Interviews and Memoirs of Old Time Texans.

Extracts from the Memoirs of M. A. Maverick

We have been permitted by the kindness of the family to examine this remarkable document,—"This little family 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, patience 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 of 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 probably unique.

Samuel Augustus Maverick was born July 23, 1803, at Pendleton, South Carolina of distinguished revolutionary stock of English and Huguenot extraction. Mrs. Maverick was an Adams—the Massachusetts family transplanted to Virginia and intermarried with a Lewis of that state.

Mrs. Maverick was married August 4th, 1836, near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, her mother's home. The family started for Texas October 14th, 1837; Mr. Sam Maverick being then a baby of five months. Mr. Maverick senior had been in Texas in 1835, 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 these days of Pullman sleepers; Mrs. Maverick says: "Father accompanied us half a day. . . . We traveled in a carriage, Mr. Maverick driving and nurse Rachel and baby and myself the other occupants. In a wagon with Wiley as driver, was Jinny our future cook and her four children. We reached mother's (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Pendleton, South Carolina), about the last of October, and stopped with her about six months making final preparations. . . . . December 7th, 1837, we set out for Texas. . . . Our party was composed of four whites and ten negroes. The negroes were four men Griffin, Granville, Wiley and Uncle Jim—two women Jinny and Rachel, and Jinny's four children. . . . . We had a large carriage, a big Kentucky 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 Rodney, 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 sluggish, muddy, narrow stream, and stood upon the soil of the Republic of Texas about New Year's day 1838.

"January 7th, 1838, we occupied an empty cabin in San Augustine, while the carriage wheel was being repaired. This was a poor little village principality 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 Nacodoches, 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 scare. 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 Washington we went to Columbus on the Colorado, and thence about due south towards the Lavaca River. Now came a dreadful time. About January 26th 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 "Sandy," Mustang and head branches of the Navidad, was fourteen miles wide. . . . Every step the animals took 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 30th, 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 Bowles 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 excused, 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 chief.

"June 2nd we set off for San Antonio de Bexar, in those days frequently simply called Bexar. . . . . June 12th, late in the afternoon, we reached camp again, and were loading up to move two or three miles further to a better camping place, when several Indians rode up. They said 'mucho 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 'much amigo,' telling us further that they were just from the Nueces, where they had fought the Comanches two days previously and gained a victory. They were in war-paint and well armed and displayed in triumph two scalps, one hand and several pieces of putrid flesh from various parts of the human body. 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 [This Griffin was a faithful slave, who after Mr. Maverick's capture at San Antonio, in 1842, determined to follow his master into Mexico to serve him as he best might. He was killed fighting bravely with Dawson's command in the beginning of the journey. Mr. Maverick often remarked: "We owe Griffin a monument."] 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 bright moonlight night and finally the Indians, finding us unsociable and dangerous, gradually dropped behind."

On June 15th, 1838, the travellers reached San Antonio, having left home October 14th of the previous year. While Mrs. Maverick was at Spring Hill, Mr. Maverick made one journey back to purchase household effects in New Orleans.

Mrs. Maverick goes on to describe the San Antonio of the period and gives a charming picture of the society of the little coterie of Americans then living here.

"Early in February 1839, we moved into our own house at the Northeast corner of Main and Soledad streets. This house remained our homestead until July 1849—over ten years—altho' five of the ten years, those from '42 to '47 we wandered 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 Soledad 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 house, 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, and many 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 yard. It made a great shade, and we erected our bath-house and wash place under its spreading branches. Our neighbors were the De la Zerdas. In 1840 their place was leased to a Greek, Roque Catahü, who kept a shop on the street and lived in the back rooms. He married 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 neighbors on the north were Doña Juana Varcinez and her son Leonicio. She sold us milk at 25 cents per gallon, pumpkins at 25 cents each, and spring chicken at 12 ½ cents each. Butter was 50 cents per 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 (1839) M. B. Jaques brought his wife and two little girls and settled on Commerce Street. Also Mr. Elliott came with his wife and two children and bought a place on Soledad street, opposite the north end of our garden. [Mr. Thomas Higginbotham, a carpenter and his wife, took the house opposite us on the corner of Commerce Street and Main Plaza, where the Danenhauer building now stands.]

