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Memories of Matagorda
By Geraldyne R. Havard

Interviewed By Eve Bond
Tape Transcribed By Dodie Bradley



ďThis is a Matagorda County Historical Association tape.  Today weíre at the home of Geraldyne Havard in Matagorda.   SheĎs going to be talking about the house primarily, its occupants, the Ryman family and the history that is involved with their comings and goings.  This is July 22, 1982, and Iím Eve Bond.Ē


This house was built at the turn of the century by my grandfather who was Boltes Albert Ryman.  He was born in Matagorda in 1859.   His father was named Johan which he later changed, of course, to John Ryman and he was in the immigration from Germany.  He came from Nassau, Germany.  He came as a young lad in the immigration of 1845.  And they landed in Galveston and then came on and settled in Matagorda.  He was not accompanied by his mother and father; he was with an uncle.  I think his mother and father were dead. 


My grandfatherís mother was also a German immigrant but Iím not sure just which year she came and where she came from.  I take that back, she came from Hanover, Germany, and her name was Louisa Dieckman  and that is really all I know about my Grandpa Ryman and his family because both his mother and father died when he was just a young boy.  Seventeen when his mother died and I believe he was twenty and he just did not tell a whole lot about his family.

But I know a little bit more about my grandmother who lived in this house, moved into the house with my grandfather, Boltes Albert Ryman.   My grandma was born in 1862 and she was born on Matagorda Peninsula which, of course, we call the beach now.  She was born Nancy Jane Williams.  Her mother and father were both immigrants.  Her mother came from Germany.  Her mother was Catherine Franz and there are a lot of Franz and descendents of Franz in this county.  Grandma Williams, Catherine, immigrated from Bremen, Germany, probably in the 1845 immigration also and she was with her mother and father.  And some brothers and sisters.  Now, they landed in Indianola.  But they didnít stay in Indianola; they came almost immediately to Matagorda and settled on the Peninsula. 


My grandmotherís father was John Williams, now this is a name he took for himself.  He was from Denmark and his name was Erasmusson.  But he fled from Denmark to escape a compulsory conscription into the Danish army.  He did not want to serve in the army and I donít know why he thought it was necessary to change his name when he came to this country.  Surely they werenít going to follow him all the way from Denmark, but anyway he changed it to John Williams.  His name was probably John or Johan Wilhelm Erasmusson.  And he just Americanized it took the first two names and was John Williams then. 


So when they married and settled on the peninsula, they built a big house.  Big for that time.  And it was called the Red House.  Quite a settlement on the peninsula at that time.  They had 11 children and my grandmother was next to the youngest.  And she told some interesting tales about old times living on the peninsula. 


One thing that always interested me as a child was that Charles Siringo--now you know who Charles Siringo is, A Texas Cowboy or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Back of a Spanish Pony, the author of that.  Well he lived near the Williams on the peninsula.  He lived with his mother and with his sister. And he spent a lot of times in the Williamsí home.  He was a good friend of the Williams children, in particularly had one best friend, one of the Williams boys by the name of Billy Williams.  In his book Siringo wrote that he and Billy had lots of fun doing the things that young boys do when they were through working, which they had to work, riding the milk calves, coon hunting, and sailing their little play boats both on the bay side and on the Gulf side.  They had two bodies of water to play in.  But in later years Billy Williams married Siringoís only true love, his only girlfriend, and I think their friendship faded from then on.


My grandmother told of the many storms that they had to weather while living on the beach.  Sometimes they would have to leave the house, although it was a two story house and- they ĖI donít know why they felt safer clinging to the cedar mops, they were strong, you know cedars are very strong when they are growing together they are hard to destroyĖbut they would cling to them and they would share these cedars with rabbits and coons and even rattle snakes and weather the storm there and then go back to their houses. 


And they lived fairly well on the peninsula. Everybody who settled there had cattle and they had sheep and, of course, they had the milk cows.  They had their own milk and oddly enough, gardens grew very well on the peninsula.  So all they had to come to Matagorda for was medicines, not many of those because they used home remedies, but for the staples they did have to come across the bay for their staples. 


