Victoria City Seal
VICTORIA COUNTY, TEXAS
(A part of the TXGenWeb project and the USGenWeb Project.)

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SOME MOVERS and SHAKERS of EARLY VICTORIA

EVERGREEN CEMETERY

Gilbert Onderdonk
(1829-1920)

Gilbert Onderdonk, pioneer pomologist (the scientific study and cultivation of fruit) was born Sept. 30, 1829, to an old Dutch family at Sharon, New York. By age 11, he had already originated several new varieties of Irish potatoes and won 11 awards at the New York State Fair. He came to Texas in 1851 for his health and began teaching school and worked on a ranch at Green Lake. About 1858, he ventured into the nursery business, with an interruption for service during the Civil War in which he was taken captive and held prisoner in New Orleans. He returned to continue his nursery business at Mission Valley and later at Nursery, which he named and also served as postmaster. He introduced and developed numerous varieties of peaches, plums and other fruit and became a consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Onderdonk died on July 28, 1920.


John Joseph Linn
(1798-1885)

There wasn’t a lot to Don Martin de Leon’s colony of Guadalupe Victoria when the merchant John Joseph Linn arrived in 1829. Born in Ireland on June 19, 1798, Linn had come to America as a little boy when his father was branded a traitor by British authorities. Apprenticed to a merchant in New York, he later established his own business in New Orleans. After becoming interested in doing business in Victoria, he established a wharf and warehouse on Lavaca Bay which came to be known as Linnville, the place that the Comanche Indians ransacked in 1840. Linn served both as the last alcalde and first mayor of Victoria. During the Texas Revolution, he was a quartermaster. His merchant ship would help to evacuate Harrisburg. He got to interview the defeated Mexican general Santa Anna and wrote dispatches for New Orleans newspapers. Twice he was arrested as a spy for Mexico, but was soon released. After independence, he served in the Congress of the Republic. His “Reminiscences of 50 Years in Texas” chronicles the early years of Victoria where he died on Oct. 28, 1885.


Margaret Wright
(1789-1879)

General Sam Houston once referred to her as “The Mother of Texas,” no doubt in appreciation for what she had done in hiding and caring for some of the men who had escaped the massacre at Goliad. One of the early settlers of Victoria, Wright arrived as Marguerite Trudeau in 1826 with her two children. She had already outlived two husbands, James William Hays and Felix Trudeau. She settled just upriver on the Guadalupe and married John Wright. He is buried on the present Sterne place off the Lower Mission Valley Road. The Wrights had two children but the marriage was a difficult one and she believed that he had killed her son Peter Hays. They are said to have had the first contested divorce in Texas, it being litigated all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. Supposedly born to a French mother and English father in New Orleans in 1789 (1792?), Wright would die in poverty in Victoria on Oct. 21, 1878.


The DeLeon Family Plot

Don Martin de Leon was born in 1765 in Burgos, Nuevo Santander, known today as Tamaulipas. His parents Bernando and Maria Galvan DeLeon had come from Burgos, Spain. Don Martin became a merchant at an early age, joined up to fight the Indians in Nuevo Santander, and in 1795 married Patricia de la Garza, daughter of the commandant of the Eastern Internal Provinces. She would become a stalwart of Victoria in her own right. They started ranching in Nuevo Santander and after making a trip to Texas decided to settle, first on the Aransas River and then on the Guadalupe where he established Victoria in 1824 as a Mexican empresario. While this plot includes historical and other markers for De Leon, his wife and sons Fernando, Silvestre, Felix and Agapito, they are not all buried here, including De Leon himself. There has always been some question as just where he is buried. The family had a private cemetery at their home where the old Nazareth Academy is located on Church Street. It is uncertain what remains may have been removed to this site. Also, there are indications Fernando may have been buried in Memorial Square, the city’s first public cemetery. There are also questions about Agapito being killed by Mustang Gray as noted on his historical marker.


