The Texans moved slowly into the heart of San Antonio, and as they battered, hacked, and pried holes through thick adobe and stone walls with logs, knives and crowbars, Mexican snipers fired from the tops of the houses and kept up a cannonade from the Alamo Plaza.
The young lawyer from South Carolina who was guiding the three hundred Volunteers may have wondered how he got involved in this. He had arrived here just three months ago.
If Samuel Augustus Maverick was amazed to find himself so soon in the midst of the quarrel between Texas and Mexico, he would have been absolutely astonished to know that his name would become a widely-used word in the English language, and that legendary overtones would color his true story.
When Maverick arrived in San Antonio in September, 1835, he rented a room from John W. Smith and began to get acquainted with the small town. As he looked and listened, he became aware of increasing tensions between American colonists and the Mexican government.
This same month the new President of Mexico, General Santa Anna, had sent his brother-in-law General Cos with one-thousand well-trained troops to take control of San Antonio. They entered the town with little opposition and immediately made preparations for military rule. General Cos became suspicious of the activities of both Maverick and Smith, and put them under guard in the Smith house.
In the meantime, seven-hundred American colonists gathered under Stephen Austin and marched toward San Antonio, winning several skirmishes with the Mexicans on the way. Late in October they camped north of town on the San Antonio River to wait for more men and heavier weapons before making the final attack. Austin went to the United States for help, leaving Colonel Burleson to train the men.
Although Maverick and Smith chafed at their confinement, they used the time well by observing the preparations being made by the Mexicans. They noted which streets were barricaded, and which houses were fortified; they found where the cannon had been set up and where trees and underbrush had been cut down to eliminate potential hiding places. They kept in touch with the Americans at the edge of town through notes carried by a Mexican lad whom they trusted, and late in November, General Cos released them, after securing their promise that they would return to the United States.
On the way, Maverick and Smith stopped at the American colonists' camp; there they found dissension and discouragement. The men were impatient at the delay. Many had signed up for only two months; their farms and families needed them and they began to drift away until only about four hundred were left. Colonel Burleson was ready to give up the siege but many of the men protested. Smith and Maverick encouraged them to attack, promising to act as guides.
While the arguments continued, an experienced frontier fighter, Colonel Benjamin Milam, stepped forward and shouted, "Who will go with Old Ben Milam?" Three hundred men volunteered to follow the forty-four year old fighter.
Guided by Maverick and Smith they slipped into town in the early dawn of December 5, 1835, and captured several houses before the Mexicans were aware of what was happening.
From then on, progress was slow and tiring for the liberating force. They avoided the snipers by making a passageway through the houses by the laborious process of knocking holes in the walls, some of which were four feet thick, so they could crawl from house to house.
On the third day, just one block from the Main Plaza, brave Colonel Milam was hit by a sniper located in a cypress tree along the river. He is said to have died in Samuel Maverick's arms. When the Texans reached the Plaza the next day, the Mexicans surrendered, having had enough of this enemy who progressed, seemingly, like a mole through the earth. On December 9, Maverick had the satisfaction of watching General Cos sign the articles of capitulation. He was allowed to withdraw across the Rio Grande on the promise that he would not attack Texas again.
For the young South Carolinian, the battle was his baptism of fire which burned the love of Texas right into his heart from then on, Maverick never ceased being a Texan.
Although Samuel Augustus Maverick was a South Carolina gentleman, he was destined to lead a life of action and adventure in the West. His father, Samuel, a wealthy business man and land owner, was said to have been the first American to ship cotton from Charleston to England.
Samuel Augustus was born in 1803 at Montpelier, the family plantation just outside Pendleton. In 1825 he graduated from Yale University, studied law in Virginia and, upon his return home, set up a law practice. He had a strong inclination toward politics, a motivating force throughout his life.
There was dissatisfaction in South Carolina. In order to help pay for the War of 1812, the Federal government passed laws assessing high tariffs on goods from England. As the rates continued to be increased, some South Carolinians talked of nullifying the Federal laws; others suggested withdrawing from the Union. However there were leading men, including the Mavericks, who were against such drastic measures, and engaged in heated debates to disseminate their more moderate views.
