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From Virginia, Mr. McCann moved to Hagarstown,
Md., and, after some losses and many changes, he
started with his family to Louisville, Ky. By
accident he was compelled to stop at Cincinnati,
Ohio, where he remained several years. From that
city Amanda was sent to the convent school at
Loretta, where she remained for four years, obtain-
ing there the greater part of her education. Fall-
ing in with the tide of immigration to the South
and West, Mr. McCann drifted to Mississippi and
finally, in 1840, settled in Little Rock, Ark., where
his family was domiciled and his servants quartered
on a headright some miles outside of the town.
This headright he had received for his services in
the war of 1812. Two years later the family also
settled on the headright, which now became the
homestead, the affairs of which were ordered and
conducted after the manner customary on the old-
time Southern plantations.

Speaking of her early years, Mrs. Dignowity
says : " In my childhood and girlhood I traveled



much with my father, who was a merchant as well
as planter, and as there were then no railroads, all
travel being by carriages and wagons, I traversed
in this way much of the wilds of Virginia, Penn-
sylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas
and saw and practiced many of the primitive ways
of living. Being the eldest of a large family of girls
and there being many servants to care for, at home
or on our various removals, I had to take charge
of our medicine chest, one of the necessary adjuncts
of every large household in those days, and admin-
ister such physic as was prescribed. I took a fancy
for the study of medicine and though women were
not then allowed to practice I determined to learn
something about the subject. I began to read
under Dr. J. Coombes of Mississippi ; and after
my father removed to Little Rock, I continued my
studies under Drs. Tucker andPrayther. Meeting
Dr. Wm. Byrd Powell, then president of the Medi-
cal College of New Orleans and afterwards State
Geologist of Arkansas, I studied under him, he
teaching the reform system, the eclectic, then almost
in its infancy. On February 9th, 1843, 1 was mar-
ried to Dr. A. M. Dignowity, friend and partner of
Dr. Powell, and accompanying my husband to a
small place in the western part of Kansas, settled
there. Whatever ambition I may have had for an
independent career as a medical practitioner, if,
indeed, I ever had any, was now laid aside, though
I continued my studies and often in after years
joined my husband in his researches and lent him
what aid I could in his professional labors."

Dr. Dignowity having come to Texas in the early
spring of 1846 and determined to locate perma-
nently at San Antonio, he sent the following fall
for Mrs. Dignowity, who had remained with
her parents in Little Rock during the inter-
vening months. The account of her trip is



244



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



best given in her own language. She said : " After
masses, offered by Archbishop Byrens, and the
prayers of the congregation for my safety in that
land of war and desperadoes, were said I left my
relatives and friends, some of whom I was never to
see again and others not for many years, and took
the steamer bound for New Orleans. At that place
I waited thirty days for a vessel sailing for Texas,
took passage on the bark ' William ' in the latter
part of January and, after beating about and being
driven much out of our way at sea, suffering two
days for water, we finally put in at Matagorda,
■where a supply of food and water was obtained.
The vessel then proceeded to Indianola. There
I was fortunate in meeting Mr. Van Eansalaer of



we got in. I procured a rocking chair and roll of
carpeting from ray baggage and ensconced myself
in the back part of the wagon with my babies.

" The word to start was given, the Mexicans
springing out of the way and the mules, standing
first on their hind feet and then plunging forward
in response to a yell from the driver and Mexicans,
we started on our way. We faced the north wind
for miles, I, nearly frightened to death, could only
hold myself in readiness for anything that might
come.

" Atlast we arrived at Victoria. ' Limpy ' Brown,
well known in Texas history, kept the hotel there.
After dinner we had a relay of bronchos and started
on, facing toward evening a sleeting norther. We




MRS. AMANDA J. DIGNOWITY.



