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History of Bee County - Early History
Bee County Family
|History of Bee County from Bee County
Rising in Karnes County, emptying into the Mission River, the Media Creek was so named by the Spaniards about 1800 because of its midway position between the San Antonio and Nueces Rivers. It was crossed by explorers, padres, soldiers and settlers who traveled on early ox-cart roads that led from Mexico to Mission La Bahia at Goliad. The Cart War of 1857, between Texas and Mexican teamsters on the freight route between San Antonio and Gulf ports, originated along San Patricia Road, southernmost of the three roads. Mexican cart drivers used mesquite beams as feed for their teams, starting the mesquite brush which thrives along the creek.
were attracted here by the tall grass along the creek bottom and many veterans
of the Texas Revolution were given bounty lands in the area. The first post
office in Bee County was established in 1857 at Media Hill, a pioneer downcreek
settlement. In 1909, the town of Candlish was founded within 50 feet of the
original Media Hill location, with a hotel, general store and school. The store
dosed and Candlish became a ghost town. Fossil beds on the Media and Blanco
creeks, in 1938-39, yielded 1,000,000-year old fossils of a new mastodon
species (named Buckner’s Mastodon), rhinoceros, elephants, alligators, camels
and three-toed horses.
Many have wondered why the early Irish immigrants left Ireland, Patrick Burke, Jr., in his autobiography, referred to the “hardy and noble pioneers” who came from “oppressed Ireland.” The August 1958 issue of American Heritage quoted portions of a new book “The Coming of the Green”, by Leonard Patrick O’Connor Wibberley, which told of the severe conditions of oppression in Ireland:
At the beginning of the 19th century, Ireland had been united with England by an Act of Union, which dissolved the Irish Parliament and deprived the Irish of what little self-government they had enjoyed. Rebellions failed to shake off England’s control. The land was owned by foreign landlords whose system was to rent small acreages to the landless so that the landlord was certain of his rents, while the tenant could be utterly destroyed by one crop failure. If the tenant did well, the landlord raised the rent. If the tenant objected, he was evicted, as he had few rights under the law and could get no one to represent him in those he did possess.
With 20 or 30 tenants forced to share a farm that previously had supported one farmer with his family, the plots were so small that they could not live on the produce from them. The Irish tenant farmer would plant potatoes in the early spring (it was a crop that looked after itself), then turn his wife and children out on the road to beg. He himself would go to England to search for work, as there was none for him in Ireland. If work was not found, he too would become a beggar. In autumn he returned to his plot, harvested the potatoes, and used those and whatever money the family had managed to gather in the summer months to try to get through the desolation of winter until the cycle could begin again. Homes in Ireland were made of boards and turf. If he managed to get a little pig to fatten on potato peelings, or a hen or two, the animals would share the turf house with him and his family, as there was nowhere else to put livestock.
Many kinsmen had gone to America in earlier times, some as indentured servants, bound to another man for a number of years, after which they would be free in the new land to make their own fortune. A letter from America would excite a whole Irish village. Someone would have to be found who could read the letter because Irish Catholics had been forbidden schooling for nearly a hundred years.
The letter writer would declare that schools in America were free for everyone, and they could see he was learning to write. Also, he wrote “we eat everyday like we would in Ireland at Christmas”, and that anyone might speak what was on his mind, without fear. If a man would work, he would never need go hungry. In almost every case, the letter expressed the hope that family members would come to America some day. A little money might be enclosed toward the fare of a brother, a father or a mother. The letters, combined with the increasingly miserable conditions in Ireland, moved hundreds, then thousands of Irishmen and their families to emigrate to the new land.
Hefferman and Burke families, earliest settlers in what is now Bee County, came
from Tipperary County in the southern part of Ireland. That county is bounded
on the west by Limerick and Cork Counties, and on the east by Kilkenny County.
Tipperary County is near the Atlantic ocean, being separated at one point by
only about 10 miles across Waterford County, which bounds Tipperary County on
The First Settlers [BCFH-T1]
Eager to colonize the area, McGloin and McMullen went to New York City in the summer of 1829 and conferred with many Irish immigrants who had recently arrived. Two ships, the Aibion and the New Packet, were
loaded and set sail for Texas. The Albion, according to the captain, Thomas Duehart, mistakenly landed at Matagorda instead of the Port of Copano. The New Packet brought his passengers to the Port of Aransas (now known as Copano).
Research by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. William H. Oberste (for his book “Texas Irish Empresarios and Their Colonies”) reveals that the following families arrived on the brig New Packet with John McMullen, for the purpose of becoming colonists on the Nueces River; D. Henry Doyle, priest; James Browne, single; John Carzol(?) and wife; John Hefferman, wife and four children; Patrick Hayes, single; Jeremiah Toole, wife and four children; John Gonly (Conley), single; James Quinn, wife and three children; Thomas MacMiley, single; Margaret Quinn, single; James Brune (Brown), single; Patrick Kavlagun(?), wife and three children; Bernard Candey (Candy), single; and Thomas Gierren (Geran?) and wife.
The report shows that the following families arrived on the Albion: James Magloin (McGloin), Empresario, his wife and six children and one servant girl; Thomas Henry, wife and four children; Patrick McGloin, wife and child; Patrick McGloin and wife; John Lamb and wife; James Keveny and wife; Felix Hart, wife and three children; the widow Hart, one son and one daughter; Pedro de Oro, wife and two children; William Ryan, wife and child; William Wallace, wife and five children: John Scott, wife and six children; Patrick Brennan, wife and son; James O’Connor, wife and three children; William Quinn, wife and two children; Peter McCan, wife and sons; Patrick Neven and wife; and Dionysio McGowan, wife and five children; and the following single persons: Doctor Cullen, Marcos Kelly, John McGloin, John Faddin, Joseph Coleman, William Quinn and Martin McGloin. (The report was signed by Marian Cosio, Matagorda, October 31, 1829).
Father Oberste said another list of persons aboard the Albion was evidently one presented to the Vice-Consul of Mexico at New York by James McGloin on making arrangements to transport the colonists to Texas. This list showed some discrepancies and also some additional names. The list as follows: Edward McGloin and family, Thomas Hennesy and family, John Lamb and family, William Quinn and family, Phelia Hart and family, John Scott and family, James Keveny and family, Dionysio McGowan and daughter, Patrick McGloin and family, William Ryan and family, James O’Connor and family, John (Charles) Gillan and family, Patrick Brennan and family, Patrick Boyle and family, William Wallace and family, Mark Kely (single) and Patrick Golden and family. (This list was signed by V. Obregon, New York, September 2, 1829). The schooner Albion made two other trips to New York City to bring additional colonists to San Patricia — on December 31,1829 and in March 1830.
Under their contract with the Mexican government, the new citizens of Texas were required to bring enough supplies, including arms and ammunition, to last them two years. They had to make a paste of cactus roots for axle grease to lubricate the axles of the rickety and screeching old carts furnished by the government. Upon landing at company, the colonists’ bedding, clothing, foodstuffs, cooking utensils, arms, ammunition, axes, spades and farming equipment were stacked in individual piles on land high enough above the water’s (page 3) edge to protect the property from the tides. Many of San Patricio colonist camped at the ruins of the Mission near Refugio until they could proceed to San Patricio to lay claim to their respective land grants issued by the Mexican government.
Each colonist received from the Mexican government 10 milk cows, one cart and a yoke of oxen. A garrison of soldiers were sent to protect the settlers from hostile Indians. However, the untrained soldiers were so lazy, and also cowardly when it came to resisting Indian raids, that they proved to be more of a nuisance than a benefit.
The first people to settle in the area that became Bee County were Jeremiah O'Toole, James Brown, Patrick Hayes, Patrick O’Boyle, James O’Connor, Felix Hart, William Quinn, the Widow Hart, and their families. They settled near Papalote and Aransas creeks.
Another schooner, the Messenger, brought Mrs. Ann Burke and other colonists. The voyage took three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They landed at Copano Bay on May 16, 1834. During the voyage, cholera broke out. Mrs. Burke, Mrs. Mary Carroll and Patrick Carroll lost their mates during the epidemic and the bodies were buried at sea. (In later years Mrs. Burke married Patrick Carroll, and this couple and their son, Patrick Burke, Jr., donated 150 acres of land for the townsite of Beeville (on the Poesta). This group joined the families of James Hefferman and Simon Dwyer, traveling by ox carts to choose their lands at San Patricio. They selected their lands along the Poesta (meaning moss creek).
The first homes erected by the settlers were simple affairs. They were made of straight poles standing side by side, the cracks filled with grass or moss. The dirt floor was covered with white sand from the creek beds, and the roof was made of split boards cut from big trees. Chimneys were built of sticks and moss, plastered inside to make them fireproof and outside to protect them from the weather. Plaster was made of clay, with moss which had been boiled to make it black and durable for the filling or foundation.
Later homes were log cabins, the logs hewed so they would fit at the corners of the room or house. Then the men learned to make floors of boards split straight with the grain of the wood, using a sharp ax and dressing the top side down until the floor was smooth. The door was a half-door, although sometimes it was built to the top of the structure. A corn crib and smokehouse was added and a rail fence was built around the site. If a home was away from a running stream, a well was dug, a square box built around it to keep people from falling in. A pulley with two oaken buckets hung in the well. If the home was near a running stream, water was obtained from the stream. Sometimes during dry spells, the stream stopped flowing. A shallow hole was dug where rocks were found in the creek bed and cool spring water obtained.
When conditions became better, with the enemy driven back, people began to build houses with rock duc from the ground on the rocky hills. These rocks were moist, and easy to cut when taken from the earth. They were sawed into squares and left in the sun to dry and harden before being built into a house. The first houses made of lumber were erected about 1845. The material was brought here by ox teams from St. Mary’s, a town on Copano Bay.
The Hefferman Families
Two of the families arriving to colonize this area were the Hefferman families (the name was originally spelled “Heffernan”). In late 1834 or early 1835, these families settled at San Patricia and near Refugio, as well as in the territory now known as Bee County.
The James Hefferman family settled on 4,605 acres of land located on the east bank of the Poesta Creek on the side where the city of Beeville was later built. His brother, John, and family located his headright at San Patricia. The families lived a more or less precarious existence for the next five or six years, in constant dread of Indians and Mexicans. Of necessity, they practiced the “live at home” concept, growing everything with the exception possibly of sugar and coffee. These supplies, together with such luxuries as furniture and the like, were brought from the boat landing at old St. Mary’s by ox teams. In 1836 the settlers became involved in the war with Mexico, and their troubles increased. Mary Hefferman, daughter of John Hefferman who located at San Patricia, gave an account of a massacre by the Indians and Mexicans on the ground where Beeville now stands. This is the story told in her own words:
“My uncle, James Hefferman, still lived on the Poesta when the war broke out. My father’s family lived at San Patricia. My father and a cousin, John Ryan, went to James Hefferman to assist him in laying his crop, so they all could join General Fannin’s command at Goliad. The day before they finished plowing, they were attacked by Mexicans and Indians in the field while at work, and all were killed (including John Hefferman and John Ryan). The Indians then went to the house and killed the family of James Hefferman, which consisted of his wife and five children.
“The first intimation of the sad fate that had befallen these early settlers was received by relatives and friends at San Patricia when they found at their cowpen one morning the cows of James Hefferman, which he had taken from there to his home on the Poesta. This aroused the suspicion of the family, who at once sent their boys to find out what the trouble was. On coming to the site of the settlement and seeing no one, they returned to San Patricia and reported no one at home. Then a party of men went to investigate. They found the men dead in the field. They had been dead several days. The body of the eldest son of James Hefferman was lying between the field and the house, while the bodies of Mrs. Hefferman and the four younger children were found at the house. The remains were collected and placed in one large box and were buried near the scene of the murder, although the exact spot cannot be located. The calves of the cows which returned to San Patricia were dead in the pens, the only living thing on the place being a little dog.
“The field where the men were killed was located on the spot now occupied by the courthouse, while the house and pens were west of that location, about where the old Whitehead home formerly stood. The site is now occupied by the Mexican school.”
Mary Hefferman became heir to the land grant of her uncle, as well as the headright of her father at San Patricia. Hefferman Street in Beeville was named in memory of this family. Mrs. John Hefferman and her family continued to live in San Patricia until after the Battle of San Jacinto, when Gen. Sam Houston ordered all settlers on the frontier of Mexico to
either go east or into Mexico. Mrs. Hefferman, with the rest of her family, went east, locating at Brazoria, where her daughter, Mary, married Hiram Riggs in 1838. They were the parents of nine children, same of whose descendants still live here. Later they moved to Goliad, where Mr. Riggs engaged in the mercantile business until his death in 1855. Mary Hefferman Riggs died there in 1903 at the age of 82 years. Burial was in the old Bayview Cemetery in Corpus Christi.
Ann Burke Carroll
Ann Burke left County Tipperary, Ireland, with her husband, Pat(?) Burke, in 1834 to settle in a new land, a remote northern province of Mexico called Texas. She was with child for the first time, but having her husband with her gave some measure of security. She thought she would arrive in plenty of time to make ready for the birth even though now it kicked and squirmed within her, seeming as eager for its arrival into its new world as she was into hers.
