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 Treasury 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.

Must History Repeat Itself? Story Today Leads to Reposting of the Mystery of the Missing State Park

“Plenty of land for new parks but not money” is the headline of a story by Cindy Horwell in today’s San Antonio Express-News.

Two years ago, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation donated 3,700 acres of undeveloped Texas Hill Country land 30 minutes northwest of Boerne for use as a state park.

Great news, except it is closed to the public. And the state has no plans on board to open it because state park funds are stretched thinly already.

Dear Texas State Legislature: Hopefully, the State of Texas will not let this gift slip away from its residents, as happened with a smaller donation of parkland almost 90 years ago with a Kronkosky connection.

In 2010, I stumbled across, what to me, was the mysterious disappearance of a public park:

Whatever happened to your park, Hallie Maude Neff?

The newspapers of the day used such glowing terms to describe the new state park off the Boerne-Blanco Road (474) on the banks of the Guadalupe River.

Curiosity about the business partnerships existing between Albert Kronkosky (1868-1944), Charles Graebner (Albert Kronkosky’s brother-in-law) and my husband’s step-great-grandfather, John Nooe (1871-1944), a doctor in Boerne, led me to the first clues of the existence of the park:

A beautiful park site at Boerne, eight miles from the Guadalupe river, donated to the State by Charles Graebner, Albert Kronkosky and Dr. J. F. Nooe, has been christened Hallie Maude Neff State park, In honor of the governor’s daughter.

The Brookshire Times, July 25, 1924

Following, is a list of parks given the State on the recent trip… Boerne, 50 acres, Charles Graebner, Dr. J. F. Nooe, Albert Kronkosky, on Guadalupe River, fine shade-and water. (Hallie Maude Neff State Park.)

San Antonio Express, August 19, 1924

The Hallie Maude Neff State Park at Boerne. which was donated by Messrs Albert Kronkosky, Dr. J. F. Nooe and Col. Chas. Graebner, will be one of the most attractive spots in Texas for the coming season, because it has the Guadalupe River for the north line and the Sabinas River running through it with a concrete dam across it, making a fine swimming pool or lake. We should say, that will accommodate 7,000 people.  This Park will attract thousands of people from San Antonio during the summer season.  The Chamber of Commerce at Boerne has raised funds by public subscription to build a better road to the Park and it is about completed now, it isn’t only a better road but a good one.  Thanks to Mr. Holekamp for his business methods in spending money.

Big Spring Herald, January 16, 1925

Had I stumbled across these clues in the mystery of the missing state park a number of years ago, perhaps Bessie Mae Kronkosky might have been able to shed light.  But she passed away on the first of this month at the age of 103.

Sarah Reveley shared a much larger clue with me, a full-page story praising the park as a “new fairyland” in the March 22, 1925, edition of the San Antonio Express:

For not only has one of the most alluring and naturally beautiful scenic spots of all Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, been given in fee simple to the State Park Board acting in behalf of the State of Texas, but now the same interest that gave the 70-acre tract eight and a half miles out the Blanco highway from Boerne are spending $15,000 from their private funds in order that the park will be ready to receive visitors early this summer.  Other citizens of Boerne recently subscribed $1,100 to provide funds for putting the highway from Boerne to the park in the best possible shape to accommodate the tremendously heavy traffic anticipated.

The article describes a lodge capable of accommodating 100 people next to the caretakers’ cottage and facilities for campers.  Among the distinctive features were a “babbling brook,” a “bell-ringing rock” and “the Flapper’s Roost, which is reached by a winding stair on a tree that leads from a cliff down to the water’s edge.”  Recreational opportunities included the swimming area in the Guadalupe, canoeing and a concrete dam being built over the Sabinas River for fishing.  The natural cave on Bear Creek in the park contained:

…the Venus hair fern, a species of Maidenhair fern scientifically known as Adiantum Cappillis-Veneris.  This is the only place in Texas that this specimen of fern is known to thrive.

Does this rare fern still thrive today?

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I dragged one of my sisters out to look for the park that promised to attract San Antonians by the thousands.  The spot at the creek at what would have been the closest edge of Hallie Maude State Park to 474 is indeed still beautiful.  Although there is river access, no evidence of a state park exists.

But how did Hallie’s namesake park disappear from the Texas state map?  Please send more clues….

Note Added on September 13, 2010:  And how could it disappear so quickly? It does not appear to be included on a 1936 map of state parks published by the Texas Planning Board.

Note Added on September 15, 2010:  As this story wandered around the internet, it fell into the hands of Bill Ward, a retired geologist and member of the Native Plant Society.  Not sure why, but, according to his research, the “fairyland” was returned to its donors before 1933:

Most of the improvements at Hallie Neff State Park at Boerne came during 1926 through convict labor.  Footnote:  The seventy acre Hallie Neff Park was donated to the state in 1925. It reverted back to the donors before 1933. Charles S. Potts, The Convict Labor System of Texas. (Publications of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, No. 383, 1903), p. 429, U.T. Vertical File, Box 332, SHRLRC; “Eight Convicts and Truck to Help Neff Build State Parks,” Austin American. 1924, Box 3L426, CAH; Lawson, “The Texas State Parks System,” pp. 1-3; Jackson, “State Parks for Texas,” p. 71; Texas Legislative Council, Texas State Parks, p. 2.  page 41 of dissertation on Texas state parks

Note added on October 27, 2010:  Another update from Bill Ward –

Sabinas River refers to the little Sabinas Creek that enters the Guadalupe River just west of the 474 bridge.  That species of maidenhair fern is the most common fern in the Hill Country.  Even in 1925, no one should have said it only was known from that site.