Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you enjoy looking Out My Kitchen Window. This blog is to provide interesting and informative history, genealogy and photography about our ancestors. I may also include anything else I see along the way!
I am the great-great granddaughter of Joshua D. Brown the first settler and founder of Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas in 1856. My husband’s great grandfather was William Jackson Montgomery Wilkinson originally from Mississippi and pioneer to Menard County, Texas in late 1860′s.
I welcome your comments and feedback. You may send them to email@example.com. Thanks for stopping by for a while. You might enjoy visiting our Facebook Wilkinson Ranch page or our website http://wilkinsonranch.com.
West Texas Military Academy, San Antonio, Texas – photo taken sometime before 1918, when Alexander Daniel “Dan” Auld left for war in May. Founded as West Texas School for Boys and popularly nicknamed ‘West Point on the Rio Grande’ and in 1926 became Texas Military Institute.
From the Wilkinson Ranch collection
The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was such a big part of my growing up since my daddy, Milroy Powell first started in 1950 as the Horse Show Superintendent and his career ended the spring of 1985. Every year he spent a big part working on the preparation and coordination of the annual event which was held two weeks every February. He loved the people, the events and the horses which were a part of life. He was so hurt and devastated when Mary Nan West decided to “let him go” after 35 years of dedication and love of his job. The importance of his knowledge and abilities to run the show were ignored! This certainly was not how he envisioned his retirement. I was so proud of him and his work and miss him every day. Guy Milroy Powell went to heaven while waiting for a heart transplant on Easter weekend April 7, 1991. We lost him too young!!
This is the San Antonio Light article from December 15, 1985.
San Antonio Light
December 15, 1985
’86 Rodeo to Double Funds for Scholars
Officers of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo hope to double scholarship money for young prize winners at the 1986 show by cutting back on paid employees and using more volunteers to staff the annual event.
The 37th Stock Show & Rodeo is scheduled to open Feb 7 at Freeman Coliseum.
The purpose of the event, said Mary Nan West, president and chairman of the board of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition Inc., is “to help youth in agricultural education. That’s why we’re here.”
Even though the livestock show is the part of the event that is of greatest importance to people involved in agriculture, it doesn’t make enough money to support itself, West said. So the rodeo and entertainment part of the show supports the livestock part and even allows the exposition to show a profit, she said. “The rodeo we have is merely to raise funds, to make money to operate.” West said.
A great deal of the money collected through donations, fundraisers, souvenir sales, commercial exhibits and other means goes into a scholarship fund for FFA and 4-H students deserving of financial assistance in the academic study of agriculture. In 1984, 15 scholarships of $6,000 each were awarded ad 30 were awarded in 1985. West hopes to double that figure in 1986.
The primary way West plans to get the stock show lean enough to be able to double the scholarships is through the use of a nearly all-volunteer staff. Of the hundreds of workers contributing to the Stock Show & rodeo, only six are full-time, year-round staff, she said. When the show actually begins, other full-timers will be taken on just for the term of the ten-day show.
“The volunteers make this show,” West said. “Without the volunteers we couldn’t afford to run this show. We’ve got some really hard-working people here.”
The Livestock Exposition is adding two new events to its horse show program: the Arabian horse show and the Donkey & Mule Show. While putting on the added events, the exposition is “doing something this year we’ve never done before. It was always handled by a paid employee,” West said. But “the officials decided that we had some very talented volunteers who could put on the horse show at not cost to the show.”
Longtime Horse Show Superintendent Milroy Powell, with the Stock Show since its inception in 1950, is the “paid employee” who lost his job when the payroll was thinned down.
“I did 35 of ‘em,” Powell, 58, reminisced, speaking of his role as assistant superintendent and, later, superintendent of the horse show. “We built it up too, if not the best, one of the best.”
He said he’s been told several times over the years by rodeo contestants that the San Antonio show was “the best calf-roping in the world. You get a fair shake.”