New York and Judge Stuart of Texas, both friends
of my husband. We chartered a lighter and tlie
two gentlemen, myself and babies and the captain
left for Port Lavaca, which I was told was distant
only a few hours sail, but we had gone scarcely a
mile when a norther sprang up and we were driven
out and battled the storm until the next evening
before we reached Lavaca. I remained overnight
at the hotel. The next morning one of the gentle-
men asked me to step out and see the fine United
States mail coach waiting to take us over. Imagine
my astonishment to see a large wagon without
cover or seats, six Mexican broncho mules at-
tached, each mule held by a Mexican peon (the
latter as strange-looking to me as the mules) until



arrived late at Soguin half frozen, hungry and
tired out, my baby not a year old, with the croup,
our faces blistered with the sleet and cold. There
I met for the first time Capt. Jack Hays on his
way to Washington, D. C, and others who were
going to San Antonio, among them Mr. William
Vance, Capt. Shaw and Mr. A. A. Munsey, all of
whom I well knew at home. Our hostess was Mrs.
Calvert and with her still resided her beautiful
daughters, afterwards Mrs. Johnston, Mrs. Hays
and Mrs. John Twony. Her kindness to
me, a stranger, I will never forget. Next
morning with a relay of bronchos, we continued
our journey, our party having been increased by
the addition of Mr. Munsey and Capt. Shaw.



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



245



The norther gone and the weather clear, we con-
tinued without further suffering or the occurrence
of any event to break the monotony of travel until
we reached the Salado crossing, eight miles east of
San Antonio.

" There we were startled by a fearful war-whoop,
and the men gathered their guns, pistols and
bowie knives and prepared for battle with a deter-
mination which frightened me so that I slid from
the chair to the bottom of the wagon and covering
my babies with the carpeting, waited. Soon a
voice called out : ' No fightie ; muche amigo ;
plenty whisky ; plenty drunk ! ' What a relief !
As we descended the hill we saw camped in the bed
of the creek over a hundred Indians. Thej' had
been to San Antonio for rations and all were beastly
drunk but three watchers.

" When we got to the top of the hill east of the
city, where my residence now stands, Mr. Van
Eansalaer remarked: 'Mrs. Dignowity, you must
not be surprised at the appearance of the town.
There has been a fearful norther and all of
the houses have been unroofed.' Which I verily
believed was so until I got fairly into the town and
more closely inspected the buildings. The hotel
at which we stopped, a typical Mexican jacal with
flat roof, dirt floor and grated windows, seemed to
be the chief place of rendezvous of the town ; but I
paid very little attention to its appearance or in-
mates. My husband, though absent at the time,
being on duty among the soldiers at Mission Con-
cepeion, had prepared a room for me and had a
nurse in waiting. I repaired at once to my apart-
ments which seemed a haven of rest, and awaited his
return. When we went out to dinner there were
about thirty persons at table and I was told that
seven languages were being spoken. There was
not one American lady in the number and I was
told, and later learned, very few in the city. I re-
member meeting at the hotel the beautiful Mrs.
Glanton, Prince Solms, Don Castro and a number
of United States officers, some of whom I had
known at home. The next day and many after I
rode with my husband to the camps and visited the
sick.

" In July our baggage, which had been delayed
for five months, arrived and we moved to our
home, my husband having purchased a place on
Acequia street. After that I saw much of the
city, met the few resident American ladies, became
acquainted with some of the Mexican ladies and
had a very pleasant time. All visiting then was
done after sundown. The Plaza from ten in the
morning till four in the evening was empty. All
doors were closed. Everyone took a siesta and



afterwards a cup of coffee and a bath, the latter
generally in the river. After 4 p. m. and after
nightfall until midnight the Plaza and streets were
gay with men and women in full dress and elegant
toilets, engaged in shopping, visiting and enjoying
the evening air.

" About one year after my arrival several ladies
formed a class and engaged Dr. Winchell, who had
been a tutor in Santa Anna's family, to teach us
Spanish. The authoress, Augusta Evans, then a
young girl, was one of the number. I visited some
of the Spanish ladies and joined 'them in visiting
the church during their festivals and fiestas, and
was much interested with manyjothers in watching
their devotions and great display ^to the honor of
the Senora Guadeloupe, their great patroness.
Later when German immigrants began pouring into
the city I found it necessary to study German,
our domestic help coming largely from among
them.

