by Barbara J. Wood
Return to "Talk"

WRITINGS

FLORESVILLE, November 7, 1895

Recent rains have put farming lands in good condition for the plow and our best farmers are taking time by the clock and turning over the sod.
 
Tullos and Houston, who were recently burned out at Fairview, will rebuild in a short time and resume business.
 
The mail formerly carried between this place and Sutherland Springs now only goes as far as Marcelina. The Sutherland Springs mail going by way of San Antonio, the rail route.
 
The court is in session and the grand jury is investigating among other things the smashing of carriage lamps and other mischief to carriages during the evenings when their owners are at church.
 
Complaint is made of the doings of some hoodlums, whose parents are decent people, but the same cannot possibly be said of their kids, who are training for the penitentiary.
 
County commissioners Court has accepted the bid of M. B. James, as superintendent of the county farm. He receives $35.00 a month in county scrip, furnishes one horse and milk cow and is allowed his own board. Court decided not to issue refunding bonds.
 
The meeting one week ago for the organization of a teacher's institute was a success and a good program has been prepared for the next session of the institute which is held on the second Friday and Saturday of January next.
 
The Stockdale minstrels gave an entertainment on Saturday; and the Sunbeam club of that place gave an entertainment on Sunday night. This catches both saint and sinner!
 
This article was published by the San Antonio Light, Dec. 8, 1895, and was contributed by Shirley Grammer for Historic Moments in Wilson County, Texas.
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COURTESY/ Wilson County News April 2018

Letters from Wilson County

"Letters from Wilson County" .... Article taken from The Galveston Daily, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 1873, page 1.
COURTESY / Wilson County News  Article submitted by Shirley Grammer for Historic Moments in Wilson County.
 
The San Antonio River is settled mostly by Mexicans. Along the valley of the Cibolo which bounds the county, the most of its extent on the east, is the wealthiest portion of the county; in fact, it is almost a continuous farm. These Cibolo farmers, as a class, will compare favorably with the best in the state, if being out of debt, lands in a high state of cultivation, fences in good repair, comfortable and commodious dwellings are any indications to sustain the comparison. It is but justice to say a word here in relation to the colonies, as they are called, of freedmen settled on the Cibolo.
 
Several years ago numbers of them purchased a considerable tract of land from Dr. Houston, went to work and put it in cultivation, and, as I understand, have from the proceeds of their crops paid the last dollar of their purchase money, and are now the lords and masters of good farms with comfortable houses to live in, and surrounded with many conveniences, such as orchards, gardens, flowers, etc. A severe commentary upon many who have been more favored, yet for generations back have never owned a home of their own.
 
Commercially we are not much to brag on; but three small towns in the county, Floresville, Sutherland Springs, Lavernia. The merchants, however, do a good business, mostly for cash. As to enterprises we go slow, having no prospective railroad from the Pacific to the Atlantic running through our section; so we let San Antonio and her "slocomotive" sister city of Seguin keep the railroad excitement all to themselves, whilst we keep "the even tenor of our way." Further than a pottery, worked by Mr. Suttles near the town of Lavernia, that makes every description of articles in that line with a finish equal to any imported.
 
The wine presses of the Houston Bros., who put up some 1200 gallons of wine last season that commands a ready sale of $3.00 per gallon, and the steam grist, saw mill and cotton gin of our townsman, J. B. Polley, we are decidedly "slocomotive."
 
Last, but not least, what I consider will be the greatest attraction of the future are the fine mineral springs at this place, within a mile of where I write. Mr. Editor, if I could give you a bath in either a black or white sulphur spring that boils up with such force that it is next to impossible for one person to sink another below the bran pits, then, in a few hundred yards from there, I could give you a drink of ice-cold water; or still further, you could get alum mixed with the iron. Parties who were competent to judge have pronounced upon twenty distinct mineral waters in our mineral springs. Many invalids spend the summer here, and invariably find relief for the particular ill which their flesh may be heir to.
 
We raise here the finest vegetables and fruits. My orchard has furnished me this year with peaches, plums, grapes and figs in the greatest abundance.
 
In politics, we are overwhelmingly Democratic, notwithstanding a few years back, by bayonets and disfranchisement, we were kept under radical rule. As law-abiding and quiet citizens, the fact that not more than a dozen cases have been put upon the criminal docket, and not more than six upon the civil, in our county for the past twelve months, speaks for itself.
 
The corn crop will not be as full as last year, owing to the frosts and grasshoppers in the spring. Still, an abundance will be made for home consumption, and the price per bushel I do not think will rule over sixty cents. The cotton, where well cultivated, is magnificent. The crop I noticed on Mr. Hugh Wiseman's place near Lavernia last week, would almost hide a person on horseback, and promises a yield of more than a bale to the acre. There is but little complaint of worms. Many are trying the Paris green, with what success I have not ascertained. We extend a welcome to all who are in search of homes.

Uncle Garvie Odom

Written by Sharon Sutherland
 
The last child  born to J.D. Odom was my dear and wonderful, Uncle Garvie Odom.  He was born on February 25, 1902 there in Wilson County.  Of all of the children of JD and Ellen, Garvie was likely the most "normal". 
 
He actually got married on February 23, 1923 to Bessie Mildred Cox or "Aunt Bessie" to me.  They lived on a farm near Floresville when I was a child and I remember going down there when we lived in San Antonio to visit.  They had three sons, Joseph Daniel "JD" born in 1923, Kennie W born in 1925, and Donnie Joe born in 1933.
 
The three children were about the same age as my father who was born in 1920 and they likely grew up together.  So how did that happen?
 
