Driving through Central Texas recently, I made a detour to visit a Fairy . . . and the tiny town named after her.
In a state that likes to brag that “bigger is better,” the town of Fairy Texas in Hamilton County named themselves after a surprisingly diminutive member of their community.
Originally known as Martin’s Gap it was named after James Martin, a settler killed by local Indians in the 1860s while driving cattle through a “gap” between two mountains in the area. He was buried at the foot of one of those mountains.
As you can see from the map, it isn’t “on the way” to anywhere particularly…but it’s worth a road trip diversion.
When a post office was requested for the town in 1884, locals renamed it “Fairy” to honor Fairy Fort Phelps (1865-1938), the daughter of Sallie and Battle Fort, a former Confederate Army Captain and lawyer.
One of the smallest Texans ever, Fairy was just 2’ 7” tall and weighed about 28 pounds. Her size didn’t stop her from leading a somewhat normal life and becoming one of the most beloved people in her community.
Her namesake town once had a cotton gin, school, general store, café and businesses to serve the ranchers in the area.
Fairy had four younger brothers: Henry; Hugh Franklin; William “Battle,” Jr; and Walter Herbert – all of whom were average heights.
Fairy and her father taught area children at a school in their home for many years. One story reflects how respected and well liked she was by her students. The tale states that it became necessary for Fairy to paddle an unruly student, but she couldn’t high enough. The student himself lifted his teacher onto a chair so she could paddle him.
The petite young lady even married twice, once to William Y. Allen in 1892 and again to T. J. Phelps in 1905, but both marriages ended in divorce. Probably not surprisingly, she never had children, but she did live into her 70s and is buried with her parents at…yes…Fairy Cemetery. The sign on the gate alone is enough to back you look twice.
Fairy’s post office closed in 1947, and the school consolidated with Hamilton schools in 1967. A Baptist church, community center, volunteer fire department, a few homes and one historic cemetery are all that endure.
The stories of a petite woman who lived life to the fullest remain with the residents, and those who stop to visit her gated grave.
The tiny town’s cemetery is interesting on its own for a variety of style of distinctive, handmade grave markers. Many exhibit expert stone carving skills, but others include one constructed of petrified wood and another meticulously covered with sparkling, local minerals.
Oh….and if you’re curious what locals are called, they are “Fairians.” How cute is that?
I recently learned that the former Ranger’s Cottage at Varner-Hogg Plantation in West Columbia is now available to rent for overnight stays. I didn’t hesitate to make a reservation immediately!
The Varner Hogg Plantation is a State Historic Site featuring the original plantation home and several outbuildings. See my previous post for more about it: https://bit.ly/2Nxki0L
Though the website had basic information about the cottage, the photos online don’t do it justice. Being a Girl Scout leader, I know that the word “cottage” sometimes means extremely rustic and bare bones. While that won’t scare me away, I was pleasantly surprised with this location.
Built in the 1920s, the Ranger’s cottage sits slightly back across the site road from the main house, beneath large pecan trees that probably predate my grandmother.
Rocking chairs and a bistro table and chair set wait on the porch, inviting guests to linger and enjoy the immense trees, heavily draped with Southern moss. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get much further, since I have in incurable weakness for porches, but I’m glad I did.
The entire cottage has been updated and decorated with comfortable, modern furnishings. No detail has been overlooked in making each room a welcoming space. The living room even has a basket of monogrammed blankets so family or friends can curl up on the sofa to enjoy an evening movie.
To the right of the living room is a brightly colored, spacious master bedroom with space enough to do a little dancing before bedtime. The master bath has a dressing room with sink and mirror, and a separate room with shower and toilet. The amenities (towels, shampoo items, gels) are more who I would have expected from a hotel than a historic cottage on a state historic site!
The kitchen was the next pleasant surprise (and by the time I saw it I was regretting not bringing a group of friends with me!). Stocked with serve ware and basic cookware, it features a full size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, range and coffeemaker. It would be such fun to stay here with family or friends and gather on the barstools at the counter to chat while fixing a meal! The attractive concrete counters, by the way, were made by one of the site employees (and I wonder if he would mind stopping by my house to make some for me!).Just outside the kitchen door is a small back porch big enough for a couple of chairs. It would be a relaxing spot for a chat and cup of coffee or cocoa.
