On this day in 1879, the New York and Texas Land Company, one of the largest privately financed land companies to operate in post-Civil War Texas, was formed when all of the land owned by the consolidated International-Great Northern Railroad Company was deeded to John S. Kennedy, Samuel Thorne, and William Walter Phelps, all of New York state. Total acreage owned by the company was 5.5 million acres. It extended into fifty-one counties. Under the management of T. D. Hobart an extensive development program of fencing, well drilling, windmill building, and water impoundment began on the Panhandle land. By 1900 all the Panhandle lands had been developed and sold, including 190,000 acres of the North Fork pasture, 100,000 acres of the Sam Lazarus pasture, and 88,000 acres of the Nick Eaton Range. Sometime before the company was officially dissolved in 1918, the event was celebrated with a barbecue in Austin, to which all principals and current and former employees were invited.
On this day in 1928, the future television star Dan Blocker was born in DeKalb, Texas. When he was six years old the family moved to O'Donnell, in Lynn County, where his father operated a general store. Dan attended Texas Military Institute in San Antonio and Hardin-Simmons University before entering Sul Ross State Teachers College in Alpine in 1947. After graduating with a B.A. degree in speech and drama, he refused offers of professional careers in both football and boxing. He was drafted for combat duty in Korea, where he served as an infantry sergeant. In 1952 he returned to Sul Ross, where he earned an M.A. degree, and then taught school in Sonora, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico, before moving to California in 1956 to work on a Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles. During this time he also worked as a substitute teacher and began his career as a professional actor in Los Angeles. He played the role of Hoss Cartwright for thirteen seasons, from 1959 until his death in 1972 from complications following an operation, on NBC's "Bonanza," one of the longest-running and most popular TV series in history. A monument in Blocker's memory stands in a park in downtown O'Donnell, across the street from a museum which displays memorabilia from his career.
On this day in 1838, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was inaugurated as the second president of the Republic of Texas. His predecessor, Sam Houston, appeared in colonial costume and powdered wig and gave a three-hour "Farewell Address." Algernon P. Thompson, Lamar's secretary, reported that the new president was indisposed and read his inaugural remarks. Lamar's inaugural speech declared the purposes of his administration to be promoting the wealth, talent, and enterprises of the country and laying the foundations of higher institutions for moral and mental culture. Though he had only mixed success as president, Lamar's support for education was one of the high points of his administration. His proposal that the Congress establish a system of education endowed by public lands resulted in the act of January 26, 1839, which set aside land for public schools and two universities. Although it was decades before the school system was established, Lamar's advocacy of the program earned for him the nickname "Father of Texas Education."
On this day in 1878, Jane Cazneau, author, land promoter, and perhaps the first unofficial woman diplomat for the United States, died when the steamer Emily B. Souder, bound from New York to Santo Domingo, sank. The adventuress, born in New York in 1807, first investigated Texas in 1832 when she sought opportunities to resettle her parents and contract to bring families to Austin’s colonies. Between 1832 and 1849 she made nine trips to Texas. Though she may have received a sizable land grant from Mexico, she ultimately lacked the financial muscle to settle immigrants inland from Matagorda. Nevertheless, she speculated in Texas land and later contributed money and arms to the Texas cause for independence. Her New York Sun columns supported Texas annexation, and she wrote Texas and Her President, With a Glance at Her Climate and Agricultural Capabilities in 1845. She married Texas entrepreneur William Leslie Cazneau and lived in Eagle Pass; she later recorded her experiences there in Eagle Pass; or Life on the Border. During the Mexican War, Cazneau played an unofficial role in Sun editor Moses Yale Beech’s unsuccessful secret peace mission to Mexico City, and at that time she became the only female war correspondent and American journalist to report from behind enemy lines. She and her husband later advocated U.S. annexation of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where they had extensive land holdings.