My Grandmother Artie was placed in the Southwestern Insane Asylum in about 1827, she had four very young children.  One son, Eddie, was adopted by a man from California, another son, Royal Jr. "Sam" was raised by one of his Sutherland uncles.  The daughter Hazel was raised by Uncle Garvie and Aunt Bess and I am pretty sure that they raised my father as well.  I have never been able to find out what happened to him when his father abandoned the children in about 1930, but based on how close my father was to Uncle Garvie and Aunt Bess, I think they were certainly involved.
 
Uncle Garvie always looked to me just like Andy Devine and has a very similar cheerful personality.  When we would visit them on the farm, Uncle Garvie would take me on his tractor out to the field to pick some of those huge Black Diamond Watermelons to take back home with us to San Antonio.  We always stopped along the way where Uncle Garvie would drop one of those giants on the ground to bust it open and we would scoop out the heart and eat it right there.  No watermelon I have ever eaten since has tasted as wonderful.   
 
When we got back to the house, I can still hear Aunt Bess laughing and fussing.  She would say "Garvie, what on earth have you done to get that child so filthy and sticky?"  Uncle Garvie would just wink at me and say he had no idea how I got so dirty, we were just picking watermelons.  It was always our little secret.
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(Courtesy of Sharon Sutherland, writer of the "Sutherland Family History" blog)
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A STEP BACK IN TIME

... Jimmy Loer Sr. messages, "Thought you might like these pics of a big moss oak tree. It's on private property in the Sutherland Springs vicinity." He added that the next time he goes out there,  he'll capture a pic of a giant oak tree that is said to be over 500 years old.  Santa Anna and his army could have easily camped under those majestic trees with that beautiful free flowing spanish moss. (THIS scenery is so how New Town Sutherland Springs was when in my child/youthhood I roamed those dirt roads and collected moss for playing.) Thank you Jimmy.
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The Day of the Pig

Wilson County News
By Julia Castro


There were two very important events around this time of the year that happened at Grandpa Castro's home at the **Blake farm when our kids were small.
 
One was Thanksgiving. Henry says that when he was a young boy, Grandpa raised turkeys. There was a big enclosure made of wire with a high fence all around and also on the top, so the turkeys couldn't fly out. They would tie a bell around the neck of one of the turkey hens. She was the leader when they were let out of the pen. But someone still had to be with them and guide them. It was either Henry or Reynaldo. Grandpa would set aside two young turkeys in September to be cornfed and get them ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Henry remembers that they made a special trough just for them.
 
As the years went by and Cristobal and Carlos went off to war, Grandpa started phasing out the turkeys and eventually did away with them after that. For those special days, he would buy young turkeys from another farmer and finish raising them. When the family started getting bigger in numbers, the Thanksgiving turkey had to be at or close to 40 pounds. Henry and I and the kids, the first six, had Thanksgiving out there from 1955 to 1961. By then, Grandpa had gotten a television set, and the kids would sit on the floor watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while waiting for lunch.
 
Grandpa would invite not only his sons and their families, but also any of the grown grandkids and their families that wanted to go.
 
Mila was in charge of the turkey and dressing, and Ramona, Buddy's wife, helped her since they lived "next door" to them. Of course, they made other dishes and desserts. The rest of us women made other side dishes and desserts to take out there, too.
 
The men would eat first. The table was cleared and then the children would eat. In between shifts, the dishes would get washed because there were no disposable dishes at Mila's house. Not even a sink. We would wash the dishes in one pan and rinse them in another one and dry them right away. At last we women would sit down to eat. We took our sweet time — talking, laughing, and just enjoying each other's company. Then we all pitched in and helped clean the kitchen and put away leftovers. Later we would go for a walk to work off some of the calories we had consumed. Some of the kids would join us. Sometimes Buddy would hook up his trailer to the tractor and take us for a ride. We had to go in shifts. Those were memorable times for us. For the kids it was never a good time to come home. They always wanted to stay longer.
 
I guess you may be thinking that the other event was Christmas. Not so. Christmas was spent at home because of the kids and the opening of gifts on Christmas morning.
 
The other event was butchering a hog. Grandpa again would invite all the family. The idea was to get all the help he could get. Henry would leave early in the morning on that eventful day. There is no phrase in Spanish to describe that day so I will call it "the day of the pig." Henry would go and help Buddy get everything ready. They would build a fire to boil water in the big black kettle (la hoya). They needed it to clean the pig after it was put to sleep. First they would drain the blood. Mila would use it later for making the morcia. They needed to work fast to scrape the bristles from the pig. They had to keep pouring hot water over it. That's where they needed more help because their arms would get tired. Another team of two or three would take over. The pig would be hanging from a hoist and weigh between 450 and 500 pounds. It would usually take about two hours to clean. The head and feet they would just partially clean. They would be cut off and left for Mila and Ramona to finish cleaning. The head would be used for tamales for Christmas and the feet would eventually go in menudo.
 
The men had big tables set up outside where they would cut up the meat. Henry would come pick me and the kids up as soon as he had a chance so I could go help with the cooking. There were other women from the family there by then. Mila would tell the men that she wanted the ribs first. These would go in the oven. Then we would cut up small chunks of meat to make with a chili gravy. There would be plenty of mashed beans and mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes.
 
The men would be working on cutting up the rest of the meat into different cuts. And, of course, cutting up the skin with the fat for the chicharrones. After the men ate they would start cooking the chicharrones in the hoya. It would take most of the afternoon. They didn't mind because by then they were relaxing and sipping their beer.
 
