Memories of Jim

I was born December 27, 1890 at our home at 218 Ave. E and it is said that I rode in San Antonio's first Battle of Flowers Parade. I don't remember these two events, as I was only 5 months old when that First Parade took place. But I can still remember that big Victoria carriage and the team of fine Kentucky carriage horses we still had in later years. My mother - Mama, sat in the forward-facing seat with me in her lap. Next to her sat her sister, Mrs. James L. Slayden, who had inspired the society ladies of San Antonio to have the parade, honoring the battle of San Jacinto - like a flower-battle parade she had seen in Valencia, Spain. High up front rode black Mr. Billups in the driver's seat.

For a number of years the Parade always started from in front of our home, and it was confined to Alamo Plaza with half of the participants going one way and half in the opposite direction and throwing flowers at each other as they passed.

Our home stood on Avenue E next door to where the Medical Arts Landmark Building now stands. It was torn down by the city about 1909 when Travis St. was run thru from N. Alamo to Avenue E, and then on east thru our house to E. Houston St.


No sooner had the Battle of Flowers Festival ended when the Great Panic of 1891 reached Texas and San Antonio. The U.S. Treasury had no plan at that time to rush in emergency funds if "a run" was started - and banks by the thousands had to close because they could not pay all their depositors in cash.

Uncle Sam Maverick's bank had to close its doors, and he never was a wealthy man again. His bank was at the corner of Alamo Plaza and Houston St. where the Woolworth store is now. It was the tallest building in Texas.

A few years later the Maverick brothers and their mother, Mrs. Mary Adams Maverick advertised in the San Antonio papers that they would pay off any loss suffered by any depositer when the bank closed, and they paid every legitimate claim in full.

My father also went bankrupt during the Great Panic of 1891. He was engaged in developing West End (now Woodlawn), and building what is now Woodlawn Lake, and drilling 3 artesian wells to keep the lake full. His credit was extended and when the banks closed he turned in all his property except the homestead, and declared bankruptcy. Two or three years later the property lost was worth 3 times what the debts had been. Father was never again the wealthy person he had always been, but he was faithful and true, and The Best Man Who Ever Lived.


Every evening about dusk, tables and benches would come into being on Alamo Plaza, and lanterns would be lit and soon a crowd of hungry people would appear ready for supper. Each table would be presided over by two or three highly decorated Mexican girls. A good big meal served to the music of guitars and singers could be had for 15¢.

And the Medicine Shows that came to town were wonderful. The corner now occupied by the Medical Arts Building was in the 1890's a monument works yard where tombstones were made. It was often rented out at night to Medicine Men to hold their nighttime shows. I remember wonderful shows there. All of these shows had a group of chorus girls in scanty skirts and tights. When the speaker had gotten his audience up to fever heat over the medicine that was guaranteed to cure anything from diabetes to toothache, the girls would run down amongst the crowd with big baskets of big bottles of pink medicine at the bargain price of $1.00. There was a hypnotist and a comedy team, and the girls sang and danced.


Every year the Carnival took place in April. Alamo Plaza was covered with side shows and games of skill and chance. I remember a 40-foot ladder standing in front of the Alamo with a small platform at the top. A man would climb the ladder and dive into a 5-foot tub of water.

On the 1st block of N. Alamo Street there was a hotel about where the Post Office trucks now drive in and under. Next to that, going north stood Volmer's Livery Stable. In the street in front of these were 2 of the best carnival attractions: a high narrow wooden stairway, 53 steps, with a platform at the top. On the platform sat a man on a heavy bicycle, and there was another platform.

At intervals an announcer would step out on the lower platform with this to say: "Ladies & Gentlemen: I will now introduce you to Mr. Charles G. Kilpatrick, originator of the loop-the-loop. He will now give you a reproduction of his famous ride down the West Steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. - Mr. Kilpatrick are you ready? - "I am ready"! "Well then GO!," and Mr. Kilpatrick would come thundering down the stairs and on thru a roped-off land almost to Houston Street before he could stop.

Next to the stairway stood a large metal loop-the-loop, and at regular intervals Mr. Kilpatrick would mount a very heavy bicycle at the top of high steep incline and come down and around the loop. This was a very dangerous feat as there were no nets to catch the rider or protect the onlookers in case of an accident. The crowd always gaver thunderous applause.


