Albert Stewart Newspaper Article

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    This article is from the San Antonio Express-News, published Saturday, April 27, 1974. Written by George & Bonnie Carmack:

    He Knew Big Foot Wallace

    There is no stronger link to the early days of Texas than the 92-year-old Albert Stewart. As a boy Stewart lived on a neighboring ranch and spent much time with Wallace. He was a pallbearer at Wallace’s funeral. On Stewart’s lap is a copy of the San Antonio Express. Stewart has been reading the Express since he was a small boy. Photos by Bonnie Carmack.

    Big Foot's Newsboy Is Now 92

    Big Foot Wallace was a long-time and avid reader of the San Antonio Express.  And Bonnie and I have met and talked with a 92-year-old man who often was Big Foots' "newsboy." "Our ranch was the closest to Cap'n Wallace's - we never called him Big Foot, always Cap'n Wallace," Albert Stewart said.  "Often when I was going in to the town of Bigfoot to school I would go by the postoffice, pick up Cap'n Wallace's copy of the Express and carry it to him.

    Hated Crooks

    "The Cap'n was so well-read that people all around here used to come to him for advice on how to vote.  "How he hated a crook!" Stewart, whose mind is still sharp and who was strong enough to continue ranching until last year, knew Big Foot Wallace well. He was a pallbearer at Wallace's funeral. When Bonnie and I went to the town of Bigfoot, we never dreamed we would find a man who actually knew the legendary Texas pioneer. Bigfoot is just off Highway 173, southwest of Devine and due east of Moore. Wallace spent the last years of his life there - living alone in his cabin.

    Museum

    We first learned of Stewart and his close friendship with Wallace at the Big Foot Museum. So we went to Stewart's nearby ranch home.  "Our home was about a mile from the Wallace cabin." Stewart recalled. "He liked my father and often came up and spend the night with us and he would take me down to stay with him. I’ll bring him back tomorrow.' he used to tell my Dad.  "I can't remember when I didn’t know Cap'n Wallace.  I remember how much the Cap'n liked jerky and there was always meat drying on the line when I went there."  "I remember once when he took me on a coon hunt when I was very little. It was a dark night and the dog treed a coon high in a tree. Once he located the coon, the Cap'n brought him down with one shot.

    Rifle

    Stewart recalls Wallace putting the powder and the lead in a long-barreled, muzzle-loading rifle and then tamping it down with a ramrod.  There is a rifle in the museum that Wallace is believed to have used sometimes. But it is not the famed gun Wallace used in Indian warfare and called "Sweet Lips."  Stewart also recalled that Wallace once gave him a dog that was half coyote and half bloodhound.  "What a dog he was." Stewart said. And you could see the pride shining in his eyes as the recalled that boyhood dog.  "Once my father and I went to Moore in a Wagon carrying cotton when our gin here burned down." Stewart continued. "The dog followed us and in Moore a whole pack of dogs jumped him. He licked them all."  Thinking the dog might have a romantic name, I asked Stewart what he was called.  "We never called him anything but "Puppy," Stewart replied.

    Stallion

    Stewart recalled that Wallace rode a big white stallion that he had ridden in his Indian Fighting days.  “The Cap’n often said that horse was as good a partner as another man – and often warned him of danger,” Stewart said.  Texas had few pioneers to match Big Foot Wallace.  J. Frank Dobie wrote the article for the Texas Handbook – and of course, it was a marvelous article.  Wallace, born in Virginia, was a descendant of the Scottish heroes, William Wallace and Robert Bruce. His name was William Alexander Anderson Wallace.  He came to Texas after a brother and a cousin were killed at Goliad.  Dobie says, in the Handbook, that Wallace stood six feet two inches “in his moccasins” and weighed 240 pounds without an ounce of fat.

    La Grange

    He first lived at La Grange and then, Dobie reports:  “In 1840 he moved to Austin, saw the last buffalo of the region run down Congress Avenue, decided people were getting too thick and moved to San Antonio.  He fought against Gen. Woll’s invading army near San Antonio in 1842 and was on the Mier expedition. Captured, he spent some time in Perote prison in Mexico. He returned to join the Texas Rangers under famed John Coffee “Jack” Hays. He fought as a Ranger in the Mexican War.  But Wallace go his greatest fame when he was captain of his own Ranger company fighting bandits and Indians on the frontier. He was outstanding as an Indian fighter and particularly famed as a tracker.

    Mail Hack

    In his Handbook story, Dobie tells this Wallace story  “He drove a mail hack from San Antonio to El Paso and on one occasion, after losing his mules to the Indians, he walked to El Paso and ate 27 eggs at the first house he came to – before going on to town for a full meal.”  Stewart told of the last time he saw Cap’n Wallace. He was 18 at the time and though it happened 75 years ago, Stewart was moved by the telling.  “I was freighting between Bigfoot and Devine,” Stewart said.  “On my way home, I knew the Cap’n was very sick and I stopped by the house where he was.  “When I went in, he was lying there with his eyes closed. He never opened them.  I said “ ‘Cap’n do you know me?’  “And he answered, “Yes, Albert.”  “I went into town and soon after I got there the word came that he was dead.

