On this day in 1955, acclaimed director/producer Margo Jones died in Dallas. Born Margaret Virginia Jones in 1911 in Livingston, Texas, she gained the reputation as an outstanding theater director. She founded the Houston Community Players in 1936 and taught theater at the Univesity of Texas at Austin in the early 1940s. During this time she also met budding playwright Tennessee Williams, and her directing of several of his plays brought him to the attention of national theater critics. Jones is best-known for pioneering the American resident theater movement—she envisioned a network of nonprofit professional resident theaters across the nation. She established the first professional arena theater in Dallas, and it opened in 1947. In the ensuring years, she worked with many stage luminaries and produced major world premieres, including Inherit the Wind. Her vision of establishing professional resident theaters brought Broadway plays throughout the country and changed the shape of theater in America.
On this day in 1861, Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor led 300 men of the Confederate Second Texas Mounted Rifles in an assault on Union forces under Maj. Isaac Lynde at Fort Fillmore, Arizona. Baylor was under orders to occupy a chain of forts protecting the overland route between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. He entered the nearby town of Mesilla that night. The next morning Lynde ordered an artillery attack on Mesilla, but after three of his men were killed and six wounded, he withdrew. Learning that Baylor had requested artillery from Ft Bliss, Lynde abandoned the fort the night of July 26. The next day, Baylor gave chase. The Confederates rode into Lynde’s camp in the early afternoon, and Lynde surrendered his force of 492 men. Baylor proclaimed Arizona Territory, C.S.A., and named himself governor. He remained there until the spring of 1862. The victory at Mesilla was one of the Civil War’s early and surprising Confederate successes.
On this day in 1880, the town of Kyle was established when David E. Moore and Fergus Kyle (for whom the town was named) deeded 200 acres for a townsite to the International-Great Northern Railroad. Kyle is on Interstate Highway 35 eight miles north of San Marcos and twenty miles south of Austin in northeastern Hays County. The new town drew residents and businesses from Mountain City, three miles west, and Blanco, some forty miles west. Tom Martin operated the first business in Kyle. The community's population exceeded 500 by 1882 but later declined. Kyle was incorporated in 1928 as a general-law city with a mayor and five council members. In 1937 Mary Kyle Hartson, a seventy-two-year-old great-grandmother and the daughter of Fergus Kyle, was elected mayor by a write-in vote; her victory attracted national attention, including a feature story in Life magazine which proclaimed her the only woman mayor in Texas. In the early 1940s Kyle was noted as the only Texas town with an all-woman government. In the year 2000 Kyle contained some 200 businesses and 5,314 inhabitants.
On this day in 1917, construction of Camp Logan near Houston began. After the United States entered World War I, the War Department took advantage of Houston’s climate and ship channel to order the building of the camp. The Third Battalion of the black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry arrived in late July to guard the site. Tensions between local authorities and black soldiers, however, escalated during the following weeks and erupted on August 23 as the Houston Riot of 1917, resulting in the declaration of martial law. By 1918 the camp served as a hospital for wounded men. William C. Hogg acquired the site after the war, and eventually 1,000 acres became Houston’s largest recreational area, Memorial Park.