One time while the elder Mr. Maverick was making a speech, someone called out a disparaging remark. The fearless Samuel Augustus challenged the heckler to a duel; the challenge was accepted and Samuel wounded him, then showed his compassionate nature by caring for him in the Maverick home.
After this experience the relentless young lawyer became convinced that his political beliefs were too divergent from those predominating in the state. He decided to travel.
After visiting a sister in Alabama, he traveled to New Orleans on business. As he strolled the streets and wharves of the interesting old town he heard much talk about Texas, in the Republic of Mexico. Mexico had gained her independence from Spain in 1821 and at once opened her northern provinces to Americans. Everyone, it seemed, was going to Texas—or at least, they talked of it.
To young Maverick the appeal of the new country was strong. Not only was he seeking adventure, but he was an intelligent man looking for business investment opportunities. He made up his mind to try Texas, returned home and disposed of his law practice. Selling most of his possessions, he was ready to set out for Texas.
He arrived in San Antonio de Bexar on September 8, 1835, with $36,000 in gold and a determination to follow the advice of his father: "Buy as much land as you can—it will inevitably increase in value."
He came as a man of wealth, contrary to later stories, humorous but untrue, that he landed with no assets other than a branding iron and an ability to see unbranded cattle at a far distance.
There was a charm about San Antonio, then as now. The San Antonio River wound like a twisted ribbon through the small town adobe houses and massive Spanish missions. Cypress and cottonwood trees lined its banks; tropical figs and pomegranates flourished; wild grape vines hanging profusively from the trees were to provide jelly for Maverick's table in later years. It was all vastly different from the plantations of South Carolina but it must have appealed irresistibly to Maverick, for it was the place he called home for the rest of his life.
Although Americans had been eager to come to Texas, they soon became disenchanted. They expected the same civil rights they had enjoyed in the United States. They resented being denied such basic civil liberties as religious freedom, and trial by jury. They wanted greater control of their own affairs. Soon meetings were held, rebellion brewed and the slogan, "Liberty and Texas," spread across the land. It was to put down this burgeoning rebellion that Mexico's president, General Santa Anna, dispatched General Cos to San Antonio.
Santa Anna was furious when he learned of the defeat of Cos and vowed to march through Texas and even on to Washington, leading the army himself.
The Texas Volunteers, feeling certain that Mexican troops would return to San Antonio, prepared to fight. Headed by William Travis, another lawyer from South Carolina, and James Bowie, a famous frontiersman and fighter, they prepared to make a stand at the Alamo. This structure had been built to serve as a mission, and its great flaw as a defensive buttress lay in that it was poorly suited to being a fortress, since its thick walls were low enough to be scaled. Samuel Maverick probably would have joined the historically doomed group in the Alamo had not fate intervened.
A convention was called for March 1, 1836, to decide what course Texans were to take. Maverick, having proved his courage under fire, was one of the three delegates elected to represent San Antonio. This was the beginning of his many years of public service to Texas. As they were about to leave for Washington-on-the-Brazos, the rains came. And how it rained—it simply poured!
Maverick and companions left immediately on horseback and they had a merry time of it. The horses slipped, strained and struggled in the mud. Often they had to wait for flooded streams to subside, and frequently they were cold and wet. It was a slow exhausting trip. And as they pushed along, through the storm events were taking place in San Antonio that Texans—and the world—would never forget!
Early in the morning of February 23, a lookout spotted Mexican troops outside the town. The Texas Volunteers converged on the Alamo from wherever they were billeted in town, rounding up thirty cattle and one-hundred bushels of corn on the way. In the mission were about two hundred men, armed with rifles, pistols, hunting knives and tomahawks. They refused Santa Anna's demand for unconditional surrender—and the eternally memorable struggle began.
The Alamo was bombarded for thirteen days, and the world knows what ensued. Travis sent out appeals for help which mostly went unheeded. His last letter was written on March 3, to the delegates at Washington-on-the-Brazos who were too far away to assist. On the morning of March 6, the Mexicans, armed with scaling ladders, axes, crow-bars and guns, swarmed through and over the walls. The command "No quarter given!" was taken with seriousness. In thirty minutes of actual fighting it was over. The memory of the defenders' gallantry in the face of death will forever continue to engender both grief and pride wherever in the world men yearn for independence and admire courage.
