SPECIAL HONORS — Local Boy Scouts and other paid tribute at the grave of Moses L. Choate, the founder of Livingston, during ceremonies Saturday at the Old City Cemetery. Hosted by the Polk County Historical Commission, the event was held as part of the local observance of Texas Independence Day. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)
LIVINGSTON – Despite cold, windy weather, area residents turned out force Saturday to pay tribute to local residents who helped create the Republic of Texas in 1836. While Monday, March 2, was officially Texas Independence Day – the day Texas formally severed ties with Mexico – the Polk County Historical Commission (PCHC) held their formal observance Saturday. Originally slated to be held at the Old City Cemetery, the weather forced PCHC leaders to move the ceremonies into the Central Baptist Church. The move was not far because the church is located immediately north of the cemetery across East Polk Street. The local observance paid tribute to people who had settled in the Polk County area before, during and immediately after the Texas Revolution with the principal focus on two men -- Moses L. Choate, who came to this area in 1835 and founded the community of Springfield, and Thaxton L. Epperson, who served during the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. Both men are buried in the Old City Cemetery and special wreaths were placed by their graves as part of Saturday's ceremonies. During the program, history teacher Greg Helm portrayed Choate and outlined the man's history to the audience. Born in 1794, Choate came to what would become Polk County in 1835 when he obtained a grant from the Mexican government for a league of land – or 4,428 acres. Together with his sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth of John James, Choate built his home here and created the Springfield community. In 1840, his four-year-old son, Josephus, died and Choate buried him on a hill overlooking his home. That hill would become the Old City Cemetery. Six years later, another son, Rodolphus, died at the age of six and was buried next to his brother. A third son, Rufus, grew to adulthood but died at the age of 21 in 1863 at the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga as a member of Company B, First Texas Infantry, Hood's Brigade. Although he was buried in Georgia, a Confederate memorial marker was placed in the Old City Cemetery near that of Josephus and Rodolphus. In 1846, shortly after the Republic of Texas was annexed into the U.S., the first state legislature created Polk County and a number of local communities sought to become the seat of the government. If officials would pick Springfield, Choate offered the new county 100 acres of land. The land could then be subdivided into city lots and sold by the county to raise funds. The offer was accepted and the name of the new county seat was changed to Livingston, in honor of the city of Choate's birth, Livingston, Tenn. Also recognized during Saturday's ceremony was Epperson and one of his direct descendants, Mary Goodwin, was on hand to outline his history. Goodwin currently serves as the District IV Representative of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Born in Kentucky in 1816, at the age of 16 Epperson served as a military courier in Illinois during the Black Hawk War. He moved to Texas with his older sister and her husband in 1835 and became one of the first 17 men to purchase a lot in the Swartwout community on the Trinity River southwest of present-day Livingston. After coming to the area, he met and was befriended by Sam Houston who commissioned him as a captain in the Texas militia during the Texas Revolution. After the Republic of Texas was annexed and a war with Mexico erupted, Epperson joined the Second Texas Mounted Volunteers as a lieutenant and was wounded in 1846 when U.S. forces stormed the city of Monterrey in Mexico. In 1863, Epperson – now in his late 40s – again went to war when he joined the Confederate States Army as a private and was stationed at Sabine Pass. Before his death in 1904, he served as a Polk County commissioner for six years, as a constable for four years and as a deputy sheriff for another two. During the program, PCHC Chairman Patricia Snook noted the Old City Cemetery was the final resting place for 42 Republic of Texas citizens, four veterans of the Mexican-American War and 46 men who served during the Civil War. "There are 245 known burials in the cemetery," she said. "Unfortunately, many graves have been lost to the years and today there are only 167 visible tombstones." Snook also publicly thanked the City of Livingston for its efforts to clean up the cemetery grounds, removing dead trees and underbrush and installing a handicapped accessible entry off Polk Street. She also acknowledged the work of PCHC members, the Livingston Lions Club and other volunteers who have been working to clean the old tombstones. Corky Cochran of Cochran Funeral Home also was cited for helping straighten the tombstones. In another moving part of the ceremony, the names of the Republic of Texas citizens and the Mexican and Civil War veterans who are buried in the cemetery were read aloud by Cochran, who also serves as the chief of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department. As each name was read, a fire bell was rung in tribute. At the start of the program, Whitney Sage Williams and Stephanie Williams of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas presented the invocation by both singing and performing in Indian sign language the Lord's Prayer. Boy Scout Pack 97 presented the Texas colors and an honor guard from the Livingston High School Junior Reserve Office Corps (JROTC) presented the U.S. colors.
AUTHENTIC WAGONS – Two of the wagon that will make the journey from Hico in Central Texas to Lincoln, New Mexico were restored by Bob Weaver of Goodrich. Weaver is one of the organizers of the first Billy the Kid Trail Ride which is schooled to leave Hico on April 1. (CONTRIBUTED photo)
BY GREG PEAK
GOODRICH – In the spirit of the Old West, a group of local residents will be "hitting the trail" starting on April 1 as part of the first Billy the Kid Trail Ride from Hico in Central Texas all the way to Lincoln, New Mexico.
