John Henry Brown.

Indian wars and pioneers of Texas online

. (page 123 of 135)
Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 123 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ter of this Lodge. In 1863 he received the Royal
Arch and appendant degrees in Mt. Horeb Chap-
ter, No. 57, in Williamson County. In 1864 he
received the Council degrees in the city of Austin,
and in 1872 the Knight Templar degrees in Colorado

Commandery No. 4. He was a charter member
of San Saba Chapter and served as High Priest
for several years. He also served as High Priest
of Belton Chapter No. 76. He was a charter mem-
ber of Salado Chapter No. 107, organized in 1873,
and filled the office of High Priest consecutively for
twenty-one years. He served as Master of Salado
Lodge No. 296, and was its secretary for four

In 1882 he was elected R. W. Grand Junior War-
den of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas ;
also Grand Senior Warden, Deputy Grand Master,
and Grand Master of Masons in Texas in 1887.

Being a farmer himself, he very naturally sym-
pathizes with any legitimate movement to improve
the farmer's condition. Hence we find him figuring
conspicuously in the Grange, a farmer's organiza-
tion. In 1873 he was admitted a member of the
first subordinate Grange organized in Texas. In
December, of the same year, he was elected its
Master, to which position he was elected annually
for six years. In 1875 he was elected Lecturer of
the State Grange of Texas, and in 1877 was elected
Overseer. In 1881 he became Worthy Master of
the State Grange, which position he held consecu-
tively for eleven years. He served as secretary
for two years, and now, 1896, is chairman of the
executive committee.

It will be seen from the foregoing that Maj. Rose
has spent about one-half of his life as a pioneer on
the frontiers of Missouri, California and Texas.
His father dying when our subject was yet a youth
in school, his cherished hope of securing a thorough
education was necessarily abandoned, and he
became practically the head of a large family.
Feeling keenly the loss of his father, and greatly
disappointed in the disarrangement of his school
plans, he bravely buckled on the armor of respon-
sibility and courageously met the grave duties and
cares of life. His successful career is conclusive
proof that he possessed the ambition, the nerve,
the fortitude, and the stability to turn to use the
misfortunes that would have discouraged and
crowded down the young man of common mold.

He has always been aggressive in forwarding the
cause of education, and one of the most hearty
indorsers and promoters of the general free school
system for which Texas is to-day famous. Having
served efficiently for more than twenty years on
school and college boards, Salado College, Salado
public school, Baylor Female College, he was
appointed by Governor Ross, in 1887, a member of
the Board of Directors of the State Agricultural
and Mechanical College, near Bryan, and was, in
1889, elected president of the Board. This not



only involved the administration of the affairs of
the Agricultural and Mechanical College but also
of the Prairie View State Normal School. During
President Rose's administration of the affairs of
these institutions the Board was liberally supplied
with money by the State for their extension and
development, and these funds have been most wisely
spent in building dormitories, professors' resi-
dences, steam laundry, electric light plant, and
other essential buildings. All this has drawn
largely upon Maj. Eose's time and energy,
and the great value of his services to the State
and the cause of education is inestimable. He
is still retained in that position to the present

In 1895 Mr. Rose was appointed by Governor
Culberson Commissioner of Agriculture, Insurance,

Statistics and History, a position which involves
great responsibility and labor.

Maj. Rose is strictly a thorough-going man of
affairs, and has filled the numerous positions of
trust that have been thrust upon him with marked
fidelity to duty in the broad sense that he has ever
interpreted it. While he is a Democrat, he has
never pursued politics as an occupation, never
sought office, but has responded to the call of pub-
He trust from a sense of duty, and has performed
these duties of office in every instance with credit
to himself and satisfaction to the public. His name
will live prominently in the history of Texas as that
of a public benefactor who filled his mission in life
faithfully and with honor to himself and his people.
Maj. Rose still continues bis farming operations at
his home, Salado.



Col. Norton came to Texas when the State was in
the throes of reconstruction, and when her whole
people were in mourning for their dead on a hun-
dred fields. He soon became known as a potent
factor in the material development of the common-
wealth, and a staunch defender of the natural and
constitutional rights of the people and of the cause
of honest, accountable government.

