Provenance: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
6. Old Bayview Cemetery, 1924 series
as told by Eli T. Merriman
My father was a doctor and a ranchman. He had practiced medicine in the Rio Grande Valley in the forties and fifties, and there I was born in 1852. He moved to Banquete in 1857 because it was a great horse trading center, and more convenient to the trade. My mother’s name was Elizabeth Fusselman.
In 1864 I was sent to Corpus Christi to go to school, and I boarded at John Riggs’ home on Chaparral St.; and the next year the family moved to Corpus. father didn’t give up his practice in Banquete but maintained an office and hospital there.
Father bought some property on Chaparral St. near where Kress’s store is now, and here we lived for many years in a small cottage. There was a big cannon ball in the yard that had remained from the time the Federals bombarded the town; but we had heard so many stories about these balls being unexploded, and especially a tale about one of them exploding in Galveston, that mother paid someone to take ours down and drop it in the bay. Much later, I paid Ed Crockett, the darkey, one dollar to recover the cannon ball from the water, and for many years after this it lay in the yard of my home on Water St. During the hurricane of 1919 it became buried in the sand, but I dug it out and took it out to my daughter’s home in Nueces Bay heights, where I was living for a while, and had it out in the front yard. One morning I noticed it was missing, and I have never seen it since – someone must have taken it.
Dr. William De Ryee
In these early days there were two drug stores here, Dr. Robertson’s and Dr. De Ryee’s. The former was patronized by one of the physicians – Dr. Merriman (my father) – while De Ryee’s drug store was patronized by the other physician – Dr. Johnson. I think Dr. William De Ryee came from Alsace-Lorraine. He was a chemist, although he had a great interest in mining, with many ideas on the subject, and I believe he owned shares in some mines away out west. His real hobby, however, was collecting rocks and minerals, many of which he gathered near Sharpsburg in San Patricio County. On one of his trips there was a sudden freshet that unexpectedly formed a body of water about two miles wide across the flats, and caught Dr. De Ryee on the other side. But this didn’t dismay him. He got two barrels, fastened them together, and sat between the barrels with a pair of oars; and in this way he paddled himself across the shallow water until he arrived at The Motts (Nuecestown) on this side of the bay. Dr. De Ryee always had the idea that there was something valuable under the ground over there; and he was right, because now it is a big oil and gas field. He was also fond of all forms of wild life; he had quite a collection of mounted specimens in his drug store window, among them an alligator, an eel, leeches, and a duck with its bill clamped in an oyster shell.
Some Early Buildings
Among the old buildings here that have been torn down was Belden & Gilpin’s old concrete warehouse at the corner of Laguna and Chaparral Sts., built in 1849. The Ranahan house (later called the FitzSimmons house), that stood on Chaparral St. north of the Ritz Theatre was another one, built very early, probably about 1848. A hole was torn in this house during the bombardment of Corpus Christi in 1862.
Still standing is a house at the corner of Taylor and Chaparral Sts., which was built before either of the other two. According to John J. Dix - and he ought to know - it was used as a commissary for Zachary Taylor’s army. And after the Civil War it was there that the ironclad oath of allegiance was signed.
The Meuly house on Chaparral St., built about 1852 or 1853, and the Wrather house on the same street, built after I came to Corpus Christi, are still standing. A man named Dwyer built the first house up on the bluff; I don’t recall his first name, but his father had a horse ranch in San Patricio county.
There were several pairs of houses here that were so near each other and looked so much alike that it was striking. On Water St. facing east at the opposite corners of Water and Peoples, were the two-story Hunsaker and Ohler buildings. On Broadway, the Pettigrew house at the corner of Leopard St. and the Holbein house at the corner of Antelope were very much alike. Then on Tancahua was the Parker house, and beside it the Hidalgo Seminary, both two-story concrete buildings.
The Bidwell Hotel - now being remodeled into a furniture store - was built by M. Blumenthal, though it was not known as the Bidwell when built. Another landmark of the town now gone was the Market Hall that stood until it was torn down to make way for a new city hall under the administration of Mayor Clark Pease, a very progressive leader. The bell in old Market Hall was depended on by the people to set their clocks, to go to work and school by, and for fire and all other alarms. On New Year’s eve of 1938 - 39 Tom Cahill and I went and rang the same old bell. It is mounted on a cement base right back of the city hall, where the fire boys sit under the grapevine. I tell you, someone ought to write up about that vine; it is wonderful, so big, spreading over that huge trellis. The bell, of course, can’t be pulled back and forth as it used to be rung, but you can move the clapper and make it sound.
Streets and Names
There were three main streets in Corpus when I was a boy, running north and south below the bluff; they were Chaparral, Mesquite and Water Sts. But no one used the names of Chaparral and Mesquite; they were “Front” and “Back” streets. Even “Back” street wasn’t mentioned much; it was mainly “Front” St. and Water St. that we spoke of.
The cross streets were named after leading citizens, such as Lawrence, Belden, Peoples, Mann, Aubrey, Williams, Doddridge; later Blucher and Kinney were added, the former for Major Blucher, officer in the Confederate army and the latter for Colonel Kinney, founder of Kinney’s Trading Post.
On the hill, many of the streets running north and south were named for tribes of Indians, while several of those running east and west were given the names of animals.
Speaking of names, it was a strange thing that there was nobody here named Smith or Jones or Brown, in the early days; but there were plenty of other names duplicated, so that to distinguish one from another we spoke of “Baker” Allen and “Shoemaker” Allen, “Tinner” Hall and “Butcher” Hall; and so on. The first Smith to live in Corpus Christi was John Smith, the carpenter.
The first school I attended was the Hidalgo Seminary, one of the biggest schools in this part of the state. It was for boys only, and pupils came from Laredo, Victoria, Goliad, and many other towns of South Texas. It was managed by the Catholic church, with Father Gonnard at the head, and was located in a concrete building on the edge of an arroyo long since filled up, where North Tancahua and Lipan Sts. now meet. Father Gonnard didn’t teach me, himself; but he would come to the schoolroom and give good talks to the pupils.
One of the teachers under Father Gonnard was a man called “Little Carroll,” brother of Charles Carroll of the firm of Carroll & Iler, builders. Father Gonnard died in the yellow fever epidemic in 1867. Mr. Robert Dougherty next headed the school, and later Mr. Campion was in charge. The school closed when the legislature established public schools, about 1870.
Twelve or fifteen years ago John Gallagher and I made up a list of men who had attended Hidalgo Seminary, who were still living; there were 108. Now I know of only eight, and three of them are Merrimans: my brother, John C., of Laredo, and my brother George, of Muskogee, and myself; Willie Rankin; Ambrose Priour; Clark Denton; Andy Anderson; and John Dunn.
For a while I went to Allen’s school, in the downstairs part of the Conrad Meuly building on Chaparral St.
Another school I went to was Prof. McOmber’s, up there in the old Methodist church building. One day at recess I went down to Judge Neal’s publishing office to see if I could get a job, and I did. I quit school and began working there next morning. This was in 1870 and was the beginning of my newspaper career. Judge Neal at this time was publishing the Nueces Valley.
Politics and Wharf Monopoly
E. J. Davis, when governor of Texas, bought the Nueces Valley and made it one of the official organs of the state, which of course meant it was Republican. Bill Maltby was then publishing the Advertiser, and as Gov. Davis’s paper had to be used for all official notices, Maltby lost a great deal of the advertising he had been carrying. This situation angered not only the publisher but many of the advertisers as well. Finally, after Davis lost out, the merchants got together and bought the Nueces Valley. This paper, in 1872, had a Washington hand press and a little Liberty job press, which Maltby bought in New York, and its office was up over Atwood’s tin shop.
The group of merchants who bought the Nueces Valley were referred to as the “anti-monopoly” group, as opposed to the “wharf monopoly” group, which comprised those persons supporting the Central Wharf & Warehouse Co.’s activities. A leader of the former group was N. Gussett; another was Chas. Beaman, who published the paper for a while. Mr. Gussett built his own wharf in the north part of town, outside the city limits, because he was angry at not being taken into the Central Wharf & Warehouse Co. His competition, which was supported by all the Jews as well as many others, was very successful; he did a big business, and had his own fleet of boats. The usual dray charge was 25 cents a trip, but Gussett’s charge was 37 and ½ cents, because he was out of the city limits.
Finally his competition caused the Central Wharf & Warehouse Co., which had been paying the city $1000 a month from their wharfage and other income, to quit these payments which guaranteed their monopoly; and then anybody who wanted to build a wharf could do so.
To go back to E. J. Davis - he had law offices in the old Hunsaker building in the sixties, being associated with J. B. Murphy. Davis was a tall, red-whiskered man. He married a daughter of Forbes Britton, and they lived on Broadway near where the post office is now; but after Davis’s term as governor, they sold their home and never came back to live in Corpus Christi. Davis wasn’t very popular down here because of his political activities. He was elected governor because the Republicans threw out a good many counties, in the counting of votes. Many Democrats couldn’t sign the oath of allegiance, required for voting, and by throwing out some of the counties, sufficient votes were obtained to elect Davis.
During the Civil War, when Davis nearly lost his life in Brownsville, it was the Masons who saved him, they say.
When I was in Galveston in 1874 I saw a locomotive with the name of E. J. Davis on it.
Miscellaneous Incidents of Boyhood Days
I was asked once if I remembered Ira H. Evans. Yes, I remember him well. It must have been about 1872 when he boarded at mother’s. He was a Republican, a jolly, middle-aged man; and I can even now see him nearly double up laughing at Jim Luby’s funny stories, which I, as a boy, enjoyed listening to. I believe Mr. Evans was unmarried, and he seemed to be connected with the custom office here.
On Christmas nights a bunch of us used to shoot fire works out west of the place. There were Charlie De Ryee, Andy Anderson, Charlie, George and Dick Blucher, and many others.
Charlie Gravis played the melodeon behind the door in the Methodist church, the church that faced west. The minister was Mr. Cox; you sure could hear him preach. At that time the men were seated on one side of the church and the women on the other.
In 1867 there was an epidemic of yellow fever here; it was a terrible thing, with so many dying each day. My father, who was one of the few doctors here, died of the fever. I didn’t take it, and I guess the reason was that I had been well dosed by my father for a slight illness not long before the epidemic began.
It was along about the early seventies, I think, that the Pioneer Fire Company was organized. This was followed by the Hook and Ladder Co. Then these two groups joined and became the Corpus Christi Fire Department. Later there were also three or four hose companies.
Another company organized in the seventies was the Star Rifles, but it was not formed until after the Mexican raid in march 1875, for it was this raid that led to its organization. The captain was S. T. Foster, and E. P. Hill was lieutenant; another officer was a man named Heldenfels. I was a charter member. We had bright new uniforms and used to drill up at Artesian Park. This was the first company of Star Rifles ever to exist here, and it was not possible that the Star Rifles ran out on the wharf at the time of the Mexican raid, as has been alleged. This company was later disbanded and shortly afterwards, I think, another company of Star Rifles, composed of different men, was organized.
Another thing that I remember as happening in the seventies was the building of the Tex-Mex railroad. It was started as the Corpus Christi, San Diego and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Railway. The first spike for the first railroad in South Texas was driven over there about where the Corpus Christi Hardware Company is now, where the end of the track used to be for so many years. At the ceremony, which was held on Thanksgiving Day of 1876, Mr. Rogers, the Methodist preacher, delivered the prayer, and William Headen, mayor gave the address. The spike, which had been gilded by James McKenzie, was driven by Uriah Lott, ties and rails having been already laid in place. During the following night the spike disappeared. I am the oldest person, with the possible exception of Andy Anderson, who was present on this important occasion.
Grading was started west of the Blucher residence. I made this statement a long time ago, and about ten years ago J. P. Nelson verified what I had said. Nelson had wanted the contract for the grading, but Lott told him they already had a man grading out west of Blucher’s place. Nelson investigated, and found only one man with a pick and shovel and wheelbarrow. A contract was then worked out for Nelson to take over the work, and he graded the road all the way to Laredo. He married Amanda Myers and they lived in San Antonio.
When the first trains began running they obtained their water from a well in the arroyo, using a bucket to fill the water tank. This had to last until they reached Oso Creek, where a big dam across the stream provided plenty of water. The next point where they could get more water for their engines was at Agua Dulce Creek near Banquete.
There was a little town known as Collins about four or five miles east of the present city of Alice, but as the new railroad didn’t pass through Collins the town dwindled away until there is hardly anything there now.
The building of the railroad didn’t displace the older forms of transportation all at once. I remember riding on King and Kenedy’s stage line to Brownsville in 1882 and seeing many teams coming along the road. It was many years before a railroad connected Brownsville and Corpus.
Myrtle Club - John Garner
Someone asked me about the Myrtle Club. Well, although I wasn’t a member, I recall that this club used the south part of the upstairs floor of the Doddridge Building for their clubroom. I think that was probably in the early eighties. The club was composed of society people, men only, I think.
