On this day in 1967, Hurricane Beulah, the third largest hurricane of the twentieth century, struck South Texas. It battered the state for two days. The storm hit Brownsville with winds estimated at 140 miles an hour, moved northwest across South Texas to the vicinity of Alice, then turned southwest, crossed the Rio Grande between Zapata and Laredo, and finally blew itself out in Mexico. Tornadoes spawned by Beulah did extensive damage to South Texas and northeast Mexico. On September 28, President Johnson declared twenty-four counties in South Texas a disaster area. Official estimates in these counties set the number of dead at 18, the injured or sick at 9,000, and the number of homes destroyed or heavily damaged at 3,000. Property damage was estimated at $100 million, crop damage at $50 million. Some 300,000 people were evacuated during the storm and subsequent flooding.
On this day in 1865, pioneer aviator Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck may have made the first flight in an airplane--almost forty years before the Wright brothers--in a field about three miles east of Luckenbach. The Württemberg native settled in Fredericksburg in 1847. He had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing; in Germany he had attempted to build a self-winding clock, and in 1869 he designed an ice-making machine. His most cherished project, however, was his "air-ship," with a propeller powered by coiled springs. The 1865 model featured an enclosed space for the "aeronaut," a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer. The machine was said to have risen twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground. Another account, however, says that the initial flight took place in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck was later placed. Yet another account reports that the flight took place in 1868, not 1865. All the accounts agree, however, that Brodbeck's airship was destroyed by its abrupt landing, although the inventor escaped serious injury. After this setback, his investors refused to put up the money for a second attempt, and he embarked on a unsuccessful fund-raising tour of the United States. Brodbeck returned to Texas and lived on a ranch near Luckenbach until his death in 1910.
On this day in 1905, Texas Baptist University, in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, began its first classes. Church-related institutions of higher education had become quite important in Texas in the previous century. The Methodists had started twenty-one, the Baptists were next with ten, followed by the Presbyterians with eight, the Catholics with four, the Christian Church with three, the Episcopalians and Lutherans with two each, and the Congregationalists with one. The school in Oak Cliff was founded by the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas. Dr. J. R. Pentuff was president, and A. S. Laird was professor of mathematics. Though the institution grew respectably during its first few years, it was closed in 1912. It had been dependent upon the missionary association, which lost the support of many congregations. Such ephemeral institutions as TBU continue to open and close, while hundreds of colleges and universities, both church-related and secular, provide higher education in Texas.