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Ben McCulloch

Benjamin McCulloch was one of twelve children.  He was born November 11, 1811 in Rutherford County, Tennessee to Alexander and Frances Fisher Lenoir McCulloch.  His father was a graduate of Yale College and served in the United States Army in Indian campaigns and also the War of 1812.  The family migrated west from the eastern coastal states.  Ben is thought to have first pursued some other businesses and moved around a lot until he came to Texas in 1835 with another brother and Davy Crockett, a neighbor, in Tennessee.  Ben planned to meet up with Crockett and then head from Nacogdoches to San Antonio but was held up as he recuperated from a case of the measles, not arriving in San Antonio until after the Battle of the Alamo.  He joined Sam Houston and the Texas Army in time for the Runaway Scrape, Houston’s retreat from Santa Anna.

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(Image credit: Texas State Historical Association)

McCulloch was with an artillery company at the Battle of San Jacinto and is thought to have served as captain of a gun crew for one of the “Twin Sisters” cannons.  For his participation in the Texas Revolution, he was awarded a grant of about 1,000 acres of land, under the process where the new Republic of Texas granted “bounties” to former participants.  Some thirty-six years after the April, 1836 battle, a newspaper report recapitulated the numbers of Texas and Mexican troops involved, stating that the Texans fielded 783 against a Mexican force of 1,570.  The day ended with 8 Texans killed and 25 wounded.  The Mexican troops numbered 632 killed, 208 wounded and 730 captured, including their leader Santa Anna.  The article went on to lament that to a man, Houston, Rusk, Hockley, Lamar, McCulloch, Millard and every other officer above the rank of captain were then deceased.

In 1838, McCulloch is believed to have joined the Texas Rangers under Captain John Coffee “Jack” Hays.  The following year, McCulloch was elected a Texas Representative.  It was described as a bitter campaign and the disagreements with the defeated candidate, Col. Reuben Ross, led to a rifle duel in which McCulloch received a wound to his arm that left him somewhat crippled in that limb.  The disagreement apparently festered as Ross was later killed in a similar incident by Ben’s brother Henry McCulloch about one year later.

In 1842, McCulloch did some surveying after having served, perhaps off and on, in the Texas Army, providing valuable duties as a scout.  He served as a scout and commander in the Battle of Plum Creek in August, 1840 with the Comanche and also the successful drive to retake San Antonio after its brief capture first by Mexican General Rafael Vasquez and a second time by Mexican General Adrian Woll.  He again joined Hays and the Texas Rangers along with his brother Henry.  Both participated in the failed Somerville Expedition and narrowly missed being captured in the failed Mier Expedition in late 1842.

He was elected to the first Texas Legislature in 1845 after Texas became a state, but continued to serve in Company A, which outfit he reportedly raised himself from the Guadalupe area, under Hays in the First Regiment of the Texas Mounted Volunteers in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor where McCulloch was chief of scouts.  After the War, he briefly went to California to look for gold.  He was there long enough to be elected Sheriff of Sacramento, California, but by 1852, he had returned to Texas where he was appointed as a U. S. Marshall by President Pierce.  He was an official representative of the United States to settle what is sometimes called the “Utah War,” a conflict lasting about a year in 1857 and 1858, between Mormon followers of Brigham Young and the United States Army.

McCulloch was living in Texas when the Succession Convention voted to secede from the United States in February, 1861.  He joined the Confederate Army as a colonel.  One of his first operations was the relatively peaceful retaking of all federal property in San Antonio.  Early on, McCulloch was assigned to the Indian Territory and proceeded to make alliances with tribes including the Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw nations.  McCulloch was then deployed with the other Confederate forces to particpate in various battles against Union troops.

McCulloch had previously been promoted to Brigadier General by Jefferson Davis and was the first general-grade officer to be commissioned from the civilian community.  He had a strong personality and was openly vocal when he disagreed with strategic goals and tactics, including more than one occasion when he differed with General Sterling Price.  McCulloch was ordered to be part of an expedition to capture St. Louis, an order which he resisted but he followed.  In the Battle of Pea Ridge, also known as Elkhorn Tavern, McCulloch was killed by a Union sharpshooter on March 7, 1862.  McCulloch was 48 years old at the time of his death.

