Transcribed by Geraldyne R. Havard
Bay City, Texas
November 14, 1923
Please pardon any and all mistakes you may find in the following
pages as all was written from memory without notes just as they
entered my mind, and me being nearly blind, could not read my own
writing after the ink got dry.
S. O. Eidman, Sr.
THIS IS A SKETCH OF THE LIFE, UPS AND DOWNS & CC OF THE WRITER, S. O. EIDMAN
I was born in Oberbiel, Germany, July 8th, A. D. 1832. In 1812 when the great World War broke out, Father was not old enough for military duty, but a brother who was married and had a family was called out to take up arms. Father, who was well grown for his age, offered to take his brother's place and after standing a rigid army examination was permitted to take his brother's place.
Father remained in the Army for seven long years. On his return home after the close of the war, he found that his father and mother had died and all their property destroyed by the armies who had passed through that part of the country, so he found himself penniless and thrown upon his own resources.
I do not know when or whom he married. To that union was born a daughter--his wife died and left him a widower. How long he remained so, I do not know--nor have I any date when he married Miss Katherine Kraft, his second wife, my mother. I was the first born. Of that union were born four boys and three girls--we were eight children in all.
I do not know the day and date when Father first decided to go to Texas. I do remember when a number of his neighbors were trying to discourage him from going to a wild, unsettled country with a large family of little children. I also remember hearing him tell his friends that he had four boys whom he did not care to raise to be soldiers until they were forty-five years old. He did not change his mind after he decided to go. To show that he was in earnest, he advertised all his property, real and personal, was for sale to the highest bidder at a certain date on twelve month's time and cc. with interest bearing notes with lien on property sold.
The day of the sale arrived and all of his effects went at a great sacrifice. Father had, however, seen bankers who agreed to cash all of his notes, but at a big discount; as well as I remember, he allowed them twenty or twenty-five percent discount.
Father had provided clothing, shoes, in fact--everything his family would need for several years, including cases of fine linens and beddings, also several cases of all kinds of tools one might need in a new, unsettled country, including a very fine grindstone (which I still have) and has been in constant use nearly one-hundred years.
Father and family left their old home during the first week in April 1846 with all of his effects and children loaded upon wagons for Bremen where an old sail ship was awaiting us and several hundred other emigrants all bound for Texas to start on that long and dangerous journey. So one day, after filling up the old ship with all kinds of plunder, men, women and children, we bid farewell to our old and happy homes to a land and country unknown to any of us.
It seems rather strange I still remember incidents of my early childhood. My half-sister was several years older than myself, got hold of father's razor and shaved all the hair off of my head which made me feel so ashamed I would not allow anybody to see me. A little brother of mine was taken sick and the Doctor fixed up a vial of medicine for him. Mother could not get him to take it, had to force it into his mouth, so when Father and Mother, one day or on that same day, had left the sick room, I told my little brother that that medicine would make him feel well again so I gave him a large tablespoon full--had no trouble to get him to take it. Then I ran and told Mother that Brother would soon be well again, that I had given him nearly all the medicine the Doctor had fixed up for him. I also remember when Father was presented a nice large pipe by his Uncle with name and date on the pipe, 1836, when I was four years old. To confirm my story, I still have the pipe. I can still picture a number of other little happenings when I was quite a little shaver.
Our voyage across the ocean was a long and disagreeable one. We had a big storm which lasted quite a while. With all the sails and masts down, the old boat rocked and dipped water and we all expected to go down to the bottom of the sea. I think very man, woman and child were down on their knees praying the Good Lord to come to their rescue, but we passed through it all safely with little if any damage to our old boat. We also had a long calm lasting several days during which our ship lay almost perfectly still, don't think we gained a single mile during that week or ten days. Our sailors had a good time, nothing to do but go out in small boats, catch and bring in large sea turtles.
During those calm days we saw many very large sea fish, also flying fish who go in droves somewhat as our black birds here. They skip along on top of the water; a drove of them came near our ship, arose and flew over our ship, and one of them flew against the mast and fell on deck. It measured about twelve inches in length. Their wings were something like the wings of our Texas bat. All of us children ran to pick it up. None of us believed that fish could fly until we saw them with our own eyes.
We had some sickness and one death, an old lady. Her body was sewed up into a canvas bag containing weights, and slid into the water.
Our voyage was a long and dangerous one. We were eleven weeks coming from Bremen to Galveston, Texas, arriving there the latter part of June, 1846. At Galveston, a steamboat was moored along the side of our ship, and all our goods as well as we were transferred to that old steamboat that carried us to any settle part of the state upon agreeing to pay their price.
Our destination was the Comal River, Braunfels. We were four or five days reaching the first settlement, San Felipe, on the Brazos River fifty miles from Houston. When we arrived at San Felipe, some of the family had become unwell so we were compelled to stop there so Father settled with his teamsters and looked about for shelter. He found an old empty log cabin into which he got permission to move. I remember it was on one Friday during the last of June when we reached San Felipe. Next morning, Saturday, Father and myself looked about the old town which had been destroyed by Sam Houston only a few years before, and now contained a few families living in log cabins and huts.
It was well Father could speak English as well as four other languages. There was not a family in the old town that could speak German. Father wanted to get some information regarding his future. We found one man who had a patch of corn said he would give us a job pulling and saving his fodder.
I think Father calculated taking the job, but instead of going to work on Monday, Father remained in bed suffering with a high fever. We had to call in a Doctor but the fever never left him until his death, September 22, 1846. My little sister, only a few months old, was sick only a short time when she left us for a better and happier world where there is no more sickness nor death, where we may all meet again to part no more forever.
After Father's death, we had no one who understood or could interpret for us. Mother, in a strange land, among strange people who spoke a strange language, with her six remaining children and me the oldest, not yet fourteen years old, without a home or where to lay our heads. After paying expenses of Father's long sickness, Doctor bills and burying, and other bills, left her without means for a living, so she was forced to depart with any and everything else, her fine linens, clothing, shoes and even tools Father had so generously provided in order to provide food for her children; but the Good Lord came to our relief as winter was coming on. The owner of the property on which the log cabin stood in which we were staying, came to look after his property consisting of a story and half log house and a few other small shacks, found us occupying his log cabin, took pity on our helpless condition, offered to let us move into the larger cabin in which he had stored his household goods. His wife had died a short while before we came there, so he had locked up his scanty household goods and had gone off as he had no other family. After moving his goods into another shanty, we moved into the larger house which had a good roof and a plank floor so we were fixed for the approaching winter. The house also had a large fine mud chimney, two doors and a loophole with a wooden shutter. The owner of this property was a Doctor, a fine gentleman. He told Mother that if she wanted the property which consisted of eight town lots with those improvements, she could have it for one hundred dollars which offer she gladly accepted. So we had a home, if ever so humble.
