Monday, July 4, 2011

The Curious Case of Benjamin Cage

Do you recognize the name Benjamin F. Cage?
Surveyors around here probably do, as well as those who own property in the older parts of Kerrville. A grant of 640 acres of land, which became the heart of our community, was once the property of Benjamin F. Cage.
But there might be a problem, a slight problem of title.
Mr. Cage was a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto, and as a reward for his service to the Republic of Texas, he was given 640 acres "lying in the Bexar District on the Guadalupe River, fifty-five miles northwest of San Antonio."
Joshua D. Brown, the founder of Kerrville purchased the 640 acres from B. F. Cage's stepfather, A. O. Beck, a mere four days before the first session of the Kerr County Commissioners Court. The price was $2 per acre.
At that first court session, the commissioners accepted Joshua Brown's proposition to "locate the county site of Kerr County on Survey 116 (the B. F. Cage grant)," provided Brown would deed four acres of land for a public square, plus a lot for a public school, a lot for a public church, and a lot for a public jail.
Benjamin Cage's stepfather Abraham O. Beck had come into possession of the 640 acres from his wife, Rebecca E. Beck, who lived Boone County, Indiana. Benjamin Cage was Rebecca's son from before her marriage to Abraham Beck. The Beck family believed they were the heirs of Benjamin Cage. According to the language of an affidavit, "they have been informed and verily believe that he was killed in 1839 near San Antonio, and his remains are said to have been buried at San Antonio...."
But new evidence has come to light in the past week that suggests Benjamin Cage was in fact alive in 1856 when the Becks sold the tract to Joshua D. Brown.
Not only does the evidence suggest Mr. Cage was alive at the time of the transaction, but that he had a wife and several children.  A descendent of Mr. Cage sent the documents to me after reading an article about the Becks on my blog.
It seems Mr. Cage served not only in the Texas Revolution, but also in the Vasquez Campaign, in battles in Florida, and also for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He lived a long life and died in 1887, at the age of 75, and was buried in Blanco. His second wife is buried beside him.
Some of the evidence I've seen: an amnesty oath document naming Benjamin Cage (required of Confederate soldiers after the war); a land title to Benjamin Cage in Gonzales dated 1861; plus various other documents.
Did he know about the grant of land here in Kerr County? I do not know. His mother believed he was killed in 1839. The land here was granted to him in 1847; this was the tract sold to Joshua Brown in 1856. Did he know his mother thought he was dead? I do not know.
Could it be a different Benjamin Cage? Certainly. Could there have been a big miscommunication that was never cleared up in Rebecca Beck's lifetime? Certainly.
Were other tracts around the state sold by "heirs" which had no legal claim to the property? Certainly.
But it does make for interesting reading, considering that original 640 tract is now the center of Kerrville, and includes places like the Kerr County Courthouse, and the site of the proposed new Kerrville City Hall.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was born on the Benjamin F. Cage grant in downtown Kerrville. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 2, 2011.

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