It was a raw day at Washington-on-the-Brazos. A norther blew in and the half-finished blacksmith shop where the convention was held was not adequate to keep out the cold. The delegates declared the independence of Texas from Mexico on March 2; Maverick signed "from Bexar," which is the name he used at that time when designating San Antonio. They went to work at once to write a constitution for the new republic.
As they were hard at work on March 6, a letter from Travis was delivered by John W. Smith, Maverick's good friend from whom he had rented a room six months before What fateful events had come to pass in that half-year! Travis, in his letter, appealed urgently for aid and closed it with the words "God and Texas—Victory or Death!"
The brave men at the Alamo died without knowing that Texas had declared her independence and the delegates, continuing their work, did not know the Alamo had fallen, its interior strewn with the mutilated bodies of its heroic defenders.
Maverick's legal training was of great value in the chore of drawing up the constitution. His ability to think clearly, his resolute conviction that Texas should be free from the bonds of Mexican rule, made him an invaluable delegate. By March 17 the Republic of Texas had both a constitution and governing officers.
Samuel Augustus Maverick always felt that had he not been elected to the consitutional convention, he too, would have perished with the heroes of the Alamo. He seemed to have an obsession about this, and in 1850, at great effort, he acquired a portion of the Alamo mission land as a site for his new home.
In joining with the Texans in their fight for greater civil liberties, Samuel was continuing the pattern set by his ancestors. In 1624 a Samuel Maverick, with his bride [sic], sailed from England to America as a representative of the Plymouth Company [sic], to explore the country for a suitable location, and start an Episcopal settlement. He settled at the mouth of the Mystic River near present-day Boston, where he built a fortified house to be safer from the Indians. He was impressed with the new country, writing to England that the "land also is exceedinge good." He acquired land in both Massachusetts and Maine.
From his fortified house Maverick watched the ships of the Puritans sail by on their way to Salem. He dispensed hospitality to any who came and was said to live like a king. Although he was helpful to the Puritans on their arrival there was trouble between them later on because of differences in religious beliefs.
The straight-laced Puritans, determined to make Congregationalists of everyone, disapproved of Maverick's free and easy way of living. He, in turn, called them "Saints" and moved to nearby Noddle's Island to get away from all that sanctity.
In 1646 he was one of the signers of a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts asking for full civil rights, and permission to maintain an Episcopalian church and a minister of their own. Other Samuel Mavericks of succeeding generations were to follow him in the fight for individual rights and liberty.
The young Samuel A. Maverick who was a descendant of his illustrious forebears, had been away from home a year when he returned to visit relatives. No doubt he had much to relate concerning his adventures in the fabulous Texas. While visiting in Alabama with his sister, he met eighteen-year old Mary Ann Adams. After a four-month courtship, they married in August, 1836.
The pull was irresistible, so in December 1837, he started for Texas again, this time with a menage: a young wife and infant son, Samuel; his fifteen-year-old brother-in-law, Robert Adams; six negro servants with four small children.
For three years the Mavericks lived in a three-room house situated on land sloping down to the beautiful San Antonio River just off the Main Plaza, where Maverick had once held the dying Milam in his arms.
Samuel opened a law office and was shortly elected mayor, a mark of recognition he was to receive more than once. He had taken seriously his father's admonition to buy land, and spent considerable time on this business. Mary was absorbed with homemaking and caring for their growing family, but never too busy to write in her diary, which has proved an invaluable source of information to historians.
It was during these years that Maverick met Jack Hays, and association which was to lead later on to an exciting and near-disastrous adventure.
Hays was a young Tennessean who, after serving in the Texas Volunteers, came to San Antonio in 1838 with a letter of recommendation as a surveyor. Maverick employed him and went with him on numerous surveying trips.
San Antonio was one of the last outposts of civilization in Texas. Since it was in territory claimed by the Indians, there was constant trouble, and surveying was dangerous business. Hays had many such encounters and word got around that he was quite an Indian fighter which didn't hurt his popularity.
