A Thesis

 

Presented

 

In Partial Fulfillment

 

of the Requirements for the Degree

 

Master of Science

 

Texas College of Arts and Industries

 

 By

 

Mrs. Ida May Segrest Decker

 

June            1942

 

Committee Approval

 

                               Date                                                Chairman   J. A. Rickard

 

             May 19, 1942                                            L. F. Connell

 

                                                                                      J. Dewitt Davis

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTERS

             

               I.            HIS EARLY LIFE, 1852-1870

               II.           NEWSPAPER CAREER, 1870-1930

               III.          FIFTY-NINE YEARS A MEMBER OF THE TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION

               IV.          FORTY YEARS OF EFFORT FOR DEEP WATER

               V.           RAISING THE BONUS FOR RAILROADS

               VI.          OTHER CIVIC PROJECTS

               VII.         HIS DREAM REALIZED

               VIII.        HIS LATER LIFE

PREFACE

 

The purpose of this study is to relate the story of Mr. Eli T. Merriman’s life.  The fact that he lived in Corpus Christi for seventy-five years and in its vicinity for eighty-eight years, makes the story of his life parallel with the beginning and growth of that city.

In another sense also Mr. Merriman’s life is of historic importance; for he was a very worthy representative of the pioneers who by their ambition, their untiring zeal, and their ability to overcome difficulties, laid the foundation of this civilization year by year and helped in the development of this country.  It was done by hard work and sacrifice.  There were many difficulties that would have discouraged some, but to pioneers like Mr. Merriman those difficulties served as stepping stones to greater achievements.  It is hoped that this paper will show how these were accomplished.

The materials for this study were collected from newspapers; from histories that deal with the early years of Corpus Christi and Nueces County; and from scrapbooks and official documents in the possession of private citizens.

The writer wishes to thank those people who have been interviewed, and who generously answered many questions cheerfully.  She is especially indebted to Mrs. A. Clemmer, daughter of Mr. Eli Merriman, for valuable information and assistance.  She also wants to express her deep appreciation to Dr. J. A. Rickard, whose assistance and constructive criticisms have made possible the preparation of this Thesis.

 

 

April 12, 1942                                                                    Mrs. Ida May Segrest Decker

 

 

 

 

ELI T. MERRIMAN  - A BIOGRAPHY

 

I.   HIS EARLY LIFE, 1852-1870

 

Eli T. Merriman, eldest son of Dr. and Mrs. Eli T. Merriman, was born May 15, 1852 at Edinburgh, Texas in Hidalgo County.

In the early 50's, the family moved to the little settlement of Banquete on the Banquete Creek which runs into the Agua Dulce Creek.  The Agua Dulce Creek is about seventy-five miles long.  It runs its entire length in Nueces County and empties into the Laguna Madre.  During heavy rains a chain of lakes forms between these to streams.  On the shore of the largest lake, which is never dry, stands the place where Santa Anna supposedly gave the Spaniards a banquet from which Banquete got is name.

It was here Dr. Merriman engaged in stock raising in addition to his practice of medicine extending as far west as San Diego, east to Corpus Christi, north to San Patricio and Live Oak County, and as far south as Captain R. King’s San Gertrudis ranch.  In 1861, Dr. Merriman established a hospital for Confederate soldiers at Banquete.1

Banquete was a center of considerable importance during the Civil War Days, as it was a horse trading center.  At that time cattle rising was carried out on a wide scale.  It was also an important point on wagon train routes which came through Goliad, San Patricio, Banquete, and the King Ranch on the way to Matamoros.

Long trains of wagons passed and repassed day and night, driven by old men and boys.  The middle aged men were in the army.  In the cotton season, the wagons were loaded with cotton which was to be sold at a high price in the booming Mexican town of Matamoros.  The wagons returned with ammunition, clothing, tea, coffee, and other needed articles, which were impossible to get in the southern states.

There was no battle fought near Banquete, although the Federals captured Corpus Christi, twenty-five miles away.  It is said that the Federal soldiers were afraid to venture that far out into the country, for fear that the Confederates might get them.  Captain James Wares, with his Confederate soldiers, was camped at the Puerta Ranch on the Agua Dulce Creek near Banquete.  Besides, there were plenty of cowboys, in that vicinity, who were ready to fight anything – Indians, bandits, or Federals.2

In this colorful surrounding, young Eli lived as a child.  He tells of his boyhood in Banquete, as follows:

 

“At the age of about six years, my mother sent me and my brother, John, aged about five years, over to my Aunt Mary (Mrs. M. Fusselman) to school.  Aunt Mary only had us two boys to teach, the Fusselman house being only about a hundred yards away from my father’s place, with no other houses close around.  Aunt Mary taught her youngsters speeches.  Mine was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  Aunt May taught us some other things, among them our five senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling.

A few years later, I went with my half brother, James, to a school taught by an old crippled gentleman by the name of Meyers, who had a school about a mile from us where the Banquete Creek runs into the Agua Dulce.

In 1862 when I was ten years of age, my mother sent me to school over on the north  side of the Banquete Creek two miles away a short distance east of where Mrs. Ada Clark Wright is now living.  There were about twenty boys and girls.

George, Eghart and I, who were hot from running and jumping went over to the water bucket for a cool drink.  We dropped the dipper and spilled some water on the floor.  This angered the teacher who proceeded to give us a good thrashing with a mighty big switch or stick.  Not long after that the school house burned — So that ended the school on the Banquete."3

 

Mr. Merriman never forgot his schoolmates, and he also remembered many amusing incidents which occurred, even if they did happen seventy-five years ago.  For instance, Mrs. Belle Doughty, of 1221 Seventh Street, Corpus Christi, Texas, who was then Belle Moses, was a schoolmate of his at Banquete.  They both remembered the pony which Mrs. Doughty, when a little girl, rode to school every day.  One day, when she rode into the creek to water her pony, he decided to lie down and roll over.  It took quick thinking and action on the part of little Belle’s schoolmates to rescue her.

After the war, Mr. Merriman’s father closed his hospital in Banquete and brought his family to Corpus Christi in 1865, where he continued his practice.  It was in that city that Eli continued his studies.

Most of the schools in Corpus Christi at that time were private.  The Reverend John Gonnard, a much beloved French Priest, was in charge of St. Patrick’s Parish.  He taught a boy’s school and aided Mrs. Prior in keeping a little school open during the darkest days of the war.4

One of Rev. Gonnard’s assistants was William S. Campion, who was born in Galveston and was educated in Europe.  After Father Gonnard’s death, in 1867, Mr. Campion left Corpus Christi for a few years.  On his return, in the 70's, he had erected the school which is still standing at 812 N. Tancahua Street in Corpus Christi.  Here he taught many years.  At one time he taught one hundred and fifty boys.5

Eli Merriman went to the Hidalgo Seminary when he came to Corpus Christi in 1865.  In 1924 he wrote the following account of the most important Corpus Christi school, at that time.

 

“The Hidalgo Seminary located on the lots now occupied by the convent in this city was strictly a boys school  - one of the best in the state, many of the boys coming here to attend it hailing from places a good distance away, viz: Laredo, Victoria, St. Mary’s, Refugio, San Patricio, Rio Grande City and other points.  It was a paying school (no public schools in the early days in Texas) which reached its zenith in the year 1867, the year of the yellow fever.”

 

The Hidalgo Seminary had behind it as its stronghold Father Gonnard, who had many friends, not only among his own people, but among the Protestants.  He was so popular that had he not died, the Hidalgo Seminary might have grown to be a great education institution.

Professor W. S. Campion, who was one of the teachers in the Seminary, became discouraged after his friend Father Gonnard died, so he left.