A stairway from the rear of the cottage leads to the second floor, and an additional full bath and two large bedrooms. Again, I was surprised by the size of the rooms, considering the age and original use of the cottage!
The yellow bedroom with twin beds and floral bedding seemed bright and cheery even on the dreary rainy day that I arrived.
The second upstairs bedroom was decorated in a lovely shabby chic violet, with full beds.
The cottage was so comfy, it would have been easy to just nest inside, but of course one of the major advantages of staying on site at the plantation is being able to explore the grounds even after visiting hours. Everything on site is within easy walking distance, including the main house, the ruins of the sugar mill and slave quarters, picnic grounds, the old family cemetery and more.
It was a special treat to wander around after an evening rain taking in the beauty and history while being serenaded by the frogs in Varner Creek.
For information about making a reservation for your stay at the Varner-Hogg Plantation, visit https://bit.ly/2oHdpkB
Have you ever stayed at a historic site? If so, which one and did you enjoy it?
Texas traditions can originate from almost anywhere in the world, thanks to our diverse history of immigration. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of Mexico’s customs have been brought north of the border. The most colorful, and thought by many to be mysterious, celebration is Dia de los Muertos.
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When I first approached a group of friends about having a Dia de los Muertos party, they were a bit hesitant. “Isn’t that kind of morbid?” “Isn’t that a celebration of death?”
The simple answer is no – it’s something much more upbeat than you may think.
Luckily, a few of them had seen the Disney Pixar movie “Coco” that familiarized American audiences with the celebration through a powerful story about family, community, tradition and remembrance. Think about Memorial Day, and the concept doesn’t seem so strange.
The gist is to celebrate the lives of our ancestors, rather than mourn their passing, by incorporating food, drink and activities they enjoyed in life. Family members create “altars” in their homes with photos of loved ones surrounded by offerings of food, flowers and mementos. Others visit family cemeteries to decorate ancestors’ graves and share stories about their lives. The days of the celebration surround the Catholic “All Souls Day” on November 2. (So it isn’t really a ‘Halloween thing” like many think.)
Many of us no longer live in the communities of our ancestors, so circles of friends tend to become our new families. That’s why I thought having our own Dia de los Muertos celebration together would be a fun chance to celebrate all of our families and have some fun and great food at the same time! (Plus, I have some talented friends, so we’re always up for a reason to celebrate together!)
You can easily put together your own party as well.
Be sure to incorporate photos of loved ones who’ve passed, and share their stories. It keeps their spirit and your family lore alive.
I not only included photos of my mother, who we lost last year to Alzheimers, but also made tissue paper flowers for decorations – a craft she taught me as a child.
Attention to the smallest details can make a theme like this really come together. The talented Evangeline Event Designs made adorable sugar skull invitations and colorful menu cards, and I found some adorable small decorative accents, as well as a beautiful embroidered skull dishcloth at Hendley Market. The bright Fiestaware plates and platters are from Yesterday’s Best.
No Mexican theme meal is complete without tamales. We loved these from Pennie’s Tex Mex Takeout.
Alicia from The Kitchen Chick made chorizo with apricot sauce, Bob Armstrong queso (from the “Queso!” recipe book she carries in her store), and an amazing Blackberry Mezcal Smash Cocktail.
Our friend Stacy, otherwise known as the Hurried Hostess, made amazing fruit tacos and a churro bar. Yum-ola!
But the item that really had us all gasping in disbelief were the gorgeous cookies created by Jennifer from Good Gosh Ganache. I mean, really…look at these beauties!
Our friends Hailey and Tamara used their styling talents to help our buffet look amazing. Making this event such a group effort made it even more special.
Many communities in Texas offer the opportunity to experience Dia de los Muertos, including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Victoria and Austin. Check your local community calendar to see if there’s one near you, and celebrate!
Among the most famous and tantalizing stories to come from the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” franchise is one that begins with a death at the Tremont House Hotel in Galveston.
The curious tale began when a young actor named Charles Francis Coghlan visited a gypsy fortuneteller. The mystical soothsayer told Coghlan that he would die at the height of his fame in a southern U. S. city – but that he would have no rest until he returned home.
The prediction tormented Coghlan, disturbing him so much that he repeated it to friends and co-workers numberous times in the course of his life.
Over the next thirty years, Coghlan became one of the most famous actors of his day, appearing on stages across the U.S. and Europe. During the rare weeks that he did not appear on the stage, he and his wife retreated to their beloved home on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
On October 30, 1899, Coghlan arrived in Galveston with his performing troupe, ready to present one of his own works, titled “The Royal Box.”
He never had the chance to appear on stage on the island, however. He became seriously ill with what doctors at the time diagnosed as acute gastritis. His understudy, Mr. Robinson, received wonderful reviews often mistakenly credited to Coghlan in print.
The actor’s wife remained with him, transcribing the first four acts of a new play, which he dictated while resting for four weeks. But, after an abrupt relapse of pain, he died in bed at the Tremont Hotel on November 27, with his distraught wife by his side. He was 57 years old and at the peak of his career.
His body was taken to the Levy Brothers Funeral Home, while his wife attempted to make arrangements in a strange city far from family and friends.
The grieving widow knew that her husband, upon his death, had wanted to be cremated and buried in New York. Galveston did not have a crematorium at the time, so she arranged for her husband’s body to be sh
ipped to the nearest facility in St. Louis.
By the time those preparations were made, a flood of demands from family and admirers insisted he be taken immediately to New York. It is no wonder that confusion exists about the final arrangements for the disposition of the actor’s body. Unfortunately, the funeral home records from this time were destroyed in 1979.
Her funds and energy exhausted, Coughlan’s widow had his remains placed in a temporary receiving vault at the Lakeview Cemetery until she could manage to have him sent to New York the following year.
In September of the following year, the infamous 1900 Storm hit Galveston, killing thousands and sweeping coffins out of mausoleums and vaults. Though the vault where Coghlan’s body was constructed of heavy granite blocks, it was washed away like so many other structures on the island.
Those coffins that were recovered were reinterred in the cemetery, but many were never found. Coughlan’s casket, which was among the missing, had been caught in the swift-running current and believed to have been swept into the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Actor’s Club offered a sizable reward, but the casket was never located.
Because his widow had purchased an elaborate cast iron casket for her beloved, it is highly unlikely it could do anything but sink in a body of water.
In 1929, an edition of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” published a rumor that had developed in the years after the storm.
The original Ripley feature said: “Charles Coughlan comes home! He died in 1899, and he was buried in Galveston. When the tragic flood came his coffin was washed out to sea and the Gulf Stream carried his around Florida and up the coast to Prince Edward Island – 2,000 miles distant – where he had lived.”
Ripley mentioned in October of 1908, fishermen spied a large box floating the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Snagging it with their nets, they pulled the badly damaged object to shore. A silver plate was revealed after cleaning off a few barnacles, which identified it as the casket of Charles Coughlan.
The legend tells that the actor was taken to his home church on Prince Edward Island and buried near the church where he was baptized in 1841. His wandering spirit was finally home.
Truth or Urban Myth?
Numerous books and articles have been written about the incident over the years, with slight to outrageous changes in the details. A brief internet search yields several versions of the story.
Local cemetery records of the small church on Prince Edward are considered to be complete and accurate. They show no sign of Charles Coughlan’s burial, and no gravestone exists.
It was reported that his daughter, actress Gertrude Coughlan Pitou visited Prince Edward in the 1980s and stated that her father’s remains had not been recovered or reinterred in Galveston. This report is seemingly eerie enough, since Gertrude herself died in 1952!
His sister, actress Rose Coughlan, was highly offended by the stories about her brother and she asked Robert Ripley for a retraction. Ripley, ever the savvy businessman, declined. He credited Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, a Shakespearean actor and friend of Coughlan, for sharing the story with the publication.
The question remains: If Charles Coughlan is not at home at rest, and not in Lakeview Cemetery…where is he?
(I’m re-posting this from my former blog “Headstones and Footnotes” because I have some fun updates to share as a follow-up!)
While walking through the LaPorte Cemetery in Harris County, Texas this gravestone caught my attention. It’s a lovely marker in wonderful shape, despite being over 100 years old. But what intrigued me is that someone seems to be missing.
Only half of the stone is engraved.
