Reminiscences of Colorado County

Reminiscences By Uncle Jim Holt.

Editor Mercury:

On the dividing ridge between the tributaries of the Sandies and the Navidad, about eight miles south of Weimar, near the old Woltersdorff homestead, one can get a good view of the surrounding country. In the early fifties in my barefoot days it often became my duty as a cow boy to visit this ridge on a little paint pony in search for the milk cows, and to drive them home when found. I also recall that in those days we came to this same spot and cut the grass for hay. Cut it by hand with an old time scythe blade, raked it by hand with a wooden rake--a rake perhaps, not unlike the one Maud Muller used when “she raked the meadow sweet with hay”--and then tossed it upon the wagon with a wooden fork. It was indeed a slow process of making hay, but we knew no better and ignorance you know is bliss.

Along the east side of the Navidad there were settled some eight or ten families, but standing on this spot only one house came with the visual angle and that was the home of the writer. It was a large double pen log-house with wide hall between the rooms, two shed rooms and pantry and a wide gallery facing the south. North of us there was no other houses nearer than Holman’s valley some fifteen or sixteen miles distant; a little northeast from us lived two brothers, Mose and William Townsend near the old Whittington place. Our home being situated midway between Columbus and Halletsville on the public road soon became famous as the stopping place for travelers and head-quarters for pioneer Methodist preachers.

In the early fifties there were but few cattle on this prairie, but quite a large number of wild horses or mustangs as they were called. There were thousands of deer, turkeys, prairie chickens, quails, and in winter ducks and geese. The jack rabbit came with the civil war. All the tributaries of the Sandies and the Navidad contained many deep and long pools of pellucid water which were stocked with a great variety of the finny tribe. With a hook and grasshopper for bait it required but a short time to catch a mess of toothsome fish. I remember while angling alone one day, I landed a big trout. I was so delighted with my prowess as a fisherman I threw down my tackle, picked up the trout and ran home to show it to my mother. It must have weighed 5 or 6 pounds. I was easily voted the Izaak Walton of the family.

In the early days it was a common thing to see at night in the winter fires on the prairie. Once getting a good start nothing could extinguish them except rain and heavy dew. The most noted as well as the most disastrous of these fires, occurred in 52 or 53. Walker Williford a bachelor, lived then near where J. M. Wadsworth lives now. He went over to Ben Force’s his neighbor, to borrow a chunk of fire, (matches were not in common use then) on his return home he unintentionally dropped a live coal in the grass, the wind soon fanned it into a flame; the fire spread rapidly reaching the Sandies on the east, the settlement on the Navidad on the west and then swooped this prairie northward to the bluff this side of La Grange. The creeks and the roads traversing the prairie did not in the least obstruct the swift movement of the fire.

If we should visit the spot today where we mowed the grass quite a different picture would be presented to the eye. On every hill top and vale we see standing cozy farm houses, capacious barns and laborsaving wind mills ever busy lifting water out of the ground for man and beast. Ride up to these houses and you will find the latch strings hanging out side. The proprietors and family greet you with real hospitality; you are shown over the premises; you find great big, fat porkers awaiting a norther to be slaughtered; graded or thorough bred Jerseys pouring out rich cream for the Weimar plant, improved hens industriously laying eggs for from 25 to 30 cents per dozen, a big drove of haughty gobblers strutting around with bowed necks, reminding an old soldier of so many sergeant majors on dress parade. Poor birds! you are not conscious of your proximity to Thanksgiving day.

Go into the residence proper and we find every comfort and convenience usually found in the home of a well-to-do city gentleman. We often find a half dozen or more healthy and intelligent children, and it does us good to watch the grateful and triumphant smile playing on the mothers face as she calls their names and tells you when they were born. There has been no dodging the stork here to avoid the cares of motherhood.

In the early fifties there was but one school in the country, now there are good schools accessible to every child in the country; then there was but one gin, the power was furnished by a yoke of oxen, its capacity 2 bales a day weighing from 300 to 400 lbs. and tied with a rope, now one of our gins can do thirty times as much work in a day and do it much better; then every body rode horse back, now they ride in buggies and automobiles; then our mail arrived weekly, now it is delivered to our doors six times a week, then we paid 10c to stamp a letter, now we pay 2 c; then the preacher stood in the pulpit and in a stentorian voice gave out two lines of the hymn and the whole congregation would join in singing, two more lines from the preacher and again the congregation would fairly make the welkin ring, and so on to the end of the hymn, now the pretty organist and half dozen other pretty girls stylishly dressed stand upon the rostrum and do the singing. Well I am saying nothing against the girls but their singing will never make an old time Methodist shout because he can not understand a word they say.

J. W. Holt

Weimar Mercury, December 9, 1910

One of the 49er
Early Columbus by James W. Holt

While rumaging through a lot of clippings from different newspapers we ran across the following. Although this piece is rather old it will no doubt prove of interest to some of the old timers of this city and community;, same being clipped from the Colorado Citizen of date of about four years back:
Weimar, Tex., May 11, ‘09.

EDITOR CITIZEN: I visited your beautiful city a few days ago. I like to visit Columbus; I like to mingle with her hospitable sons and pure minded daughters. Columbus was the Jerusalem of my barefoot days, and in my old age the pleasure I derive from viewing her silent, majestic old live oaks does not seem to have abated in the least. Without a doubt it is the prettiest town I have ever seen.

My first introduction to Columbus was in December, 1849.

