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The Presidio de San Saba in Menard County, Texas

2014 September 3

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:










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 Donations to support the preservation and development of Presidio de San Saba 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.


Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945

2014 September 2
by Jan Wilkinson

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!

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:

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.

King William Historic District – Meerscheidt Homestead

2014 September 1

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!!

The Meerscheidt Homestead: Gone and Almost Forgotten

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 descendant 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.


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.”

Menardville: The Pride of Summerland

2014 August 20

There was a pamphlet written and printed by John W. Hunter, the publisher of the Menard County Enterprise in 1905 that names Menardville – Summerland.  The below pages are from the Don Wilkinson collection and are a Special Edition about our little valley town and are possibly written by Mr. Hunter. These could be from multiple publications and at different times and dates but what a great description of the people and town in our part of Central Texas in the Edwards Plateau.



Unidentified Gentlemen at Photo Studio in San Antonio

2014 August 6
by Jan Wilkinson

This is another unidentified glass-plate negative photo from the late 1800’s. The seated gentleman is the same man in the Nic Tengg blog post.

I am still trying to identify the photographer.  Great photo!

Nic Tengg and San Antonio, Texas

2014 August 5
by Jan Wilkinson

Nic Tengg started his business in San Antonio in 1874.  Here is one of my glass-plate negative photos and you can see a safe behind the stand-up desk with the name Nic Tengg

Wonder who took this photo, when and where this is located?  Could any of these men be one of the five sons of Nic Tengg?

Here is an 1895 map of San Antonio made by Nic Tengg showing his address as 220 West Commerce Street, San Antonio, Texas.

You can click the map and go to a larger photo.

I found the two below photos on Flickr and the invoices for Nic Tengg with 218 West Commerce Street, San Antonio, Texas.

In my research for the date of my glass-plate negative photo of the Alamo; ( it shows that the named business; Nic Tengg was located for over a half century on the south side of West Commerce, just east of Oppenheimer Bank in what was originally called “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Julius Berends.  Nic bought this business in 1874.

Nic Tengg

Nicolaus Tengg was born in Austria on 6 December 1847, son of Eva Meyer and Thomas Tengg, both born in Austria. His family moved to San Antonio in 1852 by way of Indianola. He went to German-English school and then to St. Mary’s College. He worked for Julius Berends, a bookseller and stationer whose business was established in 1854. It was San Antonio’s first book store which he called “The Old Curiosity Shop”. Berends was very successful and his store was a gathering place for German intellectuals. Berends and his friends organized the Krankenkassen Verein, the Casino Society, and the German-English School, for which he served as director for 15 years. The building still stands today as a reminder of the high educational standards of those early German immigrants. It was built by Johann Kampmann.

In 1874, Berends returned to Germany and Nic bought his business and Nic Tengg’s bookstore became an institution in downtown San Antonio and remained a family enterprise throughout its ninety-year existence, eventually involving several of Nic Tengg’s sons. He was a bookseller, stationer and printer also map maker. The business was located on the same block for over a half century on the south side of West Commerce, just east of Oppenheimer Bank. At one time Nic served as Secretary of the old German-English school established by Berends and other members of the immigrant community. He was first secretary of San Antonio’s Turnverein.

On July 19, 1927, Nic Tengg , widower, died from a cold that developed into bronchitis at his home on 326 East Crockett Street.  He was buried on 21 July 1927, in a family plot in the City Cemetery No. 1, at the far west end. He married Louise Plumzer on 27 August 1866, she was a member of a German-immigrant family. They had 9 children, 5 sons and 4 daughters. Their eldest son was named Julius (1867-1966) in honor of Julius Berends. The Nic Tengg business was closed by the family in 1964.

Some of this information came from the personal files of Mary El-Beheri, Julius Berends’ biographer.

1903 UDB Hugo Schmeltzer Building Alamo San Antonio TX

Sold Date: 05/01/2009
Channel: Online Auction
Source: eBay
Category: Advertising

An undivided back card with a black and white view of Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo itself can be seen to the right. In the middle of the shot is the Hugo Schmeltzer Building, with the Post Office behind it. Nice details. The image is marked “7 Nic Tengg” in the lower right corner. There is no further publishing information. This card was sent from San Antonio to East Saint Louis, IL in 1903.

This is in my personal collection; postcard by Nic Tengg.