“Eliza, beloved wife of A.C. Israel”was interred here in 1910, having passed away at the age of 64. The other side of the marker was obviously left blank in wait for the passing of her husband…but where is he? Unless he is breaking a Guinness World record for age, surely he has passed away by now.
“A.C. Israel” was Alexander Charles Israel, who was born in Ohio in 1844 to native residents of that state. The family also lived in Meigsville, Ohio (1850 census) and St. Louis Missouri (1860).
On September 8, 1864 Alexander married Elizabeth Williams, who was born n 1845 in New York. She was the daughter of Henry Williams (b. 1823) and Harriet (born 1825).
Alexander and Elizabeth lived in Concord, Missouri (1870 census) ad Rock, Missouri (1880) before moving to Texas. They had three daughters together:
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Harriet Israel (Serface) b. 1867-1913
Emma Florence Israel (Serface) b. 1869 – 1954
Cora Belle Israel b. 1871 – 1923
Family photo shows : Alexander Charles and Eliza and their daughters Emma Florence (left), Libby (top) and Cora Belle (bottom).
Elizabeth died in 1910, leaving Alexander a widower.
He was recorded as living in LaPorte, Texas by the 1910 census with his occupation listed as owner of a blacksmith shop. A 38-year-old servant, Lillie Brown, and her six-year-old daughter Helen lived with him. He was still living in Harris County at the time of the 1920 census.
Alexander passed away on May 22, 1922 in Harris County, Texas.
I can find no record of his burial in the LaPorte Cemetery, or in the cemeteries where Elizabeth Harriet (who died just three years after her mother and is interred in Houston) or Emma Florence rest. I have found no grave listing for little Cora.
So the mystery remains…where was Alexander buried. It’s possible that he was laid to rest beside his wife and the engraving was never ordered. It’s sad, but I’ve seen it happen several times.
I have contacted a descendant of the family in an attempt to find Alexander, but haven’t received an answer. Perhaps someone reading this will have a clue.
Until then, his resting place remains a mystery.
Is Eliza still waiting for her beloved husband to join her? “Stay tuned” to find out…
During the Thanksgiving holidays, we are surrounded by symbols of harvest and bounty. One of the most popular symbols of the season’s bounty is a sheaf of wheat, which is why it is often incorporated into decorations.
The image is so connected with bounty and prosperity that it was at one time used on United States currency.
Religiously, the image of wheat has a deeper meaning. Wheat is baked into the Eucharist, a motif of everlasting life through belief in Jesus. Therefore when wheat is used on gravestones or memento mori, it represents a divine harvest – being cut to resurrect the “harvest” into everlasting life or immortality.
Wheat has also been symbolic of love and charity in the bible, and was a popular emblem used by Masons.
The wheat sheaf can also signify a long and fruitful life, often more than 70 years.
So the net time you see an image of wheat on a grave, check the lifespan of the person who the stone memorializes.
Folklore and customs concerning death and cemeteries can run from humorous to gruesome, and are almost always entertaining. Most of us have heard it’s bad luck to walk across a grave or speak ill of the dead, but if you didn’t know that collecting epitaphs could cause you to lose your memory perhaps you should read on…just in case!
As soon as death occurs, the mirrors and pictures in the room should be covered or turned where they can’t be looked upon. It is bad luck to let the reflection of the corpse be seen in the mirror.
Cover mirrors with black crepe or veiling to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the looking glass
A European tradition says that if you look into the mirror before the body is removed, you can see the deceased looking over your shoulder.
Sweeping the home before the corpse is taken out will ensure that the person who does so will be the next to die.
Take care that you do not see your reflection in a hearse, or you will be the next to be carried in it.
Being the first to leave the cemetery after a funeral is bad luck and could bring you death.
The person who walks out in front of the coffin as it is being taken from the house will be the next to die.
If the body of the deceased is limp for some time after death, another member of the family will soon follow.
A corpse should leave any home or building feet-first, or else the corpse would be looking back at the building and calling for someone within to follow him in death.
Locking the door of your home after a funeral procession has left the house is bad luck.
It is also bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see one approaching, turn around or hold on to a button until the cortege passes.
If a funeral procession passes your home, draw the curtains or close the blinds to prevent the dead from entering your home.
Never count the number of cars in a funeral procession, as it is considered counting the days until the your own death
The corpse should not pass over any part of the same road twice or the spirit will lose its way.