I remember that the Myrtle Club room was used for a big gathering of business men held to meet John Garner just after he was elected to Congress. Garner wanted to show his gratitude for his election, and to find out what this part of his constituency wished him to do for them in Congress. Hugh Sutherland’s father got up and voiced the sentiments of the entire group when he said they wanted a straight channel right through Turtle Cove. Garner went on to Congress. He introduced a channel bill. He wired the channel would be dug. And later, Garner got President Taft to come to Corpus Christi through the new 13-foot channel.
My Newspaper Career
In 1874, when I came back from Galveston, I was with Frank Barnard in publishing the Advertiser. Beaman was running the Nueces Valley. Frank Barnard told me one time he couldn’t pay me $12 a week any longer, and so I was without a job. Bill Maltby and I established the Free Press in 1877. Maltby stayed in the office and I was the outside man.
After his death I bought his widow’s share for $1500. In 1882 I went to California on a visit, leaving Jim Holterhaus and Doc Berry in charge, with J. P. Caruthers (brother-in-law of James Fulton, brother of George Fulton) as editor. When I returned I found that Caruthers and Ed. Williams, another newspaper man, had been talking to Capt. King and Capt. Kenedy about starting a new paper to known as the Caller, which King and Kenedy were going to back. They wanted to know if I would join in with them;; that is, sell them my paper. I didn’t want to, but was advised to do so because of the fact that if King and Kenedy were to back the new paper I wouldn’t have a chance with the Free Press any longer. So I sold them the Free Press for $2500 and went in with them in publishing the Caller. This name was selected after Mr. Caruthers mentioned a paper in California called the “San Francisco Call.” We liked the name “Call,” but didn’t want to use exactly the same form as the San Francisco paper used, and so we named our paper just The Caller. The significance we attached to this name was that as the newsboys called out the paper for sale, the hearer would get the conception of the paper being a “caller” of news, just as in earlier times a town crier would “cry out” the news.
There was also another paper here at that time, a semi-weekly published by the Barnards, called the Ledger, which although smaller had better presser then the Free Press. King and Kenedy bought the Ledger too, and moved everything to the Noessel building at the corner of Chaparral and Williams Sts. The first issue of the Caller came out in January, 1883.
Each year at New Year’s we always published a “Carrier’s Address,” which was a full-page poem printed on separate sheets of paper and given by the Caller carriers to their patrons, who would usually give the boy a dime. Old Dickie Power was author of most of our carrier’s addresses. He would spend two or three weeks writing up one of these poems. Thoughts came to him by inspiration and he would leave whatever he was doing to jot them down; he would even rush in from the woodpile, where he was chopping wood, to put down some ideas that had just come to him for his poem. His last “address” was incomplete when he died, and so I used parts of an older one he had written to finish it out.
Dickie Power wrote lots of poetry and his poems were just splendid. There was another poet here, a man named Carroll. He and Mr. Power were both Irish, and were jealous of each other. Carroll always wrote about “poor old Ireland.” Dickie Power’s home on the bluff had little bit of windows on account of the Indians. He had an adopted boy who played the violin.
Ed Williams ran for mayor in 1882, against the advise of his friends, who told he wouldn’t be elected. When Capt. Kenedy, whose office was right across the street from the Free Press, heard of it he was very angry. He didn’t think Williams should go into politics when he was connected with the paper, and he determined to see that Williams wasn’t elected. He spent lots of money on the hill, and Williams was defeated by his opponent, J. B. Murphy. Williams then went to Mexico and engaged in mining, and later moved to the City of Mexico, where he was killed in a street car accident.
B. F. Neal
Judge B. F. Neal, our first mayor, was in the newspaper business here in 1870.
Henry Maltby published the Ranchero in 1859; later he went to Brownsville where he continued the same paper for a number of years. His wife was a Miss Franks. Their son, David, lives in Brownsville now. Bill Maltby, brother of Henry, was another Corpus Christi pioneer; he published the Advertiser after the war. He married Mrs. Swift’s daughter, Grace. Jasper Maltby was a son of Bill.
Altogether there have probably been about twenty-five newspapers published in Corpus Christi. There were The Star, The Critic, The Gazette, The Advertiser, The Ranchero, The Times, The Nueces Valley (this was published before the war, and then after the war it resumed publication), and many others. One of the early publishers was a man named Bryant; when I was a boy I knew his two sons and their sister, who lived in the St. James Hotel. The three children all wrote poetry, and the girl had several books of her poems published.
Col. E. H. Ropes
About 1889 or 1890 Col. E. H. Ropes came to Corpus and started a big real estate boom. He built the beautiful Alta Vista Hotel, which burned a good many years ago. Unfortunately a money panic came along in the early nineties, and the boom collapsed.
Zachary Taylor Entertained at Belden’s
I knew a lawyer named Miller, who was active here at the time of the Ropes boom, who told me this story of Gen. Zachary Taylor. Mr. Miller roomed at the Belden house, corner of Laguna and Mesquite Sts., and Mrs. Belden told him many stories of the days when Gen. Taylor was encamped here with the army.
At that time there was only a little long frame building at the Belden corner. Belden and Gilpin’s concrete warehouse stood away back from the street. Mr. Belden, whose sister married J. B. Mitchell, was among the leading citizens here and frequently entertained notables at his home.
On one occasion Gen. Taylor was his guest. He told of his plans to go on to Mexico City, and promised to bring Mrs. Belden a silk dress from the city. Mrs. Belden said to him, “You’ll never get there.”
“Yes, I will,” the general replied. “Remember the Alamo.”
Gen Taylor never returned to Corpus Christi, but he sent the promised silk dress to Mrs. Belden from Mexico by someone else. Mr. Miller told me he saw the dress.
Mrs. Belden was a Mexican woman, but at that time it was not as unusual as it is now, for a prominent man to have a Mexican wife, as many of the early settlers had married Mexican or Spanish women. Mrs. Belden was a very dark-skinned woman; she was unusually smart and was quite well-known because of her husband’s wealth and importance in the town.
Old Bay View Cemetery
Some of Zachary Taylor’s soldiers are buried in Old Bay View Cemetery here. This is the oldest cemetery in this part of the state of Texas, except, perhaps, the one at Banquete. Many of the victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867 are buried there, too. My family are buried there, and that’s where I shall lie when I have joined them “beyond the river.” You know what’s one of my favorite hymns? At night, if I can’t go to sleep, I just sing that old song, “Shall we gather at the river?” and I soon drop off to sleep.
Date of interview - Various dates from November 9, 1938, to October 9, 1940.
Address: Nueces Hotel, Corpus Christi.
Mr. Merriman died January 25, 1941, at the age of eighty-eight years. He would have been eighty-nine on May 15th.
Provenance: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
SIXTY YEARS AGO
Eli T. Merriman, Dean of Texas Newspaper Men
Few men can look as far into the past as can Eli T. Merriman, and when he turns his eyes backward through the misty years he can see in memory a long procession of shadowy figures attending to their affairs in the days when they were just a scattered outpost of humanity in the wilderness of South Texas.
Most vividly of all he can recall printers and editors struggling with primitive printing presses in pioneer settlements and riding hundreds of miles on horseback to round up subscribers. For he himself began his career as a printer’s devil nearly seventy years ago; and ever since then he has kept within easy reach of the aroma of printer’s ink, which any old war horse of a printer always sniffs with gusto.
He has long been Dean of Texas newspapermen, and this does honor to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, for the Rio Grande was flowing close to the house in which he arrived on earth. This was in the community now called Hidalgo, opposite the Mexican city of Reynosa. Hidalgo was then the county seat of Hidalgo County, and a river port. His father, Dr. E. T. Merriman, had located there a few years before.
Young Merriman was less than a day old on May 15, 1852. He paid no attention to the river then, but in his early boyhood one of the greatest of all fascinations for him was the sight of a King and Kenedy boat up from Brownsville or down from Rio Grande City, with its walking beam working vigorously and wood-smoke pouring from its stack. These river boats seemed to the boy to have an immense importance, as envoys from the great and mysterious world beyond the wilderness.
But when he was in his teens he began to see something of this “beyond.” His father settled in Corpus Christi in 1865, and in 1870 the youthful Merriman went into the printing office of Judge B. F. Neal to learn to set type and lay out the forms of “The Nueces Valley,” a weekly newspaper which Judge Neal had started in Corpus Christi before the Civil War, but had suspended for an interval to organize a company to defend the community against Indians, Mexican bandits and marauders from the Gulf who in this time of war were cultivating a habit of making looting forays in the guise of “Yankees.”
But the times finally became less interesting, and Judge Neal resumed the peaceful publication of his newspaper. However, he sold it late in 1870 to the Republicans, who had elected Edmund J. Davis of Corpus Christi to the Governorship of Texas. Young Merriman 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.
Printer Merriman left Corpus Christi in 1874 for a job on the Galveston Daily News, but the fall of that year saw him back in the old town and working for Barnard & Son, publishers of the Corpus Christi Gazette. However, like most newspaper men, there was no anchor attached to him, and in 1877 he shoved off from the Gazette and tied in with William H. Maltby, brother of Henry Maltby, who before the Civil War had published in Corpus a weekly paper called The Ranchero and had moved it to Brownsville about 1865. It might be noted that at that time Brownsville had become rich with money gained from slipping through blockades with ships laden with war-time cotton.
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. Far 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 circulation 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. It was the trading and shipping center for a great expanse of territory, on both sides of the Rio Grande, in which there was a large production of cotton and hides. It will be remembered that boats came up the river as far as Rio Grande City and Roma, about four miles to the northwest. Also, A U. S. Army Post, Fort Ringold, was situated near Rio Grande City.
Here Publisher Merriman was received with great cordiality by John P. Kelsey, leading merchant and wealthy rancher of Starr County, who not only bought several subscriptions but also took advertising space in the Free Press for his business card and cattle brands. He was delighted to meet someone who could talk about Corpus and gossip about the old-timers there, Rancher Kelsey having had a store on Water Street in the early fifties. He said that before 1852 the settlement had been called Kinney’s Ranch and that he had been a leader in naming it after Corpus Christi Bay and so giving it an appellation more in keeping with its promise as a city of importance.
From Rio Grande City the wayfaring newspaper man journeyed down the river to his birthplace, where he was hailed as a wanderer returned by old settlers who had known his father, Dr. Merriman. Sheriff Leo entertained him at a feast. He went by stage to Brownsville, where imposing residences graced with furniture imported from France and Spain proclaimed the wealth and pride that had risen from bales of cotton piled high on the wharves and commanding almost fabulous prices when snaked through the blockade and sold in Old World markets.
Upon his return to Corpus Christi from Brownsville Publisher Merriman wrote an account of his travels and ventured to predict that sometime in the future the Rio Grande wilderness would be well settled with farmers tilling its remarkably fertile soil. This was a vision that required imagination, since at that time the region was far from railroads, except the narrow-gauge line built by Simon Celaya and extending about twenty-five miles from Brownsville to Point Isabel, now Port Isabel, where were unloaded the cargoes of occasional ships from New Orleans and other ports. This sea route was the only feasible one for goods from the outside world. Remote indeed was the Rio Grande country from the main currents of development in the United States.
But Corpus Christi was coming along, and when William Maltby died in 1880, Partner 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, went into mining and oil in Mexico and was killed a few years later in a street car accident in Mexico City.
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 on the project, and feeling that the city would never amount to much without a port for ocean-going vessels, he sold out to Mr. Merriman, moved to Denver and finally died in New Jersey. But Editor Merriman never stopped working for the seaport, and he has lived to see the dream come true. For twenty-nine years he edited and managed The Caller, selling his interest in 1912 to Mrs. H. M. King, and accepting a position with the U. S. Government as a Special Agent for cotton.
When past seventy he retired. But he still has his zest for newspaper writing, and last November the Texas Editorial Association honored him at a large gathering in Corpus Christi as the Dean of the Texas newspaper profession. He can see farther back into the South Texas vista than can any other newspaper man in the State, and from his high hill of years and experience he can see farther ahead than most. So you listen, much impressed, when he tells you that the Lower Rio Grande ports will eventually do even more for the country than the Port of Corpus Christi had done for the Coastal Bend area and that he is proud of having been born in the Lower Valley because few if any sections on earth can compare with it in promise of agricultural and economic development.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
Over Half a Century Among the Newspapers – 1845 to 1900
The Corpus Christi Star was the First Paper and the Gulf Coast Churchman the Last One Established Here.
It is over fifty years since the first paper made its appearance in our little city. In July 1875, Wm. H. Maltby, at the request of the centennial committee, gave a history of the press of Corpus Christi from the commencement up to that date, more than a quarter of a century. Believing the present time opportune, and that the history of the city press should be preserved for the future, when some one, years hence, can take it up and continue it, the writer will proceed to tell in chronological order, the old story as it was told to us by Maltby, commencing where he left off, condensing his report, and giving such information since, bearing upon the subject, as can be obtained.
Corpus Christi Star, the first paper for Corpus Christi, was started in 1845 by a Mr. Bangs during Gen. Taylor’s occupation of the place; suspended when Taylor’s army moved on to Mexico. In 1848 the Star was re-established by John H. People, who lost his life in the Pacific in 1850. (Peoples Street is named after him.) The paper was continued for about two years with the names of Jas. R. Barnard and Chas. Callahan as editors, the last named losing his life in a skirmish in Nicaragua in 1856.