We went into the woods, cut us some nice poles and made two frames we called bedsteads in the lower room for Mama and the girls. We boys climbed up stairs as there were no stair steps, for our bed room while we remained at home.
Very soon parties came to see Mother if she would not hire out her little Dutch boys so two younger boys and myself started to work on January 1, 1849 [7?]. My little brothers found nice homes, but the man who hired me wanted me for a year, promised to pay Mother four dollars per month. I had to milk several cows night and morning, do all the feeding, cut and bring in wood, and other little jobs about the place. We all occupied a log house 14 X 16 with a large mud chimney with a large deep fireplace on which was done all the family cooking. There were two beds, a table and a few chairs with rawhide bottom seats. The family consisted of the man, his wife and his wife's sister, a young lady about sweet sixteen, so you see I had to sleep on the floor on a pallet only by name.
The girl learned me how to milk, also showed me how to do other things. I had never milked a cow in my life in fact, had never been called on to do any work in my life, only attending German school. Don't you pity that poor girl? She had quite a job on hand.
I got along pretty well for a month or more, when the old fellow decided that I ought to do a man's work (he, himself, did nothing). He rigged me up a yoke of half-broke beeves, carried me about half mile to a field he had rented to break up some hard black land. I had never handled a plow and the oxen knew even less about plowing than myself. I started plowing but very soon my team started off in a run and hold of the plow handles. You see we did fast work, ran a furrow or at least made a mark all over that field. I was glad when night came.
We turned the oxen out on the range. Next morning, my boss started me a foot to drive in those beeves. I walked several miles before I found them...my boss had only one horse which he kept for his wife to ride to Prishing? when we had any at San Felipe which was nearly two miles from his home.
I kept up running a plow behind those beeves a week or so all over that field when the boss decided not to plant a crop. On Sunday mornings, after doing my work, I walked to San Felipe nearly two miles to attend Sunday School where I learned to read and speak English, and spent remainder of the day with Mama and the children--until time to go back to milk and feed, etc. Mother never received one cent in money for my labor. Boss killed some hogs one day and sent Mother about seventy pounds of pork and gave me an old cow and calf worth then about seven or eight dollars, she was so old, and did not live through the winter. We also lost the calf. I worked for him faithfully for seven months when I could not stand it any longer. I found a man who lived just one block from Mother's house who said I could come and work for him, he would pay me four dollars per month, so instead of going back to my old boss I started in with my new one, so when I failed to return that evening, my old boss came bright early next morning to see about the cause why I had not come back. He went to Mother's house. I suppose Mother told him that I was not there but had gone to work for another man, so he came there and called for me. I was inside the house, so I stepped out on the porch. He said come out here at once; I came to take you back home with me. I replied as best I could that I was not going back, that I was going to work for this man here. He replied "I'll show you" and started to dismount and come in the yard calling me saying I had acted the puppy--I got rather bold and replied "and you have acted the dog" but before he got inside the yard, my new boss who had listened around the corner, stepped up and ordered him to get back on his horse and leave as fast as his horse could carry him give him what Patty gave the drum. I sure missed that whipping.
If Father had lived we would have received several hundred acres of land as head right to be located on Comal River where Braunfels is now located. We had all our papers and nothing to do but to claim and have it located. After Father's death, Mother had no one to look after any business for her and all our papers disappeared. We never received any land at all. I worked for my new boss the remainder of that year (1847) and part of 1848. There was not a store nearer than three miles of us where we could buy coffee or sugar. I often walked those three miles with a few dozen eggs Mother had saved and exchanged them for coffee or sugar.
One day during July 1848 a man came to see Mother to hire me to drive an oxen team for him to San Antonio, promising to pay me seventy-five cents per day until he returned me home again. Mother asked me if I would go, I told her yes, to let me go. I had never driven an ox team nor any kind of team in my life, but I thought I could learn. There were a number of ox teams camping near our home and this man had two wagons and teams consisting of five yoke of oxen each the wagons loaded for San Antonio. He told Mother his driver was taken very sick and had to leave him here in care of Doctors. Mother tied up a few clean clothes in a red bandanna handkerchief. There were five or six wagons in our company. I got on nicely, we were about two weeks making our trip. After unloading, we started back with empty wagons for Houston. When we came within five or six miles of LaGrange on the old San Antonio stage line, we stopped at a farm house where I learned my boss made his home with his brother. Very soon after we reached there, I learned my boss had changed his mind, decided not to go back to Houston, but to pay me and let me walk home some fifty six or seven miles to San Felipe. But--before I was ready to start on my journey, the stage came along bound for LaGrange, my boss halted the drive to let me ride to LaGrange with him free of charge. We arrived at LaGrange about sundown. This brought me within fifty miles of my home. At LaGrange I got directions how to go to San Felipe. About two-thirds of my road was through post oak and black jack timber. The remainder, open prairie. It was rather a lonely walk, but I reached home about daylight next morning rather tired and sore of foot. I did not walk much for several days.
I then decided I could drive an ox team or learn as well as anybody. I began to plan to get some oxen and by and by a wagon, then I could earn some money. I found a man who offered to sell me a half-broke yoke of oxen and some wild beeves on credit. About that time a Mr. John Crutcher came to San Felipe to select a location for a store building, also inquiring if he could find anybody whom he could get to haul his lumber from the River bank to his building lot. I told him that I could do it. The lumber would be shipped on steam boat which made regular trips on the Brazos River in those days, he expected the lumber within a few days, he said I could have the job so I bought those two yoke of steers, went in the woods, cut me two poles and made me a long sled and when the lumber arrived, I was ready to haul it to the building lot. The steam boat soon arrived, unloaded on the bank of the river all the timber was heart cypress, everything needed for a large store building was included in his bill. Brother and myself soon finished our job, we found it rather hard work loading up some of the large timbers and managing our wild oxen.
