By E. T. Merriman


Referring to the article last week on old pioneers, mentioning the first mayor of Corpus Christi and the first sheriff of Nueces county it might be added that Capt. Berry, who was a town builder, manufacturing burnt brick to build the houses here, (the one left) was wounded chasing the Comanches out of the country, one of the “red skins” shooting an arrow into his groin, which after being pulled out and put away was kept by the family for a long time.

There are seven mayors of the early days of Corpus Christi and a number of sheriffs of Nueces county buried in the old cemetery not far away from the court house. Two of these old time mayors, Col. John M. Moore and John B. Mitchell, had a hobby – deep water for Corpus Christi, talking for it and working for it every opportunity. In early fifties Col. Kinney, the founder of Corpus Christi, made up his mind to have the channel dredged from Aransas bay into Corpus Christi by so that vessels could come up to this city. In a short time arrangements were made to have Col. Moore go to New York and secure the money needed to finance the enterprise, Col. Kinney offering to give land in exchange for it. In New York Col. Moore took the matter up with a Mr. Birdseye and soon the deal was consummated, Col. Kinney engaging Dean S. Howard in the undertaking. A dredge to do the work was shortly afterwards constructed on North beach, just north of the home of Col. Moore – place now owned by W. E. Everhardt. In 1857 the channel was completed, a committee composed of S. W. Fullerton, R. Parkinson, H. A. Gilpin, F. Belden and Geo. Pfeuffer, visiting the channel, reporting it cut to a depth of ten feet and boats passing through it. After this Corpus Christi had splendid business because of water transportation which was enjoyed by the merchants and business men until the civil war broke out when things went to the bad, the Confederates putting obstructions in the channel in 1862 to keep the federal gunboats from entering the bay. This did not stop the enemy. Capt. Kitrdige, the commander, coming along, pulled out some of the obstructions, entered the bay and bombarded the city, shooting holes through many of the houses, before his capture by the confederates after the battle.

The war had hardly ceased when the people here commenced to talk about deep water again, the old channel being practically ruined. In the early seventies a mass meeting was held in the ware room of the Smith & Ginnings building on Mesquite street – corner now occupied by the State National bank. At this meeting J. B. Mitchell and other of the leading townsmen made speeches that aroused the citizens to action, enough money being raised in fifteen minutes to build another dredge boat, the other dredge having been sunk during the war in a high gale in front of Col. Moore’s home, the old wreck lying there for a number of years. After the meeting on Mesquite street a movement was started for the construction of the second dredge, which was built about where the first one was, on North beach. Col. Moore interesting Morris & Cummings of New York in the enterprise for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Company. The channel was completed in June 1874, when the Morgan steamships, drawing from 8 in 9 feet of water (about the depth of water on Aransas bay at that time) recommended running to this port containing in the business for about _____________ years.

About this time or the year before, J. B. Mitchell, of the wide-awake business men here at that time, by ______ by, decided that he would go to New York, in search of business for this port. Arriving at his destination Mr. Mitchell met a man named C. C. Heath captain of a vessel bound for Buenos Ayres, with whom arrangements were made for Capt. Heath to bring a cargo of coffee from South America to Corpus Christi. In due time the schooner – Martha M. Heath, named after Capt. Heath’s wife, arrived here with her cargo, the first vessel to arrive at this port direct from that country, it is believed. Peter Benson, who bought some of the coffee, says it was the best he ever drank. Capt. Heath was so well pleased with Corpus Christi that he decided to make his home here the rest of his life, going into business and working for the port, finally being elected mayor of the city. Messrs. Moore and Mitchell were “go-getters,” to use the expression, going away looking for business for the port, the kind of man Corpus Christi is going to need, to visit the large cities and foreign countries and interest capital and business for the big port when it is opened and even before it is opened.

R. Holbein, mayor of Corpus Christi in 1859 and county clerk of Nueces county in the early days, was a well known pioneer, coming here early in life from England, where his father as agent in London for Col. Kinney, got many people from the British Isles to emigrate to this country and settle in Nueces county, most of them making their home in Corpus Christi. Kinney advertising far and wide the fine climate and cheap lands to be found here. When the writer first came to Corpus Christi in 1865, most of the families seemed to be from the old country, and they were among the leading citizens. Mr. R. Holbein spent the latter part of his life on the Santa Gertrudis ranch as an accountant for Capt. B. King, having practically full charge of the ranch it is said when the captain was away on business.

George Robertson, mayor of Corpus Christi in 1863-64-65, and postmaster here in 1857, was the leading druggist of the place for quite a number of years, being among the very early settlers, coming to Corpus Christi from Scotland, a man of few equals in his profession. He was among those who remained at his post of duty sacrificing his life in the terrible epidemic of yellow fever in 1867.

W. N. Staples, mayor of Corpus Christi in 1866 and 1867, was one of the prominent business men. Mr. Staples and his brother, W. W. Staples, being among the pioneers of this section. Mr. Staples died on his ranch near Alice about 30 years ago.

As to the sheriffs, there are several of them sleeping their long sleep in the City’s sacred ground. Thomas Beynon, a pioneer coming from Wales across the seas in the long ago, was sheriff of Nueces county for a number of years, resigning the office to take charge of one of the largest ranches in this country – Texas Land and Cattle Company’s. After the Mexican raid in 1875 he organized a company of mounted guards for the protection of the city and surrounding country.

Source:  Corpus Christi Caller, June 15, 1924

Transcription by:  Rosa G. Gonzales

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