Paula Allen: Viewbook a keepsake of early San Antonio

Paula Allen  Paula Allen

Web Posted: 02/14/2010 12:00 CST

A photo of the San Antonio post office from a viewbook published by bookseller Nic Tengg in 1907.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NIC TENGG (MY NOTE: you can see this building in my blog post

I found a book of very sharp, clear photos of San Antonio in a shed behind my house with some of my parents’ belongings and wonder what it might be worth. The publisher is Nic Tengg; on the same page, it says Albertype, Brooklyn. The first page has a picture of the Alamo. The rest are photos of the (Spanish colonial) missions, courthouse, post office, Sunset Depot, San Pedro Park and other places around San Antonio, attached to the pages like in a scrapbook. There is an introduction that refers to San Antonio as “the largest and oldest city in Texas” and gives the population as 53,321 from the 1900 census. Can you find out anything about this book?Norbert Bustos

Known as souvenir viewbooks, albums like this were published from the late 19th through early 20th centuries. For tourists who didn’t have cameras, they provided an elegant alternative to carrying home a sheaf of postcards. The publisher of your book was Austrian-born local bookseller/stationer Nic Tengg (1847-1927), who also published postcards and maps, printed brochures and letterhead stationery, and sold other paper goods and books in his shop at 220 W. Commerce St.

Its printer was the Albertype Co., which operated from 1890 to 1952 in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a postcard and viewbook publishing company, says the introduction to a finding aid for a collection of photos held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Founded by Adolph and Herman L. Witteman as Witteman Bros., the company changed its name to emphasize its process “the technological innovation of the collotype or albertype to photomechanically reproduce images.” According to this document, Adolph Witteman and other photographers took photographs in cities and towns all over the United States, producing more than 25,000 collotypes of these images, which were “distributed across the United States in the form of postcards and viewbooks.”

Books of this kind “are sometimes rare, depending on the title,” says Ron Tyler, Ph.D., director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. “The (highest) value, of course, would be placed on books that are complete and in good condition.”

Your book, according to comparisons with similar volumes in local libraries, is one of many different versions Tengg published. The San Antonio Conservation Society has the 1905 edition, which does not include an introduction.

“Many of the pictures were the same, although not always in the same order,” says Beth Standifird, Conservation Society librarian, who examined your copy. “A few pictures differed in the angle or place from which they were taken, (but) the scrapbook-style format was the same.”

The Texana/Genealogy Room at the central San Antonio Public Library also has a copy, cataloged as “San Antonio,” by Nic Tengg, published in 1907 by Tengg. Texana Manager Frank Faulkner saw your copy and says it’s from the 1907 edition, which has the introduction you quote. Both your book and Texana’s have green paper covers, about the weight of construction paper; both fasten on the left side with a string threaded through holes punched in the paper.

“However, the ‘San Antonio’ (title) on a good copy is indented with white paint in the letters,” says Faulkner. The white coloring is missing from your copy, as are two of the 23 pictures.

At the DRT Library, archivist Caitlin Donnelly and librarian Martha Utterback would like to see your copy, which sounds similar to the “San Antonio Album,” an undated book in the library’s collection that seems to match your book in some respects. The sequence of photos in both books is similar, although the Album doesn’t have an introduction and has hard, red covers. Another book there, “Picturesque San Antonio Texas,” has paper covers like yours, but its photo of the post office is not labeled in the lower right-hand corner as yours is. Donnelly suggests you visit the library on the Alamo grounds to compare the two books and to pick up a copy of the DRT Library’s list of appraisers. This list does not constitute any endorsement by the DRT, but could help you get started on finding the value of your book.

You may also stop by the History Shop, 713 E. Houston St., where Jim Guimarin has handled San Antonio photo books at prices ranging from $25 to $400. “Normally, anything less than original makes it half or more (of the possible top value),” he says. At the time of this writing, a Washington, D.C., bookseller was offering a copy of “Picturesque San Antonio, Texas, Photo-Gravures,” published in 1904 by Tengg, with “original green wrappers (faded and soiled), ties lacking, spine very worn,” for $165 at Advanced Book Exchange,

E-mail questions to Paula Allen at history [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at


Menard County Texas created January 22, 1858

2014 July 25

Menard County and the town of Menard were given the name of a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, member of the Texas Congress, and founder of Galveston, Michel B. Menard (1805-1856) (research shows his middle name to be the family patronymic Brindamour after his grandfather Jean Baptiste Menard called Brindamour, but historians have published it as Branamour or Branaman). Colonel Menard never came to Menard and died in 1856 two years before the State Legislature honored him during the 7th Legislature on January 22, 1858. The county residents attempted to organize the county government June 25, 1866, but when the attempt failed the legislature placed Menard County under the jurisdiction of Mason County. So if I understand correctly, the first deed records of the county are located in Mason. Menard County residents finally elected their own officials in 1871. The county seat was originally named Menardville when the site was laid out in 1858. The town is located on the banks of the San Saba River.