Father St. John, one of the priests who took Father Gonnard’s place, engaged Mr. Robert Dougherty, a most excellent teacher, to come and take charge of the school, which began to grow once more under his practical instructions.  Mr. Dougherty was well liked and well known as he had been a teacher there in previous years.  He did not stay long, for in 1874, he went to his home in San Patricio, where he established a school of his own, The St. Paul’s Academy.6

 

Mrs. Sutherland has the following to say of Mr. Merriman’s father:

 

“Dr. E. T. Merriman died during the epidemic of yellow fever in 1867.  This was a vital loss to the whole community as he had endeared himself to all by his kindness and charity.  His influence with all classes averted more than one lawless act and saved his city from a reign of terror."7

 

Since Eli was the eldest son he tried to help his other after his father’s death.  So a few years after, in 1870, he was looking for a steady job.

 

II.   NEWSPAPER CAREER, 1870-1930

 

Mr. Merriman tells of his early experiences as a printer.  It was in 1870 at the age of eighteen, he entered that business.  He acknowledges that he left school at recess to get his first job at the printing office of Judge B. F. Neal, who was then publishing a small semi-weekly paper, Nueces Valley.

Late in 1870, Judge Neal sold his newspaper to the Republicans, who had elected Edmund J. Davis of Corpus Christi to the Governorship of Texas.  Governor Davis soon made the Nueces Valley one of his official organs.

Young Merriman, who was now twenty years old, had proved to be a fast learner of the printing art and was promoted to the job of foreman of the shop.  He was in a position to note with gratification that the Republicans, even though they were his employers, were not making as much headway in Texas as they had hoped.  The next governor, Richard Coke, was a Democrat.

At the age of twenty-two in 1874, Printer Merriman went to Galveston and took a position in the composing room of the Galveston Daily News, which at that time was published on Market Street.  He remembered, well the four flights of stairs that he had to climb to get to where the printers were setting type by gas lights.  It took a lot of printers to set up the type by hand for the morning papers.

Young Merriman did not stay in Galveston long.  It was that same year that he returned to Corpus Christi to spend the holidays at his home but decided to remain.  He went to work for Barnard and Son, who were publishing a paper, the Corpus Christi Gazette.  In 1877 when twenty-five years of age, he left the Gazette and went into partnership with William H. Maltby, who was publishing the Free Press.8

The firm of Merriman and Maltby launched the Corpus Christi Free Press and soon pushed it to a wide circulation.  “Pushed” is the right word.  Up and down the Nueces River, Publisher Merriman rode a horse, following very rough roads and dim trails to locate subscribers, and using the horn of his saddle to support his notebook, as he placed their names on his subscription list.

He found the widely-scattered settlers, leading rather lonely lives, so glad to meet and talk with a newspaper man from the metropolis of Corpus Christi, that he was encouraged in 1879 to make his quest for circulations very far-flung.  By stage he traveled to Laredo and thence to Rio Grande City, then the only American community in the lower valley outside of Brownsville.

From Rio Grande City the wayfaring newspaperman journeyed down the river to his birthplace, where he was hailed as a wanderer returned, by old settlers who had known his father.

He went by stage to Brownsville, where imposing residences graced with furniture imported from France and Spain proclaimed the wealth obtained from the cotton which had commanded fabulous prices when smuggled through the blockade and sold in the old world markets.

In 1880, when Mr. Maltby died, Mr. Merriman bought Mrs. Maltby’s half interest in the publishing and printing business.  In association with two other young men, W. P. Caruthers and Ed Williams, he established, in 1883, the Corpus Christi Caller.  In a little over a year, Ed Williams sold his interest to Captain Kenedy and went to Mexico.

A greatly cherished dream of W. P. Caruthers was a deep water port for Corpus Christi, but seeing no hope of its realization after five years of labor, and feeling that the city would never amount to much with a port, he sold out to Mr. Merriman and moved to Denver.

But Editor Merriman never stopped working for the seaport, and he lived to see his dream come true.  For twenty-nine years he edited and managed the Caller, selling his interest in 1911 to Mrs. H. M. King, and accepting a position with The United States Government as a special agent for cotton.9

When Mr. Merriman retired from the active management of the Caller, in 1911, he received many expressions of appreciation for his long years of service.  Following are some of the editorials from the newspapers of the neighboring towns:

 

Eli T. Merriman who has been the mainstay of the Corpus Christi Caller for so many years Monday, severed his connection with that paper and will enjoy the rest he so much deserves.  His many friends will regret to learn of his withdrawal from his work, but will all unite in wishing him long life and may he enjoy the rest he so much deserves.10

With the resignation of E. T. Merriman as business manager of the Corpus Christi caller, South Texas loses another good man in the newspaper world.  Colonel Merriman has been true to the craft and will be greatly missed.11

Eli T. Merriman is one of our pioneer citizens who has worked unceasingly in the effort to make of Corpus Christi a great city.  He is now one of the most enthusiastic Franklin railroad workers, and is confident that Corpus Christi will secure that railroad.12

Mr. Eli T. Merriman, for forty-four years connected with the printing and publishing business in South Texas and for the past twenty-nine years intimately connected with the Corpus Christi Caller, resigned his position and sold out his interests in that paper this week and will retire from the newspaper world for a time, only holding a chair in the directorate of the Caller.

He will be missed in the ranks of journalism.  He is succeeded by J. W. Stayton.13

The Herald regrets to note the retirement of Mr. Merriman from the newspaper field, as business manager of the Caller Publishing Company, he has been well and favorably known all over South Texas.  The Herald has known and liked him from the beginning of his career.  Staunch, honest, and thoroughly reliable, Eli T. Merriman has been an honor to his calling, and newspapers in general may count themselves fortunate if they have such men as he on their staff.14

 

When past seventy, Mr. Merriman retired but still had his zest for newspaper writing.  When he would visit other parts of the country, he would send back to the Caller, from time to time, interesting letters describing that particular section.  Although he appreciated the progress made by the people of other cities in other states, he was more interested in the progress made in Corpus Christi; although he enjoyed the different scenery and climate of other parts of the country, it was always evident which part he appreciated most, and that was Corpus Christi.

Mr. Merriman never lost his interest in the Caller, although many changes were made after his retirement in 1912.  These were changes in ownership, in the office force, and among the layman and even the building.

Mr. Merriman’s work and friendship were appreciated by the Caller employees.  Bob McCracken, Managing Editor, expressed the sentiment felt by all of the Caller staff, both past and present, when he said:

 

                   “He was an inspiration to all of us.''15

 

Although Mr. Merriman was engaged in the real estate and insurance business, he found time to collect from old newspapers valuable information.  Since the old files at the Caller office were destroyed in the 1919 storm, Mr. Merriman’s old friends gave him their copies of the early newspapers of Corpus Christi, such as, The Corpus Christi Gazette, published by Barnard & Son; Free Press, published by Maltby & Merriman; and Corpus Christi Caller, published by Merriman.

In 1921-22, he wrote a series of articles called, Men and Events of Forty Years Ago, which were especially interesting to the pioneer families and to students of history.  These articles were selections of the most important events which occurred in Corpus Christi and of the prominent people who took part in those events.

In the reprinting of the news from those first papers of Corpus Christi, more people were given the opportunity to learn of its early history.  The selections from the Corpus Christi Caller for forty years ago were interesting because Mr. Merriman was rewriting the news which he had written when he was editor of that paper.

 

III.   FIFTY-NINE YEARS A MEMBER OF THE TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION

 

It was in May, 1882, that Mr. Merriman attended the first meeting and became a member of the Texas Press Association.

The meeting was held in Houston.  Since there were no other railroads in Corpus, Mr. Merriman had to go to Laredo over the Tex-Mex.  From Laredo he went to San Antonio over the I. & G. N. and then on to Houston over the Sunset Route.

The members of the Press Association were treated royally by the Houston people.  They were entertained with a banquet by J. W. Johnson, owner of the Houston Post, at his mansion in the southern part of the city.  The muddy streets made transportation difficult.  The street cars were drawn by mules, and there were no paved streets or electric lights.