N. L. Norton was born near Carlisle, Nicholas
County, Ky., April 18th, 1830. His father was
Hiram Norton, a successful business man, whose
father, John Norton, was the son of a retired Brit-
ish naval officer who had settled in Virginia prior
to the War for Independence, and at the outbreak
of hostilities equipped his five sons for the service
of the colonies. One of these sons died on the
English prison-ship stationed in Charleston harbor.
Another was a sergeant in Washington's body-guard
and stood near his chief at the surrender of Corn-
wallis at Yorktown. He was afterwards a field
officer in the several Indian campaigns of Harmer,
St. Clair, Clark and Wayne. His nephew, Capt.
James Norton, oldest brother of Hiram, the father
of Col. N. L. Norton, was killed at the battle of
Tippecanoe, while serving under Gen . Harrison.

Col. Norton's mother was a Miss Spencer, a
daughter of a Revolutionary sire, and a grand-
daughter of Thomas Spencer, who commanded a

brigade of Scottish rebels at the disastrous battle
of Culloden in 1746, in which he was wounded and
captured. He barely escaped the block, to which he
had been condemned, through the connivance of
British officials. Fleeing to America he settled in
Virginia, and subsequently removed to Bourbon,
now Clark, County, Ky.

Col. Norton took the log school house course
near the old home and, later, attended Fredonia
Academy, in Western New York, and the Military
Institute, in Kentucky.

He was married in 1853 to Miss Mary C. Hall, a
daughter of John Hall, an honored citizen of the
same county. The young couple moved to
Missouri, where they encountered many of the
inconveniences and trials incident to farm life in
that State nearly half a century ago. When the
war between the States became inevitable, the
young farmer recognized that it was the citizen's
duty to maintain his allegiance to the State which
guaranteed his civil rights ; and, although strongly
opposed to secession, denied even more bitterly the
right of coercion and promptly obeyed the call of
the legally elected Governor, and organized one of
the first companies raised north of the Missouri
river for the defense of the State. He served in
various capacities and grades of rank, and enjoyed
the special confidence of his Commander, Gen.



Sterling Price. As an evidence of his popularity
with the army and people, he was chosen, almost
unanimously, over three competitors as Representa-
tive in the Confederate Congress in May, 1864.
He is the youngest living member of that now his-
toric body.

In the field his duties were mainly those of staff
officer, but he was assigned to much special ser-
vice, and often of the most perilous nature, in
which he had many adventures and not a few very
narrow escapes. Gen. Price said of him, "He
is infinite in resource." In Congress he was faith-
ful and true, giving the best energies of his soul to
the support of a government which, like the tower
of Ushur, was already tottering to its fall. When
the end came, he took up life and business anew.
Unwilling to renew the struggle for subsistence in
the rigorous climate of Northern Missouri, he came
to Southern Texas, securing a home on the Lavaca
river. Here he introduced many improved farm
implements, blooded stock, and improved methods
of agriculture, of incalculable value to that section.
Energetic and progressive, he took an active,
almost initiative, interest in the formation of agri-
cultural societies in Several counties, from which
beginning some of the most successful annual
county fair associations in Texas date their begin-
ning. Through his generous sympathies and active
efforts in behalf of a war-worn section and people,
he soon obtained an extensive acquaintance, and a
large circle of friends.

He was selected by Governor Roberts to make
the initial move that resulted in the great granite
capitol, that stands at the head of Congress avenue,
in the city of Austin.

The constitution of 1876 provided for the erec-
tion of a new State capitol and set aside 3,000,000
acres of public land for that purpose. The loca-
tion and survey of so large a section became a
matter of importance, and required special abili-
ties. The trust was confided to Col. Norton, who,
accompanied by the surveyors and a small detail
from the frontier battalion of rangers, made sur-
veys embracing nearly all the vacant and unappro-
priated public domain in the counties of Dallam,
Hartley, Oldham, Deaf Smith, Palmer, and Castro,
as well as a large portion of Bailey, Lamb, and
Hockley. Prior to this examination and survey the
Llano Estacado, or "staked plains," were gener-
ally accepted at the estimate placed on them by
geographers, viz., as "The Great American Des-
ert," a region unsuited for civilized habitation and
valueless except as territorial expanse.