“I’ve made a lot of friends out there,” said Powell, who worked for several exposition administrators. “Mr. Joe Freeman was chairman of the board forever until he died, and then Mr. Harry (Freeman), his brother, took over.” Powell worked under West from the time she took over in mid-1984 until the spring of 1985.
Powell has observed that trends in the Stock Show parallel trends in the marketplace. He says both are going towards animals with “rail-thin carcasses,” although Powell himself prefers a little fat on his animals.
The land the coliseum is on was deeded by the city of San Antonio to Bexar County in 1948 with the restriction that it be used for agricultural expositions. Shortly thereafter, a group of local businessmen including Joe and Harry Freeman, Perry Shankle, Fred Shield and Perry Kallison decided to build a coliseum, Powell recalled. The first Stock Show was held in 1950.
We are so very blessed living in the Texas Hill Country on the Edwards Plateau!! The beauty is a daily reminder of the gifts we receive from our maker.
On Sunday, April 19 this tiny little male Vermillion Flycatcher landed outside my window. I was so thrilled to get his picture!!
On April 15, 2015 this was our lovely evening sunset. You could almost hear a hiss when the sun finally set.
Our pastures in Menard/Kimble Counties and Real County have been so striking with the Claret cup cactus. The color is so beautiful!
We came across this sweet unusual White Mountain Laurel bush in Real County. The blooms are so fragrant and sweet it is overwhelming!
And we are so proud to be growing the food that you eat, too!!
I am so grateful you read my post and hope you enjoyed the beauty!!
My Daddy, Milroy Powell won the first calf scramble at the Houston Rodeo in 1942. In 1931, the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition was founded and the first show was held at the Sam Houston Hall. In 1938, the show was moved to Sam Houston Coliseum. In 1942, the first star entertainer was Gene Autry, “the Singing Cowboy”; and the calf scramble event was added to the Show’s rodeo and is still a popular event during nightly between major events in the rodeo.
Facts about the Rodeo: When the calf scramble was added to the rodeo in 1942, each student who caught a calf received a purchase certificate or hard-luck award for $55. Today, the certificates are worth $1,000 donated by an individual or company to buy a heifer. More than $7 million has been awarded since the calf scramble first began.
This is a photo from the website rodeohouston.com and could possibly be Milroy Powell in 1942.
I just think it is amazing!! Seventy three years ago, my Daddy would have been 15 years old and was chasing a calf and won the Houston Show!!
This account of the Destruction of the San Saba Mission is from the Frontier Times January 1925 issue. You can visit the Presidio de San Saba in 2015.
Personal letters written in Spanish, dating back 175 years, and containing interesting historical information in regard to the establishment of the San Saba Mission in Texas were recently brought to light in Mexico City by Dr. Lota Mae Spell, assistant librarian of the Garcia collection of books and manuscripts of the University of Texas. She obtained copies of the letters and is now translating them into English. They give an account of the early hardships encountered by the priests when the San Saba Mission on the San Saba River near the present town of Menard, was founded. They also tell in a personal way the reactions of the founder, Father de Terreros, and give an insight on the early Spanish life among the Indians.
It is expected that when the work is completely translated much valuable information will be added to the history of this early Texas mission.
The letters were discovered by Mrs. Spell last summer while she was in Mexico City. She met the Marquis of San Francisco, a direct descendant of Pedro de Terreros, the financier of the enterprise, and he graciously consented to allow her access to the archives of the family.
While hunting through this great mass of manuscripts, Mrs. Spell found these letters and obtained copies of them for the University. She also obtained a picture of an old oil painting now in the possession of the marquis, which portrays the massacre of the San Saba Mission.
According to the material unearthed from these letters, the money for the founding of the mission was furnished by Don Pedro Romeo de Terreros, Count of Regla, and the founder was Father Fray Giraldo de Terreros, a cousin of the financier. The letters were written by Father Father Fray Giraldo de Terreros to the Count of Regla.