The three-masted schooner plowed its way over the Atlantic creaking and swaying as it sailed a relatively straight course, despite the changing winds. This new world they were now approaching was discovered by Columbus 342 years ago, but for the Irish this did not seem long. Many of the ruins of the abbeys and the round towers in Ireland, the latter to preserve the sacred vessels and the women and children from the Danes, antedated the New World by centuries.
Ann’s husband was of Norman descent. After William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066, the Normans invaded Ireland the following century (1169). The Normans were gradually absorbed by the more advanced, ancient Irish culture. The name Burke is derived from the Norman name De Burgo, an important name in the annals of Ireland. So much so did they become a part of the Irish heritage that the name Burke has been considered an Irish name for eight centuries.
These Tipperary colonists were leaving the Old World behind. A certain thrill came from being on the water; the salt air was relaxing; and the view of the horizon in all directions was novel. Their spirit of adventure was satisfied as they sailed to an unknown land. However, there was another side to the coin. Willing as they were to put up with the inconveniences of the voyage, sometimes it was almost mare than they could bear; the crowded ship, sleeping in the stifling hold of the schooner, no sanitary facilities, meager meals cooked an the ship, the scarcity of freshwater, and sickness among the passengers, many of whom suffered from malnutrition which made them susceptible to disease. Tuberculosis was rampant in Ireland on account of the famine and the cool, humid climate. No doubt there were many with it an the ship.
All Ann could cling to was the hope of a free life; this vision she must hold before her to bear the three-month voyage. She kept repeating to herself, “to be free we must endure; to own land we must work to take it, and trust in Saint Patrick to make the promises of land a reality.” Resigned to live from day to day, she quoted to herself what her grandmother used to say, “One never knows what the morrow will bring. So be prepared.”
It is not known just when, but sometime after their departure, Ann had another test of her faith. Her husband sickened and died; but
not without the last sacrament, for Father T.J. Molloy was aboard the vessel bringing his Fadden nieces and nephews from County Mayo. Prayers were said as the body of her husband, well wound in a burial sheet, lay on a plank on the deck. Some of the crew lifted the plank to the side of the schooner, tilted it on the edge; the body slipped off. A splash was heard and the ocean became his grave. Ann Burke was alone except far the child within her. But she was not the only one who endured a similar loss. Mary Carroll’s husband met the same fate. And Patrick O’Carroll watched his wife being consigned to the sea. No matter how much each resented his loss, they had to console one another. This was the bond they shared.
After the schooner sighted land, it headed for New Orleans, where overseas boats on their way to Texas landed. In a few days they were on the water again, and it was not many more until they sighted the coast of Texas. The ship was too large to dock at El Copano so that lighters were sent out to bring the colonists and their belongings to shore. They pitched camp about a mile from the beach; from their woolen blankets and sheets they made tents to protect themselves from the intense rays of the sun to which they were not accustomed.
An hour after their arrival in the camp, Ann Burke felt a stabbing pain. She knew that her hour had come. Quickly, a makeshift tent of sheets and patchwork quilts was thrown up. Besides shielding her from the sun, she could now endure her labor pains without embarrassment. It was not long until she had pushed a baby into a foreign world, a boy whom she had already named Patrick whether the name was chosen because of her devotion to the patron saint of Ireland or for her husband whose name is unknown has always been a matter of conjecture to his descendants. Little Patrick was a robust bay, who cried lustily. Ann thanked God and St. Patrick that both she and her child had survived the ordeal and were well. God had seen her through this. But all was not over.
The little one showed signs of hunger. Ann’s breasts were swollen, and she could not nurse him. Little Pat screamed as if he were being tortured. An Indian squaw, recognizing his hunger-cries, approached the tent. She had just had a baby and had enough milk for two. In sign language she offered to be his wet nurse. Ann had no choice; she was grateful. Once Pat found the squaw’s nipple, his crying ceased and he sucked greedily. He soon fell asleep. There is no certainty to which tribe the squaw belonged, for she came alone each day that she brought him to see Ann. It is very likely that she belonged to the Copano tribe. After a few days it seemed that the squaw’s compassion was turning into affection for the little tyke. There was no gentle handling of the babe. She slung him around as if he were “a bundle of dry goods.” In fact she treated him as one of her own. Ann wondered each whether she would bring him back. But her fears were groundless, for she came only until Ann was able to take care of him herself, and the colonists were ready to move on to San Patricia. The Tipperary colonists were a welcome sight to those of San Patricia. They were hungry for news from Ireland. It made them feel that they were not so far away from their homeland, for homesickness plagued the colonists, especially the women.
Ann, as the widow of a grantee to be, was eligible for the land that was to have been granted to her husband. So was the widow Mary Carroll. Their lands were yet to be chosen, surveyed and issued. So they built their picket cabins in San Patricia. Two years passed in relative tranquility except for the rumors of war that began in the fall of 1835 and became a reality at Gonzales on October 2. After the attack of General Urrea on San Patricia on February 27, 1836, Ann gathered up her two-year-old Pat and her belongings, and both she and the Carrolls went to New Orleans. It was there that she married Patrick O’Carroll. After the Battle of San Jacinto they thought it safe to come home. But how mistaken they were! The colony town was in ruins, and the few colonists that remained were getting ready to leave. So Ann and the Carrolls fled to safe~-ground, perhaps to Victoria. However, after the annexation they returned, rebuilt their cabins, planted their gardens, and looked in vain for their cattle which had been driven off by the Mexican Army. Indian raids were frequent, especially by the Comanches.
During the late forties Patrick was a good sized boy. He must have been a favorite of the men in San Patricia because there are incidents recorded where he accompanied settlers on hunting trips where Indian fights occurred. But Patrick could not bring himself to kill an Indian because he feared that he might be killing one of the tribe to which the Indian squaw belonged who saved his life. This attitude carried over into his adult years. Major Wood took him under his wing while they both lived in San Patricia. Martin O'Toole had him go an hunting trips with him and so did Bill Clark. In his “Reminiscences,” Pat Burke tells of his step-father “taking him to Lang Lake to get drinking water. They had taken their jug, but on their way they could smell horse meat roasting. This was a signal that Indians were near. So they dropped their jug and made for San Patricio. The next day the colonists found their best horses missing. Burke says in his “Reminiscences,” in order to prevent the Indiana from stealing their horses, the settlers usually made a thick high fence of brush held together between posts enclosing a sizable area around the back door. The horses, cows and oxen were kept inside this enclosure. The only entrance was through the front door.”
After the annexation Fort Merrill was established by the U.S. Government an the McMullen League in present Live Oak County to protect the settlers from the Indians. During this period it fell to Pat Burke to support his family, his mother, his blind stepfather, and five half brothers and sisters. With the establishment of Fort Merrill Patrick obtained a job. He says in his “Reminiscences,’~ ‘And though only a boy, I drove a wagon drawn by oxen carrying provisions from Corpus Christi to Fort Merrill for the troops. I made $30 a month, and that was considered good wages for a boy in those times. When I commenced on the job, I was scarcely large enough to put a yoke on the oxen. I wore hickory shirts and red shoes. It usually took me eight days to make the round trip. Sometimes an axle would break, and then I was two weeks making the round trip. There were only two blacksmiths accessible, one being in each end of the route. I made these trips alone, sleeping at night by the side of my wagon. Finally, John Ross of San Patricia bought me a good wagon at a Government sale for $30. I worked it out.”
Pat Burke kept this job for three years. Sometime in the early fifties Ann Burke and her son Patrick, her husband Pat O’Carroll, and their five children went to present Bee County to live, for this was where their land grants lay. Bee County was formed from parts of Goliad, Refugio, San Patricio, and Karnes Counties. In 1858 it was officially declared a county. Bee County and the county seat, Beeville, were named far Brigadier General Bar. nard E. Bee. He served for the Republic of Texas as secretary of the treasury, secretary of war, and as the Republic’s minister to Mexico. The first county seat was Beeville on the Media (Creek), and the 150 acres was donated by Edward Seligson. A picket courthouse was built with thatched roof and dirt floor. There was soon dissatisfaction with the location. The offer of Ann Burke Carroll and her son, Patrick, of 150 acres for a townsite on the Paiste Creek was accepted. This was from the Ann Burke League which she was granted by McMullen and McGloin in 1835. The town was now known as Beeville on the Paiste. At first the townsite was named Maryville for Mary Hefferman, the daughter of John Hefferman, and his entire family, and a cousin, John Ryan. It was she who first related the tragic story. But the name Maryville was discarded in favor of Beeville because there was another town in Texas by that name.
After more than a hundred years a marker has been erected by the state which recognizes the generous donation Ann Burke made to the place where she was to live and die. The marker stands on the courthouse square in recognition of a generous and civic-minded woman. (From ‘The Forgotten Colony, San Patricia de Hibernia”, by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert, with permission by the author.)
Seal, For the Biennial Term of (L.S.),
1832 and 1833, 1834 and 1835
I, Anna Burk, native of Ireland, with status of a widow, appear before you in due form, saying: That having emigrated from my native land with my husband and family to this country, at my own expense, with the object of establishing myself in it permanently, I have chosen for the purpose this Colony of San Patricia of which Citizen John McMullen is Empresario, and in it I have chosen the league and labor which the Law of Colonization of this State concedes to the new settlers of my class on the east margin on the headwaters of Aransas; I promise to settle, cultivate, and pay for said tract as said law prescribes. Therefore, I beg you, please, as Commissioner for the purpose, to give me the corresponding possession of the designated tract; and therein I shall receive grace and favor. San Patricia, June 23rd of 183(5) [torn].
Empresario John McMullen shall report whether the applicant is one of the colonists whom he has contracted, whether she is a widow, a Christian, and of good habits, whether she has come at her own expense with her husband and family, and whether the tract she has denounced is entirely vacant.
In consideration of your preceding decree I must say that the individual making this petition is one of the Colonists whom I have contracted for this enterprise to which she came at her expense with her husband; she is a Christian, of good habits, and the tract she claims is entirely vacant. San Patricio, June 23rd of 1835.
Present this petition to the surveyor whom I have appointed, Citizen William O’Docharty, so that in consideration thereof he may proceed to make the survey of the tract which it designates, in accordance with the law, with citation of the adjacent landowners, and having concluded, return the entire file of documents to me with the respective plat and notes in order to issue the corresponding title.
First Seal, One Cuartilla
Navarro (Rubric), Flares (Rubric)
In the town of San Patricio of the Nueces, Enterprise of Colonization of Citizen John McMullen, on the 25th day of the month of June of 1835,1, Citizen Jose Marie Balmaceda, Commissioner, by Superior Decree of the Supreme Government of this State, dated the 2nd of March of 1833, for the distribution of lands in this Colony, having examined the survey made by Citizen William O’Docharty, Surveyor appointed for the purpose by me, and in view of his original notes and topographical plat which he has delivered to me and which exist on pages 4 and 5 of this file of documents, ordered the issuance of the respective title of the league of pasture land, including in addition one labor of arable land which corresponds to the Colonist, widow, Anna Burke, according to Article 6 of the Law of Colonization of the State of the 24th of March of 1825, in the terms which are expressed in continuation hereof. The first survey began at a stake which serves as the corner of the possession of James Hefferman on the east margin of one of the creeks which from the headwaters of Aransas called El Pastle; from said stake continuing upward on the margin of the same creek 6 different courses were run along the various meanders formed by its currents to where a stake was fixed from which course north 50 degrees east were surveyed through vacant lands 9769 varas to where another stake was placed from which course south 37 degrees east were surveyed in a straight line 3733 varas to where another stake was fixed from which course south 53 degrees west were surveyed 5909 varas opposite and possession of James Hefferman until arriving at the place where the first survey began, a tract which comprises a superficies of 26,000,000 square varas; I classify it as pasture land with no more than one labor suitable for planting in season; and this served as a basis for the amount the aforesaid Colonist shall pay the State for all of it; at the rate of 30 pesos for the league of pasture land and 20 reales, which is the full value of the 25 labors of pasture land and one more arable land at the prices which have been stated; it is understood that said cost is to be paid on the terms and under the penalties designed by the same article of said law and that within the the effect, Citizen James Hefferman, who is the adjacent landowner and who, on the execution of the survey, did not offer the least opposition.
Therefore, by the use of the powers I have, and in the name of the Sovereign, free, and independent State of Coahuila and Texas, I confer upon, put, and place the aforesaid Anna Burk in real, actual, corporal, and virtual possession of one league of pasture land, increased by one more labor of arable land. She may freely enjoy and possess said tract with all its corresponding uses, customs, and appurtenances, now and forever, for her, her children, heirs, and successors, or whoever from her or from them shall have cause or right; and in due evidence thereof, I issue the present title of possession, of which a certified copy shall be given to the interested party together with the entire file of documents on which it is based, for the purposes that are most suitable to her; and I signed it with two attendant witnesses in the aforesaid Town of San Patricio on the date cited at the beginning.
