02 April 2010

James Pearson Newcomb

B.M. Newcomb wrote:

Mr. Newcomb emigrated with his parents to Texas when two years of age, settling at Victoria. Before he was twelve, he had already acquired a fair English education, and had some acquaintance with the classics. After his father's death he served four years in a printing office. In 1854, when seventeen years of age, he started a newspaper at San Antonio, Texas, and made it a success; he sold out in 1856.

He went to Vermont University at Burlington to acquire a collegiate education; he entered college, but remained only part of a term, being called home to attend to his father's estate. He again began the newspaper business, and published, at San Antonio, the Alamo Express, which rapidly rose to be one of the principal papers in the city, where it combated secession with undying vigor in the midst of enemies. On 13 May 1861, four days after the surrender of Col. Reeve's command of United States troops to Van Dorn's force, Mr. Newcomb issued an "extra", giving an account of the surrender and some strictures on the perfidy of the transaction. At midnight the same day a mob of "Knights of the Golden Circle" and Rangers broke open his office, destroyed his press and material, and set fire to the building. The alarm of fire was given; the city engines and people turned out, but to no purpose. The morning light displayed the charred ruins of the Alamo Express, the last Union paper in Texas. This caused great excitement, and for fear of retaliation the secession offices were guarded. Immediately after, a plot for the hanging and banishment of 150 of the most prominent Union men was discovered.

The day after the destruction of his office, Mr. Newcomb became a refugee. He left the city for the Rio Grande and passed into Mexico, then organized a party at Monterey to cross the country to the Pacific, thence to California. The journey was successfully performed amidst many dangers and hardships, the party arriving at San Francisco in February 1862.

He volunteered to accompany the Union forces then organizing for a campaign across Arizona to Texas, and served as a scout for the army in its march from San Pedro, California. He was discharged at his request after the army went into permanent quarters, and returned to San Francisco, where he printed, in 1862, a "History of Secession Times in Texas, and Journal of Travel from Texas through Mexico to California", an octavo pamphlet of thirty-three pages. He was also editor of the San Jose Tribune.

He was mining in Arizona during 1864, making and losing a fortune. In the spring of 1867 he returned to San Antonio, again engaging in the editorial profession. He served with honor as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1868-69, which gave the state its reconstructed government, being elected by the people by a large majority. He was nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate as Secretary of State under Governor Davis, serving from 1870 to 1874. In 1874, he was editor and proprietor of the State Journal, the central organ of the Republican party in the state. In 1877 he was admitted to the bar, but never practiced law to any extent. In 1897 he began the publication of the Texas Sun, a newspaper devoted to the subject of immigration, and later edited the Evening Light, which is still published as the San Antonio Daily Light.

In later years, Mr. Newcomb held various public positions, among which was that of postmaster during President Arthur's administration. He was considered one of the most active politicians and one of the best newspaper writers in Texas, continuing his editorial work up until the time of his death. He was man of untiring energy and varied accomplishments, ardent and warm-hearted, whose will and pen were always enlisted in the cause of truth and right. He had hosts of warm friends, both personal and political, and many political enemies. His engagement in politics did not arise from a love of political life, but from a desire to see good government firmly planted in his state. His prominence came to him without his seeking. He passed through many trials and emergencies, and was thoroughly acquainted with the history and men of his time. Having a deep love for nature, he moved with his family, in 1904, to his farm, Great Oaks, ten miles from San Antonio, where he continued his writing.

In July 1906, he received an injury in a runaway accident, which resulted in a cerebral hemorrhage and caused his death more than a year later. He was possessed of such a wonderful constitution and such marvelous vitality of mind and body that, even after the second serious attack of hemorrhage, he drove back and forth to town attending to business and getting the cotton crop to market. At this time he also wrote a sketch of the Republican Governor of Texas, E.J. Davis, for a book on the Presidents and Governors of Texas. His body rests in the Masonic Cemetery, San Antonio.

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