The San Saba Mission was founded in 1756 when Father de Terreros was granted a charter by Don Barrios, then viceroy of Texas and Coahuila districts. The purpose was to Christianize the Indians and the money for the first three years expenses was to be furnished by the Count of Regla. A garrison of soldiers was sent to protect the expedition, but on account of a misunderstanding between the priests and the soldiers the fort was built across the San Saba river three miles from the mission.
Work was finished on the mission by the later part of the year. Ground was cleared for crops, a chapel and vestry was built, and the priests’ quarters and stables were completed. From the first the priests had difficulty with the Apaches and they did not desire to embrace the Christian religion. In his letters to his cousin, Father de Terreros laments this fact and speaks of the treachery and general shiftlessness of the Indians.
When spring came there were few converts. Rumors were heard of the Comanches, the northern neighbors of the Apaches being on the warpath and the Apache neophytes prophesied that their enemies would soon be in the San Saba county.
Little attention was given to these rumors by the priests, although the soldiers became alarmed and tried to force the priests to seek the protection of their garrison. This the priests refused to do and in one of his letters, Father de Terreros speaks of the idle fears of the captain.
But the padre’s ignorance of Indian treachery cost him his life. In about two weeks the little mission was awakened by the cry of “Indians “, and rushing to the windows, the priests were able to perceive the whole plain covered with strange Indians, gaily bedecked in war paint and ready for battle.
Father de Terreros attempted to appease their chief with gifts of tobacco and beads, but according to the old accounts, he was shot down in cold blood. A general massacre of the whole mission then followed and only one survivor lived to carry the news of the massacre to the garrison across the river.
The Indians pillaged and burned the buildings, drove off the stock and mutilated the dead bodies of the priests.
In his letters to his cousin, the martyr, Father de Terreros, seemed to forecast the tragic end of the mission as he stated in his last letter that the Indians were not desirous of Christianity but were savage heathen.
Our Menard County area of Texas is in the heart of Texas history. You don’t have to go far to find great stories and one place is in the Frontier Times magazine. In the September 1954 issue there are two different stories written by John Warren Hunter. The first was originally published in 1906 and is titled Nine Years With the Indians, which is about Herman Lehmann and his brother Willie’s capture by Indians from their family home in Loyal Valley, Texas in 1869.
The second story was told to Mr. Hunter in 1907, which also coincides with the accounts from Captain Lamb Sieker (Lamartine “Lamb” Pemberton Sieker), Ed Sieker (Edward Armon Sieker Jr.), and Captain Dan Roberts as told to John Warren Hunter.
Thomas P. Gillespie, member of Captain Dan Roberts’ company of Rangers,
gives the following account of the fight on the Concho Plains west of
Fort Concho, in which Herman Lehmann narrowly escaped capture by the Rangers:
In August, 1875, while scouting in the upper San Saba valley,
we discovered an Indian trail on Scalp Creek, a tributary of the
San Saba in Menard county. The trail was comparatively fresh,
and indications were that it had been made by a band of twelve
or fifteen Indians with a bunch of forty of fifty head of horses.
Our command consisted of Captain Roberts, Mike Lynch, Jim
Trout, Jim Hawkins, Ed Sieker, Jim Gillett, Andy Wilson, Henry
Matamore, myself and one or two others whose names I have
forgotten, but I think those mentioned were all that was present
on this chase. Our horses were in bad condition for a long pursuit,
but there was no alternative and we began the chase without delay.
The trail led out across the head of Dry and Rocky
Creeks in to the north part of Menard county and on in the
direction of Kickapoo Springs, crossing the Ft. McKavett and Ft.
Concho road about nine miles south of Kickapoo Springs. It was
nearly night when we reached this road and our horses being
very much jaded and suffering for water, we left the trail and
went to the springs where we remained over night. As many of
our horses had flung their shoes and were lame in consequence
we went to a ranch the next morning and reshod our stock, after
which we resumed the pursuit. Some twelve or fifteen miles
above the head of the South Concho we again came upon the
trail and followed it to the top of a mountain where the Indians
had halted and had removed the shoes from their stolen horses.
