Chapter Six: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860-1874
This period of Seguin's history was a story of great excitement, raw courage, frustration, family losses, pride, exaltation, and abject misery. It was a period when great men made great decisions and the little people made their decisions within the framework of those larger decisions. Many rose to the cause, some did not. Many came home, many never made it home. It was a story of how the leaders of Seguin humbled themselves after war's end so that their community could pick up the loose ends and begin to rebuild. Courage during those twelve to fourteen years came in many forms - whether to enlist or not, battlefield bravery, women running the homes, farms and businesses, and the quiet waiting for news from the front. During the Reconstruction period courage was keeping one's sense of personal values while publicly acquiescing to the various federal dictates that were sometimes fair, sometimes unfair.
In the beginning, the citizens of Seguin and the area knew what their position was if war came. They would fight. Seguin's role with the eleven Confederate States was learned soon enough.
On December 3, 1860, leading citizens in Austin drew up a letter to be sent to county citizens throughout Texas. Irate with the stalling tactics of Governor Houston on the issue of secession, the letter recommended that the Chief Justice (County Judge) of each county call for an election to select two delegates for a January, 1861, convention in Austin.
According to Reverend Fitzsimon, the two most outspoken secessionists in Seguin and Guadalupe County were John Ireland and William P. Hardeman. Hardeman was a lawyer and planter from the Highsmith Community, on present day highway 90-East, close to the San Marcos River. John Ireland was also a lawyer, and after the Civil War, when not engaged in litigation as either plaintiff or defendant, became prominent in local and state government, ultimately serving as Governor in the 1880s.
Under the leadership of Justice W.P.H. Douglass, these two men were voted to be the delegates to the Austin Convention. The sheer number of votes cast electing John Ireland and William Hardeman reflect the keen interest of the community. Three hundred ninety-two votes were cast with Ireland receiving 273 votes. Hardeman received 267 votes.
The State Convention convened January 28, 1861, in Austin. On January 30, resolutions were passed that were in favor of secession, and if ratified by the people, Texas would secede from the Union.
On February 23, 1861, the voters of Texas, by a margin of three to one, voted for secession.
In Guadalupe County less than half of the voters cast a ballot. The tally was 314 for secession and 22 against secession.
While the process of ratification was taking place between January 30 - February 23, 1861, the first overt military action of the Civil War took place. As a side note, the first and last military action of the Civil War took place in Texas. The first would originate in Seguin, the last would occur in Brownsville.
In early February, probably February 9, Ben McCulloch was ap-pointed Military Commander. His instructions were simple and direct. Free the State of Federal troops. At that time there were an estimated 2800 Union soldiers in Texas. The largest garrison was in San Antonio, commanded by Major General Twiggs.
With volunteers from Texas, including two companies of young men from Guadalupe County, McCulloch departed for San Antonio the night of February 16. On February 17, at the Alamo, General Twiggs surrendered his post with all the public property in San Antonio. He agreed to Ben McCulloch's suggestion to withdraw his forces from Texas.
Other events occurred which reflected the impending participation of Seguin in the war. The Seguin Mercury changed its name to the Southern Confederacy and according to Fitzsimon, Mr. D.R. Freeman became the new owner, replacing editor Mydleton Dunn with W.E. Goodrich, who would step down as Mayor in 1861. The new Southern Confederacy also noted that William H. Burges had just established his law practice. Later he would become a prominent figure in his community. Also, education would continue under the direction of Reverend William S. Hamilton and his assistant, Mrs. Nelson.
The Seguin Journal changed its name to the Union Democrat and would provide views on the opposite side of secession.
President Jefferson Davis sounded the clarion for the young men of the South to take up and bear arms. Seguin was prepared to offer her young to the cause, and quickly mobilized her resources.
A number of Seguinites would command Confederate Units: Nathaniel Benton's organization of the famous Company D, William Hardeman's Company A, John White's Company E, John Ireland's Company K, and Nathaniel Benton's new Company B.
Two military training camps were established in Guadalupe County. Camp Clark was located between Staples and San Marcos in the northeast part of the county and Camp Beauregard was near present day McQueeney.