In 1840 Jack Hays was selected to command a company of mounted volunteers called Texas Rangers, who were to defend the lonely frontier settlements from Indian and Mexican attacks. Maverick became one of the Rangers and as such, frequently went on skirmishes against the Comanches.
1842 was a bad year for San Antonio and for the Maverick family. Even though Texas had declared herself a Republic independent of Mexico, the Mexicans did not give up. In March, General Vasquez captured the town but was driven back; that summer there were rumors of another invasion. Samuel Maverick and most of the other men took their families to adjacent towns in what was called "The Runaway of '42" until conditions were more settled. The Mavericks, with their slaves, settled in a temporary home at La Grange on the Colorado River, about one hundred miles east of San Antonio.
The regular fall session of the District Court at San Antonio was called in September. Maverick had a case to try: a Dr. Booker was suing the city for a small amount of money. Had the doctor known what fate held in store for him, he would have been glad to concede the case. Maverick journeyed to San Antonio from La Grange in early September; he was not to see his family until eight months later.
Early that month, Jack Hays found that he was unable to get any gunpowder for his men in town, which was unusual, so he sent two men, one of whom was Big Foot Wallace, to Austin, seventy-five miles away, for more powder. Also, he was uneasy because he had observed the Mexican residents acting strangely; he concluded something was afoot and ordered some of his Ranger to reconnoiter toward the Mexican border. At the Medina River, about twenty miles out, the men spied General Woll and his Mexican troops.
When this report was received in town a mass meeting was held. A company of 175 men was organized and told that if trouble came, they were to gather at the Maverick house on Main Plaza.
Before dawn of the next day, September 11, 1842, the Mexican forces entered San Antonio for the second time in six months. In a heavy fog they were inside the Military Plaza almost before the Texans were aware of them, with Mexican flags flying and their buglers playing the stirring Andalusian dance song, "Las Cachucha." The Texans gathered at the Maverick house, which became the major target for the Mexican guns.
Soon an emissary from the Mexican forces approached with a white flag. He informed the Texans that General Woll had two thousand troops, which was only a forerunner of a much larger army which was on the way. The town, the emissary told them, was surrounded with Mexicans and Indians, and he suggested they surrender in thirty minutes.
The Texans, feeling there was no choice, elected Samuel Maverick and three others to act as commissioners to treat with the Mexicans. They agreed to surrender as prisoners of war with the provision that their lives were to be spared and their property kept safe.
Included among the fifty-five prisoners was the entire District Court: judge, jury, lawyers and clients, including Dr. Booker.
In September 21, General Woll and his army left with the fifty-five prisoners and as much plunder as was practical. He commandeered all the carts and wagons he could find and filled them with wounded Mexicans and Texans. He pushed so hard to reach the border before the Texas forces caught up, that for eight days there was no time to stop and treat their wounds. Some died.
Perote Prison was their destination. For three months they marched, making twenty to thirty miles a day through hot, dry barren land—and over freezing mountain passes. At times the supply of water ran low and there never seemed to be enough food. Shoes wore out and the clothing worn on a hot September afternoon in San Antonio was inadequate for the cold in the mountains. The many acts of cruelty by Mexican officers and soldiers were hardly balanced by the occasional kindnesses shown by Mexican citizens in small villages, who supplied clothing for a few.
Between Puebla and Jalapa on the eastern slope of the Sierra Madres, in an area of extinct volcanoes, is the town of Perote. Its eighteenth-century fortress, built by the Spaniards, has sixty-foot high walls of dark lava rock, which gives it a forbidding appearance. The fortress is surrounded by a very wide moat enclosing a total area of 26 acres.
The view from the prison across the valley and beyond to the perpetually snowcapped Orizabe delights visitors today, but the suffering prisoners hardly enjoyed the scenery.
The Christmas season was approaching when Maverick and his fellow prisoners marched through the fortress gate in the midst of a fierce norther, but there was no warmth, no comfort, no celebrating at Perote Prison.
From six at night until nine the next morning they were herded like cattle into a long, narrow corridor, with no light except that which entered through a loop-hole measuring four inches by twelve.
