On this day in 1836, Prospero Bernardi arrived in Texas aboard the schooner Pennsylvania as a member of Capt. Amasa Turner's volunteer company, raised in New Orleans. Bernardi was born in Italy in 1794 and was a notary by trade. He enlisted in the Texas army on February 13, 1836, and distinguished himself in the battle of San Jacinto. He remained in the army until January or February 1837, when he was medically discharged from John Smith's company at Galveston because of a spinal injury sustained during combat. Bernardi received a bounty grant and a first-class headright grant for his military service, but both were assigned to other parties. Bernardi's whereabouts by 1838 were unclear. In February of that year two former fellow soldiers testified that they understood he was deceased. A bust of the Italian soldier stands in front of the Hall of State, Fair Park, Dallas, to commemorate his participation in the battle of San Jacinto.
On this day in 1891, Fine Gilliland shot and killed Fort Davis cattleman Henry Harrison Powe during a roundup near Leoncita Springs in Brewster County. Gilliland had been sent by the firm of Dubois and Wentworth to make sure none of the local ranchers appropriated any of the company's cattle; he became embroiled in a dispute with Powe over an unbranded brindle yearling steer found without its mother. Powe believed that the steer belonged to a cow with his HHP brand, but Gilliland disagreed and a gunfight ensued. Gilliland killed Powe and fled on horseback, but was himself killed a few days later in a shootout with two Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the cowboys branded "MURDER" on one side of the yearling and "JAN 28 91" on the other. Legend has it that the "murder steer" still appears whenever foul play has occurred; the incident also inspired an episode of the television series Rawhide and a ballad by Canadian folk singer Ian Tyson.
On this day in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff. Seven American astronauts were killed, including Texas resident Judith Arlene Resnik. She was the second American woman astronaut. She had taken her first space flight in August 1984 aboard the orbiter Discovery.
On this day in 1912, philanthropist Frances Lutcher dedicated the First Presbyterian Church in Orange in honor of the family of her husband, lumberman Henry J. Lutcher, whom she had married in 1858. This magnificent marble structure was reputedly the first structure west of the Mississippi River to have air conditioning. Henry J. Lutcher died in October 1912. In 1921 his widow dedicated the Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital, the first modern hospital in Orange. She died three years later.