Just why they should want to pull the shoes from their stock has
always been a mystery. Several theories have been advanced by
the rangers and frontiersmen but none hold good. These horse
shoes were left where they had been pulled off and in addition
the Indians had torn two long strips from a blanket and had
placed these strips in the form of a cross on the ground, and in
this condition we found them. It was about 2 p.m. when we discovered
this sign on the mountain, the weather was dreadfully
hot, but we took up the trail and pushed on as fast as our jaded
horses could carry us. We knew from those signs so familiar
to a ranger that the Indians could not be far away and that they
were moving leisurely along and we hoped to overhaul them
before nightfall. We followed the trail, which led in a southwest
course, until we came out on the plains after which the trail
led due west. About half an hour by sun we came to a pond
where the Indians had watered their stock. The water in the
horses’ tracks was yet muddy and the grass on the margin where
the horses had come out was still wet, showing that we were
close at their heels. It being nearly night Captain Roberts said
we had better cook supper here and give our horses a brief rest,
which we proceeded to do, and after supper we remounted and
followed the trail as long as we could see. It becoming too dark
to distinguish the trail we lay by until dawn, giving our horses
a good rest which they sorely needed. By the time it was light
enough to see we were in the saddle and expecting every minute
to come in sight of the enemy. We rode at a moderately brisk
gait until 7 o’clock, when Captain Roberts suddenly halted and
said: “Boys I believe I see them. “Far ahead in the plain we could
see a few dark objects but not sufficiently to tell whether they
were horsemen or other objects. Unslinging his field glass, Roberts
got a good view of them and said: “Boys, there they are.
They are riding slowly. They have not discovered us yet. Now
you fellows close up behind me in single file. The sun is at our
backs and by following my directions we can get close in on
them before they see us.”
We were all keen for the fight and the captain’s orders were
obeyed to a letter. We rode in the manner indicated and were
within 600 yards of the Indians before they discovered us. There
were eleven of them and as to numbers we were about equally
matched. Besides the eleven, there were two riding along at a
considerable distance to the left and these two were the first
to see us and gave the alarm. We broke rank and raised the
yell—every man for himself, making full tilt for the savages. The
Indians began rounding up the herd and mounting fresh horses
and when we got near enough to do execution they scattered
and each sought safety in tall running. However; when we got
in about 150 yards of them they rallied on a small elevation and
opened fire on us. This was evidently for the purpose of giving
some of their numbers time to catch and mount fresh horses.
We killed three or four horses and probably killed or wounded
an Indian or two before this crowd broke and ran. We carried
Winchesters and needle guns and every man in the company
was a crack shot. A running fight followed and our men singly
or in pairs, selected their game and put in after them. The Indians
scattered in pairs and when our men killed a horse, the
rider would hop up behind his comrade and continue the flight.
After a run of 500 or 600 yards they brought down one of the
horses and as quick as a flash the Indian was up behind his
mate and the race continued until the horse ridden by the two
Indians began to lose his wind and began to circle a maneuver
often practiced by the Indians when cornered under like circumstances.
The boys had fired at least a dozen shots at these two Indians
during this run, but on account of their shields had failed to
bring them down. Seeing this circling ruse, Jim Gillett dismounted
and with his needle gun took deliberate aim and broke the horse’s
neck and then sprang back into his saddle
and dashed forward alongside with Ed Sieker. When the horse
fell, the Indian mounted on behind hit the ground a-running, still
holding the shield over his back, while the horse in his fall had
pinned the other Indian to the ground. The boys dashed up to
the fallen horse and Jim Gillett threw his pistol on the Indian
lying pinned under the horse, and was in the act of shooting
him when Ed Sieker shouted: “Don’t shoot him! Don’t you see
that he is a white boy?” Gillett lowered his pistol and a bare
glance showed that the boy was closely held by the body of the
horse and, even if foot loose, he could not escape, they hurried
on after the fleeing Indian whom they overtook and killed after
a race of about 300 yards. After having killed this Indian they
tarried a short while to get his scalp and to gather up his bow,
quiver, shield and other accoutrements worth carrying away as
trophies and when they returned to where they had left the
boy under the dead horse, he was gone! At this they were
puzzled beyond expression. The scene of the fight and the chase
was an open plain with nothing to obstruct the view for miles
and from the moment the horse was killed until their return to
the spot they had been in full view of the surroundings and the
boy could not have gotten away without their having seen him
start. There were a few scattered mesquites but none large
enough to offer concealment. The grass was green and seven or
eight inches high and into this he must have crawled off and
secreted himself. The search began and in a short time the entire
company came up and joined in the search. Every square rod
for a mile around was gone over and every bush and tuft of
grass was examined but no boy was found and we gave up the
search as hopeless and went away completely mystified as to
what became of him.
