On this day in 1726, Antonio Margil de Jesús, early missionary to Texas, died in Mexico City. Margil was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1657. Even as a boy he referred to himself as "Nothingness Itself," a title he consistently used in adulthood. He become a Franciscan in 1673. At the age of twenty-five he received Holy Orders and soon accepted the challenge of missionary work in New Spain. He arrived at Veracruz in 1683. In New Spain Margil was assigned to the missionary College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, and spent several years as a missionary in Yucatán, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Margil also traveled in early 1707 to Zacatecas to found and preside over the missionary College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas. He was to have accompanied the Domingo Ramón expedition of 1716, charged with setting up Franciscan missions in East Texas. However, illness prevented his arrival in East Texas until after the founding of the first four missions. In 1717 Margil supervised the founding of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais and San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes, which with the previously established Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe completed the missions under the control of the Zacatecan Franciscans. In February 1720 Margil founded at San Antonio the most successful of all Texas missions, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo.In 1722 he was recalled to Mexico to serve again as guardián of the college he had founded. At the conclusion of his three-year term, Margil resumed missionary work in Mexico until his death. Arguably the most famous missionary to serve in Texas, Antonio Margil de Jesús remains under consideration for sainthood by the Vatican.
On this day in 1842, the new British charge d'affaires to Texas arrived at the port of Galveston. He was Charles Elliot, British knight and retired naval officer. After entering the Colonial Service, he had served in Guiana and China. He was censured for not adequately representing British mercantile interests in China during the Opium War. In 1842 he was reassigned to duties in the Republic of Texas. In this post he advocated abolition of slavery, worked for the establishment of free trade, and emphasized the importance of peace with Mexico. He became a personal friend of Sam Houston and Anson Jones, and worked with the British ambassador to Mexico for an armistice between Texas and Mexico in 1843. He was instrumental in negotiating the release of some of the prisoners from the Mier expedition. He opposed Texas annexation by the United States, and when Texans voted for annexation he was recalled. Afterward, Elliot was successively governor of Bermuda, of Trinidad, and of St. Helena. He died in England on September 9, 1875.
On this day in 1902, Alice Dickerson Montemayor was born in Laredo. She had planned to study law, but after her father died she remained in Laredo to help her mother. She married Francisco Montemayor in 1927, and they had two sons. From 1934 to 1949 Alice Montemayor was a social worker in Webb County. When she began, she was denied an office key and worked under a tree. Some Caucasian clients refused to see her, and at one time she was provided a bodyguard. In 1936 Mrs. Montemayor became a charter member of the local Ladies LULAC chapter, and soon became active on the national level as well. In 1973 Mrs. Montemayor began painting gourds with vivid, multifarious hues. By 1976 she began painting with acrylics, first on tin and later on masonite. She signed her works "Mom," then "Admonty." Her works often depict women, nature, and the family in a characteristically Mexican fashion. In 1988 she was the subject of a presentation at the Smithsonian Institution. She died in 1989.
On this day in 1966, Houston oilman Ralph A. Johnston signed the deed transferring Paisano Ranch to the University of Texas. The 254-acre ranch, fourteen miles southwest of Austin, was the country retreat of J. Frank Dobie. After Dobie's death in 1964, a group of his friends and admirers, including O'Neil Ford, Peter Hurd, J. Lon Tinkle, and John Henry Faulk, undertook to preserve Paisano as a writers' retreat. Johnston, to whom Dobie had dedicated his last book, bought Paisano to take it off the market. A gala dinner and art auction in Houston helped raise the money to purchase the ranch from Johnston, who died two days after signing the deed over to the university. Since 1967, more than sixty native Texan writers have worked and lived at the ranch as recipients of Dobie Paisano Fellowships, awarded by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters.