Neighbors-in-History, Part 1

As we researched the history of the neighborhood—in newspapers, abstracts of title, the census, various websites, oral history interviews, and many other sources—we discovered more special Austin neighbors who have contributed to our sense of place here. In the first in a three-part series, we introduce you to just a few of them. We provide links, whenever possible, for more information.

SARAH WALTON PARMELE COOKE (1903-2009) lived in Crestview with her son Glenn and daughter-in-law Louise for 15 years, until she died at age 106. She was born in the downtown Austin home of her grandparents, Letitia and Buck Walton. (More about him, below.) In her later years, Sarah enjoyed reading the letters her grandfather had sent her when she was young. Even toward the end of her long life, she enjoyed going out for Mexican food with her family after church at Crestview Methodist on Sunday. (More about Sarah here.)  Sarah’s great-granddaughter is Rachel Cooke, who disappeared near Georgetown in 2002. See the Wall of Welcome tile dedicated to Rachel and read about the Rachel Project at Crestview Methodist Church here.

WILLIAM MARTIN “BUCK” WALTON (1832-1915) was considered one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Texas. (More about Buck here) He defended the legendary gunfighter and Austin city marshal Ben Thompson and wrote a book about him, The Life and Adventures of Ben Thompson, in 1884. In April 2012, the Austin History Center held its first Ben Thompson Conference. (More about Ben here.)

BEN THOMPSON (1843-1884) married Catherine Louise Moore, the daughter of Martin Moore, a prominent Austin merchant. Martin’s property included the now-historic Moore-Hancock Homestead at 4811 Sinclair in Rosedale (right). After Martin died, John Hancock purchased 521 acres from Martin’s widow, Elizabeth, in 1866. It’s believed that Hancock’s former slaves—including Rubin Hancock and other members of his family—worked or lived there. (It was common for freed slaves to take the surname of their former owner.) John Hancock’s stately home and grounds called “The Oaks” was located at today’s 2200 West North Loop in Allandale, site of the Kensington Apartments. He also owned other land that later became Brentwood and Crestview. (Read more about John here.) (GFDL photo by Larry D. Moore.)

Coming next time—”Neighbors-in-History, Part 2.”

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