I now began to look around for a big ox wagon. I learned a man at Tittsvell, Fort Bend County, about twelve miles from home, had a new wagon he had just finished, in his shop. I went to see him, he agreed to sell it to me on time. I went back home, rigged up our two yoke of steers and Brother and myself started for the wagon to go to Houston after freight for somewhere. We spent the night with the man who sold us the wagon, he discouraged us, said we could not haul very much with only two yoke of oxen, said he had a gentle yoke he would let us have for thirty-five dollars. We told him we would be glad to take them if he would wait on us for the pay which he agreed to do.
We hitched up our three yoke and started for Houston. Our wagon had no bed on it, nothing only the running gear, wheels, axels and tongue. When we reached Houston we drove to a wagon shop. There we found some oak poles large enough to split and made a fairly good frame for our wagon. I paid the man one dollar for it and he helped me split it. We soon had a good substitute for a wagon bed with planks for a bottom and a eighteen inch side plank for side boards.
The first store we struck was T. W. House. He asked us where we lived and if we wanted a load of bagging and rope for the Teske Brothers in Columbus, big merchants, at one dollar per hundred freight; we loaded four thousand pounds on our wagon. The present postmaster of Houston, Billie House, helped us load on the goods. We got on nicely, road being dry, we reached home in about four days being fifty miles. We stopped at home two days, got us another yoke of oxen. Next morning we started for Columbus, 28 miles from home. We met no mishap until we struck the big Bernard River, the bed of which is pure quicksand. Our team was not able to pull our wagon through it, had to unload our goods, pull our wagon on top river bank, then took our gentlest yoke of oxen and chains and dragged our bagging and rope up the hill by the side of our wagon. (The bagging was in rolls and rope in coils). We got our wagon loaded again by dark, so we hobbled our oxen and camped all night. We, I had my little brother with me, got up early, found three yoke of our steers but not the ones we had just bought. I left brother with the wagon and thinking my oxen had gone back to their old range, I started off to find them.
I rode all day until night, went clear back home which was fifteen miles from our wagon, got there about dark; I ate my supper, then started back to our camp knowing that my little brother could not sleep, be nearly scared to death all alone. The night was dark, no star to be seen, but I knew my horse once started on the road would keep it until I reached the Bernard River. I suppose I got about half way to our camp when my horse became badly scared, turned to his right and ran as fast as he could. I could neither turn nor stop him. He kept that up--must have gone several miles before I succeeded to rein him back as I conceived the proper course for our camp. Finally, I reached the Bernard River but a mile to so to the right of our camp so I followed the river until I reached our camp and found Brother sitting on the wagon hoping I would soon get back.
At daylight next morning we ate a little breakfast, yoked up our three yoke of oxen and went to Columbus, unloaded our wagon and camped near the edge of town. We did not find our oxen next day until noon when we hitched up and drove nearly half way home. Having an empty wagon our oxen almost went in a run. When night overtook us we struck camp again.
Next morning we found only two yoke of our oxen, the yoke I bought from the man who sold me the wagon could not be found anywhere. We hitched up the two yoke to the wagon, little brother got on it and we started them on the road for home. I went to take a closer look for our lost oxen but did not find them. We reached home before night. I found the yoke we lost on the first day and drove them home. After having a good night's rest, we got Mother to fix us up some bread, bacon and coffee for a two days lunch. Brother and myself started out to find our lost oxen. We looked the range over up to the camp where they had left us but saw nothing of them. We picked us a good camping place on the bank of the Bernard River under a grove of little blackjack trees, staked out our saddle horses on good grass, prepared and ate our supper and fixed our pallets out of our saddle blankets, using our saddles for pillows, planning where to go tomorrow to look for the lost steers.
Before we went to sleep we heard a voice as if somebody was in distress. The voice seemed to come nearer and plainer so we soon decided not to go to sleep but keep awake a while longer. The voice became plainer and nearer. We knew then it was a panther and we decided to roost that night on a limb upon a little blackjack tree so I helped Brother up first to climb up as high as possible and I would occupy the next limb under him. We had no gun of any kind with us. I had a small pocket knife, knowing panthers did climb trees like cats I got out my little knife which I would use in punching out his eyes.
We did not sleep but heard the noise all night and it seemed almost at us. As soon as day began to dawn we climbed down from our roost, started a fire, made some coffee, saddled our horses and began eating our breakfast. I picked up my tin cup with coffee to take a drink when there, less than fifty yards from us there stood a large panther looking at us. You can guess we did not want any breakfast just then but mounted our horses and started after the panther making all the noise we could. But instead of running from us he trotted about a hundred yards ahead of us and when we would stop to turn back he did the same and followed us. I suppose we drove him two miles or more until the sun rose and was good daylight. Then he quit following us and we went back to our camp and finished our breakfast. I then decided it must have been a panther that scared my horse a few nights before that made him run away with me.
After breakfast was over we spent the day looking for our runaway oxen but did not find them or hear of them anywhere. We never did see or hear of them again.
So you see our paths were not all strewn with roses. Brother and myself worked hard for two weeks making forty dollars, thirty-five of which I sent the man to pay for those lost oxen which left us five dollars for two weeks work out of which we paid three dollars for crossing the Brazos and Colorado Rivers going and coming. This you will say was rather discouraging so surely it was, but it was a groundhog case with us. We were owing for our wagon, and three yoke of oxen that had to be paid for and only us to make the money to do it.
My half sister was married to a young Texian who lived about one mile from our home, who had a home and a good start of cattle, but she did not live quite two years when she died. So Mother only had four boys and two girls left. Only we three oldest boys were able to be of help to her.
Mr. John Crutcher was getting on nicely with his store building and soon would be able to open his business. Our little town began growing some. A little school was opened in a little cabin 12 x 14 feet by George W. Foster who had just moved in with his wife. Mother sent my two little sisters and youngest brother to school to Foster.
Brother and myself fixed our wagon and bed, got another yoke of wild steers and started hauling again. We got along much better, did not lose any more oxen, and began paying off some of our debts. Mother was getting on much better now, she had one boy out at work and we two older boys kept our wagon hauling freight from Houston to all settled parts of the State.
