The Other Texas: Charities and Community in
the Lone Star State
T HE DEVELOPMENT OF TEXAS HAS OFTEN BEEN PRESENTED AS A PRO-
gression of wars, frontier struggles over land, and ethnic conflicts.
Nineteenth-century settlers have been portrayed as rugged individual-
ists, an image kept alive by some oil men in the early twentieth century.
Motion pictures and television perpetuated those colorful concepts.' At
the same time, however, Texans created communities that recognized
the problems of their members and offered assistance. Understanding
the development and variety of these communities and their charitable
efforts offers insight into another side of the Texas character.
Although charitable concerns may seem less exciting, they often be-
gan as responses to crises. Epidemics, especially yellow fever, struck fre-
quently in coastal towns beginning in the 183os, with 25o deaths at
Galveston in 1839. When the dreaded "Yellow Jack" attacked the island
community again in 1844, several men formed the Howard Association,
apparently the first charitable organization in the Republic of Texas.
They incorporated to provide "relief to the indigent sick and the desti-
tute" of Galveston. The Howard Association began a pattern of local
charities that focused on the specific needs of their towns.
Members of the Galveston organization, who patterned their activities
after the Howard Association of New Orleans, included middle-class
businessmen, ministers, attorneys, Galveston News editor Willard
Richardson, and future mayor James W. Moore. They received a charter
from the state in 1854. The association responded at least five times
* Alwyn Barr is professor of history at Texas Tech University. He is the author of Reconstruction
to Reform. Texas Politics, 1876-I906 (University of Texas Press, 1971); Black Texans: A History of
Negroes zn Texas, x528-1971 (Jenkins Publishing Co., 1973); and Texans zn Revolt: The Battle for
San Antonio, 1835 (University of Texas Press, 1990). He delivered this paper as his presidential
address at the ninety-seventh annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association m Hous-
ton, Texas, on March 5, 1993.
This research on Texas charities has been supported by Texas Tech University through a fac-
ulty development leave and by the Summerlee Foundation through a travel grant.
i See Don Graham, Cowboys and Cadillacs: How Hollywood Looks at Texas (Austin: Texas Monthly
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed March 16, 2014.