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William Henry Huddle, artist

This coming weekend will mark the anniversary of San Jacinto Day.  In our mind’s eye, we can envision what that may have looked like, especially after visiting the San Jacinto Monument.  Some will also think of Henry Huddle.  His name may not be too familiar to many Texans, but most likely just about everyone might recognize at least one of his works.  San Jacinto Day is drawing near, and the painting called “The Surrender of Santa Anna” (pictured below) commemorates the famous battle.

William Henry Huddle was born in Wytheville, Virginia in 1847, almost two years after Texas became a state.  He was just old enough to enlist in the Civil War and served for two years in the Confederate cavalry under Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joseph Wheeler.  After the war, he moved with his family to Lamar County in Texas where he worked in the family business, a gun maker’s shop.  Other Huddle family members included his great uncle John Huddle and second cousin William Huddle who had come to Lamar County as early as 1855.  While living in a little community later named Hopewell just northwest of Paris, Huddle’s brother John Foster Huddle became a blacksmith while Henry worked in the family business and began to experiment with painting.

In 1870, a cousin of his, J. Flavius Fisher, invited him to Nashville, Tennessee to study portrait painting.  Fisher would go on to become a portrait painter at the White House.  After studying for three years in Tennessee, Henry returned to Texas to try to find wor.  He remained there until 1874 when he enrolled in the National Academy of Design in New York, a conservative school.  There he continued to learn the art and develop his skills until the Academy closed for a short while.  While still in New York, Huddle and 122 other students formed the Art Students League in 1875 and one of the apparent endeavors of this group was to branch out and paint nudes.  Back then it was considered quite risqué to do so.  After this period, Henry returned to North Texas for a short time until around 1876, he relocated to Austin, becoming enamored with the Hill Country scenery.  There he opened a studio at the Cook Building and resided at the Curtis house.  While in Austin, he met his future wife Nannie Zenobia Carver in 1879 and they would marry around ten years later.

He briefly went to Munich, Germany to study in the fall of 1884, but was soon drawn back to Texas, and to Nannie.  He had studios Austin in the McDonald Building and also on the second floor of the Masonic Temple.  In 1883, an adjoining building caught fire and Huddle was described as being seen exiting the Masonic Temple carrying only bottles of wine, cigars and food.  After he realized that he might have more time, he entreated his friends and acquaintances to help him remove his artwork, promising them free portrait sittings, which turned out to be a daunting offer as he sought to honor all of his promises.  From 1884 to 1888, his reputation grew as he began to paint the portraits of each of the presidents of the Republic of Texas and the first governors of the new state.  The Texas Legislature acquired all seventeen works and commissioned him to do more work.  He painted the famous portrait of David Crockett and added to it the well known painting, “The Surrender of Santa Anna” shown below and perhaps his best known work.  Both paintings now hang opposite one another in the state Capitol Building.

the-surrender-of-santa-anna

(Image Credit: Bullock State Texas History Museum)

Huddle often used his friends as models for his now famous paintings.  For instance, a friend named Will Ford was the model for Davy Crockett.  For the Santa Anna surrender painting, an Austin doctor named Frank McLaughlin posed as the physician attending the prone figure of Sam Houston, Huddle’s brother John posed as the soldier shown clenching his fist and glaring at the Mexican dictator, J. L. Driskill allowed Huddle to paint his own hands for those of Houston.

One interesting topic of discussion about the Santa Anna surrender painting came to light years after Huddle’s death.  At least three biographies describe Sam Houston as having been wounded in the right ankle as shown in the above painting, but in a letter from Houston to his wife Margaret on January 11, 1863, Houston refers to suffering from the San Jacinto wound in his left leg.  The famous sixty-seven foot statue outside Huntsville shows Houston holding his familiar cane in his right hand.  Houston’s son Andrew Jackson Houston wrote in a 1938 letter that his father’s left ankle was shattered by a copper ball.  Most likely, the injury was sustained in Houston’s left ankle, though, rather than the right one, as depicted in the famous Huddle painting.

Huddle is thought to have become inspired to concentrate on painting scenes from Texas history after painting a portrait of George W. Wright, known as the founder of Paris, Texas, back in 1873.  Wright was a longtime resident of the area, and he offered fifty acres of his farm land to Lamar County for the town of Paris to serve as the county seat.  During the two months it took Huddle to complete the portrait, Huddle listened as Wright told of fighting Indians and also fighting the Mexican Army in the Texas Revolution.  It is unknown whether Wright participated in the Battle of San Jacinto, however.  Wright went on to serve in the first Texas Congress of the new Republic.  Wright continued to serve in the Texas Congress and voted with his friend Sam Houston against succession in the state convention at the beginning of the Civil War.  While painting the Wright portrait, Huddle also took time to carve a cane for his subject, whittling into it scenes from Texas history.    Wright once showed it off on a trip to Austin and was persuaded to donate it to the State Archives, where it remains, so Huddle replaced it with another.  The Wright portrait now hangs in the Texas Capitol Library.  In all, some thirty-two Huddle works hang in Texas Capital buildings.