Still later in the afternoon Mila would go about making the morcia. She had taken the pig's stomach and washed it thoroughly. Then she chopped up the kidneys, liver, and heart. These would go into the stomach along with the garlic and cumin that someone would grind up in the molcajete. She would add salt and pepper and mix this with blood and pour it into the the stomach while someone held it. Then she would take a special big needle and string and proceed to sew up the opening. Then it would go into a pot of water and boil slowly. She knew how long to cook it. Mila always saved a piece for Henry, but after it cooled. I never acquired a taste for it like Henry. Of course, he grew up on it.
 
We would anxiously wait for the chicharrones to finish cooking. Of course, they were very hot when they pulled them out. We would all get a taste when they cooled enough, but you can't eat too many like that. They are delicious but very rich. Each family would go home with a small bag of chicharrones and a chunk of pork meat. And the fat from the chicharrones was stored in big cans after it cooled and was used year-round by Mila and Ramona for all their cooking.
 
After Grandpa, Mila, Buddy, and Ramona and their family moved to town, they continued the tradition, since they lived on Goliad Road and not in the city limits then. It continued even after Grandpa passed away. Our boys grew up and got involved, some more than others. Sometimes it was just hanging out with the others and watching and learning.
 
One year after Larry bought the mobile home park on the corner of 181 and Sutherland Springs Road, a bunch of the Castro cousins got together at the far end of the park and they slaughtered a hog and did everything like they had learned.
 
There hasn't been a "day of the pig" in quite some years. I hate to think that the family tradition has been lost. The younger generation should experience it.
 
*Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville Texas. She wrote a column for WCN titled "Apple Pie and Salsa".
 
**  Dr.  John  V. Blake Sr. owned the Blake Farm. It now belongs to a member of the Rhew family. It adjoins the  Rhew orchards.
 
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COURTESY / Wilson County News
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House dances in the 'olden days'

Lois Wauson wrote the following story in her "Rainy Days and Starry Nights" newspaper column.
 
 There were lots of house dances in Wilson County in the "olden days." Back when life was simple, people made their own recreation. They worked all week, usually from daylight to dark, ate supper, and were so tired they went to bed. Then got up in the morning and did the same thing over again. It was called "making a living." They appreciated the weekends when they had time to rest or have fun. Sometimes they had to work on Saturday too, but Saturday night was time to kick up their heels and dance and socialize with neighbors and have a good time.
 
I have written about dance halls in Wilson County and how many a courtship was started at a dance in Three Oaks (my mother and daddy for one), or Poth Hermann Sons Hall, or Sokol Hall and other places. I have interviewed many a person who told me they met their spouse at a dance!
 
People didn't get "baby sitters" in those days. The whole family went to dances, including the babies. They laid them on a pallet under a bench and danced the night away. The older children hung out by the musicians or the girls danced with their daddies or with each other, then when the kids all got tired of that, they played hide and seek in the dark outside.
 
But some of the favorite dances were house dances. I have written about those too. Where the family would clear out one room of furniture and that would be the dance hall.
 
Has anyone seen the movie, "Places in the Heart" with Sally Field? There were several house dances in that movie. Sometimes the dance was so crowded they danced on the front porch. With the windows open you could hear the music outside.
 
There were several family bands around Wilson County in the '30s and '40s. Mike Richards wrote me about his great-uncles, Louis, Oscar, and Robert Stobb — "The Stobb Family Band." He sent me two pictures. This is what he said in the letter:
 
"The first picture is of the "Stobb Family Band." In the front left to right is my Great Aunt Lucy (Vincik) and Great-Grandmother Annie Wenzel Stobb. In the back are my Great-Uncles Louis (who has told me he didn't play guitar), Oscar on banjo, and Robert on guitar. The second picture I can't be too sure of. It could be a house dance or a school. I am fairly certain that the two musicians on the right are Great Uncles Robert Stobb on guitar and Oscar Stobb on banjo."
 
Note: First picture shows Oscar Stobb in a uniform. He must have been home on leave from the service. It appears the picture may have been taken during the war years.
 
The second picture seems to be of a school, because I see school desks on the dance platform and a blackboard in the back. Note the boys sitting on the desks watching the boys in the band, and the two women dancing with each other. When there was a shortage of men to dance with, women would dance with each other. I think the two boys sitting by the band may be Robert Traeger and Paul Traeger. The school could have been Three Oaks, Dewees, or Kasper School ... or any one of the country schools in Wilson County in the 1940s.
 
(Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. )
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COURTESY / Wilson County News 2015

Letters from Wilson County in 1873

Letters from Wilson County in 1873 ..... compiled by Alfred Menn. 
 
Back in 1876 the tournament at Sutherland Springs was a popular affair. A large crowd had attended. A fine barbecue was enjoyed under the live oaks, after which 14 gaily-dressed knights, on prancing steeds, with banners flying, and music playing, appeared on the grounds. They formed in line and naturally went for the rings.
 
The first tilt was opened by Mr. Martin, Knight of the Second Sergeants, and was followed in quick succession by the other knights in the following order: Dr. Williamson, Knight of the Mutilated Heart; James Wyatt, Knight of the Sable Plume; Frank Yelvington, Knight of Mexico; Martin Covington, Knight of the Red, White and Blue; Will Hammond, Knight of the Wax Rosette; Will Warren, Knight of the Centennial; Emerson Warren, Knight of the Lone Star; Pat Craighead, Knight of the Golden Fleece; Charles Stevenson, Knight of the Cibolo; Will Loomis, Knight of the Lost Chance; T. Veery, Knight of the Spring; and Orin Stevenson, Knight of Love.
 
