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Posts published in July 2007

40 Acres and a Mule

“Undependable as a Government Mule”. “Worthless as a Government Mule”. We have always heard these phrases and it is interesting as to just how they, and many more divergent comments came about. Ironically, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman during his infamous and tyrannical march to the sea in the Civil War, issued Special Field Order No. 15 that, in part, granted all Freedmen (male slaves) Forty acres of land along with a mule with which they might work the land for crops.
That figure of forty acres apparently came from approximately four hundred freedmen somewhat collected along the route Sherman took on his way from Virginia to Atlanta and the port city of Savannah. Many of these freed slaves followed Sherman who, to them, was considered their liberator. But many problems were to develop concerning Sherman’s authority to live up to his promise. The congress of the Union made several unsuccessful attempts to reconcile the grant and see to it the slaves received awards they hoped for.
The land was to be confiscated from plantation owners who owned more than two hundred acres. That amount of land was made available to be four hundred thousand acres. Disbursement of mules used in the march was no longer needed by the army and could also be made available. Logistics became a big issue. Who would take care of the mules in the meantime? And who knows what and who would get the grants? On top of that, President Lincoln was assassinated. Then Vice President Andrew Johnson took over with a vowed claim to veto any such action by the Congress concerning the forty acres.

All the while the poor and confused slaves began to wonder who was going to take care of them. And, at least, where was that Government Mule? It didn’t happen. What did happen during that march was much destruction of life and property in the path taken by this march. Generals Sherman, Grant, Slocum and Howard carried out the mission showing little mercy. The freedmen faced hardships never before imagined.
One of the main objectives in the destructive advance by the Union forces was to obliterate all possibility of supplies coming northward toward Virginia and Lee’s army. Bridges were burned and rails from the rail roads were bent around trees and became known as Sherman’s bow ties.
Sherman handed down still another order that rang terror throughout his passage toward Savannah. He ordered the troops by order number IV as follows: “The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. ‘Gather corn, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by your command.”
Order V: “Commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton gins, etc.
Order VI: “As for horses, mules, wagons, etc., belonging to inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery units may appropriate freely and without limit.” Discriminating between rich and poor was considered unnecessary.
Sherman’s declaration of “40 Acres and a Mule” became a challenge introduced to the Congress by Thaddeus Stevens. This portion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act was defeated by the Union Congress on February 5, l866 by a vote of l26 to 36. Lands which had been, or intended to be, distributed to freedmen were reclaimed and returned to the previous owner. Even in this action there was no mention of a mule to be furnished to the freedmen or any other type animal.
Finally, Congress overrode President Johnson’s veto. They voted to extend the life of Freedmen’s Bureau. However, there seemed to be no provision for granting land to the freedmen, other than to provide them access to the Southern Homestead Act as available to all.
From the tragic experience of this costly War Between the States both in property and lives, could there ever be a point of comic relief? Maybe so; and it came from an innocent joke being told at one of our Texas colleges of higher learning.
The professor in American History class was expounding on the horrors of Sherman’s march to the sea. He accounted in great detail of his march into Richmond and the burning of homes a properties. He further suggested that acts harmful to its many citizens caused much suffering for all.
At that point the nervous student could take no more. Alarm was seen on his face as he leaped to his feet and shouted, “Professor, I never heard that story about Richmond; and I have lived in Rosenberg all my life.”

Bob Jamison is a freelance writer. Contact him at

Floodwaters damage bridge over Trinity

KENEFICK—Floods along Trinity River made some unexpected trouble last week when rising water forced a partial collapse of the Union Pacific Bridge that crosses the river at Kenefick.
According to Liberty County Emergency Management Coordinator Ken DeFoor during the morning of June 20 rising floodwaters caused one the concrete piers that support the bridge to collapse, causing a sag in the middle.
Joe Arbona, a spokesman for UP said they were alerted at 9:40 a.m. When a crew arrived at the bridge they found one of the supports missing, presumably washed away by the current.
Arbona said that bridge was not in use at the time of the collapse, so there was no injury to personnel. However, injury to trade is another matter. On a typical day an estimated 20 freight trains run this line between Beaumont and Houston. The line is also a popular route for Amtrac passenger trains.
Derek Townley, a reconstruction supervisor with UP said that repairs should take about two weeks to complete. During this time traffic will be diverted to the line that runs through Liberty and Dayton along Highway 90.
Despite a break in the rain on Saturday and Sunday, DeFoor said that flooding still continues to be a problem along the river. On Saturday, DeFoor announced the following roads were either closed or covered with water: CR 2550 in Old Snake River has water over the road as you come into the subdivision and over the first bridge on CR 2255; Dayton Lake Estates on CR 2331 has water over the road and in place is about 4 feet deep; Kenefick Plaza on CR 344 has about one foot of water over the road and The River Bend RV Park in Liberty has about one foot of water covering the area. Also, F.M. 563 south of Liberty is closed due to high water just inside the City Limits of Liberty; roads leading into Knight’s Forest are only passable in high profile vehicles; Water is over the roads in the rear of Simmons Bottom off CR 2326; the entrance into Trinity River Lake Estates is closed and only accessible to high profile vehicles and roads into Mason Lake Estates are closed and only accessible to high profile vehicles.
On Monday, the gage at the Highway 90 entrance to West Liberty was reading 28.76 feet. Flood stage was reached at 26 feet. The flooding has been attributed to a higher than normal discharge rate from the Lake Livingston Dam. On Monday the discharge rate was 60,800 cubit feet per second. Anything above 30,000 CFS will cause flooding in low-lying areas along the river.

Barbers Hill Registration

New student registration for Barbers Hill ISD will be Aug. 8 and 9 at all campuses. Registration will be from 8:30-11 a.m. and 1-6 p.m. Additionally, new student registration for the Kindergarten Center will be Aug. 13 from 8:30-11 a.m. and 1-5 p.m. and Aug. 14 from 12 to 7 p.m.
Returning student registration is Aug. 13 at all campuses from 8:30-11 a.m. and 105 p.m. and Aug. 14 at all campuses from 12-7 p.m. Primary and Kindergarten returning students must register during the times listed. A $30 nonrefundable deposit will be collected at registration from each middle and high school student for use of laptop computers.

Options favor Highlands students to 3rd High School

BAYTOWN—In April over 100 citizens jammed the Goose Creek CISD Board Room to let trustees know what they thought about two high school zoning plans that were being considered.
The plans, called “X” and “Z” were part of a proposal to create socio-economic equality among the soon-to-be three high schools.
Among those speaking against the plans were Highlands Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce President Jessica Woods and the Rev. Tim Edwards from First Baptist Church of Highlands.
Under those plans, Highlands students would continue to attend Sterling, which is 10 miles from Highlands rather than the new high school, which is four miles away.
Highlands to attend new school
It seems that Highlands’ concerns have been heard.
Two plans now being considered by the board, Option 1 (formerly AB6-4.1) and Option 2 (formerly AB5-2) both call for Highlands to attend the new third high school which will open in Fall 2008.
Before making their final decision, the board would like to hold two more public forums. When to hold them, however, is the sticking point.

During this week’s Board of Trustees meeting Deputy Superintendent Toby York said that it would not be possible to hold the meetings before school resumes on Aug. 27. Between now and that date, he said, the district’s print shop is too busy preparing documents for the start of school to have time to make the required documents for a public forum.
Forum dates likely in September
Among the dates considered for possible forums were Sept. 11 and 13 and Sept. 25 and 27. The board also discussed a compromise of Sept. 20 and 25. The forums would be held one night at Lee High School and another night at Sterling High.
The board, however, did not set a firm date for the forums.
These forums are important for the board to get more public input before they make their final decision that is tentatively set for Oct. 8. The adopted attendance zones will figure prominently in the district’s projects attendance figures for 2008. The University Interscholastic League has requested these figures by mid-October so they can began preparing for state-wide district realignment which takes place every two years.
Name sought for new high school
Goose Creek is seeking community input for the name of the district’s third high school. The school, located at North Main Street and Wallisville Road, is scheduled to open at the start of the 2008-09 school year.        
Citizens may send their suggestions for the school name to the GCCISD Superintendent’s Office at P.O. Box 30, Baytown, TX 77522.  According to GCCISD Board Policy, the nomination should include three paragraphs containing biographical data about the nominee, the significant contribution of the nominee, and a statement of why the school should be named after that person. It is also usual for the person NOT to be living.
Written nominations also may be faxed to 281-420-4815, e-mailed to, or brought to the GCCISD Administration Building, 4544 Interstate 10 East.
The GCCISD Board of Trustees will hold a public forum on Aug. 16 for community members who would like to present their suggestions for the name of the new high school. 
During the forum, the Board will hear nominations from citizens as well as review written nominations.  Presentations will be limited to three minutes per person, with no more than five individuals speaking per nomination.
It is a chance to be heard before the decision is reached.