Col. Norton took a different view, and in his re-
port to Governor Roberts placed a high estimate

upon the capabilities of the soil, and expressed a
belief that enterprise and energy would there
achieve good results at no distant day. Time has
already more than justified these statements and

The plains are being settled and cultivated, and
many stock men regard them as among the best
grazing grounds in the State. Aside from the in-
telligent observation evinced in this really able re-
port, the faithful labor shown in the long tabulated
annex, giving number of leagues, location, descrip-
tion, topography, adaptation, etc., was especially
gratifying to the authorities and the public. The
law providing a Capitol Board and Building Com-
missioners named the Governor, Comptroller,
Treasurer, Commissioner of the General Land Office
and the Attorney-General as the members who
should compose the former, and this board elected
the Hon. Joseph Lee and N. L. Norton as the men
to compose the latter. The relations of Judge Lee
and Col. Norton were ever of the most pleasant and
fraternal character, and the survivor, Col. Norton,
speaks of his friend and fellow-worker in terms of
tenderest regard. The board had executive and
discretionary powers, while the commissioners were
to be guided solely by the law and the contracts
made thereunder ; yet, upon all deliberative ques-
tions they practically constituted one body, and the
freest discussions and exchange of views prevailed
among them, and, as an example of their joint
labor, this entire body held a continuous session of
thirty-five days in preparing and adopting the form
of contract and detailed specifications under which
the work was finally done. Much of this time the
designing architect was also present aiding and
consulting. Plans having been solicited, a selec-
tion was made upon the advice of Mr. N. Lebrun,
a distinguished architect of New York City, ap-
pointed by the Governor upon the authority of the
Legislature. Pending the usual notice to bidders,
the commissioners began the search for material
suitable for construction. From their first prelim-
inary report on the subject, dated June 1st, 1881,
it is clear that they already realized that this was a
difficult and responsible task. They had found
stone in abundance, sound and strong ; but stone
sound, strong and durable, of uniform color and
texture (such as filled the requirements of both the
law and the contract), of proper thickness of strata
for the massive building blocks and heavy columns
and pilasters in sufficient amount, had not been
found. The following is from the eighteenth sec-
tion of the enabling act: "The interior and ex-
terior walls of the capitol shall be of the most
durable rock accessible, which shall sustain a



pressure at least equal to that used in the construc-
tion of the Travis County Courthouse." The
Travis County Courthouse is limestone, and none
other had hitherto been deemed " accessible."
The report contained the following on this subject:
" There are reasons to cause us to doubt the pro-
priety of adopting any ordinary material for an
extraordinary structure. It will be time to con-
front the difficult problem of constructing a first-
class house with second-class material when all
hope of procuring the best shall have been aban-
doned." It was argued that the limestone used in
the Travis County Courthouse was the standard
created by law and, therefore, its use in the capitol
by the Commissioners was an imperative duty.
This view was irreconcilable with the spirit of the
law, which demanded that the "best accessible"
material should be used, and in a later paper, July
18th, they reported an extended examination, in-
cluding several counties, and presented eighteen
different samples of stone. Among them was red
granite from Burnet County. Some of these
samples, marble and limestone, as well as gran-
ite, on being subjected to mechanical and chem-
ical tests at the Smithsonian Institute, were
indorsed as suitable. Such indorsement was
deemed sufficient and the contract was let,
the contractors taking the risk of a supply of
the standard shown in the Travis County Court-
house. The quarries at Oatmanville were selected
by them as sufficient for all demands, and indeed
there could be no doubt of its fitness for founda-
tion and other unexposed work. Its character had
been established by mechanical tests at the Eock
Island arsenal and chemical analysis by Prof. Mal-
lett, of the Texas University. The Commissioners,
however, said as follows : "Experience, acquired
through means of extensive labor and observation,
shows a marked lack of uniformity in most, if not
all, the deposits of stratified rocks in this country,
and the quarry at Oatmanville is no exception to
the general rule. These variations include color,
texture and quality. The texture usually differs
with each separate stratum, while the color often
changes in the same stratum when no variation of
texture or quality is perceptible." They reported
the impracticability of literal compliance with the
clause in the contract stipulating that the stone
should in " no respect differ from the sample." The
board declined to consider the matter except in its
relation to the foundation and basement wall. For
this purpose only the Commissiopers were author-
ized to accept such dimension stone as, after satis-
factory test, should prove " not inferior in quality
to the sample." The delicacy of the situation was