Mr. Merriman tells us that about sixty newspaper men took advantage of the trip to California, which was tendered to the Texas Press by Gould & Huntington, owners of the Texas-Pacific Railroad.  As the road had just been completed between Fort Worth and El Paso, it was desirous to have the country written up.16

The conventions of the Texas Press Association met in different parts of the state after the first few years.  The big questions of this nation were discussed at these meetings.  The Texas Press Association tried to steer a straight course in political matters.

At the seventh meeting a resolution was adopted that no motion or resolution referring to politics should be entertained by the Association when in session, and that no political matters be discussed.17

In 1882, at the third convention, a member was expelled for disgraceful conduct while intoxicated.  In relating this incident, the writer had this to say,

 

“Not all members have been teetotalers, and some have occasionally taken ‘a drap of the crature’, but no other one has disgraced the proceedings of a convention by appearing in the hall in a drunken condition."18

 

At the fifteenth meeting, a former president was expelled from membership in the Association for not paying dues and for other causes.  And at the seventeenth, the Association went on record as resolving that dishonorable acts would not be tolerated on part of its members.

The following is taken from an address made by the president.  It shows some of the aims of the Association:

 

It may safely be said that through the discussion of problems and the urge to higher standards, better business methods have come into use in increased prosperity for the papers, and better standards of living for those who make them, as well as a better service to their patrons.19

 

The Texas Press Association upheld high ideals, always.  They encouraged education.  The Association pledged itself to true temperance and to use its efforts to aid temperance principles.  If there had been a tornado, drought, or fire in some of the state and even in this country, the Texas Press Association was the leader in giving donations to the people in distress.  In time of war, it pledged its cooperation to the leaders of this nation and assisted in raising money for all worthy causes.  They also endorsed all efforts to standardize the medical profession.

Although the general meetings of the conventions were conducted in a dignified and serious manner, there was always time for fun.  For example, when the convention met in Corpus Christi in 1906, the most enjoyable feature was speech by J. G. Flores of Richmond on, “Should the Inventor of the Gasoline Engine be Shot, Hanged or Burned?”

When the thirty-third convention met in Temple, a sham battle was staged at one of the banquets.  Much to the surprise of the company, two members began quarreling, then drew their guns and began firing at one another.  When the shooting began, the guest scattered in every direction.  Some crouched behind chairs and other articles of furniture.  Most of them found refuge under the table - some of them leaped from the windows to the awning below.  It took quite a time to convince the unsuspecting company that this was all a joke.

Mr. Merriman attended all of these meetings.  He was on the program many times, and he would always advertise his city.  He succeeded in having Corpus Christi chosen as a meeting place for the convention several times.

So influential was Mr. Merriman, as a member of the Texas Editorial Association, that this organization met in Corpus Christi in 1911 and honored him as the Dean of the Texas Newspaper profession.  In 1919, he was elected president.

In presenting the Golden Jubilee History of the Texas Press, Joe J. Taylor, State Press - Dallas News has this to say:

 

“The press of Texas has marched side to side with all the men of light and leading who have contributed to the greatness which is Texas.”

 

It can be said of Mr. Merriman that he marched side by side with all the men of light and leading who have contributed to the greatness which is Texas and Corpus Christi.

 

IV.   FORTY YEARS OF EFFORT FOR DEEP WATER

1909 Corpus Christi Daily Caller headline and article

 

When Corpus Christi was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the port in September 14, 1936, Mr. Merriman wrote of the early efforts to obtain deep water for Corpus Christi.  He brought out the difficulties and the hard opposition that the people of Corpus Christi had to overcome in making this a deep water port.  Certainly he should know, for he was right there in the middle of the fight for forty years.

To understand better the need for such an outlet, we must remember that during the Civil War the number of livestock increased until the ranchmen in this section had more cattle than they knew what to do with.  Prices became so cheap that the animals were slaughtered for their hides and tallow.  This was shipped from Rockport to New Orleans and Havana markets on the Morgan ships.  Even these side-wheel steamers drew about seven feet or more and could not get through the shallow channel leading into Corpus Christi Bay.  The Corpus Christi merchants had to have their goods from New Orleans and other place brought in on “lighters’, or sailboats, from Rockport.

The business men of Corpus Christi then made a contract with Messrs. Morris and Cummings to dredge a channel via shell banks between Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays so that the vessels could come up to the city, as they had been doing at Rockport.

About this time the country between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande was becoming a great sheep raising country, millions of pounds of wool being brought to Corpus Christi in ox carts for shipment by water to the eastern markets.  This business, with the shipping of cattle, called for more ships.  The Mallory Line then built a fine vessel, The Western Texas, a screw propeller carrying freight and passengers, which ran to Corpus Christi for a while until the Morgan Line built a twin screw vessel called The AransasThe Western Texas then left these waters, having trouble getting through the crooked Morris and Cummings channel.

At that time Corpus Christi had a fleet of lumber schooners bringing lumber from Lake Charles and Pensacola for several years, and they too experienced great trouble in getting through the channel into Corpus Christi Bay from Aransas Bay.

Texas Congressmen tried to get appropriations from the government for increasing the depth of the water on the bar, but they met with opposition, which insisted that all government money expended for securing deep water on the Texas coast should be spent at Galveston.

Finally a meeting was called at Topeka, Kansas, to settle the matter, and there the opposition out-voted the delegates from Corpus Christi.  The Corpus Christi business men met at Mr. Murphy’s Office on Lawrence Street to raise money to send one of its citizens to Washington to remain there until something was done.

In 1890, at the time of the Ropes boom, everything looked encouraging for a while.  After seeing the Caller’s big map of Corpus Christi Bay with an arrow pointing to the Turtle Cove, Colonel Ropes was in favor of dredging the channel and making Corpus Christi the great deep water port.20   Mr. Merriman had a map especially made showing the advantages of the channel to the commerce of this city and section and for years advocated the Turtle Cove channel, looking forward to the time when big ocean liners would pass through it carrying freight and passengers between Corpus Christi, New York, and Foreign ports.  Opposition loomed right away, and he had to change his plans.  One of the objections to Colonel Ropes plan was that the government would not help any part of the channel owned or controlled by any corporation or person with the right to levy tolls or otherwise affect navigation.

Corpus Christi has always had rivals.  In the early days, Rockport competed with Corpus Christi for deep water.  The first recognition accorded Corpus Christi as a port by the federal government was contained in the Rivers and Harbors Act of August 30, 1852.  Corpus Christi was included in the different surveys made by the government down through the years, but as the city was small it did not have much influence.  In the other towns along the coast, the business men used their money and influence to get the deep water nearest to their town.  For example, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce was interested in deepening Pass Cavallo for Indianola, until the storm swept that little port off the map.  Then San Antonio favored Aransas Pass.  They influenced Congress in choosing Aransas Pass as a port in 1912.  It was not until Corpus Christi developed internally and showed possibilities of becoming a great trading center, that San Antonio and the surrounding towns gave their support to that city.

After Colonel Ropes’ failure to dredge a channel through Turtle Cove, he decided to cut a ship channel through Mustang Island and across the bay to the mainland.  Plans for the channel called for a depth of thirty feet with a bottom width of two hundred feet.  Colonel Ropes built the dredge and out the channel across Mustang Island.  However, they soon learned that the channel would fill up in a short while, which meant more dredging and money.  Then the money panic of 1893 came.  Ropes’ Boom was over.

Several years elapsed, then the Corpus Christi Board of Trade was encouraged by the government engineer who had made a favorable report regarding the opening of the turtle Cove channel.  About that time, however, the engineer, a Mr. Jadivin, had to leave so the enthusiasm for deep water waned again.21

Mr. Merriman was one of the Democrats who in 1906 elected John N. Garner as Congressman.  Congressman Garner believed that Corpus Christi was a good location for a port.  It was largely through his efforts that the Rivers and Harbor Act of March 2, 1907, made appropriations for various sections of the Intra-costal Canal from Galveston south to Corpus Christi.  Included among them was a direct channel from Aransas Pass through Turtle Cove to Corpus Christi Bay, a distance of nine miles.  (The old channel was thirty-two miles long.)  This direct channel was to be eight and one-half feet deep.  The sum of $123,750.00 was appropriated.  This was the initial step in the development of the present Port of Corpus Christi.