A.B. Peticolas
(1838-1915)

Alfred Brown Peticolas died on January 27, 1915, and was buried in this quiet spot. Born in Richmond, Virginia, on May 27, 1838, the fifth of 7 children, he taught school as a young man and studied law. He had begun his practice in Virginia when an uncle encouraged him to move west to Texas where he settled into a partnership with Samuel A. White. He is perhaps best remembered today for his Civil War journals and detailed pencil sketches, having served during the disastrous Sibley Campaign into New Mexico with Co. C., 4th Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers. He later served as a quartermaster sergeant in the Louisiana campaign. After his discharge in Houston on May 23, 1865, he returned to Victoria to again practice law. He also served as editor of the Victoria Advocate from 1881 to 1888 and wrote a law book that was a standard text of the Texas Bar Association for many years. Tall and impressive, Peticolas was known as the “Judge.” He liked to sketch local scenes, travel in Europe, play chess, and handcraft furniture.


Bill and Laura Sutton

On the 11th of March, 1874, with their friend, young Gabriel Slaughter, Bill and Laura Sutton were buying tickets at Indianola to board the steamer “Clinton” for Galveston, when out of nowhere James and Bill Taylor starting shooting. This was one of many incidents of the longstanding Taylor-Sutton Feud, a result of the turbulent times of Reconstruction. Twenty years old and pregnant at the time, Laura watched her 17-year-old husband being shot in the back with two six-shooters. Mrs. John N. Keeran rushed up to help and held Bill’s head as he lay dying. Both Sutton and Slaughter are buried here along the fence. Gabriel had tried to warn his friend, saying that they had better get their guns, but Sutton didn’t think the Taylors would do anything in such a public place. The story of the feud is too lengthy to detail here, but Laura went on to give birth to her and Bill’s daughter, naming her William Slaughter Sutton. Willie or “Girlie” as she was sometimes called, married J.W. Calhoun and died at the young age of 34 on March 24, 1908. Laura died in 1930 at the age of 77, all being buried here. Jim Taylor would die in a gunfight at Clinton during Christmas Week, 1875, as the feud continued, while Bill Taylor was eventually acquitted and left the area.


Margaret Heffernan Borland
(1824-1873)

Margaret Heffernan was born April 3, 1824, her father, John Heffernan, being among the Irish who settled San Patricio. She married Harrison Dunbar, who was killed in a quarrel in Victoria, then married Milton Hardy several years later and he died of cholera in 1855. She next married Alexander Borland who died in 1867 along with three of her daughters and a son during a yellow fever epidemic. One of the daughters was Julia Hardy, who married historian Victoria Rose, another being Mary Dunbar, wife of A.B. Peticolas. Margaret had assisted Borland with his cattle business prior to his death and afterwards assumed full responsibility with more than 10,000 cattle under her management in the early 1870s. Perhaps the only woman to ever take a herd up the Chisholm Trail under her own direction, she left in the spring of 1873 with two sons under 15 years of age, a 7-year-old daughter and even younger granddaughter, 4-year-old Julia Rosa Rose. With a good group of trail hands, she herded 2,500 cattle to Wichita, Kansas, where she came down with “trail fever” and died on July 5 after which her body was returned to Victoria for burial.


Abraham Levi
(1822-1902)
This is the old Jewish section of Evergreen Cemetery and this is the grave of Abraham Levi, born June 24, 1822, in Alsace, where as a boy of 13 he roamed the countryside peddling ribbons and baubles. In 1846, he boarded a boat for New Orleans. He moved up the Mississippi and worked as a butcher and as a peddler until taking a job with the merchant A. Schwartz at Liberty, Mississippi. With a loan from Scwartz’s brother-in-law Jacob Halfin, the young Levi and Halfin’s brother Henry headed for Texas and Victoria in 1849 to open a store in the Globe House Hotel. He married Halfin’s sister Mina the same year. By 1861, Levi was involved in the largest dry goods establishment in Southwest Texas. After a fire and dissolving the partnership, Levi returned to France toward the end of the Civil War, then went to Mexico, but returned in 1866 to Victoria to open a wholesale grocery business and formed a partnership with a cousin, Henry Levi. They got into the banking business under the name A. Levi & Co., Bankers, the beginnings of Victoria Bank & Trust Co., now owned by Wells Fargo. He was active in local politics, other business ventures, and the Jewish congregation B’nai B’rith. He died on Nov. 30, 1902.

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