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General Kiddoo nixes Contract Law
January 03, 1867

On this day in 1867, Gen. Joseph P. Kiddoo declared that the Texas Contract Law was biased against freedmen and prevented its enforcement. This law was one of the notorious Black Codes, a series of measures enacted by Southern legislatures to keep blacks in an inferior social position. During Reconstruction the codes tried to uphold continued legal discrimination. Thanks in part to Kiddoo, assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, the codes generally failed to accomplish their purpose.

Presidio County established
January 03, 1850

On this day in 1850, Presidio County was established from Bexar Land District with Fort Leaton as the county seat. The area around the present town of Presidio on the Rio Grande, known as La Junta de los Ríos, is believed to be the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas. The first Spaniards probably reached La Junta in 1535 when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca crossed on his trek across Texas. The entrada of Juan Domínguez de Mendoza and Father Nicolás López in 1683-84 established seven missions at seven pueblos along the river in the La Junta area. The area remained devoid of permanent settlements, however, because neither the Spanish nor, later, the Mexican government could control the Apache and Comanche Indians in the area. With the 1846 annexation of Texas, Americans recognized the economic potential of the frontier along the Rio Grande, and by 1848 Ben Leaton had established Fort Leaton on the site of an old Spanish fort. Although the 1850 United States census reported no population for Presidio County, a sufficient number lived there to establish the county. Several Americans irrigated crops and grazed herds on the Rio Grande in the 1850s and 1860s, and rancher Milton Faver became the first to move away from the safety of the river. Presidio and Marfa are the main communities in Presidio County today.

Another bad day for A. J. Dorn
January 03, 1884

On this day in 1884, Andrew Jackson Dorn lost his bid to become a congressional assistant doorkeeper. Dorn had served in a volunteer company in the Mexican War and afterward in the regular army. Although he claimed to have achieved the rank of colonel and to have remained in the U.S. Army until the outbreak of the Civil War, he was in fact mustered out of federal service in 1848. He did serve with the Confederate military, and after the war moved to Bonham, Texas. In 1873, he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for Texas state treasurer. Dorn was elected on Richard Coke's ticket, but when he appointed his son as chief clerk of the treasury, the Herald attacked him for nepotism, "one of the most odious of all political abuses." Dorn was reelected in 1876 and remained in office until 1879. In 1883, unemployed, he went to Washington, D.C., seeking Samuel Bell Maxey's aid in finding a government job. "He is the most helpless man I know," wrote Maxey of Dorn, "an honorable, good man but a fearfully and wonderfully made hanger-on for office." Dorn became one of seven applicants for one of the two assistant-doorkeeper appointments to which the Texas delegation was entitled, but when the appointments were decided by lot on January 3, 1884, he was not chosen. In 1885, the destitute Dorn, with Maxey's influence, was elected as doorkeeper of the state Senate. After his tenure as doorkeeper, Dorn remained in Austin "filling some minor positions in the state departments" until his death in 1889. He was buried in the State Cemetery.

Orphans get new home
January 03, 1874

On this day in 1874, Claude Marie Dubuis, second Catholic bishop of Texas, purchased the Green Bayou Place and additional acreage west of Galveston for St. Mary’s Orphanage. Operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, an order that Dubuis had founded in the United States, the institution, associated with St. Mary's Infirmary, soon sheltered twenty-eight orphans. The Green Bayou residence housed the boys, and a new two-story structure was soon completed for girls. The orphanage suffered through several catastrophes. Fire ravaged one of the institution’s buildings in 1875, and later that year a storm destroyed the Green Bayou house. Citizens of Galveston quickly answered the call for aid. Concerts and other benefits and a donation from St. Mary’s Infirmary helped repair and replace damaged buildings within a few years. In November 1896 St. Mary’s Orphan’s Asylum became a corporation and decided to build a new facility closer to the center of Galveston, but no action was taken before the great hurricane of 1900. At Green Bayou, all the buildings were swept away in a deluge. Of the ninety-four orphans, only three survived, and all ten nuns drowned.