From the Annals of the Supreme Court – In1869, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Texas v. White which essentially eviscerated the argument of individual state sovereignty apart from the Union. The SCt ruled that Texas still had the right to sue in the federal courts despite having seceded in 1861. Texas has sued for an injunction prohibiting George W. White and others from transferring U.S. issued bonds they purchased from the secession-era Texas State Military Board during the Civil War. The bonds had been issued to Texas as part of the Compromise of 1850, but at the time of the Civil War not all such bonds had been issued. Texas sold the bonds to raise funds durng the war. After the war, the US Treasury refused to redeem the war-issued bonds. Texas sued to reclaim the bonds from the purchasers. Under Article III, section 2 of the US Constitution, which provides original jurisdiction in the Supreme Court in cases where the State is a party, Texas sued directly in the U.S. Supreme Court At the SCt, the issue turned on whether Texas, having seceded and not having completed Reconstruction, had status in the Union and therefore the right to sue as a federal court. Texas argued that the Union was indestructible and Texas’ status as a state remained unchanged by the war. White argued that Texas, by seceding from the Union and waging war against the United States, had lost the status of a state in the Union and therefore had no right to sue in the SCt. In a five-to-three decision authored by Chief Justice S. P. Chase, the court held the Union to be indestructible and thus not dissoluble by any act of a state, the government, or the people.
From the Annals of the Death House – In 1982, Texas became the first state to use lethal injection to execute prisoners. The lethal dose was an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol – a barbiturate that is known as a “truth serum” when administered in lesser doses. Texas adopted the lethal injection procedure as a supposedly more humane method of executing those convicted of capital crimes. Over the next few years, 32 other states, the federal government, and the U.S. military all began using various forms of lethal injection to execute prisoners.
Charlie Brooks Jr., convicted for the murder of David Gregory, was the first prisoner in the U.S. to be executed by injection at the Walls Unit in Huntsville. Gregory, an auto mechanic at a used car lot, accompanied Brooks on a supposed test drive of a car. However, Brooks took Gregory back to a motel where he was hanging out and shooting heroin with Woody Lourdes and his girlfriend Marlene Smith after engaging in a shoplifting spree. Brooks shot and killed Gregory in an almost absurdly amateurish manner. Lourdes had informed the hotel manager that they had a man in the room who was bound and gagged and that they were going to have to kill him while pointing a revolver at the manager and telling her that he would kill her too if she talked. As such, the crime was easily discovered and solved. Brooks was sentenced to death. Lourdes was also sentenced to death but his conviction was reversed and he reached a plea deal to serve 40 years. David Gregory left behind a wife and young son.
From the Annals of the Governing Documents – In 1869, Texas voters approved a new state constitution. The 1869 Constitution was adopted during Reconstruction in compliance with Congressional mandates. The preface of the bill of rights in the new constitution reflected strong sentiment against the previous unpleasantness of secession and the horrors of the Civil War. The Constitution of the United States was declared to be the supreme law. Slavery was outlawed and the equality of all persons before the law was recognized. This was intended to protect the rights of freedmen. The 1869 Constitution was short-lived. As Reconstruction ended, the very racist southern Democrats of the time called for a new constitution which was adopted in 1876 and provided strict limits on governmental powers. That document is still the basis for Texas governance today – even though heavily amended subsequent years.
From the Annals of the Temblors – In 1931, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Texas shook up the good folks of Valentine in Jeff Davis County. The quake measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale which is relatively minor in the California falling into the ocean scheme of things.. No casualties were reported, but the quake caused damage to almost every wooden structure in Valentine. The local school building was damaged beyond repair. There were also reports of landslides as far away as the Guadalupe Mountains.
Figure showing felt area and Modified Mercalli Intensities experienced by Texans from the Valentine earthquake from www-udc.ig.utexas.edu.
From the Annals of the Insurrection – In 1862, insurrectionist troops under Confederate command surrendered Galveston to Union forces. Commander William B. Renshaw led a squadron of eight ships into Galveston harbor to force surrender. The rebel commander, Brig. Gen. Paul O. Hebert, had removed most of the heavy artillery from the island believing it to be indefensible. As the squadron approached, the Fort Point garrison fired on the federal ships, return fire dismounted the rebel cannon. Col. Joseph J. Cook, in command on the island, arranged a four-day truce while he evacuated his men to the mainland. The Union ships held the harbor. Union forces did not contral the town until the arrival of the Forty-second Massachusetts Infantry, led by Col. I. S. Burrell on December 25. Union control was short-lived as rebel forces recaptured the island and drove off the Union squadron about a week later.
From the Annals of the River Crossings – In 1889, the Waco suspension bridge crossing the Brazos River opened for traffic as a free bridge. The bridge had opened in 1870 as a toll bridge. Until then no bridges spanned the Brazos in Texas and for 800 miles travelers had to look for low water crossings or ferries to move east and west through central Texas. In 1866, the Texas Legislature granted a charter to the Waco Bridge Company giving the WBC a monopoly on transportation across the Brazos for 25 years and prohibiting other bridges to be built within five miles. The WBC eventually settled on a steel cable suspension bridge design as affordable and practical for the intended use. The WBC engaged the John A. Roeblng Company, the firm which originated the suspension span bridge concept. The WBC hired Thomas M. Griffith, Roebling’s chief engineer, as civil engineer for the project. The Roebling Company was commisssioned to provide cables and bridgework. After Robeling died in 1869, his four sons inherited the company, which was renamed The John A Robeling’s Sons Company. Washington Robeling, most famous for building the Brooklyn Bridge, finished the Waco bridge which opened to paid traffic in 1870. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River. The toll revenues quickly paid for the bridge. Popular demand for a free bridge arose and McLennan County bought the Suspension Bridge from the WBC for $75,000 and then sold it Waco for one dollar in an agreement that required the City to maintain the bridge and eliminate any tolls. The bridge was open to vehicles until 1871 serving for more than 100 years. Despite many mostly cosmetic renovations, the bridge has been restored to its original glory and is now the centerpiece of Indian Springs Park.
From the Annals of the Lost Counties – In 1873, the Texas Legislature declared the existence of Wegefarth County. It was named for C. Wegefarth, president of the Texas Immigrant Aid and Supply Company. The county, which was created in a disputed area west of Greer County in the eastern panhandle region, had but a brief existence. It was abolished by another act of the Legislature in 1876 which created the current Panhandle counties.