It was cold in Perote, at an elevation of 7,800 feet. One prisoner wrote in June, 1843, that it was "colder at this time than in Texas in December" and men suffered from the lack of warm clothes. They slept on icy floors with inadequate blankets, fought with lice which infested the place, and devised means of passing away the time. In March, 1843, they were joined by other Texans who were given adjacent cells; the two groups suffered and joked together.
The Mexican government allowed twenty-five cents a day for food for each prisoner, most of which went into the pocket of the comisario who furnished the rations. The meals, which generally consisted of poor bread, scorched cornmeal coffee and a stew of stringy beef seasoned with onion and chile, were badly cooked and far from adequate to sustain the prisoners for the hard work they were forced to do.
After carrying out the filth of the prison in handbarrows each morning, they were sent one and one-half miles away, under guard, to carry stone to repair prison fortifications. Maverick refused to work unless the rations were increased and he was placed, for a while, in a dungeon on an even more meager diet.
Throughout their imprisonment some of the prisoners showed their ingenuity and a sense of humor. Although the high, thick walls seemed impregnable, some Texans escaped through a hole they made. After this, the remaining victims were chained in pairs with heavy log chains, the weight of which made an added burden on their weakened physiques.
Finding a stone and six-pound cannon ball in the prison, they covered the stone with a blanket, placed a chain link between the stone and another layer of blanket to deaden the sound and hammered away with the cannon ball, turning the link frequently until it was broken. This freed them of their "jewelry" during the night; in the daytime they so carried the chains that the guards never suspected they were broken. When this trick was eventually discovered, the guards were more cruel and watchful.
In March Mr. Maverick's client Dr. Booker, was killed when a Mexican soldier, too drunk to take good aim, shot him instead of the uniformed fellow Mexican he was trying to kill.
When Maverick's father in South Carolina learned of his son's imprisonment, he started working for his release. The Maverick family was related by marriage to the United States Minister to Mexico, General Waddy Thompson, also from South Carolina. He was able to secure Maverick's release if he would swear that he was for the re-annexation of Texas by Mexico. Maverick's grandson, Maury, later wrote that Maverick refused, saying, "However galling are the claims of slavery, I regard a lie as dishonorable. To say that I would lay down the arms of my country would be a lie."
There was certainly great excitement among the San Antonio prisoners when, in late March, Maverick, Judge Hutchinson and Will Jones had their chains removed and were sent to Mexico City. One of them wrote, "We wate there (sic) return with great anxiety—expect to be liberated on their return which will be some 11 days," but they were to be disappointed.
In Mexico City, Maverick and two companions, dirty and ragged, were paraded for fifteen minutes before the Palace before they were released. After General Thompson took them to his house, they cleaned up and did several days of sightseeing before they left for Vera Cruz where they were to return to Texas by boat. They stopped at Perote on the way to say goodbye to fellow prisoners and to take letters to mail after they reached Texas. Maverick felt guilty at leaving the others in Perote; they were finally released in June, 1843, due to the diligent efforts of General Thompson.
It was May when Maverick reached La Grange again, carrying his "jewelry" with him as a souvenir. To add to his delight at being home was the two-month old baby girl, Augusta, their second daughter, born during his absence, and the knowledge that the citizens of San Antonio had elected him to be a Senator of the Republic of Texas. So, in December of that year, he was again in Washington-on-the-Brazos, attending to Texas affairs.
That summer Maverick acquired a 385,000-acre ranch [sic] on Matagorda Peninsula, a long finger of land laying parallel to the mainland of Texas, which led to the event which made his name a commonly used word in the English language.
Various stories have been told as to the origin of the word: that Mr. Maverick was too tender-hearted to wield the hot branding iron; that he used his iron indiscriminately and thus built up a cattle empire dishonestly; that since all the other ranchers branded cattle, he wouldn't use a brand and everyone would know the unbranded ones were Maverick's. Even today, many are surprised at the true story.
Mr. Maverick had a client on the neighboring Matagorda Island who owed him $1,200. Being unable to raise the cash, he offered Maverick 400 head of longhorn cattle instead. Maverick accepted them, probably without enthusiasm. Legends that he owned more cattle than anyone else in Texas are not true; he was more interested in land than cattle and this was his only experience in cattle ownership.