Bob Weaver of Goodrich is one of the organizers of the trip that is expected to take several weeks to complete. He is inviting all area residents who would like to make the trek to saddle up and join him for the adventure.
The native of Colorado, Weaver grew up on a working cattle ranch and learned the ins and outs of trail riding are an early age, to the point that he served as trail boss on cattle drives involving 2,000-2,500 head of livestock while still in his teens.
Weaver will be taking two authentic trail wagons on the ride that he carefully restored to as close to their original condition as possible.
"This is something that my late brother and I started working on and after he passed, I continued," he said, noting that one of the wagons will be outfitting as a "chuck wagon."
"Everybody who goes on the ride will need to bring their own food and supplies, but we'll have the chuck wagon to help with the cooking while we're on the trail," he said.
Weaver said so far there are six wagons scheduled to make the ride, including some from their destination in Lincoln, New Mexico. All will be trucked to the starting point in Hico prior to April 1.
"Anyone interested in going can bring their own wagon or saddle up their own horse and ride with us," he said, adding those making the journey will need to bring a bed roll, their own groceries and feed for their horses. During the journey, they will be stopping in towns along the way to allow the riders to purchase supplies as needed.
The ride is meant to follow a trail allegedly followed by William "Billy the Kid" Bonney from Hico to Lincoln. Although there is some dispute that the famed outlaw was from Hico, the Texas community lays claim to his legend through Ollie "Brushy Bill" Roberts. Roberts lived in Hico in the late 1940s and claimed to have been the legendary gunfighter and outlaw known as Billy the Kid.
Billy the Kid was involved in the Lincoln County War in the late 1870s and was reportedly killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, however, subsequently there were stories alleging his death was faked and that "The Kid" went on to a new life under a new name.
"This is the first Billy the Kid Ride but I'd like to make it an annual event," Weaver said.
The ride is scheduled to leave Hico and travel on Highway 6 to Highway 380 and then proceed west into Hondo, New Mexico.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Polk County Historical Commission is preparing to celebrate Texas Independence Day with a program set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Old City Cemetery in Livingston)
BY WANDA BOBINGER Curator, Polk County Museum
Stephen F. Austin's Colony was the first legal settlement of North American families in Mexican-owned Texas. The initial grant for 300 families in 1821 opened up Texas to a flood of immigrants, as many as 30,000 by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1835.
‘COME AND TAKE IT’ CANNON – This small, rusty cannon now on display at the Gonzales Memorial Museum fired the first artillery shot of the Texas Revolution on Oct. 2, 1835. The Polk County Historical Commission will host a program in honor of Texas Independence Day at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Old City Cemetery in Livingston.Once the land had been chosen, Austin advertised for colonists. To each man over the age of 21 he promised, in the name of the Mexican government, 640 acres of land; if married, the man received 320 more; each child brought the father 160 acres, while each slave brought his master 80 acres. The Colonists were to pay Austin 12 and one-half cents per acre.
The Mexicans, fearing the aggressive land-hungry Anglos, tried to keep them under control with laws and restrictions and in 1829, sent a military expedition to observe the actions of the colonists. The report led to a law which attempted to slow down emigration from the United States and balance these Anglos with Mexican and European settlers.
The publication of the law fueled dissent. Tension between the colonists and Mexican officials became more marked with each day.
A corporal with four men was dispatched to fetch back a six-pound brass cannon from Gonzales. The gun had been there four years for the protection of the settlers and had been a gift. The people would not give it up. Word spread and 160 Texans assembled to aid the people of Gonzales.
On the morning of Oct. 2, 1835, the Texans draped the cannon with a flag and an invitation, "Come and Take It!" There was a brief skirmish but the cannon stayed in Gonzales. The war had begun!
The little brass cannon had made a very loud roar. As Mexicans fled toward Bexar, the whole country was aroused and now realized that war was inevitable.
The Texas army had marched to Bexar and found a place to camp with a defensive position near the Mission Concepcion. Ninety men were attacked by about 400 Mexicans. The Texans prevailed and after some days slowly forced their way into San Antonio, fighting hand-to-hand and house-to-house.
Finally on Dec. 9, 1835, the Mexicans ran up a white flag and terms of surrender were written. Of 780 Texans, between 30 and 35 were wounded, with five or six killed. Approximately 150 Mexican soldiers were killed or wounded.
After the war, those who could prove they had participated were granted 320 acres of land.
Eventually, 504 claims were certified. At least 79 later died fighting at the Battle of the Alamo or at the Goliad Massacre.
In less than three months after the Siege of Bexar, the Mexicans would return under the command of Santa Anna for the slaughter at the Alamo.
Filled with rage, Santa Anna vowed never to rest until the Texans be humbled in the dust. Toward the last of February, he led an army of 3,000 into San Antonio. As they got closer to the garrison, the numbers increased to perhaps 5,000.