. . . . "Mr. Maverick was a member of the Volunteer Company of 'Minute Men,' commanded by the celebrated Jack Hays, an honored citizen of California. 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 by 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 '36 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 noble 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 the country around San Antonio became habitable.

"The signals for their expeditions were the ringing of the Cathedral bell and the hoisting the flag of the Republic in front of the Court House."

Mrs. Maverick tells of many depredations by Mexicans and Indians, showing the insecurity of the place even up to the very walls of San Antonio.

"This year (1839) our negro men plowed and planted one labór above the Alamo, and were attacked by Indians. Griffin and Wiley 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, 1839, a party of ladies and gentlemen came from 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 gentlemen 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 galloped 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. They 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 timber of the River bottom.

"In the fall of 1839 or '40, eighteen dead bodies were brought in from the edge of town and laid out in the Court House. 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 Americans 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 captivity or the first plantings of the Pilgrim Fathers. Corn selling from two to three dollars a bushel."

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 19th, 1840, (dia de San Jose) sixty-five Comanches came into the town to make a treaty. They brought with them, and reluctantly gave up, Matilda Lockhart, whom they had captured with her younger sister, in December 1838, after killing two others of the family. The Indian chiefs and men proceedeed to the Court House where they met the city and military authorities. The jail then occupied the corner formed by the east line of Main Plaza and the north line of Calabosa (now Market) street, and the Court House was north of and adjoining the jail. The Court House yard, back of the Court House, 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 House yard. The Indian women and boys came in there too and remained during the pow-wow.

"The young Indians amused themselves shooting arrows at pieces of money put up by some of the Americans.

"I adjourned over 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 trying to get ransom money for their American and Mexican captives. Their present position was that they should be paid an enormous price for Matilda Lockhart and a Mexican they had just given up, and that traders be sent with paint, powder, flannel, blankets and such other articles as they should name to ransom the other captives. This course had been adopted once before, and when the traders reached the Indian camp the smallpox broke out amongst them, and they killed the traders, alleging that they had introduced the disease to kill off the Indians. After the slaughter they retained both the captives and the goods. Now, the Americans, mindful of the treachery and duplicity of the Indians, answered as follows:

"'We will, according to a former agreement, keep four or five of your chiefs and the others of you shall go to your Nation and bring all the captives here, and then we will pay all you ask for them. Meanwhile, the chiefs we hold we will treat as brothers, and not one hair of their heads shall be injured. This we have determined upon, and if you resist our soldiers will shoot you down.'

"The above ultimatum being interpreted, the Comanches, instantly, and as one man, raised a terrific war-whoop, drew their bows and arrows and commenced firing with deadly effect, at the same time endeavoring to break out of the Council Hall. The order, 'Fire!' was given by Capt. Howard and the soldiers fired into the midst of the crowd. The first volley killed several Indians and two of our own people. Soon, all rushed out into the public square, the civilians to procure arms, the Indians to escape and the soldiers in close pursuit. The Indians generally struck out for the River. Some fled southeast towards Bowen's Bend, some ran east on Commerce street and some north on Soledad. Soldiers and citizens pursued and overtook them at all points: Some were shot in the River and some in the streets. Several hand-to-hand encounters took place, and some Indians took refuge in stone houses and closed the doors. Not one of the sixty-five Indians escaped; thirty-three were killed and thirty-two taken prisoners.

"Six Americans and one Mexican were killed and ten Americans wounded. Our killed were Julian Hood the Sheriff, Judge Thompson an attorney from South Carolina, G. W. Cayce, from the Brazos, and one officer and two soldiers and one Mexican whose names I did not learn. Those severely wounded were Lieutenant Thompson brother of the Judge, Captain Tom Howard, Captain Mat. Caldwell a citizen volunteer from Gonzales, Judge Robinson, Mr. Morgan Deputy Sheriff, Mr. Higginbotham and two soldiers. Some others were slightly wounded.

"When the deafening war-whoop sounded in the Court Room, it was so loud and shrill, so sudden and inexpressibly horrible, that we women, looking through the fence cracks, for a moment could not comprehend its purport. The Indian boys, however, instantly recognized its meaning, and turning their arrows upon Judge Robinson and other gentlemen standing near by, slew the Judge on the spot.

