In Memory of
Benjamin F. Neal
First Mayor of
Erected and dedicated by
April 7, 1935
Wm. Shaffer – Mayor
R. B. McGloin
C. O. Watson
W. W. Sharp
C. D. Johns Atty
Photo Credit: Rosa G. Gonzales
Provenance: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Corpus Christi Caller Times (April 22, 1998).
3. Corpus Christi History by Murphy Givens
Corpus Christi Caller Times (June 23, 1999). Available on microfilm.
4. Corpus Christi History by Murphy Givens
Corpus Christi Caller Times (June 30, 1999). Available on microfilm.
5. Corpus Christi History by Murphy Givens
Corpus Christi Caller Times (July 21, 1999). Available on microfilm.
Corpus Christi Caller Times (November 7, 2007).
8. News Item
Daily globe, A new paper, styled the Daily Globe, is now published at Galveston by Mr. Bangs. It is edited by B. F. Neal, Esq. It is a neat little sheet, nearly as large as the La Grange Intelligencer, and some what smaller than the Morning Star, which the Intelligence styles a diminutive specimen of a daily paper. We are happy to state that, however diminutive, its editorial department displays a considerable degree of talent. Mr. Neal, its editor, is favorably known to our readers as the former editor of the Galveston News.
Source: Telegraph & Texas Register, November 19, 1845, Page 2, col. 4
Research: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin
9. News Item
Leaves have their time to fall,
A and flowers to wither at the north wind's breath
But thou hast no (__________) for thine own, O Death
Death, the stern reaper, has been in our midst, and having separated his
immortal soul from its frail tenement of clay, left the lifeless body of
our old and time honored friend, Benjamin f. Neal, to have the last sad
offices performed by those who knowing him in life, hasten to give
expression by their presence, how much they revered him even in death.
His was truly a varied and eventful life; and the many important positions which he filled prove at once the great esteem in which he was held as well as the versatility of his talents. Judge Neal first came to Texas in 1838, and opened a school at Live Oak Point, which he conducted until appointed Chief Justice of Refugio county.
Those were troublous days on the border; when the rifle was more potent than the pen for the civil code, and Judge Neal was always to be found where duty called him. He came to reside at Corpus Christi in 1844, and followed the profession of the law. In 1850 he began the publication of a weekly newspaper called the Nueces Valley. Was subsequently Mayor of the City. In 1852 he was sent to the Legislature of the State, when he obtained a charter for a ship channel between Corpus Christi and Aransas bays. In 1858 he went to Arizona, and returned again to Corpus in the Fall of 1859. From that time until the opening of the war politics ran high, and the Judge was always a prominent actor an out- spoken supporter of Southern Democratic principles.
In 1861, when the Rubicon of Secession was passed, Judge Neal was elected Captain of an Artillery company, which was afterwards attached to the 8th regiment of Infantry. He resigned the command of his Company in 1863, having been elected by the people to the office of District Judge, which position he held until removed at the close of the war. To follow his varied course through all its changes would demand a larger space than a brief obituary notice permits. One of his last public acts, outside the practice of law, was his revival of the Nueces Valley, newspaper which he published until he sold it to its present proprietors. Finally, after two trips to the North, he returned to this City, where he was attacked by dropsy, which he bore long and patiently until his lamp of life went out, leaving not an enemy behind. The long procession that followed his mortal remains to the grave proved how much he was respected in this life. May his soul find eternal rest in the future. R. P.
Source: CC Weekly Gazette, July 19, 1873, page 2 col. 5
Research: Msgr. Michael A Howell
Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin
10. News Item
Retiring Address of B. F. Neal, Founder of Nueces Valley Newspaper In a file of old papers, the Nueces Valley published in Corpus Christi, we find under the date of Saturday, August 27, 1870, the retiring address of he founder of the paper, B. F. Neal. He says: "This issue terminates our connection with the paper. When we commenced the publication of the Valley, our town was prosperous, and gave evidence of future greatness, but things now are not like they were. Another consideration, our health has gradually been giving way for the past twelve months. We do not feel able to attend to the duties of publishing a newspaper. We leave it to younger heads, men possessing more intellectual and physical ability than we do at this time." He then states that all contracts for subscription and advertisements will be fulfilled by hid successors. The value of the paper will be greater, as it will hereafter be the official organ of this district. In another article Judge Neal emphatically declines to serve on the County Radical Committee. The old Southerner declines to profit by the misfortunes of his people or to join the forces of his enemy, and this child of his brain, solace of his old age, his beloved paper, passes out of his hands and is edited by one Drummond.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller and Daily Herald, September 25,1917, p. 6, col. 4-5
Research: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin
11. News Item
When progressive citizens of Dallas organized the State Fair of Texas in 1886, and half a century later broadened their program to call it the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition, they were following a trail blazed by Col. Henry Lawrence Kinney in 1852. He was the promoter of the Lone Star Fair of
Texas, the first state fair in Texas, and founder of the city of Croups Christi.
Not only was Col. Kinney's project state-wide in its scope, but it was organized to attract exhibitors from the United States at large and from Mexico. But here the parallelism between the fair of 1852 and the later State Fair of Texas ends. The inception, realization, and the denouement of that earlier event, is, however a story in the annals of Texas history worth recalling.