If the funeral procession stops on its way to the cemetery, another death will soon follow.
It used to be believed that carrying a baby in a funeral procession would ensure that it would die before its first birthday.
A black cat crossing in front of a funeral procession means another death in that family.
It is a sign of bad luck, if a horse in a funeral procession becomes frisky.
Never look backward while in a funeral procession, or you will soon go to another funeral.
After a funeral, if two carriages from the same funeral meet at the intersection of two streets then go in opposite directions, expect another death.
If the deceased lived a good life flowers will bloom on his grave, but if he has been evil only weeds will grow.
Having only red and white flowers together in a vase (especially in a hospital) means death will soon follow.
Never take flowers from a grave or that spirit will haunt you.
A living flower taken from a gravesite will not grow.
If you smell roses when none are around, someone is going to die.
A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells a death
Do not put the clothes of a living person on a corpse. That person will die once the clothes decay.
A witch must be buried face down to prevent the community further supernatural spells. If this doesn’t work, unbury them and turn their clothes inside out, then re-bury them face down.
Removing the bed sheets from the home before the corpse leaves ensures another member of the family will soon die.
The Irish believe in wearing black to appear to be a shadow, so that the dead person won’t enter your body.
It is bad luck to wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.
If you bury someone with a veil over their face and the veil gets in their mouth, they will call the family away.
Family photographs should be placed face down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.
If you hear three knocks and no one is there, it usually means someone close to you has died. The superstitious call this the three knocks of death.
A knife falling to the floor means a loved one has died.
If a picture suddenly falls off the wall, someone has died.
Stop the clocks at the time of death to show the departed that “time was over” for him or her.
On the night after November 1, a candle should be lit for each deceased relative and placed in a window.
If coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup form a straight line, you can expect a funeral
Dropping an umbrella on the floor or opening one in the house means that there will be a murder in the house.
A hat on the bed means death in the family.
If you spill salt, throw a pinch of the spilt salt over your shoulder to prevent death.
If an undertaker leaves anything of his trade at the house and it remains there after the funeral, someone in that family will soon die.
If a broom is rested against a bed, the person who sleeps there will die soon.
Taking ashes out of a stove after sundown will bring a death in the family.
It’s Black & White
A white moth inside the house or trying to get in means death.
If several deaths occur in the same family, tie a black ribbon to everything left alive that enters the house, even chickens and dogs. This will protect against deaths spreading further.
A diamond-shaped fold in clean linen foreshadows death.
If you bury a woman in all black with no color on her dress, she will always come back and haunt the family.
Meeting a white chicken on your way to a funeral is an omen of bad luck.
Fending Off Spirits
A corpse should be carried out feet first to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow.
You should always cover your mouth while yawning so your spirit doesn’t leave you and the devil enter your body.
Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so evil or the spirit of someone who has recently died can’t enter.
As soon as the person is dead and in the clothes in which they are to be buried, a dish of salt should be put on their chest to keep evil spirits away.
Never cry on a dead person because if the tears fall on them, it makes it harder for the spirit to leave this world.
If for some reason you find yourself needing to bury a body, bury them at a crossroads and their spirit won’t be able to leave.
Make sure windows and doors are open after a person dies to ensure their spirit a speedy journey to the other side.
Turning over a shoe under the bed when the dogs howl at night to prevent death from possessing you.
Pallbearers must wear white gloves so the spirit can’t enter their bodies.
East or West
Graves should be oriented so that the bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to the East. This old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun worshippers, but is primarily attributed to Christians who believe that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.
The bed of a gravely ill person should never be placed north and south, and always east and west with the head toward the west. This will speed the process of dying and reduce suffering.
In the Cemetery
Tuck your thumbs into your fists when passing a cemetery to protect your parents.
The spirit of the last person buried in a cemetery must stand watch over all the others.
Never whistle inside the cemetery walls, or you will summon the devil.
A pregnant woman should not go to a cemetery or her infant may be possessed.
Visiting a cemetery after dark will bring you bad luck.
Go to a cemetery, get some black dirt off a grave and put that dirt under steps you have to walk over, and you will always have luck.
The person who takes something from a cemetery will return more than he took.
Graves & Burials
Being near an open grave will cure a toothache.