The Nueces Valley was the second paper started in Corpus Christi. It appeared in 1851 under the auspices of B. F. Neal, who was succeeded later in the same year by Chas. C. Bryant, the paper being published by him during “the Fair” in 1852. The paper was afterwards published by James a Beverage, afterwards by a Mr. Shipley, then again by Neal & Bryant, and in 1856 by Somers Kinney. In 1857 it was published by Geo. N. Kinney and Jas. R. Barnard.
The Democratic South was published in Corpus Christi in 1857 by Clinton Bryant. Of it Maltby said: “ It crept a short time, but never cut teeth nor walked.”
The Ranchero was started Oct. 15, 1850, by Mr. H. A. Maltby, now living in Brownsville. It was the only paper here at the time, the other papers having suspended. Wm. H. Maltby, who moved to Corpus Christi Oct. 22, 1850, and worked in the office, joined his brother in the publication of the Ranchero the following year. The war commencing in 1861, Wm. Maltby entered the Confederate army and the concern reverted to the original proprietor. In 1863 the presence of U. S. forces on the Texas coast rendered Corpus Christi a hazardous place for the Ranchero and the office was removed to Santa Margarita on the Nueces where is was issued until the latter part of 1864, when it was taken to Brownsville.
The Corpus Christi Advertiser, the fifth paper for this city, was established on the 9thday of June, 1866, by Wm. H. Maltby.
The Union Record, a Republican paper, made its debut in Corpus Christi April 17, 1867. It was owned by a stock company, W. A. Bartlett, editor. The late Gov El J. Davis was the power behind the throne. It appeared for six consecutive weeks, when it was destroyed by fire. The paper was published in one of the Ranahan houses on the corner lot south of where the Episcopal church now stands.
The Nueces Valley came to the front once more, being resurrected in 1868 by Judge B. F. Neal at his residence on Artesian square. It was with Judge Neal in that year that the writer commenced to learn “the art preservative of all arts.” Judge Neal published the Nueces Valley for a few weeks, when he disposed of the paper to Gen. Brown and others, who moved the material to Chaparral street and organized the paper into a stock company. Judge Neal died in Corpus Christi July 16, 1878. The Nueces Valley, after its purchase by the Republicans, was made one of the official organs of the E. J. Davis administration, and all legal advertisements had to be published in it, of course. The paper was editied by C. G. B. Drummond, afterwards by Colonel Nelson Plato. For several years Corpus Christi had two weekly papers, viz: Maltby’s paper, the Advertiser, Democratic, and the Nueces Valley, Republican. After publishing the advertiser for over six years Mr. Maltby sold the paper to Messrs. James R. Barnard & Son.
The Corpus Christi Gazette made its appearance in the latter part of 1872, soon after the plant was purchased from Maltby. The publication continued for several years with Messrs. Barnard & Son as proprietors. In 1876 it appeared both daily and weekly- first daily for Corpus Christi. From Feb. 1 to June, 1878, D. McNeill Turner, Esq., was employed as editor of the paper by Messr. Barnard & Son, who sold the Gazette in June to John Woessner. Mr. Turner continued as editor until December of the same year, when he was succeeded by Col. Plato. C. W. McNeill, now of Laredo, was also employed as editor of The Daily Gazette for a short time in the early part of 1879. Soon after it suspended publication the material was sold and shipped to Laredo. The Campbell press used by the Laredo Times to-day is the same one used by the old Gazette.
The Valley Times appeared in 1874. Horace Taylor, Corpus Christi’s old-time postmaster, having purchased the principal stock of the Nueces Valley, changed the name to Valley Times, and its politics from Republican to “Independent Always-Neutral Never.” He was a fluent, terse write. The paper appeared both daily and weekly after he assumed control. Chas. A Beman was the publisher. On the morning of Oct. 30, 1875, Mr. Taylor died suddenly while reading the Scriptures. A gloom was cast over the town for everybody in this section knew Mr. Taylor. The paper was continued after that for about three years by Mr. Beman who became its publisher and proprietor. Soon after suspending, the material was shipped to Laredo.
The Corpus Christi Free Press was established in the city Feb. 21, 1877, by Messrs. W. H. Maltby & E. T. Merriman. It was issued weekly and had a good subscription list. The paper was published by Messrs. Maltby & Merriman till Maltby’s death, Aug. 20, 1880, when the writer purchased the Maltby interest in the business and continued the publication by himself until he sold the paper nearly three years later.
The Semi-Weekly Ledger was started in 1879 by Messrs. Jas. R. Barnard, Sr., and Ed Williams. It continued till Feb. 1883, when The Free Press and The Ledger were consolidated, both papers having been bought by a stock company styled The Caller Publishing Company. Mr. Jas. R. Barnard died at his home in this city May 2, 1880
The Corpus Christi Caller made its appearance Jan 21, 1883 with W. P. Carruthers, Ed Williams and E. T Merriman as editors. The paper, which was started as a weekly, has continued steadily ever since, never missing an issue and coming out like clockwork. In February 1884, a little over a year after the Caller started, Mr. Williams sold his interest in the business and the paper was continued with Messrs. Caruthers & Merriman as editors and managers. In May 1889, Mr. Caruthers sold his interest in the company to the writer, the present editor and manager, and moved to Denver, Colo. For several months during that year Mr. E. F. Furman was on the editorial staff of the Caller.
The Daily Critic was the 13th paper for Corpus Christi. It was established by Messrs. P. J. Stephenson, C. P. Kelsey and Thos. N. Tinney in 1863. The paper continued for a few months when it passed into the hands of Mr. W. H. Howard, who continued it for several months, finally moving the paper away to Lagarto.
The Christian Advocate was started here in the spring of 1890 by Rev. W. E. Rutledge. The paper was published about one year.
Ocean Wave was the name of the next paper published in Corpus Christi. It appeared Aug. 28, 1890. R. R. Gilbert, editor. The paper continued to wave for about two years when the publisher moved his office to Laredo, making the third plant moved from here to that city.
The Gulf News. This paper was started here in the fall of 1890 by Messrs. W. E. Cooke, Jeff McLemore and T. C. McFarland; McFarland remained here but a short time. The Gulf News was issued as a semi-weekly for several months, issuing as a weekly when the boom began to collapse. After Cooke and McLemore left the paper it was edited by the Wolfe Bros. The material was sold at sheriff’s sale and moved to San Antonio in 1892.
The Daily Caller made its debut on June 2nd, 1891. Messrs. J. C. Roberts and J. P. McKevilt were on the editorial staff with Mr. E. T. Merriman, Mr. Roberts continued writing for The Caller until January 1892, when he accepted a position on the Houston Post. Hon. Jeff McLemore took his place on the caller until he went to the legislature in ’93, when Mr. John. B. Hardwicke, Jr., arrived here and entered on the editorial staff until McLemore returned. Messrs. Hugh Marr and Ed. Williams also assisted on the Daily Caller, the latter remaining with the paper till December 1896, when the daily edition was discontinued and the Weekly Caller’s circulation increased.
The Sun made its appearance in Corpus Christi in the spring of 1891, being established by Mrs. Metcalf, afterwards Mrs. Ewing. After several months the paper was published by Messrs. Mckevitt & Vinage. They kept is going for a while, when it finally suspended. On January 15, 1893, it made it appearance again, when it was published by Messrs. O. B. House & W. H. Williams. It ran under their management for about nine months, when Mr. John B. Hardwicke, Jr., took hold and the name was changed to the Texas Sun. Some months after Mr. Grant R. Bennett purchased a new printing press, type, etc., and Mr. Hardwicke joined him in the journalistic field, their paper keeping the name of The Texas Sun, which is still published by Mr. Hardwicke, Mr. Benett selling his plant to his associate about five years ago. And moving to Galveston.
Mrs. Metcalf Ewing, who still had her press and type on hand, started a paper called The Independent, but it only lasted a few weeks; the material was finally shipped to Alice.
The Weekly Globe (Populist) was started in the fall of 1894, on the eve of the campaign, of Mr. J. E. Polk, who was killed in Houston in December by falling down an elevator shaft. The paper was afterwards published by Mr. H. L. Dreyer for about a year when the paper was suspended, a large crop of corn appearing that year and many Populists disappearing.
The last paper to make its appearance here (starting January, 1899) is still in existence –The Gulf Coast Churchman, a monthly, published by Rev. A. J. Holworthy.
Several Mexican papers have appeared on the hill form time to time, a report of which is not recorded.
By E. T. Merriman
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, December 21, 1900,p 3, cols. 1-3
Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin,Nueces County Historical Commission
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS
By: E. T. Merriman
The City of Corpus Christi, second only to Galveston on the Texas coast, in size and commercial importance, has, in addition to its beauty of location, some historical features that may prove interesting to those not yet acquainted, and for this reason the writer, after a residence here of over fifty years, gives some of the early history of the place obtained from personal interviews, and information gained from newspapers published here in the early days.
The history of Corpus Christi began back about the year 1846, when Gen. Zachary Taylor and his army of occupation were in camp here, and Nueces county was created by act of the Legislature making Corpus Christi its county seat. Col. H. L. Kinney, the founder of the town, a man of great public spirit, was here on the ground, having secured considerable land in the vicinity, the place being known at first as Kinney’s ranch. With him were other prominent pioneers among them H. W. Berry, John P. Kelsey, Frederick Belden and H. A. Gilpin, the last named having arrived long years before, according to the following mention of him by a correspondent: "In the winter of 1829, when but twenty-one years of age, there landed on the west shore of Corpus Christi bay, H. A. Gilpin, the only occupant of a small schooner that sailed from New Orleans. The brave man walked up and down the tide-kissed beach and mounted the same noble bluff that to-day over-looks the prettiest tidal basin on the whole gulf coast. There was not a house to be seen nor a soul to welcome him. He was the first to invade this section. If others preceded him they left no trace behind them. After remaining here a short time Mr. Gilpin went to Mexico, returning to Corpus Christi where found Gen. Taylor and his command, the men having their camp strung out on the beach as far as the reef. Mr. Gilpin opened business here in the Belden building, built during his absence in Mexico, he and his associates in business – Mr. Belden, John Owens and Wm. Mann, supplying the soldiers with goods.
Corpus Christi took its name, it is said, from Corpus Christi bay. John P. Kelsey, who had a store in the early days on Water Street where most of the business houses were located – on the Water front, always claimed the credit for naming the town, saying he was the first to date his letters Corpus Christi, the Government establishing a post office here shortly after, on May 30, 1848, with W. P. Aubry as Postmaster.
As to the naming of the bay, little is known, but credit has long been given to the Spaniards, who explored this country. One of their vessels entering the bay back in sixteenth century, it is claimed, on Corpus Christi day – a festival day meaning the body of Christi, caused the Spaniards to name the bay Corpus Christi. This is in keeping with names given other places by the Spaniards, who are given to naming places after saints and church days. The Spaniards under Governor Menendez landed on the east coast of Florida on August 28, 1665, which being St. Augustine’s day, gave the town of St. Augustine its name, Florida history tells us.
The County of Nueces, when created in 1846, with Corpus Christi as its county seat, embraced a large amount of territory. At the first meeting of the court, held at the house of H. L. Kinney, election precincts were formed with boundary lines extending to the Rio Grande, including Laredo on the west and on the south as far as the mouth of the Rio Grande. Ferries were ordered established on the Rio Grande at several places as well as on the Nueces river. The rates of tolls were then fixed. Those present at the meeting were: Jose de Alba, chief justice; Richard Power, Wm. Mann, Geo. Brundrett, C. de la Garza, commissioners; Edward Fitzgerald, clerk; Harrison W. Berry, sheriff.
H. G. Horton, who was stationed at Corpus Christi sixty years ago, and who is still living, residing at the town of Bishop in this county, gives some history of this city in one of his recent articles. He says: "Corpus Christi has a unique and long history. It is one of the oldest towns on the Gulf, supposed to have been the landing place of the old Franciscan missionaries who came to this then province of Spain more than two centuries ago and built missions far into the interior of what is now the State of Texas. Corpus Christi is considered the prettiest city on the coast, commonly called the ‘Venice of America.’" Referring to its early history, Mr. Horton recites the following interesting story: "The first Methodist preacher sent to Corpus Christi was John Hayne, sent by Bishop Waugh to preach to the soldiers in 1846. The country was infested by Indians and roving Mexicans and a squad of Texas rangers had to escort Mr. Hayne to Corpus Christi. Gen. Taylor with 6,000 American soldiers was then camped here on his way to Mexico. Mr. Hayne opened up services the first Sunday after his arrival on a spot of ground about four hundred yards from the present location of the Methodist parsonage. In his congregation that Sunday morning, besides a great company of soldiers, were the following, among them four future presidents: Zachary Taylor, afterwards president of the United States; his son-in-law, Jefferson Davis, afterwards senator, secretary of war, and president of the Southern Confederacy; Franklin Pierce, afterwards president of the United States; U. S. Grant, afterwards general of the Union armies, and president of the United States; Albert Sidney Johnston, afterwards famous Confederate general, killed at the battle of Shiloh; James Longstreet, afterwards famous Confederate general, Lee’s "right arm," Ben McCulloch, afterwards noted Confederate general, killed at the battle of Elk Horn, Mo., in 1862; Jack Hayes, afterwards famous Texas ranger; "Old Rip" Ford, famous Indian fighter from the Rio Grande. That was the most distinguished audience ever seen in the queenly city."
