John Henry Brown.

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been a moral man. He has attended strictly to his
business interests, and by careful management has
accumulated a good estate, and has made the bank-
ing institution he controls one of the most success-
ful in the South.





The subject of this sketch was born in South
Carolina, in December, 1810. When he was a
child his parents moved to Green County, Ala.,
where they resided a few years. He then moved to
Chickasaw County, Miss., from whence, in the
year 1845, he moved with his family to Texas, first
locating at Dresden. A short time after, in 1847,
the town of Corsicana was located and again the
family moved, taking up their residence at that

Robert N. White was married in 1840, in Ala-
bama, to Miss Juliet Means, a native of South
Carolina. He followed farming after settling at
Corsicana. When the county of Norman was
organized, in 1847, he was elected County Clerk
and held the office for a period of ten years. At
the expiration of his term of office he retired from

active business, having accumulated a comfortable
fortune through his farming and other financial

He died May 25th, 1891, leaving a wife and six
children, all of whom are living. The children are
all married, except one son, who is now living with
his mother at the old homestead. No. 208, Third
Avenue, in the town of Corsicana.

The remaining children, with the exception of one
son residing and in business in the Indian Territory,
are living in Texas.

Mr. White was never a politician, but was
trusted and honored by his fellow-citizens, as is
shown by the fact of his having been elected to fill
the important office of County Clerk for such a long
period of time. His death was deeply mourned by
his surviving family and acquaintances.



No one who has been at all conversant with the
southern coast of Texas for the past twenty-five
years, can have failed to hear the name of Thomas
Henry Mathis. His manly form, well chiseled
features and vigorous step, form a fitting index to
the volume of his good deeds. Under any circum-
stances he must have been prominent, and, indeed,
the sequel to this narrative will show that he has
developed a fine character, not under the favor of
plain sailing, but despite the buffetings of Dame
Fortune. Such a success as he has achieved could
not have been accidental. Accidents do not occur
on such a colossal scale.

He was born in Stewart County, July 14th, 1834.
His parents were James and Isabella Mathis, the
former of whom died in 1864, and the latter in 1876.
They were both highly esteemed for their sterling
religious character. Thomas received his early
education in the country schools of Tennessee and
Kentucky, and, being raised on a farm, he was
taught the value of a dollar by digging for it early
and late. As a boy he was proud to " hoe his own

row," and as a youth to swing his scythe with the
foremost. At the age of nineteen he resolved to
strive for higher education, and this marks a turn-
ing point in his life, as he was thenceforth thrown
entirely on his own resources. Ardently as his
father longed to encourage his aspirations, he
could not do so in justice to his other children.
But nothing daunted, Thomas left the paternal roof
to enter the school of Dr. J. T. Mathis in Southern
Arkansas. At the end of the second session here
he negotiated a loan of $1,000 from his father, to
be paid back by him, or deducted from the estate
on final settlement of the same. With this aid he
continued another session at school. At the expir-
ation of this time he took a school at Warren, Brad-
ley County, Ark. In conjunction with a lady
teacher, he conducted his school successfully one
year, and then went to Bethel College, where he
finished his education, in 1857. In 1858 he
removed to Murray, Ky., where he assisted Dr. J.
T. Mathis in teaching one session.

In 1859 he went to Southwest Texas, where his

'^d-^y KP-CKvoevodl"^ '^'"'-'^


Mary Nold Mathi's .



career as a business man commenced. His very
flirst enterprise was fraught with extreme peril,
from which men of less courage shrank. It was
on the 3d of February, 1859, that he left Gonzales,
Texas, with a party of eighteen, to make a trading
tour into Mexico.