After an hour one of the closest contests ever witnessed in a tournament, the herald announced that the Knight of the Centennial, and the Knight of the Second Sergeants had tied at eleven rights each, for the honor of crowning the queen; the Knight of the Red, White and Blue won third honors.
 
In a few minutes after the result of the tournament was announced the crowd greeted with cheers the appearance of the beautiful Miss B- (no name given) on the platform erected for this purpose, followed her maids of honor. The sir knights on foot promptly formed a guard around the throne, when each lady in succession was crowned with appropriate ceremony.
 
During the late 1870s, the two potteries at La Vernia supplied not only all of this section of Texas, but, they also shipped a good deal of the material east of the Colorado River. And barbed-wire was being introduced to uneasy Texans. It wasn't until a few years later that serious troubles started between the large and small cattlemen in Wilson County.
 
Wilson County as described in 1876, eight years ago: Wilson County, in 1876, contains something over 900 square miles of territory, and have a population of about 5,000 persons. Wilson County has a voting strength of about 1,000.  The county seat is Floresville. The town in 1876 is improving. Floresville now has a population of about 500 persons, of whom more than one-half are Mexicans. Improved lands, in 1876, can be bought from one to three dollars per acre. In this section, in 1876, can be seen in operation, the system of large pastures, which is rapidly gaining ground as the cheapest way of raising stock among the stock-raisers.
 
Thomas Dewees has enclosed about 25,000 acres; John Camp, about 10,000 acres; Rosser, Mitchell and Presnall, about 40,000 acres; and J. Ellis, about 6,000 acres of the richest prairie land, covered with mesquite grass that furnishes food summer and winter for their stock.
 
Oats and wheat have been grown with much success.  Their acreage, in 1876, is double what it was last year. Millet, sugar-cane, peas, potatoes, Irish and sweet potatoes, melons, and pumpkins all grow and produce well.
 
A large number of persons were seeking health at the famous Sutherland Springs. Quite a number of persons had come from Galveston. Colonel Robert Houston, who lived near the springs, was then known as one of the greatest fruit-raisers in this section of Texas. He cultivated every imaginable kind of fruit.
 
We wonder how many people down here ever heard of Bill Longley. He was then one of Texas worst desperadoes. He was a cold-blooded killer. He once came into this section of Texas, but he left when life became too tame. He wasn't happy unless he was triggering his pistol.
 
This is an article by Alfred Menn, which was found in the Wilson County Historical Commission Archives. Submitted by Gene Maeckel.
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COURTESY / Wilson County News  2015
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Sharecropping and Christmas plays in Three Oaks

By Lois Zook Wauson for the Wilson County News.
 
Melba Traeger Dunn was born at home on a cold blustery windy December night in 1934. Her parents, Hilda and Paul Traeger, lived out west of Floresville on the highway going to Dewees. They were farmers. When she was about five years old they moved to Three Oaks. She had two older brothers, Paul and Robert, at that time.
 
In Three Oaks, they lived not far from her father's parents, and did sharecropping with them. They lived in a "really old, old house" for a few years, then they built a new house to live in. While building it, she remembers they lived in the "corn crib," probably a barn. Her father put a bathroom in the house, but they didn't have running water, so it was never used. They bathed in washtubs and had an outhouse.
 
She said, "We didn't have electricity, so we always had lamps with kerosene, and a wood stove for heat and a kerosene cook stove. When the REA came in with electricity, it was an exciting time. I remember that night, we shut all the doors in the other rooms and stood in there and waited for Daddy to pull the string. It was a big deal to see that bright light come on!"
 
"We always had a battery radio and that's how we listened to "Just Plain Bill," "Stella Dallas," and "Light Crust Doughboys."
 
Melba went to school at Dewees School. Her teacher was Miss Jackie Youngblood. They walked to school most of the time. It was a long walk — several miles. Everyone walked back then. But lots of times they got to take the buggy to school. Her brother Robert was the "driver" and she and her younger brother Delbert, who had been born by then, went too. The horse stayed hitched to a tree during school.
 
Her memories of the Christmas plays are her favorite. "I always remember the Christmas plays. It was so exciting to see the Christmas plays and to be in the Christmas plays. If we dressed up, since we had no money, we dressed up in crepe paper dresses. Mother made the dresses and gathered them and made them look really pretty."
 
She said, "I remember the recesses when the bell rang and you had to hurry and run to the 'rest room' (the outhouse) and get back fast. And I remember Louis Jansky always teased me and one day at recess he tied me to a tree, right before recess was over, and I was at the farthest tree on that lot and I was crying because I was tied to the tree and everyone was laughing at me. I will never forget that. He was a mean one!"
 
"I remember having a boyfriend!" she said. "That was in sixth grade. He was Henry Fisbeck. He was always so kind. I knew he was kind because he always bought me a soda. Do you know what a treat that was? We didn't have a nickel for a soda! He would go across the road to Helen Schneider's store and buy me a soda at lunch. It was usually a Big Hippo or something. He was the nicest boy friend."
 
Like most children who grew up on farms in the '30s and early '40s, Melba had to work in the fields. She had to pick cotton. She still has the little cotton sack her mother made for her when she was a little girl. "I was so scared of the little jumping spiders. I remember sitting under the wagon for shade, to eat the food our mother brought out to us at lunch time."
 
She picked cotton, chopped cotton, chopped peanuts, helped with the harvesting of the peanuts, and helped her mother with fixing the food for the peanut thrashers and taking it to them. She said, "That was a big deal. You got to see all those people and visit with people you didn't see often."
 
