Mobs employing limbs of live oaks to mete out ‘justice’ were not uncommon

Above, “The Reason” by Albert A. Smith, 1920

Spent a lot of time with my nose buried in the pages of newspapers of a century ago while researching An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: And Yes, She Shot Him Dead and found myself often shocked by the stories I encountered.

Racism was not only entrenched, but there appeared little shame in embracing it openly in print. Ways were found to prevent Black men from affecting elections: poll taxes to discourage participation and refusal to allow Blacks to vote in the Democrats’ primaries. If no Blacks could vote in primaries, Black candidates would not be listed on the ballot. Mainstream white Democrat candidates boasted about this practice on the campaign trail. But that is all so minor compared to the accepted bias in the system of justice.

The truthful novel opens with the very public hanging of Leon Johnson for killing Dr. Augustus Maverick (1885-1913), an example clearly illustrating to Hedda Burgemeister what could happen to someone found guilty of shooting a powerful man in San Antonio, as she had done to brewery owner Otto Koehler (1855-1914). Executions attracted large crowds downtown.

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Walking among the dead seeking hints about our past

Let us endeavor to live our lives that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Words of Mark Twain engraved on the memorial for Bertie Lee Hall (1926-1999), member of the Texas House of Representatives, storyteller and writer

Getting to the cemetery first is not a race you normally want to win, but, when General Edward Burleson (1798-1851) died, leaders of the Republic of Texas realized they were caught flat-footed as to where to honor their heroes. Burleson had served with Ben Milam in San Antonio; fought at San Jacinto; and served as Vice President of the young republic. House member Andrew Jackson Hamilton (1815-1875) offered his own property in East Austin, with the state assuming responsibility for the burial ground in 1854.

Other prominent figures from the early days of the Republic of Texas gradually were reinterred in places of honor in the Texas State Cemetery. The remains of Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836) were moved from Peach Point to a commanding spot by Governor Oscar Colquitt in 1910. The statue of him was made by San Antonio sculptor Pompeo Coppini (1870-1957), creator of the currently controversial Cenotaph in Alamo Plaza.

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An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Three

San Antonio Brewing Association

Above: San Antonio Brewing Association, Original Home of Pearl Beer, Now Hotel Emma at Pearl

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Two

Andrew Stevens, January 1911

Andy draws open the heavy drapes and, despite the crisp winter day, cracks two of the windows. He hauls a heavy brass ashtray stand out of the depths of the closet and places it between the two chairs in front of Mr. Koehler’s massive walnut desk. Both his older brother, John, and Mr. Wahrmund are right-handed though, so he fetches another.

He does not want to have to answer to Mrs. Koehler if one of the men carelessly allows a burning ember to drop from his cigar onto the Oriental carpet. But, if the men are drinking, which they will be, they might smoke with their left hands. One more stand is in order. Mrs. K terms them hideous, hence the closet hide-away, but the elegant Meissner ashtrays she brought back from Germany are far too shallow-bowled to serve any purpose aside from collecting dust.

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Three”