One of grandmaís sisters, named Wilhelmina was kind of, they called her the ďmuch married sister.Ē  I donít know how many husbands she had, maybe four.  But her first husband was a Doctor Allen.  Now Dr. Allen showed up on the peninsula one day and they didnít know where he came from.  He boarded with the Williams family and he fell in love with Wilhelmina, at least he married her, but later on he fell in love with a younger sister by the name of Lucy.  Lucy was seventeen at that time and Lucy was engaged to a Eidlebach, another young man and the story is told by some member of the family that Doctor Allen made the statement that if he couldnít have Lucy then nobody else was gonna have Lucy.  And so he killed Lucy.  He poisoned her and poisoned the younger sister with her and then he jumped on Grandma Williamsí big white horse and sped away with the Williams boys chasing right after him, in and out the dunes but he escaped, jumped in their only boat and got across the bay and they never saw Dr. Allen again, but they had it on pretty good authority that he turned up in Africa and was partner in a diamond mine down there. 


Now Wilhelmina  had a son by Dr. Allen and his name was Willie and we always called him ďWillie Allen,Ē called him his full name and some of the family say that  Wilhelmina was so enraged when all of this happened that she threw Willie down and, as a baby threw him on the floor, and his hip was broken and from that time on he was crippled. 


Now my grandmother was a kinder woman and she gave a kinder version of this story.  It all happened, it was all true except she said that Lucy and the other little sister had typhoid fever and that Dr. Allen did kill them but she doesnít think intentionally.  He overdosed them with Laudanum and the boys thought it was intentional because he was in love with Lucy and they sought revenge against him.


During the Civil War there was a contingent of about five thousand Yankees soldiers at Decrow  Point down on the peninsula, also called Pass Cavallo.  I believe today itís called Pass Cavallo. One night my great grandfather, now this is John Williams, we have been speaking of.  He slipped into their camp, down at Decrowís Point, and he stole eleven of their finest horses.  And he gave them to the Confederate Calvary which was stationed almost down at Caney Creek.  Now that was clean down at the other end of the peninsula which is some miles between them and on his way back home then, after he had confiscated these horses for the Confederates, the Yankees caught him and they took him aboard a man-o-war and they were going to hang him.  And they even had the noose around his neck when either because of his bravery or his age or because he had such a large family, maybe all three, well the Yankee general intervened and turned him loose with a very stern warning, ďMr. Williams, you stay close to home until the duration of the war!Ē 


Another Civil War episode happened to my grandmotherís aunt who was also named Wilhelmina, but they called her Aunt MeMe.  And she was married to Chris Zipprian.  And Chris was serving inland with the Confederate Army, I believe in Arkansas or Alabama or somewhere and he left Aunt MeMe home with three young boys to take care of.  And one day the Yankee soldiers confiscated her entire head, herd of cattle and drove them down to their camp or fort at Decrow Point.  But Aunt MeMe was a very determined woman and she always said the family said she wasnít afraid of the Devil himself.  She followed that whole army all the way to Decrowís  Point on one old nag, that they had thoughtfully left her, and she demanded her herd of cattle back saying it was her entire living, her and her little boys and they kept her prisoner, but just for one night, I think.  And then I donít know what happened, or how she persuaded them but they let her go and they sent her home with her whole herd of cattle. 


