Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS IN PINE ISLAND




The Pine Island Depot

Harry Lee Milam Standing At The Edge Of The Platform

General Sam Houston, with his army of Texans and the "Twin Sisters" (a pair of cannons), came through Pine Island on April 15, 1836. He was on the march to San Jacinto only six days before the final victory. He and the army had spent the night at the Donoho Plantation just west of Fish Pond Creek (Clear Creek).

Pine Island missed hosting Santa Anna however, as he took a more southern route after finding San Felipe in ashes and all the boats had been moved to the east side of the river. He crossed the Brazos river near the present town of Wallis and headed straight for Harrisburg, which he burned in anger before he continued on toward San Jacinto. He was very upset because the Texas government officials he had hoped to capture had already left Harrisburg for Galveston before he arrived.

During the Civil War the Confederate Army had an army camp called "Camp Groce" on Fish Pond Creek (Clear Creek) south of the railroad, across from the entrance of the Liendo plantation. The camp was also used as a prisoner of war facility for yankee soldiers in 1863. They were captured when Galveston fell to the Confederate army.

On August 26, 1865, after the Civil War ended, another army set up their camp in the same area. This one was part of the army of occupation sent to Texas by Major General Phillip H. Sheridan. Actually this particular force was sent to Texas to prepare for expected trouble with Mexico.

The ill equipped regiment made the journey to Hempstead in a nine day march from Alexandria Louisiana. Many of the men arrived barefoot, in ragged uniforms, hungry and with out blankets. It was commanded by a yankee general who earned a major place in history almost eleven years later.

According to history he was an arrogant cruel leader who had his men's heads shaved and gave them 25 lashes (although flogging was outlawed in the army) for relatively minor offenses. While in Waller county however he seems to have been very friendly to the citizens and was well liked and entertained by the plantation owners in the area such as the Groce family.

He was General George A. Custer, who was later killed along with his entire troop, while fighting the Sioux indians at the battle of the "Little Big Horn" on June 25, 1876. Custer left Waller county on October 30, 1865 when he was transferred to Austin, Texas. Ironically, while in Austin, Custer studied at the State School for the Deaf to learn sign language so he would be able to communicate with the indians at his new assignment in the west, in 1873,

Elizabeth Ney stood on the upper veranda of Liendo Plantation house and stated "This is where I shall live and die." Elizabeth, who grew into a red headed beauty, was born in 1833 in Munster, Westphalia (Germany), the daughter of a stone cutter. She was the niece of Michel Ney who was the Marshall of Napoleon's armies.

Elizabeth was a unique person even as a young girl. She insisted on becoming a sculptress in the then, male dominated art of sculpture, and was the only female student in the Munich Art school. In Heidleburg she met a young Scottish medical student named Edmund Montgomery who she secretly married with a promise from him that he would never tell anyone about the marriage and she would keep her own name. Her name was already becoming well known in art circles.

After supposedly being involved in a plot that had went awry, between Ludwig the second who was king of Bavaria and Bismarck of Prussia, Elizabeth and Edmund hurriedly left the country and immigrated to the United States. They tried living in a commune operated by a German nobleman in Georgia, but soon migrated to Texas, where they moved into the Liendo Plantation house.

Shortly after the move their first son, Arthur, became sick and died. The baby supposedly died of Diphtheria, and after making a plaster cast of the baby she cremated the body in one of the fireplaces in the house. The story is told that the ashes were kept in a small leather pouch until Dr. Montgomery died and then they were placed in the coffin with him.

She was often the topic of conversation on her trips to Hempstead. Her other son, Lorne, drove the team of mules who pulled the wooden sledge. Elizabeth rode standing on the sledge, dressed in her Grecian robes (called her "Ayrab clothes" by Lorne) and knee boots.

However, in spite of her eccentricities and in all fairness to her skill, Elizabeth was an excellent sculptress and moved to Austin, Texas in 1891. She was awarded a commission to produce statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the Texas building in the World's Colombian Exposition in 1893. Both statues are now in the state capital in Austin.

She sculpted many rich and famous people including Sul Ross, Francis Lubbock, John Reagan, Joseph Sayers and a memorial to Albert Sidney Johnson over his grave in the State Cemetery.

She died in Austin on June 29, 1907 and brought back to Hempstead by train to be buried at Liendo. The train was met at the depot in Hempstead, only by her son Lorne. The death mask of Arthur was placed in the coffin with her. Because she was well known as an atheist, thought to be living "in sin" with Dr. Montgomery, having two children "out of wedlock", burned her baby's body in the fireplace and she spoke with a heavy German accent, Elizabeth was never accepted by the God fearing citizens of Waller County.

Charles A. Menke unknowingly brought another famous Mexican leader to the Pine Island area in the early 1900's. While on a cattle buying trip to Mexico for some registered Brahma bulls, he also bought some saddle horses. They were delivered about a week later by Pancho Villa, who later became known as the famous Mexican rebel leader.

As "Buster" Milam was driving home on the "Old Houston Highway" late one night when he spotted a mule laying in the road and a car in the ditch on the side of the road. He stopped and started shining the car's spotlight around to see if anyone needed help. Of course most cars, with spotlights, in those days were police cars. But, Buster probably hadn't thought of that until the bullets started hitting the rear of his car. For the next few minutes, as he left the area, he drove from the car from the floorboard instead of the seat.

The infamous pair of bank robbers, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, didn't like being in the spotlight.



Go To Next Chapter

Go To Previous Chapter

Return To Contents Page