On the 15th day of 1835 a copy was given to the interested party. (Rubric)
League No. 4 surveyed for the Widow, Ana Burk, situated on the east Margin of the most eastern creek on the main headwaters of the Aransas, beginning at a black oak stake, thence bound as follows:
Courses and Varas: N 35 W, 400; N 75 W, 366; S 70 W, 300; S 85 W, 633; S 55 W, 266; N 77 W, 266; 5 87 W, 200; S 78 W, 500; N 65 W, 166; N 43W, 666; 569 W, 233; N 85 W, 800; N 44 W, 600; N 80 W, 200; S 54 W, 266; S 86 W, 233, Another oak stake; N 53 E, 9769; S 37 E, 3733; S 53 E, 590, To the place of beginning, containing one league of pasture land and one labor of arable land; Guillermo O’Docharty
General Land Office
certify that the foregoing 4-4/5 pages contains a correct translated copy of
the original title of Anne Burke, existing in the Spanish Archives of this
office, Volume 59, Page 46.
I, Bascom Giles Commissioner of the General Land Office of the State of Texas, do hereby certify that Virginia H. Taylor whose signature is subscribed to the foregoing certificate, is the Spanish Translator of this office, duly qualified according to law, and that her official acts, as such, are entitled to full faith and credit.
In Testimony Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of said office to be affixed, the day first above written.
(Signed) Bascom Giles, Commissioner
Pat Burke was never free from responsibility. Since his stepfather became blind, he had been the provider driving the ox cart to Fort Merrill for $30 per month. After they left San Patricio to settle on their land grants, he took up the running of both leagues and labors of land (9210 acres) belonging to his mother and his stepfather. There in Bee County, prairie grassland waist and knee high, he tended the cattle. The mesquite and huisache he had not yet intruded upon this sea of grass which was teeming with wildlife. No fences kept the herds separated so that it was up to the cowboy to keep the cattle from straying too far and getting mixed up with other herds grazing on the range. But this was almost an impossible task. Twice a year in the spring and in the fall there were roundups, and cattle were branded. If a cowman found that a stray yearling was not branded, he would brand him; not with his own brand but with that of the owner. This was the code of the cowman. They could be trusted not to brand someone else’s animal with their own brand. He would no more steal another man’s animal than he would steal his saddle, even though he had the perfect opportunity to get but with it. Then during court week the cowmen would gather round the table at a boarding house. Each had marked in a ledger the brands he had sold in Kansas for his neighbor and would pay him in gold for whatever the animal had brought. This does not mean that there were no cattle thieves in the country, that the brands were not blatched by rustlers, and that the perfect chance to be dishonest was not taken advantage of. But the big cowman was not among them. And Patrick Burke was one of these.
Pat Burke was only nineteen when he carried the responsibility of a man and carried it with confidence. How he received an education is not known, but from the language of his “Reminiscences,” he got it somewhere along the way. He managed the two leagues of land expertly, and the cattle business crept into his blood.
Several years passed. A family named Ryan came to the Beeville area. James Ryan was originally from Pennsylvania. He drifted into Texas and joined Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto. He brought his family to Lavaca County and there his daughter, Nancy Jane, was born in 1841. He and his wife, Matilda Howard, then moved to Clareville, a settlement near Beeville in 1859. They had two other daughters, Alice and Charlotte. Nancy Jane, now grown to womanhood, met Pat Burke.
In March 1861 Ann Burke Carroll deeded a half league to her son, Patrick, a part of the league that had been granted to her by McMullen and McGloin in 1835. Pat paid $100 for the land (2214 acres). Thus, Ann practically gave it to him for the great help he had been to her and her blind husband. Pat now had land of his very own. So the following month on April 4, 1861, Pat and Nancy Jane were united in marriage by the Reverend A. Borias, pastor at San Patricio with Beeville as one of his mission churches.
Patrick and Nancy Jane Burke built a house on the property deeded to him by his mother. It was a frame house of cypress held together with square nails, which followed the true Irish pattern of that day. A loft was to be the sleeping quarters for the older children. Narrow stairs climbed the side of the wall where a rail was attached for safety, the only thing to catch to upon climbing them, for they had no bannisters on the other side. There was a large fireplace used for cooking until they got a wood-burning stove. Patrick and Nancy’s bed was in the room under the loft.
The War Between the States had begun, and South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union. Other states followed. The secession of Texas was delayed because Governor Sam Houston was wholeheartedly against it. He was for the preservation of the Union and the constitution which he had pledged to uphold. Further delay was caused by meetings which were to decide which course to take. Finally, a popular election was held, and Texas became a member of the Confederacy by a large majority. Sam Houston resigned his office as governor.
Patrick Burke had a family now, a wife and two children. So he joined Captain Ballard’s Volunteers of the Mounted Rifle Company for home service in June of 1861. Sometime after the birth of his second child, he joined Colonel Bushell’s regiment, Company F, and served until the end of the war. He was flagbearer in General Beauregard’s army. Once the flag was shot out of his hand; he picked it up and marched on as if nothing had happened. Patrick Burke was one of 70,000 Texans who served the Confederate cause. When the war was over, Patrick came back to his ranch where he had a herd of 500 to 600 head of cattle. Upon his return he found that his herd had diminished instead of increased. Undaunted by the setbacks of the war, in the seventies he began to buy both small and large tracts of land, continued purchasing through the ‘80’s until he had accumulated approximately 25,000 acres in Bee County. During the eighties the price of land had doubled, but he continued to buy. One has but to look through the Deed Records of Bee County to find the many purchases of land that he made, too many to record in detail.
It was during the seventies and the eighties that most of his children were born: four Sons, Edmund L., Joseph E., John Jerome, and Peter J., and four girls: Jane, married P.S. Clare; Molly, married Dr. T.M. Thurston; Clara, married John Wilson; and Mice, married Sam H. Smith.
Ann Burke Carroll (1814-1876) died at her ranch home on the Carroll League. She was buried in the Corrigan Cemetery in the churchyard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, where a stake marked called Campo Santo guards its dead. Pioneering for forty-two years after she gave birth to Patrick in the wilderness of Texas and living through three wars in which Texas fought was no mean test of her endurance. The loss of his mother had been a blow to Patrick, for he had been responsible for her all of his life. They had been through many trials together, and this accounted for the deep feeling they had for each other. The outdoor life on the ranch riding miles and miles kept his body active and his mind occupied, but at intervals he had time to come to terms with the death of his mother. He came to admire those qualities that made her a true Texas pioneer.
Besides the ranches that he acquired in Bee County, he bought land in Live Oak County and occupied a sizable spread of nearly 15,000 acres. The Deed Records in Live Oak County Courthouse attest to this. By 1876 Pat Burke had forged ahead in the cattle business, not without its reverses caused by droughts, but he managed to hold on to his land by keeping mortgages down to a minimum. True, in those days there was no other way to raise money (either mortgage the land, or sell it) and many a cattleman went out of business and lost his land on account of mortgages that could not be met. But Pat Burke bought mostly small tracts at a time and did not let debts get a death grip on his land.
During the ‘70’s and the ‘80’s the cattle drives to Kansas were at their peak. Pat Burke did not let this opportunity for profit and adventure pass him by. So he rode the trail with other owners as well as with his own herds. The families of the trail drivers hated to see them go. There was a feeling that the home were deserted, and besides the drivers were
not without their dangers; stampeding; lightning, which herds of cattle attracted; and Indians, if their demand for beeves was not granted. They knew the mischief they could cause by whooping and hollering, thereby causing a stampede. The days in the saddle were long and fatiguing, and those who were assigned to the rear were plagued by the dust kicked up by the cattle. The nights were long and wearisome. The cowboys took turns singing and milling the cattle until the animals had settled down for the night. An absence of three months made them lonesome for their loved ones. But they looked forward to reaching Dodge, get their cattle marketed, and perhaps go east to a large city where they bought jewelry for their sweethearts and wives. However, it was a great experience and a colorful period in the history of the cattle business.
Besides the cattle business and the accumulation of land, Pat Burke was always interested in the betterment and the progress of Bee County and Beeville. In 1878 he was elected county commissioner of Bee County where he served for several years. Anything which was for the good of the region in which he lived brought an answer to the call to serve without hesitation. One night when he was riding from his ranch in Live Oak County, as he climbed the hill he saw in the distance the electric lights of Beeville. He could hardly believe his eyes, for in his mind’s eye he contrasted it with the Beeville of earlier days when from that vantage point Beeville was shrouded in darkness; until its outskirts were reached, one could see only the dim lights of the candles and the kerosene lamps showing through the windows. Another thing Pat Burke had witnessed was the coming of the railroad through Beeville. By this he was assured that it would not become a ghost town.
As his holdings grew he and Nancy Jane built a home on the original headright of Ann Burke, but it was closer to the town of Beeville. It was a typical South Texas house of the early days — a story and a half with a wide gallery stretching across the front of the dormer windows jutting from a steep roof. Many contented and productive years were spent in this house. He saw his children grow to adulthood, marry, and have families of their own. He prized his many grandchildren. One granddaughter remembers back when she was four years old the impression she had of her grandfather.
“Grandfather always had goodies for the children put up on the top shelf of the wardrobe in his bedroom. When we’d come to see him, at sometime during the visit, he would take us to his room, and from the wardrobe shelf he would bring down stick candy, ginger snaps or apples. Our visit was not complete until this ritual was over.
The year 1897 brought sadness to the Burke house. The prick of a pin set into motion the thing that caused Nancy Jane’s death. After home remedies and doctor’s prescriptions, she became seriously ill of blood poisoning and died soon after. A companion and helpmate, such as she with her even and calming disposition, would always be missed. Time eased the pain of Patrick’s loss, but, the vacancy could not be filled by another. Pat Burke missed his wife and grieved for her, but he took her death as he had taken life, something that he accepted and could still go on living, even though it would leave its scar. Pat Burke lived fifteen productive years after the death of his wife. He was satisfied with what life had dealt out to him, and he had no regrets with what he had done with his opportunities.
In 1899 a news item appeared in the Beeville newspaper: “Ranchman Patrick Burke is among the latest of the cattle growers to go into the business of raising improved cattle. On his recent trip to Fort Worth he purchased eight thoroughbred Durhumes (sic.) at a cost of $125 each.”
All during Patrick Burke’s life he was proud of his Texas heritage, for no one could be more truly Texan than he. He was proud that an Indian squaw had saved his life, that he started his life in the Irish colony of San Patricia, that he was a citizen of the Republic of Texas during its ten difficult years, and that he lived his life and made his fortune in the state of Texas. Add to this his service in the Confederate Army. He ~ad in his mind a wealth of historical material, and when he was called upon, he told it with gusto. He never complained of pioneer life. On the contrary, he enjoyed it and the excitement and opportunities it afforded. He once said, “We carried to the table a keen appetite and enjoyed with relish our simple fare of meat and bread.”
He lived to the ripe old age of seventy-eight, old by the standards of that day, and was the last of the original colonists of San Patricia. He died in Beeville in 1912 and was laid to rest in Saint Joseph’s Cemetery by the side of Nancy Jane. It was men such as he that made Texas great. Honesty, loyalty and charity was inherent in his nature. Seldom was he provoked to anger unless it was against an unjust cause, and then he exhibited the tough fiber of his nature well covered by his genial personality.
(From “The Forgotten Colony, San Patricia de Hibernia” by Rachel Bluntzer Hebert, by permission of the author.)
Recollections of Patrick Burke, Jr. (First Baby Born to Colonists)
One hour after Mrs. Ann Burke landed at Copano, she gave birth to the first baby born to the colonists who settled on the Poesta. When Patrick Burke was born his mother was unable to feed him; an Indian Squaw heard his hungry cries and nursed him. He lived with the Indiana until his mother recovered and could take care of him. In his adult years, Burke wrote a brief autobiography which was published in the Galveston News. I-us story described many of the hardships that were experienced by the first settlers.
“My birth occurred about one hour after my mother set foot on Texas soil, and before she had gone one mile from the shore where she and the other colonists were landed. Her breast rose and she was unable to nurse me. This section of the country was uninhabited, and it was out of the question to obtain milk or nourishment suitable for an infant.
“But Providence, in His kindness and mysterious way, provided the relief. At this junction an Indian squaw, who had left her babe with her tribe, entered the camp of the colonists, and her heart no doubt being touched by my cries, came to my mother’s bed, took me and nursed me. Thus as God sent the ravens to feed Elijah at the brook Cherith, so did He send this uncouth and uncivilized Indian squaw to nurse and furnish me, a starving infant, with nourishment in the wilderness of Texas. She carried me to her tribe and cared for me until my sick and bereaved mother was able to take care of me. Each day she brought me back for my mother to see me. Her manner of handling me was in striking contrast with that of my own mother. She would pitch and sling me about like I was a pup or a bundle of dry goods. During all the time the colonists remained in this camp this woman was the only Indian who came about us, or even came in sight of any one of the colonists. If others of the tribe ever came near our camp they kept themselves perfectly secreted.
“From this camp the colonists went and settled at or around San Patricia. They remained loyal to the Mexican government until 1836, notwithstanding the bad faith which characterized its dealings with them. When the revolution of 1836 developed, these hardy and noble pioneers from oppressed Ireland, breathing the true spirit of freedom, went east and joined the other colonists in the fight for liberty and political independence.
