by Bob Bowman
NUGGETS OF HISTORY
books written by hometown historians, some of the most interesting morsels of
East Texas history would likely go unnoticed. So it is with "The Jasper Journal,"
a wonderful local history written by Nida A. Marshall of Jasper County about ten
years ago. I received the book as a gift for making a speech in Jasper, and found
it filled with nuggets from the past. |
1913, a little girl living with her father in the Kirby Lumber Company sawmill
town of Bessmay was kidnapped by her mother in a family dispute. After years of
court wrangling, the mother won legal possession of little Virginia Katherine
McMath, who would later win acclaim as movie star and dancer Ginger Rogers.
centuries, historians have tried to confirm the gravesite of French explorer La
Salle, who reportedly was murdered by his companions somewhere in East Texas.
In 1913, Jasper native Jesse J. Lee wrote to a friend at the University of Texas
in Austin that a camp of German stavemakers cut down a large white oak tree near
Burkeville, in Newton County, and found carved in its trunk the words, La Salle.
Charlie Ratliff of Jasper may be the only person in East Texas with two gravestones.
When the 80-year-old man lost his right arm to cancer, he had it buried in Little
Hope Cemetery with a marker bearing a carving of an arm and hand. When Charlie
died four years later, the rest of his body was buried beside the arm.
of his popularity in the l830s, Sam Houston was given the first lot in
the newly-organized community of Bevilport, an early Jasper County seat of government.
But old Sam never paid any taxes on the lot, so it was auctioned off. An entry
in an old store ledger at Bevilport also shows that the hero of San Jacinto once
bought a gallon of kerosene on credit in the l830s -- and never paid for it.
Captain E.I. Kellie came home from Confederate service in the Civil War,
he brought with him the flag of his company, which left Jasper for the war in
1861. When Kellie died in 1928, his beloved old flag was buried with him.
of Deep East Texas' most respected men, Dr. W.W. Pugh and preacher-poet Andrew
Allen Vetch, staged an old-fashioned shootout on a Brookeland street in
1900. Pugh fired from a distance of sixty paces, but missed Vetch, who then fired
his gun. The weapon, however, jammed, and Pugh's wife rushed screaming into the
street, ending the duel. A rematch was avoided by the intervention of a hometown
Haley's Comet raced through the skies in 1910, another comet plunged into
the Seed Tick community, setting the woods afire. A farmer also brought to the
Jasper News-Boy an egg laid by one of his hens. The egg, according to the newspaper,
had "a natural tail composed of pure eggshell." The editor concluded it was a
freak caused by Haley's Comet.
names of two East Texas counties, Jasper
and Newton, come from Sergeant William Jasper and Corporal John Newton, who
fought side by side in the American Revolutionary War in the 1770s. Seven
other states named counties or county seats for Jasper and Newton. In states
having Jasper and Newton counties, the two counties (like those in East Texas)
1865, eleven years before Little Big Horn, George Armstrong Custer and his troops
camped on Jasper's courthouse square and along Sandy Creek. Custer and his
men had been sent to Texas after the Civil War to chase down the last of the
Confederate rebels in Texas.
September 29, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
All Things Historical is distributed by the East Texas Historical Association.
Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former president of the association and the author of
nearly 30 books about East Texas