 During the Civil War, I donít know that there has been much told about the bombardment,  but there was quite a bit of bombardment back and forth, the Yankees on the Gulf side  and the Confederate Navy, so to speak, on the bay side and they would shoot at one another, back and forth, across the peninsula. And many of the cannon balls would fall unexploded on the beach. And the children would play with them. So one day my great grandfather was determined that he was going to show the children the danger of playing with cannon balls. So he took one of the balls and opened a firing pen and shook all the powder out, so he supposed, and he placed the cannon ball on the ground with the hole up and told one of the boys to run into the house to the kitchen stove and get a coal.  He put that coal down into the hole of that cannon ball and sure enough he had not taken all of the powder out and it exploded and it did considerable damage to both of his legs.  It took off a part of his left foot and it penetrated, went all the way through his right calf, but fortunately none of the children were hurt.  One little girl was fairly near and she was holding the family dog in her arms and the dog's leg was blown off.  But Great Grandfather Williams was taken to Matagorda by boat for treatment but gangrene set in and he never did recover from this wound, he died a few day later at the Colorado House.  Now the Colorado House was the hotel in Matagorda and I believe it was the only hotel at that time.  It was located on the corner of Market and Fisher where the current Post Office is. 


One of the Williams boys by the name of Johnny named for his father, of course, was a cowboy of the old school and he made several trips up the Chisholm  Trail from Matagorda County to Dodge City, Kansas. Now he did not tell any unusual tales just the usual tales of sleeping out under the stars with the saddle for his pillow at night and the many many nights when the weather was bad or perhaps there were wild animals nearby, getting no sleep at all but riding the herd and crooning, singing the cowboy songs that they had to do to keep the cows from being frightened and then riding all the next day.  They never did get to sleep after these all night episodes. Other than that I donít think he ever told any stories about the Chisholm Trail but he did make several trips. He was a Williams and one of my grandmotherís brothers.  See there were eleven of the childrenĖJohn, John Williams he was called.


After the terrible storm of 1875 most of the people who were living on the Matagorda Peninsula moved into the town of Matagorda or its surrounding territory.  And the widow Catherine Williams with her large family was among them.  Grandma Williams was a good business woman.  She bought a thousand acres of land out at Big Hill.  Which is now Old Gulf or just south of Old Gulf.  Old Gulf, all of that area, was called Big Hill and there was a fairly good settlement out there, also.  She bought this land for fifty cents an acre, which I think was the going price at that time.  In fact even some land sold for twenty five cents an acre and with the help of her boys, and the girls as well, she managed this large herd of cattle and made a living for her children until they were grown. 


When my grandmother and grandfather were married, and they married in 1881, they also lived at Big Hill.  But there was no school there and there was no church there.  They decided that they wanted a townhouse or a house in Matagorda.  They had three boys by then, James Nye Ryman and my father, George Carroll Ryman and Bowie Walker Ryman.  So they had this house built at the turn of the century.  Now the wood is all cypress except the finish wood for the doors and the windows and that is oak and pine.  The cost of the wood was $20.50 a thousand and it was shipped by boat, now I understood it was to Indianola, I could possibly be wrong by this, it could have been to Galveston.  But anyway, it was shipped into one of the ports along the coast and then was hauled overland by oxen and mule team to Matagorda.  And was sawed out at the lumber yard which was back of town and then brought to the site piece by piece and the house was built that way.  The labor was two dollars a day and the total cost of this house, which is a three story house finished through the third story.  Total cost, turn-key, and if you donít know what turn-key means, that means you are ready to turn that key and enter the house and live in it, was $4,500.00.  When the family moved into this new home in Matagorda, Grandma Williams, who was still living, moved in with them and she remained here in this house, living in this house, until her death in 1914.  And she was buried in my motherís wedding dress.  Mama always remembers that.  Grandma Williams was not an invalid exactly, she could get out of bed but she could not come down the stairs for her meals so from the kitchen up to her bedroom there was a little back stairs built and this was so the servants could take the meals up to her.  That is the door right there and I use it every day because that is my bedroom now. I seldom use the front stairs.  The children love those front stairs because they are twisting and turning and I call them the witches stairs to the children and they really do enjoy those stairs. 


