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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Very Early Williamson County, TX History and Genealogy

Pioneer Days in Williamson County, TX
By Ida B. Hall

During conference of the Methodist Church in Platteville, Wisconsin, in August, 1841, the Reverend Josiah Whipple volunteered to go to Texas as a missionary. At the time, the Reverend John Clark was appointed to the same mission. Both went as regular transfers from the Rock River, Wisconsin, Conference to Texas Conference "for the sole object of preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God in that new and interesting Republic.”

By agreement, Reverend Whipple met Reverend Clark, wife and nine year old son (also Reverend Thomas A. Morris who accompanied them), at St. Louis, October 19, 1841. Reverend Morris wrote an interesting account e: the trip to Texas in a series of fourteen letters to a friend in which he depicts the adventures of the journey day by day until they reached Texas, in January of 1842. On arrival at Bastrop, Rev. Whipple was entertained in the home of one Mrs. McGee, a widow. whom he soon afterward married.

For many years Reverend Whipple was one of the leading ministers of the Methodist Church, South, and his ministry took him over a large part of the state. During that time he kept a diary which recorded the events of his travels and which I am told was a fascinating story of the customs and times Unfortunately, this diary was lost. Reverend Josiah Whipple was one of the five sons of Angell Whipple, all Methodist ministers. They were gifted men, having inherited zeal and strength of purpose from a long line of Neva England ancestors headed by Captain John Whipple who arrived soon after the landing of the Mayflower. and who was a warm friend and co-worker with Roger Williams, whose families intermarried.

It was through the influence of Reverend Whipple that his widowed mother and her family, including my father's family (the Babcocks), were induced to leave northern Illinois and come to Texas. Reverend Josiah Whipple was a brother of my father’s mother.

In 1929 my father was called upon to write a story, of early days in Bagdad, to be embodied in a history of Williamson County. The history was James E. Babcock being prepared for publication by the Old Settlers' Organization of that county. Old Bagdad was about twenty-five miles north of Austin. For some reason this history was never completed. But later, my father's story appeared in part in the Temple Telegram.

Believing that this story of early days might interest readers of Frontier Times, I am submitting it just as my father dictated it to me in the summer of 1929. My family now has in its possession several old deeds describing lands in that section of country. They are yellow with age and some are hardly decipherable. Among the names are those of the Hornsbys and Fisks. My father died October 3, 1934, and was buried beside his wife in Fort Worth. Had-he lived until his next birthday he would have been ninety-three years old. His article is given below:

By James E. Babcock
My father Charles Babcock, moved to Bagdad Prairie the day after Christmas in 1851. He was originally from the northern part of Illinois. I was then a boy nine years old and I little thought that after seventy-nine years I Would be called upon to write a history of the early settlement of Bagdad Prairie. I may be slightly in error as to the time of the events given, but the outline is correct.

At the coming of my father, there were then living on all that prairie only four settlers: a man named Rice, whom my father bought out; a German named Smeltzer, and his two sons-in-laws, Harris and Dawson, all located in the west end of the postoak grove where about in 1854, my father surveyed out the town of Bagdad.

The earliest settlement ever made on Bagdad Prairie was a log cabin built by on of the Hornsbys, famous in Texas history, on the southwest corner of the prairie near the present home of the Hon. James H. Faubion. This must have been as early as 1845, as the building was old and deserted when first saw it. Three miles southeast of Bagdad Prairie a block house fort had been built by the government at a big spring. I have been told that this was the first settlement in Williamson county.

Mr. Smeltzer and his sons-in-law must have settled on the prairie as early as 1845, though I never knew the exact date. To illustrate the primitive conditions of that time I will mention the fact that very few log cabins had any floors. Mr. Smeltzer's cabin had puncheon floors, that is, split hewn logs. There was not a nail nor a piece of sawed lumber in his house. He and his sons-in-law moved there in one wagon, and when that Was broker: down, they built what they called a Bulger wagon. The wheels were sawed from a huge live-oak tree. There was not a piece of iron in that wagon and it look six yoke of steers to haul fifty fence rails from the cedar brakes west of the prairie.

The military road from Austin to Fort Grogan (now Burnet) passed through the grove where Bagdad was afterwards located and being halfway, or a day 's march, between the two places, it became a favorite camping ground for (he United States Army stationed` at Croghan. My father kept a "wayside inn" and many of the officers of the army stopped there. Robert E. Lee, Lieut. Givens and other officers were guests in our home.

A few miles east of Bagdad Prairie, on Brushy Crerek, was the scene of tae Webster Massacre (1838), and here the Bowmer and Davis settlements were made, rut I do not know whether or not they were earlier than the settlements on the prairie.

In 1853 Thomas Huddleston, his son- in-law, James Williamson, George Craven, and Robert Marley came to the Prairie. These men were all from Tennessee except Craven, who was from Indiana. Huddleston bought a large survey in the northeast corner of the Prairie. He had a considerable family and a number of slaves. Williamson bought cut Mr. Smeltzer. Craven also had a large family, and he lived in and around Bagdad until his death soon after the Civil War. Marley, after a few months, move to the Bend section of Lampasas county, where afterwards his son, R. N. Marley, became a large land owner and prominent stockman.

Next came Nicholas and James Branch. James Branch had a family Nicholas had no family, but several slaves. They bought a large survey joining Huddleston on the south.

About 1854 John Faubion came to the Prairie from Tennessee. He had a large family and several slaves. He bought 1100 acres of land on the north side of the Prairie. He was a man of tireless industry and boundless ambition. He put in a very large farm. He was a first class blacksmith and ready worker in any line. A few years later Mr. Faubion built a two - story stone house with cut stone trimmings which, at the time, was said to be the best private residence in Williamson county.

The next settlers of importance were Robert Hanna and Col. C. C. Mason, who came from South Carolina. Both had families and slaves. Col. Mason bought the entire south Bide of the Prairie and put in a large farm. Both men were of high character, honored and respected by all who knew them. After one or two years Hanna moved a few miles east of Running Brushy.

The first school house built on the Prairie wag about 1858, on the north bank of Brushy Creek, on land afterward owned by John Faubion. It was a low log house without windows and had a dirt floor. The benches were split logs without backs. The first school taught there was a short summer session by an Irishman who said his name was Willis, but that probably was not his name. We heard two or three years later that he had joined a squad of horse thieves out west. They were arrested, tried and convicted, sentenced and hanged, all in one day, by Judge Lynch. One other school was taught in the house, but I have forgotten the name of the teacher.

The first school that I attended was taught in a vacant house on the farm of Judge Greenleaf Fisk who, I understand, was the first County Judge of Williamson county. This house was on the San Gabriel, about four miles north of old Bagdad. I remember one evening coming home from school we children got lost. The sage grass at that time grew in the valleys as high as a man 's shoulders. We had with us a little five dog, and when the wolves began howling, this little dog kept up an incessant barking. This enabled our parents to find us, which was about midnight The next day my father, Abe Smeltzer and Fielding Dawson hitched four yoke of steers to a large log, which they dragged straight away across the brakes of the Gabriel in sight of the school house. This became a beaten trail for all kinds of animals and cattle. Forty years afterward saw a section of this trail still plainly visible. About this time my father laid out the town of Bagdad and the school house was moved over there. I believe the first school taught in it was by James Whipple.

In 1855 my father raised the first prop of wheat grown on the Prairie. It was threshed by John and Tom Snyder on a little treadmill thresher. The yield was so large that wheat-growing soon became the principal crop on the Prairie. A few years later John Faubion threshed 1100 bushels of wheat one year.

John E. Heinatz built the first black-smith shop in Bagdad. He was a splendid workman and became one of the leading citizens of the community. He was first postmaster, and later merchant.

The first store house was built by one Schaffer who moved a stock of good from Georgetown and placed James B. Knight in charge. It was a small box house and the stock consisted of a few pieces of calico and domestic, coffee and sugar, tobacco and snuff, and shoes. This was about 1860.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Bagdad Prairie sent a large number of soldiers. There were in and around Bagdad Prairie several men, some of them slave owners, who did not believe that secession was wise or right, but their sons volunteered in the Confederate service the same as the others. Several of these men joined the company organized at Georgetown in March, 1862, which was commanded by Judge Von Trees, and served through the war as mounted men.

After the war, Bagdad Prairie developed rapidly and became one of the best farming districts in Williamson county. By 1868 quite a village had grown up at Bagdad. A large two-story stone building was erected, the lower story for school and the upper story for Masonic Lodge. Dan Emmett was the first Worshipful Master and Prof. William H. Russell taught the first school in the building,

About this time the first cotton gin was built aortas Brushy Creek from the present site of Leander. This gin burned down before it did any work, and another was built on the south of the creek by one A. E. Walker. It was afterwards operated by Wesley Craven. At this time cotton-growing supplanted the raising of wheat on the Prairie.

Up to 1860, dancing parties and play parties, spelling matches, horseback excursions for pecan hunting and berry picking were among the amusements of the young people. Spanish ponies were the means of conveyance. The girls rode on side-saddles and their dresses reached from their throats to the ground. Sometimes we went in squads to camp meeting. At that time the old-time camp meeting was an annual event. We attended these meetings at the springs a few miles above Round Rock, and there were sometimes as many as two or three hundred conversions. At these meetings many old time Methodist circuit riders, including Reverend J. W. Whipple, came and preached. The people camped in tents and services were held under a great brush arbor. It was the custom each day to send men into the woods west of Round Rock and the fattest beet found, no matter whose brand or mark was on it, was brought in and hung up for the use of the meeting.

