On this day in 1940, Frederick Albert Cook, physician, polar explorer, and infamous oil promoter, died in New Rochelle, New York. The New York native was surgeon on the Arctic Expedition of Robert Peary in 1891-92 and the Belgian Antarctic Expedition in 1897-99. He led expeditions to Mount McKinley between 1903 and 1906. His claim to the first ascent of Mount McKinley was challenged as fraudulent. He later falsely claimed to have beaten Peary to the North Pole by a year. The University of Copenhagen found that Cook's evidence did not substantiate his claims. In 1918 Cook went to work as a geologist in the Texas oilfields, and in 1922 he organized the Petroleum Producers Association at Fort Worth. After investigating widespread charges of fraud committed by the PPA, a Fort Worth grand jury indicted 400 people, including Cook, who was convicted, sentenced to fourteen years and nine months in prison, and assessed a fine of $12,000. He was paroled from Leavenworth in 1930 and pardoned by President Roosevelt in 1940 as an act of mercy for a dying man.
On this day in 1838, Samuel D. Parr arrived at Point Bolivar and claimed a league of land there, thus becoming the first permanent settler in the area. Point Bolivar is at the western tip of Bolivar Peninsula, across from the eastern end of Galveston Island. The point has long held importance for coastal navigation and fortification. It served as a rendezvous place for Indians, pirates, freebooters, privateers, filibusters, and other transients, including Henry Perry, Francisco Xavier Mina, and James Long, among others. The place was briefly called Parrsville for Parr, who surveyed the area and was later granted a patent by the Republic of Texas. In the Civil War Confederate forces erected a fortification known as Fort Green to protect the bay. Settlers who arrived in the area as a result of activity at the fort eventually established the community of Port Bolivar. When the federal government began to develop the port of Galveston in 1898, it established the county's second Fort Travis at the point. In World War I and World War II the government built concrete gun emplacements at Fort Travis. The property was subsequently converted into a park operated by the county for recreation and camping. The fort's underground fortifications are tourist attractions and provide hurricane shelter for area residents.
On this day in 1973, Vander Clyde died at his Round Rock home. Clyde, who achieved international fame as Barbette, a female impersonator and trapeze and high-wire performer, was born in Round Rock in 1904. After graduating from high school at age fourteen, he traveled to San Antonio to answer a Billboard advertisement placed by one of the Alfaretta Sisters, "World Famous Aerial Queens." He joined the act on the condition that he dress as a girl, since his partner believed that women's clothes made a wire act more dramatic. Clyde eventually developed a solo act in which he appeared and performed as a woman and removed his wig to reveal his masculinity at the end of the performance. After adopting the name Barbette, he traveled throughout the United States performing the popular act. In the fall of 1923 the William Morris Agency sent him to England and then to Paris, where he was befriended by members of both American café society and French literary and social circles. His artistry was championed by French poet and dramatist Jean Cocteau who, in a classic essay on the nature of art, described Vander's performance as "an extraordinary lesson in theatrical professionalism." His performing career ended in 1938, when he caught pneumonia after performing at Loew's State, a vaudeville theater in New York. Clyde continued to stage circus productions and train performers. He spent his last years in Round Rock, where he lived with his sister.