She said, "I had to help Mama with the washing. She washed clothes in black wash pots. I couldn't get close, because she didn't want me to get near the fire. My mother had the whitest clothes I ever saw. She always had white clothes. She used lye soap and scrubbed and scrubbed."
 
Christmas times were hard in their family. They didn't have much money. They would cut a cedar tree for a Christmas tree. She said, "There was one year there was no money for gifts. Mother gave me a little ceramic shoe. That's all I remember getting that year."
 
Going to town in Floresville was a treat like most farm kids back then. They didn't go to town very often. Her mother would go to Almarene Kuban's Beauty Shop. It was upstairs next to Ballard's Drug Store. She got those old-fashioned perms with long electric wires coming down. Like most farm families back then, while her mother was at the beauty shop, her father would go to the beer joint and drink beer. "Relaxing," he always said.
 
When her sister Lucille was born, Melba was about 11. It was her job to stay home with Lucille and take care of her, while her mother would go out to the fields to work.
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Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. Her column, "Rainy days & Starry Nights" appeared in the Wilson County News.
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Beating the drought of the '50s 

By Julia Castro  for her column,  "Apple Pie and Salsa" in the Wilson County News.
 
The Wilson County News reported in its Aug. 10, 2011 issue the present "Texas drought officially the worst ever." This is based on a 12-month period. A lot of us older folks remember the drought of 1950-57. I can't say that it impacted me very much. I was still in high school when the drought began. Then I finished high school, worked for a while, went on to beauty school, married, and had three babies during those seven years. I lived in town and saw lawns turn brown, but it didn't make an impact on me like it did on farmers and ranchers who really endured hardships during those years. But while I was still living with my folks, I would see Papá walk to town and mingle with other men in front of the old bank building, across from the existing Wilson County Hardware (the Ballard Drug Store at that time). The topic of conversation was the weather. Others sat in either Ballard or Smith drugstore drinking coffee and doing the same thing. The conversations went pretty much the same as they do these days: "When is it gonna rain?" or "We must not be living right."
 
Henry came home from the Army in January 1955, and that summer Grandpa Castro and his son Salvador (Buddy) managed to grow and harvest a crop of peanuts. It must have rained at the right time. Henry went to help when it was threshing time. It was a family affair. He took his trusty camera with him and took a couple of snapshots, for prosperity. He used film for color slides. Through the years, we have occasionally viewed these color slides and I have had prints made from some of them. The accompanying photo is one of them. These slides make pretty good prints, considering that some of them are more than 50 years old.
 
After all these years, Henry can't remember who all was out there that day. We do know that Buddy and his wife, Ramona, are in the picture, as well as Henry's aunt, Mila, and his brother, Reynaldo. One person was feeding the thresher, and the women were bagging the peanuts. Another three men worked around the baler — one feeding the hay into the baler, and one tying the bales with the wire that another one was passing him.
 
Henry says it was very hard work, but very rewarding. They all felt good when they brought a crop in. Peanuts aren't grown around here anymore, but we still have droughts. We must continue to pray for an end to this drought.
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Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville.

Notes from Grace Armantrout Museum about Wilson County

While searching for history, I came across Grace Armantrout Museum. Speaking with the Administrator Kevin Mackey , they shared these tidbits they had concerning Wilson County Texas. {Thank you for sharing}

A letter about Sutherland Springs – a treasure in words

A "Talk of Wilson County TX Historic Towns" reader, Cathe  Skrobarcek, shares a letter about her home place in Sutherland Springs Wilson County Texas. The informative text was written by Bob & Lela Phillips and it tells the history of 1911 property bought from the A. Trevino Survey. A treasure in words!

Memories of Christmas past, 1943

Memories of Christmas past, 1943   .... Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County Texas in the mid-20th century. In the story, Lois takes us back about 80 years to a Christmas celebration.
 
🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄
 
The wind was icy and cold as it whipped around my legs in the cow pen as I milked the cow. My fingers grew numb and cold as the wind hit them, and I nudged my hand farther into her udder to warm my hands. It was Dec. 23, 1943. I finished milking and then went over to milk the other cow, while Junior finished up with his two cows. Then we headed for the house with our buckets full of milk sloshing out onto our jeans.
 
It was dark by then, and we had to have a kerosene lantern with us. After all, it was December and it got dark early. As we headed toward the house, we could see the glow of the light in the kitchen and the bedroom window. I could smell the wood smoke drifting up from the house. We came in and the smell of hot bread and rolls filled the house. Mother was at the stove frying ham. The smell was so good. Daddy had butchered a hog a couple weeks ago, and we would be eating ham, pork chops, and sausage for a while.
 
We would have scrambled eggs, and ham and hot rolls for supper. With the big glasses of fresh milk, we would all go to bed with full stomachs tonight. We set the long table and all the kids sat on the two long benches on either side, with Mother and Daddy at each end. The kitchen felt warm with all the people in it, and the potbellied cast iron heater gave out waves of heat as we shed our coats and prepared to eat.
 
The little kids began talking about Santa Claus coming tomorrow night. I looked around the table with seven of us kids (this was before Sammy was born), and Mother and Daddy, and knew that Santa Claus had a lot of work to do. I had quit believing in Santa Claus quite a while ago, but when I remembered those times I used to believe, it made me happy. I wanted the little ones to believe too. I helped them with their imagination.
 
When I was very young, there was always a doll for each of the girls, if only a little rubber doll, under the tree on Christmas morning. I loved the smell of the new baby dolls every Christmas. But this year I was too old for dolls, and wanted my very own Nancy Drew mystery book, (one I wouldn't have to take back to the bookmobile), and an autograph book.
 