On the 22nd of next April, (1930) I shall have reached eighty-eight years. Memories of these early years of life are recalled as a pleasant dream.
Much more on the early days in Williamson County, TX can be found on our site. Here are but a few suggestions:
History of Kenney's Fort
Some Early History of Williamson County
Some Early Williamson County History

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Irish Settlers of Early Texas

The Irish Progenitors of Texas

Found here:

WITHIN the narrow confines of San Patricio and Refugio Counties, which border the coast immediately north of the city of Corpus Christi, in the far gone days of yesteryears have been enacted some of the most thrilling events that adorn the pages of the yet untold history of Texas; events that tell a story of patriotism, perseverance and fortitude that finds no parallel in the annals of any nation--things that almost stagger credulity.

Texas boasts of a history which for its splendid achievements and noble examples has not yet been approached in any quarter of the world in ages past Her Alamo, her Goliad, and her San Jacinto will remain forever fresh and green in memory's book for generations yet unborn to conjure with. Men may come and men may go, but the sacred recollection of Texas heroes and their deeds will live forever. But as thrilling and as inspiring as were those achievements of Texas heroes which told in song and story, are as familiar to the student of history as Bunker Hill or Gettysburg, the half has never yet been told. For, there is a story of early Texas,days which though yet untold, challenges even the gruesome sacredness of the Alamo and the magnificent stories of San Jacinto. An astonishing declaration: Yes, so it is, but let the reader suspend judgment until he has heard the story. Let him first consider this: That there are worse things in life than death, that it is sometimes easier to die than to live and that death which rescues men from torture and sin is often a blessing in disguise.

Men will fight and die for a flag. Yea, for that emblem of home and motherland will they walk forth to the cannon's mouth, into the very jaws of death and when "all gashed and goy and stretched upon the cumbered plain," and their life's blood slowly ebbs its fitful course, smile and sing because the nation has been saved, What is it? It is what we call patriotism; it is that sublime emotion which, tuned and pitched on high by martial stir of fife and drum, drives men to death. When they die monuments are erected to their memories, they are called patriots.

But there was a day in Texas when no Hag unloosed its folds to the breeze when no martial music roused the souls of men, and yet there were men who fought and died end yet more lived, to preserve the homes they had built in a foreign land.

Listen to the story. It is a story of men who followed "the sign of the cross" into the wilderness, and under its protecting arms laid the foundation upon which civilization might erect her temple magnificent and where government might take her seat.

If there is one institution which more than any other has inspired men to great things in the world's history, that institution is religion. For government men will suffer, for home and land they will die, but for religion they will live lives of never-ending torture, when death would be as but a refuge for the weary soul. This unwritten story of Texas tells of men whose lives were a monument to a religion, men who followed "the sign of the cross" to a foreign land, and there lived and died beneath its shadows that their children's children might enjoy the exalted state of personal liberty and religious freedom which is vouchsafed to all mankind. in Texas today.

More than two hundred years ago, when the ownership of Texas was an undetermined question between France and Spain, the latter nation set herself to a plan whereby she hoped to indelibly stamp the likeness of herself and her institutions upon the disputed territory that its possession would drift to her as a matter of course. In that day and time, even as today, the supremest institution of authority and power in Spain was the Roman Catholic church. It was the life boll of the State no less than the vitalizing influence of its people. It looked to the Holy Church for the solution of its social and political problems. It was the foundation upon which the nation had been established, and it was likewise looked to for the means of extending the nation's power. The plan which Spain adopted to effectually and permanently establish her authority in Texas was, therefore, conceived in religion. Franciscan friars were sent from Spain and Mexico, then a Spanish province, into Texas, and by the close of the eighteenth century they had erected a chain of missions from the Sabine river on the east to the Rio Grande on the south. This era is commonly known in Texas history as the "Mission Period." In the year 1790, when the completion of the mission of "Our Lady of Refuge" at Refugio brought this period to a close, Texas, then spelled Tejas, was firmly annexed to Catholic Spain, both religiously and politically. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, aside from handful of soldiers of fortune, who had drifted to Texas in search of wealth and buried treasure there were, practically speaking, no white men in Texas. Meantime. Mexico grew, prospered and became powerful. Her people wearied of the rule of the mother country and longed for independence. In the year 1823 the power of Spain was overthrown and the Republic of Mexico was born.

Conscious of a new-found power and exalted even to the point of arrogance, the new republic forthwith began to cherish the dream of empire. There to the northward was that great wilderness called Tejas, with her marvelous resources and possibilities which, although now smoldering in dormancy. needed but the trade winds of colonization to fan them into consuming flame.

And that land Mexico decided should be the scene of the exploitation of her dream. She would hold out enticing inducements to such new-comers as might fit her fancy and fulfill the obligations she might impose, and she would hold them in safe subjection b compelling their obedience to stringent laws which would insure the supremacy of Mexico forever. In the prosecution of this colonization scheme the two fundamental conditions to which Colonists had to subscribe, and to which all other considerations were made secondary, were that. the colonists should (first) be of "the Catholic apostolic Roman religion " and (second) that they should swear allegiance to the Republic. As an inducement the government promised to each colonist who would meet these conditions a grant of hand. With a view of facilitating colonization, extravagant grants comprising thousands of acres were offered to a few individuals who would assume the role of "empressarios" (colonizers), and undertake the task of inducing others to take advantage of the government's offer.

Two or three years after the birth of the Mexican republic, four Irishmen came to Texas as agents for a number of Irish Catholic families who were dissatisfied with that condition of affairs at home which would not permit an adherent to tine Catholic faith to own land, with a view of looking over the situation and investigating the opportunities for home-building in Texas. These Irishmen were James McGloin, John McMullen, James Power and James Hewetton.

They were evidently pleased with the prospect, for they immediately proceeded to Saltillo, then the capital of the State known as Coahuila and Tejas, and made application to the governor for grants of land upon which they agreed to colonize several hundred Irish families who would, of course, be willing to subscribe to the conditions of the Mexican colonization laws.

McGloin and McMullen received a grant of land located on the north bank of the Nueces River, about fifteen miles from the mouth, in the county now known as San Patricio, and Power and Hewetton secured a similar grant surrounding the Mission of Refugio, at the present site of the town of Refugio, the capital of Refugio County.

Concerning the early history of the McGloin and McMullen colony, the sources of information are somewhat meager and obscured by the passing of years. Some old moth-eaten and timeworn records now on file in the county of San Patricio, however, indicate that a colony consisting of about forty families landed at a point called McGloins Bluff, now know)! as Ingleside, on Corpus Christi Bay, in about the year 1830.

The newcomers immediately set out on foot to the colony site, which was called San Patricio de Hibernia (Saint Patrick of Ireland), about twenty miles inland. Respecting the Power and Hewetson colony, the records are fortunately clearer. About ten years ago, a litigation involving the validity of the title to a large tract or land which was included in the original grant of the Mexican government to Power and Hewetson, brought forth an interesting statement Iron one or the then survivors of the original colony that, now preserved in the court records of the county, sheds a flood of light upon the time-dimmed mysteries of the early turbulent days when history was young in Texas.

The story is gleaned from the testimony of Mrs. Rosalie B. Priour, now deceased, who at the time the statement was made was 70 years old and who was, as 8- year-old Rosalie Hart, accompanied by her father to Texas with the colonists. Divested of the interrogatories and the repetition that usually infest statements, Mrs. Priour's story is as follows:

"I was born in County Wexford, Ireland. I do not remember the parish in which I was horn, but it joined the parish of Ballagarret. After waiting some time at Liverpool for our ship to start for America and after spending Christmas at Liverpool, we embarked upon our ship and started for America shortly after Christmas of the year 1833 or in the early part of 1834. My father's family and myself came to America as colonists from Ireland with Mr. James Power, Sr. "My father’s family, together with all the colonists who came over on the same vessel with me, settled in Refugio County, in tile town of Refugio, upon lots donated, to each head of the family. Mr. James Power held meetings at the house of his sister, Mrs. O'Brien, in Ireland, where he told his friends and acquaintances that gathered there about America and the advantages to be secured there by Colonists, and among other inducements told them that each family, or head of family, would receive a land grant of one league and one labor of land from the Mexican government, and that each single person would also receive a land grant, but of smaller quantity. Mrs. O'Brien, sister of Mr. James Power, also came to America as a member of the colony. "The only relations Mr. James Power had with whom I was acquainted in Ireland were his sister, Mrs. O'Brien, above mentioned, and leer husband and their children. I think Mrs. O'Brien had three or four boys and three girls. The only names of her children that I can now remember are those of her sons, Morgan O’Brien and John O'Brien, and her daughters, Agnes or Aggie, and Mrs. Bowers, whose Christian name I have forgotten.

"Farming was the occupation of Mr. O’Brien and his family, his son Morgan being about 23 years old, and his son John about 15 years old when they left Ireland, as well as I can remember. The family of Mr. O’ Brien, as well as all the rest of Ike colonists who came to America on the same vessel on which I came, were tenant farmers, none of them ever owning any land in Ireland. Their object in coming to America was to secure lands of their own, my recollection being that under the law in force in Ireland at that time; no Catholic was permitted to own land, with only a few exceptions.

"My father’s family started over to America in a ship containing about 350 persons, colonists.

"Those colonists embarked on one of the largest sailing vessels afloat in those days, starting from. Liverpool to America. "I was born August 1, 1826, and at the time of the departure of the shi p from Liverpool was about 8 years old. "I cannot say what arrangements were made between Mr. Power and other colonists, but I think it was the same as he made with my father. Mr. Power was to charter the ship and land us at Copano, Texas, for a certain sum of money, payable in Liverpool before we would embark. I have often heard my father and mother say that all the other colonists made the same arrangements and the same payments for their passage to America. Each head of a family provided himself and his family with provisions and supplies enough to last one year and brought it along on board the ship. including farming implements, etc., all of which was paid for by the colonists themselves. The colonists were all farmers, with the exception of four or five, who came out as hired men and servants.