apparent. The contractors, evidently believing
their quarry capable of meeting all the varied re-
quirements of the contract, had, at much expense,
built a railway connection thereto, while the repre-
sentatives of the State could not see their way clear
except through a substantial compliance with the
contract, which required uniformity of quality, tex-
ture, color, etc. The work was completed to the
grade hne above which covers the five-feet belt-
course, or water table, prescribed in the plans by
the architect and already covered by the contract.
This stone was furnished free of charge to the con-
tractors by Messrs. Westfall, Lacy and Norton,
who had previously purchased the Granite Moun-
tain property in Burnet County. The basement
story thus completed was pronounced by the Com-
missioners "entirely sufficient," and lasting for
any kind of material that may be used above.

What that material should be was unsettled and
the same old embarrassing conditions still existed.
Nothing meeting all the requirements or proving
satisfactory to all concerned had been found.
There was an evident indisposition on the part of
the board to be unjust to the contractors or force
them to unreasonable costs, but quite a strong
purpose to secure the " best accessible " material.
Work was temporarily suspended, but interest in
and discussion of the situation continued. The
contract was, as has been shown, ona limestonebasis.
The contractors expressed a willingness, even an anx-
iety, to use the best of that class and asked only to be
shown such as would be satisfactory. At this
juncture the second biennial report of the Commis-
sioners was submitted, which had the effect of prac-
tically eliminating native limestone from further
consideration and convinced all parties that granite
was the only Texas material fit for the great struc-
ture. The following is taken from this report : —

"In this connection the offer made before the
inception of this work is renewed as follows: —

" Austin, Texas, November 6, 1884.
"We, the undersigned, owners of Survey No.
18, in Burnet County, Texas, and known as the
William Slaughter east half-league, upon which is
the granite deposit whence the material for the
water-table of the new State capitol was recently
taken, hereby tender to the people of the State of
Texas, free of all or any charge, all the granite
stone required to complete the entire superstructure
of the building.
" Witness:

" John Hancock, G. W. Lacey,

"O. M, BopERTS, W. H. Westfall,




" It will be seen that one of the Commissioners
is joint owner in the above property and an equal
associate in the proposed donation.

" Although this is an absolute gratuity, and not
an effort to sell or otherwise speculate on the State,
yet, to avoid all doubt of the propriety of such con-
tribution from a public servant, he prefers to sever
all connection with the work. If the proposition to
give this material shall incite others to greater lib-
erality, by which the State may be more benefited,
it will be more gratifying to none than to those
who make the offer, their sole purpose being to
secure for Texas at a minimum expense a monu-
mental Capitol, worthy of her resources and her

Thus closes the report, and soon after Col. Nor-
ton's connection with the work of building the
capitol ended.

Happily, through mutual concessions, a satisfac-
tory solution of a vexed question was arrived at,
and a new contract, providing for the use of granite
and a modification of the exterior of the building
to equitably compensate the contractors for the
extra cost entailed upon them by the change, was
entered into, and the noble edifice subsequently
constructed of Texas granite.

The Granite Mountain property has passed into
other hands and the old company, so liberal and
loyal to Texas, has been dissolved ; but, while a
pillar of the capitol stands, or a notch in an ashlar
remains, their names and generosity will be indis-
solubly associated therewith. Soon after the dedi-
cation of the new capitol the Texas Legislature
gracefully acknowledged their services to the State
by a formal vote of thanks, and, at a subsequent
session, the same body set apart for their use and
occupancy during life one of the rooms of the great
building. A distinguished State officer, long a
member of the capitol board, referring in conver-
sation with the writer of this article to the building
of the State House, said : —

" Col, Norton's services were invaluable. His

discharge of the duties of commissioner was
marked by zeal, fidelity and ability and his reports
were models of their kind."