Changes? Yes; many, many. But it would take volumes to recount half of them. Mr. J. A. Toliver and Mrs. Lessing are the only people living in Columbus now who were there in 1849. Our family--12 whites--lived in a two-room pin-oak board house just south of Mrs. Stafford’s boarding house for two or three weeks. The negroes, about the same in number, pitched their tents on adjacent lots. My stepfather, Mr. John Tooke, rented a farm of Col. Wallace north of the river, and there we made a crop in 1850. In the summer he sold the crop and moved to what was then known as the ''Navidad country,” two miles east of the present town of Oakland.

Of course, I do not remember all who lived in Columbus then, but recall the following Ira Harris and family lived on the bank of the river south of the artesian well; Isam Tooke and family in a two-story house (the lower story used for a store) west of Harris. The next house was a hotel kept by Dr. John D. Toliver. A Mr. Shannon ran a blacksmith shop just north of the artesian well. Tinkler, the surveyor, lived very near, if not on the same lot, where Felix Mahon lives now. Uncle Asa Townsend, with his wife and twelve children, lived on the George Little farm. By the by, when I was a boy I heard Uncle Asa say. "I'll be set fired if I can't feed twelve, just as easy as I can six."' Other old land marks were Asa Smith, Dewees-Wash Secrest, C. Windrow, Geo. W. Smith, Jones, Rivers, etc.

The little court house, a wooden structure, I think stood on the block east of the present Court house. I may be mistaken about this. In the spring of 1850 I remember attending Sunday School there, which was conducted by a Methodist preacher, by the name of Rottenstein--rather a peculiar name for a Methodist.

The school house stood on the bank of the river east of Mrs. Stafford’s hotel. A Mr. Holt was the teacher. Later in . the year a more commodious house was built for school purposes south of town and near the Jesse Johnson residence. The upper story of this building was owned by the Masonic fraternity. Here are the names of some of the pupils who attended that school: Tom and Joe Harris, Ben and Jim Toliver, Sam and Mary Nail, Newt and Jasper Cooper, Lumner, Mat and Hamp Townsend, Dock Peyton, Victoria and Cyntha McNeil, Jim and West Cherry, Peter Silvey, Mansfield Coffey, Fab Hutching, Bob, Ash and Texana Carter, Love, William and Bettie Tooke, Martha and Jim Holt. The last seven named had to cross the river in going to and from school. As a most and unexpected and thrilling incident occurred one morning while attempting to cross the river, I cannot forbear to relate it. Be, it remembered that the boat, the rope, the pulleys, in short, all appurtenances thereunto belonging, were anything but first class. Even the little ferryman, a cripple, was woefully deficient in muscular force. The river had risen several feet the night before, and when we drifted into the stronger current the little ferryman and the rope parted company and our vessel with its excited cargo began its journey to the sea. There is no use to relate that the children ran hither and thither over the boat and fairly rent the air with screams of distress. Fortunately every cloud has its silver lining. Just below us in a bend of the river some friendly willows extended their boughs toward us, which we all grasped and by united effort checked the boat. The late lamented John Carter came to our relief. He threw us a "life line," and we were soon on terra firma again, as happy as sunflowers. This little incident frightened the best mother in the world, and she never could be persuaded to believe that it was a good idea to cross a river every day in search of knowledge. 49ER, [James William Holt]

Weimar Mercury, October 24, 1913, page 2

Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray
Natt Holman

NATT HOLMAN, LaGrange, Texas—Born June 24, 1842, near San Phillipe, Texas. Enlisted in the Confederate Army in September, 1861, at LaGrange, Texas, as private in Company A, E. B. Nichols' Regiment. First Captain was Fred Tate. Was transferred to Terry's Rangers or Eighth Texas Cavalry, Company F, Captain, W. R. Jarman, and remained with the "Rangers" through the Bragg and Johnston campaigns and until we were surrendered in North Carolina.

Was wounded in the knee at Tuscumbia, Ala., in the right foot at LaGrange, Tenn., also slightly wounded on the head at Bentonville, N. C. These were all slight wounds and I remained on duty all the while.

Was in the campaign around Atlanta, Stone River, Averasboro, Bentonville, Holly Springs, Waynesboro, Ga.; Coffeeville, and dozens of other places too numerous to mention.

Yeary, Mamie. Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray. McGregor, Texas, 1912. Page 346.

Doc Owned First Auto In The County

On May 19, 1912, I saw my first automobile. It was on this day our brother Gus was born. Doctor J. H. Payne, who was our doctor, had delivered Gus. Dr. Payne was the owner of a brand new Maxwell two-cylinder roadster.

As I was busy examining the automobile, and the doctor was ready to return home, he asked me if I would ride with him and open a gate on the road back home. That was one opportunity I could not pass up, as this was my first ride in a car.

Later, in 1913, when I started school I walked through town, passing by the Zumwalt drug store. An automobile parked in front of his store had a tag with number one on it, fastened to the front of the car. Later I learned that this was the first automobile in Colorado County and when a person owned a car all he had to was go to the courthouse and ask for a number, which was given to him with instructions to make himself a plate with that number.

In February 1917 our family became the proud owners of a brand new Ford touring car. This car cost us $360.00 plus $35.60 for freight. When Dad went to get his number he received the number 636, so in five years cars became very popular as time passed.

It must have been in 1920 or 1921 when the state of Texas began issuing licenses and charging a fee for this service. I suppose we could call this progress.

Weimar Mercury, February 13, 1992, page 11

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