You can read more about the forming of Menard County at the link at the Portal of Texas History, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 Volume 4:

In the west part of the county was Camp San Saba which was first established on March 14, 1852 and was abandoned in 1859 but regarrisoned in 1868, at that time named Fort McKavett in honor of Captain Henry McKavett of the 8th New York Infantry, who was killed in the Battle of Monterrey, September 21, 1846. The fort was abandoned June 30, 1883. Thankfully in 2014, you can visit in Menard County the Fort McKavett State Historical Site along with the Presidio de San Saba.

Here is an article from newspaper THE MENARD NEWS – Centennial Edition published November 11, 1971, as a Souvenir Keepsake Edition.

First Decade 1871 to 1881

Menard County was created by the 7th Legislature on January 22, 1858. Until that time the area now known as Menard County had been a portion of Bexar County. Official organization of the county was delayed until 1871, following a failure in 1866 of the citizens to gather the necessary votes for a permanent organization. Further attempts at county establishment were delayed until the close of the Civil War. In the meantime, the settlement of Menardville was considered to be the county seat. This small village was very near to the geographic center of the 900 square mile county. The State Legislature proclaimed that the new county be named Menard in honor of Col. Michel Branaman Menard, a man of extraordinary aid in the development of early Texas. He was best-known for laying out and helping to establish the city of Galveston, and for serving in the Texas government. He died in 1856, several years before the organization of Menard County. The fact that the Legislature so-honored him is a great tribute to his enduring courage and noble character.

May 22, 1871 was the date set for the meeting called to further plans for the organization of the infant county. Three justices of the peace were present, presiding justice Captain J. J. Callan, Thomas J. Reese, and William I. Vaughn. The fourth justice, George Paschal, did not attend this meeting. The first two official county appointments were made by the group, Willie Prescott as Clerk and Louis Wilson as Sheriff.

The order for Menardville to be the seat of justice was handed down on May 29, 1871. An ad valorem tax of one-sixth of one percent was affixed with a county road tax of one-sixteenth of one percent. The first road commissioner was William Tipton. The first courthouse was a picket house.

Pioneer life in early Menardville was hard. The settlers worked hard to provide their families with food, with homes, which were usually picket houses with dirt floors and no room to spare, and to protect them from Indian raids which continued until 1875, although the biggest attacks were in the time of 1869-70. These Indians raided every light of the moon, stealing horses and murdering anyone caught in their way. It is claimed that the soldiers at nearby Ft. McKavett in the western part of the county did little to protect the settler. It was necessary for the early pioneers to depend on the Texas Rangers in the area.

There was little opportunity for an active social life in the early days. Social activities included quilting bees, dances, croquet games, and horse racing at the Ranger Station. These events were few and far between, forcing the settlers to enjoy them all the more. One treat was watching the stage as it went through town, with seldom a stop longer than just to toss off the mailbag and grab the out-going bag. Travel was held to the minimum, considering it took four days to travel from Menardville to Austin.

One of the first hotels in the thriving little community was Deckers’ Hotel, where you could get a room and three meals for $1.00 a day. That hotel was located on San Saba Avenue in later-day Menard.

In spite of hardships and Indian perils, there were about 15 or 20 students in the school.

Officials during the first decade of organized government included:

Commissioners of Precinct 1 – J. J. Callan, P. H. Mires, Jno. T. Scott, E. S. Ellis, E. Vanderstucken, Commissioners of Precinct 2 – Thomas J. Keese, O. Striegler, Peter Robertson, Jno. Campbell, Commissioners of Precinct 3 – George Paschal, W. M. Holmes, Wm. Lehne, Jno. Flutsch, and Sam’l Wallich; Commissioners of Precinct 4 – W. J. Vaughan, Isaac Sellers, Jos. M. Jackson, F. M. Kitchens, W. J. Wilkinson and D. P. Key.

Chief Justices – Captain J. J. Callan, P. H. Mires, and Jno. T. Scott.

County Judges – Samuel Wallich and A. B. Wyatt.

Sheriffs and Tax Collectors – Louis Wilson, J. L. Howard, C. P. Nunley, J. W. Cart, W. C. Harter, J. N. Blakeley, J. H. Comstock, and H. W. Merrill.

District and County Clerks – Willie Prescott, John McNeese, Thomas Cunningham, C. M. Hubbell and R. P. Beddrow.

County Treasurers- Jno. Bradford, Richard Robertson, E. S. Ellis, Wm. J. Vaughan, and W. W. Lewis.

Tax Assessors – L. J. Decker and Jos. Layton.

County Attorneys –  C. C. Callan, Geo. W. Dexter, J. D. Hill, and Jno. Alex Smith.

Justices of Peace –  James Moorhaus and W. W. Lewis.

Postmasters – Lee C. Blake, when post office was established in 1868, John Bradford, Willie Prescott, John McNeese, John T. Scott, Ludwig Decker, and V. D. Stucken.

Col. Michel B. Menard, whose portrait appears in the courthouse, was born in Canada of French parentage in 1805, and came to Texas in 1833, after a number of years previously spent among the Shawnee Indians. He gladly cast his fortune with the struggling Texas colonists to break the yoke of Mexico.

Fitted by inclination and natural endowment, his great industry and capacity enabled him to render conspicuous service to the Texas Patriots in this great cause that had its happy termination in San Jacinto.

This picture is an enlargement from an old daguerreotype of Col. Menard, formerly owned by Col. Thomas F. McKinney of Galveston and Austin, whose close personal friend and business associated he was. The owners of this original, relative of Col. McKinney, have taken pleasure in cooperating with Judge J. M. Matthews so that people of Menard County could have this authentic likeness of one of the most heroic and outstanding characters of early Texas history and in whose honor the County and County seat have been named. Picture by Jordon Co, Austin, Texas.

You can also see another photo of Michel B. Menard, founder of the town and namesake of Menard County at the Galveston County Historical Museum.

You may go to the below link at findagrave and see the headstone and burial place of Col. Menard.

Dec. 5, 1805
La Prairie
Quebec, Canada
Sep. 2, 1856
Galveston County Texas, USA

Indian trader, entrepreneur, and founder of the Galveston City Company; namesake of Menard County, Texas. There is a historical marker honoring Michel B. Menard in Galveston, Galveston County, Texas at the Old Catholic Cemetery.

Michel B. Menard – Galveston, Galveston County, Texas
Directions: Old Catholic Cemetery, 4100 Avenue K (SE part of cemetery)
Marker #: 5167007529
Year Dedicated: 1994
Size, type: Grave Marker
Last reported condition: Good
Michel B. Menard – (December 5, 1805 – September 2, 1856) A native of Canada, Michel B. Menard came to Texas in 1829. He lived in Nacogdoches and Liberty before settling in Galveston in 1833. He was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, and later represented Galveston in the Congress of the Republic of Texas. As one of the founders of the Galveston City Company he was instrumental in the development of the island. Menard County was created in 1858 and named in his honor.
Decimal degrees: N 29.293904  W -94.812087
Degrees, minutes: N 29 17.634 W 094 48.725
UTM: Zone 15, Easting 323989, Northing 3241910

More about the sketch of life of Michel B. Menard is found at this link.

A historical report about the uncle of Michel B. Menard, Pierre Menard has the below information.

In the Edward G. Mason’s Early Chicago and Illinois – Chicago, 1890 (Chicago Historical Society’s Collection, vol. IV) it reads: Two of Pierre Menard’s brothers, Hypolite and Jean Francois, followed him to Illinois and settled at Kaskaskia. The former was a successful farmer, and the other a famous navigator of the Mississippi. Both led useful and honored lives, lived to an advanced age, and both rest near their brother Pierre in the old cemetery at Kaskaskia. A nephew, also, Michel Menard, having as well the family patronymic of Brindamour, who was born at LaPrairie, December 5, 1805, made his way to Illinois at the age of eighteen. For several years he was employed by his uncle Pierre in trading with Indians. He obtained great influence among them, and was elected chief of the Shawnees. It is said that he almost succeeded in uniting the tribes of the Northwest into one great nation, of which he would have been king. In 1833, Michel went to Texas, was a member of the convention which declared its independence, and of its congress. A league of land was granted to him, including most of the site of the City of Galveston, which he founded, and where he died in 1856. It is related that the Indians said of him, as of his uncle Pierre, whom in many respects he resembled, “Menard never deceived us.”

More can be read about Pierre Menard and the letters from Pierre Menard’s parents in Chicago Historical Society’s possession.


1875 Construction of Telegraph Line from San Antonio to Fort McKavett

2014 July 21
by Jan Wilkinson

I just came across a wonderful piece of information about the history of the telegraph here in Texas. Written in the history book in 1922 by J. Marvin Hunter, Pioneer History of Bandera County Seventy-five Years of Intrepid History on page 90, there is a one page story titled Furnished Telegraph Posts.

In 1875 the United States Government constructed a telegraph line from San Antonio to Fort Mason and Fort McKavett, and on to Fort Concho. George Hay and Charles Schmidtke of Bandera took the contract to furnish posts for the line from San Antonio to Fort McKavett, a distance of 175 miles.

They received ninety-eight cents each for the posts delivered along the route. Schmidtke and Hay employed crews of choppers and put them in the cedar brakes of Bandera, Kerr, Gillespie, Mason and Menard counties, paying these hands from twenty-five cents to seventy-five cents per post for cutting them. The firm supplied more than 12,000 posts, twenty feet long and better than two inches at the top. It required more than six months time to cut the poles and place them on the right-of-way, where soldiers with government teams erected them. Mr. Hay says they cleared over $3,000 on the contract, and were not obliged to give bond, as the government often required.

Previous to getting this contract Schmidtke and Hay had purchased a great many cattle on credit, drove them up the trail to Kansas, and lost money on them, and the government contract for posts helped to put them on their feet once more.


Andrew Jackson Harryman

2014 July 17
by Jan Wilkinson

My husband’s grandmother was Laura Forrest Harryman Bradford (1895-1988). Her parents were William Albert Harryman (1858-1944) and Margaret Bell Pate (1860-1955). W. A. Harryman’s father was Andrew Jackson Harryman.

Andrew Jackson Harryman was born 1 Mar 1834 in Cole Camp, Benton County, Missouri to Simpkin (Simkin) Harryman (1794-1853) and Elizabeth Nancy Proctor (1794-1874). Simpkin was the first born child of John Culport Harryman (1772-1853) and Mary Brown (1777-1853). John’s parents were David Harryman (1737-1840) and Maude Adams (1750-1797). Mary’s parents were Edward Brown (1734-1823) and Margaret Durbin (1736-1795) and she was the younger sister of Joshua Brown who is my 4th great grandfather. His grandson and my 2nd great grandfather was Joshua D. Brown, the first settler of Kerrville. Imagine my surprise to find the link to our families when doing genealogy research.

A. J. was a confederate soldier from 1863 to June 1865 in Captain A. C. Jones’ Company – Col. Santos Benevides, Regiment on the Rio Grande, Co. G, Calvary.

Andrew Jackson married his first wife Malinda Duren (1830-1866) in Benton County, Missouri on 28 Jan 1857. They had four children; the first were twins William Albert Harryman and sister Elizabeth Alminda “Eliza” Harryman born 30 Jan 1858 in Cole Camp, Benton County, Missouri. Their next two children were born in Goliad, Goliad County, Texas. On 6 Feb 1866, in Weesatchee, Goliad County, Texas, Malinda died at age 35 years 2 months and 22 days.

On 11 Aug 1867, in Goliad, Goliad County, Texas A. J. married Laura Randall Vance (1839-1880) and they had eight children all born in Goliad. Their third born was a set of twins in 1871, Martha and Mary. On 4 Apr 1880, Laura died in Goliad; possibly during childbirth.

On 3 Oct 1883, A. J. married Louisa Jane Finch (1849-1930) in Goliad. They had two more children, two sons born in El Paso, El Paso County, Texas.


Andrew Jackson Harryman and unidentified family members


Andrew Jackson Harryman; 1834-1914

Andrew Jackson died 21 October 1914 in Runge, Karnes County, Texas and buried in Kenedy, Karnes County, Texas. 

A. J. Harryman burial in Kenedy, Karnes County, Texas.

A. J. Harryman burial in Kenedy, Karnes County, Texas.

Headstone of A. J. Harryman 1834-1914

Headstone of A. J. Harryman 1834-1914

The Harryman generations had a long line of twins. Simpkin (Simkin Harriman) Harryman had twin sisters; his son Andrew Jackson Harryman had twin daughters and A. J.’s first born children were twins. Again, his second wife Laura Randall Vance and A. J. had eight children and their fourth born were twin girls.

