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Birth of Texas author and women's club leader
May 07, 1861

On this day in 1861, Anna Pennybacker, clubwoman, woman suffrage advocate, author, and lecturer, was born in Petersburg, Virginia. She graduated from the first class of Sam Houston Normal School in Huntsville, Texas, continued her education in Europe, and subsequently taught grammar and high school for fourteen years. In 1884 she married native Texan Percy V. Pennybacker. Mrs. Pennybacker wrote and published A New History of Texas in 1888, and the textbook was a staple of Texas classrooms for forty years. She founded one of the first women's clubs in Texas, the Tyler Woman's Club, in 1894. She went on to serve as president of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs from 1901 to 1903, a position in which she raised $3,500 for women's scholarships at the University of Texas and helped persuade the legislature to fund a women's dormitory there. After holding important offices in the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Mrs. Pennybacker was an associate member of the Democratic National Committee (1919-20) and through her work with the Democrats met Eleanor Roosevelt in 1924. Their fourteen-year friendship was based on mutual interests in the advancement of women, world peace, and the Democratic party. Anna Pennybacker died in Austin in 1938.

Future founders of Harrisburg wed
May 07, 1813

On this day in 1813, John Richardson Harris wed Jane Birdsall in New York. While living in Missouri, the Harrises met Moses Austin, who convinced them to move to Texas. John went to Texas in 1824 and received title to 4,428 acres of land in what is now Harris County. He boarded with William Scott while he built a house at the junction of Buffalo and Bray's bayous, and two years later hired Francis W. Johnson to lay out the town of Harrisburg. After John Harris died of yellow fever in 1829, his widow moved to Harrisburg. There, in the spring of 1836, she was the hostess of the provisional government; so crowded was her house that all of the cabinet, except the president, vice president, and secretary of state, were obliged to sleep on the floor. She later operated an inn that, after the construction of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, was patronized by travelers who changed from railroad to steamship and from steamship to railroad at Harrisburg. Jane Birdsall Harris died in 1869.

Historic steamer arrives in Texas
May 07, 1844

On this day in 1844, the Scioto Belle, a river steamer believed to have been built on the Scioto River in Ohio, arrived at Galveston from New Orleans. The vessel was described in the Telegraph and Texas Register as a substantial, well-built ship, nearly new, well adapted for carrying freight, and with excellent accommodations for passengers. The steamer operated between Galveston and Houston and landings on the Trinity River but, probably because of the poor condition of the Trinity channel in the 1840s, was not able to go much farther up the river than Liberty Landing. In 1844, during a yellow fever epidemic, the Scioto Belle was docked at Lynchburg and converted by Dr. John Henry Bowers into a hospital.