The Texas History List: Woman tells story of being captive of Comanches

Walter W. Fondren (Source: Friends of Fondren Library: vol. 51, no. 3; summer 2001)
Walter W. Fondren (Source: Friends of Fondren Library: vol. 51, no. 3; summer 2001)

(KLTV/KTRE) - This week's Texas History List features the signing of our incredible state's constitution, to the founding of Valentine, Texas....on Valentine's Day.

On February 14, 1882, a Southern Pacific Railroad crew building eastward from El Paso reached a site and named it Valentine. Valentine, in Jeff Davis County, is 36 miles west of Fort Davis. The trains started running in 1883, the town got a post office in 1886, and by 1914 it had a population of around 500. By the late 1990s, the population had dropped to 267.

On February 14, 1904, Walter William Fondren married Ella Florence Cochrum in Corsicana. Fondren came to Texas as a teenaged orphan, entered the oil business as a roughneck, and went on to become one of the most successful oilmen in the state of Texas, and the major stockholder of Humble Oil Company. He and his wife Ella donated millions to various charities and schools; for example, the couple established the Fondren Lectures in Religious Thought at SMU, and donated money to the school to build the Fondren Library. After Walter's death, Ella continued her philanthropy, establishing the Fondren Library at Rice University. 

As a side note, Walter Fondren, Jr., choked to death on a piece of steak at a business dinner in 1961 at the age of 54. His son Walter Fondren III was drafted by the NFL's Los Angeles Rams in 1958, but he turned it down to pursue the career of his father and grandfather, in the oil industry. He died in 2010 at the age of 73. 

On February 15, 1876, citizens of Texas adopted the Constitution of 1876. They ratified it by vote of 136,606 to 56,652. The document is the sixth constitution by which Texas has been governed since declaring independence from Mexico. Despite its having been amended more than 230 times, it remains the basic law of Texas today.

On February 18, 1910, a Frenchman named Louis Paulman made the first recorded airplane flight in Texas. Read more about aviation history in Texas here.

On February 18, 1943, Dolly Shea graduated with the first flight-nurse class of the US Army Air Forces.  Shea was from San Benito, Texas, and she served in the European Theater during WWII. She was killed on April 14, 1945, one of three women in the Army Nurse Corps known to have been killed by direct enemy action, and was the only known one from Texas. She received the Air Medal, the Red Cross Medal, a Special Citation from President Truman, and a posthumous Purple Heart. 

On February 19, 1838, Rachel Plummer, who had been captured by Comanches and held captive by them for a year, was finally reunited with her husband, Luther Plummer. She had an infant son, James Pratt, who was taken from her and killed by the Comanches, who thought he was interfering with how much work she was doing for them. In 1838 she published an account of her captivity, entitled Rachael Plummer's Narrative of Twenty-one Months' Servitude as a Prisoner Among the Commanchee Indians. Rachel bore another child in 1839, and died in Houston shortly afterward. The child died two days later.

For many more stories about the history of Texas, visit the Texas State Historical Association website

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