27. March 2007 · Comments Off on Texiana · Categories: General, History, Old West

Still working my way through the tall stack of books, provided by the San Antonio Public Library (may their stacks never fail, and their incredibly helpful staff go on saying “shusssh” yeah, unto generation after generation). This has put me in the way of a lot of interesting, or startling historical tid-bits, for instance:

Ice harvested commercially from New England began to be shipped to the Gulf-Coast town of Indianola in 1851. Ice cream and chilled drinks were wildly popular and freely available from that time on. (Except during the Civil War.) Kind of a mind-blower to know that ice cream parlors could exist in a state at the same time as people cooking beans over open fires and fighting with the Indians.

Commercial shipments of sides of beef, under mechanical refrigeration began in mid-1869, also from Indianola.

Texas politics during the time of the Republic can be described in three words: Tomcats. In. Sack. No one emerged unscathed; least of all Sam Houston.

Sam Houston; a fascinating and contradictory person, and almost too big for the 19th century. Autodidact, runaway, alcoholic, slave-owner and Unionist, brawler and dandy, soldier and politician, twice-divorced, and Indian-lover. Worshipped and loathed in about equal measure.

Houston’s worst enemy (except for a couple of hundred others) was probably a man named Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. With a sissy name like that, he had to come to Texas, of course.

At the Battle of San Jacinto, where Houston finally turned and fought, defeating a much larger and better-trained Mexican army, his army advanced to music played by a small scratch field band; a raunchy and suggestive ditty called “Come to the Bower”. It may have been the only song that all the volunteer bandsmen knew.

Everyone who was in Texas in the 1840s and 1850s knew Captain Jack Hays… mostly from having served with him. He was kind of the Kevin Bacon of the period, but I can only find two biographies of him. And one of them uses the phrase “beauty and chivalry of San Antonio” in a completely serious and un-ironic manner.

Several useful volumes put together by local historians of the Hill Country, with all sorts of interesting stories, and accounts of local haps and heroes. Some of the biographical sketches are so reverent in tone that it reminds me of the old joke about Charleston.

Why are the Charlestonians like the Chinese? Because they eat rice and worship their ancestors!

(More to follow, as I encounter them)

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