You know people took care of their own in those days perhaps one reason because there wasnít any other place for old people, or sick people to go.  But I have an idea they would have done it anyway.  They wanted to take care of their own.  And so there were many people who lived in this house.  Johnny, my grandmotherís brother, the cowboy, with his two sons lived here for a number of years.  This was after the wife and mother ran off with another man.  Uncle Johnny was rather biddy, eh, bitter after that, biddy tooĖhe called her a biddy.  My mother says he greeted her, when she walked in the house, greeted her by saying to my father,  ďBet your life, Carroll you done played hell now.Ē  He didnít believe in marriage, very much. 


Then Grandma raised another nephew, at least he lived here a part of the time until he was older and able to take care of himself, and that was the Willie Allen that we spoke of, the crippled boy.  Two nieces were raised here, or reared here, if you want to be correct about it.   One was grandmaís niece who was orphaned when she was ten years old.  And the other was my grandfatherís niece who was orphaned by the 1900 Galveston storm.  Grandmaís niece was Winnie Williams, Grandmaís brotherís child, his name was Henry Williams and they lived in Palacios.  Her father died before she was born and she was ten when her mother died.  Winnie is now Winnie Rugeley. She married one of the Rugeleyís.  Waddie Rugeley lives in Bay City still, but they were old Matagorda families, the Rugeleyís were.  And the other one was Janie Peterson, that was my grandfatherís niece, she was my grandfatherís sisterís child and both her parents and the rest of her family, except for one sister. Two sisters were drowned in the Galveston storm.  She married a Savage from Matagorda, so she was Janie Savage after she married.  Then in later years a cousin made her home here in the house with Grandma. 


And one day Granddaddy, as he was going across the prairie to Caney or Live Oak, one of those areas around in there, the cattlemen had extensive ranges then.  He noticed this little Black boy would stop, would open the gate for him just nearly every day and so he stopped one day and asked this little boy if he would like to live with him and the little boy said yes he would.  He asked the parents and the parents said it was all right.  So Granddaddy picked up Jeff, his name was Jeff Robbins and brought him home when Jeff was six and Jeff was reared here and lived here in this house.  The attic was his domain until grandma was quite an old lady. 


Grandma and Grandpa also took care of a Black woman who had been a faithful servant of theirs when they were first married.  She was the wife of one of grandpaís hands when he was out at Big Hill, but Liza became unstable mentally, had spells that would come and go, and when she was in one of her bad spells, granddaddy was the only one who could handle her.  One day when he was away from home, Liza picked up an axe and got after grandma and her three boys, chased them all around the house and up the house and they finally crawled out a very small window on the roof and they remained there until grandpa got home that afternoon.  I call my grandfather, granddaddy and grandpa.  I really called him Grandpaul when I was a child and spoke to him.  But Iíll speak of him as all three in my stories.  Now Liza was not kept locked up, this was the crazy black woman, until they moved into Matagorda.  But she had gotten so bad by that time that they had to keep her locked up.  So grandpa, at the same time that he had this house built he had a small pointed roof house built out in the back yard for Liza.  And it had windows in it but they were barred.  And Lizaís meals were handed to her through these windows.  Liza would huddle in a corner unraveling blankets, thatís the way she spent her entire days,  and Grandma kept her in a supply of blankets.  As soon as she unraveled one my Grandma gave her another to unravel.  Instead of sleeping on her bed which was in the house, Liza would sleep on the pile of ravelings that she had unraveled.  She lived for many years and, of course, as young people and children are, she and her peaked roof house were one of the sites for the children in Matagorda.  My mother remembers, Mama lived in Bay City, she remembers coming to Matagorda as a child and visiting.  And this would be one of the places that she would be brought to see the crazy lady in her house, and the children would hand cookies or candy through the bars to Liza and she would reach out with a claw-like hand, Mama said, and take it and then something like a smile would light up her otherwise wild eyes.  Then in this house there was a bedroom set aside for the preacher.  And I think in the deep south it is called ďParsonís RoomĒ but we never called it anything but the ďPreacherís Room.Ē  My grandparents were very stanch Methodists and although there was a parsonage here, built in the 1890's, there was not always a resident preacher here and they would come in something like the old circuit riders sometimes.  When they traveled, they knew where they were going to stay, to sleep, and eat when they got to Matagorda.  They would stay in the ďPreacher's RoomĒ in the Ryman house.  When my husband and I moved into this house in 1948 after my grandmotherís death, she died, by the way, on her 85th birthday, we kept the tradition up.  And many a night we have had preachers and other strangers in need of shelter who would stay in the preacher's room.  Speaking of moving into this house, Iíve often wondered if thereís anybody else in the county who moved in a wheelbarrow.  We didnít move but across the street but we moved in a wheelbarrow, so you know how many belongings we had to move.  When my grandmother died my father and his brother, living brother, wanted to sell the house and said nobody wants it and I spoke up immediately and said nobody asked me.  Because I was born in this house and the old house and I have a certain affinity for one another.


