John Henry Brown.

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(Birdsall) Harris. In 1839 he obtained a charter
for the Harrisburg and Brazos R. R. , the first ob-
tained in Texas. A few miles of grading'was done
but the enterprise was abandoned. The route



which it was designed to follow forms a part of the
present system of the Southern Pacific Railway.
He owned the first two-story dwelling erected in
Houston, where he lived for a year or two after his
marriage. Removing to Harrisburg in 1840, he
built there a two-story brick dwelling and engaged
in the cattle business until 1849, when he removed
to New Orleans and opened a house of banking
and exchange. In the same year he was taken
sick, and died October 4, 1849. His body was
taken to Mississippi and buried in the family bury-

ing-ground on his father's plantation in Claiborne
county. His widow, Mrs Mary Jane Briscoe, lives
at Houston, Harris County, Texas. Their descend-
ants are Parmenas Briscoe, who lives with his
mother, Andrew Birdsall Briscoe, who married
Miss Annie F. Payne, daughter of Mr. Jonathan
and Mrs. Mary (Vance) Payne, and lives at San
Antonio ; Miss Jessie Wade Briscoe, who married
Mr. Milton Grosvenor Howe and lives in Houston,
and Miss Adele Lubbock Briscoe, who married
Maj. M. Looscan and lives in Houston.



Miss Mary Jane Harris was the daughter of Mr.
John R. and Mrs. Jane (Birdsall) Harris and was
born at St. Genevieve, Mo., August 17, 1819,
where her parents w^re temporarily residing. Re-
turning to New York when an infant she passed
her girlhood at the homestead of her grandfather,
situated half way between Waterloo and Seneca
Falls. When her mother and brother came to
Texas in 1833, she remained at school until after
the battle of San Jacinto, when, in company with
her grandfather, Mr. Lewis Birdsall, her cousin,
George Babcock, and her younger brother, John
Birdsall Harris, she started to Texas. They spent
several weeks in travel, going first by canal to Cin-
cinnati, therice on board a small steamboat to
Portsmouth and down the Ohio and Mississippi in
boats of various sizes until they reached New
Orleans. Here they were joined by other mem-
bers of the family also en route to Texas. The
other relatives who joined them were Dr. Maurice
Birdsall, her uncle, and Dr. Abram Van Tuyl, the
husband of her aunt, Eliza Birdsall. They took
passage on the schooner '■^Julius Caesar" and had
for fellow passengers several men who had taken
a prominent part in the recent stirring events in
Texas. They arrived at the mouth of the Brazos
river at the town of Quintana in the latter part
of September. There were but two or three
houses at this place, the largest being a two-story
boarding-house built of rough lumber. Here they
spent only a few days, and taking passage on the
steamboat " Yellowstone^" proceeded to Brazoria,
where they stopped at the boarding-house kept by
Mrs. Jane Long, the widow of Dr. James Long,

who about fifteen years before had met a tragic
fate in the city of Mexico. Only a few miles dis-
tant, at Columbia, the first Congress of the Repub-
lic of Texas was in session, it having assembled
October 3d, 1836. Mrs. Long's house was" fre-
quently visited by the different officers and repre-
sentatives of the government. Here Miss Mary
Jane Harris first met the President of the Republic,
Gen. Sam Houston, beside many others whose part
in the late successful conflict had made them heroes
of all time. At a short distance, at the plantation
of Dr. Phelps, Santa Anna was a prisoner. He
was released soon afterwards. Thus did she almost
immediately upon her arrival in Texas, make the
acquaintance of prominent actors in the late revo-
lution. Although a mail service had been estab-
lished by the government, it was very imperfect and
news traveled slowly. About two weeks were spent
at Brazoria before De Witt Clinton Harris, her
brother, arrived from Harrisburg, bringing a saddle
horse for her. Ox-teams were procured for con-
veying the baggage, groceries, etc., which they
had brought with them from New York. At length
the whole party set out on horseback and, as there
had been very heavy rains, the prairies most of the
distance of fifty miles were entirely covered with
water. Arriving at Harrisburg, they found Mrs.
Harris living in the only house which had been
spared by the Mexicans when they burnt the place
a few months before. It stood in the edge of the
prairie and escaped because unseen by them and
was always known as the Prairie House. The
Mexican prisoners, of whom Mrs. Harris had a
number, were engaged in rebuilding her homp on




