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Dick Dowling of Milltown County Galway Ireland
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Dick Dowling   ~   Milltown
Dick Dowling was born in Milltowm, Galway County in 1838. His family left Ireland for America in 1846. They arrived in New Orleans, but Dowling moved west to Houston early in the 1850s following the death of both parents. Though only twenty-three years of age when the War began, Dowling was already a seasoned and successful businessman who had operated three saloons, the Shades, the Bank of Baccus, and the Hudgpeth Bathing Saloon. He also operated a liquor import business in Galveston.
Dick Dowling of Milltown County Galway Ireland Dowling joined the Jefferson Guards, commanded by Captain Frederick H. Odlum. They fought for former Federal posts along the border with Mexico until they were secured, then participated in reclaiming control of Galveston on January 1, 1863. The remainder of Dowling's year was spent guarding the upper Texas coast in command of Fort Griffin. And there he and his forty-seven artillerymen became Confederate heroes.
On March 17, 2005, the Dick Dowling Statue in Hermann Park will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its unveiling on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905. It was Houston’s first public monument, coming even before the statue of Sam Houston for whom the city was named. Standing today on a triangle near the intersection of Hermann Park Loop, Holcombe, and North MacGregor, the monument consists of an eight-foot statue made of Italian marble sitting atop a twenty-foot granite base. Dick Dowling Statue in Hermann Park Houston Texas
Richard “Dick” Dowling was one of the most interesting figures in Houston and Texas history. Dowling Street was named in his honor, as was Tuam Avenue, the place in County Galway, Ireland, near which he was born in 1837. Because of the Great Famine in Ireland, Dowling and his family came to America some time after 1846 and eventually settled in Houston. Dowling made his name and fortune in a number of saloon businesses. The most notable of these establishments was the “Bank of Bacchus,” which he shrewdly located across the street from Houston’s courthouse. “The Bank,” as Dowling’s bar was fondly known, became an immediate success, making its owner one of the most prominent Irishmen in Houston.
The statue and pedestal inscribed with the names of Dowling's command at the battle of Sabine Pass Dowling was a man of great compassion and vision. He was the first person in Houston to install gas lighting at his business. He also became one of the founding members of Houston Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, the predecessor of Houston’s fire department. Finally, Dowling and his associates bought some of the earliest oil and gas leases in Texas, foreseeing the great oil boom that would eventually begin to change the world at the turn of the century.
Although his business and civic accomplishments are impressive, Dowling is remembered today primarily for his role in leading a group of unruly Irish dockworkers to one of the greatest upsets in military history at the Civil War Battle of Sabine Pass. Dick Dowling was the 26-year-old lieutenant in charge of a Confederate fort (Fort Griffin) at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863, when a Union invasion fleet of 27 ships and almost 6,000 men attempted to capture the fort as part of a planned invasion of Texas. In a battle that took less than an hour, Dowling and his fewer than fifty men repelled the invasion, capturing two Union gunboats and winning a victory that Jefferson Davis later called the most amazing feat in military history. The names of Dowling’s small artillery company (the Davis Guard) are inscribed on the side of the Dowling monument.

Not long after Dowling’s death in 1867 from yellow fever, the Dick Dowling Camp of the United Confederate Veterans decided to begin raising money to build a statue of Dowling in Houston. A number of Irish societies such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians wanted to participate in the project so the Dowling Monument Association was created to coordinate and lead the effort. After a lengthy period of planning, design, and construction the statue was finally finished in early 1905. It was placed originally at City Hall on Market Square. In 1939, it was moved to Sam Houston Park. In 1958 the Dowling monument was relocated to its present location near Hermann Park.


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