Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Henry T. Hiester: Death and Texas, 1886-1895

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the life and times of photographer Henry T. Hiester, who practiced his art in Chariton from the spring of 1884 until late summer 1886 after a decade of high adventure and great creativity in the desert Southwest.

Hiester left Chariton during the late summer of 1886 headed for Fort Worth, Texas, where --- it was reported --- he planned to continue a business partnership with George Estess, launched at Henry's Lucas County studio, to manufacture gelatin dry plates for sale to other photographers.

That, however, doesn't seem to have worked out; and Henry never became an entrepreneur.

Instead, by early 1888, Henry had set up another photo studio --- this one at 93 McKinney Avenue in Dallas, according to the Dallas city directory of that year. Living with him was his sister, Miss Annie M. Hiester, who most likely had accompanied him from Chariton and served as his housekeeper.

Later on during 1888, Henry moved on and opened a studio in Tyler, Texas, to the southeast and about halfway between Dallas and the Louisiana state line.

He was living and working in Tyler by late October, 1888, when the Presbyterian Synod of Texas convened there. Henry was on hand to take a group photograph.

This striking portrait of a young man with a satchel also dates from his time in Tyler. A name written on the back of the cabinet card suggests that his name may have been Brooks.


From Tyler, Henry headed during the early 1890s northwest to Vernon, Texas, just east of the Texas Panhandle, quite near the Oklahoma line, and established himself in a studio there. Some of his most striking images of native peoples, especially the Comanche and including the "papoose" at the top of this post, date from this period.

Here's another, this one of two Comanche women.

Henry also photographed the landscape and wildlife on the renowned Goodnight Ranch just up the road southeast of Amarillo, including this shot of grazing Buffalo. The image apparently was prepared for sale during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The Goodnight Ranch and its collection of wildlife was a popular tourist attraction then and, minus the livestock, still is.

During 1893, Henry did something quite unexpected as he approached 50 --- he got married.The bride, Miss Eugenia Hill, was some 10 years younger. They were married on July 12, 1893, in Vernon, but I know nothing about her background.

During 1894, the couple purchased a home in Fort Worth, but by 1895 were living and working in Lewisburg, not far northwest of Dallas, where Henry had his studio. 

And it was there that death claimed this restless, energetic and very talented man at age 50, far too young, like a thunderbolt out of the blue --- which took in this instance in the form of a runaway team of horses. Here's how The Dallas Daily Times-Herald reported Henry's death in its edition of Feb. 15, 1895:

"H. T. Heister, a photographer at Lewisville, Denton county, in crossing a street in that town, Yesterday afternoon, was run over by a runaway team and had his skull fractured and spine injured.

"He was brought to Dallas on the afternoon Missouri, Kansas & Texas train and taken to the City Hospital and placed under Dr. Armstrong's care.

"Mr. Heister never rallied sufficiently from the shock to justify Dr. Armstrong in attempting an operation on his fractured skull, and early last night, he died.

"Mr. Heister, who leaves a widow, will be buried in this city."

Even in death, many remained confused about whether Henry's surname was spelled "Hiester" or "Heister." You may recall that the shingle he'd hung out in Chariton ten years earlier, due to a sign painter error, also read "Heister."

But the stone-cutter did get the name right on Henry's tombstone, and he has a nice one in Greenwood Cemetery, Dallas.

Some five years after Henry's death, Eugenia married J.A. Bales, a teacher and widower with at least two children, in Denton, on Jan. 28, 1899. I was able to locate this newly formed family in the 1900 federal census of Denton, but had no success in tracking Eugenia after that.

Henry's principal legacy is formed by the images he took during a career than spanned 25 years, from ca. 1869 through 1894. But these were scattered, largely in private hands, and not really appreciated for many years. Today, his photographs may be found in small numbers in private collections and in public collections from coast to coast --- from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to the New York City Public Library, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution on the East Coast. And certainly at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. So far as I know, no master catalog ever has been developed.

Most likely, hundreds of other images remain buried in family collections or unrecognized in public collections. Hopefully, more will come to light as the years pass. We'll certainly be on the lookout at the Lucas County Historical Society where a small portrait of an unknown little girl with the Hiester imprint on the back turned up just the other day.


Anonymous said...

Interesting read. What I'm wondering is, in the papoose photograph, whether the child's mother's back forms the prop and the mother is sitting backwards? I've seen photos of mothers, their bodies concealed, propping up their child for a photograph, so this may be plausible at the time the photo was taken.

Unknown said...

I noticed that no credit is given as to where you found the photographs. All of them were formerly in my personal collection. Today, they can be found at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Photo credits should always be given as a matter of courtesy. The credit line requested by SMU on photos from this collection should read: Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photography Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU.

Lawrence T. Jones III said...

All photos should be credited to their source. In the case of the photos shown here, all are from the Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photography Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU