On this day in 1779, Athanase de Mézières died at San Antonio of lingering effects from a head injury suffered in a fall from a horse. Mézières was born to nobility in Paris in 1719 and served in the French army in Louisiana in the 1730s. In 1746, while stationed at Natchitoches, Louisiana, he married Marie de St. Denis, the daughter of Louis Juchereau and Manuela Sánchez Navarro de St. Denis; the marriage ended the following year, when Marie died in childbirth. In 1763, shortly after Louisiana had passed from French to Spanish control, Mézières offered his services to Spain. Skilled in Latin, French, and Spanish as well as in several Indian languages, he embarked on an extraordinary career as Spanish agent to the Indians of northern Texas. He negotiated several important treaties, and in 1772 made the earliest definite mention of the Texas Iron, which was for years the largest recorded meteorite in the world. In 1778 Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Louisiana, assigned Mézières to forge an alliance among the Spanish, Comanches, and Norteños against the Apaches. To this end Mézières spent much of the next year traveling, and was en route from Los Adaes to Nacogdoches when he was thrown from his horse. He arrived in San Antonio, where he learned he had been appointed governor of Texas, in September 1779, but never assumed office. The proposed alliance with the Comanches and Norteños never came to pass.
On this day in 1920, voters ratified the Better Schools Amendment to the Constitution of 1876. The amendment removed limitations on tax rates allowable by local school districts for support of their public schools, thus potentially easing the state's burden of school financing. Administrators also hoped the amendment would increase equality in school conditions by enabling each district to improve its facilities. The results of the amendment were mixed. Though it brought a 51 percent increase in local support for public schools by 1923, many local districts moved slowly to increase taxation while continuing to rely on the state as their primary source of financing.
On this day in 1940, the cowboy “poet laureate,” Lysius Gough, was found dead at his home in Amarillo. His latest poem, still scrolled in the typewriter, was appropriately titled “Gone.” Gough, born in Lamar County in 1862, was a man of diverse talents and interests. After running away from home as a teenager, he punched cattle on several drives and earned the nickname “Parson” at the T Anchor Ranch because he never swore. In the mid-1880s Gough obtained his teaching certificate and became principal of Pilot Point Institute. During this time he also published his first book of cowboy verse, Western Travels and Other Rhymes. Eventually he studied law, married Ida Russell, and was one of the first settlers of Castro County, where he taught school at Dimmitt. He later engaged in real estate, irrigation well drilling, and farming. In the 1920s Gough served as president of the Texas Wheat Growers Association and also helped organize the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society. He published Spur Jingles and Saddle Songs in 1935.