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.

 

 

The Howard Cemetery: Storage for old souls and old sofas

Such a peaceful, magical place. An appealing invitation to spend an eternity there. Hidden from cars traveling the Old San Antonio Road. Nestled in a thick cedar patch providing restful shade. Protected by a wall of stones quarried on the ranch and topped by jagged honeycomb rock.

It was a place I wanted to rest.

Before my father-in-law broke the news to me: the original Howard Cemetery deed restricted any increase in population in their cemetery to direct descendants and their spouses. I was crushed they would not accept the company of even their cousin Spencers. I considered leaving instructions for my ashes surreptitiously to be scattered among the graves.

Why would I want to end up somewhere uninvited? A spot so purposefully restricted to keep some late-arrival import, such as a Brennan, out?

After all, those who reside there are not mere Howards. They are Howard Howards – really Howardly – originally from King’s Stanley, Gloucestershire, England.

For the answer, refer to paragraph one.

But that temptation is gone.

After visiting the Howard Cemetery yesterday – no easy task – I particularly was struck by an article on the Herff Farm in today’s Rivard Report. The efforts of the Cibolo Nature Center to preserve the Herff farmhouse amidst Boerne’s explosive growth are so needed. The Herffs and the Howards were neighbors.

There will be no explosive growth in the Howard Cemetery because there are no direct descendants remaining anywhere nearby. When “Aunt Minnie,” Minnie Knox Spencer, born in 1883 in Galveston and only eligible by her marriage to Fitz-Alan Forester Howard (1878-1956), became a permanent resident of the cemetery in 1972, she left no direct descendants. I just missed getting to know her, much to my loss. Despite coming out of the Hutchings of Galveston and marrying into the Howard-Howards, Aunt Minnie evidently was down to earth. She could care less about money; she cared more for her goats.

The 280 acres of the Howard Ranch were divided among grand nieces, nephews and their children – meaning tracts as small as seven acres a piece, for which all were grateful. But that fragmentation eventually led to the demise of a bucolic tract of land.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And the cemetery, although restful within its walls, is now an isolated oasis in a sea of concrete. Swallowed by Boerne’s growth. By people who, like many of us, have more stuff than they need. People who have so much stuff, they rent storage. And people with major recreational vehicles in need of a place to rest.

So now they rest next to the cemetery. The cemetery encircled by concrete and yellow tape. Like crime tape confessing to the concrete sins.

While the current owner was required to keep the cemetery, keeping the original main house – Ten Oak Hill Cottage – of John Howard Howard (1834-1894) was certainly not mandatory. But the owner of the Ten Oaks Storage Unit in Boerne did. Mercifully. There amidst the rows of metal sheds, it stands. Out of place, yet preserved.

A sliver of history that makes one mindful of the importance of the larger slice saved by the Cibolo Nature Center.