"My recollection and understanding which we sailed from Ireland had three masts. I do not remember the dimensions of the ship, only that I often heard it alluded to by my parents and others as one of the largest ships going. "My recollection and understanding from my parents and others is that Mr. James Power, Sr., had made a personal canvass in various parts of Ireland in search of colonists who would come to Texas with him. and accept land grants offered them through hint by the government of Mexico. Texas being at that time a part of Mexico. The colonists assembled at various times in various ways in Liverpool, preparing to embark on the ship at the time fixed for sailing. I do not remember how long we had to wait in Liverpool for the sailing of the ship, only that it was during the Christmas holidays of 1833, for the vessel departed from Liverpool very soon after Christmas. Most of the colonists who came over with Mr. Power are long since dead. Among the few now living, so far as I know, are the following: Mrs. Peterson, now living in Corpus Christi; Mr. Wm. St. John of Refugio; Mr. Redman, in Refugio county between Refugio and St. Mary’s the O'Dochartys, two old maid sisters according to my understanding, still living at the Mission. (All of these survivors are now deceased.) "The voyage from Liverpool to New Orleans was in the main uneventful, except for a severe storm in the Bay of Biscay, when all the passengers were ordered below deck and hatches fastened down. My father having been a custom officer or "water guard" at Cork, Ireland, I was accustomed to the water was not afraid of the storm, so I concealed myself in one of the old hatches and remained on deck throughout the storm.

On the ocean I remember seeing a very large vessel following close to our vessel for several. days, and that the colonists were alarmed for fear we were being pursued by pirates, until finally the other vessel came in bidding distance and proved to be a friendly merchantman. Our ship was so crowded that all the available space was occupied by the colonists, who furnished their own bunks, or beds, and their own provisions, and did their own cooking and household ditties, the same as they did at home. I remember that on reaching the coast of Florida our captain was afraid to venture through Florida straits on account of the great size of the ship, and to avoid danger coasted around the island of Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico. While passing out and owing to the great heat of the sun on the ship's deck, my little sister, Elizabeth Hart, then about 5 years old, received a sunstroke from which she soon died and was buried at sea, which occurrence I remember very distinctly. She was a great favorite with the officers and crew, and my parents were unable to prevent her from staying on deck in the hot sun.

"Our ship was sixty days out of sight of land and about two months and a
half in making the trip from Liverpool in New Orleans, but the voyage in the
main was a very pleasant one, and all of the passengers kept healthy. After reaching New Orleans all the passengers remained or had their headquarters on the big ship, where we had to wait, to the best of my recollection, two or three weeks, before we Were transferred to the two schooners that brought us to Aransas Pass. One of them, named the Wild Cat, made the trip in twenty-four hours. I cannot remember_ the name of the other schooner which my father's family came on, but it was about forty-eight hours, making the trip. On nearing Aransas Pass, we could see the schooner, the Wild Cat, and that it had run ashore.

"Col. Power ordered the captain in my hearing, at the paint of his pistol, to change his course and avoid running his vessel aground. But after casting his anchor for the night, the captain of our schooner weighed anchor and in the night also ran our schooner ashore. My understanding at the time of the grounding of the schooners was, and, has been ever since, that both of them were unseaworthy and heavily insured, and their owners had arranged with the ca p tains to wreck them in order to obtain the insurance money. Luckily, no lives were lost by the grounding of the two schooners, and the remainder of the colonists were transferred by lighter to Copano, where tile old Mexican custom house then stood. It was a small brick house near the shore of Copano Bay, but the building has since been destroyed. My impression is that this building stood near the south of the Mission River.

"After the grounding of the schooners off Aransas Pass, an epidemic of cholera, supposed to have been contracted in New Orleans, broke out among the colonists. My recollection is that, about 250 persons died and were buried at sea. A child of Mr. St. John’s brother of Mr. Wm. St. John, now at the mission, died, and though sympathy for the grief-stricken parents and their horror of burying their child at sea, I remember seeing my mother and Mr. Paul Keogh take the child in a little boat to St. Joseph's Island, where they buried it. After burying the child, Mr. Paul Keogh fell sick with the cholera and died on St. Joseph's Island and was buried there by my father. After an absence of about forty-eight Lours from the schooner my father returned. As soon as my mother and I saw him, we were frightened fly his gaunt and distressed appearance, and we could see that he had no nourishment except water, which he found by digging with his spade on St. Joseph's Island. After my mother and I had administered to my father's wants, he was taken suddenly ill and died about twenty-Tour hours afterwards, and one hour after our lauding from the lighter at Copano, where he was buried by my mother and a Mr. Hart (no relation to my parents), who was already living in Texas and happened to be at Copano. "I saw them wrap my father in a blanket and bury him. I was very sick and lying on a pallet with him when he died. I thought at first that he was only sleeping, hut when I tried to awaken him, I found he was dead. For some reason which I do not now remember, we had to remain about two or three weeks on the schooners after we were grounded, waiting for the lighters to transfer us to the landing at Copano. After landing Mere we were put under quarantine and guarded by Mexican soldiers about two weeks on account of the cholera epidemic, amid the greatest suffering and distress. Finally we were hauled on ox wagons from Copano to the Mission Refugio.

"Most of my information as to the support of the colonists after we reached the Mission was obtained from my mother and other members of the colony, but I remember seeing the colonists working their fields, planting their crops and making their living in various ways. At first most of them farmed. together in one large field, which they fenced together in the land of the river by way of convenience and economy. "If the colonists had not brought supplies with them it would have been impossible to have obtained even the necessities of life at that time in Texas, to say nothing of luxuries. The manner of life of people in Texas in those early days was very simple and very much the same in all the families of my acquaintance.

On our arrival at the Mission, a Mr. Quirk, had a lumber house of one room, which was for many years the only lumberhouse in the colony, as lumber could not be procured even to make coffins, and the dead were buried in blankets." The Irishmen who with their families had accompanied the empressarios to America had come bent upon building homes in a new land, where freedom was as free as the air they breathed and where no tyrannical hand was to wrest from them the right to own their own homes and worship the God of their choice according to the dictates of their own consciences and they immediately set to work to improve the opportunity.

The terrible trials and tribulations, the awful hardships they endured for more than a decade, no pen will ever picture, for those who suffered long and much have long since gone to the better land where no trouble is. Devastated first by shipwreck, then ravaged by pestilence, the few remaining colonists never daunted, entered upon an existence of torment and torture which was even worse than the horrible end of their friends.

Happily the colonists had brought with them a limited supply of actual necessities with which to stay the hand of starvation. They also brought with them a few implements with which to till the soil. These, with their courageous, never-failing hearts constituted their entire inventory of assets. Indians and marauding bands of lawless Mexicans far outnumbered law abiding men in Texas in those days. The colonists were hence compelled to live on the community plan. At San Patricio and Refugio, they cleared small plots of land and planted and harvested their crops together and divided the proceeds. Corn (Indian maize) and sweet potatoes were the principal crops. Other necessities, such as sugar and coffee, were procured from Mexican traders, who were willing to exchange for such commodities as the colonists produced. Except for occasional ox carts, a luxury enjoyed by only a few traders, there were neither vehicles nor means of motive power. But the land was over-run with great herds of wild mustangs, and with their help the Irish ingenuity of the colonists was not slow to solve the problem. Immense pens or stockades were made by implanting heavy branches of trees side by side upright in the ground. Reaching out in a diagonal direction from each side of an opening in the corral wings were constructed in a similar manner, sometimes extending for a distance of a mile or more. When this contrivance was completed, it had the appearance of an immense funnel with a catch basin at one end. A herd of wild mustangs that might be grazing in the vicinity would then be stampeded and rushed headlong into the funnel until the pen at the other end had been filled. The opening in the latter would be closed upon the captive animals. It was only rarely, however, that the colonists were able to successfully pacify their captives, and the general rule was to catch the youngest colts, feed them on cow’s milk which the kine would unselfishly dispense in the same manner as to their own offsprings, and then train them as they grew older. This was the origin of the modern Texas cow pony, which holds the distinguished position of being the toughest and often most refractory member of the genus equus.

Here we pass a few years and come to the time when Mexican oppression was becoming unbearable and when the colonists were getting out from under the yoke. When the Mission at Refugio was completed by the Franciscan Friars, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, they christened it "Our Lady of Refuge, "and well, indeed, was it named. Behind its ponderous walls of three-footed stone, the Mission colonists and the exiles from San Patricio sought refuge and found it. The Mexican army shortly arrived and readily appreciating the impossibility of a quick evacuation of the fortress, took up its position on a little knoll about two hundred yards east of the mission, a few hundred feet north of the point where the Gulf Coast Linebridge now spans the Mission River.

Under the cover of the night a courier left the Mission and started across the country to Goliad, a distance of about thirty-five miles, to convey the news of the invasion to the Texas patriots who were assembled at that point under Fannin. This emissary shortly returned with a company of soldiers under Captain Ward, whom Fannin delegated to protect the colonists at the Mission. In the meantime, however, the Mexicans had evacuated their position and Ward, presuming; that they had been effectually frightened and beat a retreat, proceeded down the Mission River to attack some Mexican ranches.