In March of 1892, while working at his studio, Huddle complained of a strange sensation coming over him and he began to feel ill.  Friends took him to Dr. McLaughlin who examined him and recommended that he go home to rest.  While walking to his residence he suffered the symptoms of a stroke and was was taken home by friends.  Huddle briefly rallied and survived another five days before passing away.  Writing of his death a local newspaper wrote “A bright star went out when his eyes closed forever on the light of this world.”  Huddle was interred at the historic Oakwood Cemetery.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

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Posted by on April 19, 2018 in artists, biography, history, texas, Uncategorized

 

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Richard A. “Smoot” Schmid

A paragraph in a 1939 issue of a newspaper in Decatur (Illinois, not Texas) began “No. 1 Name of the year, so far, is that of Sheriff Smoot Schmid of Dallas, Texas.”

smootschmid

(Image source: unknown)

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Fire on the Mittie Stephens

The night of February 11, 1869, the Mittie Stephens, a sidewheel paddle steamer, was heading on a southerly route through the channel across Caddo Lake on its way to Jefferson, Texas.  After midnight on February 12, sparks thought to have come from a torch basket used for exterior lighting started a fire on board and the ship quickly burned down to the waterline.  There were one hundred four passengers along with the cargo and crew.  When all were accounted for, forty-two of the passengers survived though sixty-two passengers and several more crewmen perished.  This was despite the fact that the ship came to rest in shallow water.  The first thought would naturally be to wonder why many adults were unable to walk out in or swam to safety.  However, the water was cold, the river bottom was mucky and the vessel came to rest a considerable distance from the shore, such that it took a crew rowing a skiff from another vessel (the Dixie) over an hour to reach her.  It is theorized that a good many of the victims either drowned or may have been fatally injured when they were drawn into the paddle wheels on either side of the ship.

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Posted by on April 5, 2018 in history, texas

 

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Ernie Banks

In honor of the opening week of another Major League Baseball season, when every team is still 0-0 and hopes are high, we remember the great player from Texas, Ernie Banks.  Banks would be among a very short list of the all time best athletes from Dallas, along with such players as Bobby Layne and Doak Walker.

erniebanks

(Image credit: sabr.org)

Ernie Banks was born in Dallas on January 31, 1931, ironically the same year as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.  His full name was Ernest Banks, with no middle name.

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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in biography, black history, history, texas

 

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Machine Gun Kelly

His birth name was George Kelly Barnes, but he was better known as “Machine Gun Kelly.”  George was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1895 and lived much of his early life there.  He was in his 20s during the years of Prohibition (1920s and 1930s) when it was illegal to make or sell alcohol products.  He became a “bootlegger” who trafficked in illegal alcohol products, and this was a major source of income when he was in his twenties.  He was briefly married to Geneva Ramsey when he was about 19 years old.  Ramsey and Barnes had two sons, but were later divorced.

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Posted by on March 22, 2018 in history, outlaws and crimes, texas

 

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Fort Griffin

The U. S. Army camp that would later become Fort Griffin was established in 1856 to help protect a Comanche reservation that had been set up earlier in the area.  When Robert E. Lee held the rank of Lt. Col. in the U. S. Army, he served here as commander from April, 1856 to July, 1857.  It was located less than a mile from the Clear Fork of the Brazos River on a small plateau of about sixty feet in height providing an enhanced view of the surrounding area.  The original location was in the lowlands a short distance away until a monsoon type rain hit and turned it into a swampy mess.

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Posted by on March 15, 2018 in forts, history, texas

 

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Unsolved Mystery: Texarkana’s Moonlight Murders

A couple, Jimmy Hollis and Mary Larey, had been on a date after which they had parked on the last road of a subdivision in Texarkana the night of February 22, 1946.  At the time, Hollis was 25 and Larey was 19.  After a double date to a movie, they had only been parked for about ten minutes when someone walked up to Hollis’ side of the car and shined a flashlight in his eyes.  The man with the flashlight ordered the couple to exit the car.  Hollis recalled that the man was armed with a gun.  The man then demanded that Hollis remove his trousers.  Hollis had initially resisted but complied, only to be struck hard in the head either with the gun or some other object.  Hollis suffered a fractured skull in the attack.  Thinking it was probably a robbery, Larey was scared but pulled Hollis’ billfold out of his trousers to show the man that Hollis had no money.  The man then ordered Larey to open her purse.  She replied that she didn’t have one and she was knocked to the ground by the assailant after being struck with an object.  The man then ordered Larey to get up and run, which she did.  The man quickly caught her and bewildered Larey by asking her why she was running.  Larey was again knocked to the ground and this time was sexually assaulted.  After the attack, the assailant disappeared and Larey was allowed to escape, managing to get to her feet and run to a nearby house.

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