Some years later I learned that this boy was the captive,
Herman Lehmann, who when a child, was stolen from his
parents in Mason county and kept nine years, during which time
he became thoroughly Indianized, joined his adopted people in
their wars and horse stealing raids, but at length was restored
to his mother and became in the course of time, a good citizen.
In this fight we captured thirty head of horses which we drove
to Mason county and delivered to their owners. At the first
onset, we crowded the Indians so close that in mounting fresh
horses they had to abandon their saddles which we captured, but
being old and worthless we cast them aside.
Here are a few of historical Menardville, Menard County, Texas photos from different collections. I love the punctuation by the sign painters. Hope you enjoy!
1800′s D. G. Benchoff (Post Office) Saddlery and General Merchandise, Menardville, Menard County, Texas by N. H. Rose
1800′s Iron Clad Saloon, Menardville, Menard County, Texas
Late 1800′s Murchison and Brothers Dry Good & Groceries
1886 Menard County Courthouse designed by Oscar Ruffini 1885-1886, photo by Baker
1899 Sacred Heart Catholic Church built in Menard, Menardville, Texas. (God Bless Texas even if the flag is upside down!)
Thank you for visiting my blog and would love to hear from you.
We have a treasure in Menard County! We are located in the Texas Hill Country along the Texas Fort Trails and in our little San Saba river valley, over 257 years ago, the northern-most and largest and most advanced Spanish Colonial fortification was built.
The Presidio de San Saba (originally called Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas), was established in April 1757 by a Spanish force led by Captain Don Diego Ortiz Parilla with the combined efforts of the Spanish soldiers, priests, and Apache Indian labor. The fort was established to protect Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba (four miles down the San Saba River) which was also built in 1757. The mission was destroyed by over 2,000 Comanche, Caddo, Wichita, and other Indians on March 16, 1758. The Presidio only lasted another decade and a half, abandoned by decree of the Viceroy of New Spain in 1772.
This Menard County historical treasure has been honored as a Registered Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) in 1971; National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1972, and State Archeological Landmark (SAL) in 1981.
The presidio and its accompanying mission were the first place that Europeans in Texas came into conflict with the Comanche Indians and found that Plains Indians, mounted on Spanish horses and armed with French guns, constituted a fighting force superior to that of the Spanish colonials. The course of history was changed at the Mission and Presidio; eventually, the Spanish withdrew from the frontier creating other lines of defense along the Rio Grande.
In 1937, as part of the Texas Centennial Commission our little community partially reconstructed the northwest bastion area of the presidio complex and received a Texas Centennial marker honoring its history. My father-in-law, F. L. Wilkinson took the below two photos when the work was completed in 1937. He was an excellent photographer.
The below was stated on the State of Texas Centennial paperwork for the Presidio.
Real Presidio de San Saba was originally established on the San Gabriel as the Presidio de San Francisco Xavier in 1751. Moved to a site one mile northwest of Menard in 1757 as a protection to Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba, it was known as Presidio de San Luis de las Amarillas until March 1761, when its name was changed to Real Presidio de San Saba. An allocation of $11,800 supplemented by a contribution of $500 by Menard County was used to acquire the twenty-five acre site and to restore the stone building as it was in 1761. The plans were drawn by F. L. Napier, architect. The building is maintained by the county as a museum.