He had no sooner started, however, than the Mexican army reappeared and resumed its former position. This time it brought with it a four-pound cannon, which soon begs, to play havoc with the Mission, within which the soldiers were sheltered. The walls at first resisted the bombardment, but under its continued violence soon began to weaken and crumble. Fannin was again communicated with and implored for aid. Capt. Aaron B. King and a gallant band of twenty-eight men immediately set out to the Mission's rescue. Meanwhile, however, the four-pounder continued its unrelenting tattoo upon the Mission’s walls. One by one the great stones that stood implanted in the walls as though they had been there forever, crumbled to dust. If help should not. soon arrive, that magnificent structure would totter to the ground and all help, would be lost. Help did not come and there was only one alternative—to capture the four-pounder.

As the shades of the evening began to fall, six men, five dare-devil Irishmen and one German, the only foreigner among the refugees, kissed their wives and babies and stepped out under the golden sun of the dying day and gazed across the intervening space whither they were going to what seemed certain death. Grim, death-defying courage was written in their faces and a prayer was on their lips. Their lives and the honor of their loved ones were the prizes at stake.

The Mexican army was at its evening meal, with no thought of such a reckless move on the part of their enemies, whom they had already condemned to death.. Stealthily and silently the stalwart six stole to where the cannon stood. They had loosened it from its anchorage and were about to make their escape undetected, when the Mexicans, yelling like fiends possessed, were upon them.

Of that remarkable battle between six adopted sons of Texas and that army of 500 Mexican soldiers history gives no account, but if the story, as related by one who received it from her father, who was one of the dauntless six, can be relied upon, it must take its place in history as one of the most marvelous incidents in military annals. For half an hour the battle raged, and Mexican after Mexican bit the dust never to rise again. The people in the Mission, two hundred yards away, witnessed the combat from the narrow windows and prayed the God of their fathers, for the love of whom they had deserted their homes in their native land, to be merciful to them and to look with favor upon their contest.

History relates many instances of obvious divine intervention in warfare, but no story of ancient, mediaeval or modern times savors so much of the miraculous as does the story of that terrible struggle before the Mission Refugio early in the year of 1836. For the God of Nations heard the prayer that was lifted to His throne.

Suddenly the sound of the battle ceased. An awful silence reigned, broken only intermittently by the groans of the injured and the wild curses of the dying. The heavy doors of the Mission flung open on their rusty hinges, and through the hallowed portals walked, unharmed, the heroic six, dragging behind them the captured cannon. What a mighty cheer that must have been mingled with the long penned-up tears of joy, echoed and re-echoed through the vaulted interior of that sacred structure, like the song of that heavenly host in old Judea on the memorable morn twenty centuries ago.

Strange and incredible as it may seem, only one of the valiant six suffered so much as a scratch from the encounter, and his, a mere flesh wound in the face, soon healed.

The next morning the remnant of the Mexican army withdrew and the colon? sts went out to the scene of the conflict of the night before to bury the enemy’s dead. In a narrow ditch surrounding the crude fortifications the enemy had improvised, three hundred Mexicans were buried. Meanwhile, Capt. Aaron B. King and his band of twenty-eight were hurrying to the Mission’s succor. In the eager zeal of their battle against time, they plunged headlong into Melon creek, a few miles from Refugio, and when they emerged on the other side, they discovered, to their sorrow, that their entire supply of ammunition had been wet and was therefore useless. While they were deliberating upon the best course to pursue, a band of Mexican rancheros, faithful to the home government, and under the leadership of a wealthy Mexican ranchman by the name of Carlos de la Garza, appeared and, taking the helpless hand captive, set out to the Mission to deliver then into the hands of the Mexican troops. They had proceeded but a short distance when they were met at a point about four miles north of Refugio by the retreating Mexicans. Capt. King and his men were at once turned over to the blood-thirsty fiends, whom it did not take long to determine the fate of the prisoner. What form of ignominious torture was meted out to King and his unfortunate followers the world will probably never know. At all events, their lives were sacrificed at liberty's altar, and weeks later, when the battle of tiara Jacinto had been fought and the Mission refugees felt secure to desert their place of safety, the dry bones of King and his men, all that had been left by the beasts and fowls were brought to the Mission and laid to rest under its protecting walls. There was an elderly lady living at Refugio who more than sixty years ago, as a young lady, together with her sister, was captured by a band of Indians. In accordance with the custom of their race, the redskins at once proceeded to initiate their captives into the mysteries of their order by shaving their heads and divesting them of their clothing. Without a pretense of any more serious indignity, the prisoners were placed on horses, behind their captors, and a start was made in the direction of the camping. grounds. The lady who now lives at Refugio so persisted in slipping from her mount that she was finally left behind. She was fortunately rescued by her brother, who had missed her. and organized a searching party.

Her sister, however, was carried to an Indian trading post where, in due time, and in pursuance with the Indians commercial customs, she fell into the hands of a friendly trader, who saw to it that she was returned to her home. Excepting for the indecorous initiation, she was little the worse for her experience. Today? Well, today is about. the same as yesterday, only a little different. The dauntless men and women who braved the terrors of the wilderness to find a home and a religious freedom, are no longer there, but the same blood is there. Yes, it is there and, stalwart, and stern as the Spartans, it will probably remain there forever. Today the names that appear most conspicuous among the citizens of San Patricio and Refugio counties are the same as those which stood high on the roll of honor seventy-five years ago. The McGloins, the Powers, the O’Briens, the O'Connors, the Welders, the Gaffnoys, the Foxes, the Shellys, the Dorseys, the Lamberts, the Heards, and scores of other names as familiar half a century ago, are leading citizens of both counties.
For More on the early Irish Settlers of Texas, see:
The Refugio Colony And Texas Independence
Henry Scott Captured By Indians

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Kerr County History and the Importance of German Settlers in Early Texas

Here is more rare and very early history of the German settlements in early Kerr County History

(I am indebted to several parties for help in writing this article. Among these, I mention James J. Starkey, Edward Starkey of Oklahoma City, Mrs. Henry Weiss, Mrs. Herman Schulze, Judge Charles Real. I also used the pamphlet on ”Kerr County," sponsored by Mrs. Raymond A. Franklin, an d many articles in Frontier Times. I soon found there was a plethora of material on heroic women of Kerr county, and I give the history of some of them at length. Lack of space forbids the mention of others in detail or at length.—T. U. T. )

Kerr county was organized in 1856. The first term of the county court was held May 19, 1856, at J. M. Ridley's, on the Guadalupe river. Jonathan Scott, chief justice; T. A. Saner, W. B. Hindricks, J. M. Ridley and E. A. Mc-Fadden, county commissioners; and D. A. Rees, county clerk, were present. The sparse population was engaged largely in making cypress shingles. A settlement grew up at the present site of Kerrville and was known as Kerrsville. The first county seat was between Comfort and Kerrsville. During the Civil War the county seat was moved to Comfort. In 1866, Captain Charles Schreiner was elected county and district clerk, and gradually the name of the town”Kerrsville" became Kerrville. The letter ”s" was dropped by mutual consent.

A word should be said about James Kerr. He was born on September 1, 1790, in Kentucky, and moved in 1808 to St. Charles, Missouri. In 1819 he married the daughter of General James Caldwell, speaker of the House of Representatives of Missouri, and later became general manager of the DeWitt colony in Texas, and was a friend of Deaf Smith. In July 1826, he laid out the town of Gonzales. He died at his home in Jackson county on December 25, 1850. Austin, Texas

Miss Elaine Enderle (daughter of Michel Enderle and Mary Mansord Enderle) married Charles A. Schreiner on October 15, 1860, and their home at that time was a rude shingle camp south of Kerrville. The honeymoon was interrupted by the call to arms and shortly afterwards Charles Schreiner joined the Confederate group and was exposed to the hardships and privations of the whole war. His wife stayed in Texas with her people, and underwent almost as much danger and privation as her husband did, for Kerr county was the frontier of Texas and the Indians took advantage of this. The fear of the red warrior and worry over her husband was enough to drive the new bride to distraction. When the war closed, Captain Schreiner returned to San Antonio.

As there was no method of communication between San Antonio and his home, he mounted ”Shank's Mare" and walked to his home in Kerr county— some sixty miles away. Here they started over again. While Captain Schreiner was busy with shingles, sheep, and merchandise, his wife made a home. At first it was nothing more than a shack. Later prosperity came to Charles Schreiner and she lived to see her husband one of the richest men in West Texas. They brought into the world five sons: Aime Charles, Gustav Fritz, Louis Albert, Walter Richard, Charles Armand, and three daughters: Carline Marie, who married Hiram Partee; Emilia Louise, who married W. C. Rigsby, and Frances Helen, who married S. L. Jeffers. From 1866 to 1869 Captain Schreiner lived on his ranch. In 1869 he opened a store in Kerrville, and at that time he borrowed five thousand dollars from August Faltin of Comfort. Prosperity was not only around the corner for the Schreiners--it walked in at the front door and made itself at home. He bought out his partner in 1878 and branched out to the wonderful prosperity which was a blessing to Kerrville, Kerr county, and the State of Texas. Quiet Elaine Schreiner stayed at home, encouraged her husband, brought children into the world, and was a true house wife and helpmate. Her contribution to Kerrville was in eight living children who have contributed much to the prosperity of their town, county, and state. Mrs. Schreiner was born June 6, 1843, and died September 8, 1905. The greatest heritage that Captain Schreiner and his wife, Elaine, left to posterity, and' to civilization was not their ranches, banks, stores, wool, sheep, or cattle, but the heritage of a good name.