The promotion of the project constituted at that time the primary work of the old Corpus Christi Commercial Club, of which Mr. Merriman was a member.  Since he was manager and editor of the Corpus Christi Caller, the most important newspaper of that city, he was the spokesman for all of this organization’s enterprises.  He represented the “Voice of Progress.”

Enthusiastic with this first success, Congressman Garner, at the insistence of the commercial club, obtained in the Rivers and Harbors Act of March 3, 1909, the first survey authorization for a twenty-five foot project.  He was not successful but in 1910 the depth of channel was increased to twelve feet.

In 1912 Aransas Pass was accepted as the port.  The 1919 storm showed the unfitness of this place for a port, so two weeks after the storm, a citizens committee in Corpus Christi passed a resolution directed to Congress of the United States.  This resolution was largely responsible for the provisions contained in the Rivers and Harbor Act of June 5, 1920, which authorized a survey of the Texas coast in the vicinity of Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, Rockport, and Corpus Christi.

In 1922, Major L. M. Adams, who was then District Engineer in charge of Texas waterways, made a report on the survey.  In this report, he admitted that a port at Rockport, Aransas Pass, and other locations nearer the pass could have been realized at a fractional part of the cost of building a port at Corpus Christi.  He took the position, however, that Corpus Christi by reason of its established business facilities and its financial ability and capacity, supplemented by the state’s aid, was the only locality among those under consideration which was capable of extending the cooperation necessary to insure an adequate harbor.

There were stirring events surrounding the campaign which that survey authorization initiated and which subsequently resulted in the establishment of the port at Corpus.  Probably at no time or place in the history of the United States was a more enthusiastic, persistent, and determined campaign waged in behalf of a public enterprise.  All of South and West Texas became interested and organized for the contest.  The Corpus Christi Deep Water Committee took local charge.  After considering the claims of various aspirants, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce finally decided that Corpus Christi was the best location for the port.

Major Adam’s recommendation was approved by the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors following a visit to Corpus Christi on March 1, 1922.  The report was forwarded to Congress, May 25, 1922.  The Rivers and Harbors Bill had passed the House and was being considered by the Commerce Committee.  It was Roy Miller and W. E. Pope, local Legislative representatives, who urged them to accept the adoption of the project.  Largely through the influence of our Senators Charles A. Culberson and Morris Sheppard and Congressman Garner, the project was adopted.  Following the passage by the Senate the act was approved by President Harding, September 22, 1922, and the Corpus Christi port project became an established fact as far as congressional authority was concerned.22   (Taken from speech made by Roy Miller, Legislative Representative)

Four years passed before the port was a reality.  These four years were spent by the leaders in arousing the public to see the necessity of having a port; of realizing that there were certain responsibilities which rested with the citizens; that there were obligations which had to be met.  Mr. Merriman was one of the leaders in this type of work.  Here is a sample of his discussions about the deep water project:

What was once a desire on the part of the people of the city, has developed into a demand on the part of the people of the Southwest.

This talk on the part of some that there is not sufficient business for a port to justify the big things contemplated is ridiculous.  Why, I remember when the first spike in the first railroad here was driven.  At that time the town was a small place and it did not look like there was enough business to justify a railroad but you see the results, for this railroad has developed into one of the longest and most important in the United States and is the National Lines in Mexico.

Corpus Christi is the only place on the Gulf of Mexico possessing a bluff, and Corpus Christi Bay is one of the deep bays on the Gulf.  Possibly had it not been for the pastures being fenced in the early days we would have had deep water before this, for in the 70's there were boats making this port, departing with large cargoes of cattle, hides, and wool.  The fencing of large pastures forced the sheep men to go west.  Since the rail lines divided the business, it discouraged the water lines, and things were allowed to lag.  But now that the entire section is thrown open to cultivation with half a million bales of cotton, alone, available for water transportation, the necessity for a deep water port here is too deeply embedded in the minds of the people for it not to come.

I have believed and worked for it since those days of the 70's, and at last feel I am going to see it here.23

 

V.   RAISING THE BONUS FOR RAILROADS

 

The four railroad lines in Corpus Christi which Mr. Eli T. Merriman had a part in securing were:

San Diego, and Rio Grande (now Texas Mexican) which was built in 1875-80; the San Antonio and Aransas Pass (now Southern Pacific) which was built in 1886; the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico (now Missouri Pacific) which was built in 1903-04; and the San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf (now Missouri Pacific) which was built in 1915.

Efforts were made by prominent citizens of Corpus Christi to obtain a railroad as early as 1856, when a charter was obtained.  After repeated failures, these men realized that they were setting their aims too high.  They decided that instead of a standard gauge railroad they would build a narrow gauge, thereby saving eight or ten thousand dollars a mile.  Thus was formed the Corpus Christi, Rio Grande & Narrow Gauge Railroad Company, promoted by Uriah Lott of Corpus Christi.  In 1875, construction was started at a cost of $7,000.00 per mile.  Even then, the promoters had difficulty in getting money, and the project seemed hopeless until Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy came to their aid.  It was in 1881 that this railroad was taken over by the Mexican lines, and thereafter it was known as Tex-Mex Railroad.24

It was Mr. Merriman’s privilege to be present when the first spike of the city’s first railroad was driven, on Thanksgiving Day, 1875.  After the road was finished Captains King and Kenedy chartered a train.  The prominent business men of the city were invited to go to Laredo to celebrate.  A band was taken to entertain the crowd.  Refreshments were furnished.  In fact, some mischievous person filled the water coolers with champagne.  When the train arrived in Laredo, a crowd of people had gathered in order to help celebrate.  There was a parade through the main streets of the city, along with speeches, music, and cheers.  Mr. Merriman was a member of that party which went on this first train to Laredo, and he never forgot it.

In 1886, Uriah Lott was the promoter for another railroad to Corpus Christi.  This was the San Antonio and Aransas Pass which is now known as the Southern Pacific.  This railroad tapped the ranching country north and east of the Nueces, but the growing cotton industry also was an inducement for the route he selected.

To Captain Mifflin Kenedy goes the most credit for obtaining this railroad to Corpus Christi.  He gave $20,000.00 for the construction of the railroad bridge across the Nueces Bay.  Another $20,000.00 was given by other stockmen, and $60,000.00 was contributed by the citizens of Corpus Christi.

Mr. Merriman not only contributed his share of the bonus but, as editor of the Corpus Christi Caller, the most important newspaper of the city and county, he did his part in arousing the public.  For years he had been advocating the building of a railroad that would connect Corpus Christi with San Antonio.  He had told of the advantages to the people such a railroad would be, and how much time and money would be saved.  The only other railroad in Corpus Christi at that time was the Tex-Mex Railroad.  In order to get to San Antonio, a person would have to go to Laredo, then to Houston, then to San Antonio - thus traveling a distance of four hundred fifty miles, whereas, a direct connection with San Antonio, the route of the S.A.P., would be only one hundred fifty miles.25   Reprinted - Corpus Christi Caller Times, Sept. 5, 1926.

 

          Mr. Merriman tells of the first trains that crossed the reef:

 

Two trains crossed the reef bridge for the first time on October 30, 1886, at two o’clock P.M.  One was a special bring President Lott, Traffic Manager, B. F. Yoakum and G. W. Fulton, Jr., of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company.  The other was the construction train.  The regular train arrived that night at 10:30 from San Antonio, being the first to run into Corpus Christi from the Alamo City.  The freight depot above the courthouse is reported under construction and the work being pushed rapidly.26

 

“When the Franklin Railroad (which was afterwards known as San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific) was heading for the Gulf from Uvalde, the people paid little attention to it at first,” Mr. Merriman said.  He was one of the leaders of that group of citizens who realized the importance of railroads to Corpus Christi.  He went to San Antonio to see Colonel Franklin, who was the promoter, and gave the many reasons why the railroad should come to Corpus Christi.  He was so convincing that the road was built.

