Reminiscences of Colorado County

- Columbus -


Now Columbus Has Improved Since Early Days--Now a Beautiful Little City—The Wonderful Resources of Colorado County—A Church Revival Shakes Up the Wayward
(Special Correspondence Galveston Tribune)

Columbus, Colorado County, Tex., Nov. 24.--It has been about 17 years since The Tribune correspondent first visited Columbus, and it would be a difficult matter to convey to the reader the transformation that has taken place during these 17 years. Then it was a “shanty" town, in its truest sense. Now I behold a lovely little city of nearly 3000 inhabitants, with all modern improvements, electric lights, city water works, beautiful brick business houses, an opera house of brick with a seating capacity of nearly 800, with a sixty-foot stage, lighted with gas generated by the opera house managers, with the latest Improved scenery, and a new brick court house and jail, costing $68,000, the court house building being of beautiful design, having a tower upon which is located a clock, the clear, silvery tones of the bell being easily heard in all portions of the place announcing the hours as they noiselessly come and go.

The tourist may travel over the entire state of Texas, and when Columbus is reached the verdict will be that nowhere has there been found a more beautiful place. With its wide streets and large oak trees, the stranger will involuntarily exclaim, "What lovely trees, what wide streets," and go away calling it the "City of Oaks." The stranger coming here, regardless of whether he is from the north, east, west or south, with a clean record, will find a hearty welcome to the homes of the best citizens, and will be made to feel that these large, beautiful oaks but mildly typify the largeness of the hearts of these people. The citizens of Columbus have a reputation for hospitality second to no city in the state, and it is only necessary, for them to know that their kindness and hospitality are being extended to those deserving it, and then it knows no bounds.

Without wishing to reflect on any one, this correspondent will remark that the boys now growing up are not quite as bad as were the boys of 17 years ago, and this state of affairs is accounted for in part because the boys away back then are now en and have seen the folly of many of their ways and taught their boys to “look shust a leedle out.”

An incident I recall. A protracted meeting was in progress at the Baptist church, the preaching being done by a Baptist minister by the name of Hillyer from Georgia. This correspondent had been requested to aid in conducting the musical feature of the evening meeting. Elder Hillyer and the correspondent were being entertained at the hospitable home of Mr. George Little, who lived about one mile from town. One night at the meeting Mr. Hillyer had occasion to reprimand some of the young men in the audience. Services over, the congregation dispersed, the correspondent and his wife returning to the Little residence without incident. Hardly had we reached the house, which was several hundred yards from the big pasture gate, when the loud reports of shot guns were heard near the pasture gate.

A voice was heard in great agony, “Oh! I'm shot! Lordy! Lordy! Lordy!” Mr. Little and wife had been awakened by the reports of the guns, and we were soon all on the front gallery wondering what was the matter, when suddenly appeared Bro. Hillyer, coming up from the bank of the river, near the rear of the residence. He sat down on the steps, and it was some minutes before he could speak. When he did recover, in a tremulous voice, with now and then a hitch, he tried to explain to us how he came very near being shot to death by parties unknown.

It was afterward learned that the boys had it in for the preacher for his public reprimand, and followed him from church and hid near the big gate, and had a negro man to catch up with and accompany him as far as the gate, and it was just as the gate was opened and the preacher passed in that the signal was given, so I afterward learned, and the discharge of the guns occurred and the negro began to yell that he was shot, etc., and it is said that during that dark night the elder's coat tail stood out to "windward" to such an extent that a fellow could have played marbles on it.

Of course, the boys discharged the guns in the air, but the preacher said he felt the bullets whistle all around him. The negro man still lives near town, but the boys who did the shooting that night were like the populists after the late election, "they could not be identified.”

While the water works plant is owned by the city, Messrs. Towell & Shaw are the lessees, and besides these enterprises these gentlemen own and operate the steam gin, electric light plant, and also a mill for grinding grain, and their management is giving perfect satisfaction to the citizens. Through the kindness of Mr. Towell, the correspondent was shown through the establishment.

Columbus has two first-class banking institutions, with ample capital. The Simpson bank, established in 1873, is under the management of Miss E. J. Simpson, the only lady bank president in the state; Friench Simpson, vice president; Carey Shaw, cashier, and Mr. W. H. Brooks, assistant cashier. The banking house of Messrs. R. E. Stafford & Co., is managed by Mrs. Sarah Stafford, with Messrs. Ike P. Pryor, cashier, and A. M. Waugh, assistant cashier. In this connection it, may be said that in the untimely death of Mr. R. E.. Stafford, a few years ago, the city ot Columbus lost a citizen that had contributed in a great degree to the success and prosperity of this city and section, and hundreds of persons mourn the loss of a man who had been a friend to them, in more ways than one.

Mr. W Littlefield, the accommodating representative of the Southern Pacific at this place, is held in high esteem by the citizens here.

The court house is a brick structure of wonderful beauty and symmetry, located in the center of a block of ground in the heart of the city. The following are the court house officers, who will serve the city and county until the next election: District judge, M. Kennon; district attorney, S. L. Green; district clerk, Lee C. Ayars; justice of the peace, R. E. Farmer; constable, L. S. Hope. The following gentlemen were reelected to their respective offices: J. J. Harrison, clerk; W. 1E. Bridge, collector; H. Byars, assessor; S. H. Reese, sheriff; J. J. Mansfield was elected county judge and A. A. Gregory county attorney, with Joseph Burttschell treasurer. The following gentlemen have been selected by the people to act as commissioners for the county: W. A. Van Alstyne, Weimar; J. P. Anderson, Eagle Lake; John Hastedt, Frelsburg; William Schoellmann, Nada.

