On this day in 1878, John Hunter Herndon, formerly the wealthiest man in Texas, died in Boerne. Herndon was born in Kentucky in 1813 and came to Texas in 1838. After serving as engrossing clerk of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas he moved to Richmond in Fort Bend County, where he was admitted to the bar. In 1839 he married Barbara Makall Wilkinson Calvit, the only daughter of Alexander Calvit and heir to the Calvit sugar plantation in Brazoria County. The plantation, near the site of present Clute, was noted for its Arabian horses and cattle herds, which were later sold to Abel Head (Shanghai) Pierce. Herndon owned stock ranches in Matagorda, Guadalupe, and Medina counties, engaged in real estate, and incorporated several other entrepreneurial ventures.The 1850 census indicates that he owned real estate valued at $100,000, the largest holding in Fort Bend County; by 1860 he had acquired $1,605,000 in real property, $106,050 in personal property, and forty slaves and was thus the wealthiest man in the state. Herndon at one time owned a summer house at Velasco and is believed to have owned a million acres of Texas land. From 1862 to 1865 he was president of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company. The Civil War and Reconstruction destroyed most of his fortune.
On this day in 1861, the Order of the Sons of Hermann in the State of Texas was founded in San Antonio. It was the largest fraternal insurance benefit society headquartered in Texas, with a membership of 80,000 in 161 lodges in 1994. Until 1920, the Texas order was part of a national order of the Sons of Hermann. In 1861 two representatives of the national grand lodge came to San Antonio to organize the first Hermann Sons lodge in Texas, Harmonia Lodge No. 1. It was natural for the organization to find fertile soil in San Antonio, since many Germans had come to the area after 1845. The Texas grand lodge, consisting of Harmonia Lodge of San Antonio and seven other newly formed lodges in Austin, Taylor, Temple, Waco, La Grange, Brenham, and Houston, was formed in 1890. These eight lodges had a total of 242 members. Within a year ninety-two more lodges were formed. In 1896 the first sister lodge, exclusively for women, was dedicated at Sherman. In 1920 the first mixed lodge for both men and women was established in San Antonio. In that year the Order of the Sons of Hermann in Texas, which by then was financially stronger and had more members than all of the lodges in the rest of the United States combined, broke away from the national order. Originally all of the members were of German extraction, but by 1965 only about half were, and by 1994 membership was open to all ethnic groups.
On this day in 1923, the Dr Pepper Company was incorporated in Dallas. Dr Pepper was first made in Waco in 1885. Wade Morrison, owner of Morrison's Old Corner Drug, employed a pharmacist named Charles Alderton, who, when not filling prescriptions, often served soft drinks to customers. Alderton enjoyed experimenting with various combinations of fruit extracts and sweeteners. One combination, later to become Dr Pepper, proved enormously popular with patrons. Morrison named the beverage after Dr. Charles T. Pepper, a physician and pharmacist for whom Morrison had worked in Virginia. Today Dr Pepper is an operating company of Dr Pepper/Seven Up, based in Plano. A collection of Dr Pepper memorabilia forms the core of the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, which opened in Waco in 1991.
On this day in 1957, teacher and civil rights activist Lulu White died, possibly of heart failure. Lulu Belle Madison was born in 1907 in Elmo, Texas. Later she moved to Houston and married businessman Julius White. After receiving a bachelor's degree in English from Prairie View College, she embarked on a teaching career in the Height, a black community on the outskirts of Houston. She also joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in which her husband had been active for some time. White soon dedicated all of her time to the NAACP and its struggle to eliminate the state's white primary. Her seven-year tenure as executive secretary of the NAACP's Houston chapter, the largest in the South, brought her state and national attention. After the Supreme Court handed down its 1944 decision in Smith v. Allwright, which finally outlawed the white primary, White was at the forefront of educating blacks to vote. When the NAACP looked for a case that would integrate the University of Texas in 1945, White chose the plaintiff, Heman Marion Sweatt, and, with the legal core of the NAACP, pursued the case of Sweatt v. Painter to the Supreme Court. Sweatt later credited White's leadership for maintaining his own resolve.