One day after Mr. Crutcher had opened business he called me back to his desk and asked me if I would like to have a little bunch of cattle. Of course I said yes. he wrote a little note and asked me to carry it to Judge Munger who lived about one mile from the store. Judge Munger read the note, wrote an answer for me to carry back to Mr. Crutcher. Mr. Crutcher opened and read it, went to his safe, called three men who were in the store, made them sign the paper and handed them a lot of money. He then handed me that paper. I found it was a bill of sale made to me for thirty head of cattle, more or less. Mr. Crutcher told me that all the cattle in that brand CP were mine. I sure felt very thankful to him. This started us in the cattle raising business. I still have that bill of sale written seventy-two or three years ago. We branded all those cattle in Mother's brand. Whenever we had any money to spare after that and could find any cattle for sale we would buy them and brand them for Mother. She soon had a nice little bunch of cattle.
A short time after Mr. Crutcher opened business, Mr. A. S. Sessums of Houston and William Stubblefield had a large store building put up near the Crutcher store and opened business. More families moved in, also farms were opened near town and both stores did good business. Mr. Crutcher gave us all of his freight hauling from Houston instead of shipping it by boat.
We soon had enough money to pay off our debts. I had another new wagon made in Houston with good bed and __, so we started two teams on the road and the first money we had on hand after paying our debts I bought Mother the first bedroom suite, all solid walnut, from William Rice. The Rice Hotel has been built with money his estate left after his death, also the Rice Institute. The next cash on hand paid for lumber to build us a good frame house to live in. We bought and hauled lumber from the sawmills located on Spring Creek, Montgomery County. That house is yet standing and occupied by Randen Munger, the only child living of Judge Munger who wrote that bill of sale for me. One room was painted inside by a German landscape painter which can yet be seen perfectly plain.
A very sad accident happened when a lot of children had gathered in a blacksmith shop where a man was fooling with a loaded pistol which accidentally was discharged and broke my little brother's thighbone from which he never recovered.
When our new house which was one and a half stories was completed, we made us some good bedsteads from sure-nuff lumber. After we got our two wagons and teams ready for hauling we got along much better and we soon got out of debt. There was no bank in San Felipe. Merchants had to send their money to Houston as best they could. Quite well I remember Mr. Crutcher to go to Houston with our team and haul him two loads of goods. We hitched up our teams and drove to his store. He brought out two big shot bags filled with money, asked us to take it to Houston and hand it to G. W. House. After one day's drive from home we met a man afoot on his way to Houston with a small bundle of clothes. He asked us if we would not let him ride on one of our wagons, that he was nearly worn out walking. Of course, we were glad to let him ride. We were then about thirty-five miles from Houston and had to camp out two more nights. We had those two bags of money in our provisions box which made the box rather heavy as the money was most all in silver and gold. We had to give the man something to eat the two days and nights he was with us so he helped us in camp, making coffee, broiling bacon, while Brother and me got up our teams and those money sacks. I, of course, kept close watch but did not know how much money they contained nor whether they had been opened as they were just tied with a cord. When we arrived in Houston, we still had those two sacks so the first thing I did, I handed the bags to Mr. House, asked him to count the money and tell me if everything was all right. Mr. House asked me who had sent the money, said he had no advice from anybody nor how much those bags contained. I told him of bringing a stranger with us on our wagons. I never learned if everything was all right until we returned home and found all OK. Our big men tell us the world is growing better. People are becoming better citizens as they progress in education, etc. I admit we are making progress but not in good citizenship. We have more train robbers, holdup men, more murders, robbers and unhappy homes and divorces.
Neither Crutcher not Sessums were married when they lived at San Felipe. I lost sight of Mr. Crutcher, never met him again after leaving San Felipe. Mr. Sessums opened a large wholesale grocery business in a two story brick building on Main Street where the tall National Bank building stands. Some times we found freight rather scarce; there were hundreds of ox wagons on the road. I said "road"--there were no roads, just open space between Houston and small settlements scattered about. A great many Germans came to Texas. All had to be hauled on ox wagons to their place of destination. I well remember on reaching Houston with our wagons we found several hundred Germans waiting for transportation to different portions of the State. There were two other wagons besides our two; we loaded our four wagons with plunder belonging to about fifty or sixty men, women and children, all of whom had to walk. A "norther" blew up with sleet before we left town; we drove out about a half mile to a little bunch of timber, some shelter for our oxen. There we struck camp near an old pine tree. There we camped one week, freezing and sleeting al the time. We slept along on both sides of our burning log with our feet toward the fire. The men in our party kept up a good fire as long as we had to stay there. Don't you know we had a fine time with all those men, women and children for one week!
At another time we had our two wagons very top heavy loaded with German plunder and about twenty or twenty five men, women and children; roads very bad, been raining very much. We had to drive to a creek to camp where there was some timber for fire wood. When we arrived there we found the stream bank full and still rising. This was on Christmas Eve. I did not like to swim my teams and wagons unless the Germans would run the risk of damaging their goods. They said yes. I hitched ten yoke oxen to the first wagon; the creek was not very wide but deep. I had several yoke of oxen on the other bank and when the wagon struck water it turned over. Had to unyoke my oxen in the water and unleash the wagon. We camped there several days as a result.
This is April 20th, 1922. I read in today's Houston Chronicle that two twelve year old boys at Wichita Falls held up Tuesday, April 18th, H. C. Warren at the point of a gun and got away with twelve dollars of his money while scores of cars were passing the filling station. I ask what chance would two boys have now who carried money on ox wagons with a picked-up tramp for two days and nights? I read a few days ago a man who was arrested who claimed to be a graduate of a California institution for train robbers, hold-up men and etc. We are progressing nicely in all those lines. Well, I could fill every line in this book if I jotted down my downs and left all my ups unwritten. This is enough to convince you "that" if we try once and don't succeed, we must try, try and keep on trying. We must succeed.
One day some men came with twenty-three head of nice young mares, offered to trade them to me for three year old beeves. We agreed upon the number provided I could get them. I went to see two cattlemen who told me I could fill out whatever I liked out of their stock and pay them when I had the money to spare. I closed that deal, went with them out on the range, and soon found the number I agreed to give them and reported to these stockmen the number I had gathered out of their stock.
I, too, like Abe Lincoln, have split rails, but I suppose unlike him, I cut down a tree, cut the trunk into eight foot lengths, bored an inch hole in the center of the log down to the heart of the log, put a large wire in the hole down to the large charge of powder I had put in, applied a slow match and the log would burst wide open. Then we could split it into rails.