Many interesting things occurred here while the army was camped at Corpus Christi. Judge Frederick Belden, one of the most prominent citizens and a great friend of Gen. Taylor, entertained the General at a dinner given in his home. Belden had a Mexican wife, a very intelligent woman, by the way. It is said she talked with the General, asking his intention concerning Mexico. He replied that he intended going with his army to the City of Mexico; already preparing for the march, or words to that effect. Mrs. Belden said that he would never reach there. Gen. Taylor assured her that he would go there and that he would bring her a fine silk dress when he returned. She received the dress in due time, but he did not come back with it, Gen. Taylor and his men returning to the United States by way of Veracruz, thence by water to new Orleans.
Another story is told of U. S. Grant, a gallant young lieutenant here at that time. In those days young ladies were scarce among the Americans, and quite a number of Americans married Mexican women. There was one pretty white girl here, however, that was quite a favorite, especially with Captain H. W. Berry, of the Texas Rangers, who was in the habit of taking the young lady out riding on his little black mare. One day Leiut. Grant took a notion to take the little Miss out for a ride and asked Berry if he would kindly loan him his nag, the animal being very gentle for ladies. The favor was granted and the girl went out with the lieutenant. This was repeated, but only once, the Captain refusing to loan the mare the third time, because he was afraid the gallant officer with his handsome uniform, so attractive, would win his girl away, in fact she was becoming very cold and indifferent toward him. The mare soon disappeared. Finally she was found with mane and tail shaved. She was awfully disfigured – so much so he hardly recognized her. This was said to have been a joke of Grant’s, anyway he was charged with it, and there was a big laugh over it; all being fair in love. Grant did not take the young lady out riding any more and neither did Berry, though Berry tried to get her to go, but she flatly refused when he brought the mare around to her home, saying she would not go out riding on such an ugly looking animal. Taylor’s army marched away for Mexico shortly after this and the captain soon had the girl won, with the lieutenant gone. He married her, had one son, marrying after his wife’s death, the widow Gravis. This story was given to the writer by Captain Berry himself not long before his death about thirty-five years ago.
There are other stories of happenings here while the army was in camp on our shores, the story of Rogers for one, but they can be related at another time.
After the close of the war with Mexico troops were sent here, Gen. Sheridan coming to Corpus Christi. After a time they were transferred to Fort Sam Houston and other places. This place did not suffer much from their loss, business opening up with old Mexico through this port on a grand scale, even San Antonio received merchandise from Corpus Christi, by wagons and carts – distance about 150 miles; distance to Laredo about 150 miles, same to Rio Grande City and Brownsville. In fact, it was found that a stretch of country along the Rio Grande from Laredo to the mouth of that River, a distance of three hundred miles or more, was all about one hundred and fifty miles distant from Corpus Christi, ten or more different towns along that stream being about the same distance from here, the Rio Grande forming a bend south and west of here, making Corpus Christi a hub for a large portion of the Mexican frontier. Business men of this town like Gilpin, Belden and others went to the border and far into Mexico, securing a big business for this port.
In 1849, during the gold fever in California, there was a great rush of business and people through Corpus Christi, bound for the Pacific slope. It was discovered that the shortest route across the United States from tide water on the Gulf to tide water on the Pacific was from Corpus Christi, Texas, to San Diego, California. People by the hundreds arrived here on boats from New York, Boston and other places. They came from Florida and other States. Some of the vessels were able to enter the bay, other had to be lightered of their freight and passengers. While some of the gold seekers from the east went around Cape Horn, it was a long voyage, also a long overland trip from the eastern State to California with no railroads to travel on in those days. Hence the great rush for the shortest route, which was through here, where they formed parties to travel together because of the Indians in the country. John H. Peoples, the editor of the Corpus Christi Star, for whom a street here was named, got so interested in California’s gold news, that he laid down his pen, joined one of the caravans, went to California and never came back. On account of the great travel to California, General Harney ordered Lieut. Michler, of the United States Topographical engineers, to commence a survey from Corpus Christi along the Nueces river, to the head of the Leona, there to connect with the line already laid out by Leiut. Whiting to El Paso.
Col. Kinney, the founder of Corpus Christi, satisfied that this place had a great future with all its natural advantages of location, on the bluff shores of a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay, said to be the highest land on the entire coast of Texas – nothing to compare with it, with some of the richest soil back in the country that the sun ever shone on, to be bought cheap, decided to send literature, advertising the place, and this he did, sending circulars all over Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland, and to Germany. These circulars brought results and many came from across the Atlantic, settling in this city and in the country along the Nueces river, which many of their descendants living there can testify.
On "Corpus Christi’s natural advantages," George Reeder, official in charge of the U. S. Local Weather bureau here in 1890, made an excellent report, which was approved by the Chief of the United States Weather bureau. In this report Mr. Reeder gave a little history of the early days of Corpus Christi, the report being made for a special edition of the Caller. Mr. Reeder said: "This beautiful site, ‘where a leaf never dies in the sill blooming flowers,’ was located by a man named Kinney, so it is said. Born in Illinois of Scotch-Irish parentage, he drifted to Texas during his early fighting days. He came from the same mold as did so many of those splendid restless fellows who were the path-finders of this country — pioneers — their reckless daring deeds to this day makes the blood of a warm-blooded man run the faster in his veins; potent factors in the history of America, especially of Texas. This man Kinney was evidently a man of the times. An organizer of no mean ability, brave, fearless; possessed of a large amount of personal magnetism, he was a leader of men. If all accounts are true, he proved himself a staunch friend and a bitter personal enemy. It is said he had considerable book knowledge, and had traveled extensively. Whether all this is true or not, does not matter much at this late date; but it is evident however, that he was of an artistic temperament and must have been something of a meteorologist (by instinct probably) because of the fact that he not only located the most beautiful, but the safest and best spot on the entire Texas coast. After placing his stamp of approval upon this site, he gave a great fair, which was called "Kinney’s Fair." This great event took place during the latter part of May 1852. The whole country was invited, including Mexico, Louisiana and Cuba. There was evidently a hot time in the old town. Kinney was one of the leading factors in causing this country to be opened up to civilization. He came here for a purpose and he accomplished it."
The Nueces Valley, published here at the time, having at its masthead "Westward the Star of the Empire takes its way," contained a lengthy account of this great event, publishing the speeches of some of the leading speakers, giving the address in full of Gen. Carvajal of Mexico, also the long list of premiums. The Fair was given in the beach portion of the City, on the block where the Lichtenstein store is now located, or on the block south, the meeting opening in the large circus tent of Henry Maltby.
In the former days this was strictly a stock country with wild horses, full of deer and other game, and land was cheap; worth – fifteen to twenty-five cents an acre. The class of stock was common and of course the price was low. During the Civil War and for some years after the stock multiplied so rapidly that the country became overstocked, and in the early seventies the stock men commenced their big drives to Kansas, establishing also slaughter houses – killing cattle for their hides and tallow, saving only the choicest pieces of the meat. Slaughter houses were built north of this city, at Flour Bluff, on the Oso, and at Nuecestown in this county. That was not all they did; they got steam ships to come here and to Rockport to carry off the stock to market.
In the spring of 1874, the Morris & Cummings channel was opened up and the first Morgan ship, the Gussie, drawing about eight feet of water, came through it, landing at our wharves. This was quite an event in the history of Corpus Christi. She brought a good cargo of freight and left loaded with wool, hides, etc. She was followed by another Morgan ship taking away a heavy load of cattle for the New Orleans market. Texas cattle found a market also in Havana, to which place they were shipped. This was kept up till the stock surplus was exhausted, and then the cattle began to get scarce.
About this time the sheep business began to get popular, and most of the ranchmen went to raising sheep. It was not long until the whole country was filled with sheep; Nueces county must have had a million sheep, and Duval, adjoining on the west, had almost as many. Only one county in the United States, it was said (some county in California) had as many sheep. The country clear to the Rio Grande had sheep, and the ranchman became wealthy raising sheep. Wagons and carts – long trains of them, began rolling into Corpus Christi and this became a great wool market. Two ships were soon at one time at Central wharf, coming after the fleecy staple.
This, with the heavy business from Mexico, which this city enjoyed, caused the building of a railroad from this place to the Rio Grande, the first spike being driven here in November in 1876, Uriah Lott building the road, backed by Captains King and Kenedy. The road, which was a narrow guage one at first, reached Laredo in the summer of 1881, the first railroad built across the state to reach the Mexican border. This road was purchased by the Palmer-Sullivan syndicate before it reached the Rio Grande, the new owners extending the line to Monterrey and on to Saltillo, in old Mexico, changing the name of the road from the Corpus Christi, San Diego and Rio Grande Railway, calling it the Mexican National Railway. A few years later the road was built to the City of Mexico and changed to a standard gauge. The name was again changed, the Government purchasing it during the Diaz administration, changing the name to National de Mexico, building the road over a good portion of that Republic making it one of the big railway systems of Mexico, if not the biggest. That portion of the road between Corpus Christi and Laredo, is called the Texas-Mexican.
The sheep business, which flourished in this section of Texas for a number of years, began to dwindle away about the year 1885, several reasons being given for it, among them the increase in the price of land, the lowering of the tariff on wool and the fencing up of the country, the cattle men building large pasture fences and improving their stock, the sheep moving westward and the common long-horned cattle being replaced by the fine Herefords, Durhams and Hornless cattle. The first large pasture in the State was built in Nueces county south of this City, by Captain Kenedy, which enterprise was soon followed by the building of the King pasture, Rabb pasture and others in the county, the Coleman-Fulton pasture in San Patricio county, and by the building of pastures elsewhere. The small landowners near Corpus Christi turned their attention to raising vegetables, shipping during one spring over four hundred car loads of cabbage, besides other truck.
In the early days before the building of the railroad to Laredo, the people here established stage-lines for rapid communication with interior places like San Antonio, Laredo and Brownsville which business was followed up by the building of railroads to the same points. Judge B. F. Neal, Corpus Christi’s first mayor, elected when the City was incorporated in 1852, started the movement for the first stage line, which was built between here and San Antonio, visiting that place in person for that purpose. One of the passengers in the early seventies, the line running through Live Oak county, was Edmond J. Davis, Governor of Texas, the only Republican governor Texas ever had after the Civil War. He was elected from Corpus Christi in 1869, and made a number of trips over the state line en route to Austin. The numerous gates of the pasture fences build sometime after caused considerable trouble to the stages and proved a perplexing matter for a while. The second railroad for Corpus Christi was the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, built from San Antonio to this city about the year 1888, by Colonel Uriah Lott, backed chiefly by Capt. M. Kenedy of Corpus Christi. This road was afterwards extended from different points on the line to various places, the main branch being built to Houston, during the year 1889, after which the Morgan ships were withdrawn from our bays, and from that day to this, the people of Corpus Christi have never seen a Morgan ship at this port.
After waiting a while a number of the business men here purchased a steamer to run to Galveston and other points. This ship was sunk with a load of cotton on board while at the docks in Galveston during the great storm which visited the City in 1900. Another boat was purchased, the Pilot Boy, which was lost at Port Aransas in the storm of 1816, the worst blow up to that time, to visit this section in many years. In the seventies in September 1874, and in 1880 and August, 1886 this coast was visited by storms but they were not very bad, but doing some damage to the water front and to some vessels in the bays. The great storm or hurricane, or tidal wave as some call it, in September of 1919, was the worst that ever struck this part of the State; nothing like it was known to the oldest inhabitant. Notwithstanding the great loss, the people began with renewed energy to build a greater Corpus Christi, knowing that no place along the entire Texas coast possesses the wonderful natural advantages that Corpus Christi has for the building of a great seaport, with the high table land extending back for miles from the waters edge, the land the richest in the state.
The opening of the Turtle cove channel by the Government in 1907, dredging the channel to a depth of about 13 feet, shortening the distance some twelve miles for vessels traveling between the docks in this City and the outlet in the Gulf, added greatly to the advantages of this port. Notwithstanding the depth has been decreased by the storm of 1919, it is still used by light draught vessels. About thirty years ago the appropriations for opening a deep water port on the Texas coast were concentrated in giving deep water to Galveston, and the work for securing deep water on Aransas bar was held up, which caused the shipping business to decrease through the pass, the depth of water being low in the channel across the bar most of the time. Finally the Government resumed work on Aransas bar and opened the pass for large seagoing vessels, which was followed by the dredging of the Turtle Cove channel, about the largest vessel coming through Turtle Cove being the U. S. Government Gunboat Windom, bringing President Taft, who was on a visit to his brother’s ranch in San Patricio county, to Corpus Christi. Great crowds of people from the surrounding country flocked here to see the president. Many of them had never seen a president of the United States before, and they were anxious to see Mr. Taft, who arrived on the Windom, the vessel steaming across the beautiful bay with colors flying. It was a great day for Corpus Christi. Never had so many people been here before at one time. President Taft, who spent most of the day in this City, delivered one of his ablest speeches on this occasion from a grandstand erected on the bluff near the King mansion, the president, in his address, giving much praise to this city and section of Texas.