Being buried on the north side of the church is considered unlucky because of the lack of sun. That area is usually reserved for criminals and suicides.
The shovels and other tools used to dig a grave used to be left at the gravesite for a day or more after the burial, as moving them too soon would bring bad luck.
Graves should never be left open overnight. It will lead to another death.
If the casket slips while it is being lowered into the grave, another death will soon follow.
Leaving the grave before it is filled will welcome another death to follow.
It is bad luck to point at a grave, because the dead will see you.
Naturally, the post of guardian was to be avoided if possible, so, when two bodies arrive for interment at the same time, a rush was made by the friends of the deceased in order to prevent their friend from being “last man in.”
If the coffin does not go into the hole easily, it is because the devil does not want the deceased.
If you have an involuntary shiver, someone has just walked over your grave
Never bury anyone on Thursday or Saturday, as it will result in bad luck.
Never bury anything, such as toys with a child, or other family members will soon die.
If a firefly or lightening bug gets into a house someone will soon die.
If a bird pecks at or crashes into your window, there has been a death.
If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die.
The cry of a curlew foretells a death.
If a red-breasted robin flies into a house, death will shortly follow.
When the head of the household dies, one must go out and whisper the news of the death to the bees, or all in the home will meet the same fate. Bees were believed in past to be the messengers of the gods, so when informed, bees would take the news to them.
If the deceased cared for an orchard or any fruit trees, the trees must be informed of the passing.
If a turtle dove flies upward after a death, the soul of the deceased will go to heaven.
A person cannot die on a mattress with feathers of wild fowl, so when someone is dying a slow death, the person must be carried to a different mattress to ease the suffering.
If a cow moos after midnight, it is an evil omen.
If you are going to a funeral and meet a mad dog, it will cause you bad luck.
The cry of an owl symbolizes death. Where it builds a nest, ghosts will haunt for as long as the bird stays.
The crowing of a rooster signals wandering ghosts that it is time for them to disappear until nightfall.
It’s in the Numbers
Death comes in threes.
If thirteen people sit down at a table to eat, one of them will die before the year is over.
If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.
If two people in the same house are sick and one dies, the other will improve in health.
The first person that leaves the graveyard after a funeral will bring a death to his family.
A person who walks over three graves will die before the year is out.
Perchance to Dream
One who sees themself die in a dream, will die in reality.
If a person dreams about a birth, someone they know will die.
To dream of a deceased person in an agitated state means that they are in hell. To dream of them in a pleasant state means they have gone to heaven.
Touching a corpse on the forehead assures you will not dream of the dead.
On the Money
Leave a coin at the gate of the deceased family’s home for good luck.
Coins placed over the eyes of the deceased kept them from coming open. If the eyes of the corpse remained open, he was said to be looking for a follower and another death would soon happen
Finding a four-leaf clover on a grave foretells a friend coming to visit to give you some money.
As long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse will not rest in its grave.
A final word to the wise: shaving with a dead man’s razor will turn a beard prematurely gray. Consider yourself warned.
Today is the 115th Anniversary of the tragic 1900 hurricane in Galveston, that took thousands of lives. I thought it was only proper for today’s post to pay tribute to a veteran who lost his life in that storm.
Johann “John” Karl “Charles” Seidenstricker was an immigrant who proved his allegiance and dedication to his new country soon after his arrival.
Born on September 7, 1842 in Bad Duerkeim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany, Johann immigrated to America by himself when he was only 18 years old. He arrived in New Orleans aboard the ship Kate Dyer on February 4, 1861, just two months before the Civil War began.
He served as a private in Company F of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry, while they were stationed in Donaldsonville, Louisiana south of Baton Rouge. In December, joined by companies from nearby Fort Pike, the unit was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton.
From there, Johann took part in the Red River campaign and was engaged with loss at Sabine Cross Road on April 4, 1864. He re-enlisted during the winter and left on July 21 for furlough in Massachusetts, returning to Donaldsonville in November.
The regiment took part in the operations against Mobile, Alabama and occupied the city after the surrender. Johann remained on duty there until he mustered out on July 31, 1865.
Johann was naturalized in New Orleans on April 30, 1866, no doubt largely in thanks to his service to the country during the war.
