Old Times Renewed.
In answer to our inquiry as to who has lived here the longest, we have received the letters which appear below. We would like to hear from others. We will continue publishing these letters until about May 1st, 1915, at which time we will start the paper as agreed to in our former announcement. Who will be next?
Dear Sir:--I thought I would write you a few lines of olden times. I came to Texas in 1842. I was about three years old when my parents came to Texas. There were only a few settlers here at that time. We settled on the Colorado river, near Reels-bend. The country all around was a perfect wilderness, and the people had no houses to live in. They built cane houses, and these had dirt floors. It was several years before they could get timber. We had no bread and used deer meat for both bread and meat. We dried the deer meat which was used for bread. A small amount of bread was shipped in, and the people had to go great distances to meet the ship. This bread, was issued out according to the size of the family, and this proportion was so little that they could only get a few messes a week. We pulled through until we could clear land and raise something to eat. All the country west of Columbus was settled up by Indians, and they did many crimes around Columbus. Written by Cordelia Simmons
Editor Weimar Mercnry[sic],
Dear Sir:--I see by reading your paper, as I have done for many years, that you are asking for a letter from the person who has lived in Colorado county the longest. Will not say that I have lived here the longest, but can’t think of anyone else, just now, that has lived here longer than I have, so will mention a few things that happened since I have lived here. I moved to Colorado county in 1859 on the 19th day of January, and settled 10 miles south of Weimar on Sandies Creek, and lived on the same place for 51 years, then moved to Rock Island, and have lived here ever since. Before moving to Texas I lived in Alabama, was born on August 20th, 1835. There has been many changes since I moved here, more than a person of these days would think. There were lots of game of various kinds here then. I have stood in my yard and killed deer and wild turkey, have counted as many as 35 deer in one heard[sic]. When I moved here the country from here to the bay was an open range for stock, and now the most of it is in farms and scarcely no open range at all. Many are the improvements and changes in this county since that time.
M. G. Flournoy,
Rock Island, Texas.
Weimar Mercury, April 16, 1915
Weimar, Tex., Apr. 23, 1915
My father, Wm. Stapleton moved to Texas from Florida in fall of 1837; landed at Matagorda; lived there until spring, where I was born, April 12, 1838. Went [to] La Grange; lived there until Dececember, 1838, and settled at Borden. Bought 320 acres of land from Asa Townsend at 9 cents per acre on credit. There were only three or four little log cabins where Columbus now is. The year after father's first crop, he would take his corn to La Grange to be ground. He had a little black Spanish mule. He would put his corn on him and take his gun and walk and lead him and get back home the next day. Our house was the only one between Columbus and La Grange. My father had one yoke of oxen. One of them died and he broke his land with one ox and a big white Spanish cow. After awhile we got hold of a hand mill, and ground our meal at home. Father could do any kind of work--made all of our tools, harness, plows, collars, molasses mill and everything. He made a little hand cotton gin, and we would gin cotton to make our clothes. Made a loom to weave our cloth. I was 7 or 8 years old before I had my first pants. Would wear long shirt. He tanned his hides at home and made our shoes. We would have one pair every winter, and we were proud to get them. There were lots of mustangs (horses) and the woods were full of wild cattle. We would kill them too keep them away from our cattle. All kinds of game was plentiful then. We had to keep a big pack of dogs to keep varmints away, and we killed deer to feed them on. Nine dollars was a big price for a 5 year old beef in those days. By the time I was 14 years old the country was begining to settle up, and my father, John Suggs, George Guinn and Milton Lee built a little log school house near the tank in Harbert's pasture, and I went to school the best part of three months. Mrs. Cordelia Simmons is the only one of my old schoolmates that I know of, that is now living. I well remember the first box of matches that I ever saw. Father sent my brother John, the oldest child, to Houston after a load of blacksmith iron, and he got a box of matches and brought them home. They were a great curiosity to us. The first cook stove I ever saw a man named Garrett brought it out here from Louisiana and and[sic] my father bought it. I could tell lots about my boyhood days--fishing, hunting running wild horses and cattle-- but would take up too much space. The Indians made several raids in these days, stealing horses, and killed some people at Lyonsville; captured Warren Lyons about 4 years old. He (Warren) was at our house lots of times after his return home. Father was with a crowd of men that killed an Indian northeast of Weimar, near the McLeary place. The war coming on in 1861, I joined Shropshire’s company to be mustered in at Oakland, but on account of a crippled knee they refused to take me, having hurt it when gathering cattle, a horse falling on me. After my recovery Bill Strait and myself went to Matagorda county and joined Brown's company, Bates’ Calvary regiment, stationed at Velasco. Afterwards dismounted and transferred to heavy artillery Company C, William Hunt captain. Have been a citizen of Colorado county all of my life except about twelve years spent in Waller county, Texas and I expect to spend the balance of my life here. Was 77 years old April 12, 1915.