    Attraction

    The principal attraction in Bigfoot is the Big Foot Wallace Museum. Bonnie and I could not have had a warmer reception than we received from Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Tilden, a retired couple in charge of the museum.  The Museum’s founder and driving force in preserving the many things connected with Wallace and early days in Texas was the Rev. J. B. Blackwell. Blackwell died in 1971 at 88.  Blackwell’s own life would be a fine story to write some day. He was a Baptist minister, a rancher, an author and the inventor of the Blackwell pear burner.  The Blackwell Burner Co. is still a successful industrial equipment manufacturing concern in San Antonio. Though it is now only a small part of the business it continues to make the Blackwell cactus pear burner. It is a sort of flame thrower that burns the spines off cactus so cattle can eat it.  One of the Interesting exhibits I the Big Foot Wallace Museum is a collection of Blackwell pear burners, starting with the original model. One on display was used by Albert Stewart for more than 30 years.

    Adding Machine

    Also in the museum is a copy made by Blackwell of an adding machine he invented when he was 20. Made chiefly out of wood, it has a wooden drum that turns a number of clicks determined by which long wooden key is pressed.  Blackwell says in a note:   “This is a copy of my first invention, made in 1903 before I had even heard of an adding machine.”  There are four buildings that are part of the Museum. The main part is in a former school building.  Across the road is log cabin that is a replica of the Wallace cabin. It too, is filled with exhibits.  Beside it is a replica of the building at Washington-on-the-Brazos where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed.  Then there is a shed in which farm machinery – some of it going back many years – may be seen.

    Photographs

    In the main museum are photographs of Wallace, clippings about him and documents or copies of documents involving him.  There is the original bill of sale Wallace signed for a herd of cattle dated 1882.  Then there is a copy of a check for $45 made out to “Myself, Cash” dated April 10, 1889. It was drawn on “T. C. Frost. Banker.” And the original is at the Frost National Bank in San Antonio.  There are several hundred early day items not associated with Wallace but of great interest.  Here is a crowbar made of wood, brought in a covered wagon from Kentucky in the 1820’s.   In the collection of old-time guns is an army rifle with a long thin round bayonet. It was found in a thicket near Seguin in 1900.

    Jockey Suit

    Here is a one-piece jockey suite – worn by a jockey in a race at Bigfoot 1888. Then an 1850 walking stick – the post office window and boxes used by Mrs. Lizzie Thomas who was postmistress for more than 50 years – and the chuck wagon box used at the Old Trail Drivers 1926 Party honoring Will Rogers in San Antonio.  There are saddles, bridles, sewing machines of earlier days and scythes – some with cradles –dating back more than 100 years before the days of grain binders.  Mounted in a standing position in the front of the replica of Wallace’s cabin is a big sandstone rock found nearby. It does resemble a giant boot.  Also in front of the cabin is a mesquite stump higher than a man’s head and more than two feet thick. It was once a big tree more than two feet thick. It was once a big tree in front of Big Foot’s cabin. Doubtlessly Big Foot spend many an hour in its shade.

    Convivial

    Says Dobie in the Texas Handbook: “he was a mellow and convivial soul who liked to sit in a roomy rawhide-bottomed chair in the shade and tell over the stories of his career.”  The stump, which was moved to the museum, symbolizes a tragedy – the destruction of the Wallace cabin.  And the most tragic thing is that the destruction happened so recently. I was only 8 or 10 years ago. We were told that the owner of the ranch on which the cabin stood decided to tear it and the old Wallace corrals down.  How tragic that so many historic Texas buildings have suffered this fate!”

    Remaining Link

    Our visit to Bigfoot was an interesting day. Few people we have met have interested us as much (cannot read two words) Albert Stewart. He is possibly the only remaining link – through his friendship with Big Foot Wallace – with the early days of Texas.  But always in traveling over Texas –the destination cannot surpass the trip itself.  In addition to her black and white news camera, Bonnie carried a second camera with color film.  We went to Bigfoot by the back roads south of San Antonio. And everywhere the cactus was in full bloom.  The cactus has its thorns –but no plant has more beautiful blossoms. Most are a bright yellow that shades to a delicate green inside the cup. The rarer blooms are of an indescribably beautiful orange.  Whether a lone cactus or a bank of them, nature never made more beautiful flowers than the blossom of the South Texas cactus in late April.

    TXGenWeb, Frio County - Albert Stewart Newspaper Article updated on 08/10/2005

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