My grandfather was a rancher and a rice farmer and rice farming was a family enterprise, both of them.  When the older son married he brought his wife to this house but they didnít stay for many months.  A home was bought for them by the parents and they lived nearby.  And then when my mother and father were married in1913 they came to live here and lived here for about 2 Ĺ years or more than that because, like I say, I was born in this house. 


I mentioned that my mother came to this house in 1913 as a bride or if I didnít mention it, I intended to.  But she said she came into a house of mourning, there wasnít a great deal of happiness here when she first moved in because the year previous to her marriage the youngest son Bowie Walker Ryman had died a very painful death as the result of an accident on the family rice farm.  They had rice canals then and farmed very much with primitive equipment, you would call it primitive now, and he was pumping water out of the canal onto the rice crop.  But the pump had a steam engine and the steam engine was fed by wood.  Bowie was 18 or 19 and he was doing his job too well, I suppose, and the boiler exploded and Bowie was scalded over all of his body.  Of course there was no hospital in the county then so they rushed him, or took him, to Bay CityĖthere was no rushing anywhere then.  And put him in a boarding house, there was a boarding house called the Baker House.  It was on the corner across from the Presbyterian Church where the First Methodist office building is now, I believe.  This was the Baker House and there he was taken care of.  Mr. and Mrs. Charles Baker took care of him and nursed him and Dr. Foote was the doctor.  He lived for several days but his death was very, very hard. 


And in those days they had lengthy mourning periods.  And this one, I think,  was lengthier than most because he was the youngest son and a favored person by everybody.  Mama said they werenít even allowed to play the piano or sing or whistle, nothing like that.  That year they just left the rice crops in the fields just to die, they didnít even harvest. 


My grandparents were Christians of the old school, no alcohol allowed, no wine, but grandma would make dewberry wine and she would keep it, she would hide it and it was just for her fruitcakes, that was all it was for.  After I moved into this house I was rooting around and under the eaves in the attic and found two gallons of this delicious dewberry wine.  Now I donít know if someone had hid it from her, the boys may have hid it from her or whether she had hid it from them.  But it really was a treasure.  Of course its long since gone, but it was very good.


No cards were allowed but dominoes were and Grandma loved to play 42 and this old house has seen many a 42 party even tables around all the porch, upstairs and down.  Now can you imagine at night, the lights on and Matagorda having a 42 party?  There were no mosquitos then. 


When this house was built gas was piped into it for gas lights, not for heating, gas lights.  And then later they made their own electricity, generated their own electricity.  They had what they called a Delco plant and we called it the lighthouse, out in the back yard.  And then much later when CP&L came in, in my teens, and then the house was wired for ďrealĒ electricity, you might say.


I remember Grandma very well.  Like I said she died after I was married and was 85.  My grandfather died when I was 6 so my memories of him are rather sketchy but  I connect him with bigness.  He was a big man, he wore a big hat, and he wore big boots, and he had a big voice.  His big hat was the large stockmanís hat and the boots were not the regular cowboy boots but the stockmanís boots, big black boots that came all the way to his knees.  His voice was big.  He worked Black men as his farm and ranch hands and they lived in what we called ďThe BendĒ in Matagorda.  Thatís many blocks away from this house.  Every morning Granddaddy would get up and go out on the upstairs porch and in a very loud voice call all of his hands to wake them up because they did not have clocks.  And everybody in Matagorda said you donít need an alarm clock as long as Boltes Ryman is living.  That  was a standard joke in the town. 