Another important enterprise for the advancement of this City, one that was carried to successful completion, was the building of the water works plant and the laying of a pipe line from Calallen, sixteen miles from here on the Nueces river, in 1893, a second pipe line being built since to the same place by the City.
As to the railroads again: The third railroad for Corpus Christi, one that has done wonders in the development of the coast country, the St. Louis & Brownsville & Mexico railroad (Gulf Coast line) ran its first train into Corpus Christi on the Fourth of July, 1903, the writer with others welcoming it with a band of music and Old Glory waving in the breezes. This road broke ground first at Robstown, building from there to Brownsville, building northward next to the City of Houston, then from Harlingen station up the Rio Grande Valley to near Rio Grande City. This road which operates its trains running to Corpus Christi over the Texas-Mexican tracks, has attracted people by the thousands who have come into this part of our great State and built homes, yes, cities, between here and the Rio Grande. The whole country has undergone a change. Big pastures have been cut up and this part of the State turned into a farming country. Miles and miles of farms are to be seen in this and other counties. In Nueces County today there are twenty-nine cotton gins with two compresses and numerous cotton yards. In the county last year 73,129 bales of cotton were ginned, and this year the farmers are making another good crop though it will not amount to as much as it did in 1920. The growth of the town of Robstown and Bishop, in Nueces County, have been marvelous, likewise Kingsville in the county of Kleberg, and the towns further on down the line.
Corpus Christi has more than doubled in size and population, having now numerous handsome and costly buildings, among them may be mentioned the Federal building and the County Courthouse, costing over three hundred thousand dollars; the Nueces Hotel costing half a million dollars or more – the finest hotel in the State for the size of the town. Our fine bluff has been beautified – its beautification is the talk of the state – so artistic. The streets have been paved and well paved; having more miles of paved streets than any other place of its size in the State. Wholesale houses have been established in Corpus Christi, and they do some business it must be said. The City has street cars, fine school buildings and handsome church edifices, all built in the last few years. Other enterprises might be mentioned, all inaugurated in the last few years. There are the good roads improvements and the King’s Highway going on, and the causeway which was destroyed in 1919, being rebuilt strong and finer than ever, and will be completed by September 15, 1921.
The fourth railroad for Corpus Christi – the San Antonio, Uvalde & gulf, was built into Corpus Christi in 1914, has done much for the advancement of this City and section of Texas, especially along the Nueces river, many new towns and farms springing up in this fertile valley since the inauguration of this grand undertaking started at Uvalde by Mr. Franklin, a man of energy and foresight. The building of the four railroads, mentioned above, has given Corpus Christi some most important railroad connections splendid railway facilities, the City now having twenty passenger trains a day, viz; to San Antonio five out and five in every day; Houston, four in and four out daily; Brownsville, two in and two out, and Laredo, one out and one in every day.
Corpus Christi has valuable public utilities and the largest gas well in Texas, within seven miles of the city limits.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE HISTORY OF CORPUS CHRISTI
Additional information about the Morgan ships that ran to Corpus Christi many years ago, and the business the town had with Western Texas and the Rio Grande frontier in its early days:
The ships of the Morgan Line, which were all side-wheel boats at first, plying between New Orleans and other Gulf ports, also running to Havana and other places, for many years after the Civil War, commenced to run to Corpus Christi June, 1874, upon the completion of the Morris & Cummings channel between this city and Port Aransas, bringing all kinds of merchandise and taking outward cargoes consisting of live stock, wool, hides, bullion, bars of lead, bales of istle, etc. The business increased right along, causing Charles Morgan, the owner or head of the Morgan Line to pay Corpus Christi a visit, the Commodore arriving here on his flag ship, the City of Norfolk, a veritable floating palace. The distinguished gentleman was entertained by the mayor and banker, Harry Doddridge, who showed him over the place in his carriage.
About this time or some time after the people of Galveston and the Mallory line, learning of the big business being done through this port, decided that they ought to have a vessel running in here, and soon the order was given, the Mallory people building a ship especially for these water, a beautiful screw-propeller, the "Western Texas," to carry freight and passengers. In due time the vessel arrived with many Galveston business men aboard the initial trip. This spurred the Morgan line on to renewed efforts to meet the opposition, and the result was another new vessel speedily built for this trade, the Morgan people having built to order a special ship, the steamship "Aransas," a double screw-propeller to carry freight and passengers, the vessel being of light draft like the Mallory ship, drawing about eight or nine feet of water, the only kind that could cross Aransas bar in those days. After running to this and other ports for several months, the steamship Western Texas, experiencing more or less trouble running here with a single propeller, with the opposition of the Morgan line to contend with, ceased to run here, going to far away ports.
Some years after this the entire fleet of Morgan ships, some sixteen or more was purchased, it was reported at the time, by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was not long after this till the Morgan ships were pulled off, the beautiful Aransas ceasing to make any more trips here just as soon as the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad Company completed its line into Houston from Corpus Christi, connecting there with the Southern Pacific, with which it was understood the lines had arranged to work together.
In the early days, as far back as 1848, a heavy business from the western part of the State and Northern Mexico was done through the port of Corpus Christi, notwithstanding the shallow depth of the water on Aransas bar and in the channel leading up to this city, the business keeping up for years, well up, it might be said, as long as vessels plied here and the port had a line of vessels running to the port. The writer remembers when trains of carts, as many as fifty coming here together several times, loaded with freight from the interior. There were trains of ox-carts loaded with wool, trains of hides and skins from the Rio Grande, trains of bullion and lead from the interior of Mexico, trains of carts loaded with istle, a product of the maguey, traveling for many miles to reach this port. Wagons and carts were seen on our streets from Chihuahua, three hundred miles below the border, taking back much merchandise in bond, shipped through this port, because it was hundreds of miles nearer to the Gulf than other ports. This business, which was large in those days, and has grown immensely, was diverted and it is still being diverted, taking the long haul to a far off port, at a great expense, for the want of deep water and deep going ships at Corpus Christi.
Confirming some things mentioned by the writer, happenings here before he was born, the following taken from the Corpus Christi Star of December 14, 1848, might be worthy of mention, it being a write-up of the first big ox-cart caravan from Corpus Christi: "The Great Chihuahua Train. – On Tuesday last General Cazneau’s great train took its final departure for Chihuahua. For more than a week the carts had been leaving for Casa Blanca, where they were to rendezvous, a few leaving each day, and our streets were filled with oxen and teamsters. A motley crowd, the last were, men of many complexions and languages – the fair-skinned German, the ruddy Irishman, and the swarthy Mexican contrasted with the bronze face of the keen Yankee and the rough but ready son of the Texas prairies. The train is the largest that ever left this section of Texas, consisting of over fifty wagons filled with valuable merchandise, and accompanied by one hundred persons, Col. Kinney and Mr. Wm. Mann were unremitting in their exertions to expedite its departure, most of the citizens lending a helping hand, many prominent ones accompanying the train. This enterprise is a most important one, not only for Corpus Christi, but the whole State of Texas. It is Gen. Cazneau’s intention to form two trading posts on this side of the Rio Grande, one at Presidio del Norte and one at El Paso, where the Mexican traders will buy the goods and themselves convey them into Mexico.
Referring to the order of Gen Harney for making a survey from Corpus Christi to the headwaters of the Leona, there to connect with the line already laid out to El Paso, the Corpus Christi Star has the following editorial: "By this enterprise the town of Corpus Christi will be placed in direct communication with El Paso, and from its superiority over any other place on the coast, in point of distance and other advantages, we have no doubt that not only the supplies for the troops on the border will be sent that way, but that Corpus Christi will be the point designated for the Atlantic terminus of the great National Pacific Railroad."
Provenance: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
HOVER ABOUT OLD BAY VIEW CEMETERY
By E. T. Merriman
One of the oldest cemeteries in Southern Texas is that located on the bluff in this city, only a few blocks from the court house of Nueces County known as the City Cemetery, or the Old Bay View Cemetery, the first interments there having been made, it is believed about the year 1846, while Gen. Zachary Taylor’s army was station here for about a year, just previous to its march for Old Mexico. That some of the brave men died here during the army’s stay and that the U. S. government used the ground for the burial of its soldiers, there can be no doubt. As evidence of this it can be stated that not long ago a letter was received from Washington by the Ladies’ Cemetery association inquiring about the grave of Colonel Hodgekiss, the letter stating that he was here with Taylor’s army when he died, and that he was buried on the hill. This ground was then used for burial purposes and afterwards, for many years, was the only cemetery the city had for the burial of its dead. In 1868 the ground was dedicated to the public by Doswell, who dedicated for burial purposes three acres more west of where the standpipe is now, but the latter plot was never used. After this, some time in the early 70s, the present large and substantial fence surrounding the grounds, was built, the money raised, it is said, by public subscription. On November 18, 1896, when the cemetery had gotten into a deplorable condition, a meeting of the women was held at Mrs. Elizabeth Merriman’s place on Chaparral street, the ladies organizing at this meeting the Bay View Cemetery association, with the election of the following officers: Mrs. W. H. Griffin, president; Mrs. Le Lamin, secretary; Mrs. Jessie Clark, treasurer; Mrs. H. R. Sutherland, chairman of executive committee. At a subsequent meeting, attended by a committee from the city council, upon invitation from the association, it was decided to permit no more burials in this cemetery, except to those having close relatives interred there, the ground being about all taken up, and it being the wish of every one present that the remains of no old-timer and pioneer be disturbed. The city then ordered all the old dilapidated fences in the enclosed cemetery removed in order that the sacred grounds might be cleaned up and made to look decent and respectable.
Now, as to some of the pioneers buried in this cemetery, men who fought and died in defense of the city and country, others who suffered, worked and struggled to make a town here; in other words, blazed the way that the country might be made habitable for those coming on later – those here now enjoying the fruits of their labors. First we find, about the center of the grounds, a tombstone, broken and re-set, the inscription on it reading as follows: “In memory of Capt. E. Michael Van Buren, of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, U. S. Army, a native of the state of Maryland, born Jan. 29, 1817; died at Corpus Christi, Texas, July 20, 1854, of wounds received in an engagement with a band of Comanche Indians. Erected by his only sister.” It is said that Captain Van Buren was killed out beyond the Oso, near the Petronila. On the western part of the cemetery is a headstone to the memory of George W. Swank, who was killed by the Mexican bandits at Nuecestown, March 26, 1875. Mr. Swank was a carpenter, working on the building now owned by Mrs. John Jordt, on the bluff, when the startling news of the raid reached the city. Getting down from the ladder as soon as possible, he mounted his horse and was soon going at full speed with Winchester in hand, in pursuit of the bandits. He lost his life in defense of his country.
The story of Wm. L. Rogers, a Texas pioneer who had a hair-breadth escape – an awful experience is known to most old timers here - and is worth relating. Mr. Rogers came to Corpus Christi with his father in 1846, to join Taylor’s army, the old man bringing other sons with him. Finding that the army had left for Mexico, Rogers and his men started towards Brownsville to join it. Camping for the night at the Arroyo Colorado, about thirty-five miles this side of Brownsville, the Rogers party was attacked by Mexican bandits, who tied the hands of their victims behind their backs, cut their throats and threw them into the arroyo. In some miraculous manner, William Rogers managed to swim out on the opposite side, making his escape in the chaparral, where he wandered about until he was almost dead, when he strolled into a Mexican ranch, where some of the women, taking pity on him, picked the worms out of his throat that had been fly-blown, dressed the wound, gave him sustenance, and soon had him on the mend, when more enemies arrived who wanted to “finish him up,” and would have killed him but for one of the women who, like Pocahontas, pleaded for the life of the stranger, and he was saved, the band taking the younger Rogers with them to the Rio Grande, where he was released or made his escape. As the story goes, Rogers learned the Mexican language as soon as possible, returned to the ranch where his life was saved, married the Mexican lady, Julia Corona, his proven friend, from whom he gained much information about the bandits who had murdered his father and brothers, getting the names of the outlaws and killing most of them, it is said, taking one at a time. Some years after this Mr. Rogers moved to Nueces county, setting on the eat bank of the Agua Dulce creek, about six miles below the Banquete, not far from where is now Driscoll station. There he engaged in the stock-raising business, also sheep, becoming very wealthy. A few years after the Civil War Mr. Rogers moved his residence to Corpus Christi, building a nice home on Chaparral street, on the corner west of the present location of the San Antonio Machine and Supply company. He had hardly moved into the house when it was destroyed by fire. The following day he ordered a duplicate building to the one lost, built on the same spot, and it is there today. This fire was the starter of the Corpus Christi fire department. Felix Noessel and Peter Benson (Mr. Benson still lives here) starting out the next morning with a subscription list to raise money to buy a fire engine. At the first meeting, held Nov. 28, 1871, the “Pioneer Fire Company” was organized with Wm. L. Rogers as its first president, the present paid fire department being a continuation of the volunteer pioneers. Mr. Rogers was the owner of the St. James hotel, purchasing it shortly after it was built in 1869 by Tom James, the estate owning the property up to a few years ago. Mr. Rogers who was a business man with much public spirit, was elected president of the board of managers of the Corpus Christi and Rio Grande railroad, (now the Texas-Mexican – the first railroad to reach the Rio Grande) at a meeting of the commissioners held in this city, June 19, 1873. Mr. Rogers, who held various positions of trust in this community and was very popular, died here at his home, December 17, 1877, his remains being laid to rest in the old cemetery, upon the hill, his funeral attended by the Masonic fraternity, members of the Corpus Christi fire department, and citizens generally, as well as friends from far and near. In a short time his widow, the noble woman that she was, had a large gray granite monument erected to his memory, and it stand there today, considered one of the finest in this section of the state. Messrs. Manuel and Tom Rogers of San Diego, are sons of the old pioneer, Manuel holding the office of sheriff of Duval county some years ago.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, May 18, 1924
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
AND FIRST SHERIFF OF COUNTY
REST IN OLD BAY VIEW CEMETERY
By E. T. Merriman
In my last historical article on the old cemetery and some of the pioneers, special mention was made of Wm. L. Rogers as one of the leading men of this section. There were others here in the early days deserving of special mention. To begin with, take Judge B. F. Neal, the first mayor of Corpus Christi, elected in 1852. Judge Neal was an able lawyer; in the early days he was appointed special judge of this district, at that time the 4th judicial district. During the war in the early sixties he was elected captain of a company here, called “Neal’s Company.”