the site of the one destroyed. As there were no
saw-mills, it was constructed of hewn logs and
some of the same men who had kindled the fire
under the old house chopped logs to build the new
one. It was here, in the "Prairie House" that
Mary Jane first met Andrew Briscoe, who was a
warm friend of her mother and brothers, and
August 17, 1837, she became his wife, the marriage
ceremony being performed by Mr. Isaac Batterson,
in the new house, which by that time was partly
completed. In the meantime the city of Houston
had become the new seat of government and the
county seat of Harris County. As Mr. Briscoe's
appointment as Chief Justice of the county of Harris
necessitated his residence in Houston, he purchased
a two-story residence in process of building on
Main street, about one block from the capitol and
where is now situated the Prince building, on the
corner of Main and Prairie streets. Mrs. Briscoe's
life is so closely connected with that of her hus-
band, that it is unnecessary to repeat her different
places of residence. As opportunities to purchase
large tracts of land induced him to make long
journeys into the interior of the sparsely settled
country, she frequently accompanied him, although
traveling was attended with danger on account of
the inroads often made by hostile Indians. At
Anderson, Grimes County, they stopped over night
at the house of Mrs. Kennard, who showed in the
floor one loose board, kept purposely so, that in
case of an attack by Indians she could make her
escape under the house. After the death of her
husband in 1849 Mrs. Briscoe lived for two years
on the plantation of his father in Claiborne County,
Mississippi, remaining there during the absence of
the latter in California, and until after his death,
in 1851.

Returning to Texas in 1852, she lived for some
years at Anderson, Grimes County, where the Rev.
Chas. Gillette had established an Episcopal school,
under the title of St. Paul's College, and where she
hoped to be able to give her sons a collegiate edu-
cation without being separated from them. After
a residence of six years there, the school having
proved unsuccessful, she moved to Galveston,
which ofSered the best educational advantages of
any city in the State. In 1859, at her mother's
solicitation, she returned to Harrisburg, where she
lived until 1873, when she moved to Houston.
Through careful economy she was able to raise and
educate her children on a limited income, keeping
for them the greater part of the large landed inter-
ests held by her husband at the time of his death.
An unusual affection characterizes this family
worthy of mention arid of imitation. While Judge

Briscoe at his death in 1849 left considerable prop-
erty, consisting chiefly of land in Texas, yet to this
day his children have never sought to obtain any
part of it although entitled to it under the community
laws of the State, but have left their mother the ex-
clusive control of it, thereby showing their deep filial
affection and sincere appreciation of her devotion to
them in childhood and in youth. She feels a reason-
able pride in her husband's connection with the war
of Texas Independence and a sincere affection for
those who shared with him the dangers of the
Revolution. For years she has been a member of
the Texas Veterans' Association and takes great
pleasure in their annual re-unions. At the earnest
solicitation of her friends she wrote an account of
one of these re-unions, which was published at the
time in several of the newspapers, and is given
below :—



" At the meeting of the Veteran Association in
1887, Temple was selected as the place for meet-
ing on April 20, 1888. It is beautifully situated in
a high rolling prairie country, on the Santa Fe
Railroad, 245 miles from Galveston. As it is only
seven years old, many fears were entertained that
the hearts of the citizens were too large for the
accommodating capacity of their young town ; but
all such fears were dispelled, and Temple proved
itself equal to the emergency. Everything was
managed with tact and skill, and the Veterans were
unanimous in their expressions of praise and grati-
tude. A committee met them at the railroad
depot, and conveyed them to their allotted destina-
tions, generally some private house. Mine was the
home of Mr. F. H. Ayers, which is beautifully
situated. In the view from his gallery the undu-
lations of the surrounding country looked, in the
distance, like miniature lakes. If all the Veterans
were as delightfully located as myself, they will
long remember with pleasure their meeting at
Temple. Mr. and Mrs. Ayers were the soul of
hospitality. Their house seemed made of rubber,
or like a street car — never so full but it could take
one more ; but there the similitude ends, for the
dear lady's only regret was that she had one cot
which had not been occupied, so there was no
standing up.

