SEGUIN — Town founder and Texas Ranger James Campbell will forever be remembered at the Magnolia Hotel.
On Saturday, during a special ceremony the Former Texas Rangers Association held a memorial service to honor Campbell and his legacy.
“We were founded to take care of the families of those Rangers who had passed on and to preserve the history — which is what we are doing here today,” said Ray Martinez, FTRA director. “In 1999, the association decided that we are going to mark all of the graves that we could in the state of Texas. Today we have approximately 650 markers in the ground around the state of Texas and in other states in the Union.”
The celebration of Campbell’s life and legacy was held in front of the Magnolia Hotel with help from the FTRA, the Sons of the Republic of Texas Moses-Austin Chapter and descendents of Campbell’s.
“It is my honor today to speak about a man who lived long ago and greatly affected the culture and life of this day in this city and this state,” said Carol Norman, descendent.
Norman explained that Campbell left his home in Tennessee around the age of 25 and moved to Texas.
In the decade that followed he made quite the name for himself, Norman said.
“He became a farmer, militiamen, Texas Ranger, solider, surveyor, town founder, post master, county judge, first lieutenant with the Caldwell Texas Rangers and a charitable friend,” she said.
His legacy started in Gonzales helping protect settlers from Indian raids with the Militia Mounted Rangers.
“Campbell quickly built a good reputation in regard to his skills and courage,” she said. “He also fought in the Texas War of Independence from Mexico.”
He moved to Walnut Springs, which became his home.
“James Campbell and John King suggested the name of the town be changed to Seguin in honor of the Texas patriot hero, Juan Seguin,” Norman said. “Through the next few years he became involved in building the new community of Seguin.”
Campbell built a two-room log cabin at what is now the corner of Donegan and Crockett streets.
Campbell was murdered by a pair of Comanches outside of San Antonio on June 18, 1840 and buried where he was killed, Norman said.
“His grave has never been found,” she said.
Campbell’s home was entrusted to his sister and her husband.
Through many owners the log cabin transformed into a stagecoach stop, a hotel and later apartments.
Now, under the care of Erin O. Wallace and husband Jim Ghedi, the once abandoned and neglected building is finding new life, said Mayor Don Keil.
“We have a deep rich history here that goes way beyond the Texas Revolution,” Keil said. “(The hotel) was one of those things that you pretty much thought was forsaken and it was another lost thing of our heritage. These folks came to our town, brought it back to life and it is such a wonderful treasure that we want to thank you on behalf of everybody for all of the hard work.”
Wallace is thrilled be able to share the history of the Magnolia and the building’s original owner with the town.
“This is what we really wanted to accomplish with this hotel,” she said. “We wanted to preserve its history.”
Having the FTRA on hand to conduct a memorial service for Campbell at the Magnolia was the perfect way to honor one of the town’s founders, Wallace said.
“I just think it is a beautiful event to have them come here and memorialize him and to honor him,” she said. “I think they (the FTRA) approached Carol and being that he was killed a mile away from San Antonio and never given a proper burial or headstone, they came to me and asked if it would be OK to have his memorial here. What better place? This is where he left before he was murdered.”
The FTRA placed a memorial Ranger Cross in front of the hotel and invited a couple of Campbell’s descendents — Clara Harp, Cherry Keese-Jones and Delle Dowty Moore — to unveil the marker that was surrounded by wreaths and flags.
The event was closed with a single musket shot and three cannon shots fired off by Keil, Norman and Ghedi.