However, Mr. Merriman’s work for the railroad was not finished yet.  He came home and gave his report to a meeting of citizens that was called to consider the matter.  Mr. Merriman and Roy Miller offered to start the raising of a bonus to secure the road.  Much was subscribed, but it was not sufficient, and a plan was adopted to sell some lots at a town to be called Viola about twelve miles west of Corpus Christi.  Many lots were sold, and the money was given to the representatives of the road.  (This was the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific..)27

When the railroad was completed and the first train was due in Corpus Christi, Mr. Merriman felt that a celebration or a demonstration was in order.  He grabbed a flag from his office wall and began his journey down the main street bound for the new depot, calling to the owners of the business houses as he passed by their stores.  By the time they reached the station, there was quite a crowd to welcome the railroad officials.28

It was Colonel E. H. Ropes, prominently identified with the boom in Corpus Christi in 1890, who had visions of building a railroad from Corpus Christi to Brownsville and through to Panama, a length of 2,150 miles.  He organized the Corpus Christi and South American Railway and work started November 15, 1890, but the venture failed.

A new company, the Pan-American Railroad Company, getting permission on October 20, 1891 to build a road from Victoria to Brownsville through Corpus Christi, flourished but briefly.

In 1903 the venture was begun that ultimately proved successful.  The plan was to build from Robstown, where connection was made with the Tex-Mex leading to Corpus Christi, southward to Brownsville.

The railroad that drove southward from Robstown blazed a path in a wilderness.  It was waste territory thick with mesquite brush, teeming with wild game, and sparsely populated.

The new towns which sprang up along the route of the railroad, attained size and new people came into the country over the shining rails - South Texas began a real growth.29

Mrs. Mary Sutherland said that Mr. Merriman did the lion’s share in raising the bonus to get the St. Louis-Brownsville & Mexico Railroad to enter the city in 1904; that he raised the last thousand dollars on the last few days of grace.  She pays this tribute to Mr. Merriman:

 

In the years to come we may rear distinguished sons in the old town, but never one to give more, or as much, as did Eli T. Merriman.  He gave so freely that the people forgot to show or even feel gratitude.30

 

VI. OTHER CIVIC PROJECTS

 

Mr. Merriman was among a group of citizens who chartered a schooner, in 1873, to bring lake ice to Corpus Christi from Maine and New York.  It was cut into slabs four feet square and was packed in sawdust.  Since this ice was so difficult to obtain, the price was 15 cents a pound.  Storage for this ice was a somewhat crude affair, a place dug back into the bluff about where the First Christian Church is today.  It was not until 1878 that Corpus Christi had an ice factory, which was built by Captain King.

The early fire department of Corpus Christi was made up of volunteers, and most of the important citizens of the community were a part of it.  The Pioneer Fire Department was organized in 1871.  In 1872 the Hook and Ladder Company was formed.  Mr. Merriman was represented among the charter members of both.

Since the beginning, Corpus Christi had had some military organization of some kind.  In 1859, the Walker Mounted Rifle Company was organized for defense against Indian raids.  In 1861, there was company of heavy artillery organized for coast defense.  In the 80's, there was a company known as the Star Rifles.

When bandits from Mexico made a raid on Nuecestown in March 2nd, 1875, the people of Corpus Christi were alarmed, because they expected them to attack there.  One group of men went after the bandits.  The Star Rifle Company stayed to guard the town.  They escorted the women and children to the bayfront, where boats were provided to take them away in case of an attack.  That night the company prepared to defend the town.31

Mr. Merriman was a member of the Star Rifle Company.  The Gazette of June 26, 1875 had the following to say of this company:

 

The Gazette learns that the Star Rifles have been ordered out for drill and inspection on Friday, July 2.  The Company are to appear in full uniform at their drill ground at Artesian Park where the Gazette predicts that a majority of citizens especially the ladies will be present to witness their evolution.32

 

In 1876, when the Star Rifles were taking part in the July 4th celebration, while firing a cannon, one of the members, Stanley Welch, lost his arm from the explosion which occurred when the cannon became too hot.33  Reprinted Corpus Christi Caller Times, July 3, 1921

In November 30th, 1879, the Star Rifle Company was reorganized.  The name changed to Corpus Christi Rifles.34

Mrs. Sutherland tells us that at one time when Mayor Lovenskiold felt that the City of Corpus Christi was not able to keep up the street lights, Mr. Eli Merriman went out to the citizens and raised a subscription to keep the streets lighted.  After two years the city again assumed the expense.

Once, long before there was a chamber of commerce, a fine plan for advertising the town over the state was carried out.  A boat was sent to Padre Island, and shells were gathered from the beach.  A whole carload of these shells was shipped out of Corpus Christi to erect a tower at an annual celebration held in the Cotton Palace at Waco.

At the same time, one of the prettiest young ladies, Miss Mittie Reynolds, was sent to represent Corpus Christi at the celebration, competing for the honor of being queen.  “She almost won, too,” said Mr. Merriman, who was the promoter of this unique method of advertising.35  Corpus Christi Caller, Aug. 29, 1921

Mr. Merriman was ever optimistic about the future of his beloved city and was ever interested in its development.  He encouraged every improvement that would make the city attractive and appealing to prospectors and tourists.  In nearly every edition of the Caller there were, along with the pleas for deep water and more railroads, also pleas for more sidewalks, paved streets, attractive bayfront, better bathing facilities, more hotels, a larger auditorium, an ample water supply, and good schools.

Items from the Corpus Christi Caller of March 14, 1896, show that Mr. Merriman believed in advertising.  He said, “No cheaper living in the United States than right here in Corpus Christi.  Come to Corpus Christi where we have game, fish, oysters, vegetables nearly the whole year round at almost your own price."36

Mrs. Sutherland also tells us of the different ways that Mr. Merriman would advertise the city.  In every edition of his paper there was some favorable comment about Corpus Christi.  On one occasion when refrigerator cars, loaded with vegetables bound for northern and eastern markets, left Corpus Christi, their outside walls held posters that advertised that city.  Mr. Merriman, at his own expense and time had printed the cards and nailed them on the cars himself.37       Corpus Christi Caller, Aug. 29, 1921

In the earlier days of the 80's and 90's in Corpus Christi, the lodges played an important part.  The Knights of Pythias Lodge was one of the most popular.  The members took their obligations seriously.  There were friendships formed among the members that were similar to that of Damon and Pythias.  The teachings of this lodge were uplifting and inspiring and influenced many lives for the best.  The entertainments fostered by this lodge were some of the main social events of Corpus Christi.

As time passed, many of the charter members died, and in the growing city there were other interests more demanding, so the membership in this lodge dwindled.  At one time, the Mirimar Lodge, Knights of Pythias sold their equipment and gave the money, which was several thousand dollars, to their orphan’s home at Weatherford, Texas.

It was Eli Merriman, who had been a loyal member all through the years and several other leaders in this lodge, that reorganized the lodge and built it up until it now has a membership of four hundred.

In 1916 when the Knights of Pythias had a big drive for membership and attendance, Mr. Merriman on the contest.  At the banquet which followed, there was a total attendance of eight hundred Knights.  It was Eli Merriman who gave the main address of the evening.

In his introductory remarks, he told some of the incidents that happened while he was trying to contact more members.  One day he met Reverend Austin, the Presbyterian minister who was Mr. Merriman’s opponent in the contest.  Reverend Austin, jokingly, said, “Brother Merriman, if you worked for the Lord as hard as you do for the Knights of Pythias you would surely go to Heaven.”