"Street fights between Indians and Mexicans
were of frequent occurrence and my husband was
many times called to attend^the wounded of both
sides. Sicls: and disabled soldiers from the Rio
Grande were also frequently brought to our house
for treatment so that we were^f or years almost con-
stantly in the midst of affliction. But in spite of
this we had our pleasures and enjoyed life quite as
much as people of this day. What American homes
there were here were always open to friends and
we had many distinguished visitors to San Antonio
in those days. I recall the names of Generals
Kearney and Doubleday of the United States army,
ex-Governor Yell of Arkansas, President Sam
Houston, Archbishop Lamy, Bishop Odin and Rev.
Mark Anthony, as among my guests in those years,
and of course there were others whose names do
not now occur to me. The incidents of the Alamo
and the invasions under Vasques and WoU were
then fresh in the minds of the people and I heard
many interesting reminiscences of those stirring
times recited by those who took part in historic
events recounted. After the establishment of peace
sometimes in company with my husband and some-
times with lady friends I visited the old missions.
Concepcion Mission vras used for a considerable
time as a stable by the soldiers who were quartered
there after the Mexican war. What a terrible
desecration it seemed to me! But this was not
more shocking than the vandalism since exhibited
by tourists in breaking and taking away the lovely
decorative work. The missions then were by no
means in so dilapidated a condition as at present.
Every sculptured flower, leaf, fruit and face was
in a perfect state of preservation.



246



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



" The opening of the Civil War brought us a new
era of trial and suffering. My husband was a
Union man. He left the country on account of his
views on slavery and secession and remained in the
North until the restoration of peace. My two eldest
sons, aged sixteen and nineteen, were conscripted
into the Confederate Army but, subsequently,
while on a furlough, swam the Rio Grande, made
their escape and joined the Union forces at Brazos
de Santiago, and later went to Washington City,
where they secured positions in the Department of
the Interior and remained until 1868. Most of our
property was swept away during the four years
struggle, some of our losses being caused by
Indians who made frequent incursions into the
country and stole cattle, horses and sheep from
the ranches, sometimes murdering the ranch-
men."

" But," said Mrs. Dignowity in conclusion, "in
spite of these unpleasant recollections, San Antonio
is very dear to me and I am every inch a Texian.
During the past twenty years I have traveled ex-
tensively throughout the Union but I cannot say
that I have ever found any place I like better then
this and I have no higher wish than to here pass in
the quiet of my home, surrounded by my children



and grandchildren, the remainder of the j'ears
allotted to me on earth."

Mrs. Dignowity has living five sons and one
daughter and ten grandchildren, all of whom reside
near her. Very naturally her chief thoughts now
center in these, and she in turn is the recipient of
their unbounded affection. Her time for the past
five years has been devoted to her estate, to her
children and to her taste for the arts in a small
way. She feels, as she says, that with all the trials
her bright days have been more than her dark ones
and that she has much to be thankful for. The
secret of her cheerful disposition and elasticity of
spirits, perhaps lies in the fact that she has passed
much of her time in intimate association with her
children and grandchildren, whose purposes, hopes
and ambitions, she has actively interested herself
in, and in the further fact that she has kept up her
reading habit formed in girlhood and her interest in
art work, thus drawing, as it were, daily inspiration
from the only real fountain of youth. She has re-
ceived from the judges of the International State Fair
and the State Art Association two gold medals for
art work and carving ; one diploma, one honorable
mention and fifteen premiums from the different
departments.



MRS. SARAH ANN BRACHES,

GONZALES COUNTY.



Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair,
Else In the heart and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the under-world,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge ;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns

The earliest pipe of half awakened birds.

To dying ears, when unto dying eyes,

The casement slowly grows a glimmering square ;

So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death.
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy leign'd,
On lips that are for others ; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and mild with all regret;
0, death In life, the days that are no more.

Tbnnyson.



Mrs. Sarah Ann Braches, who died at her home
on Peach creek, near the town of Gonzales, Octo-
ber 17th, 1894, aged eighty-three years and seven
months, was one of the last survivors of the colo-
nists who came to Texas in 1831.

