Colorado County Biographies

CHARLES AUGUSTUS DITTMAN

by Randa Harrison Simmons

C. A. Dittman, as he was known in and around Alleyton, was born Nov 12, 1831 near Bochum, Germany. He is the son of August and Fredericke Borisch Dittmann and the grandson of Johann George and Anna Schmidten Dittmann. Being a non-militarist and wanting to avoid compulsory military service in the German Army, he escaped the Prussian Purge by dressing as a woman and stowing away on a sailing vessel headed for Brazil, South America. He landed there in 1848. In 1850 the 16 or 17 year old shipped on a clipper ship (square rig-sailing ship) for California to search for gold. He was part of the 1849 gold rush. Since all the good gold-mining stakes had been staked in the Sacramento Valley, Charles staked his in the Feather River Canyon at Dutch Waterhold. In 1856 he sold his claim to a mining syndicate for $50,000 cash. He had accumulated enough gold to purchase several Certificates of Deposit with the Wells Fargo Bank and to have many gold coins minted. Carrying some $60,000 in cash, many of which were the gold coins in money belts strapped to his waist, he traveled by stagecoach and wagon to El Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, Chicago, Illinois and finally to New York, 

In New York City he wanted to book passage back to Germany but was told by the German Consul that he would be arrested, fined and made to serve his two years compulsory military training in the German Army. Also, he had no passport or papers, having stowed away illegally and was told the German government would probably confiscate his funds and jail him. He learned of a German colony in Texas and booked passage to Old Indianola (this town was later destroyed by a hurricane in 1875). From there he made his way to Colorado County in 1856. By this time the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway (later called Southern Pacific Railroad) had been built from Harrisburg to Alleyton, so Mr. Dittman moved there in 1859. He opened a general store or trading post offering all lines of dry goods, groceries, lumber, furniture and plantation needs. He also acted as a cotton buyer. In 1861 Charles married his German sweetheart from Frelsburg,TX, Anna Pauline Hinkel. The young couple was frugal, business-like and ambitious. Their wealth and possessions multiplied and they acquired many acres of land in Colorado and Wharton Counties.

Mr Dittman tried to enlist in the Confederate Army in 1862 but was rejected due to his health and told he could best serve by continuing his trade with Mexico. Much of his property was taken for use by the Confederate Army. Since the Buffalo Bayou &  Brazos Railroad ended in Alleyton, Mr. Dittmann organized ox trains to pick up freight and move it westward. Many of his ox wagons carried cotton and hides out of Alleyton and flour, sugar coffee and other supplies back into town. He was involved in the building of the first flourmill in Texas in 1869, in Galveston.

On Aug 23,1867 Mr. Dittman became a naturalized American citizen. To him and Anna were born eleven children, including twins. However, the dreaded yellow fever, drowning and other serious illnesses took seven children, including one twin.

Seeking restoration for his own health, Mr. Dittman took his family to Carlsbad, Germany in 1892, but his health failed to improve, so they returned to Alleyton in 1893 where he died the same year and was buried in the Alleyton Cemetery in the Dittman Family Plot. The four children who survived to adulthood were two sons William and Henry who never married but stayed home to help their mother carry on the farming, ranching and business interests started by their father, and two daughters, Bertha, later known as Bettie( a twin) and Lucie. Bettie married Dr R Henry Harrison and they had three children: Anna Mae, Robert Dittman and William Henry. Lucie married Allin F. Mitchell and they had no children.

Much of the gold that Mr. Dittman brought from California was kept as cash reserve by himself and his heirs until, in 1932-33, the U.S. Government ordered all gold to be turned in. The two daughters surrendered more than $5,000 each of this old family gold treasure, keeping a few coins as heirlooms to pass on to their heirs. Most of the gold was in $20 gold pieces, minted in San Francisco, Ca in 1852 – 1854 and was valued at $36.80 each. Due to having been minted  “too fine” (the value sheet showed each $20. gold piece minted in the San Francisco Mint on these dates were minted “too fine”), the government only gave credit for $20.

Mr. Dittman joined a Mr. Roemerschoffer in financing the building of the first large flour mill in Texas at Galveston—the Texas Star Flour Mill. They milled and sold the most popular brand of flour called Tidal Wave. Mr. Roemerschoffer also came from Prussia. In 1871 Mr. Dittman loaned Mr. Roemerschoffer $100,000 to start this project. This loan was later reduced to $50,000. And the $50,000 remaining was transferred to a new mill being built at Atchison, Kansas and then to a Topeka mill, then to a Fort Worth, TX mill, then to a Wichita mill and then to an Amarillo mill. It was finally retired in 1929, having drawn interest for 58 years without losing a day at a rate of 10% down to 6%. This loan earned many thousands of dollars in interest.

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