Very truly yours,
Weimar Mercury, April 30, 1915
Mr. J. W. Holt, An “Old Timer”, In a Letter to The Mercury, Tells of Many Interesting Events During the Early Days in Texas
Below we publish another “Old Timer” letter, written by Prof. J. W. Holt, who tells many interesting events that happened during the early days here in Texas. I hope to be able to print several more of these letters before the time expires, June 1st.
Weimar, May 1, 1915
To the Mercury:
The letter from “Old Timer” Stapleton in the last issue of the Mercury was to me full of interest from start to finish. I was sorry when he laid his pen down. I have promised to write of old times, and if I succeed in entertaining your readers as well as my old comrade’s letter did me, I shall feel amply rewarded for my effort. I came from Georgia with my step-father, John Tooke, who was at the head of a large family of his own, besides he had the care of younger brothers. We reached Columbus, Colorado county in December, 1949. We rented a farm just north of Columbus of Colonel Wallace and made a crop of corn and cotton. In the summer we sold the crop to Wallace and moved west to the Navidad Settlement and bought land lying about two miles east of where Oakland now stands. Here on the banks of Thompson’s Creek, a tributary of the Navidad, we build our cabins.
At that time, 1850, had you taken Oakland as a center and a radius of four miles described a semicircle on the east bank of the Navidad and then counted the white families within that semicircle you would have found just ten. They were as follows: O. B. Crenshaw’s, G. T. Holman’s, Caylop Joiner’s, T. J. Henderson’s, Henry Terrell’s, Stape Townsend’s, Benjamin Force’s, Sam Berry’s, John Tooke’s, and Dr. J. Duff Brown’s. All of these people were from the oldest Southern States and with one exception all owned negro slaves. The ratio of whites to blacks was approximately, as 2 is to 3. All whose names I have mentioned, their wives and a very, very great majority of their immediate descendants have long since crossed over the River.
In writing that these early settlers lived in log cabins, on dirt floors and ground their corn at home on steel hand-mills, it must not be inferred that they were indigent and thriftless. On the contrary, many of them were well to do, --owning many negroes, large tracts of rich land, cattle, horses and sheep. They built log houses because there were no saw mills in the country and consequently no lumber. As a rule the Old Timers were intelligent and progressive. They did not delay building a church and school house and monthly have the preacher come up from Columbus and preach; everybody in the vicinity went to hear him. The fact is, he had bigger congregations then than the preacher of to-day has in Weimar
There were no free schools, but we had what was called “Subscription” schools. Each parent or guardian agreed to pay for the number of pupils he subscribed. Of course, there were good teachers and poor teacher then just as there are now. The first teacher employed was a little, ill-tempered, near sighted yankee. Why our parents gave him the school has always been a mystery. He was, however, expert at making goose quill pens which were in use at the time; this skill alone perhaps won for him the school. Everett Lewis came in ‘52 or ‘53. He was a handsome man and dressed neatly; he had a soft, musical voice and spoke kindly to the children, who loved him in return. He went to Gonzales, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. After the Civil War he became judge of this, the 25th district, and served eight years. In ‘55 came Sam Cooper, the last teacher to this old school house. He was a bald headed old bachelor. As a teacher I can’t better describe him than by saying he was a live wire. Under his management the school grew--if I may use the express--grew by metes and bounds. Pupils from distant neighborhoods came and got board and attended school. This was the year your old time correspondent, Mrs. Cordelia Simmons, and two of her neighbor girls, pretty twin sisters, Mary and Martha Townsend came to our house where they obtained board and went to school. The people were so wrought up that everybody talked of schools. At the close of the session we had an examination and exhibition, a big barbecue and a brass band from Hallettsville to help us out.
The old pioneers were deprived of many conveniences, of course. There was but one gin in the county and it had a capacity of only about two bales a day. When the cotton was prepared for market it had to be transported on ox-wagons to Houston, Texana or Port Lavaca. To do this required a long time. There was no market for chickens, eggs, butter, honey, etc. There were no buggies; horse back was the only means of transportation.
But I must not forget to tell you that in the middle 50’s two fine carriages were introduced into the colony. They were the property of a brother and a widowed sister. They were built on the style of the old stage coach, with folding steps on the sides, a booth for baggage at the rear, and a seat in front on the outside for the driver. The cost of these vehicles probably was $1000, or $1200 each, the pair of mules or horses that pulled them say $400. The colored gentleman in livery who held the rains[sic] over the team was worth $1200. Now this was going some, wasn’t it? For style it was making the jitneys of today hard to catch.
One more word. There is an accomplished little school marm living in the west end of this county whose grandmother when a girl used to ride with her mother in one of these carriages.
J. W. Holt
Weimar Mercury, May 14, 1915