THE FIRST "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE
Will Porter started a satirical weekly, “The Rolling Stone.”
The North Carolinian with a love of the English language and a growing ability to string the many words he knew together in a pleasing arrangement, had come to Texas in 1882 and moved to the Capital City two years later.
As co-proprietor of a humor sheet with offices in the Capital City as well as San Antonio, he realized that his next edition would be out on March 2 – Texas Independence Day. On that day, only 59 years earlier, 59 men gathered in a small frame building at Washington-on-the-Brazos had signed a document declaring the independence of Texas
In observance of the anniversary he wrote a history of Texas. The stack of subtitles that came after “History of Texas” is one of the funnier elements:
“From the Earliest Settlements to the Latest [Political] Stand-Off – A Clear, Concise, and Accurate History of the State, for the Use of Schools and Football Factories [the University of Texas was only 12 years old at the time]—Written by An Eye-Witness for the Rolling Stone—A Powerful and Brilliant Plea for the Early Pioneers—The Private Graveyard, and the Cake Walk as an Austin Enterprise—Remarks to the Effect that Thermopylae had its Messenger of Defeat, the Alamo had None, Carefully Omitted—A Careful, Condensation of Main Historical Events Compiled Without the Assistance of ‘Old Timers,’ ‘Early-Settlers,’ or ‘One Who Was There.”
Introducing Sam Houston, Porter observed that “by a remarkable coincidence he [bore] the same name as a flourishing city in Texas….” He saw Houston as a “great and original character of tremendous willpower and endurance,” but didn’t mind affronting the general’s first wife, who he had left behind in Tennessee before coming to Texas.
“His desertion of his wife…caused a world of wonder and comment among the people,” Porter wrote. “Everybody wonders why he waited so long before leaving.”
Pulling no punches for the Mexican general Houston faced at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, Porter branded Santa Anna “real mean.” After the Texas victory, “he was captured by Gen. Houston and banished to Pflugerville.” [Then a small German town.]
Most of the humor in his tongue-in-check Lone Star history is of the “you had to have been there” sort. For example:
“Following fast upon the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad came the arrival in Texas of Nat Q. Henderson [then a Central Texas newspaper writer], who settled in Georgetown. As the city was a prohibition town, Stephen F. Austin was called upon to lay out a wet town immediately in reach; so he located the present capital of the state.”
Porter already was known to take a drink or two or three upon most occasions, and occasionally for no occasion in particular, so his dry-wet joke is definitely in character.
Back to the revolution and its impact on Texas, Porter continued, “Little did these noble heroes falling [at] the Alamo and battling with foes, dream that shortly after their beloved state should be freed of ruthless invaders, there would spring up from the seeds of discord such things as the Populist party, Saratoga chips shipped by the barrel, and Brann’s Iconoclast.”
Explainer: Known in Texas as the People’s Party, the third-party movement had begun in the early 1890s; Saratoga Chips, aka potato chips, were first produced commercially in Saratoga, NY in 1853 and that brand name still exists; and the Iconoclast was an aptly named newspaper produced by William Cowper Brann of Waco.
The piece is one of the lesser known works from the future short story writer the world would come to know simply as O. Henry.
O. Henry's Stone
by Mike Cox
Didn't Roll Far