On this day in 1816, Swante Magnus Swenson was born in Jönköping, Sweden. In 1838 he became the first Swedish immigrant to Texas. Thereafter he encouraged many Swedes to immigrate. Swenson founded the SMS Ranches, became one of the largest landholders in the state, and headed extensive mercantile enterprises. He also served two terms as a Travis county commissioner and was the first treasurer of the State Agricultural Society. As an outspoken Unionist, he moved to Mexico during the Civil War, then in 1865 to New York. He continued to maintain close ties with Texas.
On this day in 1836, William Barret Travis, commanding the Texans under attack in the Alamo, wrote his famous letter addressed "To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World." In the letter, he pledged that he would "never surrender or retreat" and swore "Victory or Death." The predominant message, however, was an entreaty for help: "I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch." Travis knew that his men, besieged by Mexican forces under Martín Perfecto de Cos, could not hold out long without reinforcements. Inspired by his letter, more troops did make their way to San Antonio, but too few and too late to avert disaster. Travis was among the first to die in the battle of the Alamo, on March 6.
On this day in 1969, approximately 100 Texas Rangers, local lawmen, and state police were dispatched to Wiley College, the oldest black college west of the Mississippi River, in response to a series of nonviolent student demonstrations on the Marshall campus. The students were demonstrating over faculty hiring practices, primitive dormitory facilities, and cutbacks in the intercollegiate athletic program. The lawmen undertook a massive search for concealed weapons in the dorms; the search was fruitless, but the school was closed down for several weeks. Further demonstrations resulted in the school administration's agreement in August to improve living conditions on campus. Wiley College was founded in 1873 and chartered in 1882. In 1907 Wiley received the first Carnegie college library west of the Mississippi. In 1962 Wiley and Bishop College students held sit-ins at the local Woolworth store. Their activities and the local reaction made national headlines. These demonstrations helped integrate public facilities in Marshall. In 2004, Wiley College had a student body of 552 and a faculty of 56, and Dr. Haywood Strickland was president.