage units of Ten Oaks Storage, 131 Old San Antonio Road. A portion of the former Ten Oak Hill Ranche is part of the Cibolo Preserve.

Note: This post will be updated if any relatives surface with better clues for identifying the Howard siblings.

 

 

Biannual Roundup: Thanks for following posts to and fro

Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement

Know it appears suspicious that a post about the author’s book that finally made it into print popped up as the most-read by you during the past year, but you actually were that kind.

Of course, the controversial redevelopment plans for Alamo Plaza still remain of grave concern for those who love San Antonio. Will the plaza be fenced in? Will the Texas General Land Office repurpose the buildings on the west side of the plaza as a new museum or bulldoze those important historic landmarks? So many design issues remain unresolved as we enter 2020.

The author always hope postcards sent back from other places help tease out the boulevardier in you, seducing you into traveling more and serving as helpful guides when you do.

The following list represents the posts you clicked most in 2019, with the number in parentheses representing rankings from six months ago.

  1. Postcard from the Coker Settlement: Following long gestation, book finally due to arrive, 2019
  2. Has Alamo Plaza fallen in the hands of ‘reverential’ caretakers? 2019 (2)
  3. How’s the GLO managing Alamo Plaza? Welcome to the faux Alamo. 2019 (3)

    Hey, GLO. No faux Alamo.
  4. Postcard from Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy: History with a horse hanging overhead, 2019, (5)
  5. The Madarasz murder mystery: Might Helen haunt Brackenridge Park? 2012 (7)
  6. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014
  7. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: ‘I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ 2019
  8. Postcard from Mexico City: The Lord of Poison and potent relics, 2017
  9. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Foods steeped in tradition, 2019 (11)

    Boquerones, fried anchovies, at El Rinconcillo in Sevilla, Spain
  10. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The most celebrated mother in Spain, 2019
  11. Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Street Art, Part I, 2019
  12. Postcard from San Antonio Botanical Garden: Walking across Texas without leaving home, 2019
From the streets of Malaga, Spain, pulpo y vino

Thanks for dropping by. Would love to see comments anytime.

Postcard from the Coker Settlement: Book-birthing Celebration

Photos accompanying September 8, 2019, book review by Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News

Spencer has done a masterful job of sifting through a mass of cemetery and other records, finding the threads of family stories, which she has woven together with great care. They reflect the triumphs and travails of the early settlers and their descendants in what was without doubt, at first, a very tough territory….

What makes this book of exceptional interest for anyone with a deep love for and interest in Texas history is the way Spencer relates the family sagas of the early settlers within the larger dynamics of settlement and colonization in early Mexican Texas and after the Texas Revolution.

We learn in detail of the great challenges faced by empresarios Stephen F. Austin, Henri Castro, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels and John O. Meusebach. We learn as well of the settlers who were Mormons and their challenges in the face of intense prejudice in much of what was then the United States.

Most of all, we learn of the interrelatedness of all the families who made up the Coker Settlement, who overcame their cultural and national differences to become, in their own way, Texans and, in time, San Antonians. Spencer deserves considerable credit for the extraordinary amount of detail she provides about the lives of so many settlers, whom she lists at the end of each chapter.

Theirs is a very poignant history, for in time the Great Depression and new sanitation regulations did much to decimate the local dairy industry. Land that was once dotted with dairy farms and their hardworking owners was sold and cleared for tract home developments, schools, the new San Antonio International Airport and malls — and the early settlers were forgotten.

Thanks to Spencer, though, their stories are now well recovered and hopefully will live on for generations to come.

Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News, September 8, 2019

Thanks to Ed Conroy for making time to review Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement.

Please try to join us for the celebration of the publication from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at The Twig Book Shop at Pearl.