Monday, April 11, 2016

Kerrville, 1870s: $1500 cash, and no place to put it

I enjoy poking around on the Library of Congress website, looking up things about Kerrville and Kerr County. Recently I ran across Ella Cox's story, as recorded by a writer with the Works Progress Administration in 1936, under the heading "Range Lore."
Mrs. Cox was born in 1855, and when she was 17 married James Monroe Cox in Washington County near Brenham, Texas.
"All the hardships of pioneer days did not consist of fighting Indians," according to Mrs. Cox.
A few years after they married she and her husband moved to Kerrville, probably around 1875 to 1880. "This long, long trip was made in wagons, one drawn by oxen and the others by horses. A boy drove our milk cows. We passed through San Antonio which was then very small and dirty."
The couple sold a farm near Brenham before moving to Kerrville.
"When we got to Kerrville, Mr. Cox unloaded our stuff in the house and started the next day to San Antonio to take the men who had helped us move back that far as he had promised to do when we left Washington County. My husband left me with $1500, as he did not want to take it with him. I didn't know what to do with that money. I put it first one place, then another, and finally at night put it in my shoe. Then in the night I thought that rats or mice might get it, so I held it in my hands all night, and was thankful I didn't have any more."
Imagine her dilemma -- most of their capital, in paper money -- and she was alone in a house, worried about the responsibility of keeping it safe. I'm surprised she slept at all.
"When Mr. Cox came back, he went to work for Captain Schreiner who at that time owned nearly everything in that country. Captain Schreiner was a fine man, always helped everybody in any way he could.
"Our place at Kerrville was on the Guadalupe River. One side of the cow pen was the bank of the river. We had a windlass to let a bucket down into the river and drew up our water that way. I used to milk the cows in that pen and in those days when I was young and silly, I used to wish that all the cows would fall over that bluff into the river. I was afraid to leave the children in the house, so would bring them out and let them stay on the fenced side of the pen."
Her description of the place "on the Guadalupe River," with a bluff directly over the river, sure sounds like it could be somewhere between the 800 to 1000 block of Water Street, though at the time I think the Christian Dieterts owned most of that area. Perhaps, Gentle Reader, you have a better idea where they could have lived, on a lot which meets those criteria. Bluffs over water "at Kerrville" are not that common.
The Cox family moved to the San Angelo area in 1886. "The soldiers were here in the fort (Fort Concho), and there was very little town. We lived in a tent on our place north of town until we could get lumber hauled from Abilene to build a house.
"I was glad when things were more settled. I have never objected to taxes for we have so much better roads and other comforts. I have always enjoyed train trips. I liked the long one when I went to California several years ago. I like to ride fast in an automobile, and may ride some day in an aeroplane," she said, ending the report.
I liked the part about Captain Schreiner, describing him as fine and helpful. I'm sure he was. And I'm intrigued about the location of their home in Kerrville.
The Library of Congress has many resources available online; the website address is
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes to read local histories, especially those written in the words of those who lived here long ago.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 9, 2016.

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