Nathaniel Benton was the first to assume command. By word of mouth, and through the Southern Confederacy, he called for volunteers.
On May 11, 1861, Company D was organized. Charles Reich was his First Lieutenant, John B. Bane, his Second Lieutenant, and C.L. Martin his Orderly Sergeant. According to Fitzsimon, over fifty men enlisted the first day.
May 14 saw Ben McCulloch's appointment as a Brigadier General. His command assignment was the Military District embracing the Indian Territory and Western Kansas.
On June 17, Order No. 1 was issued by Nathaniel Benton. He provided a list of equipment and clothes the men would need and ordered his men to be in a state of readiness.
Shortly thereafter one of the most poignant events in Seguin's history took place. The day was June 28, 1861.
On that day Captain Benton had assembled his company at the courthouse square. The ladies of Seguin had made a flag for his Company to carry into battle. The flag was presented by Miss Mattie Jefferson and accepted by Ed Duggan on behalf of Company D. Miss Jennie Hollamon, eyewitness to the event, eloquently captured the mood and the spirit of Seguin's citizens. She is quoted here so the reader may gain a sense of the emotions of the times.
According to the Seguin Confederacy the spear for the top of the flag was silver, weighing nine ounces. Company D's flag, Seguin's flag, almost tells the story of all the courageous young men in the Civil War. The battles it saw were some of the most famous.
According to Moellering, in an interview with Mrs. Max Weinert:
Unable to go with his men because of his wife's illness and death, Captain Benton turned his command over to John P. Bane, his second in command. In March of 1862, Captain Benton organized Company B, a cavalry of volunteers which would join the Thirty-Second Regiment of Wood's Texas Cavalry.
In July 1861, John R. Jefferson, whose home was across from the original Jefferson Avenue Elementary School, now named Sue Smith, was called upon to provide transportation for the young "Seguin Knights" to their duty stations, under the command of Captain Nathaniel Benton. General Jefferson, who had operated stagecoach lines and had provided horses for stagecoach operators, was paid $200.00 for this job. William Dunn was paid $75 for assisting. Jefferson's stables were located on the site where the Sue Smith School stands today. During the war General Jefferson served as Confederate Marshal of the Western District of Texas.
Company D, while at Camp Clark, merged with companies from other surrounding counties. After training it was dispatched to Harrisburg via Brenham where it joined John Bell Hood's famous Fourth Brigade - better known as Hood's Brigade. Company D's final journey, prior to some of the bloodiest battles in American History, began in August 1862. By September they were ready for battle in Virginia. By War's end only 18 original volunteers would stand, heads held proudly, outside the Court House of Appomattox as General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.
Within less than a year the harsh realities of war hit the waiting families of Seguin. Company D received its baptism of fire under General Robert E. Lee in the battles of Etham's Landing and Seven Pines. The men quickly lost any innocence about the horrors of war. They hardened quickly and never once failed to acquit themselves valiantly in the jaws of death. It was the Battle of Gaines Mill, June 27, 1862, that forged Company D into a solid fighting unit. The news about Gaines Mill arrived in July. Seguin had lost her first of many gallant young men.
Miss Jennie Hollamon and Max Moellering compassionately reflected the sorrow of Seguin in their respective writings.
Miss Hollamon wrote: "For the first time the given reality of war in its awful bitterness was brought here to the people of Guadalupe County. Moellering wrote: "In many a home the place of the beloved one who only so short of time before had marched so gaily away was left vacant. Many times more were such scenes of sorrow to be enacted in which anxious mothers, wives and sweethearts with throbbing hearts and tear-filled eyes eagerly searched the reports of some bloody engagement. Reports were constantly coming in of individual deaths from the wounds, disease and hardships. What inexperienced person can imagine the nerve wracking suspense suffered by those who for four years sat impotently at home."