I knew things were a little better this Christmas. The peanut crop was better this year, and Mother was able to order some things from the Sears Roebuck catalog. I saw her one night, from my bed in the bedroom, and the door was ajar into the kitchen as she sat at the table, a cigarette in her hand, writing things down as she pored over the big thick catalog. She brushed her hair back from her eyes, looking tired, and picked up her coffee cup, took a swallow and then a puff on her cigarette.
 
Later, it was quiet in the bedroom and as I lay next to my two sisters in bed with me I shivered with the excitement of Christmas Eve tomorrow. I heard Mother and Daddy talking about going to town to get a Christmas tree tomorrow. I could hear the wind whistling through the cracks in the house, and snuggled down under the big quilts Mother had spent so many hours piecing together and quilting. I heard Daddy banking the coals in the stove, in anticipation of starting a new fire in the morning, and the house got quieter, as everyone settled down to sleep. I could feel the cold creeping in the room, as the kitchen was the only one that got any heat. The bedroom was cold, but at least the door was open to let in some heat from the other room.
 
The next day, Christmas Eve, Mother and Daddy went to town and bought a few things along with a tiny tree. Excitedly, we did our chores, and ate supper and then we all helped Mother decorate the tree with homemade ornaments of colored paper garlands and strings of popcorn and cranberries, and a few priceless glass ornaments and little candles that clipped on the branches of the tree. We found some icicles saved from last year, and hung them on the branches. Mother made some eggnog and let us all have a cup. Then the candles on the tree were lit, and we turned out the lights. I sat there staring at the little tree with the lights flickering on it, the icicles glistening with the lights on them, and everything in the world seemed so far away. I sat there with my younger brothers and sisters on the benches next to the wood heater as Mother handed out sugar cookies. Mother and Daddy sat at the kitchen table smoking and drinking their eggnog and Mother got up to make a pot of coffee, as someone said, "Let's sing 'Jingle Bells' and 'Silent Night.'" Our voices rang out in the little house as we all sang. I wished time would stand still and the feelings would last forever.
 
Time did not stand still, but the memories lasted forever. And they are still there today. I thank God the good memories are clearer than the bad memories of a large family growing up during the Depression years trying to survive. I have lots of good memories. Christmastime holds some of my favorite ones.
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COURTESY / Lois Wauson  from her "Rainy Days and Starry Nights" column that appeared  in the Wilson county News.
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Remembering the Floresville ISD Homemaking Cottage and Miss Emily

By Julia Castro for her "Apple Pie and Salsa" column, Wilson County News.
 
I loved my high school years. In fact, I loved school since first grade, except for the first day. In high school, Home Economics was my favorite subject. And I loved being a member of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA), which I was in all four years of high school. We had classes and meetings at the Martha Eschenburg Home Economics Cottage, better known as the Homemaking Cottage. We all knew that Mr. R.L. Eschenburg had had it built in memory of his wife.
 
I had been trying for some time to find out when it was constructed, but had not been able to find out. I knew that Martha Jane, Mrs. Eschenburg's granddaughter, had donated historical papers to the archives. Maurine Liles had told me I could go and look through them. So I went one day and while I was there, Viola Henke, who was looking for other information, found a folder containing some Floresville High School history.
 
One paragraph stated that the Martha Eschenburg Home Economics Cottage had been completed in 1939. The R.L. Eschenburg Agricultural Building had been built in 1935. "Both were joint efforts of the Eschenburg family and the Works Progress Adminstration" (WPA).
 
According to Martha Jane, Mrs. Eschenburg had passed away in 1924, just 15 days after her 49th birthday. Martha also says that her grandfather got the idea when he visited in Devine, Texas, and saw that they had a Home Economics building. According to news clippings from the FHA, Mr. Eschenburg had said he would have the structure built if the PTA would equip it. But by the time it was completed it was fully equipped. Perhaps because he saved on expenses for the labor, he could afford to pay for the furnishings as well. Another note from Martha's files states, "This cottage has meant having Homemaking in our school long before the School Board was able to put it in." In February of 1949, a letter of appreciation was sent to Mr. Eschenburg for his contribution and made him an honorary member of the Floresville Chapter of the Future Homemakers of America.
 
What is puzzling is that there are no records of homemaking classes before 1947. I did talk to my sister-in-law, Bertha, and she says she took homemaking in 1944 when she entered high school, under Miss Emily Goehring. Bertha says she was very young at the time.
 
And Miss Emily is the other subject of my article. She was the homemaking teacher for the four years I was there. She was a wonderful teacher. We learned to sew and cook. However, some of the dishes we cooked were not on my menu at home. Miss Goehring was fair in the treatment of her students. We had district and area meetings out of town, and she always took a different group of girls.
 
My grades were good, but we were also graded on traits and attitude. I remember on one of my evaluations one question was, "Sarcastic?" And she wrote, "can be." Who? Me? I took a good look at myself and had to agree. Sometimes I still catch myself being what we called "catty" and I say a prayer that I can overcome that.
 
We had a lot of fun in our classes and meetings. We always had a pianist in the group. Yes, there was a piano too. Barbara Carson (Johnson) would make us crack up laughing with her rendition of "After the Ball Was Over." I don't remember it all, but part of it went, "after the ball was over, (here she would say a girl's name from the group) Mary took out her glass eye, put her false teeth in water, hung out her wig to dry," etc., etc.
 
During those years a lot of pictures for the Tiger's Claw were taken at the Homemaking Cottage.
 