Col. Kinney's motive for promoting the Lone Star Fair of Texas was not altruistic. This is evident when the reasons prompting his actions are known. His land project had bogged down. Although he had induced a number of substantial families to settle on his lands west of the Nueces River, the rate of immigration was slow. There was no immediate prospect of its increasing. The fortune which he had long anticipated reaping from land sales was accordingly but a dream. And further, now that the war with Mexico was over the volume of his contraband, trade had fallen off alarmingly. He realized that some artificial stimulus was necessary if he would realize his visions of power and wealth.
Col. Kinney reasoned that if families could be induced to make the long trip to Corpus Christi from the more densely populated centers of the country, there would be no difficulty in persuading them to remain. Corpus Christi had everything to recommend it. Rich farm lands, ideal pasturage for stock, easy access to Mexican trade a, a water highway to the market at New Orleans' to say nothing of a mild and healthful climate all these things and many more would play their part in enticing visitors to stay. The Lone Star Fair of Texas was the answer to Col. Kinney's problems. Col Kinney was both blessed and cursed with a lively imagination. With him, to think of a thing was as good as seeing it accomplished. It is characteristic that he should jump into the midst of such a project as this fair without either sufficient preparation or financial backing.
In 1851 Col. Kinney began preparing for the event. His publicity and advertisements for the fair appeared in the press of England, throughout Texas, and the United Sates. His promises were keyed in extravagant phraseology.
"ample accommodations and sumptuously furnished hotels. Race course,
cock pit, bull fights conducted by Senor Cemarana, a celebrity," were
some of the attractions promised.
The press stated that:
"An amount of merchandise of every conceivable description will be exposed for sale&greater by far than was ever gathered together in any portion of the Southwest. Every principal city in the Union will furnish it quota of goods, judiciously selected with an eye to the wants of the
The Texas State Gazette, November 22, 1851, published an enthusiastic forecast of pleasures and sights to be offered in Corpus Christi:
"The largest stock of improved cattle, horses ever gathered together within the boundaries of Texas will be assembled&It is planned to place the Race Course under the management of a veteran of the turf from New Orleans'. The Cock-pit will b properly managed by a gentleman from the city of Mexico, and the bull fights will be conducted by Senor Cemarana, whose celebrity in that particular species of pleasures is world wide. A dramatic company judiciously selected, will occupy a temporary theater: and a managers are now in treaty to secure the presence of the great menagerie of Barnum's lately introduced into the United States. Regatta, for which our bay is so well adapted, will intersperse the festivities, and in short, neither expense nor labor will be spared to make the occasion one of the greatest hilarity, profit and usefulness."
The Colonel wrote glowing letters to friends and acquaintances. One of these was sent to no less a person than Dr. Asabel Smith, of Galveston. In this communication, the latter was invited to become the manager of the fair for that year; take charge of the distribution of some three thousand dollars worth of prizes; and with his committee to become the guests of Col. Kinney during their stay in Corpus Christi.
The Lone Star Fair of Texas opened May 1, 1852. A distinguished company was present. Statesmen from Mexico, Cuba, and various notables from the United Sates arrived to participate in the festivities. A list of distinguished visitors includes the following names: Dr. Ashbel smith, Gen. Jose M. Carvajal, Col. Terry of the Ranger, Gen Hugh McLeod, Maj. James H. Durst, Gen H. Clay Davis, Capt. Bill Maltby, Maj. W.M. Mann, Gen William Selby Harney, Capt. Jones, Col. T. S. Lubbock, Gov. P. H. Bell, Gen. J. P. Henderson, Maj. W. H. Burleson, Gen George T. Wood, Dr. Ellis of Burleson County, Dr. C. S. Brown, Maj. Ben White, Maj. R. S. Neighbors, Capt. G. K. Lewis, Gen. Memucan Hunt, and James Davis.
Corpus Christi was presented to the visitors in its most attractive aspect. Nights had a romantic flavor. Sea breezes wafted inland and cooled close packed humanity. A band of musicians played on the bluff at Col. Kinney's house. It is no wonder that many declared they had never beheld such a delightful situation.
The New Orleans Daily Delta correspondent was impressed with what he saw. He wrote:
"What is remarkable here is that of all the men form the frontier and interior of Texas go armed through the crowded streets and yet, with the exception of a fisticuff now in a drinking shop, I have not yet heard of a single quarrel. I must say that, under all circumstances, they are the
most quiet and orderly setoff people I ever saw."
A little later on the same correspondent remarked that:
"The country in the immediate vicinity of Corpus is the finest in the world, for raising stock of all kinds and to this end most of the premiums have been offered for the finest cattle, sheep and horses. Large droves have come in, and I was not a little surprised to see the
stock looking so well. A mixture of the Durham breed here with the native stock looks as well as our Kentucky cattle. The sheet also are very fine and there are some fine blooded stallions here."
The exhibitions were held in the large brink "ware-room" belonging to Judge James Webb, the colonel's father-in-law, Mexican saddles, bridles, spurs, blankets, quilts and embroidery formed the principal exhibits. William Dinn, formerly of New Orleans, who had bought a farm from
Kinney, had an exhibit of the finest vegetables ever seen in the locality.