Mr. Merriman said that he told the minister that when he was working for the lodge, he was doing the same work as the church for both were trying to make men better.38

If Mr. Merriman had lived a few more months he would have obtained the reward for fifty years service in this lodge.  After his death, his family was given a beautiful inlaid emblem which read, as follows:

 

In memory of Eli T. Merriman who for nearly fifty years was a

devoted member of the Mirimar Lodge – Knights of Pythias

11-26-4139     

 

Mr. Merriman was an enthusiastic member of the Odd Fellows.  The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs celebrated their 103rd years of Odd Fellowship in 1922 at Corpus Christi.  There were three hundred visitors present.

The Rebekah Lodge has kept alive and has done good work all through the years.  Mr. Merriman was always a favorite guest at the entertainments given by the Rebekahs.  Some of his schoolmates were embers of this lodge, so of course, he enjoyed seeking them and talking of old times.

The Ladies Pavilion, which was the center of good times in Corpus Christi in 1900, stood over the water about where the Nueces Hotel Laundry is now located.  Several of the leading feminine citizens bought shares of stock in this enterprise.  They had charge of it for ten years and made money, as they rented it to stock companies for lyceum programs, and home talent programs.  Mrs. Sutherland, who had stock in this company, said that Mr. Merriman was one of three men who encouraged the ladies to build the much needed pavilion.40

Mr. Merriman worked for this auditorium, especially at this time because he was anxious to have a place large enough for the Texas Press Association Convention.  For he, and other newspapermen of Corpus Christi, were proud hosts of the T.P.A. Convention as early as 1906 and later in 1915.41

When the First Presbyterian Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee Anniversary, May 13, 1917, Mr. Merriman was honored in memory of his father, Dr. Eli T. Merriman, who was a charter member of that church; for it was at the Doctor’s home that the church was first organized in 1867.

Mr. Eli Merriman was the oldest member of the Church of the Good Shepherd.  For many years he was a member of the vestry.  He also served as senior warden and treasurer and was senior warden emeritus at the time of his death.42

His devotion to his church was well known.  At one time while acting as treasurer of the church, he went to each member and asked for a contribution.  He was one of the faithful few who held the church together through its early growth and years of hardships43

Mr. Merriman was a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.  That organization was not as active as the Daughters of the Confederacy, but the Sons had to give the money to pay for their different projects.  Eli Merriman helped raise the money for the memorial drinking fountain erected, 1915, on the side of the bluff at the convergence of the two great granite steps, by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Mr. Merriman helped save the old Bay View Cemetery, which had been established during the time General Zachary Taylor’s army was in the city.  For the last ten or twelve years he personally supervised the care of this cemetery without pay.44

The ninety-five year old Bay View Cemetery is located between West Broadway, Topo, Ramirez, and San Pedro Streets.  Leading pioneer citizens, federal soldiers of the Mexican and Civil wars, and confederate soldiers were buried there.45

Some forty years ago the Bay View Cemetery Association was formed and for years looked after the burial grounds.  As the original members died, the Association became inactive.  Mr. Mary Sutherland in The Story of Corpus Christi, written in 1916, says that Mr. Merriman was the power behind the throne that made a success of the woman’s Cemetery Association.

The Old Bay View Cemetery Association was reorganized in March 1, 1940 and the movement started to make it a national shrine.  Mrs. Sam Rankin was the president and Mr. Merriman was vice-president.  Mr. Merriman was still active in this organization at the time of his death.

 

VII.   HIS DREAM REALIZED

 

Not many men live to see their dream realized, as Mr. Merriman did.  Not many men live to see the transformation of a scattered settlement into a prosperous city.  Mr. Merriman was impressed by this progress of his beloved city and was quite proud that he had had some part in its development.

He could remember the sleepy village of the muddy or dusty roads and the rain-gutted hills and the uneven shoreline.  Years afterward he viewed with satisfaction the miles and miles of paved streets; the terraced bluffs; the flower bedecked parks; the bay front improvements with its undreamed-of magnificence.

He could remember the unsanitary water supply of the first years – those man-made dirt ponds – made by building dams across the arroyo; the Nueces River water concrete tanks.  Records show that the Caller shouted the “Glad News” when water was piped over the city’s residential section in 1892.  He lived to see the city’s water plant improved and enlarged until in 1940 there were two billion gallons of water pumped through the city mains.

He remembered the fear that leaped in everyone’s heart when the fire alarm was sounded in the early days; when everyone offered to help, either by joining the bucket brigade, getting the water from the bay or pushing a hose cart through the streets and using the city hydrants, if there were any close enough to the fire.  There were times when everyone could only stand helplessly by and let the house burn.  It is not surprising that these pioneer firemen were in favor of improving the fire fighting apparatus.  How proud Mr. Merriman was of Corpus Christi’s up-to-date fire equipment of today.

He remembered the crude ox carts of the 70's; also the heavily laden wagons that would get stuck in the mud so deeply that the farmers would have to throw their products overboard.  He remembered too, when the mail was carried by pony express.  He knew Matt Dunn, one of the mail carriers, who was killed on his way to Laredo.  He knew Mr. Thomas Beynon, who had charge of the stage coach which ran between Corpus Christi and Brownsville.  This route was so dangerous, at one time, that the people making this trip would settle all their business affairs and prepare for death before undertaking it.  (No wonder these pioneers worked so hard for railroad.)  Mr. Merriman lived to see amazing changes in the ways of transportation.

Mr. Merriman also remembered when people thought that this part of the country was too dry for farming.  Before his death, the cabbage crop of Nueces County was 5,000 carloads per year, and the annual cotton production was estimated to be from 80,000 to 95,000 bales.

Mr. Merriman remembered the time when the Anderson Mill was the only factory in Corpus Christi.  It had to do the work of several as it ground the grits, meal, and salt; and it sawed wood and even ginned cotton.  For years the theme song of the Caller was the cry for factories in order to use the surplus raw materials.  So Mr. Merriman, with the other “old timers,” viewed with pride every additional factory, especially the modern cotton gin, compresses, cottonseed oil mills, and alkali plant.

Mr. Merriman remembered the time when water was so important to the cattlemen in this section that they were deeply disappointed when they found oil instead of water.  He remembered when the time came that oil was so essential and the promoters were trying to locate the fields, just how many false rumors there were before oil was found in the paying quantities.  He remembered how, sometimes, the whole town would be shaken with excitement, and crowds of people would dash out to see the well – only to find a flow of salt water.  Mr. Merriman lived to see 85,614,207 barrels of petroleum handled at the port.  He lived to see new oil refineries and recycling plants.  He witnessed the explosion of several gas wells before the gas was piped for use in the city.

Mr. Merriman remembered the time when people had to wade across the Nueces Bay, into San Patricio County, in the shallow water.  Sometimes the teams would step off in deep water and turn over the wagons.  There had been several roads or bridges built before the present four miles of the concrete causeway of today was erected.  Mr. Merriman also had a part in this project.

 

VIII.   HIS LATER LIFE

 

When Mr. Merriman died, on January 26, 1941, there were many people beside the relatives and intimate friends who felt a definite sense of loss.

There were many “newcomers” who had come under his genial friendliness, for Mr. Merriman loved people.  He made friends easily.  His whole outlook on life was cheerful.  He was so optimistic that he naturally inspired confidence.

There were expressions of sympathy at the time of his death.  Many friends were present to pay their last respects to their friend.  There were many friends who were unable to come to the funeral that wrote letters.  Some of those are so expressive and enlightening that they are given verbatim, as follows:

 

STATE OF TEXAS

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Forty - Seventh Legislature

Austin, Texas

 

                                                                                                Office of the

                                                                                                Chief Clerk

 

February 4, 1941

 

 

Mr. George J. Merriman

Corpus Christi, Texas

 

My dear Mr. Merriman:

 

          You will find enclosed a copy of House Concurrent Resolution Number 21, which was introduced by the Honorable John E. Lyle, and adopted by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

          The members of the House of Representatives take this means of expressing their sincere regret at the passing of the late Honorable Eli T. Merriman, and extending their sympathy to the bereaved family.

