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Obituary: Peter Henry Fagan

Please note:  This article is transcribed as written in the Advocate, misspellings and all.

Victoria Daily Advocate
Tuesday Afternoon, September 3, 1929

P.H.Fagan, Pioneer Texas Ranchman, Laid to Rest

Useful Life of 86 Years Ended Sunday

Had Gallant Record as Soldier of the Southern Confederacy

Body Reposes in Magnificent Mausoleum of Colorado Marble

Funeral services for Peter H. Fagan, 86, leading ranchman of Refugio County and one of the last surviving Confederate veterans whose death occurred at his ranch house near McFaddin Sunday afternoon at 5:05 o’clock, was held at the residence Monday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock and were attended by people from the whole countryside and many distant points.  The body was deposited in a magnificent mausoleum of Colorado Marble, erected by the deceased six years ago a short distance from the residence and on the site of his father’s old ranch home.  The pallbearers were his six grandsons, H.A. Smith, M.C. Smith, P.E. Fagan, W.P. Fagan, C.C. Smith, Jr., and S.P. Fagan.  Rev M. Paig, Catholic minister, Woodsboro, conducted the rites.  Among the numerous floral tributes was a wreath from the William P. Rogers Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy.  “Taps” was sounded by T.W. Heaner, Victoria Boy Scout.  Mr. Fagan was buried in a suit of Confederate gray, one of his last requests.

Peter Henry Fagan was born in Refugio County May 6, 1843 at almost the exact place where he died.  His father, Nicholas Fagan, was a noted scout during the Texas Mexican War and a close friend and companion of “Deaf” Smith.  He was captured with Col. J.W. Fannin’s command and while imprisoned was saved from execution by neighboring Mexicans whom he befriended before the war.  They had slaughtered some cattle on the morning of the massacre and gave him a quarter of beef to carry along with them to a nearby orchard.  he did not know the purpose of the ruse until he heard gun reports and the cries of his comrades.  Following his rescue he managed to make his way to General Sam Houston’s army, reaching it a few days after the Battle of San Jacinto was fought, information of which he received from “Deaf” Smith upon crossing the Brazos River.  Later Nicholas Fagan was a member of the party that assisted in the rescue of the son and daughter of Mr. and mrs. Gilliland, his neighbors, who had been massacred by the Indians.  The girl became Mrs. Rebecca Fisher, long president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Nicholas Fagan was born in Ireland and came to this country in 1816, first locating in St. Louis and then in New Orleans.  Following the death of his first wife, he was married to Miss Catherine Hanselman Balsch of Stuttgart, Germany and in 1826 the family came to Texas, embarking on the sailing vessel Ponoma at new Orleans and landing at Copano, Refugio County, then an important Texas port.  They established their home at the place where Peter H. Fagan was born 4 years later.  Accompanying the Fagans to Texas was Edward McDonough and his wife, parents of the late Mrs. J.C. Warden of this county, and other well-known pioneer residents of this section.

P.H. Fagan enlisted in Company “C”, 4th Texas Cavalry, Sibley’s Brigade, at the outbreak of the War Between the States, being then a youth of 18.  He served with Sibley’s Brigade throughout the soul-trying New Mexican campaign, participating in the Battle of Glorietta and other major engagements.  Upon the return of the few surviving members of the brigade to Texas, Mr. Fagan took part in the capture of the Harriet Lane and surrender of the Fort of Galveston.  Later as a member of Green’s Brigade, he participated in several notable battles in Louisiana, including the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.  Until his health began to fail two years ago, he was a regular attendant at the annual reunions of Green’s Brigade.

Mr. Fagan was one of the finest men that ever lived.  he was a man of unquestioned integrity and his charities were widespread.  he possessed unusual business ability and judgement and his advice was frequently sought by his friends and neighbors.  he was a co-executor of the Thomas O’Connor estate and also assisted in the division of the Jerry Driscoll estate, two of the largest estates in this section.  In keeping with his foresight, he had the beautiful tomb erected where his body now reposes.  And the inscription at the entrance, “When a man comes to die all that he has left is what he has given away,” is the best index to his character and viewpoint of his life.  The mausoleum contains six chambers, one each for himself, his wife, their two sons and daughters and their daughter’s husband.  Mr. Fagan was prompted to provide this enduring last resting place for his family by reason of the fact that the graves of his parents and others dear to him were trampled over by cattle when he was away and could not care for them.  A few years ago, Mr. Fagan also purchased find steel caskets for himself and his wife.

Mr. Fagan’s declining health was aggravated several weeks ago by a severe fall, causing him to be confined in his bed.  However, he remained conscious to within a few hours of the end and passed gently away, being well prepared to meet his Maker and showing a saintly spirit in passing.  His devoted wife, herself an invalid because of injuries sustained in a fall a few months ago, occupied a wheel chair at his bedside and spoke words of comfort.  They were married 61 years ago.  Mrs. Fagan, formerly Miss Laura DuBois, is approaching 82 years of age.  She is the daughter of the late Lucas DuBois who served with Mr. Fagan in the Confederate Army.  In addition to his wife, Mr. Fagan is survived by his two sons, Oscar and Fred Fagan, who reside at the ranch and one daughter, Mrs. Chris C. Smith of Nueces County.

The following biography is reproduced from The Advocate of April 3, 1927:

Peter Henry Fagan, Born May 6, 1843

This brief sketch is given in the spirit of flowers for the living. Note:  All spelling per article.