Any one familiar with border troubles and border
characters, even at this late day, can have some
conception of the hazards of this trip in the next
decade after the Mexican War. On reaching Bio
Grande City the party was Informed that it was out
of the question to think of crossing over into
Mexico, as the country was full of robbers and
brigands. Of the party of eighteen, only T. H.
Mathis and his cousin, J. M. Mathis, had the nerve
to cross the Rio Grande. Two young Alabamians,
who were not of the original party, also crossed
with them into the kingdom of the Montezumas,
together with a Mexican guide. As they lay in
camp on San Juan river, at China, the first night
after reaching Mexico, the custom-house oflScer
demanded of them a duty of six per cent of all
their money on the penalty of being imprisoned
and having all they had confiscated. They sent
their interpreter to tell the ofHcer that they were
buying stock in his country, and would leave all
their money there ; but that if he persisted in de-
manding the six per cent he mignt come and get
it, that there were four of them well armed with
shotguns and six-shooters, and that many of the
Mexicans would bite the dust in the attempted rob-
bery. It is needless to say that Mathis and his
party were left unmolested. They remained in the
country six weeks, camping at night and throwing
out pickets like a regular army. But for this, they
would doubtless have been robbed or murdered.
Though this trip was quite successful, it was never
deemed prudent to repeat it. After making an-
other business trip to the Texas side of the Eio
Grande, Mathis temporarily left the stock business
and opened a five-mouths school in Gonzales
County in the spring of 1861. In the summer of
that year he removed to Victoria and extended the
scope of his business transactions, but was com-
pelled to close his business in the fall of that year,
on account of the closing of the Gulf ports at the
outbreak of the great Civil War. He then went to
Kentucky and Tennessee and bought a large lot of
tobacco, the price of which was rapidly rising in
Texas. He barely succeeded in getting out with this
commodity from Paris, Tenn., before the town fell
into the hands of the Federal troops. He shipped
this tobacco to Alexandria, La., and to it added
another lot purchased in New Orleans. Meantime
he sold the whole in Texas for one dollar a pound.

in Confederate money. In the spring and summer
of 1862 he was busily engaged in forwarding sup-
plies from Texas to the Confederate soldiers of the
Trans-Mississippi Department. In the fall of the
same year he joined Duff's regiment. Company E.,
and fought for the Confederac}' till the close of the
war. He is not ashamed of the cause he espoused,
nor of the part he played in it. Yet when the flag
of the Confederacy was furled, he realized that the
war was over indeed. The same magnanimous
spirit with which he now treats the " boys who
wore the blue " enabled him to speedily forget the
bitterness of the struggle and, though with reduced
resources, to recommence his business career. He
again engaged in the tobacco trade between Ten-
nessee and Texas, in which he continued a year.
In February, 1867, he settled on Aransas Bay, and
selected the site on which the thriving little city of
Rockport now stands. The firm of J. M. & T. H.
Mathis built the first wharf which was established
there, and chartered the first steamship, " The
Prince Albert," that ever entered Aransas Bay for
commercial purposes. After this was lost at sea,
they induced the Morgan line to run their ships to
Eockport, and became their agents. This part of
our narrative deserves to be emphasized. The sub-
ject of this sketch was the founder of Eockport in
a sense in which no one else can claim that honor.
In 1869 the Mathis firm expended $5,500 for the
improvement of Aransas bar, thus blazing the way,
like hardy pioneers, of the future highway of com-
merce. It was about the same time that they
built the Orleans Hotel, and erected a number of
other buildings in Eockport. They also built
bridges, made good county roads, and aided in
securing many other public improvements. Later
on, T. H. Mathis contributed liberally toward
bringing the Union telegraph to Rockport, and to
the building of the first telephone line to that part
of the State. He was also a liberal contributor to
the establishment of the first cold storage meat
refrigerating plant in Texas. He was also one of
the first men in the State to introduce blooded
cattle and horses into Southwest Texas, and he is
said to possess the banner ranch of his portion of
the State, with regard to the quality of his stock.
When the Aransas Pass Railroad was built into
Eockport, in 1888, he was one of the principal pro-
moters of the enterprise, and it is one of the best
additions to the city which bears this name.

When, in 1872, the firm of J. M. & T. H.
Mathis was enlarged to that of Coleman, Mathis &
Fulton, again the progressive spirit of the subject
of this narrative was felt when the firm of which he
was from the beginning a member, built the first