After I finished high school, I didn't keep up with what went on at FHS, so I didn't know how long she had stayed here. I last saw Miss Goehring at our first-ever school reunion of the Early Fabulous Fifties in 1998. She was still very attractive and didn't seem to have aged at all.
 
When she passed away in 2010, Mrs. Norma Drozd wrote a beautiful tribute to her in which she stated that they had remained close friends to the last. I contacted her and she gave me information which I was seeking. She told me Emily had married in May of 1958 in their (Drozd) home. In June she and her husband moved away. I later found a clipping in Martha Jane's papers reporting that Mrs. D.B. Willis (the former Emily Goehring) had resigned her position here. Mrs. Mildred Millkin, who had been sharing the position as Home Economics teacher, was assigned to take over.
 
In trying to determine what year Miss Goehring started teaching at Floresville High, Mrs. Drozd recalls that Emily told her she was here in the early years of World War II, so it could have been '42 or '43.
 
As for the Homemaking Cottage, after the new high school on 181 was built in 1953-54, it included a new homemaking department. The Homemaking Cottage then became the school superintendent's office. I've been trying to find out who remembers what year it was torn down, but supposedly the school had not been keeping records.
 
My son Leonard, while working at FISD, remembers that in the fall of 1994, he helped move all the furniture out of the cottage to a new office at the high school campus. We can only assume that not long after that both the cottage and the ag building were demolished to make room for more classrooms on the then-elementary campus. Those are the buildings that serve as the Wilson County Courthouse Annex III.
 
To me those two structures as well as the old high school were historical buildings. So many memories.
 
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COURTESY / Wilson County News

A DOG TAX in Wilson County Texas ???? 

This is part of an article or a letter compiled by Alfred E. Menn, which was found in the files of the Wilson County Historical Commission Archives. Submitted by Gene Maeckel.
 
Simpler times in Wilson County: 1878-79 ...The old Floresville Academy. Ever hear of the old Floresville Academy? It was for males and females. Back in 1878, the Floresville Academy was in a flourishing condition. Professor John Washburn was the principal. The school year was divided into two terms of five months and three days each, making 206 days. Rates: In the Preparatory Department, $2 per month; in the Academical Department, $3 per month; in the Collegiate Department, $4 per month. The Board of Trustees consisted of: Colonel A.G. Pickett, president; A.C. Staudt, secretary; W.C. Rhee (Agee?), treasurer; Judge W.L. Worsham, R.C. Houston, Job Foster, Bennett Johnson, John Griffith, and J.F. Pruett.
 
Wilson County in 1879: 
 
You could have bought a good horse for $10. This had been the year of the severe winter. Sheep-owners in Wilson County had seen heavy losses. C.B. Stevenson and J.W. Anderson were ready in 1879 to start to Kansas with a drove of horses they had purchased from Don C. Delgado of Floresville, 100 head, 50 horses and 50 mares, at $10 per head.
 
At this time in 1879, it was reported that a well-organized band of horse thieves was operating full force in an adjoining county. People had to watch their horses, or they would suddenly disappear.
 
People were urged to join the Floresville Literary Society. Local citizens were warned not to become alarmed because only few cases of smallpox were reported in Floresville.
 
Moving from Yorktown to Floresville in 1879, F. Metting opened a first-class saddle shop.
 
County records had just been placed in the new county safe — Captain Lem
 
Hughes reported that, should the courthouse burn down, he believed the county records would now be safe.
 
Corn was selling in Floresville at $1 per bushel.
 
A flatboat was being used as a "bridge" across the San Antonio River.
 
The business house of J.C. Wallace on the north side of the public square was completed.
 
The water holes in the suburbs were full once more.
 
At this time in 1879, prayer meetings were being held in the Wilson County Courthouse.
 
Eggs were being sold at 10 cents per dozen.
 
It seems that the "dog tax" had just been repealed. Consequently, there were now plenty of canines on the public square.
 
The Rev. Dibrell preached an eloquent sermon at the courthouse on a Sunday morning.
 
A.G. Thomas, proprietor of the Plaza Hotel in Floresville in 1879, decided that the dry weather had produced stock that was too poor for good meat. Since he always had a reputation of serving the best at his tables in the Plaza Hotel, he decided to serve quail on toast.
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COURTESY / Wilson County News

Letter from Wilson County in 1873

Letter from Wilson County in 1873 .... compiled by Alfred Menn back in 1873, one "Saxet" — which is the name Texas in reverse — wrote an interesting letter:
 
"Colonies of Freedmen settled on the Cibolo, Several years ago and numbers of them purchased a considerable tract of land from Doctor Houston, went to work and put it in cultivation. From what I understand, they have paid the last dollar of the purchase money. They are now the landlords of good farms and comfortable houses to live in. Some of them have gardens, flowers and orchards."
 
"The merchants in Wilson County in 1873, do a good business, mostly for cash. We have three small towns in the county: Floresville, Sutherland Springs and LaVernia. We have no railroad running through our section."
 
"The wine presses of the Houston brothers were able to produce some 1,200 gallons of wine last season. This wine commands a ready sale at $3 per gallon."
 
"We have both black and white sulphur springs at Sutherland Springs."
 
"My orchard has furnished me this year with peaches, plums, grapes and figs in the greatest abundance."
 
"The corn crop I noticed on Hugh Wiseman's place, near LaVernia, would almost hide a person on horseback. Saxet."
 
Wilson County in 1876: The editor of The Frontiersman visited in Floresville in 1876, 80 years ago. He had this to say:
 
"First passing through the assemblage of Mexican habitations known as Lodi, the traveler takes his choice as to which of the two villages is the superb of the other, they being located only a short distance from each other."
 