By Mrs. Augusta Schulze Christian Dietert was born in Tesen, District of Magdaburg, Germany, on August 24, 1827. He was a millwright and miller by profession. In early manhood he left his homeland, embarking on a four-masted sailing vessel, accompanied by his brother, William Dietert, who later settled in Boerne, Texas. They sailed for Texas to try their fortunes with the much talked of new country, and to gain political freedom. After a voyage of eight weeks the ship landed at Galveston . Their destination was New Braunfels, the ”Mecca" of all German immigrants in those early days. There were at that time only two routes to New Braunfels, one by way of Houston, which was a long and perilous journey, and another by way of Indianola, then the only seaport on the mainland. This route was somewhat shorter, so they shipped in a two masted sailboat to Indianola. This port was totally destroyed by a tropical storm in about 1887.

After some weeks of delay, waiting for transports, they boarded wagons drawn by mules and were conveyed over trackless miles of territory covered with water from six to twelve inches in depth. This, together with the scarcity of camping places, and danger of Indian raids, wild animals, etc., was a most arduous journey. They reached New Braunfels in July, 1854, after weeks of slow travel overland. It had been five months since they had left Germany.

In August of the same year Christian Dietert joined a company of thirteen men, who journeyed into the Gudalupe Valley to the place where the Cypress Creek joins the Guadalupe river, where they surveyed the tract of land, and helped lay out the town of Comfort.

In the beginning, shingle making was the only industry. The shingles, which were made by hand, were freighted to San Antonio by ox wagon. Early in 1855, a saw and grist mill was built under the direction of Mr. Christian Dietert. This venture was financed by Mr. Altgelt. The power was furnished by a huge waterwheel, fed by the waters of Cypress Creek. The remnants of the old rock dam, reaching half way across the creek still stand, a'silent witness of this enterprise that failed. The little stream that gushed from the hills, no doubt fed by the copious rains the preceding seasons, dried out after a year or two of drouths, and as a result the mill had to be abandoned for lack of water power, less than two years after its completion.

Mr. Dietert was married to Miss Rosalie Hess in 1855. She had come to the settlement of Comfort a short time before from her home in the city of Jena, Germany.

Mr. Dietert 's father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Dietert, two brothers, Frederick and Henry, and sister, Lena, came over from Germany in 1856, to settle in Comfort. Accompanying them was Ferdinand Schulze, then a young man, who settled on a farm on Cypress Creek in the eastern part of Kerr county. He was the father of Herman Schulze of Split Rock Farm. Early in 1857, Mr. and Mrs. Christian Dietert moved to Fredericksburg to work on the building of the Van der Stucken mill. In the latter part of the same year they moved to Kerrville, following the organization of Kerr county. The young millwright bought the tract of land along the banks of the Guadalupe southwest of Water Street, from what is now Earl Garrett Street south to A Street. He established a shingle mill, using horse power until he could construct a water wheel, with which he later sawed lumber from the Cypress trees growing along the banks of the river. This mill was built on the site of the present ice factory. It was washed away by a great flood after a year or two of operation.

Being without funds to rebuild the mill, they again moved towards Fredericksburg, to build a saw and grist mill for Mr. C. H. Guenther on Live Oak Creek. The power for this mill was furnished by a water wheel. This venture was short lived, but let it be said, in spite of controversy, that they did saw lumber from pecan and walnut trees, of which there were many in Gillespie county. The Germans who worked with lumber were well versed in the art of converting walnut and pecan wood into lumber suitable for building homes and furniture. After only a few months of operation, torrential rains of several days duration softened the sandy land of that section to such an extent that the earth crumbled before the on-rushing waters and took mill, waterwheel, and everything pertaining to the undertaking away, to be buried and lost miles down the creek.

Mr. Dietert moved his little family and belongings back to Kerrville where he again built a mill on the old site. This mill was destroyed by fire. Being offered work on the construction of mills in the vicinity of Comfort, and to be near a school for his children, Mr. Dietert moved to Comfort. He also built a mill for his brother, William Dietert, in the town of Boerne.

The Dietert family moved back to Kerrville in 1866, and again set up a water wheel, to operate a saw mill and steel grist mill. This water wheel was also washed away by a flood. In 1868, he put in an under-water iron turbine for power and a queer old type of flour mill consisting of two large stones, the lower a flat stational stone with a somewhat conical shaped stone above it, which in revolving crushed and ground the grain into flour. People came from many miles around to have corn and wheat ground, and also to have lumber sawed by the sawmill into suitable lengths for building purposes.

According to information recently received from the First Assistant Postmaster General, Christian Dietert was appointed postmaster at Kerrville on July 22, 1868, and served until his successor was appointed on June 26, 1888. He was elected to fill the office of Justice. of the Peace in 1869, and had also to fill the place of County Judge in the absence of the regular judge. Mr. Dietert was greatly interested in education, and served on the school board for some time.

His first civic act upon arrival in the new land was to take out naturalization papers, and to begin the study of the English language, which both he and his wife learned to speak fluently. For a time Mr. Dietert engaged in the hauling of freight in company with a number of other men, to and from Mexico, for the Confederate government during the Civil War. Heavy wagons drawn by four to eight yoke of oxen were used. These trips usually took several months and were filled with dangers and hardships. Necessary provisions and clothing for the home were brought with each return trip. The groceries consisted mainly of coffee, tea, sugar, flour, rice and dried fruits. Cloth was bought by the bolt and was a coarse white material. Lengths of this cloth were dyed by the women with herbs, roots of the algerita and sumac, and bark of the pecan, the walnut, and live oak tree, and were then made by hand into garments for the men and women and children according to their needs.

This history would not be complete without mention being made of Mrs. Rosalie Dietert, who played a most important part in the upbuilding of this section of the country. Women were not appointed to office in those days, but Mrs. Dietert was made assistant postmistress and. took over all responsibilities and all transactions pertaining to the office during Mr. Dietert's tenure of office. The first postoffice fixture was a frame made of cypress wood, by the postmaster. It was four feet high, three feet wide and seven inches deep. It contained twelve pigeon holes six inches high and three compartments fourteen inches wide and 'six inches high for newspapers and packages. A lower section seventeen inches high comprised the entire width of the frame and was used for the general paraphernalia pertaining to the office. This postoffice fixture is still in the Dietert family.

The Dietert home was the center of social activities. Oft times young couples (lanced in the large living room to the tune of fiddle and accordion. Being accomplished in the art, Mrs. Dietert taught the young men and the very few girls to dance the waltz.

Santa Claus brought the first Christmas tree in Kerrville to the Dietert home. People came from miles around to see the wonderful tree, which of course was not the glittering yule tree of today. Its dress was modest; the home made decorations consisted of festoons of chains, links, of which were cut and made from brightly colored paper. There were also nuts covered with gold and silver paper, apples brought from San Antonio, and cookies cut into shapes of birds and animals and decorated With colored sugar. The candles were tallow dips.

The nearest trading place was San Antonio, and trips, which were made by wagon, took about a week. The nearest doctor was also iii San Antonio. In case of sickness the neighbors assisted each other with home prepared potions of roots and herbs. The usual privations and hardships of the pioneer, together with the dangers of Indian raids, wild animals, etc., were experienced by this couple, but undaunted and undismayed they set their faces to the future with the development and civilization of their adopted country ever uppermost in their minds.

Twelve children were horn to them: four sons and eight daughters, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood except one daughter who died in infancy. Most of them are living in and near Kerrville and are active in various business enterprises. They ere: Gustav Dietert, Del Rio; Mrs. Clara Ochse, Oregon, deceased; Mrs. Lena Herzog, Kerrville, deceased; Rosalie, infant, deceased; Mrs. Amelia Enderle, Kerrville; Rudolph Dietert, New York City; Henry Dietert, Kerrville; Otto Dietert, San Antonio; Mrs. Augusta Schulze, Kerrville; Mrs. Emma Rosenthal, Houston; Mrs. Valeska Mosel, Kerrville, and Mrs. Flora Weiss, Kerrville.

In 1885, Mr. Dietert sold his mill site and interests to Chas. Schreiner and bought a farm across the Guadalupe opposite the town, where he lived with his family until his death in May, 1902. Mrs. Dietert lived to the ripe old age of ninety-six. She spent the last years of her life in the home of her youngest daughter, Mrs. H. Weiss. She was laid to rest beside her husband in Glen Rest Cemetery, Kerrville, on April 7, 1929-, having seen the little settlement with its five one-roomed log huts grow into the city of Kerrville.

When Rosalie Hess arrived in the town of Comfort in 1852, she was nineteen years old, five feet two inches i n height, and weighed an even one hundred pounds. She looked small, was small, and that is all that was small about her. Li her influence in Kerr county, she was a giant. If we measure her by the deeds she wrought, she will take her place on the very front line of pioneer heroines of the west.

The more the writer learns about her, the more he is attracted to her personality. Recently he sat in the glassed in porch where she spent her last years. It fronted south, and the scribe stood on the spot where she sat in her big rocking chair and talked to her kin. She could speak two languages, but in her native tongue she was fluent. She of course talked English, and could take her part in any discussion of affairs of the day. She was born in a neighborhood where she heard much French, and in her later years she was liable to forget the ”yah, yah," of the Fatherland, and the “yes, yes," of the old Texans, and would resort to the early days of her youth and reply in romantic French "oui, oui.”

