DR. E. T. MERRIMAN
Hon. Eli T. Merriman, descendant.
Hon. Eli T. Merriman, beloved and distinguished citizen of Corpus Christi, needs no introduction to the readers of this column or to any well informed person. He has done so much for his city, his state and his country, through his active participation in all the civic questions of his community and his long years of editorship of the Corpus Christi Caller, which he helped to found, and which publicity organ has blanketed all parts of the state and is still read throughout the state and in many parts of the country where his name means progress and help. He edits every Sabbath day, the historical review “Forty Years Ago,” abstracts from editions of the Caller of that date which is extremely captivating to the stranger within our gates; it depicts the times and the men and women of the times as no history of Corpus Christi could possibly do.
Son of a pious ancestry, Mr. Merriman has ever had a clear perception of duty, unclouded faith, his lips touched with devotion to his church and his country. One is impressed when talking with him with the fact that he feels the responsibility to his ancestors, and to posterity, and naturally to mankind in general.
Mr. Merriman demonstrated these qualities when called upon to prepare the answers to a questionnaire sent to him by the Nueces County Centennial Committee, to secure a family record for The Centennial Nueces County history or blue book of descendants and their pioneer Texas ancestors; he was the very first descendant to return the questionnaire completely answered.
Great honors have been bestowed upon Mr. Merriman, and a fine tribute was paid to him by the committee chosen to name the officers for the Fraternity of Descendants when he was unanimously chosen to be the first president, with the two other distinguished citizens of Corpus Christi, Hon. Charles von Blucher, as first vice president, and Hon. E. L. Caldwell as secretary. The other vice-presidents and board of director members will be given in the next account of the organization of the Descendants Fraternity. All descendants are eligible to membership if 60 years old, and all are urged to join this new Fraternity of Pioneers and descendants of pioneers.
Dr. E. T. Merriman, Texas pioneer, was born in Bristol, Conn., in 1815; he came to Texas about the year 1849, going to San Marcos, where it was said he was the first settler, moving from there to Atascosa County, and afterwards to Brownsville and then up the Rio Grande to Hidalgo. In 1857 Dr. Merriman moved to Banquete, Nueces County, and in 1865 to Corpus Christi, where he died in 1867. He had a large family of which four sons are still living, viz.: Eli T. Merriman of Corpus Christi, John C. Merriman of Hondo, Medina County; George Merriman of Muskogee, Oklahoma, and J. D. Merriman of Laredo.
Dr. Merriman was a graduate of Yale College, Conn., and had a large practice in Nueces and adjoining counties.
The Merriman ancestors immigrated to America from England in the 16th century, most of them making their homes in Connecticut, Nathaniel Merriman and his sons among them. In an engagement with the Indians at Providence, R. I., Nathaniel Merriman, Jr., was killed and scalped by the “redskins.”
The following short history of the Merrimans is taken from the Media Research Bureau at Washington: “Families of the name of Merriman were found at very early dates in the English counties of Berks, Kent, London, Oxford, Hereford and Whiteshire, as well as in Ireland and Scotland. These families were for the most part of the landed gentry and yeomanry of Great Britain and are recorded as knights, bishops and generals as early as the 14th century. The name of Merriman is believed to have been of Anglo-Saxon derivation and to mean “merry man.” It was given probably to its original bearer because of his genial disposition.
“The descendants of the various branches of the family in America have spread to practically every state in the Union and have aided as much in the growth of the country as their ancestors aided in the founding of the nation. They have been noted for their courage, energy, ambition, industry, power of will, moral and physical strength, integrity, perseverance, hatred of hypocrisy, and fortitude.” — Ref. Times, Dec. 9, 1935.
STORY OF BANQUETE
Eli T. Merriman, dean of the Texas Press Association, now in Florida for a visit to his daughter, Mrs. H. A. Holworthy, sent the following interesting historical data to Mrs. deGarmo for publication in the Pathfinders column.
Mr. Merriman is the honored president of the Pioneer Descendants Fraternity of which E. L. Caldwell is secretary, and Charles F. H. von Blucher is vice president.
An appropriate fraternity pin will soon be presented to every descendant who is eligible to membership in the fraternity. Its design shows a sail ship centering on an ox-cart wheel, the pin or insignia suspended by three rings from an ox-yoke. Like the British soldiers in Paul Revere’s famous story – some came by land and some by sea to settle in this glorious Texas wilderness.
When Banquete was near the center of Nueces County and when, especially during the five years of the Civil War, most of the people lived there along the north side of Agua Dulce Creek, among them the Rabbs, the Myers, the Fusselmans, the Ingledows, the Merrimans, the Moses, the Wrights, the Ashtons, the Moores and some more.
The main business of the place was done over in Banquete Creek, causing some rivalry about the location of the post office which was changed a time or two from one creek to the other.
There was no meat market for the residents living over on the Agua Dulce and first one neighbor and then another would kill a beef or maverick and divide the meat among the neighbors.