Below is an early 1900 photo of an event in Bandera County, maybe a church revival or reunion. On the bottom right kneeling is Andrew Jackson Harryman holding a young boy on his lap.

Bandera Texas; unknown date. A. J. Harryman bottom right with child in lap

Notice this is one of the first “Photoshopped” photos with the two men placed onto the photo and a new photo taken and printed. This is a large cardboard backed photo that was folded and damaged.

A. J. Harryman had quite a history.

Menard Man Taught General Custer How to Shoot Deer

2014 June 19
by Jan Wilkinson

I recently came across this little article written by J. Marvin Hunter in Volume 6 Number 5, page 207, Frontier Times Magazine, February 1929. The heading reads; Published Monthly at Bandera, Texas Devoted to Frontier History, Border History, Border Tragedy and Pioneer Achievement.

When deer hunters flock to Southwest Texas there are related many startling tales of individual prowess with the gun. But an authentic claim that tops all others is advanced by John L. Menges, 78, a resident of Menard.

Menges taught General George A. Custer how to shoot deer and was with the famous Indian fighter when he brought down his first buck, a 12-pointer, while stationed in Texas.

Menges was a freighter, carrying provisions by ox-cart between towns and forts in West Texas. Custer was stationed at Fort Mason and Fort Concho to protect the settlers against Indians. Though a good rifle shot Custer complained that he was unable to kill a deer. Menges undertook to show him and succeeded.

Wild game was plentiful in that day, buffalo and deer, disappearing when cattle was brought in. Menges learned to read while driving an ox cart and killed his first deer at the age of 11. He shot it at 94 paces by moonlight, he says.

To the fact that he was sick the day Custer left this section, Menges attributes the fact that he is alive today. He had been invited to accompany Custer as a scout but was unable to go because of illness. Going into the far West, Custer was killed at the Battle of The Little Big Horn.

Menges’ father was a deserter from the Imperial German Army, who migrated to Texas and settled near where Gonzales now is. Menges has spent his entire life in the Southwest and boasts that he has never been lost. He was born November 30, 1851, at Fredericksburg, Texas.

While he admits that his aim is not as accurate as it was 60 years ago, he still can bring down a deer better than most hunters. He has a special hunting license from the state.

I found that John Ludalfh Menges was born 30 Nov 1852 in Fredericksburg, Gillespie, Texas and lived in Junction, Kimble, Texas and died 6 Feb 1941 in Odessa, Ector County, Texas and raised his family in Junction.  I find this to be quite a story and a way to share some photos of George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876). I did find this blog and reference to the books published by Custer.

In 1871 General Custer began to contribute articles on frontier life to the “Galaxy,” which were published in book-form under the title “My Life on the Plains” (New York, 1874). He was engaged on a series of “War Memoirs” for the “Galaxy” at the time of his death. He occasionally contributed articles on hunting to “Turf, Field, and Farm” and “Forest and Stream.” His life has been written by Frederick Whittaker (New York, 1878).

1859 ca. United States Military Academy Cadet George Armstrong “Autie” Custer


1859 Feb 17 West Point New York cadet George Armstrong Custer

1862 staff of Brigadier General Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining with a dog (hand-colored from

1864 c Virginia, George A. Custer at his headquarters with dog at his feet by Brady & Co.

1864 General Custer and wife Libby photo by Mathew Brady Library of Congress


1865 Aug 8 Alexandria, Louisiana – Brevet Major-General George Armstrong Custer, US Army before leaving for Texas during Reconstruction

1874 George Armstrong Custer and wife Elizabeth Clift Bacon at Fort Abraham Lincoln Dakota Territory

1875c George Custer center with wife to his right and 7th Cavalry officers and wives near Fort Abraham Lincoln (from Facebook True West Magazine)


1875c George Custer was off climbing Harney Peak when his officers gathered for this drinking party during the Black Hills Expedition. Sitting in the front, by one of the guidons, is Fred Grant, son of President Ulysses S. Grant. ( True West Archives)

The fateful day of the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred on June 25, 1876. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, along with five companies of the 7th Cavalry attacked the village of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Indians along the Little Bighorn River in southeastern Montana and all the soldiers were killed.