We fenced in a nice little farm where we raised plenty of corn and other feed stuff, also a nice garden and peach orchard. Also cut and hauled cottonwood logs and built corn cribs and stables. When we were not on the road with our wagons, we kept busy improving our little home and soon had it very comfortable. Farmers began to move in and opened farms in the Brazos bottom, began to raise cotton and plenty of corn. We would load our wagons with cotton for Houston and bring loads back, and hauling began to pay much better when we had loads both ways.
One fall we struck a good paying job hauling sugar and molasses from the McNiel plantation low down on the Brazos to a little place called Liverpool from where it was shipped to Houston and Galveston on barges. We made a round trip every three days, two trips every week and lay up every Sunday resting our teams and ourselves. We kept that job a little over two months until all the sugar and molasses was hauled; then we loaded both wagons with molasses for Houston. We brought a barrel of fine sugar house syrup for ourselves, also sugar. For the barrel of syrup we paid only five dollars. We were at no expense while we were hauling except for eggs we bought from plantation Negroes which were very cheap--eight or ten cents per dozen.
I know how you will ask how we could live on eggs alone. Well, I will explain. McNiel, an old bachelor, had died a short time before who owned the large sugar plantation and his brother-in-law, David Mills of Galveston, had taken charge of it; but the large crop of sugar cane and made into sugar and syrup. He was staying on the place until he disposed of the crop. He had a large supply of everything good to eat on hand and told me to go to his cook and she would give me whatever I needed, which I did. In fact, there was no other place where I could buy supplies. Mills did not charge me anything at all of the same. Mills gave me an order to T. W. House for the money due me for hauling which was a smug little sum. On this plantation I saw my first and only real African Negroes that had just been imported and could not speak nor understand English. There was a big Negro boss on that plantation who did all the overseeing--he carried a shotgun, a big black snake whip and a large bull dog in the fields with him. The Africans were worked and managed by other Negro leaders. We kept our wagoning and invested all spare money in cattle and bought a few Negroes.
In 1860 I was elected Justice of the Peace in Precinct No. 1, Austin County. When the war broke out, both of my brothers joined Bates Regiment which was stationed at Velasco Texas for quite a while. Our Postmaster also volunteered and I was appointed Postmaster. I had mother, one single sister and one married sister with her three children (her husband had also joined the army) to care for and protect.
There were only about half dozen white men left in our Precinct and several hundred Negroes. One plantation alone had about two hundred of them.
I do not remember the exact date the oldest of my two brothers was sent home sick with Typhoid fever which soon caused his death. The other brother served until the end of the war. During the latter part of 1864 a call was made for more volunteers so must of us who still remained at home volunteered and went into camp for training. Before we were sent to the front I was sent back home to collect tithe of all cotton ginned and bacon that was cured in my district. When Lee surrendered I had quite a number of cotton bales and some bacon stored away. All who had paid their tithe came and claimed it to prevent Yanks from getting it. All our boys who were in camps at Hempstead and other points in Texas were disbanded and the Yank soldiers soon filled their places. All civil law was suspended. Marshal law took the place of civil law. A military governor was appointed; soon an election was ordered to fill all state and county offices. Only Negroes and Yank soldiers were allowed to vote. As a matter of course, only Yank settlers and Negroes were eligible to hold office. Soon after the election they arranged matters to suit themselves, then it was that Waller County was creatd out of part of Austin, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Washington Counties.
We had to call on Negro Justice; with our complaints, Negro constables and Negro sheriffs served our warrants. When matters became almost unbearable, the KKK's sprang into existence which very soon brought about a favorable change in our section of the State of Texas.
The year 1865 proved to be a good crop year. The cotton crop was fine, all worked nice and clean when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed all our Negroes free June 15, A. D. 1865. Farmers had to hire their former slaves to gather and save their crop. Brother and myself made a survey of our condition. We found all gentle and grown wild horses had all been taken by Confederate soldiers or some other parties. Our district furnished beef cattle for several regiments stationed near us for which we received certificates which were never cashed. What few slaves we had were set free and left us without a single dollar in good money. We had a nice bunch of cattle and horses but could turn nothing.
We went into the woods and cut and hauled enough oak timbers which we split into two foot boards, enough to cover our new building. We hired a man who was handy with tools to help Brother and me to build our house, rather rough but we made it answer the purpose. You see everybody was broken up when the War closed, had no money, also out of clothing and family supplies. We progressed nicely, had our house covered and all finished except shelving. Brother and myself were wondering how we could manage to get enough money to pay our hotel bill while we were buying our goods in Houston. A brother-in-law of mine called to see us saying he had a ten dollar gold piece laid up and all the good money he had for he wanted me to buy him some groceries and bring them up with our goods. So you see how well the Lord does provide. We left the man who had been helping us to finish our shelving, fixed up our wagons and started them for Houston--a three days driving--to haul our goods which we expected to buy. Brother and myself went to Houston in our buggy in one day. On the morning after reaching Houston, we went to Alex Sessums store, and had decided to open a mercantile business and had come to Houston to buy our goods.
"All right," he said, "I want to furnish you all your groceries." But we also want dry goods, hardware and staple drugs. He replied he would introduce us to the best wholesale houses in Houston and see that we were well traded. Now came the rub. But Mr. Sessums, we have not one dollar in money to pay down on our purchases. "I'll make that all right," he said. He introduced us to three wholesale merchants telling them to let us boys have all the goods we wanted at their lowest cash price, make out our bills, send them to his office for inspection and if all OK, when bills became due, to call at his office and he would give them a check for the money.
Wholesalers cash price was thirty, sixty and ninety days, on dry goods, hardware, and drugs. When our wagons arrived, we had bought, packed and had ready to haul about thirty-five hundred dollars worth of goods, and three days later we were ready to put them on our shelves as planned, September 1st, 1865.
Cotton picking and ginning was well advanced; every able bodied Negro had his pockets full of gold and anxious to spend it. Negroes would not take paper money at all--and very little silver, except Mexican dollars in circulation.
As soon as it became known that our goods had arrived, people began to come in wagon loads to get what they had done without for nearly four years. Negroes came from Eagle Lake, Allentown and from large plantations on the Colorado River, in wagons to our store to buy. We kept our wagons busy hauling, could scarcely keep up with the supply. All our sales were cash gold.