In these early days, Dr. Merriman saw two men on horseback coming at full speed towards his house from the direction of the Bartolo water hole or lake on Banquete Creek, one rider about a quarter of a mile behind the other. The first to arrive was Red Fred, so excited he could hardly talk, stuttering with his face so awful red, to ask the doctor to save him, saying that Bartolo was after him to kill him. Bartolo in the meantime had slowed down. Everybody on the place had a good laugh and after the doctor talked with them, the two neighbors made up and went riding off together back home.
Upon on Agua Dulce Creek I witnessed a most unusual flight, a real bullfight, not the kind being pulled off these days in old Mexico. A large red and white bull was noticed pawing the earth and bellowing near the camp while another black and white bull was coming in bellowing from off the prairie. In a little while the two bulls met, but did not fight at first, just looked at one another. They then walked back, maybe 10 feet, and then the fight commenced. The animals ran at each other, butting their heads together with an awful force.
I climbed a tree about this time to be safe. The bulls ran or walked backward coming together several times as before. Then one ran and jumped into the lake and swam across it, the other following him, the two climbing the bank on the other side and resting in the shade of the trees. The next day I saw these two bulls eating cactus together like two friends.
About this time Jas. E. Merriman, member of Wares Company, camped up at the Puerto ranch, came down to see how I was getting along. Seeing eight ducks out in the lake, he said, “I am going to get them, all I need is some caps as I have powder and shot, so bring me some fire on a stick from the camp house.” This I did as soon as I saw him stretched out near the bank with the shotgun pointed toward the ducks. Slipping up behind him I handed him the stick with fire on it. He placed it on the tube of the gun and off it went, killing seven of the ducks, only one flying away. The shot was homemade from slugs cut up into very small pieces and rolled between stove lids, ammunition being hard to get at that time.
The habit of visiting newly married couples and making a loud noise on the first night of their marriage, getting the happy couple to come out and receive congratulations and set up the treat to the boys outside, so frequent in the long ago in this part of Texas especially in Corpus Christi, is not practiced any more though it is said it is still done in Tennessee and some other states.
Banquete had one big shivaree, all in fun, just to have a good time. The grand march started from down on Agua Dulce Creek, headed towards Mrs. Bayton’s boarding house over on Banquete Creek where lived John Fogg, who was a jolly good fellow practicing jokes. The night was so dark and still, and one could hear the noise for miles around, the marchers ringing cowbells, blowing horns, beating drums, firing off pistols once in awhile and yelling.
Mr. Fogg heard the crowd coming and prepared to give the funmakers a hearty reception. So when they arrived Mr. Fogg, to their surprise, jumped out right in the midst of them, bearing a large dishpan and shouting “Hurrah for John Fogg,” congratulations, hearty laughs, and drinks followed which ended the shivaree.
Another surprise took place on Banquete Creek when the minister refused to marry a young couple, stating to the would-be groom that he could not perform the ceremony with a license. There was a large number of friends present which was very embarrassing to the happy couple. The groom thought the minister had the license.
It was discovered then that the party sent to Corpus Christi to get it had forgotten the needed document on his rounds shopping. So another man was sent off on horseback at full speed in the darkness of the night to get the license from the clerk at the courthouse with instructions to get it if he had to go to the clerk’s house and pull him out of bed. In the meantime the dance and frolic went on till daylight. — Ref. Times, Apr. 15, 1936.
Civil War Days
At this time a number of the leading stock raisers owned several negro slaves, among the ranchmen being John Rabb, W. W. Wright, Major Ingledow and Conrad Meuly. The value of the slaves differed in prices; a negro man around 35 years of age was considered worth about $800. I remember seeing nearly a hundred, gathered at Banquete, in transit for sale, but the prices had dropped down considerably, like Confederate money, as the war was nearing its end. Finally when it ended, and the negro slaves were told by their owners that they were free and could go away, some of them were at a loss to know what to do. Some wanted to stay with their old masters, who had clothed and fed them, doctored them and given them the best of care when they were sick. Some hired out to their old masters, at their old home place, some got work somewhere else. The negroes took the names of their old masters. “Old Joe” was called “Joe Ingledow.” Martha, who belonged to the Meulys, took the name of Martha Meuly, and so on.
During the war there was a family of free negroes living on the west side of Agua Dulce Creek, about five miles west of Banquete, known as Uncle Bob Thompson’s people. This settlement was started by “Little Bob,” as he was first called. Gen. Zachary Taylor, to whom he had belonged, freed him at Brownsville, when he left for Monterrey in 1846, because of his faithful service as valet, etc. He was left to shift for himself when the army went on into Mexico. This he did very well, buying a wife there and moving back to Nueces County, where he had spent several months with General Taylor and his army. He had a large family, all of whom, after the war, moved down near the Juan Saens Ranch, where Old Bob met with an accident, falling in the fireplace, causing his death. There were a number of other negroes, among them Van Branch, congregated there, and for several years it was known as the Republican precinct of Nueces County in election times. The colored people living near Juan Saens Ranch were good and law-abiding citizens, Isaah Claton, one of them, preaching and farming there. Some years ago the negroes all moved away from that part of the county. Old Mariah, a yellow woman, who belonged to Major Ingledow and who married Fountain Thompson, is still living at Austin, where she was taken to receive treatment at the Pasteur Institute after a mad coyote had bitten her in the face. She is considered one of the few slaves now in Texas, being about 100 years old.