"Floresville, in 1876, is a young town of board structures, unfenced and incomplete. There are two or three hotels, two or three stores, and a number of temporary-looking houses. There is also a town well."
 
"The blessed Sunday law is in operation in Floresville, and no hungry and weary traveler has a chance to buy refreshments for himself, or feed for his horse, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m."
 
"Wilson County had been drenched by frequent heavy rains, and the local farmers were sure that Wilson would be one of the banner counties in this section. Heavy rains!"
 
The following is reported just as we found it (1876): Sutherland Springs is getting to be quite a village in 1876. The town was laid out in 1854, by the late Dr. Sutherland, sometime before the County of Wilson was organized. At one time the place was the county seat of Wilson County, until Floresville became the county seat in later years.
 
D. and A. Oppenheimer, of San Antonio, own a fine mill here, consisting of cotton gin, sawmill and gristmill.
 
There are many excellent orchards here.
 
Landowners have cut up over 20,000 acres of good land into small tracts, within six miles of Sutherland Springs, and put it on the market at from $2 to $3 per acre.
 
On crossing the Cibolo, on whose banks the town is built, one can smell the immense Sulphur Spring, ten feet in diameter, boiling up with gas, like a large cauldron; and, to add to his surprise, he finds, on jumping into this tempting bath, that the human body floats around, and is tossed about like a cork. He is astonished to find that to sink beneath the water is impossible.
 
To the left of the road, and about opposite, at a distance of some one hundred yards, is the beautiful White Sulphur Springs, ten feet in diameter, four feet deep, and discharging two or three hundred gallons of water per minute, as clear as crystal and as cold as ice!
 
Leaving these mammoth springs and driving into a dense forest over a level road, in about one mile and a half you come to the Famous Sour Spring.
 
Floresville, in 1876, had a commodious courthouse. The jail alone is said to have cost $6,000. The following were then being built in Floresville: A two-story tavern a lumberyard, three stores, gin house, a blacksmith shop and a steam mill.
 
Back in 1876 the tournament at Sutherland Springs was a popular affair. A large crowd had attended. A fine barbecue was enjoyed under the live oaks, after which 14 gaily-dressed knights, on prancing steeds, with banners flying, and music playing, appeared on the grounds. They formed in line and naturally went for the rings.
 
The first tilt was opened by Mr. Martin, Knight of the Second Sergeants, and was followed in quick succession by the other knights in the following order: Dr. Williamson, Knight of the Mutilated Heart; James Wyatt, Knight of the Sable Plume; Frank Yelvington, Knight of Mexico; Martin Covington, Knight of the Red, White and Blue; Will Hammond, Knight of the Wax Rosette; Will Warren, Knight of the Centennial; Emerson Warren, Knight of the Lone Star; Pat Craighead, Knight of the Golden Fleece; Charles Stevenson, Knight of the Cibolo; Will Loomis, Knight of the Lost Chance; T. Veery, Knight of the Spring; and Orin Stevenson, Knight of Love.
 
After an hour one of the closest contests ever witnessed in a tournament, the herald announced that the Knight of the Centennial, and the Knight of the Second Sergeants had tied at eleven rights each, for the honor of crowning the queen; the Knight of the Red, White and Blue won third honors.
 
In a few minutes after the result of the tournament was announced the crowd greeted with cheers the appearance of the beautiful Miss B- (no name given) on the platform erected for this purpose, followed her maids of honor. The sir knights on foot promptly formed a guard around the throne, when each lady in succession was crowned with appropriate ceremony.
 
During the late 1870s, the two potteries at La Vernia supplied not only all of this section of Texas, but, they also shipped a good deal of the material east of the Colorado River. And barbed-wire was being introduced to uneasy Texans. It wasn't until a few years later that serious troubles started between the large and small cattlemen in Wilson County.
 
Wilson County as described in 1876, eight years ago: Wilson County, in 1876, contains something over 900 square miles of territory, and have a population of about 5,000 persons. Wilson County has a voting strength of about 1,000.  The county seat is Floresville. The town in 1876 is improving. Floresville now has a population of about 500 persons, of whom more than one-half are Mexicans. Improved lands, in 1876, can be bought from one to three dollars per acre. In this section, in 1876, can be seen in operation, the system of large pastures, which is rapidly gaining ground as the cheapest way of raising stock among the stock-raisers.
 
Thomas Dewees has enclosed about 25,000 acres; John Camp, about 10,000 acres; Rosser, Mitchell and Presnall, about 40,000 acres; and J. Ellis, about 6,000 acres of the richest prairie land, covered with mesquite grass that furnishes food summer and winter for their stock.
 
Oats and wheat have been grown with much success.  Their acreage, in 1876, is double what it was last year. Millet, sugar-cane, peas, potatoes, Irish and sweet potatoes, melons, and pumpkins all grow and produce well.
 
A large number of persons were seeking health at the famous Sutherland Springs. Quite a number of persons had come from Galveston. Colonel Robert Houston, who lived near the springs, was then known as one of the greatest fruit-raisers in this section of Texas. He cultivated every imaginable kind of fruit.
 
We wonder how many people down here ever heard of Bill Longley. He was then one of Texas worst desperadoes. He was a cold-blooded killer. He once came into this section of Texas, but he left when life became too tame. He wasn't happy unless he was triggering his pistol
 
[This article by Alfred Menn was found in the Wilson County Texas Historical Commission Archives. Submitted by Gene Maeckel.]
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COURTESY / Wilson County News