We fled precipitately, Mrs. Higginbotham into her home and I across the street to my commerce street door. Two Indians rushed by me on Commerce street and another reached my door, and turned to push it, just as I slammed it to and beat down the heavy bar. I rushed into the house and in the north room found my husband and my brother Andrew sitting calmly at a table inspecting some plats of surveys. They had heard nothing! I soon gave them the alarm, and hurried by to look after my boys. Mr. Maverick and Andrew seized their arms. Mr. Maverick rushed into the street and Andrew into the back yard where I was, now shouting at the top of my voice, 'Here are Indians! Here are Indians!' Three Indians had gotten in through the gate on Soledad street and were making towards the River. One had stopped near Jinny Anderson, our cook, who stood bravely in front of the children, mine and hers. She held a great stone in her hands, lifted above her head, and I heard her cry out to the Indians: 'G' way from heah, or I'll mash your head with this rock!' The Indian seemed regretful that he hadn't time to dispatch Jinny and her brood; but his time was short, and, pausing but a moment, he turned and rushed down the bank, jumped into the River and struck out in answer to my loud calls. While the Indian was swimming, Andrew drew his unerring bead on him. Another Indian was climbing the opposite bank and was about to escape, but Andrew brought him down also. Then Andrew rushed up Soledad street looking for more Indians.

"I housed my little ones and then looked out of the Soledad street door. Near by was stretched an Indian wounded and dying. A large man, an employee of Mr. Higginbotham, came up just then and aimed a pistol at the Indian's head. I called out, 'Oh, don't; he is dying!' and the big American laughed and said, 'Well, to please you I won't; but it would put him out of his misery.' Then I saw two others lying dead near by.

"Captain Lysander Wells, about this time, passed by riding north on Soledad street. He was mounted on a gaily caparisoned Mexican horse, with silver-mounted saddle and bridle, which outfit he had secured to take back to his native State on a visit to his mother. As he reached the Veramendi house, an Indian who had escaped detection, rushed out from his hiding place, and jumping upon the horse behind Wells, clasped his arms and tried to catch hold of the bridle reins. The two men struggled some time, bent back and forwards and swayed from side to side, until at last, Wells managed to hold the Indian's arms with his right hand and with his left to draw his pistol from the holster. He turned partly round, placed the pistol against the Indian's body and fired,—a moment more and the Indian rolled off and dropped dead to the ground. Wells put spurs to his horse and did good service in the pursuit.

"I had become so fascinated by this struggle that I had unconsciously gone into the middle of the street, when Lieutenant Chevalier, who was passing, called out to me: 'Are you crazy? Go in or you will be killed?' I obeyed; but my curiosity and anxiety again got the better of me, and I peeped out on Commerce street where I saw the dead bodies of four or five Indians. . . . It was dark when Mr. Maverick and Andrew returned. . . . . . .

"Several incidents occurred soon after the fight of the 19th which are worth narrating. On March 28th, 250 or 300 Comanches under a dashing young chief, Isimanica, came close to the edge of the town, where the main body halted, while Chief Isimanica and another warrior rode daringly into the Public Square and circled around the Plaza, then rode some distance down Commerce street and back, shouting all the while, offering to fight, and heaping abuse and insults on the Americans. Isimanica was in full war-paint and almost naked. He stopped quite a while in front of Bluck's saloon, on the northeast corner of the square. He shouted defiance, rose in his stirrups, shook his clenched fist, raved, and foamed at the mouth.

"The citizens, through an interpreter, told him that the soldiers were all down at the Mission San José de Aguayo, and that if he went there Colonel Fisher would give him fight enough.

"Isimanica took his braves to San José, and with fearless daring bantered the soldiers for a fight. Colonel Fisher was sick in bed and Captain Redd, the next in rank, was in command. He said to the chief: 'We have made a twelve days' truce with your people, in order to exchange prisoners. My country's honor is pledged, as well as my own, to keep the truce, and I will not break it. Remain here three days, or return in three days, and the truce will be over. We burn to fight you.' Isimanica called him 'liar,' 'coward,' and other opprobrious names, and hung around for some time; but; at last, the Indians left and did not return. Captain Redd remained calm and unmoved throughout this stormy talk, but his men could with difficulty be restrained; and, in fact, some of them were ordered into the Mission church and guarded there.