" On the morning of the 20th, we all repaired to
the Opera House, which is large and well ventilated,
with very comfortable seats. In addition to the
usual decorations of fiags and placards, suspended
in the center of the stage was ' Old Betsy,' an old
rifle which had been in most of the battles for



independence, and is supposed to liave liilled more
Indians than any other gun, besides having supplied
the owner's family with food for many years. The
owner, Eufus C. Campbell, was not only distin-
guished for ' Old Betsy's' unerring aim, but also
as having forged the fetters which were put upon
Gen. Santa Anna, when it was thought he was
planning to escape. Mr. Campbell's widow (who
was a daughter of Uncle David Ayers) had the
pleasure of hearing Miss Lucy Diske, one of their
forty-five grandchildren, make a very beautiful and
appropriate address upon presenting the Veterans
with an elegant satin flag from the ladies of

"The Eev. J. C. Woollam, our grand old Chap-
lain, his colossal frame and white head towering
above all others, in his opening prayer brought
tears to all eyes. I have met with the Veterans
several times, and the last meeting always seems
more heartfelt, more glorious, more like a meeting
of a holy brotherhood, than any former one. On
these occasions familiar faces call up soul-stirring
scenes in the past, and thrilling adventures flash
upon their memories. As they meet in these an-
nual re-unions and exchange heartfelt greetings,
they are filled with the desires and hopes of other
days — 'The days when life was new, and the
heart promised what the fancy drew ' — the
" times that tried men's souls' — when their lives,
their fortunes, and their sacred honor were pledged
for home and country, God and liberty ; that
period when the repeated assaults of Indians and
Mexicans had nerved their arms and fired their
hearts to strike for freedom from the tyrannical
oppression of Mexico. It comes to them with the
freshness of yesterday, when they left their homes
and loved ones, to face the foe, drive back the
invader, and save their all from destruction.
Sooner will their right hand forget its cunn-
ing and their tongues cleave to the roof of
their mouths, than they cease to remember
and talk of Gonzales, Goliad, Concepcion, the
storming of San Antonio, where the gallant Milam
fell, the massacre of Fannin, the fall of the Alamo,
the battle of San Jacinto, of Plum Creek, the Salado,
the Cherokee fight, and other bloody and desperate
engagements. The names of all of these, with the
date of each engagement, printed upon placards,
are always placed upon the walls of the assembly
room. As a placard catches the eye of the veterans
one will say to another : ' We were together in
that fight; don't you remember how you had to
hold the mule's nose to keep her from betraying
us to the Indians before we were ready for them ? '
' I don't see your wife ; the good woman can now

sleep in a white gown if she likes ' — alluding to
the custom of our frontier women sleeping in
colored gowns so as not to be so good a mark for
Indians in case of a night attack. To which the
answer will be : ' Oh, yes ; but it always costs some-
thing to come to these meetings, and when my vrife
found I would have to pay full fare for her on the
cars, she said as I was so much better of my rheuma-
tism, I could make out without her; but she vrill
miss it mightily, as she liked to talk over her Indian
scares with those who knew her in the old times,
when we would be for weeks together with nothing
but venison to eat.'

' ' It was a touching sight when the genial presi-
dent of the Association (himself a hero of many
battles) would single out some noted Indian fighter,
and taking the old man upon the stage, tell the
audience of some of his heroic deeds. How every
eye would kindle with enthusiasm, and every voice
raise a cheer, and the poor old hero, bursting into
tears, would sink into his seat, with not a dry eye
around him.

" It is this which makes these meetings so dear to
these old ones. At home they are nothing but
poor decrepit old men and women, who are outliving
their allotted span of life — fossils that cumber
the ground. They know it; they feel it; but
when they meet at these reunions, all is changed ;
instead of being looked upon as unwelcome
intruders, they are treated with the greatest courtesy,
with veneration, as heroes, and every man, woman
and child seeks to do them honor. It is no wonder
that their tears lie near the surface, and are often
seen filling their eyes when some gallant youth or
beautiful maiden tells of their heroic deeds and the
manly fortitude displayed by them in conquering
all the hardships, difficulties and dangers by which
they were surrounded.