large pasture that was ever established in the State.
In 1870 this firm was dissolved, and J. M. & T. H.
Mathis were the following year again associated in
business by themselves. Since that time T. H.
Mathis has been doing business on his own account,
with the exception of the purchase of a one-half
interest in about 24,000 acres of fine agricultural
landin Wharton County, which he subsequently sold.
He now owns about 24,000 acres of fine agricultural
land in San Patricio County, on the Nueces river,
well fenced and stocked with fine horses and cattle.
On the same estate are several farms, orchards and
vineyards. The town of "Mathis" is named for
him, and is a portion of his original ranch. The
growth of a town so near the body of his ranch can-
not fail to appreciate the value of every acre of it.
Even at the present low prices of land, this is a
princely estate, while its prospective value is very
considerable indeed. Mr. Mathis possesses an
ordinary fortune, entirely aside from these fine
lands. He owns one of the best homes in Roekport,
besides thousands of dollars' worth of realty in
different portions of that city. He is liberally in-
sured, to the amount of $60,000 in old line com-
panies. He is a principal stockholder in the First
National Bank of Roekport, of which institution he
is also president. Such is an imperfect statement
of the material results attending a successful busi-
ness career. But no correct inventory of Mr.
Mathis' wealth can be made that does not include
his character as the main part. He has not achieved
financial success at the expense of character, which
is -too often done. He was well-equipped for his

career, both by nature and acquirements, and hence
had no occasion to resort to dishonest methods.
His experience in the school room made an in-
delible impression on his life. Possibly he would
have made as much money without it, but he would
not otherwise have held money in as strict subjec-
tion to higher ends as he now does. Without such
culture he might have been made the slave instead
of the master of his large possessions. He is
a Democrat of the Jefferson-Jackson-Cleveland

He is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church.
Religiously, as otherwise, his professions are not
loud, and need not be. It would be hard to find a
beneficent institution near him that has not been
helped by him or that might not have been for the
mere asking. He was married twice. In 1869 to
Mrs. Cora C. Caldwell, of Gonzales County, Texas,
who died two months afterwards, and in 1875 to
his present wife {nee Miss Mary J. Nold), in Mur-
ray, Ky. She was born in Goliad, Texas, July 15,
1856, and educated in Kentucky. Her parents
were Henry and Mrs. E. M. Nold. Her father, an
eminent educator, died at Murray, Ky., November
2, 1886. Her mother is still living. Mr. Mathis is
the father of eight children: Walter N., Henry,
May, Thomas E., Edgar, Arthur, Lizzie Belle, and
AUie. Until a few months since it was an unbroken
family, when little AUie, aged seventeen months and
thirteen days, was taken from the bosom of the
family, demonstrating that " our life is even a
vapor, that appeareth for a little time and then
vanisheth away."



Was born in Grosenbergan, Prussia, July 30, 1817,
and came to America in 1846, as a member of the
second company of emigrants sent out to Texas by
the German Emigration Company. The party
landed at Galveston and were almost immediately
transferred to Indianola, reaching the latter port
during the night of December 25, 1846.

Mr. Priess proceeded from Indianola to New
Braunfels, and soon after, upon the platting of the
town, moved to Fredericksburg, where he ever after

He married Miss Elise Vogel, at Fredericksburg,

February 13, 1848. They had five children, viz. :
Carl F., a resident of Fredericksburg, and dealer
in live stock ; Louis, a prosperous merchant of Fred-
ericksburg; Bertha, wife of Henry Pfeister, a
farmer living on Bear creek, in Gillespie County ;
Amelia, wife of Edward Kott, a farmer on Bear
creek ; and George, a farmer on Bear creek. Mr.
John Priess died at his home, in Fredericksburg,
in June, 1882. His wife is still living at that

Louis Priess was born in Fredericksburg, Texas,
January 20, 1852, and was reared upon his father's



farm until about twenty-one years of age, when he
went to Austin, where he clerked in a wholesale
grocery store until 1876. He then formed a co-
partnership with his brother, C. F. Priess, under
the firm name of C. F. Priess & Bro., and engaged
in merchandising, a connection that continued until
1887, when he withdrew from active business pur-
suits for a time.

In 1888 he commenced business in his own name,
and in 1895 he formed a copartnership with Mr.

W. J. Moore, under the firm name of Priess &
Moore, and continued in merchandising in his native

Mr. Louis Priess married Miss Anna Schoene-
wolf, at Fredericksburg, January, 1893. She is
a native of that place and a daughter of August
Schoenewolf, a gentleman well known throughout
Gillespie and adjoining counties. Mr. and Mrs.
Priess have five children : Erwin, Alice, Hugo, Ed-
mund, and Olga.



F. V. Blesse, a leading citizen of Eagle Pass, and
president of the First National Bank of that city,
is a native of St. Louis, Mo. ; was born August
16th, 1855. His father, August F. Blesse, was a
stock-dealer and a successful business man. Mr.
Blesse received his preliminary education in his
native city, and later served as an accountant and
clerk in the Union Savings Bank at St. Charles,
Mo. He then attended school at the Westminster
College, at Fulton, Mo., for three years, after
which he returned to St. Louis, and soon thereafter
came, in 1881, to San Antonio, Texas. He trav-
eled over the State for about six months, and then
went to Eagle Pass and entered' the bank of S. P.
Simpson & Co. as accountant and cashier, remain-
ing in their employ for about five years, during the
latter year of which time he secured a partnership
in the business. He withdrew his interest in 1888,
and in September of that year, with the co-opera-
tion of leading capitalists of that city, organized
the Maverick County Bank of Eagle Pass, cash
capital $30,000.00. His partners were L. DeBona,
Wm. Nagley and J. A. Bonnet. This arrangement
continued for about three years, and in 1891 the
First National Bank of Eagle Pass, cash capital

$50,000.00, was organized, absorbing the capital of
the old institution. The First National Bank's cap-
ital has since increased to $60,000.00. Its officers
are : F. V. Blesse, president ; Wm. Hollis, vice-
president, and W. A. Bonnet, cashier. Directors :
F. V. Blesse, Wm. Hollis, W. A. Bonnet, L.
DeBona, Wm. Nagley, W. Kelso, and Dr. A. H.
Evans. The institution does a general banking
business, and is one of the solid financial houses of
Southwest Texas.

Mr. Blesse married, at Eagle Pass, Miss Nita,
daughter of J. M. Gibbs, and niece of Col. C. C.
Gibbs, of San Antonio. She was born at Nava-
sota, Texas, and is a lady of refinement and excel-
lent domestic and social accomplishments. They
have one son, Frederick.

Mr. and Mrs. Blesse affiliate with the Church of
the Redeemer (Episcopalian), of which he is a ves-
tryman. Mr. Blesse is a sound money Repub-
lican. He is considered one of the substantial and
enterprising citizens of the town. He eschews pol-
itics as a business ; but, as a citizen, is interested
in political movements in so far as they promise to
affect the well-being of his adopted city, county
and State, and the country at large.






Michael Butler, one of Austin's leading business
men, is a native of Ireland, born near the city of
Limerick, February 17th, 1844, where his father,
John Butler, at that time lived.

John Butler owned farms, was a contractor in
the construction of public pikes, or roads, and was
regarded as a substantial, well-to-do citizen. Our
subject was the second youngest of five brothers ;
received the rudiments of a good common school
education in Limerick, and acquired good business
habits and an irrepressible longing to accomplish
something for himself in the business world. The
opportunities offered there for advancement were
not promising, and he, therefore, at the age of
twenty-one, left his native home and sailed for New
York, landing there in the spring of 1865. He
remained in New York but a short time and, in
harmony with the advice so freely given by Horace
Greeley to young men of those days, went West,
developed into a successful business man, and, in
1874, came to Austin, Texas, with a cash capital of
about $10,000.00. He came to Austin to continue
the contracting business. He found here a great
need for brick to take the place, at least for some
special purposes, of the native rock so generally in
use, and in his usually thorough manner explored
the country for a suitable clay possessing the neces-
sary ingredients from which a good quality and
color of brick could be produced. He soon accom-
plished the object of his search, and opened his
first brickyard in Austin. The brick theretofore
used had been of poor quality, and were shipped
from abroad and were expensive. His first efforts
were experimental, and his methods of manufac-
ture necessarily somewhat crude, but he had in-
formed himself thoroughly in the matter of clays
and, being of a naturally mechanical turn of mind,
soon constructed the necessary appliances, and
gratified his desire to show the people of Central
Texas what a good and sound brick looked like.
He then entered into the enterprise with his accus-
tomed energy and push, and the result is that

