On this day in 1849, Maj. Robert S. Neighbors arrived in San Antonio after leading an expedition to survey an upper, or northern, route to El Paso. His expedition was one of several sent out to open a practical wagon road to the west. The expedition formed at Torrey's Trading Post near Waco, left the trading post on March 23, 1849, crossed the Colorado River on April 2, and crossed the Pecos at Horsehead Crossing on April 17. They reached the Rio Grande on April 25 and El Paso on May 2. Considering the last hundred miles too difficult for wagons, Neighbors took a northern return route previously used by the Mexican army between El Paso and the Pecos River. He reported that the route could be used by wagons and proceeded on to Fredericksburg and finally San Antonio. Today's railroads and highways generally follow his survey.
On this day in 1873, the Texas legislature declared the existence of Wegefarth County. Like several other defunct Texas counties, Wegefarth County was never more than an idea of the state government. Though it had boundaries, it was never organized, and was abolished three years after it was named. The territory of the county lay west of Greer County, which, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, actually turned out to be in Oklahoma. Though its own territory was disputed like that of Greer County--because of a complex dispute involving an inaccurate map and the location of the 100th meridian--Wegefarth County was actually in Texas. But its name and boundaries were suppressed when the legislature established the current Panhandle counties on August 21, 1876. The other phantom counties established by the legislature and never organized were Buchel, Dawson, Encinal, and Foley.
On this day in 1911, Carry Nation, perhaps the most famous prohibitionist in American history, died in Kansas. Born in Kentucky in 1846, she lived in Texas for several years as a child in the 1860s and again as an adult from 1879 to 1889. While in Texas, Nation had numerous mystic experiences. She came to believe that she had been elected by God and that she spoke through divine inspiration. After her husband, a sometime reporter for the Houston Post, ran afoul of the feuding sides in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War, they relocated to Kansas. In 1892 she helped organize a local chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and was appointed jail evangelist. In the name of home protection she began a crusade against alcohol and tobacco that lasted the rest of her life. Claiming the justification that saloons were illegal in prohibitionist Kansas, she wrecked "joints" and berated persons who sold liquor. In 1900 she adopted the hatchet as her tool of destruction. The sale of souvenir hatchets and earnings from nationwide lecture tours allowed her to pay the fines that resulted from more than thirty arrests. Although she was a national leader of the extremist element of the prohibitionist movement, she never had the unqualified support of the WCTU or of any other national organization. In the final years of her life she was increasingly afflicted with mental illness, and died in a Leavenworth hospital.