William Barrett Travis had sent out a most pitiful plea, "To the People of Texas and all Americans in the World, in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear, come to our aid, with haste." This death cry brought no response to the 182 men, including the sick and wounded. It was still dark on March 6, 1836, when the Mexicans sounded the bugle for attack. Our Texans were literally cut to pieces and the court ran with blood. This had taken only about one hour. It was then ordered that the bodies of Texans be collected into a huge pile and burned. As the Sabbath sun set in the west, the smoke from the funeral pyre continued to rise toward the heavens.
Several weeks later, Colonel Fannin and his army were rounded up and imprisoned at Goliad in the old fort. On March 27, Palm Sunday, the troops were awakened and marched out of the fort. They numbered between three and four hundred. After marching one half a mile, the Mexicans commanded a halt. In the next moment, a volley of balls hailed upon the unarmed men till not one was left standing. The bodies were burned.
Word of the Goliad Massacre quickly spread not only in Texas, but in the United States. Recruitment soared for the "Texas Cause", as rage built up. Cries of "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliadl" would be heard around the world and at the Battle of San Jacinto, just one short month later.
There will be a Celebration of the Declaration of Independence at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, at the Old City Cemetery. Everyone is invited.
LIVINGSTON -- The fourth annual Childrenz Haven Blue Jean Ball Dinner and Gala packed in a crowd of 306 Thursday night at Buster McNutty's near Livingston.
GALA ENTERTAINMENT — Laci Booth performed for the large crowd at Thursday’s Blue Jean Gala fundraiser. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY GREG PEAK)The fundraising event had the feel of a party to celebrate work that the child advocacy center puts into protecting the children of Polk County. A line outside the door to get in showed the support citizens were happy to give.
Though Executive Director Susie Adams said room for approximately 250 would be made available this year, demand for the occasion pushed attendance to a new high.
A silent auction, live auction and cake auction kept prizes going to winning bids. For the night, Adams estimates around $80,000 will go to toward three therapists, a forensic and backup forensic interviewer, and a family advocate. Grants partially pay for other salaries, but the remainder is made up with fundraising.
Dinners of steak, fish and chicken were followed by desserts that were auctioned during the meal. A total of $13,000 was raised in desserts alone. Singer Laci Kay Booth provided entertainment throughout the night.
Among the big items in the live auction were two helicopter hog hunts sold for a total of $7,000, while a luxury hunt in Mexico went for $10,000.
Award recipients for their dedication to Childrenz Haven went to Marty Drake, Clarke and Linda Evans, Gene and Judi Matthews, and John Saxon.
"The response and generosity from the people of Polk County is overwhelming," Adams said. "It is something that we could not do without them."
Childrenz Haven opened in September of 2009 and provides a child-friendly environment for its child clients and is a member of Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, a statewide membership association representing all local children's advocacy centers in the Lone Star state. Children are referred to Childrenz Haven by law enforcement officials, CPS investigators and medical professionals.
Childrenz Haven is a neutral entity, making no recommendations in any case. It provides a supportive and nurturing environment, in which a child victim can interact with the necessary agencies.
LIVINGSTON -- Pedigo Park became the site for a runaway criminal Tuesday afternoon, as police dogs were called upon to detain the person.
Several dogs had the opportunity to capture the man, in a training session held behind the Angelina College Polk County Center, where officers had received classroom education that morning.
TRAINING SESSION -- Livingston Officer Paul Benfer (right) has his K-9 detain a “suspect” in a training session on Tuesday at Pedigo Park. Officers from several East Texas police departments are currently taking a course to get K-9 certification. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)"It depends on which police officer you ask and what K-9 organization you belong to, as to what training and certification is the best method," Livingston Officer Paul Benfer said. "There has never been a standard certification and no one way is better than another."
With the help of Marcelo Rosario of Angelina College, the class is trying to standardize K-9 certification through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). The instructor, Norm Garner, has been training police K-9s for over 30 years.
One of the main points stressed by the organization is that dogs are safety conscious that others can be around. The dogs are trained to bite and come back to the handler off the leash. The dogs training on Tuesday were able to accomplish this and obeyed when called off of a chase.
The instructor from Shreveport, Louisiana said similar courses could be as much as $12,000 and include a trained dog. Garner has offered this group training for $5.
The decision to carry a K-9 is up to each individual department and the funds available to have a dog on the staff.
For an officer and his K-9 to pass the 64-hour class, the K-9 and officer have to show the ability to detect narcotics, and track a person over paved streets and through wooded areas.
They must also pass a patrol certification. Attending this first class is officers from many East Texas departments representing Corrigan, Alto, Groveton, Lufkin and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.
"SCIENCE ROCKS" — This Trailblazer traveling science bus sponsored by The Brown Foundation, Inc. and T.L.L. Temple Foundation stopped at the Livingston Municipal Library on Thursday. The bus contained seven hands-on exhibits designed to engage students with projects in science and math. Above, Patricia Snook explains and demonstrates a static electricity generator to students.