On this day in 1943, the last flight to Johnson's Ranch in the Big Bend was recorded. Elmo Johnson established Johnson's Ranch, sixteen miles downriver from Castolon, in 1927. Johnson's Ranch entered the air age two years later. Photographer W. D. Smithers, who lived on the ranch for several years, helped convince the United States Army Air Corps to establish an emergency landing field there in response to border unrest. Although the airfield was never used for its intended purpose, military traffic remained brisk, as a host of young airmen based in San Antonio sought rest and recreation at Johnson's Ranch. Official justification varied with the individual: "cross-country navigation," "strange field landings," "building up air time," etc. Yet all was not rest and recreation, as flight surgeons from Randolph Field established a free clinic for the local Mexican population. The field register, listing the pilots' names and the type of aircraft they flew, documents the rapid development of United States airpower during the 1930s. Air traffic continued temporarily even after the state purchased Johnson Ranch in 1942 for inclusion in Big Bend National Park, as the ranch became a regular stop for the Civil Air Patrol's Southern Liaison Patrol.
On this day in 1850, Texas gave up its claim to disputed land in New Mexico. In 1841, seeking a share of the Santa Fe trade, President Mirabeau Lamar dispatched the Texan Santa Fe Expedition to secure the territory for the Republic of Texas, but Mexican authorities captured the entire expedition without firing a shot. U.S. troops occupied New Mexico during the Mexican War, and in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in February 1848, Mexico relinquished all claim to territory north and east of the Rio Grande. A month later the Texas legislature established Santa Fe County, and in January 1850 subdivided it into Worth, El Paso, Presidio, and Santa Fe counties. But the residents of the area, in part because of their opposition to slavery, resisted incorporation into Texas. Governor Peter Bell sent Robert S. Neighbors to organize the alleged Texas property, but Worth and Santa Fe counties never got beyond the planning stage. Texas finally ceded the land they were to occupy to the United States, and reduced Presidio and El Paso counties in area, in the Compromise of 1850.
On this day in 1835, the first Texas Navy was established when the General Council authorized the purchase of four schooners and granted letters of marque and reprisal to privateers until the ships were armed. Established to protect the supply line to New Orleans, the navy included the 60-ton Liberty, the 125-ton Independence, the 125-ton Brutus, and the 125-ton Invincible. All four ships were lost by mid-1837, and the Texas Navy virtually ceased to exist until March 1839, when the first ship of the second navy was commissioned. A cruise ending in July 1843 marked the end of the operative career of the Texas Navy, as a truce with Mexico came that summer and the United States undertook to protect Texas until annexation. In June 1846 the ships of the Texas Navy were transferred to the United States Navy. The officers of the Texas Navy desired to be included in the transfer, but seniority-minded United States naval officers opposed the proposal. In 1857 the claims of the surviving Texas Navy officers were settled, and the Texas Navy was no more.
On this day in 1911, wealthy Houston native Edward M. House, a powerful force in Texas politics, met presidential candidate Woodrow Wilson for the first time. House and Wilson formed a friendship that lasted for years. In the 1890s House had established himself as a power broker in Texas, working largely behind the scenes. From 1894 to 1906 House's protégés served as governors of Texas. His friendship with Wilson enabled House to become a player in Washington. During Wilson's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1912, House used his influence to secure the forty votes of the Texas delegation. After Wilson's election to the presidency House was responsible for the appointment of several Texans to important cabinet positions. House acted as an advisor and confidant to Wilson until the president suffered a stroke in 1919.