 

Very truly yours,

 

(S) E. R. Lindley

E. R. LINDLEY, Chief Clerk

House of Representatives

 

EDR:my

enclosure

 

 

                                                                                      H.C.R. NO. 21

 

HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

 

WHEREAS, The Legislature has learned with sorrow of the death of Honorable Eli T. Merriman; and

WHEREAS, Eli T. Merriman is one of the last of South Texas’ pioneers as well as one of the founders of the Caller, Corpus Christi’s first daily  newspaper, and is a man who generously gave a lifetime of service to his community; and

WHEREAS, For more than eighty-eight years Eli T. Merriman has refused to grow old and has been vitally interested in the work of the church, community, and his fraternal organizations and has been the source of inspiration to all of those who aspire to a life of service to their community, State, and country; and

WHEREAS; In the passing of this great citizen and this great Texas his community and the Sate of Texas has lost a valuable resident and friend and a loyal and outstanding citizen; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Representatives, State of Texas, the Senate concurring, That formal notice be taken of the passing of this worthy citizen and their sympathy be extended to the bereaved family and the community where he so long resided; and be it further

RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution be spread upon the Journal of this day’s proceedings of both houses, and that when the House and Senate adjourn today they do so as an act of respect for this illustrious citizen: and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Chief Clerk of the House send to George J. Merriman of Corpus Christi, son of the deceased, a copy of this Resolution under the Seal of the House of Representatives and the Seal of the Senate. _________________

 

(Signed)   Coke S. Stevenson                                               (Signed)   Homer Leonard

     President of the Senate                                                      Speaker of the House   

 

I hereby certify that H. C. R. No. 21 was unanimously adopted by a rising vote of the House on January 29, 1941. ____

 

                                                                    (Signed) E. R. Findley          

                                                                   Chief Clerk of the House     

 

I hereby certify that H. C. R. No. 21 was adopted by the Senate on January 30, 1941. ____

 

                                                                   (Signed)     Bob Barker         

                   :: SEAL ::                                   Secretary of the Senate         

 

 

 

DIOCESE OF WEST TEXAS

Rt. Rev. William Theodotus Capers, D.D., Bishop

Episcopal Residence

108 W. French Place

San Antonio, Texas

 

February 21, 1941

 

My dear Mrs. Clemmer:

 

I have just by chance learned of the deep sorrow that has come upon your household and also upon our Diocese in the death of your honored and sainted father.  I hasten to extend my loving sympathy to you and every member of his family and to express my own personal sorrow.  I have always entertained the greatest admiration for your father’s character and I shall always feel indebted to him for his contribution to the Church by his example of a Godly life.

My visits to Corpus Christi in the future will always be saddened by the absence of your father from the congregation and by reason of the fact that I always had a little visit with him after the service.  He was one of the very first friends that I made when I assumed my office as Bishop of this Diocese.  In my own thought he has become a permanent past of my life here in West Texas.  His example of steadfastness to the faith and his loyalty to his rector and to his Bishop have meant far more to me than I can tell you.  No man has left this life to enter into the other life more worthily and with greater certainty of his eternal reward than Eli T. Merriman.  I have his picture in my office which I see daily and I have a feeling of comradeship with him to-day that is a delight and a strength to me.

May God bless you and yours in bearing up under the separation of your father’s translation to the Life Eternal.  I feel certain that he will live with you just as he lives with me and in this consciousness of his life we will ever have him present with us.

 

                                                Faithfully and affectionately yours,

 

                                                (Signed) Wm. Theodotus Capers

 

Mrs. A. A. Clemmer

Medical and Professional Bldg.

Corpus Christi, Texas

 

 

ROY MILLER

Corpus Christi, Texas

 

                                                                   Hotel Mayflower,

                                                                   Washington, D. C.

                                                                   January 30, 1941

 

Personal

 

Mr. George J. Merriman,

cr State National Bank,

Corpus Christi, Texas

 

Dear Jeff:

 

Unfortunately, I did not hear of the passing of your dear father until the Corpus Christi papers recording it reached me.

Of course you know how intimately I was associated with your father for so many years and probably few outside of his immediate family knew him better.  He was one of the finest men I ever knew.  Always energetic, courageous and optimistic, I do not recall that I ever heard him speak ill of any one.  His faith in Corpus Christi almost equaled his religious faith and it was a real favor of fate that he was permitted to live long enough to see some of his dreams come true and to witness the culmination of Corpus Christi’s material progress for which he worked so hard and so unselfishly for so many years Of course the invaluable contribution your father made to Corpus Christi, unfortunately, was probably known to comparatively few of the many thousands who now make up the population of Corpus Christi but had they known they would have recognized the obligation which they owed to him for his persistent advocacy of those things which made possible the Corpus Christi of today.  I shall always treasure the recollection of my friendship for and my associations with him.  He was a truly great and good man and the influence he exerted to make Corpus Christi what she is today will be felt for many years to come.

I shall be grateful if you will extend my sincere sympathy to your two sisters and other members of the family.

 

                                                                   Sincerely your friend,

 

                                                                   (Signed)    Roy

 

 

Mr. Merriman lies buried in the Old Bay View Cemetery, beside his family to whom he was so devoted; his wife, his mother, and his father.  Nearby are the graves of many of his old friends.  Below is the city which he loved.

 

          The words of Paul are so applicable in summing up Mr. Merriman’s life:

 

                                      “I have fought a good fight,

                                      I have finished my course,

                                      I have kept the faith."46

____________________________

 

1Corpus Christi Caller, March 8, 1933

2Scrapbook Excerpts from The Corpus Christi Gazette - 1872-74

3Corpus Christi Caller, March 8, 1933.

4Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 80.

5Mrs. Tom Cahill, Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, April 2nd, 1942.

6Corpus Christi Caller, January 12, 1924.

7Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 137.

8History of Texas Press Association, 182.

9Special Edition, Texas Farming and Citrus Culture, July 4, 1922.

10Robstown Reporter

11Bishop News

12Kingsville Record

13San Benito Star

14Brownsville Herald

15Corpus Christi Caller Times, January 26, 1941.

16James H. Lowry, History of The Texas Press, 183

17Ibid. 130

18Ibid. 117

19Ibid. 111-117

20Corpus Christi Caller, July 16, 1887

21Corpus Christi Caller Times, October 1, 1936

22Corpus Christi Caller Times, Oct. 29, 1936

23Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 16, 1921.

24Corpus Christi Caller, Sept. 26, 1929.

25Corpus Christi Caller, Sept. 5, 1886

26Reprinted by Corpus Christi Caller Times, Oct. 30, 1926 from Gazette, Oct. 31, 1886

27Corpus Christi Caller Times, Aug. 21, 1929.

28Mrs. A. Clemmer, Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, Feb. 24, 1942

29Corpus Christi Caller Times, Nov. 12, 1939

30Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 100

31Corpus Christi Caller, June 27, 1940

32Reprinted by Corpus Christi Caller Times, July 17, 1922

33The Gazette, July 4, 1876

34Reprinted by Corpus Christi Times, April 27, 1923 from Free Press, Dec. 1, 1879

35Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 100

36Corpus Christi Caller, March 14, 1896

37Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 100

38Corpus Christi Caller Times, Nov. 30, 1916

39Mrs. A. Clemmer, Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, April 1, 1942.  Frank B. Harrison,

Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, Feb. 24, 1942.

40Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 100

41Mrs. A. Clemmer, Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, April 1, 1942

42Corpus Christi Caller, January 26, 1941

43Mrs. May DeMouche, Corpus Christi, Texas to May Decker, Feb., 1942

44Mrs. Mary Sutherland, The Story of Corpus Christi, 100

45Corpus Christi Caller Times, January 26, 1941

46The Bible, II Timothy, 4, 7

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Almack, John Conrad, Research And Thesis Writing.  Houghton Miffin Company, boston, Massachusetts - 1930

This book gives the basic items of information needed by the beginners.  The author says that a thesis is a combination or the original data gathered by the student and the research work done by others and that it is a measure of the scholarship of the student.

