Photo by Joe Olivieri
Road namesake may have been hero
The story of William Cannon reads like much of Texas history—full of legend and possibility.
Old documents claim that he was a hero of the Battle of San Jacinto during the fight for Texas Independence. Accounts contradict each other about names and dates—even about where he lived.
The South Austin area has been associated with Cannon since at least the 1950s. An area named William Cannon League was located near Manchaca Road and Stassney Lane.
The road gets frequent recognition in Austin City Council documents in the 1970s, as the city annexed new property and developed the road.
At the Alamo
In the 1960s, local historian Mary Starr Barkley wrote about an area 4 miles south of then-Austin’s boundary.
She tells how in 1821, William C. Cannon had a trading post on his land on Onion Creek where the Caddo, Lipan, Tonkawa and Comanche Native American tribes came to trade. Cannon’s family lived away from the post.
When the area became dangerous in the 1830s, Cannon took his wife, Martha, and his five children to San Antonio where they went to the Alamo for protection.
For a while, the family lived on northwest Laredo Street, across the river from the fort. Cannon’s son, William J. Cannon, remembered his older half-sister, Susan, married Almeron Dickinson and stayed inside the Alamo. William C. Cannon’s family joined her there as Mexican forces attacked the fort in 1836.
William J. Cannon said he saw a Señora Castanon Candelaria care for an ailing Jim Bowie during the battle.
By the time the fighting had ended, William J. Cannon said his father, mother, two of his sisters and his brother were killed. He only escaped with the help of Candelaria, who took him to the Menger Hotel. He later went to live with Native Americans.
Barkley sourced this story from an 1892 correspondence by a William J. Cannon who wrote from Soldiers Home in Leavenworth, Kan., in an attempt to claim his property south of Austin.
However, Texas Gov. Jim Hogg doubted the story. The General Land Office told him a William J. Cannon already lived in a northeastern part of Bexar County and drew a pension as a Mexican War veteran.
A second story emerges of another Cannon, William Jarvis Cannon, who owned a ranch that stretched from San Marcos to Dripping Springs. Cousin to J. Frank Dobie, author Dudley Dobie tells in his book, “A Brief History of Hays County and San Marcos, Texas,” how Cannon wanted to move the county seat from San Marcos to his new town called Cannonville.
The Cannonville supporters won their petition in an election. San Marcos citizens filed a lawsuit, but it never took place because attorneys for both sides left for the Civil War. By the time the war ended, San Marcos acquired extra land that pushed Cannonville outside the 5-mile limit of the county’s center.
It is unknown if William C. Cannon was actually a hero of San Jacinto. The Texas State University Archives has a list of the soldiers who fought in that battle. A single William Jarvis Cannon (spelled Cannan) is named, but he reportedly was from Brazoria County and was buried in 1881 and far from Austin.