“Before annexation, my mother married Pat Carroll and they went to New Orleans but returned to San Patricia after the battle of San Jacinto. During the time intervening between this battle and annexation, this part of Texas was subject to both Mexican and Indian raids, and we returned to a country without supplies. Our homes had been destroyed and hard times stared us in the face.
“We soon constructed log houses, made picket fashion with dirt floors and thatched roofs, clapboards being used to stop the cracks between the pickets. Our pioneer architecture was simple and inexpensive and did not require the outlay of large sums of money for plans, specifications, materials and construction, but doubtless as much peace, contentment and real happiness was found dwelling in our quaint old homes as we now find in the palatial homes in our towns and cities.
Our table fare, bread and meat, was also simple, but our digestive organs were always good, and dyspepsia never interfered with the keen relish and fine appetites we always carried to the table with us. We drank water from the creeks, ponds, barrels and cow tracks, enjoyed goad health and never heard of microbes, germ theories and diseases of modern times.
“After we returned to our colonial homes, Indian raids were still frequent. They invariably came on the full moon during the spring, summer and autumn months, and oxen coming home with arrows shot in their bodies often admonished us that Indians were lurking in the neighborhood and ready to surprise us by swooping down upon us. They frequently swept the country of saddle ponies, and leaving mounts enough in the community on which the men could pursue them. In making their escape when they were pursued, they always had the advantage of their pursuers. They generally had already stolen the best horses and were returning with a large he d when discovered and could change mounts whenever the horses they were riding became jaded, while our men usually had to take for mounts such animals as the Indians had left behind or had failed to get.
“Whenever the Indians succeeded in crossing the Nueces River, about 10 miles above Oakville, they were safe from further pursuit. In order to prevent the Indians from stealing our horses, the settlers usually made a thick, high brush fence around their back door, without an entrance except through the house. About the full of the moon, or whenever an Indian raid was anticipated, the horses, oxen and milk cows were kept in this enclosure.
“One night the Indians stole Pat Corrigan’s horse, which was tied to his gallery post. His wife heard them and told him the Indians were getting his horse. He picked up his gun, ran into the yard and snapped his old pistol at them three times. He just happened to see three Indians with their drawn bows hid in the grass in time for him to make a safe retreat into his house.
“When a boy, I went under the care of Major John Wood, with others, in pursuit of the Indians. A man named Mandola, who had been captured when a boy and reared to manhood by the Indians, was our guide. He was trained in all of their arts and cunning and could even trail them by scent. It was hard sometimes for our men to distinguish between an Indian and a mustang trail, but Mandola was never at a loss to tell one from the other. We traveled that night until 12 o’clock and then slept till daylight. Next morning when we awoke, Mandola arose and sniffed the balmy atmosphere a time or two and said he smelt the fumes of cooking meat and that our foes were not far away.
“We did not go farther than five miles before we came upon and surprised our enemies while they were enjoying their breakfast of horse meat cooked on coals. Immediately a quick and spirited fight ensued. Major Wood kept me with him, the other men separating and taking advantageous positions in the scattering timber. One savage and ferocious old squaw attacked the major and me. We tried as long as possible to avoid the necessity of shooting her, but she could handle her bow and arrows as well and as accurately as a trained warrior, and was hurling the missiles of death at us so rapidly that we were compelled to exchange shots with her in order to save our lives. Major Wood received an arrow wound in the fleshy part of the thigh.
“This was the last Indian raid and the last fight of this unfortunate squaw-warrior. Our force numbered 14. I do not know how many Indians there were, but when the battle had ended we were the victors, with seven dead Indians stretched upon the field. A few old sore-back ponies and horses and the bows and arrows of the slain Indians were the spoils of our victory.
“Once I went with my stepfather to Long Lake, carrying a jug with which to bring back some fresh drinking water. We were in no particular hurry, and while walking leisurely about the lake we discovered the Indians in some timber a short distance above us, cooking meat. While they did not seem to see us, we were suddenly inspired with Saint Paul’s in-junction to lay aside every weight and run with swiftness the race set before us, so casting our jug aside, we pulled off the prettiest race you ever saw, going back into town, San Patricio, with the old man leading me a neck or two. The skulking Redskins, who always seemed to need good horses in their business, made a call that night at the premises of several of the citizens, who found themselves without mounts and work animals the next morning.
“In those days the country was full of deer, panthers and other kinds of game and wild animals. On one occasion while I was a boy, I went with Major Wood, Bill Clark and Martin O'Tool (the last named being a San Jacinto and Mexican War veteran) to cut a road through the bottom. While we were at work the dogs treed a large panther which we killed with an ax.
“There were also many wild mustang horses, and it was a sight to see them running when the settlers were trying to catch them. If we
could manage to catch one of these old horses, we would tie an imitation man upon him and let him loose. Of course he would make for the herd, which would try to outrun him. This would start every mustang for miles around to running, and the noise from these running horses, which sometimes numbered thousands, often sounded like the terrific roar of a passing cyclone. After they had run themselves down, we could guide them into the pens with long wings which we had built for capturing them. It required strength and skill to rope and throw one of these old snorting, jumping, fighting horses. It looked like some of them could squeal, paw, kick and jump at the same time, and they could never be conquered until they were roped, thrown and tied down. We generally roached their manes and tails and used the hair for making ropes.
“After the annexation, the United States sent troops to protect us against Indian raids, and though only a boy I drove an ox wagon three years carrying supplies for the troops from Corpus Christi to Fort Merrill. I had to support my mother and my three little half brothers and two little half sisters, as well as my stepfather who was nearly blind and could not work. He lost his eye when hit by a cork which flew from a bottle of English port while he was opening it. I made $30 per month, and that was considered good wages for a boy in those times. When I commenced on this job, I was scarcely large enough to put the yoke on the oxen. I wore hickory shirts and red shoes, and it usually took me eight days to make the round trip. Sometimes an axle would break and then I was two weeks making the round trip. There were only two blacksmiths accessible, one being at each end of the route. I made these trips alone, sleeping at night by the side of my wagon. Finally, John Ross bought me a good wagon at a government sale, paying $30 for it. I worked it out.”
Patrick Burke was married to Nancy Jane Ryan of Refugio County. Their four sans were Joseph, Pete, Ed and John Burke, and their four daughters were Mrs. Mollie Thurston, Mrs. Sam (Mice) Smith, Mrs. John (Clara) Wilson and Mrs. Bud (Jennie) Clare, all of whom grew up in Beeville. Their descendants still live in Bee and surrounding counties.
Patrick Burke died in August 1912 at the age of 78 years.
When the settlers arrived here, this country was a wilderness, an empire of prairie land, the home of wild game, the hunting ground of Indians, a virgin wealth of pasture land, and a stockman’s paradise. Wild game was in abundance, but the pioneer killed only what he needed, leaving the rest to roam at will. Strange as it may seem, when a deer or beef was killed for food, it was hung up in the shade of a tree, and a crust formed over the surface. There were no insects to bother the meat, soit hung until all was used.
Deer roamed the prairies in great numbers, often 100 or more being in a group. Their backs and horns could be seen above the tall grass. Some time in the late 1860’s or early 1870’s a disease called “black tongue” broke out. The tongues of the deer swelled out of their mouths, causing hundreds to die. Wild turkeys were without number, and added greatly to the food supply of the rancher and farmer well up into the 1880’s.
Stock-raising began in what is now Bee County in about 1840, some men driving their cattle here from around Austin and Gonzales. Mr. Dunlap brought between 600 and 700 head of cattle and settled in the bend of the Aransas creek, near a spring and deep pool of water. The stream ran from there on down to the bay continuously. He built a rock house, the walls of which were standing intact in 1939. In later years Mr. Dunlap sold his cattle and rock house to John Wilson, who in turn sold the house to Capt. D.A.T. Walton, who lived there when he was first elected sheriff of Bee County in 1876.
A number of early residents here, both before and after Bee County was organized in 1858, took part in the old cattle trail drives to paints north, including the Kansas cattle markets. Few if any herds for the trail actually originated in Bee County. Undoubtedly, some cattle from this area helped make up herds from other counties, notably Refugio County. Numerous herds from the southern tip of Texas passed Beeville. Feeder lines of the Chisholm Trail passed through Bee County. Although the original Chisholm Trail was surveyed from Red River north, a practice grew up to call the Texas feeders a part of the trail itself.
The four year Civil War interfered with the drives which began in the late 1850’s. Bee County’s main participation in the Chisholm Trail drives was in the young cowboys who rode for cattle owners driving to northern markets. Some cattle were driven from this general area to New Orleans, and some over to Mississippi and that part of the South to furnish meat for the Confederate army during the Civil War.
The stockmen kept their cattle ranged on the land they had settled as best they could, employing line-riding to keep them all together and away from other people’s cattle. It was possible to do this as there was no timber or brush to obstruct the view and plenty of fine grass near the watering place.
The pioneer men and women tried to live by the Golden Rule. Their word was their bond or note. If they borrowed money from a neighbor, the transaction was just a verbal contract. There were no legal papers drawn up requiring the signature of friends. The obligation simply was kept in mind, and, in most every instance, the men were true to their word and honor. Money was carried in money sacks, and when night came for the traveler camping out, he threw the sack of money over a tree limb, or used it for a pillow. If he stopped at a house or an inn for the night, he left the sack of money on the porch until morning with no thought of it being molested.
Colonel Barnard E. Bee
Barnard E. Bee, Sr. apparently never saw the soil of Bee County, and died in 1853 back in his native state of South Carolina five years before Bee County was organized. The county was named for Colonel Bee in 1857 (the year the Texas Legislature “created” the county) largely as a compliment to his son, Gen. Hamilton Prioleau Bee, who had just finished serving as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives at Austin from 1854 to 1856. Three members of the Bee family were connected with the history of Texas, all three being born in South Carolina, probably in the city of Charleston. There has been much confusion in the biographies of the Bees and the following tables of names, birth and death dates and ranks will help keep the names straight:
Col. Barnard E. Bee (the senior), was born in South Carolina in 1787. He died in South Carolina in 1853 at the age of 66. He was a military officer and a civil official during the time of the Texas Republic.
Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, July 22, 1822. He died in San Antonio, Texas, October 3, 1897, at the age of 75. He lived in Houston, Velasco, Austin, Laredo and Goliad. He was a planter in Goliad. A brigadier general in the Confederacy, he commanded the 29th Brigade, which included companies formed in Bee County during the Civil War.
Brig. Gen Barnard Elliott Bee (the son and junior) was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1823. He died from a mortal wound received in the Battle of Manassas in Virginia, July 21, at the age of 38. He had been commissioned a brigadier general on June 17, 1862, and had held that rank and title only 34 days when he died in battle. There is no record that he ever visited Bee County.
Col. Barnard E. Bee, after whom Bee County and Beeville was named, was the grandson of Judge Thomas Bee, who held a commission from President George Washington as judge of the United States Circuit Court for South Carolina. Barnard Bee studied law and served on the staff of his brother-in-law, James Hamilton, governor of South Carolina. Disgruntled at Gov. Hamilton’s participated in the nullification struggle in 1843, Mr. Bee came to Texas in the summer of 1835, at the age of 49, and joined the Texas Army under Thomas J. Rusk. Bee served as secretary of the treasury and as secretary of state under David G. Burnett in the ad interim government of Texas before the Republic of Texas was set up. He later was secretary of war under President Sam Houston and served as secretary of state under President Mirabeau B. Lamar.
After the surrender of Gen. Santa Anna of Mexico at San Jacinto, Col. Bee (who had distinguished himself in the Texas Revolution) was sent as one of three to Washington, D.C. to escort Santa Anna to President Andrew Jackson. Santa Anna repeated his promises to the young Texas Republic in the presence of the President of the United States. The three Texan escorting Santa Anna to Washington were Colonels Bee, Hockley and Potter. Col. Bee advanced about $3,000 to Santa Anna which he needed while a prisoner. The vanquished Mexican general gave Bee a draft on a Mexican bank for the amount. However, when presented to the bank, Santa Anna dishonored it. Many years later the Texas government made good this loss incurred by Col. Bee.
Col. Bee was commissioned as minister to Mexico after Santa Anna came back in power in the belief that the new Mexican president would acknowledge the independence of the new Texas republic as a favor to his old friend, and conclude a treaty. He rode a United State war vessel out of New Orleans to Vera Cruz, Mexico. His mission caused considerable commotion in Mexico, and Col. Bee did not disembark for a time. Later, while a ship guest of his old friend, Admiral Bandin of the French navy. Bee opened negotiations with Mexico City. On his return to Texas, Colonel Bee was appointed charge d’affaires to Washington, D.C., in which capacity he remained until the close of the administration of President Lamar of the Texas republic. He held no further office.
In March 1842, Mexican General Rafael Vasquez took over San Antonio for two days, in order to notify the world that Mexico’s claim on
Texas had not been relinquished. Col. Bee, then 55 years old and retired, was seen in San Antonio, ready to defend the home of his adoption — the republic he had helped to create. After harassing Goliad and Refugio, the Mexican General and his 500 soldiers returned to Mexico.