Veteran Fagan’s parents were Nicholas Fagan from Cork, County of Meath, Ireland and Mrs. Catherine Hanselman Balsch of Stuggart, Germany.  They were married in New Orleans and with Mr. Fagan’s three motherless children, soon started for Texas.  In 1829 their home on the San Antonio River was founded, and here they reared the seven children who came to bless them.

The house was constructed of hand-hewed logs bound together with wooden pegs and fortified against attacks of roving Indians.  The massacre of their near neighbors, Mr. and mrs. Gilliland, caused Nicholas to join the posse in persuit to recover the two young children, a son and daughter, the latter of whom became mrs. Rebecca Fisher, who for many years president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Mr. Fagan then took his family with others to New Orleans for safety.  he returned to Texas and cast his lot with Col. Fannin and was marched back to Goliad with the brave but ill-fated command. He escaped being shot with his comrades by a ruse.  As the men were being marched out to slaughter he was aided by having a quarter of beef laid on his shoulder to obscure his identity and thus made his escape.  He heard the shots of the massacre.  Hurrying to his home on foot, 30 miles distant, he found Indians in possession, who in fear fled.  Finding an old flint rifle, some lead and powder left by the startled Indians, he started in quest of General Sam Houston.  Traveling alone, no food, no bedding, he took the long march east and reached Houston after his defeat of Santa Anna.  Continuing his journey through wilderness and flooded streams, he reached his family in New Orleans, bringing them back to the house on the San Antonio River in Texas.

Such, in brief is the ancestry of the subject of this sketch.  With the blood of the pioneer and patriot coursing through his veins, it follows that at the age of 18, when Texas called to arms, he was a volunteer in the Confederate cause, joining Company “c”, 4th Texas, Reiley’s Cavalry, Sibley’s Brigade.  In this company were to be numbered such young men as Jas. A. Warburton, A.B. Peticolas, Pat Hughes, Al and Tom Field, J. Reeves, Jno Wofford, J.C. Warden, J.O. Wheeler, Jr., W.J. Whitney, F.R. Pridham, Arno Hensoldt, Vic Rose, G. Ouderdonk, and others that Adam ?? led with his bugle.  If there was any Chaplain, the roster of the company does not reveal it.

Leaving Victoria for San Antonio, the line of march began November 12, 1861.  From there to El Paso thence 700 miles distant to Santa Fe near which was fought the battle of Glorietta.  Upon reaching the line of New Mexico, General Sibley took possession in the name of the Confederate States of America.

The Battles of Val Verde, Paralio and many skirmishes were fought, and leaving attained their object, General Sibley gave the order to begin the homeward march, leaving in their shallow graves many brave comrades.  They reached San Antonio ragged, worn men, where before they had passed along aglow with enthusiastic zeal.

Somewhere in the annals of history a list of the brave boys who fell on the battlefields of New Mexico should be recorded.  They lie where they fell.  This intrepid command was recruited at Houston and while waiting for orders to march to Louisiana to repel General Banks, they took part in the capture of the Harriet Land and surrender of the Fort of Galveston.  For this they boarded an old steamboat in Houston, having a breastwork of cotton bales.  Sailing into Galveston Bay, they opened fire on the Harriet Lane, resulting in her surrender and that of the fort on the island.  The command marched from Galveston to Louisiana and showed their prowess in the Battles of Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, Blairs, Landing and Jenkins Ferry and on Louisiana soil they remained until the surrender of General Lee’s army, ending the war, 1861-1865.

The spirit of these men never failed.  With memory of the young men lost in New Mexico, with Scurry, old Riley Green, Marton and Buchel killed, they returned to broken homes to battle with reconstruction.  During the year 1868 Veteran Fagan was united in marriage with Miss Laura Du Bois, the daughter of his old comrade, Lucas Du Bois, Company “E” Wallis’ Battalion, and his wife Tangelique.  They are living on the site of the old home constructed by Nicholas Fagan, who with his wife lies in a nearby graveyard.  Peter Henry and Mrs. Fagan have one daughter and two sons.

In the early ’90s Confederate camps were established of which camps Wm R. Scurry, No. 515, Peter Fagan was a charger member, and in 1900 was given a bronze Cross of Honor by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

The approach to the historic Fagan home is through a wooded park as magnificent as Breckenridge Park at San Antonio and over a bridge across the San Antonio River.  On a green knoll the eye rests on the beautiful mausoleum, in all its classic whiteness.  The spot selected by the owner for his last resting place.  In the words of this well preserved stately veteran:

“Here I was born, here I have lived and here I will remain forever.”

It is interesting to trace the histories of pioneer people who formed the bone and sinews of civilization.  They made our great State of Texas, cemeting with their own blood the liberties of life and religion which we enjoy.


Nicholas Fagan was a wheelright.  His second wife was Catherine Hanselman Balsch, a beautiful woman of culture.  She brought to their home in Texas a fine Morocco Bible, with clasps, printed in 1816 in the German lauguage, and some exquisite jewelry is still owned by the descendants.  The daughters of the first wife were Annie, who married peter Teal and Mary, who married Thomas O’Connor.

Peter Henry was the fifth son of the second marriage.  The brothers James, Wm, Nicholas and Thomas died in youth.  Joseph served in the C.S.A from the State of Missouri.  Catherine Louisa married Anthony Fibeck.  Margaret died in early womanhood.  Frances Elizabeth married Jno. A. Warburton, Company “C”, 4th Texas Cavalry, CSA.

The writer of this article is indepted to the following for information, viz. Mr. J.M. Stokes in The Advocate of September 1, 1924, the books of the late G.W. Stoner, commander of Scurry Camp, and members of the Fagan Family.