By then, he had come to the notice of northern news writers.  When the New York Times reported his death later in the month, it noted his many accomplishments but also cited his dispute with General Price, as noted above.  The article went on to physically describe McCulloch as being six feet tall, slender and athletic with the appearance of a frontier fighter.  The article closed by calling him “utterly unfit to command a large body of men,” in apparently somewhat of a throwaway comment, and did not support it with any reasons for the statement.

The Chicago Tribune also reported his death several weeks later and added certain details that we had not read elsewhere.  One was that McCulloch had previously boasted that Union forces could not kill him.  Another was that as he lay on the battlefield, realizing he was mortally wounded, McCulloch was quoted as having said “Oh, hell!” just before he rolled over and breathed his last.

McCulloch was first buried on the Arkansas battlefield, but his remains were twice removed, first to a cemetery in Little Rock and later to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.  His honors include being inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas for his service under Hays.  McCulloch County in Central Texas was named for him in the 1800s.  Numerous buildings, schools and streets across Texas are named for him as well.

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King Ranch

The King Ranch lies between Corpus Christi and Brownsville and is currently the largest ranch in Texas.  Historically, it was even larger when it was known as the Santa Gertrudis under a land grand from the King of Spain to José Domingo de la Garza.  It was later conveyed to José Pérez Ray whose descendants conveyed it in turn to Richard King.

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George Bernard Erath

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(Image credit: Waco Tribune Herald)

George Bernard Erath was born in Vienna, Austria in 1813.  He was educated at Vienna Polytechnic Institute where he studied liberal arts.  Young Erath lived on his own and worked for a few years in Europe, eventually setting sail for America.  One of the reasons given for his departure was that he did not want to be drafted into service for the Austrian Army.  Whatever his justification for not wanting to serve in Austria, he would show no reluctance whatsoever to fight for the State of Texas.  In fact, he spent years doing just that.  He arrived in America in the summer of 1832 in New Orleans.  He then worked in Cincinnati, Ohio before returning to the South again in Florence, Alabama for a short time.  Erath then relocated to Texas in 1833 where he would remain for the rest of his life, entering at Brazoria on the Gulf and settling in Robertson County.

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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in biography, county names, texas rangers

 

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Neil Love McLennan (1787-1867)

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(Image credit: sutphen.org)

One of the early settlers near Waco, Neil Love McLennan was born in Isle of Skye, off the western coast of Scotland in 1787.  He came to America in 1801, first settling in North Carolina, married the former Christian A. (Darthal) Campbell in 1814, and then relocated in 1816 to Florida.  After living there a number of years, in 1834 he and his family along with two brothers and others sailed a three masted schooner from Pensacola, Florida to the mouth of the Brazos.  They arrived there in early March and continued on upriver as far as they could.

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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in biography, county names

 

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Samuel Maverick

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Samuel Augustus Maverick was born in the summer of 1803 in South Carolina to Samuel and Elizabeth Anderson Maverick.  His father operated an import business.  Young Samuel worked in the family business, graduating from Yale University in 1825.  He left the family business and moved to Virginia in 1828 to study law.  For a while he practiced law and in 1833 he moved to Georgia for a year before relocating to Alabama to operate a plantation that had been given to him by his father.

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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in biography, county names, town names

 

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Sam Walker, Texas Ranger

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Samuel Hamilton “Sam” Walker is a Texas Ranger legend and is one of only about three dozen Rangers who are in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.  Sam was born in Maryland on February 24, 1817 and served as a soldier for most of his adult life.  His first recorded term was with the Washington City Volunteers (now Washington, D. C.) in a campaign against the Creek Indians in 1836.  It is believed that he then lived in Florida where he took a railway job until he moved to Texas in 1842.  He joined John Coffee “Jack” Hays’ Ranger outfit that same year, serving as a scout under Capt. Jesse Billingsley.

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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in biography, county names, texas rangers

 

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Floyd County and Floydada, Texas

There are 254 counties in Texas and 11 of them are named for Alamo defenders: Bailey, Bowie, Cochran, Cottle, Crockett, Dickens, Floyd, King, Lynn, Taylor and Travis counties.  Floyd County is one such county.  It was named for Dolphin Ward Floyd who is believed to have died on his birthday, March 6, 1836, in Santa Anna’s attack on the Alamo.  Ward Floyd was born in North Carolina in 1804 and later moved near Gonzales where he worked as a farmer.  In 1832, he married the recently widowed Esther Berry House, a mother of three by her first husband Isaac House, who also lived in Texas.

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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in alamo, biography, county names, town names

 

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