While in New Orleans he met NOLA native Married Elenora Johanna Phillippi (1842-1906). They married on September 10, 1866 at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church in Carrollton, Louisiana.
Johann, now known by his Anglicized name John, and his wife moved to Galveston, and raised a large family, which included Charles Louis “Carl Ludwig” (1868-1925), Elenora Johanna (1869-1962), Emma (1872-1958), Anna Elizabeth (1874-1945), Bertha (1876-1946), Frederick Godfred (1878-1946), Henry William (1881-1952), and Maude Louise (1883-1953).
He became an active member of the community, and was eventually elected a trustee of Knights of Honor’s Goethe Lodge No. 2976, one of two lodges of this fraternal beneficiary society in the city.
The building where he worked is now part of the historic Strand shopping district, on the second floor above Head to Footsies, The Admiralty and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
In 1900, the couple and four of their children (Bertha, Frederick, Henry and Maude) lived together at 1209 Avenue N, very close to what is now Stewart’s Beach.
On September 8, 1900 a hurricane which is still the nation’s worst natural disaster struck the city, smashing buildings and killing thousands of people. John was one of those lost in the tragedy. It was the day after his birthday.
Because of the debris, bodies were found for months, and even years, after the storm. With John missing, I can only imagine his family checking the listings of identified bodies found each day in the local newspaper…praying for an answer.
John’s body was eventually discovered and identified by his son Charles. He was buried on Oct. 20, 1900 in Galveston’s Lakeview Cemetery.
Johanna died November 10, 1906 at her home at 1202 Church Street at the age of 54. She is buried at Lakeview as well.
Of the more than 90 angels to be found at Houston’s historic Glenwood cemetery, one stands apart in its pose and popularity. The “Weeping Angel” at the Hill family plot is one of the most visited statues on the grounds for good reason: she is stunningly beautiful. Her hair, unbound, is highly unusual for the portrayal of heavenly being during this time period as well.
Angels of Grief, or Weeping Angel statues can be found all over the world. They portray an angel dressed in classical Roman clothes, collapsed across a monument overcome by sorrow. Her drooping wings and face hidden in crossed arms depict a deep state of mourning.
The phrase “Weeping Angel” has a totally different connotation for fans of the BBC show “Dr. Who.” Interestingly enough, those characters were inspired by writer Steven Moffat’s visit to a family graveyard, where he saw similar statues.
Glenwood’s angel is one of five of these mournful creatures that can be found in Texas.
Locally known as “Grief,” the angel in Waco’s (McLennan County), Holy Cross Cemetery marks the resting place of merchant Emilio Davila (1864-1928) and his wife Juanita (1886-1928).
Dallas’ Grove Hill Memorial Parks angel guards the graves of Frank W. (1872-1921) and Myrtel Pickens Blakeney (1878-1962).
William Scott Youree (1872-1904) died while in Mexico. His parents and sister erected a Weeping Angel to mark his grave in the Scottsville Cemetery in Scottsville (Harrison County). His sister Susie Rose Youree (1881-1974) now rests there with him. She is missing her left hand – the most common damage found in these statues. (Houston’s version lost her hand to vandalism, but it has been repaired in recent years.)
In Denison’s (Grayson County) Calvary Cemetery, a grieving angel watches over the Lindsay family plot.
Famed sculptor Frank Teich created the angels in Houston and Scottsville. Scottsville cemetery has been said to have the largest collection of the famous stone artist’s work in one place. Glenwood has numerous, stunning examples of his work as well.
Frank Teich was a sculptor and stonecutter, born in Germany in 1856. He supervised the stonecutters and inspected the granite used in for the state capital building in Austin. He later opened Teich Monumental Works creating such pieces as the Confederate and Firemen’s monuments on the capitol grounds in Austin, the Sam Houston monument in Houston, and other famous stone and bronze works.
These five Texas angels, as well as others across the world, are based upon the “Angel of Grief,” a 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story. It serves as the grave marker of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy.
When Story’s beloved wife Emelyn died at the age of 74, the sculptor fell into despair and ceased to work. His children encouraged him to return to sculpting, if only to create a monument for their mother, and he did. After completing the statue, he left his studio and never returned. He died the following year.
The story associated with these beautiful creations is just as poignant and beautiful as they are.