He sent his slave, Jack Armstrong [Jinny Anderson's son, as I understand], across to the Island to care for the cattle and Jack's mother, Jinny, to care for Jack—he needed looking after. Maverick secured a branding iron with the initials MK and told Jack to mark all the increase in the herd. Maverick himself was too busy with personal and governmental affairs to give further thought to the cattle.
In those days Texas was an open range. Cattle were free to wander and any unbranded calves caught away from their mothers were fair game for whoever found them. Jack Armstrong neglected his duties and didn't use the branding iron, and storms which came in from the Gulf of Mexico washed up sand bars so that the cattle could walk across to the mainland.
When cowboys found unbranded cattle they said, "They must be Maverick's" and so the word found its way into the English language as meaning "an unbranded animal."
The word seemed to catch on, and it spread rapidly. In 1848 gold was discovered in California and the rush began. Men from the East came to Texas by ship and cut across the land to the Pacific. As they passed through the state they became acquainted with the word "maverick" and carried it along. In San Francisco, some of these Gold Rushers sailed on fast clipper ships to another gold rush—in Australia—and the word went with them. In time it came to mean a non-conformist, and individualist.
To go back a bit, shortly after Maverick received the cattle, in lieu of $1,200 from his neighbor, the family left Matagorda Peninsula to return to their old home in San Antonio. The battle of the day of General Woll's invasion and the plundering which followed had made a shambles of it, but they were happy to be back on the Main Plaza and the San Antonio River.
It was seven years before Maverick decided to move the cattle to the land he owned in Conquista, nearer San Antonio. Jack Armstrong was still in charge and the cattle continued to roam unbranded until their owner sold them, in 1856, to a nearby rancher for six dollars a head. The herd still numbered 400, since the unbranded calves had been appropriated, according to western custom, by other ranchers throughout the nine years of his ownership, due to Jack's disinclination to brand the new-born calves.
This is the truth of cattle ownership—vastly different from the legend which grew taller and taller each time it was told around the campfires.
For ten years the Republic of Texas proudly flew the flag with a single star, but there was continuous discussion as to the advantages of uniting with the United States. Maverick was a member of the convention which met in Austin in July, 1845, to approve the annexation of Texas and again he helped write a constitution for Texas as the 28th state in the Union, thereafter known as the Lone Star State.
During these years he was buying more and more land. He hired surveyors and went along whenever possible. One surveyor declared that Maverick checked on every step. While on one such trip in 1848, his daughter Agatha, seven years old, took sick suddenly and died. Since there was no way to reach Maverick, he did not know of her death until his return three weeks later. The shock was considerable and he brooded over it, feeling guilty that he had not been home at such a critical time.
That summer a group of business men in San Antonio raised $800 to establish a wagon road to El Paso. They knew that the American traders who came from Missouri to Santa Fe continued down the Rio Grande to El Paso, and from there south to the town of Chihuahua, were doing very well financially. A good wagon route between the coast of Texas—through San Antonio—and on to Chihuahua via El Paso should be an economically profitable venture since it would be a shorter land route.
These San Antonians were aware that this would be no tea party. They would travel over unexplored country for six-hundred miles, across an area frequented by Apache and Comanche Indians who took unkindly to invasion of their hunting grounds. An outstanding man was called for to lead this expedition and Jack Hays was chosen. Hays was aware of Maverick's depression and, knowing how he loved the outdoor life, urged him to join the group. So much happened on this trip that Maverick had no time to brood on his sorrow for long.
Late in August, 1848, the explorers set out, thirty-five citizens of San Antonio, an equal number of Texas Rangers, with a Delaware Indian and a Mexican to act as guides and interpreters.
Following a westerly direction, they crossed the Pecos River near present-day Del Rio. All went well up to this point. There was ample game and the Indians gave no trouble, but they were finding water difficult to obtain. Maverick wrote in his diary that on September 26, they reached the Pecos "in great thirst."
West of the Pecos the story was different. It was a wild and rugged country, a wilderness where none of them had ever been. The guide, Lorenzo, became confused and led them southwest toward the Big Bend of the Rio Grande. There followed twenty days of severe privation.