 

Angelique, Mother Superior of the Convent of the Incarnate Word, An Interview, Corpus Christi, Texas, 1925.

 

This tells of the work of the first Catholic Missionaries in Corpus Christi.

 

Dobie, J. Frank, A Vaquero of Brush Country.  The Southwest Press, Dallas, 1929.

 

A story of a worker with cattle.  This brings out the hardships and the fascinations of ranch life.

 

Ferguson, Erna, Our Southwest.  Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1940.

This author thinks that national good feeling is manifested in the two international parks.  “The Fiestas are not gay, but very Spanish, honoring the saints,” she said.

 

Ferguson, Harvey, Rio Grande.  Alfred A. Knoph, New York, 1936.

This author describes the countries bordering on the Rio Grande River, and tells of the customs of the people therein.

 

Gregg, Robert D. The Influence of Border Troubles On Relations Between The United States and Mexico - 1876-1910.  The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1937.

The story of the “Border Troubles” was the story of the development of this section between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers.

 

Lowry, James H., The History of The Texas Press - 1880-1930.  Harben-Sports Company, Dallas, Texas 1929.

Valuable information about what took place at the meetings of the Texas Press Association from 1880-1930.

 

McCampbell, Coleman, Saga Of A Frontier Seaport.  South-West Press, Dallas, Texas - 1934.

 

Sketches of Main events in the history of Corpus Christi from the founding to 1933.

 

O’Shea, Elena Zamora, El Mesquite.  Mathis Publishing Company, Dallas, 1935.

A story of the early Spanish settlements between the Nueces and the Rio Grande Rivers.

 

Otero, Nina, Old Spain In Our Southwest.  Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1936.

The author shows that the customs of Spain of the 16th century ar4e still in existence among the Mexicans in the Southwest.

 

Reeder, Ward G., How to Write A Thesis.  Public School Publishing Company, 1930.

A treatise giving the student intensive and scholarly training in the collection, the organization, and presentation of material for a thesis.

 

Romero, Matias, Mexico And The United States.  G. P. Putman’s Sons, New York, 1898.

A study of subjects affecting their political, commercial, and social relations, made with a view to their promotion.

 

Sutherland, Mrs. Mary A., The Story of Corpus Christi.  Rein and Sons Company, Houston, Texas, 1916.

The author tells of the main events in the history of Corpus Christi to 1915.  There are sketches of the lives of some of the pioneers, too.

 

Taylor, Paul Schuster, All American

 

The Bible - II Timothy, 4. 7.

 

 

INTERVIEWS

 

Bluntzer, Mrs. Vincent - nee - Kate Doughtery. 2112 Stillman Avenue, Corpus Christi, Texas.

She is the distinguished daughter of a family that had much to do with the early settlement of this section.

 

Cahill, Mrs. Tom, 810 North Carrizo Street, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Mrs. Cahill is the daughter of the late William Campion who taught the school for boys here in the 60's and 70's.

 

Clemmer, Mr. and Mrs. Alymer, Medical Professional Building, Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

Son-in-law and daughter of the late Mr. Eli T. Merriman. Both are interested in the early history of Corpus Christi.

 

DeMouche, Mrs. May, 917 North Carrizo Street, Corpus Christi, Texas, widow of the late Louis DeMouche, who was prominent in the development of Portland.

Mrs. DeMouche was a life long friend of Mr. and Mrs. Eli Merriman.  They were closely associated in their church work in the Episcopal Church.

 

Doughty, Mrs. Belle Moses, 1207 Seventh Street, Corpus Christi, Texas

Born in Banquete, Texas in 1856.  Went to school with Mr. Merriman there.  Their friendship has continued throughout these years.

 

Harrison, Frank B., 206 Mesquite St., Corpus Christi, Texas, now editor and publisher of the Corpus Christi Press.

Worked for and with Mr. Merriman on the Corpus Christi Caller for twelve years.  Mr. Harrison was associated with Mr. Merriman for many years in the Knights of Pythias Lodge.

 

Merriman, George Jefferson, Vice-President of the State National Bank.

Only son of Mr. Eli T. Merriman.

 

Rankin, W. S., 313 South Broadway St., Corpus Christi, Texas.

The only survivor of the four schoolmates of the 60's, who were so congenial and who spent many a happy hour talking of old times.  The other three were C. F. H. Blucher, E. H. Caldwell and Elit T. Merriman.

 

Rankin, Mrs. Lillie Rankin, 1117 Chaparral St., Corpus Christi, Texas.  Sister-in-law of W. S. Rankin; a sister of Captains Will and Andrew Anderson, members of the pioneer family who were friends of Mr. Merriman.

 

Savage, Mrs. R. R., 608 N. Carancahua Street, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Daughter of C. M. Sidbury, who was one of Corpus Christi’s leading women citizens of a half a century ago.  Mrs. Sidbury and Mrs. Savage were captured by the bandits on Easter Morning in 1875, when the Mexicans made their raid in Nuecestown.

 

Schwien, Mrs. Anna Moore, (Negro), 815 N. Staples Street, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Born in New Braunsfel, Texas in 1856.  Came to Corpus Christi at the age of four years.  Has been living there eighty-two years.  Her father was the last patient that Dr. Merriman treated before he died with yellow fever.

 

Scott, Mrs. G. R., 223 S. Broadway St., Corpus Christi, Texas.

A prominent club woman and civic leader.  She and her husband, the late G. R. Scott, have had a large part in the development of Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

Southgate, Mrs. Thomas, 813 N. Tancahua, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Daughter of the distinguished pioneer couple, Col. Charles Lovenskiold and Sophie Clark Lovenskiold, who came to Corpus Christi in 1852.  Col. Lovenskiold became a civic, educational and political leader.  Mrs. Lovenskiold, a talented musician, became noted for her gracious hospitality.  She lived to be ninety-five years of age, seventy-two in Corpus Christi.  Mrs. Southgate is a cultured, refined daughter of the South.

 

Von Blucher, Conrad, Nueces Courty Surveyor, son of the late C. F. H. Blucher, who was a life long friend of Mr. Eli Merriman.

 

 

LETTERS

 

E. R. Lindley, Chief Clerk, House of Representative, 1941, Austin, Texas.

 

Rt. Rev. William Theodotus Capers, D. D. Bishop Episcopal Residence, 108 West French Place, San Antonio, Texas.

 

Roy Miller, Hotel Mayflower, Washington, D. C., Legislative Representative of the Navigation Commission.

 

 

NEWSPAPERS

 

Corpus Christi Advertiser, 1867                         Robstown Reporter

Corpus Christi Gazette                                         Bishop News

Corpus Christi Caller                                           Kingsville Record

The Crony, 1908                                                    San Benito Star

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times                      Brownsville Herald

Corpus Christi Press                                           Texas Farming and Citri Culture

 

 

SCRAPBOOKS

 

The late Eli T. Merriman.  A compilation of newspaper clippings concerning the history of Corpus Christi and Southwest Texas for the past fifty-five years.  Excerpts from the Corpus Christi Gazette, 1872-74

 

Mrs. Elizabeth Merriman, mother of Eli T. Merriman.  A collection of poems and news items that were of interest in her day both here and abroad.  Clippings of a more personal nature regarding her family.  Clippings from other papers that showed their appreciation of her son Eli’s work.

 

Mrs. Lillie Rankin.  Clippings from old papers which told of “old timers.”  Items which told of her brothers, the Captains Anderson, who spent their life on the bay and who were able to give valuable information regarding the channel.

 

Mrs. Isabella Moses Doughty.  Clippings about the pioneer families.  Items of news about the schools in Banquete in the 50's and 60's.

 

 

MAPS

 

Map of the Corpus Christi Bay and Harbor, St. Joseph and Mustang Islands showing the old and the new channels.

 

 

Transcription: Rosa G. Gonzales








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