On this day in 1956, Slats Rodgers, the colorful owner of the first pilot's license in Texas, died in McAllen. Floyd H. Rodgers was born in Georgia in 1889 and moved to Texas with his family as a boy. As a young man he worked for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, but aviation was his passion. With the help of an engineer friend, Rodgers designed and built a primitive aircraft, reputed to be the first built in Texas, which he flew without instruction in late 1912, a mere nine years after the first manned airplane flight by the Wright brothers. He became a flight instructor for the army in 1916 and worked as a barnstormer and circus stunt pilot after World War I. During prohibition he bought his own plane to ferry bootleg liquor from Mexico to Texas. He was involved in gambling and moonshining operations, eventually serving six months in a Dallas jail. After prohibition, he turned to crop dusting in the lower Rio Grande valley. On special charter requests he would sometimes shock his passengers with unforgettable aerial performances. Although his flight career extended to his later years, his flamboyant lifestyle and penchant for the illegal were increasingly limited by rules and regulations of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Rodgers subsequently ranched and ran restaurants in Bandera and McAllen. His autobiography, Old Soggy No. 1: The Uninhibited Story of Slats Rodgers, was coauthored by Hart Stilwell and published in 1954.
On this day in 1855, Governor Elisha Pease authorized James Hughes Callahan to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico for the alleged purpose of punishing Apache Indians who raided in Texas and then fled to Mexico. The expedition may have been an attempt by Texas slaveholders to capture runaway slaves who were being permitted to settle in Mexico. Governor Santiago Vidaurri of Nuevo León y Coahuila had rebuffed the slaveholders' emissary and ordered his troops to prepare for invasion. Callahan crossed into Mexico on October 1-2 and encountered a Mexican detachment at the Rio Escondito near Piedras Negras. There were casualties on both sides. Callahan retreated to Piedras Negras, captured the town, and burned it. American forces across the river covered his retreat. Historians have long argued about the real purpose of the operation. In 1876 the Claims Commission settled claims originating from the expedition, awarding 150 Mexican citizens a total of $50,000 in damages.
On this day in 1873, Margaret Borland died of "trail fever" or "congestion of the brain" after successfully leading a drive of about 2,500 cattle from Victoria, Texas, to Wichita, Kansas. She was born in Ireland on April 3, 1824. Her family was among the Irish colonists who arrived in Texas in 1829 with John McMullen and James McGloin and settled at San Patricio. Margaret was thrice married and widowed. Her first husband, Harrison Dunbar, was killed in a private argument in Victoria soon after she bore their only child, a daughter. Margaret Dunbar married Milton Hardy several years later; Hardy died of cholera in 1855, leaving two more children with Margaret. Mrs. Hardy married Alexander Borland about 1858, a marriage that produced four children. Borland died in 1867; several of Margaret's children and grandchildren died the same year in a yellow fever epidemic. She had assisted Borland in his cattle business and, after his death, assumed full responsibility for the estate. Though she left the physical labor to her hired hands, she bought and sold livestock. By 1873 she owned a herd of more than 10,000 cattle. She left her Victoria home in the spring of that year with two sons, both under fifteen; a seven-year-old daughter; an even younger granddaughter; and a group of trail hands. She was said to be the only woman to have led a cattle drive. Her body was returned to Texas and buried in Victoria Cemetery.