Posts Tagged ‘Texas history’

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents, and all generations of your ancestors. All of them ae alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Travels With Maggie

Antonio Joseph was born in 1789 in Lisbon, Portugal. He was my great-great-great-grandfather. Most likely he was an illegal alien, having jumped ship, on which he was a cook, in Connecticut in 1822, shortly thereafter marrying Annis Rogers. At some point, Annis left Antonio, and she and their son, Thomas Miller Joseph, moved to Texas.

I’m sure there’s a juicy story about the family breakup, but of course there are no records so all I can do is use my writer’s imagination. I do know, according to records traced down by my son, that Antonio stayed behind in Connecticut, where he worked as a cook for an insane asylum, and that he died in Hartford in 1868.

This historical marker in Galveston does not mark the grave of my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Miller Joseph. His grave, like many others, was relocated somewhere during hurricanes that hit Galveston Island. -- Photo by Karen Bean

Young Thomas, meanwhile, became a prominent lawyer in Galveston, served the city as its mayor for five consecutive terms, was a chief justice, a Democratic leader and both a Texas State representative and senator. In other words, my great-great grandfather, the son of a sea cook, was important enough to have made it into Texas history books and to be honored by a historical marker.

One of his, and Mary Trueheart’s eight children, was Lucian Minor Joseph, my great-grandfather. His only child, with Annie Rutledge, was Robert Rutledge Joseph, my grandfather, who with Iva Mae Andrews, had eight children, of which my father, Richard Wilkinson Joseph, was the seventh, according to census records.

From all that I know and can learn, the Josephs were a prominent family in Cleburne, Texas.

While Thomas Miller Joseph isn't as important in Texas history as Sam Houston, his name can still be found in Texas History Books as a prominent man in Galveston circles. This giant sculpture of Houston, if you're interested, can be found along Interstate 45 near Huntsville, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

You would have thought I would have heard at least bits and pieces of this family history growing up. Not so. For some reason, I never was told, my father broke off all connections with his family, and would not talk about them at all.

Looking back now, I realize that we were the family’s poor relations . And poor we were. One of my dad;s older sisters took it upon herself to send a box of hand-me-downs to our family a couple of times a year. It came to my mother, not my father, however.

Since my unknown aunt had a daughter a couple of years older than me, the box was like Christmas, better even because what came in the box was always ever so much better than what I would get for Christmas.

An older brother of dad’s also kept in touch with the family through my mother. And I know that during a few hard times he helped out. But again I never met him.

Families are funny things. It’s love and hate, and jealousies and quarrels all mixed up together. It’s sad because when my mother died, all contact with my father’s family ceased. I never knew any of them. It’s a whole big part of my genes and history that were never a part of my life, and never will be. .

Perhaps that’s why I find this story of the son of a sea cook history so fascinating. Perhaps I even get a bit of my wanderlust from that Portuguese sailor who was born in Lisbon but ended up in America.

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The Texas Zephyr, left, and the Sam Houston Zephyr in Dallas in 1955. Photo from Portal to Texas History

 “Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, while proudly rising o’er the azure realm in gallant trim the gilded vessel goes. Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm.” Thomas Gray


Zephyr is a wind from the west. It was also a train that blew past my grandmother’s home every day around noon.

I recalled it yesterday when I wrote about picking blackberries in an empty field on the outskirts of Dallas. Seems my journey into the past, much as my journey on the road today, is full of interesting detours.

While I never did get to ride a Zephyr, I did eventually ride on a train from Ogden, Utah, to Las Vegas through the Virgin River Gorge. Shown above is the Virgin River in Zion National Park before it enters the gorge. -- Photo by David Scarbrough

I always wanted to know where that silver bullet, as my grandmother called it, was going. Over half a century later, I finally know the answer – thanks to the ease of internet research.

There were more than one streamlined silver zephyrs operating out of Dallas. One, the Texas Zephyr, went between Dallas and Denver, stopping in Ogden, Utah, where I ended up living for 25 years. Ogden was a big railroad town, still is although today it’s mostly freight trains that pull through its Union Station terminal.

But it was here, some 30 years ago, that I boarded my first train – an Amtrak traveling from Ogden to Las Vegas through the awesome Virgin River Gorge between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona. I’ve ridden a number of trains since, but I couldn’t have asked for a better initiation to riding the rails.

The second silver train operating out of Dallas, from 1936 to 1966, was the Sam Houston Zephyr that traveled back and forth daily between Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston. It was probably this train I watched for with my young impressionable eyes.

I suspect that speeding zephyr, as it roared past my grandmother’s home, might have nurtured my wanderlust as much as the travel adventure books I was addicted to reading as a child.

I was never cured of my travel-book reading addiction – and I also still get a little chill in my soul at the sound of a train whistle.

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