Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, served as First Lady of the United States from 1963-1969, but she remained the beloved “First Lady of Texas” for the rest of her life. December 22 was her birthday.
There was nothing Lady Bird Johnson loved better than wildflowers, so it was fitting that the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin opened to the public in 1982 on her 70th birthday. Lady Bird, herself, conceived the idea of a national center for the study of wildflowers and native plants and the preservation of the ecology.
If you’re in the Austin area, the national Wildflower Research Center is well worth a visit!
Texas Rangers led by Lawrence Sullivan Ross “rescued” Cynthia Ann Parker from the Comanche Indians on December 18, 1860.
Cynthia Ann was only nine years old when Comanche warriors killed her pioneer family and took her captive in 1836. She endured harsh treatment, but was eventually adopted into the tribe. Over the years she learned the Comanche language and culture, and when she was grown Chief Peta Nocona chose her as his wife. Together they had two sons, Quanah and Pecos, and a little daughter, Topsannah.
On December 18, 1860, while the men were away hunting, Cynthia Ann and Topsannah were “rescued” when soldiers and rangers raided their squaw camp on the Pease River. She was now 34 years old. The soldiers barely recognized her as a white woman—only her blue eyes gave her away.
Ranger Captain Lawrence Sullivan Ross brought them back to Ft. Cooper and contacted her uncle. Isaac Parker was overjoyed to see his niece, but Cynthia Ann did not want to live again in the white man’s world. She missed her husband and sons and worried that they might have been killed in the battle at Pease River. She longed to return to “her people,” but her uncle locked her into her room to keep her from running away to rejoin her Native American family.
Three years later, Topsannah fell ill with a fever and died. Cynthia Ann was distraught. She began to waste away and finally died of influenza in 1870.
Stephen F. Austin did not particularly want to go to Texas. He had a fine position as a federal circuit judge in Arkansas.
Moving to Texas was the dream of his father, Moses. The elder Austin had secured permission to establish a colony but died before he could complete the task. To honor his father’s dying request, Stephen continued the work.
Though he was only 29, he proved to be an able recruiter and an excellent leader. By December 1821 the first Anglo families began arriving at Austin’s colony.
If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas with a Texas twist, how about jellies made from cactus pears, jalapenos, and even mesquite beans? This is a time-consuming project, but the red, green, and golden jars will look great in sets or individually. A variety of recipes are easy to find online!
Eli Whitney, who was born December 8, 1765 in Westboro, Massachusetts, had a very inventive mind. At the age of 14, he manufactured nails for profit from a workshop on his father’s farm. After graduating from Yale College in 1792 he moved to South Carolina. At that time, slaves spent hours plucking seeds from cotton bolls by hand. Whitney got the idea for a machine that could do the work while he watched a cat trying to catch a chicken and pull it through a fence. Only the feathers passed through. His invention separated cotton fibers from the seeds, doing the work of 50 slaves.
Some believe that Whitney hoped his invention would make slavery obsolete since now a machine could do the work. Instead, the cotton gin streamlined production, increasing the market for inexpensive cloth. Cotton became a major economic crop throughout the South, requiring more slaves to keep up with demand. Unscrupulous men copied Whitney’s machine. Unable to defend his patent until 1807, he nearly declared bankruptcy, but the cotton gin made Whitney’s name famous.
In 1798, Whitney obtained a contract to supply the United States military with 10,000 muskets and invented a way to manufacture the guns with interchangeable parts. It was this invention that made Whitney wealthy.
Eli Whitney’s nephews, Eli and Philos Blake, inherited their uncle’s armory. The younger Blake, under contract to Samuel Colt, manufactured Whitneyville Walker Colt revolvers for the Texas Rangers.
Here are two holiday displays you won’t want to miss!
December 9-10, 2011
Candlelight at the Ranch, an annual event at the National Ranching Heritage Center on Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, captures the traditional spirit of a pioneer Christmas. Step back in time as you walk along paths lit with luminarias. Enjoy the songs cowboys might have shared around a campfire on the open prairie over a century ago. Or warm up with hot cider and fresh popcorn as historical interpreters trim the tree with homemade decorations.
The event is free, but donations to are welcome. For more information, call (806) 742-0498.
November 23-January 1
A feature city in the annual Trail of Lights that reaches through the Pineywoods into northern Louisiana, the Wonderland of Lights in Marshall, Texas is the granddaddy of them all!
Crowned with over 10 million lights, the display begins the night before Thanksgiving and lasts through New Year’s Day.
It’s never too late to take a family drive through Marshall.
Christmas time is always a good time to schedule a trip to San Antonio!
First stop–Paseo del Rio. The downtown river walk transforms into a holiday festival of lights and sounds during la Fiesta de las Luminarias each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday December 1-18. Boatloads of carolers drift through the twinkling reflection of colored lights draped from centuries-old trees as you stroll, shop, and sample delicious foods from a variety of cultures. Check the River Walk website for coupons and details.
While you’re there, why not enjoy the Institute of Texan Cultures? No matter where your family came from or how long ago you arrived in Texas, you’ll find a tribute to your cultural contribution at this interactive museum dedicated to telling the stories of Texans.
Of course, a visit to the San Antonio missions is always interesting. Plan your trip to include not only the Alamo, but also Missions San Jose, San Juan, Conception, and San Francisco de la Espada. San Antonio visitor information will help you plan your trip.
And finally, my personal favorite! No trip to San Antonio is as memorable as it could be without a visit to the Guenther House, home of Pioneer Flour Mills. Every item on their breakfast, lunch, and brunch menu has passed the tests of time and taste. While you wait, you can tour the historic home that houses the restaurant, browse their enticing gift shop, or simply enjoy the gardens that overlook the San Antonio River and King William district.