I connect him also with nickels Ďcause I remember he gave me nickels as a little girl so I could go trotting up to the one grocery store that we had in town then and buy my jelly beans.  And I remember him standing in front of that little one room Methodist Church, at that time there was just one room, and he was a Sunday School Superintendent from the time the Sunday School was organized until his death in 1922, I believe it was that he died.  And his black alpaca suit and I was quiet in awe of him then because then I connected him with God, and his booming singing voice.  His favorite song was ďWill There be Any Stars in my Crown?Ē  But most of all I remember him lying in his coffin in the front parlor.  There were undertakers, of course, in Matagorda but there was no funeral parlor, as such.  So the bodies of loved ones were taken home after they were prepared for burial and kept in the parlors and friends and neighbors and family came and set up all night with the bodies.  We continue that tradition in our family.  My father was buried from this house and as long as Iím living that tradition will remain.  We will bring our loved ones home until they go to the church to be buried. 


A few of the leading memories I have as a very young child in this house, and later of course as coming to Grandmaís, are the huge dishpans of tea cakes.  Large tea cakes, as large as a saucer and the dishpan I thought was enormous.  And these were made by Nettie, the Black cook and Nettie covered these dish pans with a nice clean white cup towel and then tied that cup towel on, but very loosely so that small hands could find their way into the dish pan.  Then after baking day then Nettie would make donuts.  The donuts were not the round donuts with the holes in them, they were shaped like a lyre, you know a harp-shape donuts.  Delicious donuts. 


I remember as a very small child waking up to the smell of fresh ground coffee in the kitchen and of course that was all I was allowed to enjoy, was the smell.  I didnít drink coffee until after I was married.  Then I remember the dining table, it was always set.  As soon as the meal was over and the dishes were washed, the tablecloth was either put back on or a clean one put on the table, the dishes were put back on, the plates, of course turned face down to keep them clean.  And it was always ready for the next meal.


Another good memory is hog killing time.  Several hogs would be killed at one time and it certainly was true that the old-timers used everything but the squeal.  I remember the large black pots in the back yard to render out.  First of all they scald the hogs in them so they could scrape the hair off, they didnít skin them, they scraped that hair off.  And then they rendered the lard out, rendered the fat out and they put this in five gallon cans and this was the only shortening they used and it was very, very good.  The pots were also used to make hominy and to make soap.  My daddy made soap until he died.  He thought there was nothing like that old homemade lye soap.  The smokehouses hanging with hams and sausages, how wonderful they smelled to a child and a young person.  But I do remember I viewed hog killing time with mixed emotions.  Because I had a little pig that followed me around everywhere I went and was my pet.  I always wondered what was going to happen to that pig when it grew up.  I was just a little bit afraid for its future.  Another great memory, I have a lot of great memories associated with eating in this house.  My grandfather made the best pickled beef in great big fifteen gallon jars, crocks.  And oh that was good beef.


I remember learning the Lordís Prayer and the 23rd Psalm at my grandmotherís knee when I was quite, quite young and thatís the only two things I can say from memory right now.  The only two things I was ever able to remember all my life.  But I remember that.  She was never successful in teaching me to crochet and knit.  But she did teach me the Lordís Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. 


