Item description for Texian Macabre: The Melancholy Tale of a Hanging in Early Houston by Gary S. Zaboly Stephen L. Hardin...
Mandred Wood may have caught a glint off the Bowie knife that sank into his belly--but probably not. On the afternoon of November 11, 1837, he had exchanged "harsh epithets" with David James Jones, a hero of the Texas Revolution. When words failed, Jones closed the argument with his blade. Such affrays were common in Houston, the fledgling capital of the Republic of Texas. This one, however, was singular. Wood was a gentleman and Jones a member of a disruptive gang of vagrants that the upper crust denounced as the "rowdy loafers." Jones went to jail; Wood went to his grave.
In the weeks that followed, the killing resounded throughout the squalid, verminous city that one resident described as the "most miserable place in the world." Stephen L. Hardin's suspenseful and witty narrative reads like a contemporary page-turner, yet all is carefully documented history. He entwines the murder into the story of the sordid city like the strands of a hangman's rope.
It is an astonishing tale peopled by remarkable characters: the one-armed newspaper editor and political candidate who employs the crime to advance his sanctimonious agenda; the Kentucky lawyer who enjoys champagne breakfasts and collecting human skulls; the German immigrant who sees rats gnaw the finger off an infant lying in his cradle; the Alamo widow whose circumstances force her to practice the oldest profession; the sociopathic physician who slaughters an innocent man in a duel; the Methodist minister horrified by the drunken debaucheries of government officials; and the president himself--the Sword of San Jacinto--who during a besotted bacchanal strips to his underwear.
Skillfully conceived and masterfully written, Texian Macabre: A Melancholy Tale of a Hanging in Early Houston will transport readers to a lost time and place.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.2" Width: 6.3" Height: 1.1" Weight: 1.15 lbs.
Release Date Nov 30, 2007
Publisher State House Press
ISBN 1933337206 ISBN13 9781933337203
Reviews - What do customers think about Texian Macabre: The Melancholy Tale of a Hanging in Early Houston?
Entertaining Aug 23, 2008
Overloaded with antique adjectives and enough typos to make an honest proofreader weep, this narrative history by renowned Texas historian Stephen L. Hardin is nevertheless an entertaining look at the mudhole and (yellow) fever swamp that was the Republic's first capital. Gary S. Zaboly's gritty drawings--especially his bird's-eye view map (apparently unavailable on the Web) of the squalid little town on sluggish Buffalo Bayou--complement the period photographs of the major players. It's a view of early Texas that chauvinistic natives would rather outsiders didn't see (such as the two-room clapboard shanty that was President Sam Houston's first executive mansion) and a caution that even battlefield heroics can't guarantee a happy postwar life. Get a copy and be appalled, amused and advised.
The Untidy Birth of Houston May 21, 2008
A fascinating look at the near-dysfunctional founding of the city of Houston, which took root just as the dust was settling over the Texas War for Independence. It's an eye-popping revelation of the dawn of the first Texas capital, it's Dickensian characters, social order and bizarre caste system, not to mention its intolerable climate and general state of filth. Stephen Hardin, author of the seminal Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution, does what historians ought to do by transporting us to a different time and place and giving us a feel for what it was like to live there. Suffice to say that we would be as out of place in early Houston as we would be on Mars.
The story revolves around the hanging of David James Jones, one of thousands of furloughed Texan soldiers, who found themselves with little opportunity when their new country no longer had need of them. Mobs of them headed for Houston, where they remained idle and unemployable and became an embarrassment to the self-styled gentry and stiff-necked moralists who wanted rid of them. Although murder and mayhem and the daily slashing of one another with Bowie knives was common among this lower class, Jones found out that "rowdy loafers" like him paid a much higher price when the mayhem was directed at the gentry.
In telling the story of Houston's founding and its first efforts to make something of itself, Hardin also shows how the new Texas government abandoned its war veterans, many of them recent arrivals from the United States who had volunteered to fight for the fledgling republic. Jones was a particularly tragic case. He was among a handful of Texans who escaped the Mexican slaughter of the Goliad defenders and later fought at San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence. When the fighting ended, the government had little to offer its veterans other than huge tracts of land, which few chose to cultivate and, in any case, lacked start-up funds for ranches or farms. Instead, many sold the land to speculators and, like Jones, quickly squandered the proceeds in Houston.
Hardin introduces us to an assortment of truly odd characters, both rich and poor, including several ghoulish "medical" men, a self-righteous Yankee publisher and politician (an unbeatable combination), and ladies both of culture and of the night. The latter include Susannah Dickinson and her daughter, both Alamo survivors, who became prostitutes, although Susannah eventually found both happiness and respectability after marrying five times. Their story indicates the limited options women had at the time, which included little beyond marrying up or whoring. Like the abandoned veterans, they were victims of a society that closed most doors to them.
Regardless of what we may think of these early Houstonians, Hardin is right in cautioning against putting our thoughts into the heads of those who lived so long ago or applying our 21st century standards to them. Readers can't help but admire the considerable grit these people must have had to stick it out in such a place and their persistence in trying to make something of it and themselves.
Hardin writes like a polished novelist and he is a superb storyteller, but there's no mistaking his first-rate historical research (don't miss the fascinating endnotes). Throw in Gary Zaboly's superb illustrations and you have a truly unique look at the characters who populated Texas at the time of its birth.
pretty dang sweet May 7, 2008
Texian Macabre is not just the story of one man's death, but of an entire generation of war veterans and their role in the new nation of Texas. Hardin paints a picture of David James Jones as the footstool upon which others stand to create American Texas. Jones and others like him won the Texas Revolution, but were robbed of their rightful share of what they helped to build and were thus relegated to being the backwash of society. Hardin does an amazing job realizing the inevitability of Jones' death.
Fantastic! May 4, 2008
Texian Macabre is a wonderful non-fiction story about the Texas Revolution and the early days of Houston. Hardin has found a character in history that had a part in every aspect of the Revolution from the Goliad Massacre to the win at San Jacinto. It is so amazing that one person saw so much, and he experienced everything from hero to villain. Hardin is an amazing historian and storyteller as well and makes the whole picture come to life. As you read, you can watch as the city of Houston is built before your eyes, every rat scurrying across the road, every rowdy loafer causing havoc in the streets. It truly is an amazing story of a fallen hero and the city of Houston.
A Wild Ride! Apr 1, 2008
A wild ride indeed. A taskfully interwoven tale that takes the reader on an incredible journey. Mr. Hardin paints a most interesting picture of how two men went from respected war heros to "rowdy loafers" who paid the ultimate price in order to make Houston a respectable city. I highly recommend this book on the basis that you can not beat getting a little education while being entertained.