Austin has one of the finest brick yards in the
State. Houston has another which Mr. Butler
established in 1893. Both are doing a. large busi-
ness, employ a large force of men, and annually
distribute large sums of money broadcast in these
communities. The results of Mr. Butler's work do
not stop here, however. His brick have so far taken
the place of stone in building, that the public
streets are now bordered with handsome brick
blocks and beautiful architectural residences, a
happy result that could have never been otherwise

Mr. Butler also established a brickyard at Dallas
in about the year 1882, built up a fine trade and
disposed of it to a brother, Patrick Butler, who still
owns it. Mr. Butler is a thorough-going business
man, broad in his views, and public-spirited. He
is a self-made man in everything that the term im-
plies. His success in life has been phenomenal and
he has accumulated a splendid fortune. He is a
tliorough and firm believer in Texas' and Austin's
future, and has practically demonstrated his faith
by liberally investing his means in Austin realty and
her business enterprises, until he is regarded as one
of her most substantial property owners.

Mr. Butler is prominently identified with the
banking interests of Austin as one of the promoters
of and a stockholder and director of the American
National Bank of that city, one of the strongest
financial institutions in the State.

He married, in 1878, Miss Mary Jane, a daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Kelly, of Austin. The
union has been a most fortunate and happy one.
They have two sons and one daughter, viz. :
John Francis, Margaret Emma, and Thomas
James. ,

The family mansion is one of the most elegant in
proportions and architecture, and most complete in
its arrangements and furnishings, in Austin, and
occupies a commanding position, overlooking large
portions of the city. Mr. Butler and his family are
members of the Roman Catholic Church.







W. A. Worlham, Superintendent of the State
Orphans' Asylum, situated near Corsicana, was
born in Maurj' County, Tenn., November 3, 1830,
and came to Texas in 1842, with his widowed
mother, who settled in Harrison County. He was
principally educated at Marshall. Desiring to be
a printer, he placed himself in a printing office as a
bound apprentice and served three years, at the
end of which time he was an experienced journey-
man printer. On the 11th day of June, 1852, he
was united in marriage to Miss Adeline E. Ashcroft,
daughter of Dr. Levy and Elizabeth Ashcroft, of
Tyler, Texas, and in 1854 settled in Sulphur Springs,
where he now claims his home. They have five
children: William B. (State Treasurer) ; Louis J.,
Albert A., Thomas, James, and Levy D. Wortham.

Col. Wortham has been a member of the M. E.
Church South thirty-eight years, and his consis-
tent deportment during the dark days of war, and
since, is ample proof of his faith in the promises of
God. As a sofdier he was kind to all in distress
with whom he came in contact, and on one occasion
he stopped for a moment, in the midst of battle in
August, and gave to a wounded and dying Federal
soldier the last drop of water in his canteen, not
knowing when or where he would get any more.

The greater part of Col. Wortham' s life has been
spent as a newspaper publisher and editor. In
December, 1861, he was a volunteer in the Con-
federate army.

At the organization of his company he was
elected First Lieutenant and was attached to
Crump's_ First Texas Battalion. The battalion,
was afterward attached to Ector's Brigade. At
the close of the war he was Lieutenant-Colonel
commanding the Thirty-fourth Texas Cavalry. He
participated in many of the bloody engagements of
the war — Elk Horn, Richmond (Ky.), Perryville,
Murfreesboro, Jackson, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill,
Yellow Bayou, and many other engagements or
skirmishes of less note.

He has served as Justice of the Peace and Dis-
trict Clerk; represented Hopkins County three
times in the House of Representatives of the Texas
Legislature; represented his district during one
term in the State Senate, and in 1891 was appointed
by Governor James S. Hogg superintendent of the
State Orphans' Asylum at Corsicana.

Col. Wortham is one of the oldest, most widely
known and ablest editorial writers in Texas.

During the dark days that marked the recon-
struction era he fought fearlessly, through the
columns of his paper, the cause of civil liberty and
honest government, while being daily threatened
with incarceration in the Federal barracks, in Sul-
phur Springs, where he was editing The Gazette, if
he did not withhold his caustic criticisms of the
conduct of those in authority.

He has always been a Democrat — taking the
extreme Southern view of the rights of the States
as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson and advocated
by the great Southern leaders in 1860 and 1861,
and never abandoned that doctrine until it was set-
tled by the arbitrament of the sword. When that

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 124 of 135)