Highlands torches tower note, early

Highlands Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief and Harris County ESD#14 Commissioners burned the mortgage note on a $57,815 repeating tower Monday, July 23, in front of the Wallisville Road Fire Station #2. ( r) Kristi Stallins, Johnny Gaeke, Chief Harvey Little (in a bit of irony set the fire,) Alton Neatherlin, Chester Stasney, Jimmy Strouhal (held the flaming note,) Glen Chisholm, Jerry Ickes, Attorney Judy Robinson, and Kenneth Boudreaux. President Strouhal said, “This was a five year note through the efforts of the community and other groups that contributed to the fund we were able to retire that note a few months early. This community supports our efforts not only through their tax dollars but through contributions also. With their support we were able to improve the equipment and maintain a fire district in which we can be proud.” Chief Little adds, “This tower helps enable us to respond to calls, the dispatcher notifies us of a situation through signals relayed through this tower and repeater system. We couldn’t have paid for it if not for donations of the people of Highlands through the water department.”

Former county employee pleads guilty to theft

LIBERTY—A former Liberty County employee charged with stealing thousands of dollars from the County Clerks office has pled guilty to felony theft.
Cheryl Ann Holstein entered a plea of guilty on July 2 in the 253rd District Court in Liberty.
Judge Chap Cain III sentenced Holstein to five years deferred adjudication and 300 hours of community service, was fined $1,000 and was ordered to pay $1,500 in court-appointed attorney’s fees and $318 in court costs. She must also pay back the county restitution and interest amounting to $19,348.
Mike Little, Liberty County District Attorney, said that $17,000 of that must be paid by Oct. 2, or face revocation of probation.
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chip Fairchild said that case first came to light in September 2003 when County Clerk Delia Sellers discovered approximately $12,000 missing as she was conducting a routine check of daily transactions.
Sellers alerted the sheriff’s office, which began an investigation.
During the course of the investigation investigators learned that the funds taken from the office during the first three months of 2003, Fairchild said. The investigation also led authorities to Holstein, who had worked in the office from August 2002 through March 2003.
In July 2006 a Liberty County Grand Jury indicted Holstein and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Holstein turned herself into authorities and was later release on a $5,000 bond.

The Call of the Whippoorwill

While walking to the truck this morning, a bird took flight just ahead of me. At first it looked like an owl and it landed on the other side of the truck, not far off. I walked over there and the bird took another short, flight landing on some concrete.
This time I walked directly up to the bird or as close as I thought I should get and observed the bird colors and feathers, thinking I should know what sort of bird it is.
Sure wish I had my camera too.
Sure as shooting, Google described the bird and has a picture of one exactly like it. It was a Whippoorwill, no doubt.
Used to hear them down in the river bottom of the Chattahoochee River way back when, and always when it was dark.
There is some folklore that goes with the Whippoorwill. An unmarried woman would listen for the sound of the Whippoorwill. One call means she’ll not get married for a year. Three calls mean she will be destined to be a spinster. Two calls means impending matrimony.

Google goes on to say that repetitious calls were often considered an omen of death to the Omaha Indians. The Ute Indians believed that the Whippoorwill was the god of the night and could magically change a frog into the moon.
Iroquois believed that the lady slipper was the Whippoorwill’s shoe.
The bird didn’t make any sound when I was around so reckon that means it didn’t want to be bothered.
It made my day to say the least, it is not everyday that one sees a Whippoorwill much less know what one is. Have you ever heard the call of a Whippoorwill?
The twin son from Pennsylvania and his clan have been down all week; they went back this afternoon with web feet.
He and I put up 15 pints of chowchow early one morning and got in the dog house with Big Momma. She said we started too early and should have waited a bit.
With the two granddaughters, I always take them to Wal-Mart one morning at six o’clock; they love it. This trip we took the other granddaughter with us. Ages 12, 10 & 5.
Do believe they can smell the toy section of the store because that was their direction.
Then next thing I know they are looking at bras. Nearly dropped my teeth when the 10 year old got one.
I made a comment about why she was buying a sling shot so when we got home, she told on me.