" Nor should admiration and veneration be con-
fined to their heroic deeds upon the battlefield.
The women of this land should always hold them in
grateful remembrance ; for were they not the first
men on earth to throw around the wife and mother
the protection of the homestead law? Were they
not the first to protect woman in the ownership^
of her separate property, and to give her an interest
in the community property .? They also surpassed
all other legislators, in making provision, for all
time to come, for the universal free education of

"The memorial service is very solemn and affect-
ing, and the Rev. Mr. Stribling always very elo-
quent in his sermon. Thirty-nine is the number
on the death-roll for last year. Among them is
the late lamented Col. Charles DeMorse, who


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occupied an honored place and felt a sincere
interest in the welfare of the Association.

" ' We are going, one by one.'

" A little incident connected with last year was
brought to mind by hearing the name of a certain
veteran read from the death-roll. He had been
brought to Mrs. Winkler's home, in Corsicana,
very early in the morning, and at brealifast Mrs.
Winkler asked him to say grace. The old man
turned his face with his hand to his ear, say-
ing, ' Cream, but no sugar,' and Mrs. W. asked
her own blessing. It was told that the old man
said to one of his friends : ' What do you think ;
the good lady I am stopping with asked me to say
grace at table ; I am such an old reprobate, I
could think of nothing ; so played deaf, and told
her, ' Cream, but no sugar in my coffee.'

" I cannot close this meager sketch of the Vet-
erans' meeting without mention of Aunt Nancy, as
she is familiarly called. She is a very well preserved
old lady of eighty-one, but does not look it. She
is a regular attendant at the meetings, and says she
would sell her last hen rather than miss one ; her

peculiar style of dress and unsophisticated manner
make her conspicuous. Being very anxious that
the Veterans' Association should hold its next
meeting at her home, Jacksonville, the Presi-
dent invited her to come on the stage and ask
the Veterans herself. He escorted her to the front,
and Aunt Nancy said : ' My dear Veterans, the
people of my town want you to come there next
year. They will take good care of you. Some
say Jacksonville is too small, but we had the Meth-
odist conference there, and treated them well, and
if you will only come, I will take care of you my-
self ! ' That of course brought down the house.
The dear old woman likes to meet those who fought
side by side with her husband, who has been dead
many years, and no one but his old companions in
danger remember him. Some one joked her about
marrying. 'No,' says she, ' I have lived thirty
years Capt. Kirabro's widow, and expect to die
Capt. Kimbro's widow.'

" The people of Temple paid the Veterans the
great compliment of asking them to meet there again
next year, saying they could do better next year, as
they had now learned how. Many thanks to them."



Antone Michael Dignowity was born in Kutten-
berg, Bohemia, January 16th, 1810, and came of
a family possessing some means and enjoying some
distinction for intellectual endowments. His edu-
cational opportunities were good and he availed
himself of them, taking a thorough collegiate course
in the Jesuit College of his native place. He came
to America at the age of twenty-two, sailing, as his
passport recites, from Hamburg, February 17th,
1832, resided for some time after his arrival in the
country in different parts of the South and acquired
considerable property at Natchez (where he lived
longer than elsewhere before coming to Texas),
notably a hotel which was destroyed by the great
tornado of 18 — . In 1835, while residing in Missis-
sippi he made a trip to Texas, extending as far as
San Antonio, but soon returned, read medicine at
Natchez, Miss., under Drs. Stone and Carrothers,
and attended lectures in Cincinnati, Ohio. He
adopted the eclectic system of medicine, then in its
infancy, and began its practice in Mississippi. He


shortly after gathered up the fragments of his hotel
fixtures and furniture (which had been scattered by
the tornado), and chartered the little steamer,
"Lady Morgan" and moved to Talequah, I. T.,
the then recently established seat of government of
the Cherokee Nation. Here he practiced his pro-
fession for a year or more, during the time fre-
quently visiting Little Rock, Ark'., where he met
and, on February 9th, 1843, married Miss Amanda
J. McCann, daughter of Francis M. McCann, who
had settled there two years before. Mr. McCann
died in 1850, and his wife in 1887, the latter at the
age of eighty-seven years. Both drew pensions
from the United States government up to the time
of their deaths. After his marriage Dr. Dignowity
moved to a small place called Illinois Falls in the
western part of Arkansas, near the Indian country,
and there continued the practice of his profession
until the early spring of 1816, when he volunteered
under ex-Governor Yell of Arkansas for service in
the war between the United States and Mexico.