We had every dollar we owed in Houston in Mr. Sessums hands long before one bill came due. This of course at once established our credit as unlimited. All our orders were filled promptly. Our store building soon became too small and we built a large frame building which is still standing as sound and good with the same roof nearly as sound as when it was first built. We used the first store building as a warehouse.
About the latter part of 1886 another business was opened in the house Mr. John Crutcher had built. This building is today still in use as a general store by an old friend of mine at San Felipe. San Felipe de Austin is the only town or city today in the State of Texas and perhaps in the United States "incorporated" that does not assess and collect corporation taxes and has enough income to meet all corporation expenses, build and keep up all public improvements, supplement her school funds to extend the term to ten or twelve months if desired. It also has a good free range for stock and timber land enough to supply its citizens with fire wood for many years to come. Nor does she pay any state or county taxes on her public domain. The old Mexican or Spanish grant upon which San Felipe was located consisted of five leagues of land, fronting for three miles on the Brazos River and extending for fifteen miles west near the Bernard River. The corporation then sold to George Sealy of Galveston, when the Santa Fe road was built, all lands then owned by the corporation west of said road, twelve thousand acres at fifty cents per acre. This money, together with proceeds of other sales, has been placed on well secured real estate at 8% interest which fully supplies all their demands.
Walter Gresham who had charge of running the line for the Santa Fe laid out the present town of Sealy. I bought the first business lot that was sold in the town of Sealy for fifty dollars and sold it two years later for $550.00.
Well, I digressed. About this time, a Mr. Berner who lived in New Ulm, Austin County, Texas, decided to move with his family to New York City to become connected with the Puck Publishing Company brought me his youngest son about fifteen or sixteen years old and asked me to take him and learn him the business and take care of him which we gladly accepted. His name was F. A. Berner to whom I refer later on.
The county kept settling up with good farmers and business continued good. Mr. A. S. Sessums who had been such a true friend to us boys and engaged in large wholesale grocery business lived only a few years after the close of the war when he was called by death. W. D. Cleveland who was Mr. Sessum's office boy before the war became Sessum's successor in the Houston business by starting as A. S. Sessum's agent, so he assisted and caused W. D. Cleveland to become a large and wealthy mercantile firm.
The old slaves soon flocked to the Yanks who put themselves down on equality with them to defraud the Negroes out of what money they could earn. One of their plans worked well for a while. They sold the Negroes for fifty dollars in gold a document purporting to be from the Government to be a bill of sale for a mule and twenty five acres of land wherever they would wish to locate it. All they had to do was select their mule and land after a certain date (giving themselves time enough to get out of the country with the money). Nearly every Negro who could raise fifty dollars when their Yankee friends called bought a mule and twenty five acres of land. You see how the poor Negro was badly fooled out of his fifty dollars when he began to select his land and mule. Others sold Negro women a recipe for turning them white which also proved a failure. So the Negroes soon became disgusted with the Yankee and lost confidence in them and would not even report to them if some bad Negro was punished by a Southern man when he misbehaved. We had no trouble with any of the hundreds of Negro customers we had. They always respected us.
In the fall of 1867 a report was started that U. S. Congress had introduced a bill to confiscate all the cotton raised by the Southern states who were not represented in Congress. Paper money dropped down in value--two to one. No cotton buyers could be found. A few farmers hauled cotton to Houston but could not sell it at any price and carried it back home. Most wagons from up the country had to pass on their way to Houston through San Felipe where there was the only good crossing of the Brazos River. Quite a number of the farmers on their return from Houston stored their cotton with us rather than haul it from twenty to a hundred or more miles to their homes. We bought a lot of cotton belonging to an estate which was sold at public sale at 6 1/4 cents per pound currency or 3 1/8 cents gold. We could have bought hundreds of bales at that price if we had had the money to spare out of our business. We bought all we could raise the money to pay for and stored it away. Quite a number of Yankees tried to cultivate some of those large plantations near us but made a failure and left the country in disgust. Matters began to improve after the Yankee soldiers were withdrawn from the State--only a few settlers who had been put in office remained.
Congress failed to pass the act to confiscate our cotton which caused a demand for the same. Prices soon advanced and ran up to sixteen cents in gold per pound. We made quite a little speculating on cotton. Farmers were getting in fine shape financially and business kept improving.
All the surplus money we had we invested in good Brazos bottom land, also bought a steam cotton gin and saw mill. We had no trouble in finding good Negro labor who worked our farms for one third of the crops, we furnishing land, teams, tools and food for our teams. We turned our former oxen teams into mule teams, the former being too slow for us and put our oxen on the farm which we found advisable. The Negros would plow our mules all day and ride them one half of the night to dances and parties. We also opened a big lumberyard and kept our teams busy on the road when not hauling goods for the store, hauled lumber from Spring Creek saw mills. We made arrangements with several mills to exchange corn for lumber, allowing us one dollar per bushel of corn and furnishing us lumber at their cash price which was about eight or ten dollars per thousand feet. We raised a good deal of corn ourselves, and bought all that was offered for sale, never paying over fifty cents per bushel. So you see, we had loads for our teams going and coming.
We had large beds for our wagons, holding sixty to seventy bushels of ear corn. We had built a very large two story barn where we could store away two thousand bushels of corn. We also furnished hauling for our customers who had teams after laying by their crops. We stored a large supply of all kinds of lumber during the summer when roads and weather was good. After the farmers had finished gathering their crops in the fall some of them usually wanted to make improvements, building new houses, etc. They found the roads to the saw mills almost impassable. We would buy their corn or cotton and sell them their bill of lumber. Brother nor myself found no idle time. We got along nicely. Mother and our two sisters looked after our household affairs until Mother was taken sick and left us for a better world, January 22 A. D. 1868. This caused quite a change in our family affairs.
Our widowed sister married the young man, F. A. Berner, whose name I mentioned before and went to housekeeping. That left our youngest sister with a Negro woman in charge, but before the end of that year she married. That left us with no one to look after our household matters except Negroes which was all but pleasing. Brother and myself both made up our minds that we could not live under those conditions and attend to our business and that both must find a partner.
Up to that time neither of us had found or claimed a sweetheart. We kept batch until the latter part of 1869. Brother met Miss Mittie English and I met Miss Jennie Elenora Gregory of Fayetteville, Texas in San Felipe. She came to our store while she was visiting a brother-in-law. We got on nicely with our girls and both agreed that we both had better marry and thus improve our surroundings. This, of course, caused us to have to build another home. We got up plans for a nice home for Brother. I agreed to live in our old home. We had plenty of building material on hand so we let the contract and carpenters went to work.
We both were married about the same time. I was married February 16th A. D. 1870. I wrote down the date I was married in my Bible but did not write down the date Brother was married. We were married at Fayetteville, Texas, at the home of the bride's mother at noon. After the ceremony we got in our buggy drove to Columbus, Texas, spent the night, left next morning by early train for Galveston where I bought a stock of goods for our store, then returned to Houston for a few days after which we returned home.
We continued in business having several farms worked by free Negro labor. In the course of time, Congress passed an Act reinstating all of us rebels to citizenship so we could vote and elect some white men to office again except in Waller County which had a majority of Negroes there. I saw my first Negro grand jury man. Brother and myself invested what surplus money we had in land and cattle. About the time a man came into our store stating that he had a little bunch of one and two year old cattle he would like to sell real cheap. I asked him how many he had, he replied about two hundred and would take two dollars and twenty-five cents per head. I told him I would go with him and look at his cattle. He had them under herd about one mile from town. I found them a choice lot of young cattle. I asked him his name and the reason why he was offering those cattle at that price. The man's name was Gook of Gook Brothers of Columbus, Texas who had been big merchants for whom we boys hauled our first load of goods when we started to wagoning over twenty years ago with a wagon and team not paid for. The load consisted of four thousand pound of bagging and hemp rope for which they paid us freight one dollar per hundred ($40.00). Mr. Gook told me they had failed in business and their creditors were closing down on everything in sight and expected officers to overtake him and take his cattle which they were trying to save. I told him the cattle were mine and we rode back to the store after counting the cattle and I gave him a check on T. W. House, Houston. There were two hundred and one head. Twenty years ago they were big prosperous merchants and we poor boys were starting out to make a living hauling freight from Houston with a wagon and oxen we bought on credit, not one cent paid on them, and now twenty years later they were broke and we were able to save them four hundred and fifty two dollars and twenty-five cents. Now all merchants make a success in business. We got on nicely with our business investing any spare money in lands and stock. We also had some farming done on our farms with free Negro labor.
In the summer of 1878 we with our four children spent a month or more on vacation. After returning home, Brother, wife and little boy (their oldest child having died some months before) started to take their vacation. Brother was taken sick shortly after his return home and died within a month after he was taken sick. His wife was taken sick and also died within thirty days after her husband's death, leaving only one child--Dr. F. G. Eidman, now of Houston.
My wife also was taken down sick during the winter and had to keep her bed until the following spring. Brother and his wife's death and the long sickness of my wife disheartened me that I decided to leave our old home and find a more healthy location.
I had me a large water proof tent made and rigged up a large camping outfit consisting of a large Rockaway, a roomy hack and two horse wagon, also an extra saddle horse. As soon as my wife was able to leave home, we loaded our train with plenty of male help and a Negro woman cook and started April 1st, 1879 for West Texas. When we would find a good camping place with good water, etc. we would remain several days so we traveled, camped and never slept inside a house until the last days of September when we struck Georgetown, Williamson County, on our return home--a nice healthy little town located on the high banks of the San Gabriel River with scores of fine flowing springs of pure cold water and the S. W. University in its infancy with fine prospect for a greater institution of high learning. This decided us to rent a house for the winter and if we liked the place would improve us a home. I left my brother-in-law, F. A. Berner, to look after my store and other business until I could return and settle up all our partnership business. It was not long until Wife and myself decided to locate after finding a nice block consisting of two acres upon which to build us a comfortable dwelling. We drew up our plans of the house we wanted, let the contract before the close of the year, so we could move into part of the building during February 1880.
I built curbed sidewalks all around my block and set out hackberry trees all along the East and West lines of my block. After finishing and furnishing my new home I went back to San Felipe and settled up our partnership business. The appraisers who divided our real estate gave me the store building so I put my brother-in-law in charge of my store with a stock of merchandise which he carried on for me several years until I finally sold out to him, which he continued until his death about two years ago. The old store building is still intact at San Felipe and with the same shingle roof which was put on in 1867.
I had a nice stock of cattle which I sold at five dollars per head. I moved one hundred head of horses to Georgetown but lost quite a large percent of them the following winter after moving them. Some one has said that three moves were equal to a fire but I say ONE move is equal to a fire. I had to sacrifice thousands of dollars when I left my old home for that new one in Georgetown--I held a number of notes and accounts when I moved to Georgetown and could have collected some had I remained in San Felipe. But all except very few considered them settled after I left. I thought perhaps my brother-in-law might collect some of them but he failed and very soon accounts and notes were barred by limitation. So I burned up a little over ten thousand dollars worth of notes and accounts to get them from giving me headaches in looking over them, also to keep me from spending good money trying to collect them by law. I did not go into business when first I moved to Georgetown but did a few years later. I bought out a stock of goods sold by assignee.
I spent a large portion of my time in improving an eighteen hundred acre ranch about eight miles west of town and stocking it with good white-faced cattle, also looking after some farming interests. Rucker and Montgomery who had been in business here in Georgetown were forced to make an assignment, appointed me their assignee to settle up their firm's business. I also was appointed receiver of the Georgetown defunct chair factory and a number of minor jobs.
My block consisted of two acres of land. I had a good curbed sidewalk built all around it and good fence enclosing it, raised plenty of nice vegetables, also pears, peaches, plums, apples and grapes and fig aplenty. I was not making and laying up money but kept the wolf out of doors for several years. We had some of the Southwestern U. professors boarding with us--Professor Heyer, Jones and two others whose names have slipped my memory. Also young ladies until they built the ladies' acres when they were not allowed to board in boarding houses but room and board at Ladies Acres. We also had boy boarders, R. L. Henry and his brother, John Matthews, Rosser Thomas and others. Prof. Heyer and myself built a nice little boat to use on San Gabriel River when we went fishing. Professor Jones bought a lot of fishlines and hooks and cut them in proper lengths. He used my sharp hand axe and used a large rock nearby for chopping block. He had never learned that chopping on a rock with a sharp tool will dull if not ruin it. Of course, he had a very dull tool before I discovered it.
When I moved to Georgetown there was no waterworks nor electric light plant. We soon called a meeting and eleven men including myself undertook and built the present waterworks of Georgetown. A large spring in the bed of San Gabriel River furnished an overlasting supply of pure cold water. The water works is now owned by the city as well as the electric light plant, operated by the water works machinery.