He was an influential citizen, active and willing to assist in any enterprise for the advancement of the town, a good booster, establishing a newspaper here before the civil war, called the “Nueces Valley,” resurrecting the paper in 1870, the writer entering the business that year, going into Judge Neal’s office on the west side of Artesian park as an apprentice. The Judge did not publish his paper very long the second time, selling his office the same year to the republicans who had elected a governor, Edmund J. Davis, of Corpus Christi, who lived on Broadway – a residence afterwards purchased by Col. N. Gussett, when Gov. Davis moved to Austin. As far back as 1848 Judge Neal was here on the alert looking after business for Corpus Christi, establishing the first stage line between this city and San Antonio, going to the Alamo City as the agent of the Corpus Christi Transportation company, remaining there for some time, interesting the businessmen of that place to get their goods by way of Corpus Christi, this port being the nearest and cheapest those days, though the depth of water was only sufficient for light draft vessels. What the San Antonio merchants did then they are going to do again – order their goods shipped by way of Corpus Christi as soon as the deep water port is opened, a saving to them when it is done of over three hundred thousand dollars a year in freight charges, it is estimated, with two railroads and a highway between the two places.
Judge Neal, who died in this city years ago, is buried in the old cemetery with only a little headboard to indicate his last resting place, on it the name, “B. F. Neal.”
H. W. BERRY
One of the best known men here in the early days, a pioneer of the pioneers, was H. W. Berry, the first sheriff of Nueces county, in 1846, when the county was organized, Nueces county at that time embracing all the territory south of Nueces river, extending as far west as Laredo and to the Rio Grande on the south, the commissioners’ court at its first meeting fixing the rates of ferriage at Laredo, Rio Grande City and Brownsville.
This old timer, who was a captain of a ranger company, here with Col. Kinney – the founder of Corpus Christi, was undoubtedly a great leader and a man of influence, almost running the town and county, judging from the offices he held, holding the office of sheriff several terms, mayor of the city several terms – in 1854, 1857, 1860-61-63, and was postmaster of the city in 1854. Capt. Berry was a great democrat and had many admirers.
He was a great friend of U. S. Grant, and a rival of his when Gen. Taylor’s army was stationed at Corpus Christi in 1845-46, Grant at that time being a dashing young lieutenant. Hearing something of the story the writer called on the captain at his home in 1884 to get it from first hands.
Capt. Berry said; “Yes, it is true, and I want to tell you Grant came near getting my girl away from me. She was good looking and about the only American girl here, and I took her out riding often, letting her ride my little black pacing mare. One day Lieut. Grant came along and said, ‘Captain, I would like to borrow your little mare this evening.’ I told him that he might take her and a few hours later I saw the lieutenant taking my girl out riding up the beach. Grant came the second time and I loaned him my mare, but not the third time. I told him that I needed the animal. The fact was, the young lady scarcely talked to me when I went to call on her. I saw at once that the gallant lieutenant with his handsome uniform and brass buttons was winning my girl away. I offered to take her out riding again; she consented to go.
“The lieutenant had not been around to take her out riding. She might make him jealous. but my mare was no where to be found. Riding out one day with Capt. McCook, he said, ‘there is your mare, Captain, standing over there.’ i did not recognize her at first, she was so disfigured – mane and tail shaved, a trick of Grant’s. I got her out and when I went to see the young lady and go for a ride, she positively refused to go, saying she would not ride such an ugly animal. Lucky thing for me it was that the United States army was ordered to move on towards Mexico shortly afterwards. It was ‘easy sailing’ after Grant left here, and I soon married the pretty miss.”
By this union one son was born, the late Robt. H. Berry, of Beeville. After the death of Capt. Berry’s wife the Captain married the widow Gravis by whom he had three more sons, all three living here now, the eldest being the present jailer of Nueces county.
Capt. Berry was a brave man, proving it in the very days when he and others had a fight with the Indians near the Santa Gertrudis ranch. It is said that the “red skins” had shot the horse from under Guadalupe Cardenas, one of Capt. Berry’s men. Seeing Cardenas down on the ground and the Indians rushing up to kill him, the Captain dashed by, pulling the unfortunate man up on the horse he was riding as he went, carrying him to a place of safety. Capt. Berry, who died here in 1888, is buried on yonder hillside, in the old city cemetery.
There are many old pioneers deserving of extended mention sleeping their last sleep in the old burying ground. Several of the streets of Corpus Christi are named after them – Lawrence street, Mann street and others; Lawrence street after Dr. D. H. Lawrence, a pioneer physician, and Mann street named for Wm. Mann, one of the leading business men, as proven time and again by reference to the files of old papers – a man of big business, the Corpus Christi Star, published here in 1848 giving him great credit for his untiring efforts in making a success of Col. Kinney’s trade with Mexico, expediting with others the longest train of wagons loaded with merchandise for Chihuahua that ever left Corpus Christi. Wm. Mann and Co. were agents for the New York and Corpus Christi Packet Line of fast sailing vessels, putting goods from the North into Mexico by way of this port.
H. A. Gilpin, who first came here in 1829, when there was not an inhabitant to be seen anywhere around, and who left here after walking along eh bluff, admiring the beautiful bay, came back again, and in 1848 was doing an immense business here with Mexico, taking from this section over six hundred mule loads of goods to Zacatecas. As far back as 1833 Judge Gilpin as agent for a Matamoros house, landed at Copano $80,000.00 worth of goods for Mexico, according to the Corpus Christi Star. In the early days the merchants of Corpus Christi not only shipped goods to Mexico on a large scale for the means of transportation they had, but they went down into Mexico and solicited trade, getting much business from that country to seek this port. The merchants were “go-getters,” the kind Corpus Christi is going to need when this city gets to be a deep water port.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, June 8, 1924
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
IN BAY VIEW CEMETERY
WORKED WITH UNDYING COURAGE TO MAKE PORT HERE
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
OF BURYING PLOT
WHERE REST CITY’S HONORED DEAD
By E. T. Merriman
Referring again to my last articles on the pioneers buried in the old cemetery, it might be interesting to the people to hear about some more of the early settlers-people who blazed the way for the development of this country.
Felix A. Blucher, county surveyor here in the very early days, was a descendant of the great General von Blucher, who, at the battle of Waterloo, caused the defeat of Napoleon. In the early ‘forties, Felix A. Blucher, after graduating at the University of Berlin, went to Mexico City, where he was translator and interpreter for General Scott. From Mexico City Major Blucher came to Corpus Christi, having received a commission from Pinkney Henderson, governor of Texas to raise a company of soldiers, but before completing the organization the company was disbanded, peace having been declared. Major Blucher, who returned to Germany, came back to Corpus Christi in 1849, bringing a bride with him, two bridal couples coming here on the same boat from across the seas – Mr. and Mrs. Blucher from Germany, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dunn from Ireland.
Major blucher, on being elected surveyor of Nueces land district, decided to go to Austin to make his report. Going on his way one night, he saw a light and, thinking it was a camp of the whites, he rod right into it.
To his great surprise he found it was a camp of Tancahua Indians. Chief Castro, coming up and taking charge of Blucher’s horse, talked Spanish to him, saying that his tribe had just had a fight with the Lipans, and had killed one of their brave men and had him in a pot, boiling. He said while they were not cannibals, the Tancahuas had a superstition that when they ate the flesh of a brave foe their descendants would partake of his bravery. The chief intimated to Blucher that it would be wise for him to join them in the feast. Getting out his penknife, Blucher fished out one of the brave man’s fingers and tasted it, finding it tough. After this the chief embraced Blucher. The next morning the surveyor found his horse ready for him, saddled and bridled, for him to go on to Austin, Chief Castro furnishing an escort to protect him to the suburbs of his destination, Blucher having made himself solid with the Indians.
During the confederacy Blucher was appointed major of the engineer corps, designing and building several fortifications along the coast. At the break-up Major Blucher went to Mexico, where, as chief engineer for General Mexia, he built the fortifications for Maximilian at Matamoros. He was glad to get back to Corpus Christi, where he spent the rest of his days. Captain John Dix, another pioneer, left an interesting history for some one to write who knows it. Captain Dix was a great mariner, traveling the seas for the U. S. government, it is said, visiting the Sandwich Islands in the days of its savagery experiencing some hairbreadth escapes.
Captain Dix was here with Colonel Kinney, John Dix, Jr., his son, coming to Corpus Christi with mules, wagons and supplies for General Taylor’s army in 1845. In the civil war, Captain Dix sided with the union, and when the federals bombarded the city not a cannon ball hit his house. The old building, a two-story concrete structure on the water front, known as the Seaside hotel in later days, stood everything till the storm of 1919 wrecked it so badly it had to be torn down.
In the old cemetery rest the remains of hundreds of pioneers of this country. There lie the firemen – Felix Noessel, John Fogg, James Hunter, Lyman Brewster, Ben Gravett, Jerry Atkinson, Frank Atkinson, and others who kept the old town from burning up time and time again. There lie the remains of Chas. L. Lege, one of Nueces county’s judges; Mat Nolan, sheriff, and his brother, Tom Nolan, the latter killed in the discharge of his duty, making an arrest; Horace Taylor, postmaster of Corpus Christi in 1873, a teacher of great talent; Doctors Burke and Hamilton, of the firm of Spohn, Burke and Hamilton, years ago; Dr. J. J. Gregory, Doctor Luckett and Dr. E. T. Merriman.
Doctor Merriman, a graduate of Yale and the first settler of San Marcos, Texas, came to this state in the ‘forties from Connecticut, residing for a number of years on the lower Rio Grande, moving from there to Banquete, Nueces county, in 1858, having a large practice over considerable territory for years.
During the civil war he was surgeon of the army, having two hospitals, one in Corpus Christi and one at Banquete. Dr. Merriman, with others, sacrificed his life in the terrible epidemic of yellow fever here in 1867, attending the sick till exhausted and had to give up, telling his friends good-bye.
In this sacred ground lie the remains of Lafayette Caldwell, another surveyor of Nueces county in years gone by; Rev. J. P. Perham, who left his home in the country and rushed in to Corpus Christi in response to the call for help in 1867, giving up his life. There lie the pioneers – Judge Gambel, John Wade, Joseph Almond, John S. Givens, Esq., John Fitch, Capt. John S. Greer, Frank W. Shaeffer, H. R. Sutherland, James Weymouth and Wm. DeRyee, the last named durggist making frequent trips to White’s Point the latter part of his life, returning with specimens of rock, saying he felt sure there was oil under the surface of the ground; Don Louis de Planque, the photo artist; Peyton Smithe, J. P., who took the people by surprise one morning upon opening his court; Rev. J. B. Hardwicke and his son, John, the editor; George Pettigrew, Edwin Ohler, Jacob Ziegler, Anton Meuly, T. P. Rivera, John Uehlinger, Wm. H. Daimwood, John Pelham, George Conklin, Theo. Lawrence, Major James Downing, R. D. Simpson, W. S. Halsey, Edmund Beard, John Woessner, Thomas Parker, Fred Cooling, G. W. K. Mew, W. F. Crank, james Bryden, Charles Weidenmueller, Wm. H. Maltby, Henry Hawley, henry Lucas, A. D. Evans, Henry Woessner, Ernest Rocher, Thomas Allen, Sam’l F. Stevenson, Thomas N. Tinney, Joseph Langridge, Captain Harrison.
W. B. Wrather, Mathew Headen, Wm. Myers, Frederick Busse, Louis Maximillion Dreyer, Adison Lane, Otto Von Roeder, Otto Petzel, E. J. Allen, G. B. Williams, A. A. Deavalen, J. W. Littig, J. M. Davidson, George Noessel, I. H. Thomas, Otto Dreyer, John Gocher, C. H. Ley, John Riggs, Dr. Swift, James Stephenson, John McGregor, Samuel McComb, Herman Vetters, George Gold, Wm. Terrell, B. M. Baldeschwiler, the last named coming to Corpus Christi from the old country seventy-nine years ago, when there were only seven houses in the place. Also, hundreds of other pioneers, many of them with nothing to mark their graves – some of them with interesting history.