"When Captain Lysander Wells, who was in town, heard of all this, he wrote Captain Redd a letter, in which he called him a 'dastardly coward,' and alluded to a certain petticoat government, under which he intimated the Captain was restrained. This allusion had reference to a young woman who, dressed in boy's apparel, had followed Redd from Georgia and was now living with him. This letter of Wells was signed, much to their shame, by several others in San Antonio.

"Colonel Risher removed his entire force of three companies to the Alamo in San Antonio. Redd challenged Wells to mortal combat, and one morning at 6 o'clock they met where the Ursuline Convent now stands. Facing his antagonist, Redd coolly remarked: 'I aim for your heart'; and Well replied: 'And I for your brains.' They fired! Redd sprang into the air, and fell dead with a bullet in his brain. Wells, too, in fulfillment of their fearful repartee, was shot very near the heart; he, however, lived a fortnight in great agony, begging every one near him to dispatch him or furnish him with a pistol to kill himself. Dr. Weidemann, of whom more anon, nursed him tenderly. It turned out that the girl before referred to was married to Redd, and they found the marriage license and certificate in his pocket; also letters to members of his own and her families, speaking of her in the tenderest manner and asking them to protect and provide for her. She followed him to the grave and seemed heart-broken, and soon thereafter returned to her people." . . . .

Mrs. Maverick gives terrible accounts of the fearful treatment of captives by the Indians, and her narrative is another warrant for the belief that the only "good Indian is a dead one."

"Matilda Lockhart, who came in on March 19th, had been in captivity about two years. When she was taken, two of her family were slain and she and her little sister were taken prisoners. At that time she was thirteen and her sister three years old. She came along with the Indian party as a herder driving a heard of extra horses—thus the Indians could change horses from time to time for fresher ones. . . . . She was in a frightful condition, poor girl. . . . . Her head, arms and face were full of bruises and sores, and her nose actually burned off to the bone.

"March 26th, Mrs. Webster came in with her three-year-old child on her back. The poor, miserable being was so unlike a white woman that the Mexicans hailed her as 'Indio! Indio!' She came into the Public Square from the west and was dressed as an Indian, in buckskin, her hair was cut short and square upon her forehead, and she was sunburned dark as a Comanche. She called out in good English, however, saying she had escaped from Indian captivity. She was immediately taken into John W. Smith's house, and we American ladies gathered to see her and care for her. She was very tired and hungry and almost exhausted. . . . . Her story was as follows: She came to Texas from Virginia early in 1835, with her husband, who, she claimed, was a relative of Daniel Webster. They built a house northeast of Austin; and in August of that year her husband was removing her and her four children to this wild home. They had also in the party two negroes and one white man. They were camped one evening on Brushy Creek, not far north of Austin, when a large body of Comanches suddenly attacked them. The three men fought bravely, but were overpowered and killed. Mrs. Webster's infant was taken from her arms and its brains dashed out against a tree and her second child killed. She and her eldest boy, 'Booker' were tied upon horses and she held her child of two years so tightly to her breast and pleaded so piteously for its life that the Indians left it with her. They were taken by rapid marches to the mountains, where they stripped 'Booker' and shaved his head. He was attacked with brain fever, and an old squaw, who had just lost a son of his age, adopted him and nursed him very tenderly. The Indians let her keep her little girl, but forbade her talking to her son. They made her cook and stake out ponies and beat her continually. She had been nineteen months in captivity when she seized a favorable opportunity to escape. It was one night after a long day's march, when, having learned the general direction of San Antonio, she quietly slipped out of camp with her child in her arms and bent her steps towards Bexar. She spent twelve terrible days on the road without meeting a human being. She sustained herself all this while on berries, small fish which she caught in the streams and on bones which she sucked and chewed. Sometimes she gave up and almost resigned herself to death. . . . . The morning of the 26th a fog came on, and unable to see any distance through the fog, she gave up all for lost and lay down in utter despair. Soon the sun shone out and the fog disappeared, when, looking towards the East, she saw a "golden cross shining in the sky." Then she felt that God had answered her prayers, and again took up the march with a thankful heart. She approached the golden cross with earnest steps. It proved to be the cross of the Cathedral of San Fernando [Then the Parish Church.] in San Antonio."