Our fine big home at 218 Avenue E was 2-story made of cut stone with basement below and cupalo on top, and I think my earliest remembrance is of a scene in an upstairs front room. I stood with my back to the window, facing my mother. She was sewing on a machine and there was a "sewing woman" at another Singer machine nearby. I said in a plaintive voice, "Mama, I want some pants." She promptly replied, "All right, we'll make you some pants." I assume from this conversation that I had been wearing dresses until that time. Mama and the sewing woman made all of the clothes for the younger children.

In 1897 I started to public school - at 3rd Ward School at the corner of Avenue E and 4th Street just two blocks from home. Other members of the family also started to public school that year - they had been attending German-English private school on S. Alamo St.

Born at the beginning of the Great Panic year, and continually in some kind of an accident - no wonder that some of the family members sometimes called me "Calamity Jim."

When I was 8 years old, I suffered the greatest accident injury of my life. I was across Avenue E from 3rd Ward School in the yard of the Kampman home where some construction was taking place. Several of us 2nd graders were looking at a big vat of boiling raw lime being slaked. One little boy threw a big rock into the vat, and the lime splashed right into my big wide-open eyes. The workmen came running, and might have avoided most of the damage, had they doused me good with water - but no, one of them picked me up and carried me all the way home. I was totally blind for a month. After that my left eye regained almost normal sight, and my right eye about 1/3 normal vision. When I reached 80 years, the right eye became totally blind. At 91 my left eye has about 1/3 vision.

In 1895 to 1900 San Antonio became quite an unhealthful place to live in. All of the old irrigation ditches of canals still ran thru the city and they were a menace, and not properly cared for by the Health Dept. The Alamo Ditch formed the back line of our lot, and it was a source of mosquitos and flies. My mother circulated a petition and was successful in having it closed. There were no screens in San Antonio, and of course no air conditioning.

Mother tried to take her children to some cooler more healthful spot for a long vacation in July or August. There were a number of outbreaks of Malaria and even Yellow Fever. I remember mother taking us and putting us on the last train to Kerrville one night when it was reported that Yellow Fever was in San Antonio. There was 4 of us smaller fry in charge of our older sister, and we stayed at the Kerrville Hotel.

When money was available, mother took us back in the summer to her home in Charlottesville, Virginia.


In July 1901 Mama & Papa and several of us children went back to Charlottesville. I stayed in Virginia with Grandma & Grandpa Maury, while the rest of the family went on to Washington. Aunt Ellen Slayden (later, author of the book "Washington Wife") and her husband, Congressman James L. Slayden would be their hosts, so they expected to be favored visitors, and to meet President McKinley.

When my family came back to Charlottesville, on their way home, I begged to remain with my grandparents. A family of my 1st cousins lived nearby the ancient plantation of my grandparents, and there were cottages with negro employees - where I often took advantage of a good meal.

Hardly had my family left for home, however, when I was sorry I was not home with my brothers and sisters and parents, instead of my grandparents and the negro cook's 2 little girls. Grandpa, Jesse Lewis Maury was 93 years old, and very mild of manner - I never knew him to be impatient or disagreeable, although his wife, Lucy Price Maury, who was some 16 years younger than he, sometimes gave him a hard time.

I was encouraged to plant a garden, and I remembered the peanuts I planted. Every morning early the plants would be full of blossoms. The negro man told me that you had to go out early before the sun hit the blossoms and cover them with earth or you would get no peanuts. I did my best to follow their instructions - which of course was a play on my own ignorance.

Grandma gave me a beautiful Damson Plum Tree, from which I picked nearly a bushel of delicious plums which I took to town and sold to a grocery store.

I bought a nice new 2 3/4 pound axe and became quite a good woodcutter. It took lots of wood to keep the fireplaces and the big kitchen stove going during much of the year. I went with the men up the mountain to cut wood and haul it back home.

My playmates most of the time were Madge and Tiney - 2 little negro girls, the daughters of the cook. Madge was about 9 years old and Tiney, a little cripple, about 8. Both of them were very bright although neither had ever gone to school.

The cook lived in a 2-story house separate from the main house, but connected by a "covered way" some 50 or 60 feet long. Food was prepared in the big kitchen and then carried up the covered way to the big dining room. The cook's salary was room and board for herself and 2 daughters and $5.00 cash a month.

Although Grandpa was 93 years old, he went horseback riding every day if weather permitted. He would climb the smoke house steps to a little platform about 3 steps high. A negro man would lean forward his fine gaited mare, and he would step astride and ride through the beautiful grounds of the yard and the nearby orchard.