Maverick made succinct entries in his diary. When no water was available they chewed on leather to stimulate the salivary glands enough to moisten their mouths. The food supply had run out when they encountered four old buffalo bulls; they evidently were lost also, since the great herds of buffalo were always seen east of the Pecos. The bulls furnished tough but welcome chewing for a few days, but by the first of October the explorers were reduced to "eating mustang meat" (wild horse).
A few days later they dined on panther, then bear grass from which they made a soup. They rejoiced when they came to a canyon where there were "fine tunas," the edible fruit of a prickly pear cactus. Finally, two months later, on October 10, they had to kill one of their mules for breakfast which was "very poor and tough."
Not all could stand the pressures of that trip. Maverick wrote "Dr. Wham crazy," and a few days later related that the Doctor had ridden off in a fury into the night. They sent back men to search for him but were unable to find him in the wild country.
They now were in the high Chisos mountains in the heart of the Big Bend of the Rio Grande, noted for their ruggedness and vivid colors. Some friendly Indians took them to a branch of the Great Comanche War Trail, whitened with the bones of many animals. It was used by Indians on their annual raids on farmers and ranchers who lived in an area four-hundred miles wide in the states of Durango and Chihuahua, Mexico, and as far north as the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) in Texas.
They followed this trail across the Rio Grande into Mexico. On October 17, they killed another mule for food, and leaving the trail, continued along the river to the northwest. Two days later the thin and weary men straggled into the Mexican village of San Carlos. They hurriedly apologized for trespassing on Mexican territory, before feasting on bread and milk. Here they rested a few days.
Although relations between Texas and Mexico had been touchy for years, Americans usually found the Mexican people compassionate and helpful.
Continuing up the river, they reached Presidio del Norte, (present-day Ojinaga), which must have looked familiar to Maverick, for it was here he had crossed the Rio Grande in a canoe as a prisoner of the Mexicans only six years before. The explorers crossed back into the United States and camped at Fort Leaton for sixteen days. While feasting on barbecue, tortillas, and coffee, they debated their next step.
Colonel Hays hated to give up on any mission, but he knew that too many members of this party were not equal to the task of continuing, so the decision was made to return to San Antonio—mission unaccomplished!
It was now November and getting cold; the men had only summer clothes. With a supply of pinole (parched, ground corn) and thirty days rations of meat, they followed the northern branch of the Comanche War Trail toward settlements in Texas. They were back in San Antonio in time for Christmas, after more than three months wandering and hardship. Not a man was lost; even "Dr. Wham" was found later and returned home!
Although they had not reached El Paso, they had learned that the country of the lower Pecos was to be avoided and a more northerly route preferred. Their records and experiences were used by the United States War Department, which sent explorers the following spring to find a route between San Antonio and El Paso. They were just in time, too: already hordes of impatient men were arriving in Texas, hunting a short cut to California and gold by way of El Paso. Within the next several years, thousands of Forty-niners were to travel the wagon road for which Maverick helped make the initial exploration. He came this way himself, a few years later to buy land in the El Paso area.
Mr. Maverick lived for twenty-two years after the Chihuahua expedition, seemingly with a finger in every Texas "pie." The legend that he was the largest landowner in the world probably was not true (so his grandson, Maury, wrote) but he owned land all the way from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico and some of the Gulf islands. Also, as far west as the Mexican border. He had interests in mining, salt lakes, railroads, ranches and city property. In fact, so vast and varied were his holdings that General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote in later years that he "seems to have been the owner of everything not actively in the possession of somebody else."
Maverick did not permit his business interests to interfere with his love of public affairs. For thirty years he participated in public life at city, country, state and national levels.
He was a quiet, scholarly man, yet fearless and tough physically so that he could endure a lot of physical privation. He died in 1870 at the age of 67.
Although Texas had given him much, he had reciprocated with time and energy as well as possessions for the town and state he loved. He lived under four flags of Texas: Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States and the Confederacy. For all his achievements, it is ironic that he is best known as the man whose cattle roamed unbranded—"mavericks."
Who can deny, in truth, that the real story of his life is more exciting than the legends!
Opal Waymire Beaty, True West