Col. Bee opposed the annexation of Texas to the American union, as he wanted to see the republic he helped form remain a nation in the family of world governments. However, the annexation of Texas was affected, and on December 29, 1845, the Congress of the United States accepted the new Texas State constitution, and Texas became the 28th state of the union.
Colonel Bee returned to his native state of South Carolina in 1846. (Eleven years later Bee County was to be named for him.) In 1853, five years before Bee County was organized, Col. Bee died in his native state.
Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, Confederate general, was the elder son of Col. Bee and was our neighbor, in Goliad. He likely visited the Bee County frequently. During the Civil War, he was kept in Texas where he was familiar with the border, guarding the coast and inland areas. Though a student of law, he joined the Texas army when war broke out with the Comanche Indians.
Hamilton Bee was secretary of the boundary commission that fixed the boundaries between the Republic of Texas and the United States. Once a merchant at Laredo, he was a Goliad planter when the Civil War opened, and he entered the service of the Confederacy. After the war he attempted to recoup his fortunes in Mexico, but later returned to Texas and made San Antonio his home. He came to Texas at the age of 15, and lived her (except far a short time in Mexico) for 60 years, dying in 1897 at the age of 75 years.
Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee (son of the man for wham Bee County was named), was a native of Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from West Paint on July 1, 1845, and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. His first military service as a second lieutenant in 1845 was in Texas in the army of occupation to maintain peace in the new state. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the Mexican War and was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz. He resigned March 3, 1861 to serve in the Confederate Army as an infantry major. He was sent to Virginia to the army of the Potomac under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. On June 17, 1861, he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. Thirty-four days later, at Manassas, Gen. Bee’s brigade was broken by a terrible charge of federal troops when Gen. Thomas J. Jackson brought up his five regiments to the support. As Bee met Jackson, Bee turned to rally his men, and cried out, “Here is Jackson, standing like a stonewall.” Inspired to rally, for a time they stemmed the tide of battle. Gen. Bee, with the colors of the Fourth Alabama fell mortally wounded, and Gen Johnston took his place and routed the federals. Thereafter, Gen. Jackson was universally known as “Stonewall” Jackson.
Bee County Created
Bee County was created by an act of the Texas Legislature on December 8, 1857, and contains 538,880 acres of land (842 square miles). Mast of the acreage came from San Patricia County, but also included were portions of Refugio, Goliad, Karnes and Live Oak Counties. General Hamilton P. Bee, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked that this new county be named in memory of his father, Colonel Barnard E. Bee, and the request was granted.
The document creating Bee County reads as follows:
“An act to create the County of Bee and attached to the 14th Judicial District. In honor of the late Hon. Barnard E. Bee.
“Section 1: Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas that all the territory comprised within the following limits to wit: Beginning on the Blanco Creek at the southwest corner of Goliad and Refugio Counties, as defined in his bill, thence up the Blanco Creek with its meanders to where the Helena and San Patricio road crosses the same, thence in a direct line to the southwest corner of J. Johnson survey on the Medio Creek, thence up the Medio Creek to the lower line of the G. Childres survey, thence north 70 degrees west eleven miles following the lines of the Gill and Igham’s survey, thence south 27 degrees east to the lower line of Live Oak County, thence in a direct line to a point three miles south 36 degrees west from the mouth of Papalote Creek, thence in a direct line to the mouth of said creek, thence in a direct line to the beginning. This shall constitute a county called Bee, in honor of the late Barnard E. Bee, formerly Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas.
“Section 2: That the County Court of Bee County shall as soon as practicable after being duly qualified proceed to locate this county seat of said county seat, according to the laws regulating elections, and the place receiving a majority of all votes cast shall be declared the county seat of said county. And if for any cause a selection shall not be made at the first election the Chief Justice shall order another election in the same manner until a selection shall be made by a majority of the voters of said county, providing that a point or points not within five miles of the center maybe selected by said court and voted upon for a county seat, but such point or points shall receive a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast, or shall fail of an election, said county seat when located shall be called Beeville.
“Section 3: That the chief Justice of Refugio County be and he is hereby authorized to organize said county, and it is hereby made his duty to do the same by ordering an election for county officers according to the general laws regulating elections. Said elections to be held on a day by him to be named and due notice of the same to be given in accordance with the law regulating elections. The said elections to be held at a point or points within the limits of said county to be by the Chief Justice of Refugio County designated and due notice thereof given to the people of said county, and when the returns of said election shall have been made to he he shall issue certificates of election to the persons elected and make returns thereof to the Secretary of State, whose duty shall be to issue commissions to the parties elected and said parties may qualify before any officer of the State authorized to administer oaths in case of absence or inability of said Chief Justice of Refugio County to act, then any two of the county commissioners of said county shall have full power to act, and are hereby authorized to perform said duties.
“Section 4: That the Chief Justice of Refugio County, or in case county commissioners shall act, shall be entitled to three dollars per day for every day occupied by him or them in organizing said County of Bee.
“Section 5: That said County of Bee be and therefore is hereby attached to the Fourteenth Judicial District and the courts be held at the county seat on the last Mondays of March and September of each year and continue in session one week.
“Section 6: That this act take effect and be in force from and after its passage. Approved 8th day of December 1857.”
The first court was held on February 10, 1858, under a tree near the west bank of Media Creek, seven miles east of the present town of Beeville. The first settlement was called Marysville, in honor of Mary Hefferman. Jack Phelps donated the land for the location.
The February 14, 1908, issue of the Beeville Bee carried an interesting story concerning the meeting of the first County Court in Bee County. The late W.O. McCurdy, who established the Bee on May 6, 1886, went to the County Clerk’s files and based his story on the minutes of the first court held by the Chief Justice (later called the County Judge), the County Commissioners and the County Clerk. Mr. McCurdy’s article, based on the minutes of the court, is as follows:
“The Bee County Commissioners Court met Monday in regular session, and, by a coincidence, the first meeting of the first court of the county was held just 50 years previous to the day, on February 10, 1858. The record of this first court is still intact and in an excellent state of preservation. It shows present as members of the first court, W.B. Thompson, chief justice; Henderson Williams, clerk; John J. Phelps, Lewis Campbell, Henry T. Clare and David Craven as county commissioners.
“The first business transacted by the court was the examination and the acceptance of the bonds of S.B. Morrison, district clerk; James Drewry, assessor; Williams Hynes, treasurer, and John O’Sullivan, justice of the peace. It does not appear on the records who was sheriff. The next business of the court was the appointment of H.T. Clare as special agent of the county to receive donations of a site for a county seat. The next meeting was held on the 25th, and the county was divided into commissioners’ precincts. Their boundaries were described as follows:
“No. 1: All that portion of the county lying between old Fort Merrill road and old San Patricia road.
“No. 2: All that portion east of old San Patricia road and west and south of road leading from town of Refugio to Carroll’s Motts, thence running west to the road leading to old San Patricia road.
“No. 3: All that portion north of Carroll’s Motts and old San Patricia road.
“No. 4: All that portion above and north of old Fort Merrill road.
“The following persons were appointed judges of election in their respective precincts to select a county seat, and the election was ordered for March 8, 1858: No. 1, Edward O’Driscoll; No. 2. Robert Carlisle; No. 3, John O’Sullivan; No. 4, John F. Pettus.
“Two sites were voted on that date, one offered by Pat Burke, that on which the town of Beeville now stands, and that offered by E. Seligson, on the Media where the first court convened. The latter site was selected but not without a protest being filed with the court, claiming informalities in the election. The protest was not sustained by the court, and subsequent pages give details of preparations for the permanent establishment of the county seat at the Seligson ranch. The townsite of 15( acres was surveyed and different blocks donated by the county for various public purposes~ among them a cemetery and church sites for the Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. The county seat was not to rest there in peace, however, for before a year in the~ January proceedings 1859, appears an order for an election to determine the county sea question. This election was held February 26 1859, and what is termed ‘Burke’s donation was accepted by a majority of the voters
“Several other sites entered this contest but the detailed result of the election is not stated except that ‘Burke’s donation’ received a majority of the votes cast. This is the original town site of Beeville. (the offers considered by the~ court included the James Wilson acreage or Aransas Creek. and an offer by J.G. Campbell
“Of the persons mentioned as members a the first court is alive now, but four of the~ voters at the first election for county officers service. These are W.R. Hayes, J.B Macfray T.H. Allsup and Hugh May.” Other officers a Bee County were: J.A. Martin, Sheriff R if Allsup, Deputy Sheriff; James Drewry Assessor; and S.B. Merriman, District Clerk J S Phelps was appointed to have the county line surveyed, marked and established according to law.
A courthouse was built of pickets, and had a dirt floor. The furniture consisted of one table and two benches. When time came to hold court, each man put his blanket in a roll on the back of his saddle, a change of clothes in the saddle pockets and food a morral on the horn of the saddle. He was off to be gone until court was over — and it took every man in the counts to hold it.
There was some dissatisfaction over the location of the county seat. Some wanted to move it farther west, while others wanted it to remain where it was. After considerable debating, they decided to run a line north and south then east and west, to find the exact center of the county, drive a stake down and build the courthouse there. This location was on the lull about one and one-half miles northeast at where the present courthouse is standing.
Mrs. Ann Burke offered to give 200 acres land to be used for the townsite. After considering the matter, the commissioners decided to accept the offer, as it would save buying the~ land and at the same time the town would be only a short distance from the center of the~ county. So in 1860 the town was moved from~ the Media to its present site on the Poesta.
The first court held in Beeville (on the Poesta) was in a one-room house where the Southern Pacific depot was later built. This house was also used for church services, as a schoolhouse, and as a theater when shows came to town. Most pupils came from outlying farms and ranches as the population of the town was small.
The first courthouse in Beeville was built in 1860 by J.H. Toomy at a cost of $473. It was~ located across the street, west from the present~ courthouse. It was a one-room building, made of lumber. A well was dug near the building~ and furnished water for the public watering~ troughs for teams. The court ordered that a subscription be taken for the building of this house. It also issued script for the amount subscribed by each man, dollar for dollar. The next winter a chimney was built by C B Hill and the fireplace was made by L. Clark Both men took town lots as compensation for their work. The Masonic fraternity was allowed to,erect a second story over the courthouse. Ewing Wilson and G.W. McClanahan had the contract.
That Patrick O’Carroll and Annie O’Carroll, wife of Patrick O’Carroll and formerly Annie Bark and Patrick Burk her son, jointly concurring in this deed of bargain and sole for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar to us in had paid, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged and the location of the County site of Bee County on the land hereinafter described, whereby the value of the remainder of these grantors lands are greatly increased, have this day granted, bargained, sold and released and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell and release unto the chief justice of Bee County and his successors in office all that tract of land consisting of 150 acres situated in said County of Bee on the Paesta Creek a branch of Aransas river and in what formerly constituted a portion of McGloins colony being a part of that league of land granted to said Annie Burk as a colonist in said colony.
Beginning at the upper corner of said grant on north bank of Paesta a hkbr in the lower end of mat ink. X; Thence with line between Anna Bark and James Hefferman surveys N. 62’/z E. (Var. 9 45E.) 1600 vrs. Thence S. 27½ E. 650 vrs; Thence S. 62 ½ W. 927 Vrs. to the Paesta creek Thence up said creek with its meanders to beginning.
State of Coahuilla and Texas, to Anna Burke. Colonial Grant No. 26, Vol. No. 59, Abstract No. 5. Dated June 25, 1835.
Grants league and labor of land on the west bank of the most eastern branch of the Aransas, called Paesta. Begin at a stake also corner of James Hefferman survey. Thence with meanders of said creek as follows: N. 35 W. 400 vrs. N. 75W. 366 vrs, S. 70W. 30 vrs. S. 85W. 633 vrs. S. 35W. 266 vrs. N. 77W. 266 vrs. S.87W. 200vrs.S.78W.500vrs.S.65W. l66vrs.N.
46W. 666 vrs. 5. 69 W. 233, N. 85 W. 800 vrs. N. 44W. 600 vrs. S. 80W. 200 vrs. 8.54W. 266 S.86 W. 233 to a stake: Thence N. 53 E. 9669 vrs. a stake; Thence S. 37 E. 3733 vrs. Thence S.53W. 5909 vrs. to beginning.
Last Indian Fight in Bee County
At the time of their last battle in Bee County in the 1870’s, the Karankawas had probably either moved further west or northwest of Bee County, or had become nomads or semi-nomadic in nature, rambling from place to place. From facts surrounding their horse thievery and raids in this area, it appears they did not live within the bounds of what now constitutes Bee County during the 1870’s.
The story of the last fight, which occurred a few miles west of Pettus in the 1870’s, was told by the late Will Fox who lived on the land. Mr. Fox died at his Pettus home in 1956. He recalled that Bill Tomlinson, who had a reputation as an Indian fighter, lived in that part of the county. One of his horses had been stolen, along with those of his neighbors. Someone brought a report that a marauding group of Karankawas was camped near a well-known landmark live oak tree. They not only had the horses they had stolen, they were after more. Tomlinson led a hunting posse on a scouting trip to surprise the ruthless red men. They stayed away from the windward side of the camp, as winds carried noises to human ears and scents to Indian dogs. It was early morning and the warriors were gathered around their breakfast fire, heating rocks to throw into their cooking vessels to cook their meals. The Indiana were early risers, but Tomlinson and his men had risen much earlier and planned their surprise visit in every detail.
