Texas Family

To the Editor of The Republic.

Dallas, Tex., Nov. 19. -- In a recent letter from your correspondent at this place, on political matters in Texas, a great wrong, doubtless unintentional, is done to the patriarch of the Maverick family in San Antonio. It is asserted in substance that he came at an early day to Texas, became a stock raiser, and from branding all the yearling calves found unbranded on the range, such animals became known as "Mavericks," implying of course, that such branding was done regardless of rightful ownership. Allow me to correct this statement.

This branch of the Maverick family removed from Massachusetts to South Carolina, and in 1835 Samuel A. Maverick, a native to the latter State, came to Texas. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and many times served in both branches of the Legislature, in which I was repeatedly his colleague. A more honorable man never sat in our councils. He was a noble man, and the head of a noble family.

He acquired much land and also many cattle, but paid no attention to the latter, or so little that they scattered over a large scope of country. In time this became so notorious that in their spring hunts or "round-ups," the people on that frontier came to regard all yearlings found with Maverick's cattle as legitimate prey, facetiously styling every unbranded yearling so found a "maverick," and appropriating it as such. In this way his herd, in a few years, virtually became extinct. In all this time, indeed from 1837 till his death a few years ago, Mr. Maverick lived in San Antonio, while his cattle, as before stated, were at large on the frontier. Instead of grasping the stock of other people, by sheer neglect and indifference Mr. Maverick allowed other people to appropriate his own young cattle till his herd ceased to be.

I have not seen a member of the family since 1861, but know these statements to be true, and am unwilling to remain silent when the memory of so true and good a man is thus placed in a false light. Your correspondent was simply misinformed as to the origin of the term "maverick." It may be added that Mr. M. left a handsome estate to his family, than which none in Texas has ever stood higher for integrity and moral worth.
A Term Which All Stockmen Use and Understand.
Its Curious Though Natural Origin, Which
Has Given Rise to a Thousand Fables.
An Authentic Statement.

To the Editor of The Republic.

St. Louis, Nov. 16. -- In response to your request I herewith submit an account of the origin of the term "Maverick" as applied to unbranded young cattle. I endeavor to give the authentic account, and at the same time make it as brief as possible.

To begin with definitions, the term is applied where cattle of various owners promiscuously mingle on the common range, that is to say, where fencing is not the rule. The cows bear the brand of their owner, and the calves are known by the brands of the cows. Calves are branded as soon as found, but invariably some are not found and branded in time. The calf becoming independent soon leaves the cow and sets up for itself. If unbranded who is the owner? Who can tell? It becomes impossible to decide the question of ownership, but right here one thing does happen -- the unbranded beast adopts a name and is know as a "maverick" -- meaning "nobody's calf." Now, how did, how could this term originate? Why, simply enough, through the inattention of a cattle owner by the name of Maverick, who was known in a wide region of Southwest Texas for not branding more than one-third of his calves and leaving the other two-thirds to become the common property of the range.

Now for the story of the facts as they actually occurred. Hon. Samuel A. Maverick, a citizen of San Antonio, Texas, was, during 1845, temporarily residing at Decrow's Point, on Matagorda Bay. He was a lawyer with a strong propensity for speculation in real estate. In fact, all the enterprising men in Texas of that day went more or less wild over real estate at 5 and 10 cents per acre. An interesting volume could be written on the land craze of that period. During that year (1845) a neighbor being indebted to Mr. Maverick in the sum of $1,200 paid the debt in cattle, transferring 400 animals at $3 per head. Cattle were cheap in those days, the hides only being cashable in the foreign markets. Mr. Maverick did not want the cattle, but as it was a case of cattle or nothing, he passively received them and left them in charge of a colored family, nominally slave, but essentially free, while he and his family returned to San Antonio. In the year 1853 the cattle were removed from the Gulf coast to Conquista, on the east bank of the San Antonio river, 50 miles below San Antonio. Here, as before, under the distinguished management of the colored family, who really were not to blame, as they had no interest in the outcome, the cattle were left to graze, to fatten, to multiply and to wander away. Mr. Maverick was absorbed in real estate and no doubt enjoyed the reflection that he was not encumbered by either the cattle or their managers. Right here a cattleman would say, "You needn't spin the balance of that yarn, I see the upshot," but I shall continue to the end if it takes a dozen bronchos!

About one-third of the calves were branded, and the branding iron was kept so cold and rusty that in 1856 the entire plant or "brand" was estimated at only 400 head, the original number. To the ingenious minded the explanation will occur when it is stated that the branding of "mavericks" was perfectly "square" in those days, although the occupation had not been distinctly named. To restate it, the cows wore brand ornaments, the calves were unadorned -- becoming independent and straying off, the calves soon acquired the requisite ornamentation.

Now the neighbors shrewdly surmised these calves to be Maverick's, and so they called them "mavericks" -- but did they continue to recognize them as such? Ah, no; they hastened to burn into their tender hides their own brands, and the beasts were Maverick's ("mavericks") no longer. The reader should bear in mind that no owner could know his own cattle on the range except by the brand and so the first brand settled the question of ownership. Thus the unbranded stray calves in those days were dubbed "mavericks," for they were most likely Maverick's, at least in that neck of the woods. The humorous neighbors who profited by Mr. Maverick's indirect liberality, thus jokingly gave him the credit of it and while they secured the profits he was permitted to acquire the experience. Indeed they hesitated not to bestow his name upon the unbranded yearlings, for, although a neighbor might have admitted, "a stray by any other name would be my meat," still by applying the right name at the right moment he thereby erected a wide-spreading monument of gratitude to his benefactor.

The name took, and spread and filled an "aching void," for today the cowboy would be lonesome if he couldn't call a "maverick" a "maverick."

About the year 1856, after 11 years of experience in the cattle business, Mr. Maverick sold the entire brand, 400 head, "as they ran," to Mr. A. Toutant Beauregard, a brother of the distinguished general. Mr. Beauregard, however, paid him $6 per head, and Mr. Maverick retired from the venture, thoroughly experienced against similar investments, but with an apparent profit of 100 per cent and the unique distinction of having his name bestowed upon a very dear friend of the human race. Mr. Maverick, all statements to the contrary notwithstanding, was never a cattle king, for, with the exception of the herd mentioned and a few necessary cowponies, he never owned any cattle or horses.

To complete the account and satisfy the reader, I add a short sketch of Mr. Maverick. He was born in Charlestown, S. C., in the year 1803, was given a collegiate education at Yale, and secured his law diploma at Winchester, Va. In 1835 he visited Texas, then a province of Mexico, and was in San Antonio when the Texas revolution burst forth. He joined General Houston's army and in December, 1835, under Ben Milam, he took part in the storming and capture of San Antonio by the Texan army. He adopted San Antonio as his home and, together with Don Jose Antonio Navarro, was elected a member from that town, of the first Congress of the Republic, the Congress which declared the independence of Texas from Mexico. In 1842, he and many other prominent citizens during a session of the District Court at San Antonio, were captured by the Mexican General, Woll, and marched under many hardships to the Castle of Perote, a fortified town on the road from Vera Cruz to the City of Mexico. There the prisoners were kept under ball and chain, save when they worked in the quarries. He was a member of the last Congress of the Republic, which effected the admission of Texas into the Union. He served many terms thereafter in each house of the Legislature, never seeking any of the positions mentioned, but patiently and often under protest, accepting the duties thrust upon him by his fellow-citizens. This is mentioned as a matter of fact merely -- his old friends will bear me out when I say of him, he was not noted for egotism. He lived a life full of trusts, of business and adventures, and died in 1870 in the midst of his family.

Mr. Editor, I have been careful in this account to state only what I believe to be strictly true and capable of proof. I am one of the sons of Mr. Maverick, and it is natural that I should wish the true story to prevail. To the stockmen of the West I submit this account and would remind them that of the thousand and one versions of the story only one can be correct. Be assured this is the true account.


Note. -- These two articles were published in the St. Louis Republic November, 1889 -- the first article at the solicitation of the editor, who wished to atone for an erroneous, not to say atrocious, account just previously published in his paper. The second was spontaneously and generously contributed by Mr. Brown, historian of Texas. He had not consulted any of the family and therefore fell into slight error, which, however, did not affect the value of his article.

Mr. Maverick, although his name remained "in the business," never owned any other stock of cattle or horses than the one mentioned.

The Mavericks, John and Samuel, were present at the founding of Charleston, S. C., 1680, and John was a member of the first parliament or legislature of Carolina.
San Antonio, Texas, April 1905.

No comments:

Post a Comment