In the great raid to Lavaca Bay, in August, 1840, when Linnville was sacked and General Felix Houston inflicted a memorable defeat on the Indians, Mrs. Maverick lost many household effects en route from New Orleans. Amongst other things, was a set of law books for Mr. Maverick. These were heard from as being "tacked by strings to the Indians' saddle-bows and then used as cigarette papers. This shows how little respect the Indians had for Blackstone and the law."

The temptation to quote is constant; in 1841 we read about the society of San Antonio as follows:

"We began, now, to have a society and great sociability amongst ourselves, the Americans. During this summer, 1841, Mr. Wilson Riddle brought his bride and Mr. Moore his family. These gentlemen were both merchants on Commerce street. Mr. John Twohig (the present banker) started a small grocery on the corner of Commerce street and Main Plaza. Mrs. Jaques had a boarding house at south west corner of Commerce and Yturri streets. She had a considerable place rented from Yturri, boarded all the nice young Americans, and was very hospitable and pleasant. She was a good nurse, very kind to the sick and wounded, and was very popular with the gentlemen. . . . . . President Lamar, with a very considerable suite, visited San Antonio in June. A grand ball was given him in Mrs. Yturri's 'long room,'—all considerable houses had a 'long room' for receptions—the room was decorated with flags and evergreens, flowers were not much cultivated then; at the ball General Lamar wore very wide trousers which, at the same time, were short enough to show the tops of his shoes. The General and Mrs. Juan N. Seguin, wife of the Mayor, opened the ball with a waltz. . . . We were forced to smile, for the gallant President, although a poet and a first rate conversationalist, could not dance. . . . At this ball Hays, Chevalier and Howard had but one dress-coat between them, and they agreed to use the coat and dance in turn; the ones not dancing would stand at the door and watch the happy tenant of the garment disporting himself on the floor, at the same time continually making faces to remind him that his time was up. Their by-play and good humor furnished quite a diversion and amused us very much. . . . .

"During this summer the American ladies led a lazy life of ease. We had plenty of books, including novels. We were all young, healthy and happy, and were content with each other's society. We read, joked and laughed away the time and in those days there were no envyings and no backbiting. . . . Now that merchants were establishing themselves on Commerce street, bathing at our place had become rather public, so we ladies got permission of old Senora Trevino to erect a bath house on her premises, some distance north on Soledad street, afterwards the homestead of the Jaques family. Thither we went in a crowd every afternoon at about four o'clock, taking the children and their nurses with us and a dainty lunch prepared by one of us in turn to eat after the bath."

An eccentric character of those days was a Doctor Weidemann,—his memory is worth keeping green as showing that the present cosmopolitan characteristics of San Antonio are congenital, so to speak. . . . "He was a Russian scholar and naturalist, and an excellent physician and surgeon; a highly cultivated man and spoke many languages, and he had been a great traveler. He lived on the old Chavez place on Acequia street. I remember that on the night of the Indian fight of March 19th, 1840, I visited Mrs. Higginbotham, as I have before stated. While I was there Dr. Weidemann came up to her grated front window and placed a severed Indian head upon the sill. The good Doctor bowed courteously, and saying: 'With your permission, Madam," disappeared. Presently he returned with another bloody head, when he explained to us that he had examined all the dead Indians and had selected these heads, male and female, for the skulls, besides two entire bodies, to preserve as skeletons. He said, 'I have been longing exceedingly to secure such specimens, and now, ladies, I must get a cart to take them home.' Dr. Weidemann had taken an active part in the fight, and done good service mounted on his fine horse, and now he was all begrimed, bloody, and dirty, the result of his labors as a warrior, surgeon and scientist. He soon returned with the cart loaded with his magnificent specimens, took the two heads from the window and departed. . . . . . . . That night he stewed the bodies in a soap boiler, and when the flesh was completely dessicated, emptied the cauldron into the Acequia. Now, this ditch furnished the drinking water generally for the town; it being understood that the River and the San Pedro were reserved for bathing and washing. There was a city ordinance to this effect coupled with a heavy fine. On the 21st it dawned upon the dwellers on the banks of the ditch that the Doctor had defiled the drinking water, and that probably they had taken in particles of Indian in their fluid. The people, very properly, gathered in indignation, a mob rushed to the Mayor's office, the men talked in loud and excited tones, the women shrieked and cried, they rolled up their eyes in horror, they vomited, and some of them were so frightened that they suffered mis-carriage. Many thought they were poisoned and would die. Dr. Weidemann was arrested and brought to trial; they overwhelmed him with abuse, and called him 'diablo,' 'demonio,' 'sin verguenza,' and so forth. He took it calmly, assured them the Indians had all sailed by in the night, paid his fine, and went away laughing. Once the Doctor lost his watch. He suspected one of his servants—José; and after waiting in vain for him to confess and give up the property, he determined to get his own again by magic. He invited a party to see the fun, and arraying himself in a figured gown and a conical hat, and preparing a fire and cauldron on the roof of his house, he summoned all his servants to his presence and announced that they were all to dip their hands into the pot; at the same time informing them that the hand of the guilty one would turn black. The conscience-stricken José waited till the last, all the others had come through the ordeal with clean hands. He at last approached, plunged in his hand, and when he withdrew it, lo, it was black! The wretched man confessed in terror, and immediately gave up the watch. Thereafter no Mexican passed Dr. Weidemann without crossing himself, for they all firmly believed he was in league with the Devil. The Doctor told them that the spirits of the boiled Indians were under his control and told him everything. He set their skeletons up in his summer house and defied any one to steal from him; it is needless to say his property was not further molested. The Doctor was drowned in 1843 or 1844 in attempting to swim Peach Creek near Gonzales, during a rise."

