|History of Milam County
Article compiled & photos submitted by Clarissa Loyd
Col. Benjamin Rush Milam photo courtesy of Wikipedia
(click on photos for larger view)
| Calaboose | Col. Benjamin R. Milam | Confederate Bell on Courthouse Lawn |
| First Girl's Tomato Club | Milam County Courthouse | Milam County Museum - 1895 Jail |
On May 16, 1892, a new calaboose was constructed by Westmoreland & Mullinax for $262.50, this bid was approved by Mayor A.J. Lewis and City Marshall R.L. Batte. The calaboose was 20 feet long by 10 feet wide by 12 feet high. On each end of the calaboose was an entry way and one window on each side of the cells in the building. Shutters were placed on the outside of the building by the windows to keep out the rain and to prevent prisoners from escaping.
Councilman Thompson issued an ordinance on July 3, 1956 to renovate the calaboose so that the city of Cameron could use it to hold prisoners. In 1994, the calaboose was moved to where it stand today, across the street from the Milam County Courthouse and Milam County Jail Museum. The calaboose was restored in June 1998.
Milam County is named after Col. Benjamin Rush Milam and a statue of him rests on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn. Milam is a Texas Revolutionary hero and is famous for saying " Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" at the Siege of Bexar. Milam was born in Frankfort, Kentucky on October 20, 1788 to Moses and Elizabeth Pattie (Boyd) Milam. He fought in the War of 1812 when he was enlisted in the Kentucky militia and after his enlistment was over he went back home to Kentucky.
In 1818, Milam was in Texas and in 1819 he was in Louisiana where he met José Félix Trespalacios and James Long, who were going to Mexico and Texas to aid in the fight against Spain for its independence. Milam joined Trespalacios to Mexico where he became a colonel. They sailed to Veracruz, whereas, General James Long went into LaBahia. General Long captured the city but found that citizens and solders of LaBahia were revolutionaries, not loyalist - from there he went to San Antonio. Milam and Trespalacios found the same opposition in Mexico City and Veracruz as General Long did in LaBahia were they were not very friendly, thus they were captured and imprisoned. With the help of General Long, both Milam and Trespalacios were freed as General Long talked to the "new revolutionary government" (Handbook of Texas Online). Ultimately, General Long was killed by a guard which convinced Milam that Trespalacios was behind the plot to murder him, so he and others plotted against Trespalacios. Their plot was discovered and they were sent to prison in Mexico City. They were eventually released thanks to a U.S. minister, Joel R. Poinsett. Milam was granted Mexican citizenship in 1824 and became a colonel for the Mexican army.
In 1824, Milam went back to Mexico which had newly adopted the Constitution of 1824 under a republican form of government. In that same year, Milam was granted Mexican citizenship and became a colonel for the Mexican army. "In 1835 Milam went to Monclova, the capital of Coahuila and Texas,qv to urge the new governor, Agustín Viesca,qv to send a land commissioner to Texas to provide the settlers with land titles", in which Viesca agreed (Handbook of Texas Online). However, the Mexican governor had been overthrown by Antonio López de Santa Anna before Milam could Monclova. Milam and Viesca fled the city to Monterrey where they were captured and imprisoned. Milam escaped and reached the Texas border in October 1835 where he "accidentally" met George Collinsworth whom commanded the company of solders stationed on the border.
Collinsworth told Milam of the campaign (Golidad Campaign of 1835) for the independence of Texas, in which Milam readily joined their crusade. They captured Golidad and moved on to San Antonio to join the main army. On December 4, 1835, Milam returned to the camp after a scouting mission and "he learned that a majority of the army had decided not to attack San Antonio as planned but to go into winter quarters" (Handbook of Texas Online). Milam knew that this decision would end the progress of the independence of Texas. "Milam then made his famous, impassioned plea: 'Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?'" (Handbook of Texas Online). Three hundred men volunteered and attacked San Antonio at dawn on December 5th. On December 7, Milam was killed by a single shot to the head by a sniper. The battle ended on December 9th, where General Martín Perfecto de Cos, commander of the Mexican army, surrendered.
A monument was placed on the grave site of Col. Benjamin Rush Milam in Milam Park, San Antonio, in 1897 by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Unfortunately in 1976, the marker was removed and Milam's grave was forgotten. In 1993, archaeologists unearthed a burial which is believed to be the grave of Col. Benjamin Rush Milam.
At the San Jacinto Museum of History - Albert and Ethel Herzstein Library, are manuscripts of the Milam - McKinney Family Papers (1809-1940), this is Manuscription Collection MC040. To learn more about these papers and other Texas history, please visit the San Jacinto Museum of History.
The bell on the courthouse lawn is in memory of the servicemen from Milam County who fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, as well as, their supporters from 1860 to 1865.
The actual marker next to the bell reads: "In memory of the 670 men from Milam County who served in the Confederate Army during the war between the states and those who supported them on the home front during the years 1860-1865. Against the most tremendous odds that Americans have ever faced in battle. These men stood steadfast with their comrades in the Confederate Army for 4 years. Those that survived the war returned home to Milam County to work to help make Texas the Great State it is today." The bell and plaque were placed in 1986 on the courthouse lawn for the 150th anniversary of Texas by the Milam County Sesquicentennial Committee,
On the Milam County Jail Museum sits the historical marker, "First Girl's Tomato Club in Texas". In 1912, the first girl's tomato club of Texas was organized in Milam County to help aid in the tomato production and canning to girls in rural areas. Mrs. Edna Westbrook Trigg, local high school principal, was commissioned by the United States Department of Agriculture to coordinate the project.