During the Civil War, Miss Martha Fusselman was known as one of the most charming young ladies, living at Banquete, having many admirers, among them Rufus Byler, a stock raiser, also Sheriff Mat Nolan of Nueces County, who made several visits to Banquete to see the young beauty, who finally decided to marry the young stockman. The sheriff rode away and married a former sweetheart, Miss McMahon. Sheriff Nolan was afterwards assassinated, but nothing was ever done about it, because nobody seemed to know who did the deed. Dr. Merriman, who lived at Banquete and had a large practice there, in 1865 took a trip to Austin, leaving Banquete by private conveyance with three of his sons, Walter, James and Eli, Major Ingledow, Confederate enrolling officers during the war, accompanying him. They rested for a day at beautiful San Marcos, where Dr. Merriman lived in 1849 and was the first settler.
At Austin, major Ingledow and Walter quit the party and Dr. Merriman and his sons returned homeward by way of Bastrop and Sweet Home, the latter place being near Hallettsville and near the old home of the Bylers. Mrs. Rufus Byler, the captivating young lady of Banquete, the before-mentioned Miss Fusselman, was found in great distress because she could hear nothing from her husband who had gone to Banquete. When the Merrimans reached Banquete, they found Frank Byler awfully worried about his brother, Rufus, who had not arrived there, and that he was hunting for him everywhere. Some years later, it was learned that he was murdered on his way to Banquete.
Not until then did his widow give up her desire to learn what had happened to him. Some years later she married Mr. F. H. Dubbose. By her first husband, she had three children. Ella Byler married Mr. Richard J. Dobie. She is the eldest living child. She lives at Beeville and had four sons and one daughter in the World War. All returned home. One of the sons, J. Frank Dobie, is the popular book writer and historian. Another son, the noted aviator, brought the first air mail from Kansas City to Fort Worth. Frank Byler, brother of Mrs. Dobie, died at Mathis a few years ago, where he had engaged in the cattle business. By her second husband Mrs. Dubose had several sons, only two sons now living, Ed Dubose of Mathis and Charles Dubose, popular business man of Alice.
One of the old cemeteries of Nueces County, nearly as old as the Military Bay View Cemetery of Corpus Christi, established by General Taylor in 1845, is the one at Banquete, where many of the old pioneers of Nueces County are buried, namely, Capt. John Rabb, W. W. Wright, John Fusselman, B. A. Bennett, S. J. Eliff, C. C. Wright and Mr. Sanders. C. C. Wright, or Cotton Wright, as he was called, was reared at Banquete, lived there all his life, was buried there within a half mile of where he was born.
In the early days quilting parties were common with the ladies, who as usual gossiped like the menfolks. Some of the ladies dipped snuff, a custom among the best at that time. I distinctly remember being sent down to the creek after hackberry roots to make the snuff brushes for the quilters. There were so many ladies around the frame that I had to crawl under the quilt to distribute the brushes
One of the big weddings at the close of the war was that of James E. Merriman, who married Miss Richardson, daughter of a Banquete merchant. Mrs. Ada Wright is still living at the old place and when Mr. Henry Merriman, the son of James, and a prominent merchant of Hondo, Texas, recently was visiting here, we went to see Mrs. Wright, who told him all about the grand time they had when his father was married at the Burke home, and that she danced at the wedding. After the war many of the Banquete citizens moved away from there, Dr. Merriman, John Rabb, Mrs. Byington, John Fogg, and others moving to Corpus Christi. James Moore, James E. Merriman and Samuel Fusselman moved to Hondo. The present residents of Banquete are new people, Mrs. Ada Wright being the only old resident left.
Shortly after the war my mother, who sold her piece of property on the Agua Dulce Creek to B. A. Bennett, sent me to Banquete to ge the money. There were no banks in those days, and Mr. Bennett paid me at Mrs. Byington’s place in $20 gold pieces. I put the money in a little sack, got on my horse with a six-shooter buckled at my side, and rode back to Corpus Christi without any further anxiety as I held my six-shooter with a vigorous grip the whole way back. This is the last story I shall write about Banquete. — Ref. Times, Apr. 16, 1936.
“Happy he, who with bright regard looks back upon his father’s father, who with joy recounts the deeds of grace and in himself values the latest link in the fair chain of noble sequence.” ---- Sir Walter Scott.
De Garmo, Mrs. Frank. Pathfinders of Texas, 1836-1846. Austin: Press of Von Boeckmann
Jones, Co., 1951.
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales