BY-WAYS - 8/19/48 - Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, Texas - Kerrville, Tx - August 14

Greetings from the Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, where all good Presbyterians of Central and Western Texas go, to get a little extra religion. I should be at a conference right now. But see what sacrifices one makes for one's public. Here is Saturday again, that relentless deadline - the end of a hectic week.

Suppose I begin with last Sunday night, which surely did not herald a feverish week. It was a lovely, peaceful evening - on a hillside, under the stars - where people of every denomination are invited each Sunday evening during the summer months to participate in a "sing-song." This is at Barton Springs, Austin. The dear, familiar hymns, many of them request numbers, are flashed on a screen, and a spiritual leader (with a good singing voice) leads in songs of praise and worship. It was a beautiful experience. Sandwiched in between cake-bakings were a trip to the movies (to see Rosalind Russell in "Sister Kenny") and sight-seeing trips.

Austin was the home of William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry in the days of his young manhood, marriage, and beginning of his literary career. It was also the scene of his disgrace when he was made the scape-goat of a banking shortage, when a Federal bank examiner found that $860 of the depositors' money in the First National Bank (of Austin) was missing, and could not be accounted for. Young Porter was living in Houston, as a writer for the Houston Post when the shortage was discovered. The story, which Austinites are inclined to accept, including the judge that had to sentence him, is that Porter knew too much about the careless methods employed in this "family bank," where stock-holders helped themselves to funds, placing an I.O.U. in the cash box. Rather than welch on his old friends and associates, he turned back, half-way between Houston and Austin, took a train for New Orleans, then a boat for Central America. That act convicted him. When he was brought to trial, he refused to tell what he knew, for he realized how he had wronged his city and the Federal government in not aiding justice at the time. He took the rap, and was sentenced to the Federal prison in Columbus, O. That was in 1891, I believe. Certainly his wife and his wife's people, with whom he lived in Austin, had implicit faith in his innocence of any embezzlement. There was a strong bond between Will Porter and his mother-in-law, and to her he wrote the true story of the bank mess. Mary and I visited his wife's cousin's wife (if you get me) and learned how easily one can make a fatal move. At any rate, guilty or innocent, Will Porter had a re-birth in that Columbus prison. It was there that he had time to think, to evaluate life, and to write the stories that made him one of the immortals. By the way, "O. Henry" was his pen name long before he went to prison. Austin now makes of his little home a shrine, where everything he used or loved is preserved. The dark-eyed little woman who is head narrator of that little museum which was his home, told me of his devotion to his wife, Athol. He came voluntarily out of exile because his wife became ill of tuberculosis. She lived five months after his return. As she neared the end, she whispered, "I wanted to live until your name was cleared, but I know it will be cleared."

Texas is rich in colorful history. She is very proud of her history., She is proud of the fact that she is the only state of the United States to form a republic. She was a "country," with her own government, from the date of her conquest of Mexico's best armies and her freedom from that country in 1836, until she voluntarily joined the Union in 1846. Now I must close. More of interest another time.

Florence B. Taylor

Next - 8/26/48 - Visit with Judith & Wes in Hawkins TX.
By-Ways Table of Contents