Although P.T. Barnum's wonders were not procured for the fair, the Colonel did engage H. A. Maltby's circus from New Orleans. Nightly, in the area of the tent and before a capacity audience< Madam Ella Nunn displayed 'her grace and skill in horsemanship."
Occupying the reserved seats were elegantly dressed American and Mexican ladies flirting their fans 'with the same coquetry that they would at an opera. High ranking army officers were scattered among gentlemen fashionably dress in 'white kids. But the rougher element was present also. Shaggy frontiersmen, with guns in their belts and the handles of bowie knives peeping from their shirts, hunkered on their heels with friendly Comanche and Lipan Indians, Mexican rancheros, and a sprinkling of Negroes. To the amusement starved crowd, there was never before, nor ever after to be such a display of grace and talent. For years to come, old times talked of the glories of Maltby's Circus, and though larger shows were to come still those who had seen the first attraction refused to concede that superior entertainment was ever offered.
There was also plenty of amusement for lusty tastes. Two races were held during the first week. Attendance at these was large. The first race was a single dash of a mil; the second was two best in three. Although the horses which ran were not blooded, and the time of their course unnoted, these event still provided 'considerable sport.
The second week of the fair was even more exciting than the first. A good many people arrived, and everything was now in full swing. Even though large sales of stock and lands took place, they were not large enough to satisfy the Colonel.
Cattle sold for $5 a head, and as many as a thousand head were sold in one day. Mustangs brought $20, mares from $6 to $13, and mules from $24 to $32 each. These were cash sales.
Choice town lots sold for $100, and rich farming and grazing lands went for $1 to $3 per acres. One fourth down and the balance on time were the terms the Colonel offered, and it seemed as if no one could refuse the temptation to buy. But here again the Colonel was disappointed, for the made no great land sales, and the sum total of his transactions fell far below his anticipation.
There personal matters of the Colonel were, however, concealed beneath the brilliance of the sporting events. Several such affairs took place during the second week. Cemarana, celebrated bullfighter from the City of Mexico, fought three bulls. A report of these fights says that the bulls in the first two fights were badly wounded, but in the third fight a different situation developed.
A little red bull, named 'Colorado, enter the arena. So ferocious a beast was he that the crowd believed him to have 'come down from the mountains. The bull, 'Colorado, proved to be a match for Cemarana, and after a gallant struggle between man and beast, the fight was declared by the judges as ending in a draw.
On May 13, Gen. Carvajal, Commander-in-Chief of the Liberating Army of Mexico, delivered an address before a crowd which overflowed the circus tent. Dr. Ashbel Smith, president of the fair, presented the speaker. The General set forth his cause and spoke feelingly of the wrongs
inflicted upon his people by 'the tyranny and oppressions of the Mexican government.
The General was warmly applauded throughout, his speech, and there is scarcely any doubt that his inflammatory words were intended to arouse sympathy which would result in the recruitment of men to his standard.
When Gen. Carvajal finished his address, there were loud call for Gen. McLeod, who in due time appeared before the gathering. The Delta correspondent reported his speech as:
'He hoped that eloquent and forcible address of the distinguished stranger might receive that consideration which it so justly deserved. He believed that he causes set forth by Gen. Carvajal, for throwing off the shackles of the priest-ridden Government of Mexico, were far greater than those which induced our forefathers in the revolution to declare themselves free. And although his own private affairs prevented him from taking any part in the cause, yet all his sympathies were enlisted for it.
Wednesday, May 14, was packed with exciting events. In the afternoon a rodeo was held in which bull throwing was one of the main features. The crowd was impartial in its applause when the bulls occasionally turned the tables on their tormenters and set the riders sprawling in the dust.
Riding a wild bull was another event. For this occasion, the little red bull, 'Colorado was turned loose. The bull riders sprang suddenly from the ground upon his back, but were as quickly thrown to the ground. And many a hard fall did the competitors receive before they met with
success. At last, however, a Mexican triumphed, and such a running roaring and pitching as followed, even made the mules laugh.
A daring feat of horsemanship, in which the rider attempted to pick up a dollar from the ground while the horse was a t full urn, was still another event. This feat created great sport, and loud cheers greeted the victor.
The last day of the fair arrived and with it the eagerly awaited moment when the premiums would be presented. The ceremonies took place in the circus tent before an audience estimated at some two thousand persons. The time was at the conclusion of the evening's equestrian performance. Addresses were delivered by Gen. Hugh McLeod and Dr. Ashbel Smith.
Col Kinney had sent Capt. G. K. Lewis to the New Orleans to procure prizes for the fair. They were various articles of silverware, and described in the press as being of 'superb workmanship.
The Texas Republican, May 1, 1852, speaks of the prizes as follows:
The number of Prizes is 70, all of Pure Silver&among the 1st Class Prizes may be found one Richly Chased and Massive Coffee Urn; one Embossed Cake Basket, of large size; one superb Punch bowl, besides Pitchers, & c. In the 2d class are Silver Waiters, Sugar Baskets, Butter
dishes, Milk Pitchers, etc.; and in the 3rd, we find Sauce Boats; Cream and Milk Pitchers; Silver Dessert Knives, in cases; Spoons and Forks, in sets; Cups and Saucer; and many other prizes; and in the 4th and 5th classes are, also, Cups and Saucers; Cream Tumblers, &c. These are all of the finest quality; in fact, only such would be ordered by Col. Kinney and the Committee, and none but such would be furnished by Hide & Goodrich. The following is engraved on each prize:
From H. L. Kinney and the General Committee of the Lone Star Fair &Corpus Christi, May 1852,
With a place left on each for the name of the person to whom it may be awarded.
It is amusing to note that the chief donor of the prizes, Col. H. L. Kinney, came in for a fair share of them himself. A list of the winning exhibits and exhibitors follows:
Stallion, 5 years old or upward, Colonel H. L. Kinney
Stallion under 5 years, Mr. Wammack
Mustang mares, 25 in number, R. Clements
Gelding, J. F. Johnson
Jack and Jenny, Rafael Aldrete
Mules, 25 in number, E. Britton
Five year old bulls, Don Cancarena
Milk Cows, Col. H. L. Kinney
Ram and ewe, John Dix
Mule, John Terry
Brood mare, M. Montgomery
Mustang stallion, John Dix, Jr.
Mexican saddle, Louis Benedict
Mexican blanket, F. Garcia
Mexican bridle, Col. H. L. Kinney
Superior horsemanship, Don Casiano
Embroidery, Mrs. Mary Armstong
Horticultural production, William Dinn
Finest sugar, W. Hardeman
Finest cotton, M. B. Kinney (Mrs. H. L. Kinney)
Fine arts best paintings Mr. Flintoff
Specimens of meat biscuits, Gail Borden
Prime mess beef, George Starkweather
Machinery, Mr. Redgate
Tallow trying machine, C. R. Hopson
In spite of all the hilarity and glitter, something was amiss. The anticipated twenty to thirty thousand persons who were to have attended the fair never arrived. A generous count of the attendance revealed that not more than two thousand had come. The reasons for this small
attendance were several.
The remoteness of Corpus Christi from metropolitan centers in 1852 is difficult to visualize today. The easiest route there was by steamer from New Orleans across the Gulf. Such a voyage was filled with discomfort and danger. The overland route was used only by the hardiest pioneers. For this reason many person were discouraged from coming to the fair.
Besides the difficulty of transportation and remoteness of the location, there was a more serious factor involved. The border was in a state of unrest. Rumors had spread abroad that Gen. Carvajal intended to seize for his revolutionary operations the stock and goods which Mexican traders planned to bring for exhibition. While this rumor was unfounded, it nevertheless deterred many persons living south of the Rio Grande from coming to the Nueces.
Still one more factor played its part in keeping visitors away form the fair. Many Anglo-Americans regarded the fair as not more than a clever ruse to entice the unwary in to a filibustering movement headed by no less a person than the colonel himself. Though Kinney reputation gave grounds for such suspicion, the filibustering movement did not develop.
For once in his life, the colonel seems to have been of a single-minded purpose, and that purpose was to see that the Lone Star Fair was a success.
Rumors that he fair was 'considered rather in the light of a failure spread rapidly through the newspapers. The Texas Republican, June 6, 1852, for one stated that:
'&There were present about five hundred Mexicans, about two hundred citizens from different parts of the country, and a considerable number of black legs, being in all, about two thousand person. The sales of cattle, horses, and land for which undoubtedly the fair was gotten up,
were meager to what was expected. It is said that the horses and cattle could not be had as was expected, and which accounts for the limited. Sales
In another story the same paper states that '&Money not so plentiful as was expected. Some murders are reported as having taken place
These statements were emphatically denied by Dr. Ashbel Smith in the Texas State Gazette, June 12, 1852. In the story, he is credited with saying that he '&positively contradicts the report that the fair has been a failure, or that any murders had been committed. Everything went off well.
At the close of the fair, a general committee was selected for the purpose of arranging a similar fair I May, 1853. This was an empty gesture. The brilliance of the entertainment offered by the Colonel, during the fair just past could not offset the utter financial ruin that followed in its wake. Neither in 1853, nor in succeeding years, was the Lone Star Fair again held. And Col. Kinney, its promoter, undismayed by the tangled skeins of his fortunes, sought compensation for his disappoinmt in greater, more amazing feats of adventure.
Source: The Lone Star Fair of Texas, Hortense Warner Ward
The Cattleman, May 1948
Corpus Christi Public Library microfilm
Research: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin
Nueces County Historical Commission
12. News Item
MONUMENT OF FIRST MAYOR IS UNVEILED
IMPRESSIVE CEREMONY IS HELD AT OLD BAY VIEW CEMETERY
MONUMENT IS UNVEILED BY GRANDDAUGHTER OF MAYOR BENJAMIN F. NEAL
A Fitting and lasting tribute was paid to Benjamin Franklin Neal, first mayor of Corpus Christi, when a large crowd attended the unveiling and dedication of a granite monument in his honor at the old Bay View cemetery Sunday afternoon, which was presided over by Mrs. Frank DeGarmo, as chairman on arrangements. The impressive ceremonies opened with the sounding of "To The Colors" by a Boy Scout bugler as the national colors were unfurled and hoisted to the top of the flagstaff. Immediately following, Dr. George West Diehl said the invocation as the audience stood with bowed heads to the memory of the fist leader of this city.
Mrs. DeGarmo, in her introductory address, said:
"The history and founding of Corpus Christi, by charter, in 1852, was made, not alone by the pioneer men and women, who braved the dangers of the wilderness of Nueces county, in the long ago, but also by one man, a leader, who, because he laid aside every though of personal comfort and cultural environments of the east, came west, and worked so zealously and so unremittingly to wrest the civilization of the future from the roaming savages, the smugglers and the idle and disorderly adventurer of that time, we have today, a safe and pleasant city in which to dwell." We rejoice to behold this belted, but beautiful tribute to one of our notable pathfinders, Hon. Benjamin Franklin Neal, first mayor of Corpus Christi, erected to his memory by the city council of Corpus Christi, 1935, and whose presence on this occasion speaks well for the spirit of loyalty and respect that should be shown by all patriotic citizens of the memory of our founders.
"We should also glory in the fact that he left us a legacy of religious foundations, of educational institutions, of commercial foresight and of strict obedience to law and order, for our guidance, and which not in our time alone but through all future years should incite all of to deeds of heroism and valor and unfailing loyalty to the present and future worthy development of Corpus Christi."
"This splendid monument to the memory of Mayor Neal has been projected in a spirit of loftiest patriotism to memorialize the fist mayor of Corpus Christi, the first incorporator of Corpus Christi, and the man who obtained the first charter for the ship channel of this city. We desire now to pay a fitting tribute to those dear descendents, hi daughter, and his granddaughter, who are guests of honor of the city here today. I now present, Mrs. Leonard Hall, granddaughter of Mayor Neal, who will unveil his monument of imperishable bronze and lasting granite." Mrs. Hall then officiated at the unveiling of the monument, assisted by members of Boy Scouts. Mayor William Shaffer delivered the following brief talk: We are here this Sunday afternoon to do honor to the memory of the fist mayor of Corpus Christi, Hon. Benjamin Franklin Neal, This great pioneer citizen carved out for us a charter of government that has been followed with some needed changes down to the present day. This monument in granite typifies the strength and durability of the things he wrought for us. His first thought was of the Corpus Christi of the future, and he who had to live in the long cabin days, with other heroic men and women of those early days in the wilderness, looked forward to the day when Corpus Christi would receive the great ships of the sea, in her own sheltered harbor, because he had secured a first charter for a ship channel which, when fully deepened, and widened, would open the Port of Corpus Christi to the world.
This brave and patriotic pathfinder, who blazed the trail for our religious leaders, our princely merchants, our teachers, our statesmen and our philanthropists is entitled to have his name engraved on an imperishable tablet of bronze and to be enrolled among the immortals. We are indeed pleased to have as our guests of honor, the beloved wife of his only son and his favorite granddaughter. I now present this granite monument, in behalf of the city council, to the City of Corpus Christi, in memory of our first mayor. Mrs. Arthur Henry Neal, daughter of Mayor Neal, was then introduced to the audience. Judge J. B. Hubbard in a brief talk told of Mayor Neal obtaining the first charter for the building of a ship channel, which materialized nearly fifty years later; also that the mayor obtained the charter for the incorporation of the city of Corpus Christi after serving in the legislature back in 1852.
One of the official acts of the new city government was an ordinance providing for a county fair to be known as the Lone Star Fair. One of the trophies won in this fair is now the property of the local chapter of the D.A. R. said Judge Hubbard. Another first ordinance provided for the erection of a Watch house for the safe keeping of law violators; another original ordinance related to traffic, providing a penalty for persons who ride immoderately through the streets or go armed offensively to the fear of good citizens. Judge Hubbard cited the organization of a chain gang for unruly prisoners in Mayor Neal's regime. Col. L. M. Adams, next speaker on the program lauded the efforts of mayor Neal for starting the plans for a deep water channel for Corpus Christi and told of the fight to obtain realization of the first mayor's dream in recent years. Colonel Adams told of the battle to locate the port at another city, and of the final award to Corpus Christi by the government. He predicted a 35-foot channel, with all federal maintenance, in the near future.
Eli T. Merriman, veteran newspaperman, recited incidents in the early days of the city when Mayor Neal owned and ran the Nueces Valley paper, official organ of this area. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, a bugler from the American Legion post sounded To the Colors , and Taps. Several members of the drum corps were in attendance.
The benediction was said by Dr. Diehl. Inscription of the monument read as follows:
In memory of Benjamin Franklin Neal, first mayor of Corpus Christi, 1852. Erected and dedicated by the city, April 7, 1935. Mayor William Shaffer; Commissioners, C. McCaughnan, R. B. McGloin, C. O. Watson and W. W. Sharp.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, Apr. 8, 1935, P. 1, col. 1 & P. 6 col. 3-4
Research: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription: Geraldine D. McGloin
“First Mayor to Be Honored Sunday”
B.F. Neal, first mayor of Corpus Christi, will be honored next Sunday, April 7, when the city council dedicates a monument to him in the Old Bayview Cemetery. The ceremony is scheduled for three o’clock Sunday afternoon. The program, as planned, will be brief, but impressive, according to Mrs. Frank De Garmo. The Boy Scouts will form a guard of honor for the flag, which will be lowered as taps are sounded. The lineal granddaughter of Mayor Neal, whose name has not been announced, will unveil the monument and his daughter-in-law, a second cousin of Vice-President John Garner, will be honor guest. There also will be a band playing appropriate music. All city officials and others and many “old timers” will attend.
Source: Corpus Christi Times, 2 April 1935, page 3 column 1
Research and transcription: Michael A. Howell
“Monument to be Dedicated to Corpus Christi’s First Mayor”
The city council will officiate at the dedication of a monument that has been erected in the old Bay View cemetery at three o’clock Sunday afternoon to B. F. Neal, teacher, editor, educator, lawyer, legislator, soldier and the first mayor of Corpus Christi, according to Mrs. Sam W. Rankin, who is in charge of the arrangements. One of the features will be the escorting of all descendents of this pioneer citizen and builder from the entrance to the monument. All descendents should be at the entrance by three p.m. Sunday. The public is also invited to attend these dedication ceremonies. This monument will be dedicated to the memory of one of the ablest and most versatile citizens, as well as a true Pathfinder of the greatest needs of the wilderness community wherein he cast his lot. Mrs. Rankin said:
“No tombstone could sufficiently call attention to the respect due Mayor Neal and the reverence of future generations to this hallow spot, made sacred by its first interments of soldiers who came to set Texas free from Mexican domination from the Nueces to the Rio Grande, a disputed territory between the two countries since the Independence of Texas and its establishment as a Republic, and strictly speaking, died in the cause, in 1845-46 while General Taylor’s army was encamped at Kinney’s Landing, Mexican War Soldiers! Their last resting place in the National Cemetery, chosen by Major Hitchcock, for General Taylor’s army dead, overlooking the two bays!” Mrs. Rankin, herself a descendent of a Corpus Christi and Nueces county pioneer, Tyre Mussett, whose original farm was bought in the latter part of 1848, and filed for record the first of January, 1849, and is now the ground on which the last city cemeteries are located, is associate general chairman for the dedication ceremonies representing the procession of descendents of pioneers. Pioneers are all those citizens who lived in Corpus Christi or nearby in the county before the year 1860. A partial list of descendants submitted by Mrs. Rankin follows: Dr. Lovenskiold, Fred Lovenskiold, Mrs. T. B. Southgate, Mrs. Alice Rankin, Wallace Dinn family, Mrs. Kate Young (Gaffney) and family, Mrs. W. B. Hopkins (Miss Halsey), Miss Annie Halsey. Mrs. Stanley Welch and family, descendants of Publisher Barnard, Mrs. John Jordt, and Mrs. Horatio Gussett, Mrs. Wm. Wrather, John Woessner, Walter Leges, Priour family, Whelan family, Cahill family, Felix Woessell’s descendants, Mayor Holbein’s descendants, the Littig descendants, Mrs. Rachel Wright, Thomas Beynon’s descendants, Rev. Mitchell’s descendants. Belden descendants, Weidenmueller descendants, Fitzsimmons descendants, all Dunn descendants, John Dunn, cousin of another John Dunn on Shell Road, Mat Dunn, Pat Dunn, Tom Dunn, Miss Marie Blucher, and Blucher descendants of Felix Blucher, the first Blucher in Corpus Christi; Mrs. Flavius (Lawler), Miss Meuly, and Mr. Will Daimwood and sister, Cody family, Fullerton descendants, N. Bluntzer descendants, Capt. H. R. Sutherland, Mrs. Garner, grandmother of Mrs. A. H. Neal, daughter-in-law of Mayor Neal, with whom Mrs. Neal came to Corpus Christi, when a little child of seven and whose farm was located where the Chemical plant now stands: J. B. Murphy, Alexander Dove, Captain Oliver’s descendants, John Uhlinger descendants, descendants of James McKenzie, Maurice Lichtenstein, William Biggio, Wm. Headen, Alderman Tom Mussett, Col. John Moore, H. W. Berry, W. Staples, T. Baldeschwiller, H. W. Berry. To this roll of fame of pioneers and their descendants, Mrs. Rankin will gladly add others, and requests any person or descendants knowing of other pathfinders of this section, to communicate with her before Saturday morning.
Source: Corpus Christi Times, 5 April 1935, page 1 col. 6-7 and page 2 col. 5
Research and transcription: Michael A. Howell
“City’s First Mayor, B. F. Neal, Honored at Ceremonies”
A granite monument in old Bay View cemetery was unveiled and dedicated with eulogies in memory of Benjamin Franklin Neal, the first mayor of Corpus Christi, before a large audience Sunday afternoon, with Mrs. Frank DeGarmo in charge of the impressive ceremonies. Speakers who paid tribute to Mayor Neal, who obtained the first charter for this city back in 1852, besides Mrs. DeGarmo included Mayor William Shaffer, who made the formal presentation of the monument on behalf of the council; Judge J. B. Hubbard, who cited several provisions in the original city ordinances; Col. L. M. Adams, port director, who talked on the Port of Corpus Christi of today; Eli T. Merriman, veteran newspaperman, who told of early editions of a newspaper published by Mayor Neal, and the benediction was said by Dr. George West Diehl. The formal unveiling of the monument was made by Mrs. Leonard Hall, granddaughter of Mayor Neal, assisted by members of Boy Scouts. A Scout bugler sounded “To the Colors” as the national colors floated to the breeze on the tall staff. In her opening remarks Mrs. DeGarmo told of the pioneer men and women who braved the dangers of those days, and pointed out that Benjamin F. Neal was a leader among them, and it was to his untiring endeavor that the city was founded. “We rejoice to behold this belated, but beautiful tribute to one of our notable pathfinders, Hon. B. F. Neal, first mayor of Corpus Christi, erected to his memory by the city council in 1935, and whose presence on this occasion speaks well for the spirit of loyalty and respect that should be shown by all patriotic citizens of the memory of our founders,” said Mrs. DeGarmo. Immediately following Mayor Shaffer spoke, citing that the monument in granite “typifies the strength and durability of the things Mayor Neal wrought for us.” He said Neal’s first thought was of the Corpus Christi of the future. Mayor Shaffer then formally presented the monument, on behalf of the city council to Corpus Christi. Members of the American Legion post were in attendance. A Legion bugler sounded “taps” at the conclusion of the ceremonies. Members of the incoming city administration were in attendance, headed by Dr. H. R. Giles. Associate chairmen and members of the courtesy committee for the dedication were: Mrs. Sam Rankin, Mrs. Thomas R. McGee, Mrs. W. R. Hopkins, Mrs. Kate Young, and Mrs. T. B. Southgate.
Source: Corpus Christi Times, 8 April 1935, page 1 col. 4-5 and page 2 col. 2
Research and transcription: Michael A. Howell
13. Biographical information from District Judges of Refugio County.
Benjamin F. Neal was judge of the Fourteenth Judicial District from September, 1863, to August, 1865, when he was removed by military orders and Edward Peirce Upton appointed in his place. He again served as the district judge from January 2, 1866, to April, 1867, when he was succeeded by James J. Holt, when Refugio County was placed in the Tenth Judicial District.
Judge Neal was born in Virginia.
He came to Texas in 1838 and shortly afterwards settled in Refugio County. It is believed that he served with Captain Ewen Cameron in the war of the Republic of the Rio Grande in 1838 and 1839, but no definite proof of this service is available. In February, 1840, he was receiver of the Refugio Land Office, and later that year became chief justice of the county, which office he held with short intermissions until Annexation.
Neal's period of service as Refugio's chief justice was one of the most stormy of the county's history. Many were the raids of the Mexicans on the Mission of Refugio, which necessitated frequent removal of the county government to San Carlos Ranch on the east side of the San Antonio River. During his incumbency occurred the sacking of Refugio, on September 1, 1841, and the occupation of March, 1842. Neal was a member of Captain John R. Baker's Spy Company in 1841 and 1842, and served under Captain Cameron in the Battle of the Nueces in 1842. He was probably with Cameron at San Antonio, in September, 1842, but was not in the Mier Expedition.
Neal was both a lawyer and a journalist. During the period he was county judge of Refugio County, Willard Richardson was deputy district surveyor. Richardson had ambitions to become a journalist. In 1841 Judge Neal bought the "Advocate," then published at the old town of San Luis. He shortly discontinued the publication and moved the Washington hand-press and printing office to Galveston, where it became a part of the plant of the Galveston "News," then being established. Neal brought with him his Washington press from San Luis in a sailing sloop. En route the boat turned over and its precious cargo went into the water, but it was fished out and put into use. An old Washington hand-press, believed to be the same one, is still used in the job office of the "News."
Willard Richardson, after leaving Refugio County, worked for a short while on a Houston newspaper, then, in 1843, purchased Judge Neal's interest in the Galveston "News," and eventually became the sole proprietor of that famous newspaper. Richardson became one of the greatest journalists of the South. He founded the "Texas Almanac," which is still being published by the Dallas "News."
Neal was interested for a time with Joseph F. Smith in the founding of the town of Saint Mary's, and was probably one of Smith's numerous legal advisers.
About 1846 Judge Neal moved to Corpus Christi and engaged in the private practice of law. He became general counsel for Colonel Henry L. Kinney, and enjoyed a large practice in Refugio County, where he always had a strong hold on the affections of the people. He was one of Colonel Kinney's executors. In 1847 he was a candidate for the Legislature against Colonel James Power.
Neal became one of the most valuable and well beloved citizens of early Corpus Christi. He was indefatigable in securing legislation and financial support for deep water and railroads into his adopted city, and was incorporator of numerous associations chartered for these purposes.
Upon the incorporation of Corpus Christi in 1852, Neal became her first mayor. He thereafter served frequently as councilman, and was again mayor in 1855. Prior to the Civil War he founded a newspaper at Corpus Christi, called the "Nueces Valley," which he edited during the greater part of its existence, retiring with the issue of August, 1870, because of ill health. He nevertheless contributed many articles and editorials after his retirement.
The outbreak of the Civil War found Judge Neal a warm advocate of states' rights. He immediately organized an artillery company, designed primarily for defense of Corpus Christi against Federal fleets. Neal was elected captain, and served in that capacity during most of the war. Neal's Battery was attached to Colonel Hobby's Eighth Texas Infantry Regiment, and saw active service in the two battles of Corpus Christi. Neal held the rank of major at the end of the war.
During the war Neal was appointed judge of the Fourteenth Judicial District, vice Judge McKinney, deceased, and was thereafter elected, and was serving at the time the military government deposed him in 1865. However, he was restored to office a few months later, and upon re-appointment continued as district judge of the Fourteenth District, sans Refugio and other counties, until October, 1867, when he was again removed by military order and George R. Scott appointed to replace him. He later went on the bench for the Nueces-Karnes County district, which did not then include Refugio. He served until about 1870, when he resumed practice at Corpus Christi.
Judge Neal died a poor man, but full of years and honors, in Corpus Christi, on July 18, 1873.
Neal was married twice. His first wife was Miss Eleanor Rebecca O'Neil, of San Antonio, by whom he had two children, a son, who died in infancy, and another son, Arthur Henry Neal, who lived to be 87 years old. After the death of his first wife, Judge Neal married Miss Azubah (Zula) Haynes, of Philadelphia.
Mrs. Sutherland, in her valuable "Story of Corpus Christi" (p. 71), says of Judge Neal:
"Taking a great interest in the early schools, he was one of the most prominent and useful citizens of the Corpus Christi of his day. Judge Neal was twice married, his second was being Miss Zula Haynes, of Philadelphia. Mrs. Neal was a Quakeress by birth, and a noble helpmeet to her public-spirited, patriotic husband, a veritable leader in all works of mercy, accepting the rough life of the frontier with a meekness inherited from a long line of God-fearing ancestor. She aided the poor, nursed the sick, and by her works was she known. Should we ever have a Hall of Fame, the name of our first mayor and Zula Haynes, his wife, should occupy a prominent niche therein."
A monument to Judge Neal's memory was erected at Corpus Christi in 1935.
Authorities: Huson's Official Directory of Refugio County (based on Commissioners' Court Minutes); Sutherland's "The Story of Corpus Christ," p. 71, et al.; Muster Roll, Captain Baker's Spy Company, State Archives; State Election Register; Dorothy Aarts' "Ghost Towns of the Republic of Texas;" Huson's "Saint Mary's of Aransas;" Letters from Neal Family; Nueces County Probate Records, Estate 240, District Court.
Source: Huson, Hubert. District Judges of Refugio County. Refugio: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941.
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
14. Biographical Information
There were wise and mighty men in those days. There was a case brought for trial at one time before Judge Hook at the Motts (now called Nueces Town). Judge B. F. Neal (of whom more hereafter) was on the side of the defendant, and made an assertion, which the attorney on the other side denied as being good law, and quoted Sayles to prove the position taken by Neal to be erroneous. "Sayles," said Judge Neal, "and who is Sayles: Why, I know him very well, and I am as good a lawyer as Sayles. I have the authority of Lord Bacon, who knew more law in a minute then your Sayles ever did." The attorney for the plaintiff having the temerity to assert that Bacon was not god authority in a justice's court in Texas and that Sayles was, Neal, who was of a very quick temper, hurled the volume at his opponent's head, striking him full between the eyes. That was the first time, I imagine, that Bacon had ever hurt that Gentleman's mental faculties, whatever bacon, or pork, may have done for his digestive organs, but Judge Neal's Irish blood was up, and he went for the Sayles advocate, who however, being young and active, and near an open window, sprang out. Judge N. had to get round a large table before he could follow, and when he returned the magistrate had adjourned the court, and was not feeling very well, consequently not visible. And so that suit was ended, for that time at least; whether it was ever resumed, or settled out of court, "vi it armis" is not known to Yours,
Source: "Reminiscences of J. William Moses." Published in the San Antonio Express, 1889 – 1991. Copied for Hobart Huson, Refugio, Texas, by Freddie Mae Harrington, 1943.
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
15. Excerpt from The Story of Corpus Christi, by Mary A. Sutherland
In 1852 Corpus Christi was incorporated, and on the first Tuesday in April of that year our good people met at the polls and elected B. F. Neal Mayor. Of this gentleman the writer is glad to be able to give a short sketch, furnished her by an intimate friend of the family, and one time inmate of Judge Neal's home. B. F. Neal was a Virginian by birth and educated to the law. We do not recall the year he came to Southwest Texas. That he was learned in his profession is proven by the fact of his many services; that he was fitted for almost any position in life was also proven. We find him serving as Mayor, District Judge, and editor of one of the earliest newspaper, The Nueces Valley. As a soldier he commanded a company during the war between the States. Taking a great interest in the early schools, he was one of the most prominent and useful citizens of eh Corpus Christi of his day. Judge Neal was twice married, his second wife being a Miss Zula Haynes of Philadelphia. Mrs. Neal was a Quakeress by birth, and a noble helpmate to her public spirited, patriotic husband, a veritable leader in all works of mercy, accepting the rough life of he frontier with a meekness inherited from a long line of God-fearing ancestors. She aided the poor, nursed the sick, and by her works was the she known. Should we even have a Hall of Fame, the name of our first Mayor and Zula Haynes, his wife, should occupy a prominent niche therein.
Source:Sutherland, Mary A. Edited by Frank B. Harrison. The Story of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi: Corpus Christi Chapter, Daughters of the Confederacy, 1916.
Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission