William Corner.

San Antonio de Bexar; a guide and history online

. (page 14 of 22)
Online LibraryWilliam CornerSan Antonio de Bexar; a guide and history → online text (page 14 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

it does on a rocky and steep (steep for Texas plains) bank of the river, whose
course its l)roken line follows, and down to which its long stern-looking wall
descends, it is an edifice at once piquant and sombre, and one cannot resist figuring
Mr. James' horseman spurring his charger up the white limestone road that winds
alongside the wall, in the early twilight, when dreams come whispering down the
current among the willow-sprays.

There are notal:>le places about the town which the stranger nuist visit. He
may ride two miles along a level road between market gardens which are vital-
ised by a long accqicia, or ditch, fed from the river, and come presently upon the
quaint gray towers of the old Mission Concepcion.='= The old church, with its high-
walled dome in the rear, is in a good slak- of inxscrvation, and traces of the sin-
gular many-colored frescoing on its front arc still plainly visil)lc. Climbing a very

*The Mission ol Our I,a- that suggests cargoes of silver and
gold. These are drawn by fourteen nuiles each, who are harnessed in four tiers,
the three front tiers of four mules each, and tliat next the wagon of two. The
" lead " nudes are wee fellows, verital)le nudekins : the next tier larger, and .so on
to the two wheel-mules, who are alwa>-s as large as can be procured. Yonder
fares .slowly another train of wagons, drawn 1)>- great wide-horned oxen, whose
evident tendency to run to hump and fore-shoulder irresistibly persuades one of
their cousinship to the buffalo.

Here, now, comes somewhat that shows as if Birnara Wood had been cut into
fagots and was advancing with tipsy swagger upon Uunsinane. Presently, one's
gazing eye receives a .sensation of hair, then of enormous ears, and then the legs
appear, of the little roan-gray burros, or asses, upon whose backs that Mexican
walking behind has managed to pile a mass of mesquite firewood that is simply
astonishing. This mesquite is a species of acacia, whose roots and body form the
principal fuel here. It yields, by exudation, a gum which is quite equal to gum
arable, when the tannin in it is extracted. It appears to have spread over this


portion of Texas within the last twenty-five years, perhaps less time. The old
settlers account for its appearance by the theory that the Indians — and after them
the stock-raisers — were formerly in the habit of burning off the prairie-grass
annually, and that these great fires rendered it impossible for the mesquite shrub
to obtain a foothold : but that now the departure of the Indians and the transfer
of most of the large cattle-raising business to points further westward, have
resulted in leaving the soil free for the occupation of the mesquite. It has
certainly taken advantage of the opportunity. It covers the prairie thickly, in
many directions as far as the eye can reach, growing to a pretty uniform height of
four or five feet — though occasionally much larger — and presenting with its tough
branches and innumerable formidable thorns, a singular appearance. The wood
when dry is exceedingly hard and durable, and of a rich mahogany color. This
recent overspread ot foliage on the plains is supposed by many persons to be the
cause of the quite remarkable increase of moisture in the climate of San Antonio
which has been observed of late years. The phenomena — of the coincident
increase of moisture and of mesquite — are unquestionable ; but whether they bear
the relation of cause and effect, is a question upon which the unscientific lingerers

on this bridge may be permitted to hold themselves in reserve

And now as we leave the bridge in the gathering twilight and loiter down
the street, we pass all manner of odd personages and ' ' characters. ' ' Here
hobbles an old Mexican who looks like old Father Time in reduced circumstances,
his feet, his body, his head all swathed in rags, his face a blur of wrinkles, his
beard gray-grizzled — a picture of eld such as one will rarely find. There goes a
little German boy who was captured a year or two ago by Indians within three
miles of San Antonio, and has just been retaken and sent home a few days ago.*
Do you see that poor Mexican without any hands ? A few months ago a wagon-
train was captured by Indians at Howard's Wells ; the teamsters, of whom he
was one, were tied to the wagons and these set on fire, and this poor fellow was
released by the flames burning off his hands, the rest all perishing save two.
Here is a great Indian-fighter who will show you what he calls his " vouchers,"
being scalps of the red braves he has slain ; there a gentleman who blew up his
store here in '42 to keep the incoming Mexicans from benefiting by his goods, and
who afterwards spent a weary imprisonment in that stern castle of Perote away
down in Mexico, where the Mier prisoners (and who ever thinks nowadays of that
strange, bloody Mier Expedition ?) were confined ; there a portly, handsome,
buccaneer-looking captain who led the Texans against Cortinas in '50 ; there a
small, intelligent-looking gentleman who at twenty was first Secretary of War of
the young Texan Republic, and who is said to know the history of everything
that has been done in Texas from that time to this, minutely : and so on through
a perfect gauntlet of people who have odd histories, odd natures or odd appear-
ances, we reach our hotel Sinxiiv Lanikr.

*This was written of 1K7:!.— W. C, Kl).

Interviews and Memoirs of Old Time Texans.

Extracts from the Memoirs of Mrs. M. A. Maverick.

We have ])ecii permitted l)y the kindness of the family to examine this
remarkal)le document, — "This little tamily history necessarily private," as it is
modestly described in the preface.

In reality the Record is a portion of the annals of Texas, and from the early
days of trial and difficulty it reads us besides, a latter-day lesson of courage, pati-
ence and fortitude.

From the point of view of the historical trifler, the feeling that impresses one,
on laying down the manuscript after scanning all its lines, is as though one had
stumbled upon the diary of a noble Roman matron of the days ot Regulus.

The few extracts and running comments which follow will give an idea of
the story — A tale not told in heroics, but which simply worded, never falls short
of heroism, and which, in the unaffected courage, and affecting piety of its writer
is prol)al)ly unique.

vSamuel Augustus Maverick was born July 2:], 1S();5, at Pendleton, South Car-
olina of distinguished revolutionary stock of English and Huguenot extraction.
Mrs. Maverick was an Adams— the Massachusetts family transplanted to \'irginia
and intermarried with a L,ewis of that state.

Mrs. Maverick was married Augu.st 4th. 1S;5(), near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, her
mother's home. The family started for Texas October 14th, 18;-.7; Mr. Sam Mav-
erick being then a baby of five months. Mr. Maverick senior, had been in Texas
in is;;."), and his friends thought him killed in the Alamo fight. As a record of
old time travelling, and to illustrate the up-building of the Southwest, their
progress to the Lone Star State is of interest in the.se days of Pullman sleepers;
Mrs. Maverick says: "Father accompanied us half a day. . . . We traveled
in a carriage, Mr. Maverick driving and nur.se Rachel and baby and myself the
other occupants. In a wagon with Wiley as driver, w^as Jinny our future cook
and her four children. We reached mother's, (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Pendle-
ton, South Carolina) about the last of October, and stopped with her about six

months making final preparations December 7th. ls;!7, we set out

for Texas. . . . Our part\- was composed of four whites and ten negroes.
The negroes were four men (;rinni, (Granville, Wiley and Uncle Jim— two women
Jinny and Rachel, and Jinny's four children. . •. . . We had a large car-
riage, a big Kentuck\- wagon, three extra saddle horses and one blooded filly.
The wagon carried a tent, a supply of provisions and bedding, and the cook and
children. . . . We occasionally stopped several days in a good place to rest
and to have washing done, and sometimes to give muddy roads time to dry. We


crossed the Mississippi at Rodne}-, and Red river at Alexandria, and came through
bottoms in Louisiana where the high-water marks in the trees stood far above our
carriage-top, but the roads were good there when we passed. We crossed the
Sabine, a shiggish, mudd}-, narrow stream, and stood upon the soil of the Republic
of Texas about New Year's day iS.'vS.

"January 7th, l.s;5S, we occupied an empty cabin in San Augu.stine, while the
carriage wheel was being repaired. This was a poor little village principally of
log cabins, on one .street, but the location was high and dry. We laid in a supply
of corn and groceries here and pushed on through Nacogdoches, to the place of
Colonel Durst, an old acquaintance of Mr. Maverick. . . . There we met
General Rusk. . . We now had to travel in occasional rains and much

mud, where the country was poor and sparsely settled and provisions for man and
beast .scarce. We, on advice, .selected the longest but the best road, namely, the
one leading by the way of Washington, high up on the Brazos. From Washing-
ton we went to Columbus on the Colorado, and thence about due south towards
the Lavaca River. Now came a dreadful time. About January •2(3th we entered
a bleak, desolate, swampy prairie, cut up by what are called dry bayous, and now
almost full of water. This swamp, covered by the " Sand>-,"' Mustang and head
branches of the Navidad, was fourteen miles wide. . . . Every step the
animals took was in water. We "stalled "' in five or six of the gullies and each
time the wagon had to be unloaded in wind, water and rain, and all the men and
animals had to work together to pull out. The first "norther " struck us here, a
terrific, howling north wind with fine rain, blowing and penetrating through
clothes and blankets. I never before experienced such cold. We were four days
crossing this fourteen miles of dreadful swamp. The first day we made three
miles and that night my mattress floated in water. No one suffered from the
exposure, and Mr. Maverick kept cheerful all the while. Our provisions were
almost gone when, on the oOth, we crossed the Navidad, stopping at Spring Hill,
Major Sutherland's place. Mr. Maverick now went on to see if it was .safe to take
us to San Antonio, and visited other points with a view to settling, especially
Matagorda, where he owned land.

"At Major Sutherland's boarded Captain Sylvester, from Ohio, who had
captured Santa Anna after the battle of San Jacinto. I attended a San Jacinto
ball at Texana on April 21st. Here, too, I met old 'Bowles,' the Cherokee
chief, with twelve or thirteen of his tribe.

"After tea we were dancing when P)Owles came in dressed in a breech cloth,
anklets, moccasins and feathers and a long clean white linen shirt which had been
presented to him in Houston. He said the pretty ladies in Houston had danced
with, kissed him and given him rings. We, however, begged to be excu.sed, and
even requested him to retire. ... He stalked out in high dudgeon, and our
dance broke up. Bowles told us of President Houston living in his Nation, and
that he had given Houston his daughter for a squaw, and had made him a big

"June 2nd we set off for San Antonio de Bexar, in tho^^e days frequently

simply called Bexar June 12lli, lalf in the afternoon, we reached camp

again, and were loading uj) to move two or llnvc miles further to a l)etter camp-


ing place, when several Indians rode up. They said ' niucho amigo,' and were
loud and filthy and manifested their intention to be very intimate. More and
more came, until we counted seventeen of them. They rode in amongst us,
looked greedily at the horses, and without exaggeration annoyed us very much.
They were Tonkawas and kept repeating ' mucho amigo,' telling us further that
they were just from the Nueces, where they had fought the Comanches two days
previou.sly and gained a victory. They were in war-paint and well armed and
displayed in triumph two scaljis, one hand and several pieces of putrid flesh from
various parts of the human Ixxly. These were to be taken to the tribe, when a
war-dance would ensue over the trophies, and they and their squaws would
devour the flesh. I was frightened almost to death, but tried not to show my
alarm. They rode up to the carriage window and asked to see the ' Papoose.'
I held up the baby and smiled at their compliments, but took care to have my

pistol and bowie knife visible and kept cool I kept telling Griffin to hurry

the others, and Mr. Maverick worked cooly with the rest. Jinny said, ' Let's
cook some supper first,' and grumbled mightily when Griffin* ordered her into
the wagon and drove off. Imagine our consternation when the Indians turned
back and every one of the seventeen followed us. It was a l)right moonlight
night and finally the Indians, finding us unsocia])le and dangerous, gradually
dropi>ed l)ehind."

On June loth, 1838, the travellers reached vSan Antonio, having left home
October 14th of the previoiis year. While Mrs. Maverick was at Spring Hill,
Mr. Maverick made one journey back to purchase household effects in New

Mrs. Maverick goes on to descril)e the San Antonio of the i)eriod and gives
a charming picture of the society of tlie little coterie of Americans then living

" r^arly in February 18;39, we moved into our own house at the Northeast cor-
ner of Main and Soledad streets. This house remained our homestead until July
1849 — over ten years — altho' five of the ten years, those from '12 to '47 vn-c wand-
ered about as refugees " Let Mrs. Maverick describe a San Antonio

home of the better class at that period "The main house was of

stone, and had three rooms, one fronting South on Main street and West on Sole-
dad street, and the other two fronting West on Soledad; also a shed along the
East wall of the house toward the north end. This shed we closed in with an
adobe wall, and divided it into a kitchen and servants' room. We also built an
adobe room for the servants on Soledad street, leaving a gateway between it and
the main hou.se, and we built a stable near the river. We put a strong picket fence
around the garden to the North, and fenced the garden off from the yard. In the
garden were sixteen large fig trees, ami man\- rows of pomegranates. In the
yard were several china trees, and on the river bank, just below our line on
the De la Zerda premises, was a grand old cypress which we could touch through
our fence, and its roots made ridges in our yank It made a great sliade, and we

*This Griffin was a faithful slave, whoafter Mr. Maverick's capture at Sail Autoino, in 1S^2, determined to follow
his master into Mexico to serve, him as he best might. He was killed fighting bravely with Dawson's com-
mand in the beginning of the journey. Mr. Maverick oflcu remarked: " We owe (iriffin a monument."


erected our bath-house aud wash place iinder its spreading branches. Our neigh-
bors were the De la Zerdas. In 1S40 their place was leased to a Greek, Roque
Catahii, who kept a shop on the street and lived in the back rooms. He niarrried
a pretty bright-eyed, laughing Mexican girl of fourteen years. He dressed her
in jewelry and fine clothes and bought her a dilapidated piano. He was jealous
and wished her to amuse herself at home. The piano had the desired effect, and
she enjoyed it like a child with a new trumpet. The fame of her piano went
through the town, and after tea, crowds would come to witness her performance."

"Our neighljors on the north were Dona Juana Varcinez and her sou
Leonicio. She sold us milk at 2o cents per gallon, pumpkins at 25 cents each, and
spring chicken at 12)2 cents each. Butter was 50 cents ^ lb. When we returned
from the coast in '47, she had sold her place to Sam S. Smith. (The Court House
stands there now, and the son, Thad. Smith, is there too as County Clerk). My son
Lewis Antonio, was born at this house of ours, and, until quite recently, I was of
the opinion that he was the first child of pure American stock born in San Antonio.
But now I understand that a Mr. Brown came here with his wife in 1828 from
East Texas, and during that year a son was born to them. That son, John
Brown, is said to be now a citizen of Waco

''This summer (18o9) M. B. Jaques brought his wife and two little girls and
and settled on Commerce Street. Also Mr. Elliott came wath his wife and two
children and bought a place on Soledad street, opposite the north end of our

.... "Mr. Maverick was a member of the Volunteer Company of 'Minute
Men,' commanded by the celebrated Jack Hays, an honored citizen of Cah-
fornia. He came to Texas at the age of eighteen and was appointed a deputy
surveyor. The surveying parties frequently had ' brushes ' with the Indians and
on these occasions Jack Hays displayed marked coolness and military skill, and
soon became by unanimous consent the leader in all encounters with the Indians.
There were from fifty to .seventy-five young Americans in San Antonio, at this
time, attracted l)y the climate, the novelty or by the all-absorbing spirit of land
speculation. They came from every one of the United States. Many had engaged
in the .short and bloody .struggle of "35 and "M\ for the freedom of Texas. Some
possessed means and others were carving out their own fortunes ; all were filled
with the spirit of adventure and daring and more or less stamped with the weird
wildness of the half-known West.

"They were a n()])le set of ' boys,' as they styled one another, and were ever

ready to take horse and follow Hays to the Indian strongholds They

accomplished wonders, for in a few years they crushed the Comanche Nation and
tlie countr\' around vSan Anionio became habitable.

