Thursday, March 13, 2014

Baron de Bastrop and Texas

Small towns with the commitment to preservation have an inherent appeal. When there is an interesting character or twist in its history, the appeal is ratcheted up a few notches.

Welcome to Bastrop, Texas, located about thirty miles southeast of Austin. While I introduce Baron de Bastrop, I will show photos of the Bastrop Opera House.

"Felipe Enrique Neri was born Philip Hendrik Nering Bögel in 1759 in Dutch Guiana and moved to Holland with his parents in 1764.
Bastrop Opera House

"His military service and appointment as tax collector suggest that he was a staunch supporter of the aristocracy during the late-eighteenth-century revolutionary period. He always gave the French invasion of Holland as his reason for leaving the country, but he actually left for different reasons. In 1793 he was accused of embezzlement of tax funds and fled the country before he could be brought to trial. After the Court of Justice of Leeuwarden offered a reward of 1,000 gold ducats to anyone who brought him back, Bögel adopted the title Baron de Bastrop.
Opera House Lobby, 1889

"By April 1795, he had arrived in Spanish Louisiana, where he represented himself as a Dutch nobleman. During the next decade he received permission from the Spanish government to engage in several business ventures in Louisiana and Kentucky. After Louisiana was sold to the United States in 1803, Bastrop moved to Spanish Texas and was permitted to establish a colony between Bexar and the Trinity River. In 1806 he settled in San Antonio, where he had a freighting business and gained influence with the inhabitants and officials.

"One of his most significant contributions to Texas was his intercession with Governor Martínez on behalf of Moses Austin in 1820. Because of Bastrop, Martínez reconsidered and approved Austin's project to establish an Anglo-American colony in Texas. After Austin's death, Bastrop served as intermediary with the Mexican government for Stephen F. Austin, who would have encountered many more obstacles but for Bastrop's assistance and advice. In July 1823, Bastrop was appointed commissioner of colonization for the Austin colony with authority to issue land titles. On September 24, 1823, the settlers elected Bastrop to the provincial deputation at Bexar, which in turn chose him as representative to the legislature of the new state of Coahuila and Texas in May 1824.
Opera House Stage. The cast of a play to be presented before a local school audience was preparing for a dress rehearsal.

"During his tenure as representative of Texas at the capital, Saltillo, Bastrop sought legislation favorable to the cause of immigration and to the interests of settlers; he secured passage of the colonization act of 1825; and he was instrumental in the passage of an act establishing a port at Galveston. His salary, according to the Mexican system, was paid by contributions from his constituents. The contributions were not generous; Bastrop did not leave enough money to pay his burial expenses when he died, on February 23, 1827. His fellow legislators donated the funds to reimburse Juan Antonio Padilla for the expenses of the funeral. Bastrop was buried in Saltillo.
Decorative ceiling

"...Some of his contemporaries believed him to be an American adventurer; historians have thought him to be a French nobleman or a Prussian soldier of fortune. Only within the last half-century have records from the Netherlands been found to shed light on Bastrop's mysterious origins. Although his pretensions to nobility were not universally accepted at face value even in his own lifetime, he earned respect as a diplomat and legislator. Bastrop, Texas, and Bastrop, Louisiana, as well as Bastrop County, Texas, were named in his honor" (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbaae).

View down Main Street

First National Bank Building, 1889

Erhard Building, 1895 (pink building) and Haynie Building, 1883 (blue building)

At one time, Bastrop had the oldest drug store in the state. That burned down, but Lock's is still around.
W.J. Miley Building, 1905. Now the home of the Lock Drug Store.

Although not quite so old (it dates back to the 70's), Lock's has a turn-of-the-century interior and an old-time soda fountain.
The marble counter, stained glass, and metal stools add touches that recall days when a stop at the soda fountain meant sharing a milk shake.
Past the modern day remedies
are displays of old remedies. The beautiful wooden fixtures in which medicine is stored recalls days even before mine--
especially when you see (below) that arsenic could be obtained here.
So I think that we'll settle for a chocolate shake.