On this day in 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed the Law of February 5. Though there were relatively few free blacks in the republic, legislators concerned over the status of slavery attempted to restrict further the number of unenslaved blacks. The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Those free blacks who were already in the republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors. Provisions were made for free blacks who entered later to petition the Congress for exception. A petition entered by white neighbors on behalf of David and Abner Ashworth was approved on December 12, 1840. They were the only free blacks to enter Texas after the Declaration of Independence who were given Congressional sanction to remain. Some others found ways to cirumvent the law.
On this day in 1955, Martin Lalor Crimmins, noted herpetologist, army officer, and military historian, died in San Antonio. Born in New York, he attended Georgetown College and the University of Virginia Medical School but joined Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in San Antonio just before graduation. He began a distinguished career in the United States Army and achieved the rank of colonel in 1921. Though his military service took him across Europe and Asia, he retired to San Antonio in 1926. One of Crimmins's most noteworthy accomplishments was his pioneer work in snakebite treatment. He inoculated himself with serum until he became immune and then gave blood transfusions to snakebite victims. Crimmins assisted medical experts in research and lectured across the United States, and he also published numerous historical and scientific articles. His work earned him the prestigious Walter Reed Award in 1953.
On this day in 1844, the Texas Congress established a five-man commission to oversee the construction of the Central National Road. The road was to begin on the bank of the Trinity River in Dallas County and run to the south bank of the Red River in the northwest corner of Red River County, opposite the mouth of the Kiamachi River. The proposed terminus was the head of navigation on the Red River. To the north and east the Central National Road connected with the military road to Fort Gibson and old roads joining the Jonesborough area to settlements in Arkansas. At its southern terminus it connected with the road opened in 1840 between Austin and Preston Bend on the Red River, in effect making an international highway between St. Louis and San Antonio. The international role that Congress may have visualized for the road was never fulfilled, however, because the general westward population shift voided its centrality and necessitated other roads. The Central National Road was the second such ambitious roadbuilding effort of the Republic of Texas, after the National Road authorized in 1839. Previous to the republic, the Old San Antonio Road and the La Bahía Road were the principal Texas roads. After the republic, the burgeoning railroad and cattle-trailing industries joined roadbuilding between population centers to turn a vast, trackless land into a vast land laced with tracks.