Although confined to her bed for a number of
years, she was ever cheerful, and would laugh or
cry with the changing theme as she recounted with
glowing imagery the story of the hardships and
perils through which she passed in her earlier years.
Her memory was remarkably retentive, and her
mind singularly clear, almost up to the moment of
her death. She was the representative of a race
that redeemed the wilderness and won freedom for
Texas. Upon the broad foundation it laid, has
been erected the noble superstructure of later limes.
Truly a mother of Israel has passed away. May
the flower-gemmed sod rest lightly above her pulse-
less form, and her memory be preserved in grateful




MES. SARAH ANN BEACHES.




CHARLES BRACHES.



INDIAN WABS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



247



hearts as well as upon the pages of the history of
the country she loved so well.

Her parents were John M. and Mary (Garnett)
Ashby, natives of Kentucky. She was born in
Shelby County, Ky., March 12th, 1811, and was
the oldest of twelve children. She was united in
marriage to Judge Bartlett D. McClure in Ken-
tucky in 1828. Three children were born of this
union: Alex, in 1829, John, in 1833, and Joel, in
1839, all now deceased.

Joel was a soldier in Terry's Rangers during the
war between the States, and in the charge led by
Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh was shot in
the groin, a wound from the effects of which he died
October 23d, 1870, at the old family residence.

In 1831 the Ashby family and Judge and Mi:s.
McClure emigrated to Texas. At New Orleans,
March 12th of that year, the party took passage on
a ship bound for Matagorda Bay and landed upon
Texas soil the first of May following. The vessel
was caught in a storm and the pilot losing his bear-
ings steered into the wrong pass, whereupon the ship
struck repeatedly upon a bar with such violence that
all aboard expected every moment to be engulftd
in the raging sea, but the ship was strong and kept
afloat until morning, when the passengers and crew
took to the small boats and effected a landing on
the bar. Here they pitched camp and waited four
days, when, the vessel still sticking fast, it was de-
cided to abandon her to her fate and Judge Mc-
Clure and a few companions, at the request of the
rest, made their way to the mainland and went on
to Goliad to get permission for the party to land,
from the Mexican commander, who, according to
the process of the tedious, laws in vogue, had to
send a courier to the seat of government before he
could issue them a permit to enter and remain in
the country. They were gone five days on this
mission. The whole party finally landed in boats
about fifteen miles below the present town of Rock-
port, but had to camp another week on the beach
for Mexican carts to be brought from Goliad.
They were delayed again at Goliad waiting for ox-
teams from Gonzales, as the Mexican carters would
go no farther than the Guadalupe river. The two
families separated and Mr. and Mrs. Ashby settled
in Lavaca County, on Lavaca river, five miles from
Halletsville, Mrs. Ashby dying in that county in
1836, and her husband in Matagorda County,
October 15th, 1839.

Judge and Mrs. McClure established themselves
on Peach creek near Gonzales, in De Witt's colony,
where the subject of this memoir lived almost
continuously during the after years of her life.

There were only twenty-five families in Gon-



zales when they first visited that place. At
this time (1831), the Comanches, Lipans and Ton-
cahuas were friendly, but the Waco Indians were
hostile and giving the settlers much trouble. In
September, the people of Gonzales gave a dinner
to about one hundred Comanches. The meal was
partly prepared by the ladies of the place. Know-
ing the treacherous nature of the red-skins, a guard
of fifteen well armed men was quietly appointed.
These kept on the qui vive and neither ate nor
drank while the Indians regaled themselves. No
disturbance occurred and the Indians, having fin-
ished their repast, mounted their horses and
departed with mutual expressions of good will.

These friendly relations were terminated a year
later, however, as the result of the action of a
party of French traders from New Orleans, who
passed through the country. These traders gave
poisoned bread to the Comanches, and the latter
declared war against all whites.

For many years thereafter the country was sub-
ject to raids and depredations. In all those stir-
ring times the subject of this memoir displayed a
heroism as bright as that recorded upon the most
inspiring pages of history, and a tenderness enno-
bling to her sex. On more than one occasion her
intrepidity saved the homestead from destruction.
At others she helped to prepare rations for hastily
organized expeditions and spoke brave and cheer-
ing words to the country's defenders. The wounded
could always rely upon careful nursing at her hands
and the houseless and indigent upon receiving shel-
ter and succor. Ever womanly and true, her
virtues won for her the lasting love and veneration
of the people far and wide and she is now affection-
ately remembered by all old Texians.

In August, 1838, while riding across the prairies
with her husband, they came across twenty-seven
Comanche warriors. By a rapid movement the
Indians cut them oft from the general ford on
Boggy Branch, and they deflected toward Big
Elms, another crossing place two miles distant.
In the mad race that followed she became
separated from her husband. A portion of
the band observing this fact, uttered a shout
of triumph and made a desperate effort to over-
take her. She realized that she must put the
creek between her and her pursuers and accordingly
turned shortly to the right and rode at break-neck
speed straight for the stream. As she reached it
she fastened the reins in her horse's mane, wrapped
her arms around his neck, buried her spurs in his
quivering flank and the animal, with a magnificent
exertion of strength, vaulted into the air and landed
with his fore feet on the other side, his hind feet



248



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



and legs sinking deep into the mud and quicksand
tliat formed the margin of the branch. In an in-
stant she leaped over his head and seizing the bridle
encouraged him to make an effort to extricate him-
self, which, being a large and powerful animal, he
did. She then waved her sun-bonnet to her hus-
band who had effected a' crossing further down at
the Big Elms and whom she descried at that mo-
ment galloping toward her. He joined her and
they rode home, leaving the baffled Comanches to
vent their rage as best they could.

Periods of quietude and occasional social gather-
ings gave variety of life and common perils nour-
ished generous sentiments of neighborly regard,
mutual kindness and comradeship. The hardships
and dangers of the times in themselves seemed to
have had a charm for the bold and hardy spirits
who held unflinchingly their ground as an advance
skirmish line of civilization. Nor were the happen-
ing of events rich in humor wanting. These were
recounted over and over beside blazing winter
hearths to amuse the occasional guest. One of
these told to the writer "by the subject of this
memoir was the following: —

Judge McClure, on starting for Bastrop in 1834,
left a carpenter whom he had employed to build an
addition to the house, behind him to protect the
family. The man was a typical down-east Yankee.
A morning or two later Mrs. McClure's attention
being attracted by cattle running and bellowing ;
she looked out of her window and saw Indians
skulking in the brush and two of the band chasing
the cattle. She at once commenced arming herself
and told her companion that he must get ready
for a fight. He turned deathly pale, began trem-
bling and declared that he had never shot a gun
and could not fight. " Let's go back of the house,"
he said, "and down into the bottom." To which
she replied, " No, sir, you can go into the bottom
if you want to ; but I am going to fight."

The Indians killed a few calveabut kept out of gun-
shot and passed on that night. The carpenter sat up
until daylight with a gun across his lap. He could
not shoot; but, it is to be presumed, found some
comfort in holding a gun, for all that. The fol-
lowing morning she told the man that if he would
go down to the lake back of the house and get a
bucket of water, she would prepare breakfast. He
replied that he was afraid to go. She stood this
condition of affairs as long as she could and then
strapping a brace of pistols around her waist, took
the bucket and started for the lake. The fellow at
this juncture declared if she was bound to go, he
would go with her, and followed on behind a few
steps holding the gun in his hands. This so



angered her that she turned and told him that, if
he dared to follow her another foot she would shoot
him dead in his tracks. Alarmed in good earnest
he beat a hasty retreat to the house. Several days
later some men came by going to Gonzales, and the
carpenter went with them without finishing his job.
What hair-lifting tales he told when he got back to
his native heath and the prodigies of valor that he
performed may be conjectured.

She was living on Peach creek at her home,
when the Alamo fell. Prior to that event, when the
people were fleeing from Gonzales in dread of the
advance of Santa Anna on that place, twenty-seven
women, whose husbands were in the Alamo, stopped
at her house and were there when they received
news of the massacre.

Gen. Houston also stopped at her home on his
second day's retreat and sitting on his horse under
a big live oak tree (which she ever afterwards
called Sam Houston's tree) ordered a retreat, say-
ing that those who saw fit to remain behind must
suffer the consequences. A great many relic hun-



Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 47 of 135)