I donít remember the storms when I was a child.  I was born in a storm, by the way, in this house.  I probably felt so safe and secure that I slept right through them.  So really the first storm I actually remember was the storm of 1933.  And then of course 1933 and 1942 I passed those storms in this house.  In 1933 was the very first time tidal water ever got completely over Matagorda.  And we lived in the house catty-cornered across the street from this house.  I looked out the big window in the front room and I saw a wall of water coming up the ditch along side this house so immediately we thought we should come over to this house because it was, is three stories high after all.  And by the time that we were able to pick up rugs and a few pieces of furniture, the things you do when you fear that water is going to get in your house, and come across the street water was up to my neck.  We had to tie ourselves together and hold because the current was quite strong.  But it did not get in our houses at that time.  It did get in some of the houses.  But in 1942, now this was prior to naming the storms, we came over to be with Grandma because that was supposed to be a pretty bad storm.  That was the year that water did get all over Matagorda almost completely destroying the east end of town.  The wind blew very, very hard all night long and the water got quite deep in town, in the east end of town, it was four feet deep in this house.  We had opened the front and the back doors to the hall and just let the water flow through, which is the thing you do.  But it was quite strange looking down and seeing this gushing river flow through the downstairs hall and logs coming through and I remember a kettle and all sorts of tin cans and just all sorts of trash just flowing through the hall.  There was quite a hard time cleaning up after that. 


We packed Grandma off to Houston and just left this house until we got my motherís and daddyís house cleaned out.  By the time we got over to this house there wasnít a whole lot we could do with it.  The two parlors had beautiful Brussels carpets on them and they just knocked one of the big windows out, hooked the tractor onto those carpets and dragged them off and dumped them.  It was a very sad thing.  The old player piano, which I treasured, was destroyed.  A lot of the china was broken, the valuable things like that. 


When I was a young teenager the Colorado River rose and got over town several times a year.  But for us kids that was fun.  We didnít have responsibilities, it was a good time, we just swam and played we didnít even have to go down to the river to go swimming.  But one time the river stayed over Matagorda for 21 days and that was a little much.  We were marooned here, we could not get in and out of town.  You got around by boat.  You could go out to the highway by boat and then somebody would meet you on the other side from Bay City with a car and you could get out of town. In fact, during this flood my brother broke his arm and that is the way we had to get him to the doctor in Bay City, by boat.  Then someone met us at Zipprianís Corner in the car. 


The changes Iíve seen in my lifetime and I donít consider myself old.  Now of course, age is relative, to some people I am very old but to my Mother Iím quite young.  Momma will be 90 next month.  But Iíve really seen a lot of changes in my lifetime.  Electricity Ėwhen I was a child we did not have, well we had our own but there was not the general electricity around town.  And we didnít have gas, we heated our home with wood.  We had fireplaces and then we had big wood stoves and we cooked with a wood stove.  And although we had indoor plumbing, in the winter time the bathroom was pretty cold.  And we still bathed in the kitchen in front of the old wood stove in a washtub. 


I went through the Depression.   I really, my family was wealthy when I was a child.  I had a maid to even button my shoes but when I was a teenager I didnít have a nickel to buy a soda water, thatís what they were then.  Nor 25 cents to go to the picture show, thatís what picture shows cost.  But I didnít know I was deprived.  We had horses and we had the river to swim in, we had one another, and we never did suffer because we had gardens, we had our own animals for meat, we had plenty of fish and oysters and seafood.  We had our milk cows, we had chickens, and we had our eggs.  We didnít suffer like people in the city did.  But I can certainly remember the time when I would like to have gone to the picture show and couldnít because there was not 25 cents during the Depression. 


My family did have, there was a terrible freeze, I believe in 1924, and we lost all our cattle.  Speaking of cattle, I didnít mention the fact that my grandfather was one who helped promote the cattle business in Matagorda County.  He is supposed to have brought the first Brahman cattle into Matagorda and in 1893 he was in partnership with a R. H. Gardner and it was called Gardner-Ryman Cattle Company.  Then in 1896, Mr. Borden came into the company.  Now this is the same Borden as Borden Milk.  This was the Texas Cattle Company.  Then in 1903 he was in partnership with Kilbride.  It was Kilbride and Gardner but after that the boys were old enough it was a family partnership.  We still maintained one of the old brands.  It was the Y U and we still have the Y U brand on our cattle which we kept the land that he owned and we have kept cattle all through the years and I always see that we have some Brahman cattle because that was the kind my grandfather had.      