Mr. O. R. Schultz, assistant ticket agent of the Southern Pacific, is a clever fellow, always ready to answer all questions concerning his road.

The city officers are as follows: Mayor, T. R. Elrod; J. W. Munson, city attorney; Charles Ramsey, city treasurer and collector; B. L. Smith, city marshal.

The Columbus Citizen and Columbus Light are the two weekly papers published here, and have done a great deal toward building up this city and section of the state. The former is published by Mr. Ben M. Baker, and the latter by Mr. J. J. Trammel.

Mr. Fred James is the courteous and painstaking manager of the Colorado abstract company, and Mr. Ike T. Pryor is president of the Colorado land and cattle company.

The two artesian wells, one located on the west bank of the Colorado river and the other at the electric light house furnish water in abundance. The one at the river, besides flowing water, emits a considerable amount of natural gas. By striking a match the gas will bunt a considerable length of time where the water flows from the pipe.

Besides the opera house there are two amusement halls, owned by Messrs. Brunson and Ilse.

Mr. Roy C. Oakes, chief deputy under Collector Bridge, placed this corespondent under many obligations, and any facts concerning Columbus or the county will be cheerfully given by him on application.

The brass and string hand of Columbus is an up-to-date institution and is frequently called upon to furnish music for picnics, barbecues, etc. The band is composed of German citizens, and the Germans are noted the world over for their accomplishments in this line.

Columbus is only three miles from Alleyton, 15 from Eagle Lake, 15 from Weimar and 30 from LaGrange, all reached by the Southern Pacific.

Colorado is one of the original counties of the state, and one of best, ranking about third as to capacity in the production of cotton. It is bounded on the north by the counties of Austin and Fayette on the west by Lavaca and Fayette, on the south by Wharton, and on the east by Wharton and Fort Bend, and is located about a quarter degree below latitude 30. This county is about 75 or 80 miles from the gulf coast, and is divided nearly centrally by the Colorado river. It was settled in the early history of the state, and there yet remain within its confines a few hardy veterans who fought and encountered hardships for the independence of Texas, enjoying peace, health and plenty, and the great satisfaction and quiet content arising from the knowledge that they assisted in introducing to civilization such a grand empire as Texas with its present improved condition, its progressive march and thousands of comfortable homes and industrious citizenship. When these grand patriots cast their fortunes in the wilderness of Texas in early days, established homes. repelled the Indians, instituted governments, later participated in the war which culminated in a grand victory at San Jacinto, they "builded better than they knew. “ They ushered into being and to civilization the grandest domain now constituting a part of the United States, and prepared the way for comfortable homes for thousands of their fellows in the older states.

The face ot the country is approximately level, with sufficient undulation for a natural drainage, so that there are but few lagoons or stagnant pools of water in the county, consequently the people are healthy and robust and generally free from miasmatic diseases. The first settlement of this county was commenced as early as 1822 at Atacasa Sita, a crossing of the river, just below this city, and including among the number of emigrants Leander Beason, William Alley, Ross Alley, Jesse Burnham, W. D. Dewees, J. W E. Wallis, Thomas Burns, Peter and John Tomlinson. These settlements were augmented in 1831 by William G. Hunt, now a resident of this city, John Matthews, the Montgomerys, Dillard Cooper and others.

Colorado county has quite a variety of soils, consisting of light sandy, black sandy, black waxy, hog wallow, prairie, the gray shell lands of the prairie, and the rich, alluvial soil of the river bottom. These soils are all productive, yielding a rich return for the labors of the husbandman in good season under proper tillage. Bordering the Colorado river there is much alluvial bottom, the accumulation of bygone ages from the sediments of the river, brought from the mountainous regions at its head and from its banks and at intervening places. These comprise the choicest, lands in the County, are very rich and productive, and well adapted to the culture of cotton, corn, sugar cane, oats, melons, pumpkins, peas, vegetables of all kinds and the finest fruit in the world. The depth of the soil is from 10 to 20 feet, and some of it in cultivation for 50 years, without fertilizers, shows no sign of loss of strength or capacity to produce bountiful crops.

Although there is a great deal of prairie land in this county, there is an abundance of timber for building and fencing purposes, consisting of live oak, pin oak, post oak, water oak, other oaks, black jack, hickory, walnut, pecan, cotton wood, cypress, willow, sycamore, elm, ash, mulberry, hackberry, wild china, wild peach, holly, pine and many other varieties. Many of these woods are suitable for the manufacture of the finest furniture, gin stands, hay presses, side boards, wagons, plow stocks, ax and hoe handles, buckets, brooms, fence and other posts, and all modern wooden vessels used in the households.

Grapes in many varieties flourish and bear luxuriantly. The mustang grape is indigenous to the soil and grows in a wild state to huge proportions, the vines often being found in the bottoms from six to ten inches in diameter, and have frequently been used for fence rails. Physicians make a good, dark, claret colored wine, often used as a tonic. There are several vineyards in the county, and wine making is a business bringing in a considerable revenue. Home manufactured wines meet with a ready sale at from $2.50 to $4.00 per gallon.

There are several prominent lakes in the county, among them Eagle Lake, Adkin's Lake, Miller's Lake. The health of the county is good. Grazing for all kinds of stock in the county is good, and many fat beeves go from here to market.

Weimar Mercury, December 5, 1896, page 7

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