Many noble women, pioneers, too, are sleeping their last sleep in the old cemetery. The last one buried there was Mrs. Mary Wrather, whose maiden name was Woessner, considered during the civil war as the prettiest in Corpus Christi, and as such was selected to present a handsome flag to Captain Maltby’s company, which she did on the old court house steps before a large gathering of people. A friend, finding a copy of her presentation address, took it up to the Wrather home last year and read it to her, taking her by surprise.
At the request of some of the ladies of the Bay View Cemetery Association, about ten years ago, the writer took charge of the old cemetery, looking after it ever since, keeping a man employed there about one-third of his time, paying him from contributions received from friends of the dead. During this time the writer has had the large fence enclosing the grounds repaired twice – one after the 1916 storm and once after the 1919 storm; the grounds sodded with Bermuda grass and over four hundred feet of water pipe laid through the grounds; purchased lawn mowers, hoes, rakes, etc., and today the grounds look fairly good for the time spent on them, as good or better than some city parks. The people buried in this cemetery are of many denominations and nationalities; white and black, possibly two thousand, including soldiers of the north and soldiers of the south; many veterans of the Mexican war.
The object of the writer in publishing these articles on the old cemetery where are buried so many of the old pioneers is to interes the city council and citizens generally in having these sacred grounds, about three acres, preserved and cared for as they ought to be – parked and beautified with flower beds, shade trees, etc. San Antonio for some time has been guarding its old landmarks, taking care of the missions, while Corpus Christi has allowed most of what it had to be obliterated – the last being the mounds left by General Zachary Taylor’s army in the northern part of the city. It would indeed be fitting if the old cemetery grounds (one of the most beautiful locations to be found anywhere – on a hill overlooking the two bays) could be converted into a sacred park, where the weary could go and sit down under the trees and watch the ships in the harbors; grounds where so many of the old pioneers are sleeping their long sleep – old timers who had visions and dreams of deep water and a great city here some day.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, June 22, 1924
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales
Showing Harbor’s Future
By E. T. Merriman
I have lived in Nueces county about 60 years. I spent the first part of my life at Banquete, the rest - over 50 years, in Corpus Christi. For over 40 years I have been working for a deep water port here, writing articles on deep water in the early days for the Corpus Christi Free Press, and in The Caller for 29 years, boosting the proposition, showing the necessity for a port here, and now, after these years when the goal is very near, after all the work that has been done by our representative and friends at Austin, and at Washington, to learn that there are people in our county trying to defeat the establishment of the port, is enough to make one’s heart sick.
If the United States government was to make the same proposition to the City of Dallas and Dallas county that is has made to Corpus Christi and Nueces county; to cut a channel 25 deep so that ocean-going vessels could run up its city limits, agreeing to maintain the channel for all time, provided the people would build the docks, make a turning basin for the ships, provide necessary facilities for shipping, etc., what would they do? The people of Dallas and Dallas county would join in one grand jubilee. If one man could be found, even out in the outskirts of the county, who would vote against the proposition, what would happen to him? Why, his wife would never speak to him as long as he lived. The farmers are proud of Dallas; they want the city to grow and prosper - the larger the city the better the market, and, more of the county’s tax burden would be carried by the city.
About 20 years ago a man from Denver spent the winter in Corpus Christi. Upon his departure he said: “You people have something here we would give $20,000,000 and more, for, if you could deliver it to Denver, “For the love of Mike, tell us quick what it is?” said one of the bystanders. “It is Corpus Christi bay. If the people of Denver had it with the chance that you have of getting a great seaport here, we would not be sleeping on our nights. We would soon have the ships of the world in Denver, and then, with the wonderful advantages and products that we already have, we would snap our fingers at Chicago; it would not be long till we had a million population.”
A few days ago I had a talk with Royall Givens, one of our well known citizens and an advocate of deep water ever since his residence here. Mr. Givens made a trip last year to Rhode Island to visit his daughter, going by rail to Galveston and from there going by water to New York. On the ship Mr. Givens says he got acquainted with Judge Francis, retired capitalist from Boston, who had spent some time here looking around and investigating the natural advantages of this section. Judge Francis expressed himself as well pleased with his visit and what he had seen. Learning that the Judge was largely interested in cotton mills in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Mr. Givens asked him a number of questions on the subject. Judge Francis went on to tell about the Lonsdale Cotton Mills Domestic, the “Fruit of the Loom,” and the popular Coats Trend, saying that their mills used altogether a fine quality of cotton, and the best they got from the south came from Nueces county - finest staple. He spoke of the great expense of having to get the raw material from such a long distance and why so many cotton mills are not being established in the south, North Carolina now having more mills than Massachusetts, though not with more spindles. Judge Francis then said to Mr. Givens, speaking of the prospect of mills being established in Nueces county: “If your people could get a deep water port opened there, you would have the mills seeking locations in your county, with the cheap fuel - natural gas, that you have in almost inexhaustible supply.” Mr. Givens says he asked the Judge then where they would likely be located, thinking of course he would say at Corpus Christi, and this is what he said, “Well, yes they might be, but the logical place for them is back from the deep water port, say at Robstown or Bishop.” Why,” asked Mr. Givens. “Because,” said the Judge, the land is going to be too high-priced about the port, and the mills must have plenty of ground for their business and for the homes of their thousands of tenants, making a town almost of themselves.”
After hearing this report of a capitalist from Massachusetts, as given by Mr. Givens, how any one in Nueces county, especially from Robstown and Bishop, can be so shortsighted as to vote against the bond issue for the making of a large sea-port in Nueces bay, is beyond the comprehension of any sane man. W. H. Wallace, the field manager of the White Point Production company who is here superintending the work of laying the gas pipe, which has just reached our city limits from White Point, said to the writer this week, that if the bond carried he would begin at once making his plans to put the natural gas into Robstown for the big industries that would be certain to open up there.
Talking about cotton mills, the writer wishes to say that last week he met D. H. Jones, superintendent of the Kingsville Cotton mill, on our streets. On being asked how the mill was doing, he replied that it has all it could do, was running day and night, using the best quality of cotton, nearly 200 bales a month. Questions as to where their product was being shipped. Mr. Jones said they were shipping to Buenos Aires and that the second shipment was already to go out. This is only a starter for a big business which is sure to come when we get deep water for the ships to run here, taking away our products and bring back coffee and other products from South America. Since the close of the world war England has been enjoying a fine business with South America, and it is high time the United States looked after her interests on this hemisphere.
So vote for the bonds and pull for big business. Do our bit for Uncle Sam in procuring more trade with South America.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, October 25, 1922
Transcription by: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Editor, The Caller:
As one of the old timers in Corpus Christi and with long time residence on Water street, I think I ought to have something to say in regard to the bay front of this city and the matter of its improvement. I came to Nueces county in 1858, moving to Corpus Christi when a boy with my father, Dr. E. T. Merriman, in 1865. From my youth up all old timers know that I have been a worker and booster for Corpus Christi and Nueces county. Forty years ago I purchased the old Swift home on Water street, corner Schatzel. A few years had the old home taken down and got Messrs. Reid & Sutherland to build me a new home, and they built a good one. In front of me across the street, was an unsightly fish house. I tried to get it away but could not. I consulted some of the leading lawyers and they advised me to go and buy the lots from the owners which I did and in thirty days the shack was gone. I cleaned up the place and planted trees and some of the ground. After that I had the lots filled up, spending a good deal of money on them for rock and dirt. The paving of Corpus Christi’s streets was started shortly after this and I did my part, paving on both sides of Water street, and on Schatzel. In 1916 a storm did me considerable damage, and in 1919, lost most of everything I had - my beautiful home, office, trees, much ground, etc. I have held on to my lots all this time hoping the city would improve the water front, but nothing has been done all this time. Last year I was notified to appear before the city board of appraisers and give reason why my lots east of Water street should not be raised in their valuation. The value of the lots was put up- way up, almost to the lots of the west side of the street.
During the last forty years I have paid thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes to say nothing of the interest and the money. I have spent fighting the storms, by doing my bit to protect the water front and repair the damage every year or two, (the city doing nothing worth mentioning outside the breakwater with its several openings out in the bay,) to help and encourage the water front tax payers all these years. About thirty years ago, Dr. De Ryee built a splendid breakwater at his own expense and it is there yet, east of Royal Givens’ place. Col. N. Gussett built a sea-wall to protect his property on Water street one block below the De Ryee place. The trouble with the breakwaters built was that there was no uniformity of action - one man building one way and another building another way.
Now, after all these years of delay and after untold damage from storms, and the people having to put up with a dirty and often bad-smelling water front, the people have a proposition before them to improve and beautify the bay front by filling in a couple of blocks, making the bay front safe, with parks, and great driveway along the whole front protected by a well-constructed bulkhead, a thing of beauty and a joy forever, like in other progressive and other up-to-date seaside resorts. I truly hope the committee appointed by the Honorable Mayor to consider the plant proposed will do something to secure this long-needed water front improvement. If two blocks are considered too much to be filled-in, then have one block with park in front. However, in most other places with the shallow water this city has on the bay front (in low tide one can walk on dry land a good distance out) the citizens would extend the improvement out more than two blocks. At any rate, let us hope the people will do something now. I have lived to see deep water and I would like to see Corpus Christi’s water front made safe and beautiful.
Some years ago I visited Tampa, Fla., which, by the way, has a beautiful water front and driveway. In talking about it I was told that I should be sure to go to see the city of St. Petersburg, the prettiest seaside city in the south, they said, just across the bay from Tampa. I went and must say was much disappointed. I told the people there of the beauty of Corpus Christi, with its high bluff and its beautification, horseshoe-shaped bay, etc. I told them that when Corpus Christi got its bay front improved and beautified St. Petersburg would not “be in it ” with us.
Last year one of Corpus Christi’s leading citizens, C. E. Coleman, visited the City of Naples while on his European tour. What does he say? Corpus Christi can be made more beautiful than this famous city of southern Europe, he says. Corpus Christi has often been referred to as the “Naples of the Gulf.” Is it? No, not with fish houses, shacks, etc. on the water front, to say nothing of the bad odors from the sea-weed that often drifts along the shore. If our people want tourists to continue to come here we must improve the bay front and be up-to-date with other progressive seaside resorts. It is Corpus Christi’s grand bay that the visitor comes here to enjoy. It is THE one great attraction.
--- E. T. Merriman
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, February, 1927
Transcription by: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Recalled by Veteran Publisher
Formidable Opposition Overcome in Campaign of Twenty Years Ago
Taft’s Visit Here
President Came to Corpus Christi on Cutter Windom;
By Eli T. Merriman
In a recent issue of The Caller I gave an account of Uriah Lott’s activities in this section of the country, especially in his construction of railroads which have wrought wonders in Southwest Texas, causing the building of many towns and cities that would never have been heard of had it now been for him and the railroads opening up and developing the rich lands, Mr. Lott driving the first spike of his pioneer road at Corpus Christi on Thanksgiving Day, 1876, as already stated, the road reaching San Diego in 1878 and the Mexican border at Laredo in 1881, the other roads - the S.A. & A.P. and St. L., B. & M., being constructed later for more and bigger business.
John Garner’s Election
Now as to Congressman John Garner, another pioneer citizen who has made good and is still on his job in Washington, great credit is due him. In 1902 Mr. Garner was a member of the Texas legislature, popular and full of pep, hailing from Uvalde country, when he decided to announce himself for Congress from Corpus Christi district. At once opposition loomed up. A gentleman from Seguin, who seemed to have strong support, thought he was the man to go and should be the Democratic nominee, but Jim Wells, who was a power of strength in political matters at that time, sent a telegram from Brownsville, saying that John Garner was the man to be nominated and that settled it, notwithstanding a few of his own party thought he might not do because he was a monte player, whereupon Pat Dunn came out saying the John Garner was all right - a chaparral cock, the kind of man we needed. The Republicans had to hold their convention then. They said, “Oh, we have got the man, another John,” and they nominated John Scott, a home man, and soon the campaign was on good and strong, resulting in the election of Mr. Garner.
On January 26, 1903, John Garner arrived in Corpus Christi and the same night was given a reception at the St. James hotel by many of his Democratic friends. H. R. Sutherland, Sr., was toastmaster at the banquet at which addressed were made by the congressman and a number of the citizens, among them Stanley Welch, W. B. Hopkins, R. W. Stayton and others.
