Category Archives: Texas History

Guest Blog by Paul Hayes



This morning, I read some of your entries on Views from Medicine Spirit Ranch. I was intrigued and entertained by the few writings that I read, choosing to preserve some of the others for my reading pleasure at a later date. However, there was one entry that, for me, really struck a chord, stirring feelings and memories from days long since passed. The entry was “Reflections on Greenville, Texas: The Blackest Land And The Whitest People”.


You see, in the early 60s, my family and I were living in the very small town of Emory, Texas, located just about 30 miles southeast of Greenville. Population: just over 500. Though very young at the time, I have vague recollections of that slogan. These memories probably come from an occasional trip to eat barbeque at the joint in Greenville that had sawdust on the floor. Being that I was but a youngster, I recall more about the characteristics of certain places than the actual names. Nevertheless, that memory was there, and it was brought fully to my consciousness by your story.


There are two memories that really flowed to the forefront as I sat thinking of those days in that small town in northeast Texas.


Racism in the South


I grew up in the south, as did my parents. I have never considered my parents, nor my grandparents, to be racist in any way. However, I do recall the use of the “n-word” during my upbringing. Even to this day, I will, on occasion, hear my dad or my in-laws use the word. Growing up in the south during the 1920s and 30s, being different than black kids, even being BETTER than black kids, was simply an accepted norm. Right or wrong, it was a sign of the times in America. It was an aspect of life that, though dark, was years away from any realization of meaningful change.


During my youth, my parents and grandparents would use the term much as they would use any other identifying noun. It seemed, during those days of my youth in the early 60s, to be no different than referring to a man as a “plumber” or a “Baptist”. It simply identified the person with some aspect that may or may not have been immediately apparent.


As I said, I do not consider my family elders to have been racists. Case in point: Well before my birth, my grandfather, who was an auto mechanic, was working diligently in his shop one day. Into the shop entered a young, black boy appearing to be in his mid-teens. The young man approached my grandfather and indicated that he was a very poor boy and needed a job to help his family. It took but only a minute for my grandfather to understand that this young, black man was mentally handicapped. On that day, J, C, Harris would become an employee in my grandfather’s repair shop. He would quickly learn the name of every tool; he would clean them after use and place them back in their proper location after use.


We never knew exactly how old J. C. was. But, my dad was a young teenager when J. C. first came around, and they could tell that he was just a couple of years older than my dad. J. C. would become, and remain, not just an employee, but a part of the Hayes family until his death when he was somewhere in his 60s. I remember going to his funeral. I recall feeling just how sad it was that there were only a couple of members of his own family, the Harris family, in attendance. But I was proud of the fact that my family was there to give J. C. a proper send-off. My dad and his sisters, even my grandmother, who had always had a love-hate relationship with J. C., cried like babies for the loss of their “brother” and “son”. My grandfather, who had also grown to love J. C., had died a few years earlier.


So, I have learned to forgive my folks, and even others of their generation, for their verbal indiscretions. I know in my heart that they are capable of loving their fellow man, regardless of the color of his skin.


They grew up in a different environment than I did, and I, in turn, grew up in a different environment than my own children. On rare occasion, I will still hear my dad use the “n-word” in front of one of my daughters, and they are quick to chastise him for what they deem to be his insensitivities. It makes me proud to know that they will stand up and correct someone for whom they have such love, admiration and respect.


Times have, indeed, changed. We have been witness to that. And, like the sign that once hung on Main Street in Greenville, some things need to go into the shop for repairs, never to be seen again.


More Lessons from a Southern Upbringing


Please allow me to refer you to a very specific date: November 22, 1963. It is a date that you, no doubt, recall. I was but 5 years old, but it was a date that, for all Americans of the time, will reside in our memory banks as the day our country went through a dramatic change. My dad, who was the county agent for the U. S. Department of Agriculture in Rains County, had come home for lunch as was his usual routine. Following lunch, he and I took our usual position lying on the couch in the living room. For the next five minutes, I would scratch my dad’s back. I would keep my eye on the second hand of his watch to ensure that he got only the allotted amount of time. At the end of the five minutes, he would reach into his pocket, pull out a nickel and give it to me. For the life of me, I have no idea what I did with those nickels. I do not recall having any reason to spend any money at that time of my life. Entertainment for my brother and me was usually comprised of gathering with friends and strolling through the old cemetery, or going hiking in the nearby woods, all of which cost exactly nothing.


But this day would be different. Following our daily business transaction, my dad returned to work. The black and white TV in its large wooden box was still on. Suddenly, a man whom I had seen many times before, came on the TV. I would later recall that his name was Walter Chronkite. He made some sort of announcement. Though I heard his words, I did not really understand the meaning. But then I looked at my mom, standing there in front of the TV, and she began to cry. Though I did not understand what was happening, my mom had suddenly become very sad. For that reason alone, tears began to well up in my eyes. She immediately got on the phone to my dad and told him that some man had died. Within minutes (Emory was a very small town, so everything was within minutes), my dad was back home and consoling my distraught mother.


Again, at five years of age, I did not understand what had happened, but I filed that memory away and, a number of years later, I would come to appreciate the significance of the events of that day. I grew to understand that, not only had my mother cried that afternoon, but my whole country had mourned; and they would continue to mourn for years to come.


One of the things that I learned that day, even as a young boy, is to file away the memories of events that seem significant, even if you do not understand exactly why. Experience, I would come to realize, is the great teacher, and lessons are not always immediate. Sometimes it takes time and reflection to learn life’s lessons.


It would be another 38 years before I would witness something on TV that would so materially impact my life and the lives of those around me. September 11, 2001 would become, for my children, that moment in time, that memory, which would change the way they view life. My children were a bit older at the time, and the impact was more immediate. But that day would become their November 22.


I firmly believe that we are all products of our experiences. While some events will resonate with great sadness, they are, nonetheless, key moments that shape who we are as individuals; possibly more so than all of our other experiences. These are the moments that define who we are and what we will become.


In November of 1965, Dallas would become my home and would remain so for the next 15 years. To this day, I take pride in knowing what happened there and how I was able to take something positive from such an overwhelmingly unfortunate experience.



Thank you, Tom, for sharing your thoughts and stirring old memories of my own.



Something Old And Something New

This week has been “ranch camp” for our grandchildren, Ramsey and Graham. They look forward each year to coming to the ranch where they have far fewer restrictions and new outdoor activities. This year they rode and bathed horses, bought and practiced magic tricks, explored the ranches, caught insects, ate around a campfire, and swam. With the clearing of our new second ranch over the last year, interesting items have been revealed. In addition to finding prohibition glass whiskey bottles and a bone yard created by a mountain lion (spotted a couple of times) other interesting objects include arrowheads, spear points, and scrapers.  We  carried out a dig looking for additional artifacts. We were joined by Tom and Linda Norris’ grandchildren from Lubbock and Grand Rapids.

Ramsey and Sydney digging for arrowheads

Ramsey and Sydney digging for arrowheads

The dig lasted about as long as did the attention span of 6 to 13-year old children. We explored what we believe is an Indian mound. Indeed we found a few points and a lot of flint knappings. The area (the location of which shall remain hidden) looks promising for future digs.

As I watched the dig unfold, I was reminded how ancient were the points and spear heads perhaps going back hundreds if not thousands of years. These  artifacts stand in juxtaposition to our young and promising  grandchildren who dug, raked, and strained the dirt. Youth meets remnants of an ancient civilization.

As the old saying goes, God makes up for growing older by giving us grandchildren. What a joy they are to Trudy and me.

Points found at Hidden Falls Ranch

Points found at Hidden Falls Ranch

San Saba Apache Mission and Presidio

I recently became aware of some eighteenth century Spanish ruins near Menard, Texas. After an initial visit and several phone calls, I had the good fortune to spend a day with Carleton Kothmann, a spry eighty-something year old historian and supporter of the San Saba Presidio and Mission. We toured the partially restored Presideo, visited the site of the recently re-discovered Apache Mission, and saw several other points of local historical interest. I am indebted to Carleton for his time and expertise.


State of Texas Historical Site Marker for the Presidio

Below you will find what I gleaned from my visits and research. I have no doubt that one day the San Saba Presidio and Mission will attract legions of avid visitors. Here is a first peak at this partially restored and largely unknown historical site.

Dual purposes drove Spanish exploration of Texas in the eighteenth century: a search for riches such as Cortez in Mexico stole from the Aztecs and the saving of pagan souls. In 1757 Franciscan monks set out from Mexico City for Texas along with soldiers, prospectors, wives, children, and several Indian families. They embarked on the difficult trek to the San Saba River near present day Menard, Texas. The Franciscans accepted with pious enthusiasm their hardscrabble existence on the frontier in order to be the first to plant a Christian cross among the Lipan Apache.