The Texas historical marker states:
REAL PRESIDIO DE SAN SABA
ORIGINALLY ESTABLISHED ON THE SAN GABRIEL RIVER AS THE PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO XAVIER IN 1751
MOVED TO THE PRESENT SITE IN 1757 AS A PROTECTION
TO THE MISSION SANTA CRUZ DE SAN SABA
KNOWN AS THE PRESIDIO DE SAN LUIS DE LAS AMARILLAS
AFTER MARCH 1761 THE NAME WAS
REAL PRESIDIO DE SAN SABA
THE STONE BUILDING WAS COMPLETED IN 1761
You can read about the celebration at my blog link:
Another good compilation of our history is in the Texas Almanac. It is a wonderful article. Here is my blog post.
Several archaeological digs have been conducted at this historic site and it has undergone significant restoration work. The site sits on almost 25 acres along the San Saba River and includes a covered pavilion with restroom facilities.
Today, we are very fortunate through support of Menard County, the Presidio de San Saba Restoration Corporation and the Texas Historical Commission, Phase I of a management plan was completed in 2011. Now we are ready for Phase II which includes a Learning and Visitor’s Center.
Through educational and diverse historical narrative which is suited to a wide audience we are able to provide a very important benefit to our community. We welcome you to come visit this wonderful site and see what a small group of unpaid volunteers can do with hard work and determination.
Heritage tourism is a big part of Menard County. Plan a trip to see the newly renovated Presidio and keep in touch on Facebook/Presidio-de-San-Saba or website http://www.presidiodesansaba.com/. Donations to support the preservation and development of Presidio de San Sabá are always welcome. You can contact the Presidio de San Saba Restoration Corporation at P.O. Box 1592, Menard, Texas 76859. The corporation has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
My father-in-law Francis Lamar Wilkinson enlisted in the Navy 11 February 1942 and separated 15 November 1945. He was a Photographer’s Mate First Class and was stationed in Hawaii during the war as an aerial photographer. Here are five photos from his collection given to him by a fellow photographer taken during the Japanese surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945; which was performed in Tokyo Bay, Japan, aboard the battleship USS Missouri. Here are the photos and for reference are the ones from the Navy or National archives.
We thank all the veterans for their service!
UPDATE: Here is a YouTube of the event; really great to see! https://youtu.be/4EqRTWMVqMY
After finishing his introductory statement General MacArthur directed the representatives of Japan to sign the two Instruments of Surrender, one each for the Allied and Japanese governments. At 9:04 AM, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed, followed two minutes later by General Umezu. General MacArthur then led the Allied delegations in signing, first Fleet Admiral Nimitz as United States Representative, then the representatives of China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, France, The Netherlands and New Zealand. All signatures were in place by 9:22. Following a few brief remarks by MacArthur, the ceremonies concluded at 9:25.
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri. Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, watches from the opposite side of the table. Foreign Minister representative Toshikazu Kase is assisting Mr. Shigemitsu.
You can see another view of this photo at the Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #SC 213700 from the Army Signal Corps at this link: http://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/numerical-list-of-images/nara-series/sc-series/SC-200000/SC-213700.html
General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945.
Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signs the Instrument of Surrender, as Supreme Allied Commander, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Behind him are Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S. Army, and Lieutenant General Sir Arthur E. Percival, British Army, both of whom had just been released from Japanese prison camps.
Another one solved!! This is one of my unidentified photos in my glass negative collection I have previously posted. I have had so many people help me with the photos and locations and appreciate all the help! Unfortunately the photographer is still unknown but thanks to J. T. Koenig, President of the Rosenberg Family Association this is his ancestor’s house built in the King William Historic District in San Antonio, Texas.
This is the Axel Meerscheidt home. Axel was the son of Arthur Meerscheidt and Amanda Caroline von Rosenberg of Fayette County Texas and was a large part of the King William Historic District in San Antonio, Texas. You can see more about this family at the links:
Below is the photo he shared with me.
Here is what I found on an Internet search. This is from the King William Association. I am so happy to find all this history!!