Turtle Cove Channel
On Tuesday, the following day, a citizens meeting was held in the board of trade rooms on the second floor of the Doddridge building to discuss matters of vital importance to this section. Judge Hopkins explained that the invitation to Mr. Garner to visit Corpus Christi had been accepted and that Mr. Garner was in the audience. President E. H. Caldwell explained to Mr. Garner the purpose of the board in having invited him to visit the city, assuring him of the sincere purpose to assist him in his expressed desire to further the interests of the district, Mr. Caldwell dwelling upon important matters to this section, viz.: harbor improvements, a direct channel from the gulf to Corpus Christi, an intracoastal canal, a building for Corpus Christi, distribution of agricultural reports and seeds, extension of rural free delivery, etc. Mr. Garner, being introduced, thanked the board for the honor and courtesies extended him and said that in the matter of business he represented all alike - in political matters, those who supported him. He then discussed briefly the matters suggested, saying that he wanted to know what was the dearest to the hearts of the people, desiring to show his gratitude by giving his very best efforts in securing what we needed, because the people had elected him in place of that splendid citizen John Scott. Mr. Sutherland, Sr., then arose and said that what the people wanted was a direct channel to the pass through Turtle cove, saying that it was of paramount importance to Corpus Christi. Judge Welch spoke of the wisdom of the board in having Mr. Garner visit the city and then discussed the history of deep water and Corpus Christi’s natural advantages. Mr. Sutherland spoke again, saying he objected to the Haupt plan and favored harbor work under government engineers by continuous contract system. Meeting closed after the passing of a resolution endorsing the movement for a straight channel to the pass through Turtle cove.
Garner Visits Turtle Cove
The next morning Captain Anderson’s schooner, the Flour Bluff, was chartered to take Mr. Garner and party of citizens down to the pass, Mr. Garner desiring to see for himself what was needed. The following is a list of those who accompanied the new congressman on this trip: Dan Reid, W. B. Hopkins, Royall Givens, E. T. Merriman, C. L. Heath, E. A. Born, C. F. Heirs, Mike Wright, James Newberry, Percy Reid, and a gentleman from Missouri, who wanted to be shown. An abundance of refreshments was served on the boat and every one seemed to enjoy the sail notwithstanding the roundabout way he had to go, sailing to almost every point of the compass in getting through the old Morris and Cummings crooked ship channel. Arriving at the pass at 4:30 o’clock, we were greeted by Capt. Ed Mercer, the popular pilot, and Captain White, of the life saving service, who took us out in their launch to show us Aransas bar, and the jetty work that was sadly in need of repair. After viewing the situation and hearing matters pretty well explained to him by Captains Mercer and White, who had many questions put to them by the new congressman, Mr. Garner said he was ready to return. Eleven feet of water was reported on the bar. At 8 p.m., our party put up for the night at Mr. Carter’s Tarpon Inn in Nueces county, on the head of Mustang island. After supper, maps of the pass, showing the bays, islands, etc., were spread out on tables, when over an hour was spent in examinations and the discussion of deep water. The need of a straight channel through Turtle cover was taken up. It was shown that from Corpus Christi to Aransas Pass a vessel had to travel thirty-five miles, having to go around through another county and another bay, as well as through a shallow channel, whereas if a straight channel could be secured the distance would be shortened about fourteen miles and vessels could pass through it without difficulty. Furthermore, such a channel, it dredged, would be an important link in the proposed coastal canal, whenever built. Mr. Garner asked if the route through Turtle cove had been surveyed and was told that it was. The next morning, after Mr. Garner had taken a good view of the route desired for a channel, the party returned to Corpus Christi, Mr. Garner going on to his home, well pleased with his visit and promising to do his best for us when he went to Washington.
Garner Gets Busy
About the first word received from Mr. Garner after he got things lined up at Washington was that the survey we had was useless, saying that it was a private survey, and the had introduced a bill for a government survey, to learn “the ropes” and get acquainted with everybody, especially the men with influence. He was found to be a good mixer as well as a good story teller, so when the Republicans gave a dinner he received an invitation to be one of their guests, the only Democrat at the dinner, it is said. He was “Johnnie-on-the-spot” with cowboy stories and made a hit; anyway, he soon found himself appointed on the rivers and harbors committee, the very appointment he wanted. He then began his work to get an appropriation for the dredging of the Turtle cove channel as well as for an increased depth of water on Aransas bar. As always the case when one tries to put something over for the good of the country, obstacles were encountered. Others introduced bill clamoring for money for their sections of country, causing delays. That was not all: There were forces at work right near us wanting work on the Turtle cove channel delayed, rival interests just north of Nueces county, who did not want to see the channel dredged at all. They knew it meant deep water across our bay with a big port at Corpus Christi, sooner or later, and they were afraid of it, and you couldn’t blame them. Being in another district over there, they had their own congressman, the Hon. George Burgess, a fine fellow. About this time a report got out that it was being planned to have Burgess see Garner and tell him it would be time enough after deep water was secured on Aransas bar to push the Turtle cove proposition. This did not suit the people here, and the writer took it upon himself to call up by telephone our congressman, who was then at Uvalde, telling him he had better come on down here - that his fences were getting down. Of course, there was nothing to that, but it brought him here quick enough, when the plan was told him of the plan for delay. Mr. Garner assured his friends here that they need not be uneasy, that he was going back to Washington to work harder than ever to get the Turtle cove channel dredged as soon as possible, as it was the dearest to our hearts it was also the dearest to his heart. More delays were planned by the opposition, a gentleman high up in political affairs had to see U. S. Engineer Jadwin, who was reported as favorable to the Turtle cove opening and a friend of Mr. Garner, and try and get to get him to oppose it, but the arguments he put up, that the opening of the cove might cause the shoaling of the water on the bar, etc., had no influence with the engineer who, it is said, couldn’t see where the bar would be injured.
More opposition loomed up. Some of the railroad companies didn’t want deep water here or at Aransas, and you couldn’t blame them for it. They wanted the long haul and needed the business at that time. But poor Dave Murphy, we felt sorry for him. Mr. Murphy had his office down on Water street, with pictures of the big ships on the walls, doing his best to encourage vessels to run here, getting the government to have a beacon erected out in front of the city so the boats wouldn’t go aground. He got John Anderson to go out in a skiff once a week and put out in the lamp which burned day and night. But Murphy had to be pulled off. He was offered a good job with railroad company and was persuaded to leave, going to Laredo to solicit business, selling his home here, thinking he had a steady job. In a few months he was called in, it is said, and told that they were sorry but they had to let him out. He went away sad but a wiser man, going up to El Paso and dying up there. Oh, if Mr. Murphy could be here today and see the ocean-going ships passing and re-passing across Corpus Christi bay, going from here to Genoa, Italy; Liverpool, to Chica, Japan, Spain, and other foreign countries, with big ships coming in here from the Pacific, through the Panama canal, loaded with sugar from the Hawaiian island, vessels coming here from nearly everywhere, wouldn’t old Dave be surprised.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, unknown date
Transcription by: Corpus Christi Public Libraries
Of Gratitude to Uriah Lott, Builder
Of Railroad, Avers Veteran Editor
By E. T. Merriman
In these times of hurry and business rush, and with so many having their minds bent on pleasure, it too frequently happens that matters of a historical nature, and of gratefulness to those gone on before, for having blazed the way for others, now enjoying the fruits of their labors, are long neglected and are permitted to pass unnoticed and unheralded “until a more convenient season.”
To Uriah Lott the people of Southwest Texas owe a debt of gratitude they can never repay. To him the credit must be given for most of the railroads, built through this section of Texas, aided as he was, by Captains King and Kenedy, who backed him with their capital, because of his untiring energy, business judgment and foresight.
Mr. Lott, who was a native of Albany, N.Y., came to Corpus Christi from Brazos Santiago in 1867, at the age of 25, passing through the dreaded yellow fever epidemic here that year. Recovering from his serious illness and closing his small store, he took a position with the government as clerk of the registration board for San Patricio county, and later as traveling salesman for the house of Eddy, Kirston & Wallace, of Corpus Christi, visiting in his rounds with his companion, Thomas Worsham, a number of leading ranches, among them the noted Randado ranch.
Not long after this he became associated with Doddridge & Davis, successors of the retiring firm of Eddy & Kirsten then, and soon opened business on his own account, under the name of U. Lott & Co., doing a large forwarding and commission business in the early seventies, when Corpus Christi enjoyed a large trade with the surrounding country as far west as Laredo, Roma, Rio Grande City and points far down in old Mexico, a heavy business being done through this port because of the many schooners and other vessels running in and out of here. At this time the country between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande was full of cattle and sheep. Duval county, it was said, having more sheep than any other county in the United States except one county in California. Long trains of wagons and ox-carts could be seen any day loaded with merchandise and country produce winding their way between this city and the Rio Grande. Witnessing all this caused Mr. Lott to get a vision of a greater business, which prompted him to stir the people up to the importance of building a railroad from Corpus Christi to Rio Grande. His first effort was to get the people to vote a bond issue to start the enterprise. It failed to carry. He organized a stock company then to get money to build the road. Again opposition developed, some of the people contending that it would kill the ox-cart business and hurt the town, citing as an instance the old town of Indianola. But this did not stop Mr. Lott who had his head set on building the railroad, and finally Capt. R. King, of the Santa Gertrudis ranch, promised to help him, telling him that when he sold his cattle en route to Kansas City, the story goes, he (Captain King) would let him save $20,000. Lott lost no time, it is said, in getting away from here by boat, and was soon in Kansas City, getting the money paid over to him by R. Holbein, Captain King’s agent, who was in Kansas City. The railroad, organized as the Corpus Christi, San Diego & Rio Grande Railroad Co., with U. Lott as president, began to attract attention in 1876, when, with Captains King and Kenedy, putting their shoulders to the wheel, the first spike was driven, in the lower part of this city, on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, Mr. Lott driving the spike, William Headen making the speech, and Rev. Mr. Rogers, a crippled Methodist preacher, offering up the prayer, the ceremony attended by members of the fire department, the C. C. Star Rifles, members of the city council and others. The road was a narrow gauge, with one little locomotive and a few flat cars, the road being graded out a few miles from the city by J. P. Nelson, who is still living in San Antonio. Mr. Lott had a great deal of trouble, one way and another, getting his road started - having with his little crew, to get out, and cut wood for his engine, and at one time get water out of a well with a bucket that he might get up stream to run his train. King and Kenedy came to Lott’s rescue again and again, admiring his pluck, and finally the road reached Banquete, and was building on to San Diego, to which place Mr. Lott was preceding in an ambulance, accompanied by J. J. Dull, of Pennsylvania, who was furnishing the iron for the road, when they were overhauled by Mexican bandits, who tied them down in the road and robbed them, taking everything of value, even their clothing - pulling off Mr. Lott’s pants, compelling him, the story goes, to have to walk into San Diego in his drawers. In September, 18__, the road reached San Diego, and was soon being constructed towards the Rio Grande, with Laredo as its destination, but not receiving enough encouragement expected in way of a bonus from that city, it was about decided to cross the river below and go straight on to Monterrey, when, learning that the Palmer-Sullivan syndicate was planning the building of a railroad through Mexico to the Texas border, Captain Kenedy and Mr. Lott went to New York and sold the C.C., S.D. & R. G. railroad to the Palmer-Sullivan people, who lost no time in rushing the road on to Laredo, reaching the border city in the summer of 1881, beating the International & Great Northern, Jay Gould’s road, which was building down across the state towards Mexico. The road from Corpus Christi, the first railroad to strike the Rio Grande from across the state, reached Laredo about two months before the I. & C.N. got in there, which railroad never laid a mile of road on the opposite side of the river, it is said, though it did considerable grading. But the Palmer-Sullivan company, which changed the name of the road from Corpus Christi, to the Texas-Mexican, never stopped, building a bridge over the Rio Grande and going where it rested for a while and then built on down to the City of Mexico, the company naming the road in that republic, “The Mexican National.” Some years later the road was changed from a narrow to a standard gauge from Corpus Christi to Mexico City, the Mexican government purchasing the railroad and changing its name in Mexico to the National de Mexico, extending the road, under the Diaz administration, into many parts of Mexico, making of it a great system, all started from almost nothing, when the first spike was driven in Corpus Christi on Thanksgiving Day, 1876.
Coming back to the time when the railroad reached Laredo, the Mexican National people turned the road over to the original owners for a couple of days for an excursion from Corpus Christi to Laredo, known as the King and Kenedy excursion, an excursion, which U. Lott in charge, and Messrs. King and Kenedy, and the old crew, all on board, together with about a hundred of the leading citizens, will long be remembered, though only a few are left to tell of the glorious time they had.
After the sale of the road to the Palmer-Sullivan syndicate, Mr. Lott and Mr. Nelson went into the ranch business in Duval county coming, but they did not stay in the business very long, leaving it to go back into railroad building, Mr. Lott doing the planning and Mr. Nelson the construction, building the S. A. & A. P. railway, with Captain Kenedy as its chief backer, that from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, thence to Houston, Waco, Rockport, Kerrville and Alice.
The last road Mr. Lott built (the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico) has given the coast country, with the S. A. & A. P., two trunk lines - the Missouri Pacific and the Southern Pacific, an extended account of which has been written by Mrs. Wheeler, editor of the Brownsville Herald, together with an excellent article on the life of Uriah Lott, one of the greatest railroad builders the South ever had.
Mr. Lott, who died in Kingsville in 1915, was marred in Man___, Ohio, in 1879, his charming before her marriage being Miss Mary C. Reynolds. At the present time Mrs. Lott is living in Brownsville, with her daughter, Mrs. R. C. Stegman. Another daughter, Mrs. John T. __ddie, resides in Chicago, while the only son, Egbert P. Lott, residing in New York.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller
Transcription by: Corpus Christi Public Libraries