" The signals for their exi)editions were the ringing of the Cathedral bell and
the hoi.sting the flag of the Republic in front of the Court House."

Mrs. Maverick tells ofmniN- dejjredalions l)y Mexicans and Indians, showing
the insecurity of the place e\en up to the \er\- walls of San Antonio.

^ .%!r. Thoiii.is MiKKiiit")tli.-iin. a caipfiitcr and liis wiTc, look the house opposite us on the corner of
Commerce Street ami Main I'laza, wliere the Danenhauer buililinKuow slauds.

MI-MOIRS ()I< MRS. M. A. M.W'l-RICK. 99

"This year (ISoi)) our negro men plowed and i)lanR(l one labor above the
Alamo, and were attacked by Indians. Orifini and W'iky ran into the River and
saved themselves. The Indians cut the traces and took off the work horses. We
did not farm again."

Here is a riding party of the period : —

" In November, IS.",;), a i)arty of ladies and gentlemen came frcnn Houston to
visit San Antonio. They rode on horseback. The ladies were Miss Trask, of
Boston, Mass., and Miss Evans, daughter of Judge Evans, of Texas. The gentle-
men were Judge Evans and Col. J. W. Darcey, Secretary of War of the Republic
of Texas. Ladies and all were armed with pistols and bowie knives. I rode with
this party and some others around the Head of the San Antonio River. We gal-
loped up the West side and paused at and above the Springs long enough to admire
the lovely valley of the San Antonio. The leaves were almost all fallen from the
trees, leaving the view open to the Missions below town. The day was clear, cool
and bright, and we could see as far as San Juan Capistrano, seven miles below
town. We galloped home down the east side, and doubted not that the Indians
watched us from the heavy timl)er of the River l)ottom.

" In the fall of 1889 or '40, eighteen dead bodies were brought in from the
edge of town and laid out in the Court Hou.se. They were the remains of a party
who had been surprised and cut off while out riding, a Mr. Campbell alone
escaping by the fleetness of his horse. The bodies had been found naked, hacked
with tomahawks and partly eaten by wolves. The following day the nine Ameri-
cans were buried in one large grave west of the San Pedro, outside of the Catholic
burying ground, and very near its .southwest corner. The nine Mexicans were
buried inside the graveyard. ......

' ' Indians being so numerous and ' bad ' makes agricultural produce dear.
Farming reminds one of the difficulties of the Jews on their return from the capti\-ity
or the first plantings of the Pilgrim Fathers. Corn selling from two to three dollars a

Mrs. Maverick was an eye witness of the terrible hand to hand conflict with
the Comanche braves in 1840. The fight was nothing less than Homeric. We
give it in her own words : "On Tuesday, March I'.tth, 1S4(), (dia de San Jose)
.sixt3'-five Comanches came into the town to make a treat}-. They brought with
them, and reluctantly gave up, Matilda Lockhart, whom they had captured with
her \-ounger sister, in December, 1838, after killing two others of the family. The
Indian chiefs and men proceeded to the Court House where they met the city and
military authorities. The jail then occuj^ed the corner formed by the east line of
Main Plaza and the north line of Calal)()sa (now Market) street, and the Court
House was north of and adjoining the jail. The Court Hou.se yard, back of the
Court Hou.se, was what is now the City Market on Market street.* The
Court House and Jail were of stone, one' story, flat roofed and floored with dirt.
Captain Tom Howard's Company was at first in the Court Hou.se yard. The
Indian women and boys came in there too and remained during the pow-wow.


' ' The 3'oung Indians amused tlieniselves shootiui^ arrows at pieces of money
put up by some of the Americans.

" I adjourned oyer to Mrs. Higginbotham's, whose place adjoined the Court
House yard, and we watched the young savages through the picket fence.

" This was the third time the Indians had come for a talk, pretending to seek
peace and trjing to get ransom money for their American and Mexican captives.
Their present proposition was that they should be paid an enonnous price for
Matilda Lockhart and a Mexican they had just given up, and that traders be sent

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryWilliam CornerSan Antonio de Bexar; a guide and history → online text (page 14 of 22)