A lone red man was up in the live oak tree, stationed there as lookout or sentinel. His job was to give alarm in event of danger, or if the hated Anglo-S axons approached. As everything was quiet, he evidently grew drowsy and relaxed his watch. Even so, a rustle in the grass was heard and the alarm given. The Indian in the tree was uncomfortably near the white men; he fell out of the tree and hit the ground running. At that time, the posse had their attention on the camp fire and the sentinel escaped.
Firing began, with trusty cap and ball rifles aimed at the native horse stealer. The tribesmen forgot about breakfast (not yet eaten) and leapt to their horses. Some were instantly mortally wounded, but probably more than half fled to safety.
This legend was based a true story, as well remembered and authenticated by early residents of Bee County. Cap and ball guns have been found on the premises, as well as money. Just what the money meant in connection with Indian depradation has never been figured out.
Arrow heads and knives were also found on that very ground. There had been a lake nearby and the Indians camped by it when they were in that part of the country.
Those of the last marauding Indian group ever seen in Bee County, who escaped this ambush with their lives, were pursued by the vigilantes headed by Tomlinson in the hope that more of their horses might be recovered. The horses left behind were gathered up and returned to their rightful owners. (Some animals in the discarded herd had evidently been stolen in other communities.) The number of horses were not very large, by Indian terms. They had planned, no doubt, to take more with them.
It appears the tribe of thieves was never overtaken. Tomlinson’s men had made it hot for them, and they were running at breakneck speed to safer territory. The nomads turned to the west, headed for McMullen County. The story was handed down that the red men beat a line to Sakala mountain in McMullen territory.
Mr. Fox, highly regarded as an authority on the lore and history of Bee County and frontier happenings, said the final battle with Indians in this part of Texas occurred in neighboring Live Oak County, following the one in Bee County by possibly three or four years. The name of the tribe figuring in the Bee County or Live Oak battles was not known — they were all just called “Indians.
EARLY HISTORY T2
The following article on the early history of Bee County is the first of a series which we will publish from time to time and which should prove of interest to all. The articles are from the pen of an old timer, who has not trusted to memory for dates and incidents, but recently went to the records and secured such data as was necessary for the compiling of same. Any facts overlooked or misstated, or any incident that would make the record more complete or interesting we would be glad to have from old timers who may read these articles:
The bill creating Bee County was passed by the Legislature, Dec. 8, 1857. The election of county officers followed soon. The first County Commissioners’ Court was held on the Medio at Henderson Williams’ residence on Feb. 10, 1858. Officers present: W.B. Thompson, Judge; Henderson Williams, Clerk; John S. Phelps, Lewis Campbell, H.T. Clare and David Craven, Commissioners. The bonds of H. Williams and S.B. Merriam, County and District Clerks, were approved as were the bonds of James Drury, Tax Assessor and Collector, and William Hines, County Treasurer. The bond of John 0. Sullivan as Justice of the Peace was also approved. A donation of 150 acres of land on the Medio by E. Seligson for a county site was accepted. The bond of I.G. Campbell as Sheriff was approved and R.H. Allsup was appointed Deputy Sheriff. At an election held the people ratified the acceptance of the Seligson donation of land for the county site. The court then employed Martin M. Kinney of Goliad to survey and plot the town of Beeville on the Medio, for which he was paid $30.
At the August election, 1848, Ewing Wilson was elected Chief Justice, or County Judge; D.S. Page, Sheriff and J.B. Madray, Assessor and Collector of Taxes. At a former term of the Commissioners’ Court bids were received for the erection of a court house and the contract awarded to John S. Phelps. At this term of the court the court house was received by the court at a cost to the county of $165.
Some dissatisfaction with the location of the county site existed, and donations of land in other portions of the county were offered by other citizens. These different places were voted for and the Ann Carroll donated was selected. At the May term of court, 1859 (H.T. Clare, C.C. Jones, S.C. Grover, Commissioners; E. Wilson, Judge) the result of the election on the county site was declared, the Ann Carroll donated elected, and the county site removed from the Medio to its present location on the Paesta creek, and was named Maryville, in honor of Mary Hefferman, the wife of James Hefferman, who had settled on the present town survey and with his wife and family, except one daughter, were killed by the Indiana in June, 18~l5. The daughter was taken prisoner by the Indians The town tract of 150 acres was donated by Mrs. Ann Carroll and was surveyed and plotted by Chas. Russell of Helena. The legislature would no~ accept the name, Maryville, but said it must be Beeville.
Early town leaders — Justice of the Peace Sam Jack (with his law book, directly behind him James R Dougherty (who had just finished his first case in court, also Maj. W.S. Dugat, Hugh O’Reilly and John Wilson
Beeville Public School 1894
Professor Win. E. Maddera, Beeville School Supt.1900-1986
At the August term of the court the bond of Giles Carter as County Treasurer was approved, and at the January court the bond of Wyatt Anderson as Sheriff was approved. At the March term of court, 1860, the town name was changed from Maryville to Beeville. At the August election 1860, G.D. Gay was elected Judge; G.W. McClanahan, Clerk; W.S. Fuller, Sheriff. The new Commissioners were C.B. Palmer and J.H. Callihan. J.H. Stephenson was elected Justice of- the Peace. He was the first to hold that office in Beeville. He is the father of B.P. Stephenson, the cotton buyer of Beeville, who has the distinction of being the first child born in Beeville. His father now resides in Yoakum.
At the next general election John Hines was elected County Judge, James McKowen, H.T. Clare and D.C. Grover, Commissioners. Under construction, in 1869, Thomas Martin, David Craven and D.S. Callihan were appointed Justices of the Peace and constituted the Police Court, with J.L Smith, County Clerk and J.W. Cook, Sheriff.
To use a modern phrase, there was at this time in Bee County general hiatus in official circles. We usually had someone in the clerk’s office who recorded brands and bills of sale of beeves driven out of the country, issued marriage licenses, etc., though sometimes we did not have even a clerk. And once, while such was the case, a negro couple came to town to get the necessary license to marry. Uncle Tommy Smith, as he was universally called, was acting postmaster. When appealed to by the candidates for matrimony he was equal to the emergency. He at once drew up a statement of the existing judicial condition of the country, and referred to a bill that had been introduced in congress to legalize all marriage contracts among the freed men of the south, and wound up the license by saying that if the bill then before congress every became a law its action would legalize the contract entered into by the parties to whom the paper was issued. The paper was signed, “T.J. Smith, Acting Postmaster,” and was sealed with the post office stamp.
If the parties mentioned in last week’s article ever qualified and entered upon official duty the writer fails to remember it, and here is where the hiatus comes in, though we had a clerk most of the time. In November, 1870, there was an election held for county officers for which the following men were elected for a term of 4 years: TJ. Smith, County Clerk; W.R. Hays, County Treasurer; T.H. Marsden, Sheriff; T.R. Atkins, J.P., Precinct No.; Ross Morris, J.P. Precinct No. 2; RE. Nutt, J.P. Precinct No. 3, D.W.T. Nance, J.P. Precinct No. 4. These officers constituted the Police Court. They found the treasury empty and public highways in a bad condition. They inaugurated a system peculiarly their own and original. They made the office of superintendent of public roads and appropriated $100 a year to its maintenance and offered the office to W.R. Hays, which he accepted. This gave him full charge of all the roads in the county and authority to contract for keeping them in repair, subject to approval of the Police Court. From early in 1871 on down to the present there have been held regular terms of court and things judicial have had a tangible existence.
In August 1871, Alec Reed, a stockman, was out with his hands working cattle and was in camp on the Sulphur creek in the northern part of the county, when he missed some money he had left in camp in a morral while he hunted cattle in the afternoon. He accused a Mexican cook of stealing it and told him that if he did not return the money he would kill him. While Mr. Reed and party were eating supper, the Mexican got a pistol and shot Mr. Reed in the back, killing him instantly. The Mexican was arrested, brought to Beeville and given a habeas corpus trial before Squire Atkins and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury. There being no jail in Beeville the Mexican was taken to Victoria and put in jail there. When the grand jury met it indicted the Mexican, he was tried, convicted and given the death sentence, paying the penalty for his deed by hanging, Dec. 23, 1871. The execution was done by Sheriff T.H. Marsden, and the scaffold stood just in front of where the Commercial National Bank now stands. Mr. Reed and the Mexican both were buried in the old cemetery.
Judge W.R. Hays, as all know now and have for years, was not, in 1871, burdened very heavily by the finances of the county, whose custodian he was. There was not an iron safe in the county, no vault for the safekeeping of the county funds. The Judge carried it in his pocket, it took but little of his time to properly care for it, consequently he devoted much of his time to laying out and making the public roads of the county. He laid out, marked and mea- and put up mile posts to the county line me directions of the county sites of the adjoining counties, worked and put in good Mlidition the crossings on all the creeks and ~r bad ulaces encountered in establishing possible he would contract parues living near the creek crossing to keep them in good repair. By this means our -~ were kept in good condition at a very expense and without trouble to the public. Judge Hays had a good, strong wagon and eke of oxen. With this and a camping outfit he ~o over the different roads to the county by tieing a cloth around one spoke of wagon wheel and counting the revolutions ‘ the wheel he accurately measured every in the county and put up mesquite posts, rking the distance from Beeville. These posts were very durable and not so long ago the writer saw some of these old mile posts still standing, where they were put more than 35 years ago, silent witnesses to the honesty of he who placed them there. The writer claims for the Police Court as it then existed the credit for enacting this novel, unique, effective and economical road law, which the wisdom of modern law makers has never equalled.
Bee County was then sparsely populated, Papalote being the most flourishing town in the county. There were three or four stores, a good school and a large Catholic church, and the precinct polled the largest vote of any in the county, that is, there were more voters lived there than anywhere else, though there was but one voting place in the county, which was Beeville, and the elections were held for three days.
The Police Court of Bee County, as organized in 1871, remained unchanged and worked together harmoniously up to March 1873, when T.R Atkins resigned and was succeeded by J.C. Tyson, who held the office of Presiding Judge up to the time of general election under the constitution of 1876, which restored the old regime of County Commissioners’ Court, composed of county judge end four commissioners elected for two years. The first election under the new constitution was held in November, 1876, at which WR. Hays was elected County Judge; D.A.T. Walton, Sheriff; H.M. Wilson, County and District Clerk. The other members of the court are not remembered positively by the writer at present, though for Precinct Na. 1 we believe it was H.T. Clare, and No. 2 Jeff Porter. Mr. Wilson had filled the clerk’s office under the old regime by appointment, succeeding T.J. Smith, deceased.
During the first term of Judge Hays the contract for a new (the present) court house was let to Viggo Kohler and was finished and received by the court in 1878, at the time an up-to-date building, and for the last 30 years it has done service as Bee County’s temple of justice. Its original cost was about $5,000. It has served its day and is in no sense in keeping with the buildings of modern Beeville, and should be supplanted by a building adapted to the purposes of a court house and one that would reflect the wealth and enterprise of its citizens and would not cause the blush of shame to mantle the cheek of the citizen when asked by the stranger to point the temple of justice.
Shortly after the installation of the new order of things and the passage of the local option law, a petition bearing the requested number of signatures praying for an election on local option was submitted to the Commissioners’ Court and the election was ordered. The result was that local option was adopted by a good majority and was rigidly enforced, and notwithstanding the dire prophesies of death and destruction to the town and county every legitimate enterprise continued to flourish. For ten years the county was under the reign of local option, but with the advent of the Sap railway in 1886 came new people who wanted to change things and soon a petition, numerously signed, asking for an election on prohibition was presented and granted, the election ordered and local option beaten. Numerous saloons sprung up and have continued in business in Beeville since. Under all kinds of conditions Bee County has continued to grow and expand since the first passenger train entered it June 14, 1886.
In writing the early history of Bee County, we have, in the preceding article confined ourself to the organization of the county, is officers, etc., and for a while we will continued along this line, after which we will speak of its early settlers, its agricultural, its horticultural and educational status and development. Our last article brought us down to 1878-9.