When she married Christian Dietert she became part of the pioneer west, and she and her husband fulfilled the injunction of the Bible and replenished the earth with eleven children as follows: first, Augustus Dietert, married Louise Hasley, and they had four boys and three girls; second, Clara Dietert, married Robert Osche, and they had one boy and four girls; third, Lena Dietert married Nathan Herzog, and they had one boy and one girl; fourth, Emilia Dietert married Albert Enderle, and they had issue two boys and two girls; and fifth, Rudolph Dietert married first Lillie Griffin, and no issue, married second, Betty Swenson, and had children, one boy and one girl; sixth, Henry Dietert married first Paula Schulze, and had three boys, and two girls, married second, Clara Reed, and issue one boy and one girl; seventh, Otto Dietert married Halanda Boeckmann, and had one child, a boy ;eighth, Augusta Dietert married Herman Schulze, and had two boys and one girl; ninth, Emma Dietert married Oscar Rosenthal, and they had one boy and two girls; tenth, Velaska Dietert married Edward Mosel, issue one boy. The blood of Rosalie Hess flows in eleven children, thirty-six grandchildren, forty-six great grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren; a total of eighty-nine blood descendants that came from the petite little woman who was only five feet two inches in height and weighed a little over one hundred pounds. She has a descendant for nearly every pound of her weight, or if you wish to be exact she has a descendant for every year of her life. If all the 89 descendants were placed on a pair of scales at the same time, the gross weight would tax the biggest truck in Texas, as it would nearly double the weight allowed by law aggregating nearly twelve thousand pounds.

The first official post office at Kerrville was established June 9, 1858, and Hance M. Burney was postmaster. The postoffice continued to be known as Kerrsville until after Christian Dietert, who was appointed postmaster on July 22, 1867, and served until- June 26, 1882, nearly fifteen years. A list of the postmasters is shown below: Hance M. Burney, appointed June 9, 1858. Robert J. Farr, appointed May 25, 1866. Christian Dietert, appointed July 22, 1867. The name of this office was changed to Kerrville, the exact date of which change is now shown. Joseph F. H. Back, appointed June 26, 1882. Albert Enderle, appointed September 3, 1883. Charles C. Lockett, appointed April 25, 1896. Charles Real, appointed August 3, 1900. W. G. Carpenter, appointed May 20, 1913. Emil Gold, appointed March 7, 1922. Gober L. Gibson, appointed May 9, 1934.

Before the post office was established, the travelers to San Antonio would obtain mail from the neighborhood and leave it at the residence of Christian Dietert. His wife took charge of this mail, and sometimes acted as unofficial postmistress. Her home was a type of clearing house for the mail—before the United States established a regular post office. She served unofficially as postmistress for nearly twenty years. While her husband was official postmaster, Mrs. Dietert conducted the office during the time he attended to outside business.

Emilie Schreiner was born at Riguewhr, near Strassberg in Alsace - Lorraine, in 1836, in a home built in 1500. Her father, Dr. Gustav Schreiner was a distinguished dentist. She was confirmed in the Lutheran Church when 14 years old and had the best educational advantages in both the French and German languages. Having been brought up in a cultured environment, there was probably very little indication of the quiet strength and courage which she was to manifest in later years as a pioneer wife and mother. Her parents both' died shortly after their arrival in San Antonio. In 1853 Emilie Schreiner was married to Caspar Real and moved to a ranch on Martinez Creek, about ten miles from San Antonio between the Cibolo and Salado and near the present community of Converse.

The sheep and cattle business did not prosper due to the poor market and a dearth of money. The Reals left (luring the severe drouth of 1857, and moved to Kerr county, seven miles south of the present town of Kerrville. The continuous supply of flowing waters of the spring-fed Turtle Creek was the main attraction. Two other families besides the Reals located on a 320 acre tract of land and while they were constructing their log homes, Mrs. Real, with three small children, lived with friends on Cypress Creek, near Comfort.. In November 1857, they moved into their new home, built of logs, chinked with chiseled rocks and plastered with adobe. The long big room with a front porch, and the two small side rooms were warm and were equipped with the limited conveniences of that pioneer period. The ”big room" contained one window, a roughly hewn cypress floor and a big homey fire place with two iron hooks on which to hang cooking vessels when needed. A three legged stand was kept usually on the hearth near the side on which to put iron pots for boiling food. Bread was baked in a ”skillet and lid.” Mrs. Real frequently baked cookies for the children at Christmas and other special occasions in this skillet or "Dutch' oven" as it is now called. One of the small rooms became the Real kitchen as soon as it was possible to buy a cook stove. 'The other small room was used for a bed room. Each of these rooms had only one window of two panes. The kitchen for several years had only a dirt floor.

Mrs. Real was busy early and late maintaining a home for her ever growing family with the limited conveniences available. Mr. Real had brought with him from Germany tools that enabled him to make many things that added to their comfort. He made a cradle of mesquite wood, bedsteads, a dining table and benches. They had cowhide bottom chairs and probably two rockers. Mrs. Real was small in stature and very large so she had the legs of her chair cut off for her convenience to use in the kitchen.

The first lights were brass cans filled with tallow, containing a wick which could be ”screwed higher" as needed. Later, tallow candles were used; then lanterns were available. Mrs. Real thought it a great day when lamps could be bought. In addition to her many duties she knitted garments and stockings for the family. She usually did this gt night as the family sat around the fireside after supper. Mrs. Real devoted her time inside the house keeping close watch over the children. Because of the fear of the Indians she kept the children within ”seeing distance” of her house. The danger of Indians, who made almost monthly raids through that section of the country stealing horses, was constantly on their minds. On one occasion Mr. and Mrs. Real went to Comfort in an ox wagon to a fourth of July celebration, taking the youngest child, Mathilde, with them, leaving the older ones at home in care of a hired man. On the trip home, night overtook them near the Guadalupe river, about five miles from their home, when the oxen became uneasy and were hard to keep in the road. "There is a bunch of horses and I saw a man!" said Mrs. Real to her husband in a low voice. ”He is an Indian.” He was standing perfectly still. They did not know how many more were around. Mr. Real, who had been walking by the side of the ox wagon, grasped his pistol and got into the wagon. Mrs. Real with the child lay down in the bottom of the wagon bed. But they were not bothered and on arriving home Mr. and Mrs. Real could not find one of the children, Robert. They were frightened but finally he was found in the back yard sound asleep.

Mrs. Real and her daughters were excellent seamstresses. Goads were bought by the bolt and eyed with walnut leaves and hickory. Hats were made of the same material. During the early days sewing was done by hand. In later years Mr. Real bought one of twelve sewing machines, brought from New York by his brother Adolph Real.

Mrs. Real, though a gentle, retiring soul, seemed always to have plenty of inward grace, strength and courage necessary to meet each problem which confronted her. She was an excellent cook and served her family many rare French and German dishes. Mrs. Real had four brothers: Gustave, Fritz, Charles, and Aime. The latter was killed during the Civil War. Her brother Charles and his wife lived close to them for a number of years, which was a great comfort to both Mrs. Real and Mrs. Schreiner, especially when the men folks were away from home.

Mr. and Mrs. Real gave the children their first schooling, then later they attended schools at Comfort, Boerne and San Antonio. Four sons, Albert, Arthur, Julius and Robert attended the Southwestern University at Georgetown and Walter and Charles received their schooling in San Antonio. Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Real, named as follows: Walter, a rancher living near Kerrville; Emma (deceased) wife of Herman Stieler, of Comfort; Albert (deceased) rancher near Kerrville;

Arthur, a rancher now living near San Antonio; Julius, formerly State Senator, living on a ranch near Kerrville; Robert (deceased) a rancher near Mountain Home; Mathilde, wife of Hubert. Tngenhuett, formerly of Comfort, now lives in New York City: Charles, the youngest, a rancher but now in the State Comptroller's department at Austin, Texas. Mrs. Real left the old ranch home in 1900—seven years after her husband 's death to live with her daughter. Mrs. Ingenhuett, at Comfort, where she died March 13, 1918. Mrs. Real was very fond of good music and folk songs, which she had opportunities to enjoy during the last ten or fifteen years of her life by traveling here and abroad.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Caspar Real are buried in the family cemetery on the old homestead near. Kerrville. Like most other pioneer families of their time, the Reals helped to make West Texas a better place in which to live. "A noble pioneer couple has gone to their reward in Heaven."

In the year 1851, there arrived near the site of the present town of Bandera on the Medina river the Widow Rees and her four children. Her maiden name was Henrietta Lowrance, and she had married John Rees in Lincoln county, North Carolina. In 1828 the couple moved to McNairy county, Tennessee, and in this county all the four children were born. These children were: Sidney Benner Rees, born 1829, died 1909; Daniel Adolphus Rees, born 1831, died 1901; Martha Adeline Rees (Starkey), born 1834, died 1905; Alonzo Rees, born 1837, died 1919.

The Widow Rees tried the Bandera country for a short while, but the Indians were so active in killing and robbing that she moved to the valley of the Guadalupe, a few miles from the present town of Kerrville, where she reared her family. When the family settled in Kerr county, Sidney was about twenty-three years old, Adolphus twenty-one, Martha eighteen, and Alonzo fifteen. It can be seen that the children were ready to take part in the affairs of the frontier, to help make a living, and to wield a rifle in defense of their home. These four Rees children were knit together in a rather close kinship, and a very commendable bond of human ties. They all married and became leading citizens of Kerr county. Each was devoted to the mother and to each other and each other's family. Sidney Rees married Emily Tedford; Adolphus married Lucy Ann Nowlin; Martha Adeline married James Monroe Starkey; and Alonzo married Eleanor Ann Brown.

Here in the valley of the Guadalupe in the hills of the southwest, they went forth and replenished the earth, and even Theodore Roosevelt could not complain of their success in this line of human endeavor. They brought nearly forty children into this world of pioneers. Thirty-six of the number, all first cousins or brothers and sisters, were reared within ten times of Kerrville, and it is thought that this breaks the record for replenishing. Of this number, thirty-two bore the name of pees. Starting with the original John and Henrietta, who came from North Carolina to McNairy county, Tennessee, there were over 500 human beings who were born or adopted into the tribe of Rees by marriage. More than 430 yet survive and are living in Kerr and nearby counties, and each is an asset to the commonwealth of Texas. Sidney Benner Rees married Emily Tedford on March, 15, 1860, and they settled near the mouth of Turtle Creek, along the banks of the Guadalupe. Here they brought into the world thirteen children. Near their farm a Methodist camp meeting was held each summer, and the Rees family constituted themselves host To the congregation. They showed that one was not only welcome to eat at their table, but that one was conferring a favor on them by eating the bountiful repast that was always ready.

Sidney Rees was a very devout man, always energetic, always crisp in his conversation; and sometimes this economy of words was used in his language when he said ”grace.” Members of his family were never surprised when the ”grace" was shorter than usual. His wife Emily came from Tennessee with her family, consisting of her mother; two sisters and four brothers, and settled on Verde Creek. She was ever ready, an effective and efficient worker, and a first-class manager. The husband and wife supported a large family, but visitors were always welcome, and they never counted a visit unless you stayed all night and took a meal. Like the old Kentucky colonel ”Taint no visit unless you wailer a bed and mop up a plate." It is a pity that Texas has not had more families like Sidney and Emily Rees.

Daniel Adolphus Rees was born in McNairy county, Tennessee, on December 2, 1831. He became a ranger in 1864, and later a guard in the Texas state forces in defense of the frontier. In 1856, 1857, and 1858 he was county clerk of Kerr county. On December 3, 1863, he married Lucy Ann Nowlin, and they settled on the old Rees place northwest of Kerrville. Here they brought ten children into the world, all of whom were trained in the fundamentals of religion, patriotism and good citizenship. Six sons and three daughters were reared to become leading men and women of Kerr County. The wife was born near Corinth, Mississippi, on February 23, 1848. They were married by Judge James Monroe Starkey, her brother-in-law, who married Martha Adeline Rees. Lncy Ann Nowlin was a. product of the west, and she took to frontier life like a duck takes to water. It was her adopted heath and the life was not new to her. She knew all the ups and downs, and with complete cooperation she was indeed a help-meet and helpmate to her husband. She was a rare asset to her neighborhood, affectionate, lovable, and a great help in time of trouble or sickness. Her father was a doctor, and her oldest son followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather. She early acquired those traits that help in the sickroom and she was ever ready to go to the help of the rich, the poor, the halt, the lame or the blind. She was a cook of rare traits and her cooking was as celebrated as the Camp Verde camels, and far better looking.

She was not only a good cook, but she took to the horse like her forebearers, could handle a rifle as well as the men, and what was an unusual accomplishment, she was an expert swimmer. The waters of Turtle Creek and those of the Guadalupe often had the surface of their pools and holes split by the daring diver, even when she was near th'e age of three score and ten. At the age of 81, she went to her final resting place in the Glen Rest Cemetery in Kerrville, surrounded by the eternal hills among which she had spent a useful life.

Martha Adeline Rees came at first with her mother and three brothers to Bandera county, but soon settled near the mouth of Turtle Creek. She was seventeen years old when the family came to Bandera, and eighteen when they finally settled in Kerr county. She met James Monroe Starkey in Kerr county, and on April 3, 1860, they were married. She was a consecrated Christian and worked hard for the ehurch. In all religious movements she was very active. Mr. Starkey as born in Sparta, White county, Tennessee on February 6, 1820. He was named for James Monroe, the president of the United States, who gave to the world the celebrated ”Monroe Doctrine," which has been an international factor for safety for 130 years.

In 1849 James Monroe Starkey was living in Tennessee, when he and others caught the California gold fever and made the trip overland to the gold fields. There were eight friends who held together and called themselves the "invincible eight," and this name came finally to the Guadalupe valley. After five years of gold digging, James Monroe Starkey took passage by boat for Panama, and finally landed at New Orleans. Iie made his way from East Texas to Kerrville on the back of a Mexican pony. In Kerr county he soon began to clear some land for a crop, and also went into the making of cypress shingles, which at that time commanded a ready sale in San Antonio.

While living in Tennessee, he had married Elizabeth Young Ridley, who bore him a daughter and a short time thereafter passed away. The child was taken into the home of her Ridley grandparents and reared and nurtured. This daughter is now living at the age of 97.

Martha Adeline (Rees) Starkey and her husband brought into the world five children, as follows: Alice, born January 12, 1861, lived in Kerr County and for many years taught school in Kerr County and Kerrville; Jones Starkey, born September 9, 1862, killed accidentally September 9, 1868; John James Starkey, born September 21, 1870, lives in Kerrville, graduate of Coronal Institute at San Marcos, editor of The Kerrville Times, a historian and antiquarian of great ability and acumen, his ancestors came to the hill country in 1851, and his forebearers dodged Indian arrows along the Verde and along Turtle Creek, ”Jim" has followed in their footsteps in dodging Cupid's arrows for over sixty years; Alonzo Lycurgus Starkey, born August 25, 1872, has been county surveyor of Kerr county for nearly half a century, married June 3, 1900, to Pattie Hugh Goodwin, has six children; Edwin Starkey, born February 14, 1876, attended Southwestern University, married Dukie Ramey Hugh at Greeley, Colorado, February 4, 1904, lives at 706 E. 18th Street, Oklahoma City, but his early range is strong enough to bring him back to Kerr county when the grass is green in the spring, to visit the scenes of his youth.

Alonzo Rees, the fourth child, and the youngest of the Rees household that arrived in Bandera in 1851, was born on September 6, 1837. In his early years he served on the frontier forces in defense of the settlers. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 he was twenty-four years old, but had been a soldier for several years. He was sent to the coast country by the Confederacy, and soon was awarded the rank of captain. After the war was over he returned to Kerr county and engaged in farming, and stock raising, and was elected a commissioner for Kerr county, and served sixteen years. On January 16, 1868, he married Eleanor Brown. Her father, Joshua Brown, was by some considered Kerrville 's first citizen. His shingle camp was the center of this section. When Kerrville was laid out in 1856 Joshua Brown 'donated the streets, a public square and a site for the Methodist church; and he insisted that the new town be called Kerrsville in honor of James Kerr of DeWitt's colony. Later the “s" in the town's name was dropped, and was changed from "Kerrsville" to”Kerrville," which it has been for the last eighty years. Eleanor Ann (Brown) Rees was a native of Gonzales county. She came to Kerr county early, and to all intents and purposes she grew up in Kerr. She was the last of the original eight of the ”invincible eight" to pass away. She did her duty always, and she brought into the world an even dozen children: John B. Rees, who married Josephine Klein; Willie Ella, who married Rev. C. W. Goodwin; Joshua Rees, who died young; Martha Adeline married Charles Barlemann; Brownie, married William Alexander Cocke; Joe Denton, married Gertrude Ridley; Louis Luke, married Evvie D. Hagens ; Etta, married Frederick A. West; Osbon, died young; Janie Eleanor, married Wesley Carroll Carringer; Charles Jacob, married Juanita White; Abigail Katherine, who married Douglas Graves Decherd.

Mrs. Whitfield Scott, nee Harriet Gill, married Whitfield Scott in 1864 when be returned from the Civil War on a furlough. To them seven children were born. Five survived the father: Mrs. A. C. Schreiner of Kerrville being a daughter. After the Civil War the health of Whitfield Scott became impaired and they moved to Kerrville. When they arrived there it was a small struggling frontier town. Colonel Scott bought what is now the St. Charles Hotel. They lived there until he could erect a home, now occupied by E. E. Palmer. Colonel Scott was not physically strong and he took up ranching for outdoor experience. He became a leading citizen of Kerr county and was elected to the legislature twice. He was almost teetotal so far as drinking was concerned, but he was opposed to prohibition. He was elected the first secretary of the Texas State Wool Growers Association. His work in the legislature was always for cattle and sheep— the main dependence of his county. Harriet Dill was horn in Nacogdoches but the family moved to McLellan county while she was a child. She was a woman of rare refinement and was chosen to make the flag to be carried by th'e Seventh Texas Infantry in the Civil War. The flag went through many vicissitudes but at the end of the war, the flag, tattered and torn, was returned to Mrs. Scott and is one of the cherished heirlooms.

After the death' of her husband, her children scattered and she spent time with them in Kerrville, Victoria, and Monterrey.

The two Tivy sisters came to Kerrville with their brother, Joseph Tivy, in about 1870. They built a home in the present city limits of Kerrville. He bought 160 acres half a mile south of the Guadalupe. The two sisters and brother Joe had agreed solemnly never to marry. But notwithstanding this agreement pioneer conditions brought changes. Captain Tivy married the widow Losey. She died soon after becoming Mrs. Tivy. The sisters were hurt because of the marriage of their brother and felt he had broken the silent obligation. They went north, but the younger sister returned to Kerrville to live with her brother after the death of his wife and stayed there until her death. Mrs. Tivy requested before her death to be buried on Tivy Mountain which was almost inaccessible. The grave had to be blasted out as the mountain was almost solid rock. The casket had to be carried in a hack drawn by mules, as the other vehicles couldn't make it. The attendants had to walk up the steep mountain side. Captain Tivy, his wife, and young sister all sleep in graves on the mountain. Captain Joseph Tivy was much devoted to education and this took the form of concrete action. He left a substantial heritage to the citizens and children of Kerrville and the town showed its gratitude by naming the high' school Tivy High. The pupils help by keeping the graves green.

Miss Mary Tatum married Judge H. M. Burney whose family had been in Kerr county from its origination. To them nine sons were born: Judge R.H. Burney, deceased; Judge I. H Burney, deceased; Lee Burney, Center Point; Judge J. G. Burney, Austin; W. B. Burney, Cetner Point; W. M. Burney, ('enter Point; P. C. Burney, El Paso; Mac Burney, deceased; John Burney, California. The Burneys grew up as nine sons in Kerrville. The eldest attended the first school in Kerrville when it was a small place, with five straggling houses. The father was the first postmaster of Kerrville and the first judge elected after the county was organized. The school was held in the old court house aptly described as being built of logs 16 feet long, skelped, with wall 8 feet high, and with a shingle roof. The school terms even in the little towns were short. The Burney family have been factors on the frontier 'of Texas since Kerr county was created. The Burneys have occupied nearly every political position within the gift of the people and have always been faithful to their trust.

By Mrs. Herman Schultz Mrs. Christian or Rosalie Dietert was a well educated woman, having finished—as it was called—at a girls' seminary at the University City of Jena, Germany. She was a small dark haired, and brown-eyed woman, weighing about 110 pounds, though what she lacked in size she made up in a charming and energetic personality. Coming to a new and unsettled country still over-run with Indians did not daunt her. She went to live with Mrs. Theo. Wiedenfeld near Comfort. Later she went to live with a Mrs. Ridley some miles west of Comfort where she began the study of the English language.

After her marriage with Mr. Christian Dietert she settled down in a small cabin in Comfort, to housekeeping with a skillet, a small dutch oven (which was a small round iron pot with three legs and a dented-in lid to hold live coals), and a brass kettle holding about one gallon, for cooking utensils. But they were enough for the little they had to cook in those days when they had to do the cooking on a fire outside their doors. Meat there was always plenty, venison, wild turkey, fish, occasionally bear, and later beef. In the beginning there were practically no vegetables. They made a salad of wild parsley and tea from a variety of the small prairie sage, and greens from the ”lamb's quarters" or ”land squatters.” Mrs. Gustave Dietert, my father's mother, brought some vegetable seeds when they came to Comfort in 1855. Among them were some German peas which did' exceptionally well here. Everyone wa.s anxious to get a few for a start. It is noteworthy to state that the strain of this hardy pea has been kept and planted year after year by members of our family to our present time.

Some one brought a handful of squash seed to the colony which was distributed among friends; the fruits of these were not relished at first, but they flourished amazingly, and there were few vegetables to choose from. They soon learned to cook then and make them palatable.

For coffee they used a mixture of cracked and parched post oak acorns, rye and wheat grains. Later coffee was brought from Mexico. The furniture was home-made of walnut and cherry wood. The decorating was up to the women. Her home was not long without homey decorations. For the bare windows she made curtains from widths of a voluminous skirt of those days which were the admiration of all her friends; a. wall basket that seemed to be a distinctive decoration of every pioneer home, to hold letters and patterns was a semi-circle foundation of stiffened cloth or paper and covered with a piece of material with cross-stitched flower design with colored wool thread; or a crochetted piece, or a velvet beaded piece, just whatever their store of treasure yielded. Mother was an expert at handiwork which she willingly taught others. Rugs were made of corn husks or plaited of worn-out trousers and coats. She also made lovely pieces of crochet for the dresser and table. Among her treasures from across the sea she brought a set of silver knives and forks and spoons and lovely linen table cloths. For their bed spreads they pieced and quilted the loveliest quilts, some of which can still be found in homes. Every spring the house got its inside and outside coat of white wash.

Once or twice a year a pattern package came from across the sea. This was always welcomed, for it contained all sorts of handiwork patterns and a large sheet with patterned lines running up and down and criss-cross, designating certain types of dress patterns. To me when I saw a last relic of one, they looked much like a road map of today. One of which shows paved, graveled, or all weather roads. They were eagerly sought after. Dangers of Indian raids were still prevalent, so visits between places were few. When they did visit, they went two, three, or four together on horseback and side saddles. Between the stretches of homes they went in a full gallop all the way. Horseback riding was one of mother's first accomplishments in the new country.

In about 1870 some cook stoves were brought west as far as San Antonio, one of which mother became the proud possessor. No more out-door cooking in all sorts of weather—a stove and a real oven to bake bread and cakes! Her recipes were gotten out, and all sorts of good things were made for holidays and birthdays. The favorites were stollen (loaf cake), pfeffernusse (spice cookies) and schnecken (a sweet dough rolled out flat and covered with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, currants and pecan meats. This was all rolled up, cut into slices and baked.) This recipe soon became very popular and was given to all who asked for it until it was used in most of the homes in Kerr county. Recently at a gathering I found a dish of schnecken and I asked about it. The maker said they were the ”Dietert Cookies." “My grandmother got the recipe from Mrs. Dietert. They are still our favorite cookies," she said. I had the pleasure of telling her that I was one of Mrs. Dietert's daughters. It may be of interest to add that mother used the popular sour dough for leavening for loaf cakes. They were set in a warm place to rise. For cookies eggs were used plentifully with lots of hard beating to incorporate air. As postmistress, mother learned to know everyone that came to Kerr county. Mrs. T. K. Carr once told me that when she came to Kerrville as a bride, her husband stopped to get his wail before going on to his ranch home near Harper, Texas. When mother learned that his bride was outside in the ”buckboard," she went out and brought the young Mrs. Carr into the house. It was a very cold wintery day and she had had nothing since they came through San Antonio. She said mother made her a cup of hot coffee and set a plate of schnecken before her. That was Mrs. Carr's introduction to Kerr county, an act she always remembered.

Mother played no musical instruments, but she had a sweet singing voice and taught her children many Lutheran church hymns. Most of the Christmas carols are still popular today. While frequently attending services in churches of other denominations, she remained true to her Lutheran faith to the end.
Much more on German Settlers in early Texas and Kerr County history here. Free search engine of 100s of Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine - Texas History and Frontier Genealogy written by those who lived it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Mega-Ranches of Early Texas

The famous King Ranch of south Texas was not the only "Mega-Ranch" in the early years of the booming Texas cattle industry.

Here is an article entitled Thumbnail History of the XIT Ranch - another of the early Texas monster ranches.

The XIT ranch in the 1880's was the largest ranch in the world under fence, and it all laid in the Texas Panhandle. Its three million acres sprawled from the old Yellow House headquarters near what is now Lubbock, Texas, northward to the Oklahoma Panhandle, in an irregular strip that was roughly about thirty miles wide. It covered portions of ten counties: Daliam, Hartley, Oldham, Deaf Smith, farmer, Castro, Palley, Lamb, Cochran and Hockley which has apparently helped perpetuate the mitt-belief that the brand— XIT—stands for "Ten In Texas." The brand, in fact, was originated to thwart rustlers; one of the two originators still lives and usually attends the Annual XIT Reunions.

XIT history is a triangle of superlatives. The XIT range was the largest in the world under fence. Texas, biggest state in the union, used it to pay for its red granite capitol, still the biggest state capitol on the North American continent. The Austin structure after more than a half century still houses the Lone Star state government, and as capitols go is second in size only to the one at Washington, D. C. In one respect it is even bigger than the U.S. capitol. Its dome stands seven feet higher.

The long lasso of time must drop back to 1875. The Lone Star government was getting cramped in its old capitol, and the Texas Constitutional convention set aside three million Panhandle acres with which to get a new capitol. Action dragged till fire destroyed the old capitol Nov. 9, 1881. Gov. Oran M. Roberts called a special legislative session. It struck a bargain with Charles B. and John V. Farwell, brothers of Chicago, under which they agreed to build a $3,000,000 capitol and accept the three million Panhandle acres in payment

Ground for the capitol was broken in.1882. By ox-power and specially- built railroad, Burnet county’s famous red granite was transported to Austin for the historic structure.

The Farwells borrowed money in England -to develop the ranch, and oil this fact probably was hung the one-time myth that the ranch belonged to Englishmen. The debt was liquidated in 1909.

In 1885 the first cattle, long of leg and horn, rolled onto the XIT. Thousands of hoofs drummed along the trail, and the Longhorns were pushed on to the No. 1 division headquarters at Buffalo Springs, 32 miles north of Dalhart, now easily available by modern highway. Once the ranch ran, 150.000 cattle.

The corrals, foreman's residence and bunk house had just been built at the Springs, and still stand, the oldest structures in Dallam county.

Ab Blocker, a South Texas trail driver, and B. H. (Barbecue) Campbell, first general manager of the ranch, who once ordered a carload of brown cigarette papers, squatted on their hoot heels and in the corral dust at Buffalo Springs figured out a brand that could be run with a straight iron and that rustlers could not successfully burn over. Blocker ran the first ‘XIT’ then and there.

Rustlers could never entirely circumvent Blocker and Campbell, but they did learn to make XIT into a Star Cross if the "T" was crossed crooked. Blocker still lives near Big Wells, Texas, and rides his horse into town daily.

For more than three decades the ranch has been slowly selling into smaller ranges and farms. But it was so vast that there still remain 350,000 acres, including the Buffalo Springs headquarters. These original holdings are in charge of the Capitol Freehold Land Trust, with Texas headquarters in Dalhart, and. the general headquarters in Chicago where heirs of the first owners are still in the saddle.

Roaming and living in the Southwest and many parts of the world, are old cowpunchers who once pounded leather and smelled six-gun smoke on the XIT. It is to honor these men and their families that the annual XIT Reunion is held. Fort Worth started it in 1936. The second reunion came to Dalhart, and former XIT cowhands, comprising the XIT Association, voted Dalhart the permanent reunion home. The latchstring on the XIT headquarters in Dalhart is always on the outside.
For more information on the early Texas mega-ranches, see also:
Ranch Founded by Richard King Becomes an Empire
The Yellow House Ranch
The Last of the Old Drovers
Ab Blocker and the XIT