I bought the Stieren House at 503 East Guenther Street four years ago. Upon moving in, I read Mary V. Burkholder’s book, Down the Acequia Madre, and I learned many historical facts about the house. It was built in 1891 by Carl Stieren, who lived here with his wife Hedwig. Carl was a lumberman and entered into business with the Meerscheidt brothers, Axel and Paul, who owned a large area spanning 33 acres, south and east of South Alamo Street. Together they sold lots and built houses in the area, developing the Meerscheidt River Subdivision where my house stands today.
As a newcomer to the King William Historic District, I became enthralled by the history of our neighborhood and was floored when I received an intriguing letter in the mail. The letter began, ”I am a relative of Axel (Alexander) Meerscheidt.”
The letter was from Neale Rabensburg of La Grange, Texas, and it contained an old photograph (above) of what he thought might be my house. The picture was taken in the 1890′s and was published in The Story of My Life, an autobiography by Erna Meerscheidt, Axel’s daughter.
While visiting San Antonio and researching his family history, Mr. Rabensburg saw my house and thought he might have found his ancestor’s homestead – the house Axel Meerscheidt built for his family. In her book, Erna notes that their home backed up to the river and that she was born in the master bedroom of the house on July 24, 1893.
I immediately responded to Neale’s letter and told him what I knew about the Stieren family living here, and I referred him to Burkholder’s book. He was one step ahead of me as he had just finished reading the book’s description of my house. He was surprised to read that Hedwig Stieren had lived here. He told me that Erna Meerscheidt’s mother, Olga Meerscheidt, was Hedwig Stieren’s older sister! The story took a new twist. Carl Stieren and Axel Meerscheidt were brothers-in-law! Could they have all lived in the same house?
The fact that my address was different was bothersome but Mr. Rabensburg and I thought that the similarity between the houses merited further research. In the 1894 City Directory of San Antonio, Mr. Rabensburg had found that Axel Meerscheidt lived at 515 East Guenther. I quickly realized that 515 East Guenther no longer exists! I took Neale’s photograph across the street to my neighbor, the savvy architect Charles Schubert who knew at first glance that the house in the photograph was not my house.
My curiosity led me to the San Antonio Conservation Society Library. Conservation Society volunteer Frederica Kushner was very helpful and soon found the 1952 Sanborn Fire Insurance map that cracked the case.
The Axel Meerscheidt house was next door to mine where the condominiums are today. The estate was huge and labeled with two addresses; 515 East Guenther and 101 Crofton. Unlike the houses surrounding it on the map, the Meerscheidt house was barely visible because of an attempt by a 1950′s cartographer to cover it with glue and paper. The attempt was proof that the house was there in 1952 when the map was printed but gone by 1957 when the map was amended. Further research in the city directories confirmed that the house met its demise in 1957. We also came across a 1942 newspaper article reporting a small fire at 101 Crofton which had apparently become the Convent of the Sisters of Guadalupe! More research will have to be done to find out exactly what happened to the house.
I told Mr. Rabensburg, “At least we have a photo of the house and we know exactly where it stood. It makes perfect sense that Axel Meerscheidt would have had the largest estate and the grandest house in the area! He certainly must have been a leader in the community!”
Mr. Rabensburg sent me a newspaper article printed in 1936 that confirmed my beliefs. The San Antonio Express article meticulously recounts a visit by President Benjamin Harrison in 1891. It was the first time a President of the United States had ever visited San Antonio. The city was in a tizzy. The very first Battle of Flowers Parade was planned to honor the President. Rain forced a cancellation of the parade and moved the reception indoors to the Grand Opera House (site of today’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not). Every seat in the Opera House was filled to the rafters.
The article detailed the seating arrangement at the event: “the President occupied the center seat of the front row. On his right sat in order, Postmaster General John Wannamaker and Secretary of Agriculture Jeremiah McLain Rusk and on the President’s left sat Mayor Bryan Callaghan and Axel Meerscheidt, the latter representing the commercial bodies of the city.”
The Meerscheidt Homestead is a piece of the San Antonio puzzle that we did not know was missing. Thanks to Neale Rabensburg, our history is now a bit more complete.
- Belinda Valera Molina
More about the Meerscheidt Family
In last month’s newsletter, Belinda Molina wrote about the Axel Meerscheidt house that once stood next door to her house on E. Guenther. Sadly, the Meerscheidt house burned in the 1950′s. Belinda has communicated with Neale Rabensburg, a descendent of the Meerscheidt family, who has generously shared excerpts from the memoir of Erna Meerscheidt. Erna, daughter of Axel and Olga Meerscheidt, grew up in the house.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE
By Erna Meerscheidt Weeks Bouillon
“……..but after my grandfather’s death [Dr. O. Remer of New Braunfels], grandmother [Franciska Schleier] moved to San Antonio where several of her children had settled. My father [Axel Meerscheidt] had a darling little house built for my grandmother across the street from this large home in the Meerscheidt Addition [515 E. Guenther, later changed to 101 Crofton]. Our home was really a mansion, built in red brick with white rock, around curved windows, and the curved entrance door. It had a marble foyer and beautiful, stained glass windows. The mansion has now been turned into a chapel by the Catholics. It was of French architecture, located in an exclusive residential district named after my father, the Meerscheidt Addition.
”You see, my father had studied architecture at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He had been sent from Texas, where the schools were very poor at the time, to live with his Aunt Emma Koerber and his Uncle Karl, an attorney. Their home was in the Black Forest in Germany, Bad Harzburg. He was around thirteen or fourteen years old when he went over [to Germany from Texas] and remained about ten years. He did not practice as an architect in San Antonio but used his knowledge of it by opening up exclusive residential districts and having a beautiful house or two built in each to encourage others to buy property and settle in these districts. He did very well, and traveled to Europe with his whole family every few years.
“In the evenings in the summer when it was so very hot, we children were allowed to stay up late. It would have been impossible to sleep anyway. With mother and father, we would sit on the upstairs long gallery and sing. The southern skies on a warm night were very dark with many stars twinkling like lightning bugs. Father often went down to the little corner beer parlor two blocks away and brought back a little pail of beer. Mother and father would each have a large glass of beer so it was real cozy. I don’t remember that we children had anything to drink, although we might have been given lemonade.
“The property of the estate ran down to the river about one hundred feet back. Large pecan trees grew in the back. There was a steep drop to the river. We had a heavy rope with a huge knot at the end on which we took turns sitting. The other children would run way back, give a push and out we would swing over the river’s bank. This was fun, and we could hardly wait for our turn.
“We had a great deal of help—in the house and yard—and German cooks my father imported from Germany when on a trip there. Dressmakers also came into our home in those days since clothes were made at home and not in factories as now.
“I wore white dresses until I was four or five years old. The ironing woman would hang rows and rows of beautifully ironed frocks and petticoats and panties on lines in the ‘ironing kitchen’ as it was called. It was a beautiful sight to behold. It was a kitchen because there was a stove to heat the irons—no electric irons in those days.
“We went to Germany when I was five years old, then the next summer we traveled through many parts of Europe bringing to me additional unforgettable memories. I shall never forget sitting with my sister Emita and a tutor, a young, energetic teacher, on three wrought iron chairs with a wrought iron table very near the Radau River’s edge, studying arithmetic, Bible study, German reading and the writing of German script.
“When we returned to my Aunt Emma’s home after the following summer’s travel to say good-bye to her, the tutor asked my father to take him back to San Antonio. He offered to pay all of his own expenses and father took him.
“Not long after we returned to San Antonio, my father heard at the German social club he belonged to that the Menger Hotel on the San Antonio River needed a greeter to meet all travelers. The tutor applied, got the position, and did so well that he soon became the manager of the social activities of the hotel. He made many new plans such as serving meals outside along the river bank at noon and in the evenings. At night the Japanese lanterns, which he instigated, lit the river bank. This became a tradition continuing to this day all along the San Antonio River as it winds through the city.”