Mrs. Maverick gives a graphic account of the flight from San Antonio in 1842 on the approach of Vasquez. She mentions the burying of valuables, the disposing of doubloons in bustles manufactured for the occasion, the turning over of furniture to Mexican friends and other incidents of what is known as the "Runaway of '42." Mr. Maverick and many gentlemen escorted the ladies as far as the Capote Farm, the Erskine place, on the Guadalupe. "On the way from Capote Farm to Gonzales we passed King's rancho, which had just been deserted by the owners. Here was desolation amidst plenty. The corn-crib was full, the smoke-house well supplied, and chickens and hogs were running round as usual. On the front door was pasted the following notice: 'To all refugees, welcome; help yourselves to what you need. Also to all marching to repel the invaders, take what you want but leave the remainder to the next comers.' Hays reoccupied San Antonio, but the fugitives continued their flight first to Gonzales and afterwards to La Grange. Mr. Maverick made a trip to Alabama and returning to San Antonio to the fall term of Court, was taken prisoner in the raid by Woll after a gallant but ineffectual resistance to a complete surprise."

San Antonio was again reoccupied by the Texans after the battle of the Salado, but too late to rescue the prisoners, largely on account of the jealousy of the commanding officers of the Texan forces, Moore, Morehead and Caldwell. Caldwell was the hero of the Salado, but Moore was the ranking officer. Each division wanted its own commander to lead, leaving Hays, who had already captured the Mexican Artillery, to maintain himself unsupported. The troops returned disgusted, in small squads, to San Antonio, Woll getting off in safety, his prisoners being already far on their way. Mr. Maverick was liberated in the City of Mexico on March 30th, 1843, through the good offices of General Waddy Thompson, a connection of his, and then United States Minister to Mexico. The remainder of the prisoners were not released by Santa Anna until June 16th of the same year. Mr. Maverick started for home on April 2d, and on "May 4th he dismounted at our cabin on the Colorado." The family afterward removed to Decrow's Point, on Matagorda bay, remaining until October 15th, 1847. They found the town on their return much changed since '42, "emigrants arriving daily." . . . "We moved directly to our old home, the fence was nearly gone and everything dilapidated." In July, 1850, what is known as the Maverick Homestead, was begun on the corner of Alamo Plaza and Houston street, although that street then had no existence, and years after its opening, was known as Paseo.

This date brings our quotations to an appropriate end, but we close the MS., this mirror of by-gone days, with regret. Our extracts have been limited to matters of general interest, and we commend them to the reader who lives in calmer times, and who would learn somewhat of the struggles to which he owes his present comfort, with the admonition to profit by them, not only by informing himself of the facts of history, but also by observing some of the spirit of that society which has created his own.

William Corner, San Antonio de Bexar., 1890

No comments:

Post a Comment