The Spaniards began construction of their fort (the Presidio) and ill-fated Mission immediately on arrival in 1757. After the San Antonio mission complex, it would become the largest fortified Spanish mission in Texas but also would prove to be Spain’s last. When they built their timber and mud outposts on the winding, spring fed San Saba, their east Texas missions had already been active for over 50 years.

Drawing of Later Stone Presidio

Drawing of Later Stone Presidio

The east Texas Spanish fortifications had limited the growth of French settlements outward from Louisiana. It was hoped that the San Saba Presidio and Mission would similarly secure Spain’s valuable trade route from San Antonio to El Paso and prevent raids from the Native American Nations of the north (called the Norteños). Chief among these tribes were the fearsome Comanche, the finest light cavalry in the New World. The Comanche along with other Norteño tribes were the declared enemies of the Lipan Apache. The Spaniards by befriending the Lipan Apache then also became the avowed enemies of the Norteños.

Prospectors boasted of finding rich veins of silver along the nearby Llano River. Sightings of Lipan Apache wearing silver ornamentation fueled the prospectors’ already heady greed. An uncommon duality developed, consisting of idealistic padres zealous to transform Apache ways and avaricious exploiters, equally determined to steal their wealth.


Spanish Conquistador as he would have dressed at the time

Visualize the scene in 1757 when a long train of pack animals, horses, three to four hundred people and thousands of head of livestock noisily departed Mexico City for San Antonio. The procession then trundled cross-country to the upper reaches of the San Saba River. The priests no doubt exuded hope over their lofty prospects of converting the Lipan Apache to Christianity. Miners tramped or rode; dreaming of soon-to-be realized fortunes. Ultimately both groups with their markedly divergent goals would fail in their efforts. Some would pay the ultimate price for their audacity and hubris.

Depiction of Padres Meeting Apache Chiefs and Mission Construction

Depiction of Padres Meeting Apache Chiefs and Mission Construction

Colonel Diego Ortiz Parrilla, commander of the military contingent, was less sanguine than the padres and prospectors. He knew full well the risks that lay ahead from hostile tribes. He suspected the Lipan Apache had embraced the idea of a Spanish Presidio and Mission as a defensive ploy against their Norteño enemies, rather than truly embracing an agrarian lifestyle and Christianity. Parrilla’s reservations would prove correct.

Immediately on reaching the San Saba River, an argument developed between Parrilla and the Franciscan priests. Parrilla urged constructing the Mission near the Presidio for easier defense. The monks countered that a fort close to the mission would intimidate the Lipan Apache and prevent them from entering.

Based on earlier experiences with unruly soldier behavior at the east Texas missions, the priests also worried that the soldiers would molest the Apache women. This grievous sin, they feared, would lead to irreconcilable animosity among the Lipan Apache and preclude Christianizing them.

Despite his profound reservations, Parrilla had little choice but accept the unbending convictions of the priests. The priests chose a building area on the southern bank of the San Saba River four miles downstream from the Presidio. This separation with its intervening expanse of open ground between the mission and the fort ultimately allowed for the sacking of the mission.

Shortly after their arrival, efforts began to build temporary structures to house the Presidio and Mission.  Stockades were thrown up. Huts were constructed. All were hurriedly erected by setting poles upright in a trench and chinking in sticks, mud, and stones to fill the cracks between the timbers. This building technique in Spanish is known as jacales and in English wattle-and-daub. The expectation of the builders was later to build more secure stone fortifications to replace the wooden enclosures.

Ten months later soldiers, civilians, and a few Lipan Apache huddled and fought from within the same wooden structure.  On the morning of March 16, 1858 some 2000 Norteño braves surrounded and attacked the San Saba Mission. A pitched battle ensued. The tribes from the north viewed the Spaniards as alien invaders invading their hunting range. Galvanizing the Norteño tribes together was their common hatred for the Lipan Apache and those who supported them.


Picture of Restored Round Bastion of the Presidio


Entrance to Stone Presidio

The Mission was burned to the ground. All but a few of those in the Mission were killed. The Presidio was shortly thereafter strengthed with rock walls. Ten years later with no mission to defend, the Presidio was abandoned. This proved to be the last mission to be built in Texas.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of good folks like Carleton Kothmann, Jim Goodall and his wife, the story of the San Saba Mission and Presidio will not be lost to future generations. With additional investment of money and time, this historical site will no doubt be visited by large numbers of persons wanting to better understand the unique history of Texas. Special thanks are also due Dr. Grant Hall, recently retired Chair of the Department of Archeology at Texas Tech University and to his faculty and students. Their archeological efforts have established the underpinnings for future exhibits and a fully restored historical site.