Grandpa's plantation was named Piedmont and it had evidently changed only slightly since the Confederacy. Although in Grandfather's name, other members of the family recognized "Brother" Reuben's right to hold and care for and live on the property. He was my mother's oldest brother. He seemed always in a good humor and was a bachelor. He had 1 glass eye which he kept in a glass of water at night.

The Price Maury family were my 1st cousins. Uncle Price was an architect and builder and he had a mill that ground corn or wheat and took part of the corn meal or flour in payment. The mill looked like it was 100 years old. There was a dam in the creek. From this a stream of water ran down the bank to a big water wheel, which turned a big 3 ton millstone inside the mill. I don't think Uncle Price was much of a moneymaker, but his wife, Aunt Lizzie (Stribling) was from San Antonio, Texas and she had money to buy thoroughbred race horses, which were so different from Grandpa's gaited riding horses.

There were 4 girls (I think) in the Price Maury family and one boy and they were all very handsome. Louis was about my age, and Fontaine a year older than I. I liked Louis and I loved Fontaine. She and I would go riding together bareback on the same horse.

School started about September 1st and I was enrolled in the Charlottesville Public School. I went to the 3rd grade first but cousin Judith Maury went to see the teachers and insisted that I be put in the 4th grade. I can't remember to save my neck how I got to school and back every day, but I think the Price Maury's took me, and brought me home. It was about a 2 1/2 mile trip.

I saw my first automobile in Charlottesville in 1901. It was on the main street and everyone rushed out from the stores to see it pass. It was pulling uphill and cloud of steam was shooting out the back; it was a steamer. I think it was a year before I saw another automobile.

The Horse Show was the big event of the year in Charlottesville and my cousin Eleanor Maury was one of the best and most beautiful riders to take part in it.


At last the Congress closed its sessions and Aunt Ellen and Uncle Slayden came to Piedmont and got me and took me home. It was a long trip on the Southern Railway to New Orleans, then on the Southern Pacific to San Antonio - about 3 days on the Pullman cars. Home was like heaven to me.

Next day I got on a bicycle (which I had never learned to ride in Virginia) and rode 2 blocks up the street where I was run into by an American Express wagon. I managed to pick myself and the bicycle up, and get home with no broken bones.

In 1910 or earlier, Alamo Plaza was paved with hexagon sawed blocks of mesquite wood as were also several of the principal streets. These blocks had been soaked in asphalt and were set on a layer of sand over a hard rolled base, and they made an excellent pavement, at least for a time. When the big flood came to San Antonio in September 1921, water stood in some streets for 2 days and the wood blocks came to the surface and floated away. They were never replaced or used again. During the flood, water stood 7 to 9 feet deep in the lobby of the Gunter Hotel.

In the early 1900's San Antonio somehow got the reputation of being a good place for tuberculosis patients to be cured, and people with lung disease came here from many places in the north and east. My older brother Reuben (about 21) caught the disease, and changed the lifestyle of our family. Reuben was the handsomest member of our family - with curly black hair and fine features. He was in love with a girl - Amy Herff - and wanted to marry her. Mother did everything in her power to help Reuben get well.

The doctor advised us to move to the country, and Uncle Willie helped out by deeding to mother 173 acres of fenced land just outside the old city limits to the northwest on Babcock Road. Mother named the place Sunshine Ranch.


Father had a small house built and a barn and stable and started at once to drill a deep well. At 600 feet deep we struck the Edwards Lime and a good supply of good water which rose to within 175 feet of the surface. A big windmill with a wheel 20 feet in diameter was installed, and a 12,000 gallon cypress tank. Our new home was 200 feet higher than Alamo Plaza, and we had a fine view of the city.

Reuben and I were the first members of the family to come to live on the new place. I was 15 years of age. We had a German man, Mr. Reimchisel to cook for us and take care of the mules and horses and plow the field, which was cleared of mesquite by some Mexicans who came with their families and camped on the land.

A little later Father had a big 2-story house built, and the rest of the family - except the older married members - all moved out to start a new life at Sunshine Ranch.

Things went as well at Sunshine Ranch as could be expected - except for Brother Reuben. The hot summer sun made his fever worse instead of better. Mother felt that her first duty was to care for Reuben and she took him to Cloudcroft for several months, but he continued to deteriorate so she then took him to a sanitarium at Saranac Lake, N.Y. where he died.

His body was brought back and buried in the family plot on East Commerce St. It was the first of my loved ones to die, and was the saddest day of my life.

There were no schools near Sunshine Ranch, so we drove a team of horses to the ambulance, or later just a one-horse buggy to Elmira St. Grade School and Main Avenue High. We rented a stable in town and fed the horses hay while we were in classes.

Father still worked as manager of the Maverick Land Office and he drove a horse and buggy to town for several years before getting an automobile.

We bought our first automobile about 1907 or 1908. It was a little two-passenger car with acetalene lights. I can't remember the name of the car. It had an acetalene tank on one running board. You put ground acetalene and water in the tank. If you drove at night you lit the headlights with a match.

Father bought several registered Jersey cows, and I had saved $35 with which I bought a registered heifer calf, and this was the beginning of the Sunshine Ranch Dairy Farm. A good man was employed and a home built for him. He milked the cows, cooled the milk and delivered it to Joske Bros. store 4 times a week. They had a big soda fountain and advertised home-made ice cream made from milk and cream from Sunshine Ranch.

We younger boys helped milk the cows. I got up every morning at 5 o'clock and helped milk before washing up, having breakfast and going to school. I did not feel that this was a hardship. Boys were supposed to work in those days.

I liked working with the purebred cattle and decided to be a dairy farmer. In 1908 I quit high school before graduation and went to A & M College to study Dairy Husbandry. After one year I left there for the University of Wisconsin, where, after 3 years I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Agriculture.

I then worked for a year for Certified Dairy Farm in Oglesby, Illinois, supplying Certified Milk to that town and to the city of Elgin, Illinois.


When I finally got back home, I found mother still working with the dairy cow business to make money that would help all of her 11 children go to college. Surely nobody in the world ever had a better mother than our mother was.

Mother was very generous and very hospitable. She had many parties. For her 50th Wedding Anniversary a big dance pavillion was built in the yard and an estimated thousand guests attended. For many years she had a standing invitation for friends to drop in about 5:30 Sunday afternoons for a light supper. Sometimes there was baked Virginia ham or a cold roast, but always good homemade bread and butter and plenty of good milk were the mainstay. No liquor was served.

I decided to go into the certified milk and dairy farming business. I borrowed money and built a modern dairy barn, a milk house with refrigerating equipment and 8 small homes for employees. Dr. Dudley Jackson and Dr. P. I. Nixon organized the Bexar County Certified Milk Commission to see that Sunshine Ranch lived up to all sanitary and health standards.

Toward the end of September 1919, I met the lovely girl who was to be my wife. Three months later, on December 27, 1919 (my birthday) we were married. She was Hazel Carey Davis, who had been orphaned at 2 years of age by the death of her mother, and had been raised by her grandparents in Columbus, Texas. She was a schoolteacher in a one-teacher rural school and living with her uncle and aunt in Boerne.

We were married in St. Mark's Episcopal Church in a morning wedding and we went to New Orleans for our Honeymoon.

On our return we moved into the vacant house of sister Agatha Welsh for about a year. Then we started to build a home of our own. There must have been a depression at that time because I remember the low wages I paid the 3 carpenters. The head man was a real expert builder. He got $5.00 a day, and the other two $4.00 each. They walked over 6 miles a day to and from work.

We lived happily in our Sunshine Ranch home for nearly 60 years. We had many parties at our home, and many happy days - the happiest of these was when Hazel Dean, Ellen and Jamie were born.

Early in our married life we went on a wonderful hunting and fishing trip to Alaska, as guests of my college friend, Arnold Fitger.

Over the years I took part in a number of Little Theatre plays. I had the title role in their 2nd production: "The Queen's Husband." We showed at the Green Gate Theatre, on College Street, until the City built the Little Theatre Building in San Pedro Park. Later I took part in a number of operettas, staged by Mrs. Lewis Crams-Beck and others. I sang only short comic songs generally with a girl chorus. Mine was usually the principal comedian's part.

In later years, starting in 1954 Hazel and I did a great deal of traveling, making one trip to South American and 7 or 8 visits to Europe; we went around the world twice, visiting a total of 48 countries. It was a very enjoyable period in our senior life.

Hazel was a wonderful wife and mother, and a beautiful woman, with lovely complexion, but she was not as strong as I. About the end of 1974 she fell and crushed her shoulder, and then in another fall she broke a hip. Complications set in, with arthritis, and in spite of the best hospital care, she died on July 27, 1979.

My eyes are failing and as I bring these lines to a close I am having a hard time doing anything useful for others, but must wait as patiently as possible for my Maker to call me Home.

James Slayden Maverick, January 21, 1982

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