During the summer of 1875 or 1876, a man named J.C. Dwyer passed through Beeville enroute to Rockport, there to purchase supplies for his saloon in Tilden. While here he inbibed too freely of “John Barley corn” and was of a pugnacious disposition and made himself generally disagreeable. While in this condition a stranger and non-resident of the county came to Beeville and these two men soon became very intimate, and at the solicitation of Dwyer, Ed Singleton agreed to accompany him to Rockport. Late in the evening they started for that place in Dwyer’s hack. Soon after leaving Beeville they met the mail carrier and took a shot or two at him with their pistols, but the mail carrier was well mounted and soon out of reach of the pistol balls. A short distance beyond Dry creek the two men had a misunderstanding and pistols were used, resulting in the killing of Dwyer. Singleton left the body in the road and drove off in the direction of Refugio and to the San Antonio river, where he left the hack and horses, having appropriated the cash and other effects of Dwyer to his own used. Among the later was a check on a San Antonio bank for $600, which led to the arrest of Singleton, who, about 10 days after the murder, presented it at a bank in Indianola for payment. The bank at San Antonio had been apprised of the murder and requested to withhold payment of the draft, and when Singleton presented it at the bank in Indianola in the morning he was requested to call in the evening. In the meantime the bank in San Antonio was apprised of what was going on in Indianola, and wired to arrest the party having the check. So the marshal of the town was notified and was at the bank, and when Singleton presented it at the paying teller’s window, the marshal grabbed him from behind and put him in prison and notified Bee County’s sheriff of the arrest. Dock Clerk of Papalote was then sheriff. He went to Indianola, got Singleton and took him to San Antonio, where he was kept in jail till the meeting of the district court. The only evidence in the case was circumstantial, but the chain was complete — not a link was missing. Singleton was convicted and given the death penalty. An appeal to the higher court was taken, while the prisoner was carried to Galveston for safe keeping pending the result of the appeal. The verdict of the lower court was affirmed, Singleton brought to the March term of court here and sentenced to be hung April 27, 1877.
In the meantime, D.A.T. Walton had been elected sheriff. A guard of rangers, or state police, was detailed to guard the jail, a small wooden building, in which Singleton was confined after sentence had been passed until his execution, which occurred on the day mentioned, and was the second and last legal execution in the county. A Mexican was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hung, but hung himself a day or two before the day set for the execution. The gallows from which Singleton was hung stood about where the Picayune office is now and was left standing for some time as a warning to wrong doers, notwithstanding the fact that the commissioners court was repeatedly asked to remove it. Finally, when a strong wind partially destroyed it and did no other damage to the town, it as ordered removed and Carpenter Rudolph, who had just come to Beeville, tore it down.
The first school ever taught in the present town of Beeville was under the principalship of John R. Shook, ably assisted by wife. This was in 1861. The old court house, which stood about where the Picayune office is now located, was used for a school house and here the writer under Shook received his last schooling. Mr. Shook was then a young man of superior attainments and had come to south Texas only a short time before going first to Atascosa County, where he invested quite a sum of money in horse stock. He was in partnership with someone whose name is not now remembered. Mr. Shook not being a stockman let his stock out to others to be cared for while he devoted his time to other pursuits at which he was more successful, one of which was seeking a life partner, whom he found in the person of
Miss Dial. They were married in 1860 and immediately he came to Beeville and secured the school. Mr. Shook and his wife were capable teachers and strict disciplinarians, maintaining good order and had the love and respect of the entire school. Among the larger pupils the writer remembers J.C. Thompson, J.M. McCullom, Ed Tatum, all deceased, Mat Fuller, son of Sheriff W.I. Fuller and quite a number of young ladies, only one of whom, so far as the writer knows, is living — Mrs. Henry Ryan, nee Miss Ann Carroll.
J.C. Thompson volunteered in the Confederate Army, joining Wood’s Regiment, 32nd Texas Cavalry. Ed Tatum, Jim McCullom and two other young men who did not attend Mr. Shook’s school (George Kibbie and M.V. Wright) joined Terry’s Rangers. They went to the army in Kentucky, while Ed Tatum died in camp near Baling Green. Jim McCullom’s health failed and he was discharged. M.V. Wright was killed in the battle of Missionary ridge. George Kibbie remained with the command and fought in most of the battles engaged in by the Rangers and returned to Beeville, where he engaged in the mercantile business for a while, later going to Marshall, Texas, where he died of yellow fever. The writer joined Captain M.M. McKinney’s Company, 21st Texas Cavalry, where we remained throughout the war and was honorably discharged in May, 1965. Mr. Shook joined the army and served in Buzchell’s Regiment of Cavalry, where he made a good soldier and got to be a lieutenant. We met him in Louisiana after the battle of Mansfield, when we were driving Gen. Banks back to New Orleans.
But back to the subject. The next school in Beeville was conducted by Ben Hunt in ‘62 and ‘63, after which G.W. McClanahan and wife taught up to shortly before the close of the war. The first school after the war was conducted by T.S. Archer and Geo. T. Staples. They ran a very successful school for two terms and were followed by a Mr. Shive. In the meantime the Methodists had built a church on the block where the S.A.&A.P. Depot is now located. The building was to be used for a school house as well as a church, and all denominations had free use of it when not used by the Methodists.
The next school was taught by T.I. Gilmore and wife, then by J.J. Swan, whom we mentioned in the preceding article as county attorney and who represented the state in prosecuting Ed Singleton, who was the subject of the second legal execution in Bee County. T.A. Blair then taught the school for a few terms. He was followed by John W. Flournoy, though a term along about this time (which is the early 80s) was taught by a Mr. Holzclaw, who was an ex-member of Quantrels’ famous band during the civil war. He was an affiable gentleman and quite reticient on his war record, and was a capable school teacher.
Main Street Beeville 1909 Old courthouse
During Mr. Flournoy’s incumbency as teacher the S.A.&A.P. Ry. was built into Beeville, and the lot on which the Methodist church and school house was selected for the depot grounds. The old building was sold to the negroes for a church and moved across the creek west of town, where it is still used. The school secured ground north of where the High School building is now located, and put up two frame buildings, one a two-story, where the Beeville High School was established under the guidance of Profs. J.W. and LW. Bell. Here it remained and under their charge until 1895, when the present High School (new building) was finished, and under the principalship of Smith Ragsdale, for a while, then L.W. Bell, followed by T.G. Arnold, until his health failed. Since then W.E. Madderra has been at its head. Under these able men a reputation for efficiency has been established, which places Beeville in the front ranks as an educational center. In mentioning those who have taught school in Beeville, we do not claim to have mentioned all, for those reminiscences are from memory, but are, as a whole, reliable.
When the writer first came to Bee County in the fall of 1860, the country presented a very different appearance to what it does now. Then there was no undergrowth or brush, with the exception of a few frees, generally growing in groups, known as mote. The whole country was an open prairie over which roamed vast herds of Texas long homed cattle and thousands of Spanish horses. Deer, too, were numerous and usually went in droves. The grass in many places was waist high and served well for a hiding place for wild animals, consisting of coyotes, lobo wolves, deer and other animals.
At that time there were four roads that crossed the country and upon these travel was light. The oldest and most traveled was the Goliad and San Patricio road. This crossed the Paesta creek some miles below Beeville. Then the San Antonio and St. Mary’s road was designated through Bee County. It was marked only by a furrow made by a plow from the upper Medio down to the county line and never got to be a plainly marked road, although at that time St. Mary’s was quite a business place. There were a number of business houses, wholesale and retail stores, a large lumber yard and other places of business. Large schooners loaded with lumber and other merchandise landed at the wharf. Its business men did a good business with all south Texas from San Antonio to the coast. The means of transportation were ox teams and large wagons, requiring several weeks to make the round trip from San Antonio to St. Mary’s. The teams subsisted exclusively on the grass. And when the oxen would get off a short distance from camp and they had filled upon the grass and laid down the grass was so rank as to hide them from view, and many times the teamster after looking for hours for his oxen would conclude that they had left the country, but after awhile they would rise up out of the grass only a short distance from camp. To one who has not seen it, it is difficult to conceive of the luxuriance of the grass.
In those days there were quite a number of camels roaming at will over the prairies of Bee County. If they were owned or claimed by any one we never heard of it. They were a source of great annoyance to the horse men as they would stampede their herds in every direction and they, the camels, were of no service to the horse men, so to protect their stock they commenced a war of extermination and soon the camels were a thing of the past. While Mr. Shook lived in Beeville he rode out on the Tropical creek and saw one of those camels and gave it a chase. After a long run he roped and brought it to town which caused many horses with saddles on to break loose and run away. Mr. Shook turned the camel over to us boys. It had been used as a pack animal in Egypt or elsewhere and was well broke and by tapping it on the knees, would lie down, when three or four of us would mount and ride as long as we could hold on, then make it kneel and dismount. It was great fun. We kept it a few days and turned it loose.
Shortly after the commencement of the war a man named Anderson went from Goliad to Virginia to enter the army and procured one of those camels for his mount and his trip from starting point to Memphis, Tennessee was pictured with thrilling incidents all the way and often he was threatened with death for the great damage he and his camel wrought. He had caused many wrecks to buggies and endangered the lives of many people. He was a man of means but the damage sustained by those he met almost bankrupted him and forced him to abandon his mount before reaching the army in Virginia. Had the south had a few regiments of cavalry mounted on camels, all the cavalry of the federal army could not have stood before them, as all horses are afraid of them and will always give a wide berth.
At the date of my coming to Bee County, 1860, it is difficult to conceive of a more lovely place. There was almost no undergrowth, one broad prairie covered with the most luxuriant coat of grass. No roads, no fences, travel was by direction, the creeks were beautiful running streams with deep pools at short intervals all along and were full of fish and alligators. Deer and turkey were as common as the proverbial pig tracks. Mustangs and wild horses roamed the prairies in vast herds. In the language of the poet, “The landscape everywhere was pleasing and only man was vile.”
In a later article I may have something to say of Bee County’s early settlers, most of whom have passed to the great beyond.
Before attempting to give the names of Bee County’s first settlers, we will enter a gentle protest against the typo who set up the last chapter of Bee County history for the manner in which he changed the name of what at one time was a prominent water course in the territory. The names of the creeks that in the long ago were beautiful running streams were all Spanish, the autography of which language is unknown to us. Consequently, we use the English and spell them as pronounced in English. We know my chirography is not up to the standard of excellence so we do not expect a typo to follow copy verbatim and usually do not complain, but in this case we trust you will see the justness of our kick and make the correction. It was on the Tapicat, not Tropical creek, where Mr. Shook roped the camel. There are a few other inaccuracies in the same article, but as they do not affect the facts in the case we will not protest. We know we cannot give the names and places of all old time settlers, as we made no record of them at the time. We are relying on memory and if some prominent persons are omitted we would be pleased to correct the mistake if our attention is called to it.
The first family to settle in Bee County was the Corrigan family. They located on the Mansas at the old Corrigan ranch in 1829. With Mr. Corrigan was his brother-in-law, Martin Tool, a bachelor, who died only a few years ago, as did his sister, Mrs. Corrigan. They lived to a good old age and saw wonderful changes in their adopted home. A few years later Pat Fadden and family settled near the Corrigans, where they continued to reside until their death. Others in the same section were Mr. Leahy, D.C. Grover, D.S. Page, G.D. Gay, William Miller and a Mr. Latting, who kept a store and post office at Lattington. On the Paesta creek lived J.V. Stewart, John Sweeney, Dick Hall, Rev. Berry Merchant, David Kerry, Mr. Clemens and some others. On the Papalote lived David Craven, Pat Quinn, Tim and Luke Hart, L. Carlisle, Major Steen, D. Callihan, C. Kirchner and the Burdett family. In what is now the Clareville country lived H.T. Clare, Eliza Clare, Henry Ryan, and lower down on the Aransas lived John and Jim Wilson, J.B. Madray, R.H. and T.H. Allsup, Noah Webster, Ben Fuller, W.R. Hayes and a Rev. McCurdy. Above Beeville on the Paesta lived Felix Newcomer, C.C. Jones, Giles Carter and Pat Carrol. On the Tapicat lived the Gilchnist family and Jas. Ryan and family. On the lower Medio lived the Hines, Foxes, Goulds, Williams, Phelps, Driscoll and Robinsans. Farther up lived Bateses Curtis, W.M. Parchman, Dan Fuller, M.G. Fellers, Josiah Turner, Alex Coker, J.H. Pettus, Mrs. Scott and Mr. Palmer. Mr. Pettus settled at where now the town of Pettus is located in 1854. Two years later, in August 1856, the last battle with Indians occurred on the dry Media in hearing of the Pettus Ranch. The Indians were Comanches, and the Rangers were commanded by Peter Tumlinson. The Indians were all killed with the exception of one, the guard, who made his escape. Not a ranger was killed. Pat Burke was then a young man. He, of all the young men that subdued and civilized the wilderness, is the only one who has maintained an uninterrupted home all these years near Beeville. He raised a large family, all of whom live in and near Beeville, and are among the best citizens of the county. The old citizens of Beeville were Dr. Taylor, who built the first residence. It was southeast of the public square on a lot now belonging to the J.D. Cleary estate. The others were J.G. Cleary, W.S. Fuller, G.W. McClanahan, Dr. Hayden, Leander Hayden, Mr. Bettis, B.R. David, W.W. Arnett, James Wright and sons, W.C. and RC., Mr. Roy, G.B. McCullom, Mr. Stevenson, Prof. JR Shook, John Atkins, Thos. Brady, Mr. Davidson, who lived on the lot where the Sims gin now stands, and John Wallace, whose house stood where Mrs. McMemy’s house now stands. This, I believe, includes all the families then living in Beeville. Mr. McClanahan, Mr. Cleary and a Jew firm of Arnold & Bra. had stores here then. W.S. Fuller kept the only hotel.