Dr. Westfall, of Burnet, who from the inception
of this enterprise took a most active interest and
rendered every practical aid, in a paper, now be-
fore the writer, says it was Col. Norton who first
suggested the use of granite for the capitol.

" One main purpose of the purchase of the gran-
ite mountain by Westfall, Lacey and Norton was
that the State of Texas might be assured in advance
of a home material for this building, of the very best
quality, and that without cost. No other consider-
ation was ever brought to bear on their action and
they never received or desired to receive any other
compensation. While Governor Ireland and the
capitol board are justly entitled to the credit of the
final contract, modifying the design and substi-
tuting granite, to Col. Norton more than any other
person, Texas is indebted for the magnificent
structure that adorns capitol hill."

Col. Norton is still a very busy man and, when
not actively engaged with his farming interests in
the country, he may be found at his elegant home
in the city of Austin and generally at his desk. He
has written much for the press but his chief pleas-
ure is found in books and in correspondence with
the friends of " auld lang syne." His family con-
sists of his wife, his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Annie
Lee Norton, and her child, little Onida, of whom he
is very fond, his only children, Mrs. Katie Spencer
Adair and Hiram Price Norton, having both died
within a few years.

He has been a mason since May, 1851, and is
now a member of Colorado Encampment Knights
Templar and Ben Hur Temple of the Ancient Arabic
Order of the Mystic Shrine. He is plain, without
pretense or self-assertion, a man of broad and lib-
eral views and of the tenderest sympathies. He
has a profound respect and toleration for the
opinions and faiths of others and is most charitable
in his estimate of his fellowmen.



W. H. Thomas, president of the American Na-
tional Bank, of Dallas, and for many years past a
leading financier and prominent citizen of that
place, was born in Allen County, Ky., on the 11th

day of March, 1829, and received a good country
school education for that day and time, which he
has since enlarged by study and observation until
he is now considered one of the best informed and



most accomplished gentlemen in Texas. He came
to this State in the fall of 1852, making the jour-
ney on horseback, and located in Dallas County.
September 29th, in the following year, he was
united in marriage to Miss Mary Skiles, daughter
of J. C. Skiles. She was born and reared in War-
ren County, Ky., in which members of her family
have long been prominent.

Mr. Thomas secured a position with Gold & Don-
aldson, merchants at Dallas, and continued with
them until the fall of 1855, and then, on account
of failing health, settled on a tract of land on

& Co., the first banking institution established in
Dallas, composed of T. C. Jordan, J. P. Thomas,
and W. H. Thomas.

In 1872 he and W. H. Gaston organized the
banking firm of Gaston & Thomas at Dallas. In
1878 Gaston & Thomas bought the stock of the
Exchange Bank, chartered under State law, and
merged their bank into the Exchange Bank of Dal-
las. He was elected president, and held that posi-
tion until 1883 and then sold his stock.

In 1884 he, with others, organized the American
National Bank of Dallas. He was elected presi-


Duck creek, Dallas County, and opened a small

In 1858 he was elected County Surveyor of Dal-
las County and was continued in that position by
successive re-elections, with the exception of the
period spent by him in the army, until removed by
Governor E. J. Davis in 1866 as an impediment to
reconstruction. He enlisted in the Confederate
army as a private in Company I., Thirtieth Texas
Cavalry, and was transferred to the Brigade Com-
missary Department in the field in the Trans-Mis-
sissippi Department, and so continued until the end
of the war.

In 1871 he was one of the firm of T. C. Jordan

dent of the institution, and has been continued in
that position by successive annual re-elections to
the present time.

His wife died November 13, 1887. They reared
two children, a daughter, May, who married F. A.
Miller, and a son, Robert B., who married Miss
Eula Hatcher.

Mr. Thomas is not a member of any church, but
is an ardent believer in Christianity and has always

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 123 of 135)