When I moved to Georgetown in September A. D. 1879 there were but few nice buildings in Georgetown, not a single modern store building, a few old-fashioned rough rock houses, no waterworks or electric light plant, two blacksmith shops around the old courthouse square, a few small stores and five large prosperous saloons, not a single nice church building, or sidewalks and black muddy streets.
I served as secretary and treasurer of a building committee with Dr. Mood, Dr. J. H. McGave and Capt. D. H. Snyder to build the first Methodist Church South that ever was built in Georgetown, Texas. Dr. Mood, the founder of Southwestern Un. preached for us in the old chapel, nor did we have a public school building. We had private school in an old frame building which seated some fifteen or twenty children. The old chapel was a two story rock building with four small rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs which composed the Southwestern Un. buildings. We hold Sunday School in the lower rooms and preaching in one of the upper rooms.
It is my wish and request that the following article I leave at my death shall never be disposed of but remain the property of the Eidman family so long as there is an Eidman living of my descendants. To wit: One fine grindstone which has been in constant use for nearly one hundred years, which Father brought from Germany to Texas in the years A. D. 1846. I will remember turning it when just a little boy scarcely strong enough to turn it. Father with his family arrived in San Felipe the latter part of June 1846, was taken sick the second day after arriving there and died a few weeks later. The grindstone has been in my possession since his death, and for several years was the only grindstone within several miles and neighbors came for miles to do their grinding. I leave it in charge of my son, Kraft H. Eidman. I expect him to take care of it and see that it is kept in the family so long as he lives and so handed on down as long as it will last for use of Eidman family.
I also have a fine German pipe which was presented to my father by his uncle A. D. 1836 when I was four years old. Father used it until he moved to Texas 1846. Since his death in that year I have taken care of it. (Ummie) my youngest son has it. I want it kept in the Eidman family not only for my sake but for my dead departed Father's sake who gave his life in a new and free country. I also have an invalid chair which I have used over fifty years which I want kept in the Eidman family to be used in sickness. I have enjoyed its comfort nearly every day since I was taken sick the first day of January A. D. 1920 and I am writing the above sitting in it, now August 4th, 1922. When I depart, I will leave it in care of my son S. O. Eidman. He will see that it is taken care of and finally handed down to my descendants. This chair can do good and faithful service by good care for several generations to come as it is built of solids walnut.
The town of San Felipe de Austin is located on the west bank of the Brazos River in Austin County, Texas, consisting of forty five square miles of free way fronting on the Brazos River for three miles and running west for fifteen miles. It was once the capitol of Texas, quite a little city before the Mexican War. When Sam Houston with his handful of men were encamped there, and Santa Anna with his big Mexican Army camping only a few miles up the river preparing to attack Sam Houston, he built some rafts to cross the river with his men. He set fire to all the houses in San Felipe to keep the Mexican army from finding any supplies or anything else in this old capitol Houston also destroyed his rafts and marched his men towards San Jacinto where they prepared for that last battle which brought us independence from Mexican rule. San Felipe was never rebuilt. When the Santa Fe railroad was located, they left San Felipe about three miles East and located in Sealy. When the town was plotted some twelve months before it was built, I bought the first business lot that was sold for fifty dollars, but not to be paid until trains were run to Sealy. I calculated to build a new store building there and move my stock of goods. When the road was completed to Sealy, my brother who was running my business refused to move to Sealy so I leased my lot for two years at fifty dollars per year. I thought my brother-in-law would agree to move but he still refused. Then I sold the lot to John Hackbath for $550.00 in cash. After Sealy built up, had several stores and a number of families living there, Brother-in-law moved his family to Sealy but kept up the business in San Felipe three miles away. He kept that up until he died about four years ago.
I have two sisters yet living, both widows. Sister Katherine was born in Oberbiel, Germany, May __ A. D., 1843. She is now living with her daughter, Miss Lula Gray in Sealy, Texas. Sister Mollie was born in Oberbiel Germany July 1st A. D. 1845. She is now living at her home in Waco, Texas. This is November, 12th, A. D. 1923.
You often hear the remark viz: Three moves of a family is equal to a burnout without insurance. This has been about my case. When we left our old home in San Felipe where we were well fixed, plenty of cattle, horses, farms and a good mercantile business, I had to sacrifice thousands of dollars to move to Georgetown, Texas to build and commence anew from the ground up. And when I broke up at Georgetown some twelve or fourteen years after getting about fixed up for a comfortable living to make my next home in Bay City, Texas, I had but little left to sacrifice at my third move.
I never joined the Masons but joined the Knights of Honor, a lodge in Georgetown and shortly after we organized a Knights and Ladies of Honor lodge which admitted women as well as men, I was a charter member of that Lodge, was elected Secretary and Treasurer of that Order for about twenty five years until the Order became bankrupt. I also served as Reporter and Treasurer of the Knights of Honor about twenty years when it suspended business.
Both of these Orders were mutual insurance companies, making monthly assessments of each member according to age and amount insured for. My assessment at 45 years was 50 cents on the thousand dollars in each assessment supposed to be one not more than two per month, according to the number of deaths during that month. We were also promised that that rate of assessment would never be higher Knights of Honor ensured from $500 to $2,000. Knights and Ladies of Honor insured from $500 to $3,000. We got along nicely for quite a number of years while the Orders were young and new members kept joining us. But the time came when there were a good many deaths and a falling off of new members and three and four assessments were called in one month. Very soon a number of our members dropped out of the Order because of so many assessments per month. The Supreme Lodge thought they had found a way out by doubling, doubling and doubling the assessment until it went to five dollars each assessment on one thousand dollars, then we disbanded our Lodge.
I think our Lodges drew about as much money in death benefits as the members paid in, but left those of us who outlived it in the cool. A goodly number of those two Orders who had carried their policy for more than twenty years were prevented from obtaining a policy in old life insurance companies on account of age which was the reason why me and Wife failed to have life insurance as we had both been members of defunct Orders. My advice now is--never pay your money to any of these cheap Mutual Life Insurance companies but if you are able, take out your insurance in a solid old line company while young and make it a paid up policy before old age creeps up on you.
Copyright 2008 -
Present by the Eidman Family
May, 22, 2008
May, 22, 2008