But to get back to just my childhood and the changes Iíve seen, or my life rather, and the changes Iíve see.  I saw this highway come into Matagorda.  When I was a child we just had a dirt road  to Bay City and it was a problem getting to Bay City when it was wet.  In the winter time it was really terrible.  Then they shelled the road into Bay City, this was after the Gulf Sulphur company came in.  I was in high school before we had a hardtop highway that came into Matagorda.  Also electricity, CP&L came into Matagorda. 


And I was thinking about wages too.  Right after college I taught school and I was paid $90.00 a month, now that hasnít been all that long ago.  When my husband and I married we thought he was making good money.  He worked for Standard Oil Company and he made $300.00 a month.  And we married on that.  We bought our first car in 1940 and paid, it was a four-door Plymouth sedan, we paid $900.00 for it.  I sold that car for $300.00 so we got a lot of good wear out of it.


There is kind of a funny tale along with the car.  We couldnít get tires, this was during the war, World War II, and Doug wrote from overseas to ďsell it for what you can get.Ē  So I sold it to a Black man who ran a honky-tonk down on Caney.  Storms have always played a part, somehow, in my life.  He came when we were getting ready to leave town, this was after Ď42 and after Ď42 we left town when we heard a storm was coming.  So we were packing, getting ready to leave town and he came with $300.00 in nickels and dimes.  Have you ever tried to carry $300.00 of nickels and dimes?  I had to sit there and count it and then I put it in a suitcase and carried it to Bay City and carried it in the bank in that suitcase to deposit $300.00 in nickels and dimes.  I donít think he ever banked his money he just robbed his boxes, you know juke boxes, and thatís what he brought me. 


Of course, I remember when the Bay was right at the foot of this, we called it Gulf Street, itís called, itís named  Matagorda Street now.  And as children we were able to crab and to swim and to play, to go floundering, sail our sail boats, right at the foot of the street in Matagorda.  The only way to the beach was by boat across the Bay and then you walked across to the Gulf if you wanted to go to the Gulf.  In my lifetime, the Colorado River by its constant deposit of silt and logs and trash and overflow has completely filled up Matagorda Bay right in front of Matagorda so solidly that the highway to the beach has been built.


The Colorado River did not flow naturally into the Gulf of Mexico.  My mother and I were the first two women to see the Colorado River flow into the Gulf of Mexico.  We were the only people who had a house on the beach at that time, we had a house on the, it would be called the west side now, on Zipprianís Bayou.  That must have been where the Zipprianís lived in the settlement.  We sat on the mounds and watched the last dipper full of sand being dredged into the Gulf of Mexico and saw the river flow into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. 


The beach has lost much of its charm for Matagordians since the Bay filled in.  Now the road is there and opened it up to the hoards of people that pour into the beach.  I guess it sounds very, very selfish but it just seems to us that our beautiful private playground has been opened up to aliens.  Itís been invaded by aliens and we seldom go to the beach anymore unless we can go on the west side.  We never go on weekends. 


Matagorda has lost some of the charm that it used to have.  Matagorda was a resort town, it was a town that had a lot of culture in it.  It had a young ladies school here, the oldest churches in the county, it had just a lot of things that made it a little bit different from some of the other towns and I suppose the people were one thing.  But itís just lost, I guess the times,  environment, industry all of these things have affected Ėprogress I suppose, if you want to call it, in a way itís good, but in a way it does take some of the old charm of an old place.  


This summer I was talking to one of my cousins who wants desperately to retire in Matagorda because she was born in Matagorda.   She remembers such good days coming back to grandmaís , that sort of thing.  And I said, ďBut Barbara,  Matagorda is not what it used to be.Ē  And she said, ďWell you just show me one place that is and that is where I want to go.Ē


Oral History Tape TC102ĖGeraldyne (Ryman) Havard

Courtesy of Matagorda County Museum



Copyright 2008 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Jul. 28, 2008
Jul. 28, 2008