With ten others he made his way across the cbuntry
to San Antonio, it^being their intention to join the
Texas rangers or some body of volunteers and pro-
ceed from that place to the armies of Scott or Taylor
beyond the Rio Grande. Wilhin a few hours, how-
ever, after Dr. Dignowity arrived at San Antonio,
while at the table taking his first meal in the place
he was hastily summoned to attend a Mexican and
an Indian who had been engaged in a street affray,
and his presence as a physician thus becoming
known and there being urgent need for his services
he was prevailed upon to remain and devote his
skill and energies, for a time, at least, to the
afflicted of that place. He soon had a good prac-
tice and finally made up his mind to make San An-

from the press, will show. As by a close vote the
State decided to secede, he, together with other
prominent men of his section, had to leave the coun-
try and early in 1861 went North, making his way
over land through Texas, the Indian Territory and
Arkansas on horseback and finally, after much suf-
fering, reached Washington City, where he secured
employment under the government and remained
during the entire period of the war.

He was a great sufferer by the war, having most
of his property swept away and his health badly
impaired. Returning to Texas in 1869 he did not
resume the practice of his profession, but devoted
his energies to the task of gathering up the frag-
ments of his fortune. He followed this vigorously


Lonio his home. He accordingly sent for and was
joined by his family, which he had left at Little
Rock, and from that time on until the opening of
the war between the States, (1861) devoted his time
to the practice of medicine and to land speculation,
both of which yielded him good financial returns.
On the great issue which led to a rupture between
the Northern and Southern States, Dr. Dignowity
was in harmony with a majority of the prominent
and patriotic men of his section, who, like himself,
were bitterly opposed to secession. He was always
opposed to slavery, even before the agitation of
that question in this country, as the two last books
written by him, " Bohemia under Austrian despot-
ism " and " American despotism," soon to be issued

and with a fair degree of success until his death,
April 22d, 187.5. He left surviving him a widow,
five sons and one daughter, the sons being An-
tone Francis, Edward Lucien, Henry Louis,
Charles Leonard, and James Victor and the daugh-
ter, Imogene Teresa Dignowity. One son, Albert
Wentzel, the second in age of his family, was killed
February 25th, 1872, at Piedras Negras, Mexico,
while a soldier in the army of the patriot Juarez,
and a daughter preceded the father to the grave,
dying in childhood.

Dr. Dignowity's career was an exceptional one,
made so by an exceptional mental and moral organ-
ism. He was not only an accomplished physician
but a successful man of business. While a student



and close investigator, the cast of his mind was
practical. He endeavored during all his years to
live along the lines of fairness and moral rectitude,
seeking to do what was right because it was right
and not from motives of policy or gain. He was
greatly devoted to his family and was an ardent
lover of his adopted country. He became a Repub-

lican on the organization of the Republican party,
and was evier afterwards an ardent advocate of the
principles of that party. He was reared a Catholic
and during his earlier years was an active communi-
cant of the Church, but his views on theological ques-
tions gradually underwent a change and he closed
his life with a strong leaning toward Spiritualism.



Mrs. Dignowity's maiden name was McCann.
Her father was Francis M. McCann, born in County
Tyrone, Ireland, and her mother before marriage
was Sarah Cramer, a native of Lancaster County,
Penn. Her father came to America at the age of
nine years with an uncle and settled in Baltimore,
Md., where he grew to maturity. At about the
age of twenty-one he enlisted in the United States
army under Capt. Hale Hamilton, fought through
the war of 1812, taking part in the battle of New
Orleans under Jackson, and was mustered out of
services at the close of hostilities, as lieutenant of
his company. In August, 1817, he married Miss
Cramer, of Pennsylvania, a niece of Congressman
Cramer, of that State, and moved to the mountains
of Western Virginia. There, some three years later,
July 28, 1820, the subject of this notice was born.

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 46 of 135)