Woman Who Donated Original
"To the citizens of Beeville falls the
unflattering distinction of having so completely ignored the
beneficence of the donor of the city's townsite that only old
courthouse records perpetuate the memory of her gift. Believe it or
not, there isn't a single street, building, marker or tablet named
or erected in honor of Mrs. Anne BURKE O'CARROLL, pioneer of South
Texas, who on March 28, 1860, deeded 150 acres of land to Bee county
as a courthouse site! The consideration was one dollar! Many pioneer
residents of Beeville and Bee county have had their names
transmitted to posterity in one way or another, but few of these are
more entitled to memorialization than Mrs. O'CARROLL, and few have
been as completely ignored!
Over 78 years have passed since a deed was entered in the county records transferring "a part of the league of land originally granted to said Anne BURKE as a colonist in McMULLEN and McGLOIN's colony, situated in Bee county on the Poesta creek" to Ewing WILSON, chief justice of the Bee county commissioner's court. The deed was signed by Anne BURKE O'CARROLL, P. O'CARROLL and Patrick BURKE, the latter a son of Mrs. O'CARROLL's by previous marriage The O'CARROLLs later dropped the "O" in their name.
Mrs. CARROLL occupies a prominent place in the front ranks of South Texas' heroic pioneers. At an early age, the BURKEs left the friendliness and cheer of their Tipperaray county home in Ireland and sailed in a tiny ship to what was then a wild and unsettled province of Texas in Old Mexico. The tiny sailing vessel was many long months in completing the voyage and an epidemic of cholera decimated the list of passengers, Mr. BURKE dying on board ship. The ship finally landed at Copano near the present city of Refugio and an hour after landing Mrs. BURKE was delivered of a son, the father of City Commissioner Joe BURKE.
A more cheerless situation could scarcely be imagined as the weak and hapless Mrs. BURKE looked out upon the wild, treeless expanse of prairie. The torrid rays of the summer sun poured its blistering heat upon her and the men of the colony hastened to stretch quilts and blankets as awning for protection. In addition to the disheartening prospect of having to endure the hardships of pioneer life without her mate, Mrs. BURKE was unable to nurse her new born son and only the fortunate appearance of an Indian squaw who nursed her baby kept it from perishing for lack of fresh milk.
Somehow or another the tiny colony of Irish immigrants survived the vicissitudes of life in Texas; braved the savage Indians raids and the hardships of the Mexican war, eked out a precarious living raising cattle and crops and when Bee county was organized in 1858, took time off to organize the county.
Mrs. BURKE's part in the county organization became apparent shortly after the county commissioner's court began to meet in 1858, for among the first acts of the county court early that year was a call for a donation of land for the courthouse site. Patrick BURKE, Mrs. CARROLL's son, and Edward O. DRISCOLL promptly responded with offers of land to Henry T. CLARE, special agent appointed by the county body to receive donations, but the court was reluctant about accepting them without a preliminary survey or inspection, the minutes of one of their first meetings dated February 25, 1858, reveal. An election to accept one of these sites was held March 8, but a protest was filed by W. B. MOORE against the election and the court voted against the election results. Another election was held April 3, 1858, to decide the location of the courthouse site, and again MOORE filed a protest and the court again ruled the election "null and void." It was not until April 15 that the county court viewed the various proffered donations of land and after passing up BURKE's donation of the Poesta, James WILSON's on the Aransas and I. G. CAMPBELL's, decided in favor of Edward SEELIGSON's on the Rio Medio.
A surveyor was immediately ordered to plat the new county seat and a notice concerning the sale of lots was ordered published in the Victoria Advocate and the Goliad Express, at that time published by A. F. COX, father of T. M. and R. L. COX of Beeville, the sale scheduled to be held June 5, 1858, with K. J. McLEMORE hired to (ery) the sale. Henderson WILLIAMS, county clerk, was instructed to receive bids for the building and furnishing of a courthouse.
The first meeting of the courthouse was held under a tree on the Medio creek about seven miles east of the present city 9f Beeville. Some delay was experienced in getting the courthouse constructed, so John L. PHELPS was named special agent to get the courthouse built and responded by building it himself, the total cost of the structure being the staggering sum of $165, according to the records of the commissioners' court dated November 16, 1858. The courthouse was built in what was then called Beeville-on-the-Medio to differentiate it from the present Beeville-on-the-Poesta.
A special election to approve the site on the Medio river was called for April 26, 1858, and on November 16, 1858, a notice of sale of town lots in Beeville was ordered published in Goliad and Victoria newspapers. Several lots were set aside in the county seat for the churches of Methodist (South), Catholic and Presbyterian faiths as well as for a "female school" and graveyard, SEELIGSON retaining one lot.
Much dissatisfaction was apparent, however, with the location of the new courthouse site and finally Chief Justice Ewing WILSON ordered an election to be held February 26, 1859. Opposition to this shifting of the site must have been extremely pronounced, however, for county court meetings had been called for March 19, April 2, 5, and 19 with no response from most of the court members and it was not until the May 19 meeting that a sufficient number were present to constitute a quorum. T. S. PARKER withdrew an earlier objection to the election and the court agreed to move the courthouse site to BURKE's donation on the Poesta, the new location being in almost the exact geographical center of the county. Charles T. JONES was immediately named special agent to have the new county site surveyed and a plat made. In the meantime, the site of Beeville-on-the-Medio was restored to SEELIGSON and arrangements were made to restore the price of lots purchased on the old location to buyers.
The new county seat was tentatively named Marysville in honor of Mary HEFFERMAN, the "surviving heir of the HEFFERMAN family which had been massacred at that place by the Indians in 1835," the records dated July 25, 1859, reveal. Some dissatisfaction had been expressed because of another town in Texas having been given the same name before the Bee county city was named. Therefore, on March 10, 1860, the new town was named Beeville in honor of General Bernard E. BEE, who had also given his name to the county, General BEE having served as minister to the United States from the Republic of Texas. The county fathers apparently did not regard the donation of land as being of sufficient importance to call it by the BURKE name, or it may have been that the modesty of the BURKEs forbade such use of the name.
Some trouble was encountered in persuading some of the Bee countians to accept the new courthouse site, and prominent among those "rebels" was Henderson WILLIAMS, county clerk. On January 7, 1860, the county court issued an order authorizing the county clerk to hold office in Beeville-on-the-Poesta and ordered that the archives be moved to Marysville by February 13, 1860. When WILLIAMS moved the records without the county court's permission on March 5, 1860, the court ordered the sheriff to return with the records and this was done, G. W. McCLANAHAN serving as deputy clerk in WILLIAMS' absence.
The first public sale of town lots was held on August 23, 1859, with several other sales being held subsequently. The BURKEs had retained the whole of block 36 and lot 8 in block 37 and lot 8 in block 33 when they deeded the tract to the county, although a later correction to deeds indicates that the BURKEs held what is now block 41, better known as the First National Bank block extended to the Rex theatre. The BURKEs had sold several lots from their block and consequently corrections and transfers had to be made.
The first recorded sale of town lots in Beeville-on-the-Poesta was made by Charles C. JONES, acting as county agent for the sale of lots, to Joseph P. WILSON, a resident of Mexico but formerly of Gonzales, who bought lot 4 in block 37 for $16, on May 1, 1860.
One street in the new Fairgrounds addition to the city of Beeville has recently been named BURKE street in honor of Joe F. BURKE, present city commissioner.