Mr. Dawson had a little daughter three or four years old who was playing near the door steps at about sundown when a snake bit her. All was done for her that could be to save her life, but in vain, as she died about 9 o’clock that night and was buried the next day in what is now the old cemetery. She was the first person interred there. This was in the fall of 1860. The next to be buried there was an infant son of May Foster, in March, 1861. Mr. Foster lived at the old Morris place, a mile west of town. Mr. Morris after lived above town at what is known as the Jim Little old ranch.
We ask your pardon for calling attention to a few errors that crept into the chapter of last week. We wrote Elzie, not Eliza dare. Mr. Elzie Clare was a brother of H.T. Clare. We wrote J.F. not J.H. Pettus. It was Mr. Dawson, not Davidson, whose home was on the block now occupied by the Sims gin. It was his child that was bitten by the snake and died and was the first one to be interred in the old cemetery.
We overlooked a few old settlers in my last. Mr. Robt. Graham settled the Hubbard Eeds place above Beeville about 1859. Ross Morris came in 1860. He lived at the Jim Little old ranch. Graham and Morris were the first to engage in sheep raising in Bee County. In 1861 Rev. C. Cook and A.A. Scott and families came and settled on the Tapicat and were in the sheep business. Mr. R.E. Nutt, father and brothers, lived on the Medic near old Beeville. Later, they too, engaged in the sheep business. For several years Bee County was one of the best sheep countries known and many large flocks were kept. The wool crop was a large item in the business of the country. The cow men were prejudiced against sheep, and when the land was put on the market, they bought up large sections of it and forbade the sheep men pasturing it. This limited their range to such an extent as to drive many of them out of business and force them to buy cattle or horses, for it was an exclusive stock country up to that time. Very few ranch men had even a garden for vegetables. Mr. Leahy had a small farm which he cultivated and always made corn. Mr. Carter, shortly after the close of the war, put in a field of about 10 acres at the Carter old ranch. This was about the extent of the farming in Bee County up to 1875, except at the Pettus ranch and the old Ware ranch, where some little effort was made along this line.
Early in the 70’s the land owners commenced to fence their land. First post and plank were used, then what was known as black ungalvanized wire, then the barbed wire, soon the whole country was under fence. This revolutionized the stock industry so far as the handling and working of stock was concerned and almost depopulated the country. The man with a few acres and a few hundred head of stock was shut off from free grass, consequently he was forced to sell his land or his stock, and as it was not known that Bee county soil was good agricultural land, he sold the land at about 50~ per acre, gathered his stock and went west.
Since then it has developed that Bee County is one of the best agricultural and horticultural sections of the Southwest and lands that in ‘75 were thought well sold at 50~ cannot now be bought at $10 or $15 per acre and is being bought at a higher price put into cultivation, and the farmers are prosperous and happy. Many new settlements and towns are springing up, the population is increasing, schools and churches are to be found where only a few years ago domestic and wild animals roamed at will. And still the spirit of enterprise is not wakened, and to forecast the future of Bee County, predicating conjectures on the developments of the last twenty years, we would be safe in predicting for Beeville a population of 10,000. The citrus fruit crops equal or surpass in quantity and quality that of California. Other fruits, such as peaches, pears, plums, figs and pomegranates all do well as do strawberries, dewberries and blackberries. Soon dates will be an important crop but as we are no prophet, nor the son of one, we will bring this series of historical reminiscences to a close, as we have got it down to a date so modem that all can learn of the recent past from his neighbors.
by Thomas Ragsdale Atkins
JONES, CAPTAIN ALLEN CARTER
Captain A.C. Jones
(Dec. 27,1830— Mar. 2,1905)
“Captain A.C. Jones was known as “the father of Beeville”. He was an enterprising, energetic and far visioned community leader in the earlier years of Beeville County.” From the Beeville Picayune - Centennial Issue.
The following is an excerpt from his obituary printed by The Beeville Bee Friday, March 10, 1905.
Like the typical American that he was, Allen Carter Jones was a self-made man. That he attained a large measure of success in life and that in his successes he never forgot to help others, so that when he was laid away all those who knew him mourned, showed how well he builded his character. Born of South Carolina stock in Nacogdoches County December 27th, 1830, his parents, A.C. and Mary Jane Jones, were among the earliest of American settlers in Texas while it was a province of Mexico. His ancestry reached back to the early settlement of America. His grandfather, Jacob Jones, was a captain in the colonial army during the Revolutionary war. Distinctively American, then was the young pioneer, though born a citizen of Mexico. In his span of life of seventy-four years, two months and three days, there could have been few in the state entitled to the distinction of being an older Texan than he.
Schools were few in Texas in the period when the young man was growing up and the age of twenty-one found A.C. Jones, Jr. little acquainted with books and their instructive influences. Those who knew the man in the meridian of life found him measuring up with men of his time in information of the day, the world, its affairs, and the intricacies of commerce. As he toiled he had learned, as he ran he had read, as he listened he had garnered, and his declining days found him the peer of any
intellect who had pursued fortune. He took a wide interest in the affairs not only of his state and his deductions so well-drawn as the papers each day unfolded the happenings of the yesterday, that to the discerning there could not fail come the suggestions that in him was the material, and but the environment needed to have developed a character national in its range of activities and influence.
The boyhood of the subject of this sketch, spent on the borders of civilization, was attendant with scenes of privation and danger —times when men had alternately to labor and fight. Indian raids and marauding bands of Mexicans were not infrequent, and of the the toiler had to lay aside the implements of peace for those of war. These only strengthened the inherent courage of the young pioneer, that distinguished him so that in 1858 he is elected sheriff of Goliad County, where his parents had moved before he attained his majority. This office he held a number of years, in fact until duty called him to shoulder arms in the fratracidal war between the states.
In 1861, Captain Jones enlisted as a private in Company E, Waller’s Battalion, in General Dick Taylor’s command. After eighteen months’ service the same qualities that characterized him in private life, brought him a promotion from the ranks to a captaincy, and order to report for duty in west Texas. He remained on duty in that section until the close of the war. A part of the time he was under command of Colonel Santos Benevides and at other times of Colonel John S. Ford. In his service on the Rio Grande he was severely wounded while scouting with a small body of his men near Rio Grande City, a charge of leaden slugs being fired into his face at close range by a Mexican ranchero, who mistook his men for marauders. To his splendid physique, tempered by a life of activity was his recovery due. At one time during his service on the Rio Grande he was commandant of Fort Brown.
...On the advent of a superior force of federals from the coast, the Confederate forces, including those under Captain Jones, retired from Brownsville. This was the last year of the war and after all the other forces of the Confederacy had laid down their arms. Captain Jones’ company constituted the rear guard. Pursued, it wheeled about face on the old Palo Alto battle ground, fired upon its pursuers and caused them to halt. This was the last fight of the Confederacy. The command divided its company property on reaching Beeville and disbanded. It never surrendered. The result of the war was accepted by Captain Jones in good faith. When he laid aside arms, he also laid aside his prejudices, and he became once again a loyal citizen of a reunited republic. While proud of his record as a soldier of the lost cause, he had no word of censure for those who fought on the opposite side. His policy was rather than indulge in regrets over what might have been, to make the most of the present.
In 1871 Captain Jones settled in Beeville and engaged in merchandising. In the same year he was united to Miss Jane Fields of Goliad, who survives him, and who in the years of his association with this county, has been both an inspiration and a wise counsellor to him. It was his inflexible rule to consult his wife before assuming any business undertaking, and it was his proud reflection that in following the decisions at the daily councils he had never made a mistake.
His residence here has been coincident with the town and county’s growth. Of sanguine temperament cooly considered, and then put into every business enterprise all the vim and enterprise needed to make it a success. Retiring from the mercantile pursuit in 1884. in which he was the people’s banker as well as purveyor, to direct his attention to his cattle business which had assumed large proportions, he was not long allowed to sever his relations with the public weal. In 1885 he was instrumental in diverting the construction of the Aransas Pass railway by way of Beeville instead of down the San Patricio river as had been originally projected. Others despaired of raising a cash bonus of $60,000, and as much more inland. He said it could be done, and by subscribing one tenth of it himself showed the way. This was his rule; to every enterprise of public good, large or small, he gave one tenth. Again in 1888 was his intrepid hand shown in an industrial way. The Aransas Pass had largely benefited the country but another road was needed to give an outlet to the east. To New York he went and laid before Collis P. Huntington the project of extending the Gulf, West Texas & Pacific from Victoria to Beeville. The latter demanded $60,000 as a bonus. So confident was Captain Jones of his ability to raise the amount he promptly accepted the proposition. Returning home he raised the bonus within thirty or forty days, the road was built, which will forever remain a monument to his enterprise. The acquaintance formed with the great railroad builder at this time ripened into friendship, and continued uninterrupted until Mr. Huntington’s death.
Locally Captain Jones interested himself in nearly every enterprise of note. He was one of the founders and principal stockholders of the First National Bank, and president and general manager of the Beeville oil mill. His ranching interests were extensive, as well as his agricultural operations. He annually had a couple of thousand acres in cultivation, which with his interests in the city, kept him a busy man and in close touch with the people. No wonder it is that a man so identified with the commercial life of the town should be so sadly missed and mourning so universal over his demise.
BEE COUNTY’S NEWSPAPERS T4
Beeville Picayune publisher T.R. Atkins stands at right in his newspaper shop about 1895. Two employees look on.
On May 13, 1886, a young Mississippian William 0. McCurdy, issued the first newspaper ever published in Bee County. Then only 20 years old, McCurdy made a success of The Beeville Bee, so much so that by the time he died at the age of 47 on June 19, 1913, he had created an estate valued at $50,000, was a director in a local bank, member of the city commission and chairman of the county’s Democratic Party.
Recognized as one of the most influential citizens of Southwest Texas and certainly one of the most successful small town newspapermen in the state, McCurdy was survived by his wife, Beeville native Elizabeth Wood McCurdy, three daughters, Mary, Martha and Elizabeth, and a son, William 0. McCurdy Jr. One daughter, Mary McCurdy Welder, and his son still live in Beeville, as do numerous other descendants.
Beeville was a struggling little county seat town of about 300 citizens when McCurdy came here from Goliad, where he had been briefly employed. But the pending arrival of the first railroad in this city, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, also in 1886, led the young man to consider establishing a newspaper. He received encouragement and assistance from Capt. A.C. Jones, later known as the “father of Beeville,” and the sheriff, Capt. D.A.T. Walton, in securing subscribers and advertisers.
The town’s population grew rather rapidly with the completion of the first railroad from San Antonio to the coast, followed in 1890 with the building of the Gulf, Western Texas & Pacific Railroad (a subsidiary of Southern Pacific) into Beeville from Victoria and Houston. The two building booms which accompanied the arrival of the railroads made this “a splendid little city” in those early days. McCurdy soon had competition with the founding of The Beeville Picayune in 1890 by brothers Carl and M.M. McFarland, who came here from Victoria. The brothers had worked on the famous New Orleans Picayune and decided to name their newspaper here in honor of one of the South’s most renowned periodicals.
The Bee’s original home was in the loft of a building almost midway in the 100 block of North St. Mary’s Street, where McCurdy set up a George Washington hand press, small job printing press and two cases of type, and began his newspaper career. He next moved the Bee to a location over the T.J. Skaggs store, on the north side of the courthouse square on West Corpus Christi Street. Later, after purchasing a lot about a block away on the same street, McCurdy erected a frame edifice, which was replaced in 1910 by a concrete block, fireproof building. There he assembled a modem printing plant, which included some of the first Linotype machines in the area.
Following McCurdy’s death in 1913, his widow sold the Bee to R.W. “Whizzy” Barry, who had been a reporter and then published it until 1924, when he sold it to Arthur Shannon of Wharton. The latter continued to publish it until 1928, when the two competing weekly newspapers were consolidated into the Bee-Picayune.
In the meantime, the McFarland brothers quickly grew discouraged and sold the Picayune to J.K. Street, who in turn traded it to Thomas Ragsdale Atkins in exchange for Atkins’ Skidmore Hotel in December 1894. There Atkins’ young son, George Henry, grew up in the newspaper business, only to find his father being forced to sell the paper (because of the economic hard times) to W.C. Wright and Frank Shannon in 1903. George then left for a village nine miles north of Beeville, where he established The Normanna Nugget. The little paper failed to flourish and the publisher abandoned it a year later and returned to Beeville.
Wright, who was then sole owner of the Picayune, hired George Atkins as editor at a salary of $40 a month. Two years later, Atkins believed he deserved a raise and asked for an additional $5 per month, only to learn that Wright was thinking of letting the young man go. Atkins moved to San Antonio and worked in a printing shop there for a year when he heard from Wright, who said he would have to leave Beeville in the interest of his wife’s health. Was Atkins interested in buying the Picayune at his own price and terms? ‘That was the only way I could have bought it,” Atkins said, recalling that he had borrowed $1,000 and purchased the newspaper on Oct. 1, 1907.
In 1908, Atkins’ brother-in-law, Russell W.
Beeville Bee founder and publisher William 0. McCurdy at his desk about 1901.
Updated Thursday, December 21, 2006 20:54
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