Monday, June 4, 2012

Roots of Suite 8-F Members

Membership List?

Lamar Hotel, part of Jesse Jones' empire
My understanding of the men and Mrs. William P. (Oveta Culp) Hobby--who, to my knowledge, was the only woman considered part of the "crowd"--was that they were simply visiting Herman Brown's suite unofficially. There was no "membership list" because there were no "official" members. I think they just jokingly referred to themselves in this way because they had heard references to Eastern financiers as members of various "crowds".

It would be more akin to a financial syndicate or even an unofficial lodge where men get together to talk about business (in Texas they say "bidness") opportunities--to share knowledge with "trusted" colleagues. Politics was viewed merely as another means of making their business dreams a reality. 

However, most of them grew up in Texas only a decade or two removed from the post-war reconstruction era, an age which taught them to distrust "Yankees" who would use every political contrivance to despoil their land and take advantages of the resources located within Texas. They were committed to restoring what they saw as the glory of the Texas Empire. In that sense they would have been "right wing," as I understand the term. To me the term conservative means maintaining the economic status quo, while right-wing means going backward to a previous status.

The people who were hobnobbing in Herman's rooms had never had much status to speak of. Their only claim to fame was the fact that one or more of their ancestors had arrived in Texas somewhere around the initial days of the Republic in 1836, and they had either heard stories about that or had invented some significance from that fact. Like all groups favoring control by oligarchy, they wanted to set themselves apart from others into some sort of special elite, and they wanted to wrest political control out of the hands of those whom they felt were inclined to keep them down. I doubt they had any understanding of history, though it is important, I believe, for us who are looking back, to understand what actually happened.

Texas History 

Texas was born in the days of Andrew Jackson, a man from Virginia who moved to Tennessee (then called the western frontier) and found himself strapped economically by  the Second Bank of the United States, the stock ownership of which was within the control of the second or third generation of family inheritance. Jackson had fallen in with others who had been called "anti-federalists" during the post-revolutionary era, a philosophy  espoused by Aaron Burr. Burr's attempt to promote the building of a separate "empire" within lands to the south and west of Tennessee was rewarded with his unsuccessful prosecution for treason in 1807, only a few years before the War of 1812 resulted in an American blockade against trade with Great Britain, our enemy. 

General Jackson won the battle in New Orleans during the War of 1812, and then returned to Tennessee, mentoring young Sam Houston, who went to Texas, then part of Spanish Mexico, and won the Battle of San Jacinto, the culmination of Texas' war of independence. Most of those who met in Herman's suite claimed some connection to "Texians" of that day and celebrated San Jacinto Day (April 21)--then a Texas state holiday--as Americans do the 4th of July.

As the civil war approached, however, Sam Houston--first as President of the independent nation of Texas, and later as governor of the annexed State of Texas--opposed secession. As a result, rabid secessionists forced him out of office. The "Order of the Knights of San Jacinto," created originally as a secret Masonic-type society following the principles of Sam Houston, began to resemble the views of those who advocated the Southern Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan which rose to prominence again during the prohibition era. 

Remember San Jacinto

End of Battle of San Jacinto
Lyndon Johnson claimed a relationship to the Texian heroes through his Bunton ancestors. Robert Dallek well documents the Bunton history in his book, Lone Star Rising (page 16 et seq.). Lyndon's maternal greatgrandfather, George Washington Baines, also gave him a right of entry into this secret society. Baines, a Baptist preacher and professor at one time in Independence, Texas, the early capital of the Republic formed in 1836, nevertheless had no roots in Texas until 1848, when he helped to organize a Baptist congregation in Marshall, Texas while he lived in Louisiana. It was in Louisiana that LBJ's mother's father, Joseph W. Baines, had been born in 1846, before the Baines family's move to Texas after annexation in 1845. In Independence, near Brenham, however, George Baines eventually became a friend of the man who had been President of the Republic of Texas.

Rebekah's father, Joseph, studied law under James Webb Throckmorton, whose father had been "a Whig of the Tennessee school," one of Sam Houston's most loyal political supporters as secession loomed:

Sam Houston
In the 1857 gubernatorial election he supported Sam Houston and unionist sentiment ... and became a political advisor to the governor and Houston's ally in attempting to restrain the forces within Texas who favored secession. Throckmorton's attempt to organize a state Union party attracted few supporters, and he watched helplessly as the events between 1859 and 1860 precipitated the crisis of 1861. He refused to concede, however, and was one of only seven delegates to the 1861 Secession Convention who voted against Texas withdrawal from the union.

Throckmorton was removed from office as governor in 1867 and prevented from holding office until after the passage of the General Amnesty Act of 1872. In 1874 he was elected to Congress and reelected in 1876 as an advocate of education and federal support of railroad expansion, reflecting interest of a client, the Texas and Pacific Railway Company, involved in unsuccessful litigation against the Southern Pacific Railroad, which led to a joint venture with Jay Gould of the Missouri Pacific.

Burleson baptizing Sam
G.W. Baines, while living in Independence, Texas, had not only met Sam Houston but had convinced him to be baptized, although it was Rufus C. Burleson, who succeeded Baines as pastor of Baines' church, who performed the rite. While in Independence, Baines encouraged women students at the Baptist female college (later called University of Mary Hardin-Baylor), where he was a trustee of  which moved from Independence to Belton, a town 60 miles north of Austin. The land in Belton was donated by Rufus Young King, a real estate developer, who was the maternal grandfather of George and Herman Brown, organizers of Brown and Root. Rufus King's parents were pioneers to Texas who had set out from North Carolina before 1828, the year Rufus was born in Alabama, which was then part of the Mississippi Territory. The Brown boys were born in Belton and grew up in Temple, a few miles away--both in Bell County --where future governors, "Pa" and "Ma" Ferguson were married and politically active. Much of the Browns' social and political network had originated in that same county, including Oveta Culp.

Stomping Grounds in Bell County

Baines' Salado home now a B and B
The 1880 census reflects that King (occupation merchant/drummer) was then living in Belton, Texas with his second wife and her parents, along with 22-year-old daughter Lucy King, who would become the mother of George and Herman Brown. In the same town was Annie Baines Rosebrough and her attorney husband William, the youngest child of G.W. Baines, with whom G.W. Baines resided. In 1867, the same year his son Joseph went to McKinney to study law under Throckmorton, G.W. Baines had moved to the town of Salado--in the same county as Belton, Temple and Killeen--from which he traveled as an agent for the Education Commission of the Baptist State Convention until 1881. He died of malaria in 1882.

Joseph Wilson Baines
LBJ's mother, Rebekah Baines, was a mere infant when her grandfather died. Her father, while Throckmorton's student in Collin County, Texas had married a local girl whose parents were wealthy farmers from Kentucky. Joseph taught school, studied law and then set up a newspaper while he lived there. He used his newspaper to support the election of John Ireland as governor in 1882 and 1884. Ireland served as governor until 1886, and in 1883 appointed Joseph W. Baines as his Secretary of State, which require Joseph to move his family to Austin only a year after his father's death; young Rebekah resided at 303 E. 14th Street, just east of where the State Capitol Building would be constructed. 

Governor Ireland, who had served in both the House and Senate of the Texas Legislature, where he opposed granting lands and subsidies to railroads, in particular to the International-Great Northern Railroad consolidated by the Gould network, which consumed Throckmorton's client, the T and P. Gov. Ireland helped establish the University of Texas and during his term of office the construction of the Texas Capitol building began with pink Texas granite from Marble Falls.

After Ireland left office, the Baines family moved further west to Blanco, 100 miles west of where the granite for the Capitol had been cut. After financial setbacks in Blanco, Baines settled in nearby Fredericksburg, where he and his wife reared two daughters (Josefa and Rebekah) and son Huffman, named for Mrs. Baines' father. Joseph died there in 1906, shortly after Rebekah had spent four years studying literature at various colleges, including Baylor Female College in Belton. She taught elocution in Fredericksburg before her marriage in 1907 to Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., and then worked as a stringer for newspapers in San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin. When Sam died in 1937, Rebekah Baines Johnson moved to Austin, where she died in 1958, having witnessed her son Lyndon's rise to the U.S. Senate.

Map of Bell County, Texas
Intriguing, however, is that LBJ's ancestors and those of the Browns were running in the same circles at the same time and could very well have had contacts with each other long before Lyndon ran for Congress.

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