Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

The ‘Fate of Fayette’ – A Tribute To Our State’s 150th Anniversary – Part I
By Helen Mikus

The “Fate of Fayette” pageant was the most exciting event in our county during the year-long sesquicentennial celebration that highlighted most of the significant Texas historical events. Since the play was produced over 28 years ago, there are many who may not have lived here at the time, or who may not have seen the play.

One hundred and two children, men and women had acting roles in the play. With the addition of dancers, singers, musicians, carpenters, craftsmen, stage hands, seamstresses creating and copying costumes, publicity, and those collecting antique and vintage artifacts, there were 250 people involved. Most of them were from Fayette County with a few from neighboring counties.     

The play was written and directed by I.E. Clark of Schulenburg; Jeanette Donaldson of Fayetteville was the associate director. Backstage Inc. of Schulenburg, along with its executive producer, Bettye Allen of Engle, co-produced the pageant with the Fayette County Sesquicentennial Committee. The play depicted life and historical events in Fayette County and other Texas areas from 1820 until 1986 through tragedy, comedy and drama.

The two-hour performances were held on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 1986 in the La Grange High School auditorium. The Schulenburg performances were held in the Civic Center on Feb. 7, 8 and 9 with the first two being dinner performances. Texas Gov. White started the activities on Friday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. with a reception in the Fayette County District Courtroom that was open to the public. Refreshments were prepared by the Fayette County Home Demonstration Clubs and served only to opening night ticket-holders in the La Grange High School cafeteria before the opening act.

A special song, “The Devil and Strap Buckner,” was written by Tex Parker about the controversial Strap Buckner, a huge red-headed Scotsman, who was probably the first settler in Fayette County.  Legends exist of him not only fighting the devil, but also killing a bull with one blow of his fist. Strap also had torrid arguments over a land grant with Stephen F. Austin.    

Another song written by Theo Fanidi told about the big train derailment in Pisek. A very talented composer and orchestra leader, Fanidi also composed another song for the pageant titled “Fate of Fayette.” He not only had many record albums, but wrote the scores for several films and musicals and performed with his orchestra in many well-known hotels throughout the country.      

Married heads of households coming to Austin’s colony in Texas could receive a league of land from the Mexican government if they promised to raise stock, and if the property was improved, they would be able to keep it. However, they had to be Catholic in order to be eligible. This problem was solved by a Catholic priest, Fr. Miguel Muldoon, who had the settlers repeat after him a certain pledge that would make them “instant” Catholics. However in this scene, the prospective property owners all had their hands behind their backs with their fingers crossed, denoting that the pledge to become Catholics was not binding (at least in their minds); they only repeated it to be eligible to receive the land.

One of the scenes in the play showed Col. James Ross, who had established a stagecoach station in the 1830s in what is now the town of Fayetteville, struggling with neighbors over Indian problems. Ross had befriended the Indians and tried to integrate them into white society, which infuriated other settlers, who wanted the Indians banished. 

These altercations finally resulted in Ross’ death. 

(To Be Continued)