Mrs. Trigg organized eleven clubs in Milam County with girls from the ages of ten to eighteen. There was also a boy's club and it was called, The Corn Club. The Corn Club was organized on September 8, 1907 by Tom M. Marks in Jacksboro, Jack County, Texas. The Corn Club eventually organized into the first Texas 4-H Club. In the Tomato Club, each member planted a tomato crop on one-tenth of an acre and canned the tomatoes according to the proper procedure for canning. The Tomato Club was the state's first rural girl's organization which helped the formation of the Texas 4-H Club. The 4-H Club started and continues to be under the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
The Milam County courthouse was designed by Larmour & Watson and was built in 1892, which cost $75,000 to build. Originally the courthouse had a clock tower which was deemed unsafe and removed in 1938. The courthouse is constructed of "native stone" and has a Renaissance style. The north and south sides of the courthouse are identical, as well as, the east and west sides are identical to each other. The clock tower was viewable from all four sides of the courthouse when it was perched under the curved roof. The statue that sits atop the courthouse is the Goddess of Justice which represents the function of the courthouse - to carry out and maintain the law of the county. The original Goddess of Justice statue is stored in a safe place and was removed in the 1930's due to at least one "sharp-shooter". The statue that sits atop the courthouse now is a replica of the original.
The current courthouse is actually the fourth to have been constructed for Milam County. The first, of course, was small like many courthouse's across the nation. On April 9, 1874, a fire destroyed the second courthouse and all records in it. Thus, this has made genealogy and other research endeavors hard since all documents were lost in the blaze. The Phillips Hotel (no longer exists) was rented by the county to serve as a temporary courthouse until a new was built. In 1875, a brick courthouse was built but it had many problems, such as, a leaky roof and the fireplace in the judges quarters smoked. A grand jury in 1899 deemed the brick courthouse unsafe and a the search for contractors began.
The Milam County judge placed an add in the Galveston Daily News and Larmour & Watson firm of Austin won the bid to construct the new courthouse. However, before the bid was awarded to Larmour & Watson, many firms were vying for the project and those plans were published in the Galveston Daily News and Fort Worth Daily Gazette newspapers. The first bid was actually won by Lee & Plummer $82,385, but the bond was "declared insufficient" since this plan was to remove the old courthouse. Since the bond was denied the construction of the courthouse was delayed to the following year, which added more troubles for the county. When it was time to start the construction of the courthouse by Lee & Plummer, the city did not have to the funds to proceed, in which Lee & Plummer filed suit against Milam County. Jacob Larmour and A.O. Watson looked at their initial plan to build the courthouse and changed it by reducing the cost to help out the claim by Lee & Plummer against the county. The Larmour & Watson plan was accepted and construction was completed in 1892. The Burbrook School Furnishing Company of Dallas won the bid to furnish the new courthouse.
"An interesting thing about courthouse statues in the South is that most, if not all of them, face towards the South. Those that had faced North prior to the Civil War were turned to face South. The original Milam County statue of justice faced South" (Herda).
The Milam County Jail was first constructed at the time of the second building of the Milam County Courthouse. In 1875, Larmour & Klerke started construction on the new brick jail and the iron cages were sent from St. Louis, Missouri to Cameron. The jail had some design flaws since it had been broken into to at least once, so a wooden fence was placed around the jail and the installation of steel on the cell floors provided a little ease on the security issue. P.J. Pauly & Brothers of St. Louis worked on the jail in 1884 by fixing the jail up. In 1895, a new jail was constructed since the original was deemed too small. The bid of $18,883 for the new jail "calaboose" went to Pauly Jail Building & Manufacturing Company. The jail is a perfect form of the Medieval military architecture style.
Today, the jail serves as the Milam County Jail Museum. Inside are the old iron cells as well as a stair case that leads to the gallows where individuals were hung. The museum is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 1 to 5 PM, for more information please contact Charles King, director of the Milam County Museum, at (254) 697-4770. There is also a Museum Annex that is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 8 AM to 12 noon and the phone number is (254) 697-8963.
Lois. (2001). Handbook
of Texas Online, viewed 13 April 2007,
<http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/MM/fmi3.html>. Hall, Franklin. (1930). Sons of DeWitt Colony, viewed 13 April 2007, <http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/milamben.htm>. Herda, Lou Ann, Ed.D. (2001). TexasEscapes.com, viewed 13 April 2007, <http://www.texasescapes.com/TRIPS/GreatAmerican
LegendTour/MilamCountyTx/MilamCountyCourthouse.htm>. National Register of Historic Places, viewed 13 April 2007, <http://www.nationalregisterofhistoric places.com/tx/Milam/state.html>. Texas Cooperative Extension, The Jack County Extension Office, viewed 13 April 2007, <http://jack-tx.tamu.edu/>. Wikipedia, Ben Milam photo, viewed 02 November 2007, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Milam>.
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