Both Moellering and Fitzsimon reflect that Seguin's first casualties were Lieutenants Thomas H. Hollamon and Charles Reich; and Privates George Butler, William L. Calvert, J.K. Davidson, Alex Dover, Isham H. Fennell, I.R. Lackey, Alonso Gordon, Leonidas Millett, A.L. Pierce, John F. Young and Thomas Park. Twenty-one men were wounded at Gaines Mill. At the second Battle of Manassas, August 29 and 30, 1862, Lieutenant Ignatius (Igg) Johnson and Private James Whitehead were killed, and six men were wounded. On September 17, 1862, in the bloody Antietam or Sharpsburg Battle, Andrew N. Erskine and William J. Davis were killed and several more were wounded. The 1863 Battle of Chickamauga saw the lives of A.J. Cody, James Campbell, S.J. Jefferson, W.R. Smith and Tom Watson taken. The bloody carnage of Gettysburg saw Seguin's James Butler, W.S. Green, George Longstreet, and Fritz Glaeser killed. S.M. Manning and William Schumate died in the Wilderness Campaign.
On April 9, 1865, dazed but standing proudly outside the Appamattox Courthouse, while Lee surrendered, were eighteen men of Company D. These men were R.H. Franks, James Patterson, A.E. Wilson, R.A. Burges, W.H. Burges, S.A. Jones, Z.J. Harmon, J.M. White, F.C. White, Alamo A. Dimmitt, J.B. Gregory, G.W. Little, J.S. Daniels, W. Dunn, J.F. Holmes, John Rogers, Baltasar Schmidt, G.A. Hodges, and by one account, Myddleton S. Dunn.
These men were representative of the pride, tenacity, and perseverance of Seguin's character and Texan courage. Plemon Sowell wrote in his Early History of Guadalupe County that "not a one deserted or shirked his duty" through death, wounds, disease, imprisonment or privation.
Following the formation of Company D, Moellering wrote that the "Guadalupe Rebels" were organized under Captain C.L. Arbuckle. They too were formed up at the courthouse, this time in July 1861. The unit, after training at Camp Beauregard, joined other units from New Braunfels and outlying areas. As an independent unit of a larger organization it was completely absorbed and little was heard again of the "Rebels." Serving in the "Guadalupe Rebels" were W.P.H. Douglas as First Lieutenant; Henry Meyer, Second Lieute-nant; R.M. Swift, Third Lieutenant; Alonso Millett, First Sergeant; E. Glaeser, Second Sergeant; B. Angermiller, Third Sergeant; F. Sieffer, First Corporal; J.R. Brooks, Second Corporal; Henry Neill, Third Corporal; Joe Weniger, Drum Major; Dr. W.R. Johnson, Surgeon.
About the same time, Captain John White formed his Company of "Guadalupe Rangers," a volunteer cavalry company. Its service was shortlived. Some of the names of the "Rangers" were quite familiar though: John Ireland, H. Heron, W.E. Goodrich, Joseph Zorn, Dr. J.W. Fennell as Surgeon, R.E. Saunders, and many more.
Having disbanded the "Rangers" in August, White, in September, formed Company E of the Sixth Texas Regiment. The officers serving Captain White were Houston Tom, First Lieutenant; William Malone, Second Lieutenant; William Medlin, Third Lieutenant; Joseph Wilson, First Sergeant; Ed Thompson, Third Sergeant.
In January 1863, the Sixth Texas Regiment invaded Arkansas where it surrendered to the Union Forces. In a prisoner exchange in April of 1863, the unit came under the command of the Tenth Texas Infantry and distinguished itself in Tennessee and Georgia, in Ector's Brigade.
Captain William P. Hardeman's Company A was organized in Au-gust 1861, and became part of Sibley's Brigade.Their duty posts were on the western frontier, protecting the inhabitants of the southwest region of the Confederacy. Hardeman's Company saw duty a-long the Rio Grande and was bloodied at the Battles of Val Verde and Glorietta. After the invasion of Arizona, Hardeman's Company aided Sibley's Brigade in recapturing Galveston. It then went to New Or-leans to try and help stop the invasion of General Banks. Like Com-pany D, Hardeman's Company suffered the harsh pangs of death: P. Francis, J.W. Helm, Lieutenant N.D. Cartwright, R.W. Ferguson and J.W. Foster.
Also in the fall of 1861, after White's "Guadalupe Rangers" were disbanded, his Lieutenant, John Ireland, formed what would become Company K from Seguin and Guadalupe County.
Captain John Ireland, soon promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, formed Company K of the Eighth Texas Regiment in the fall of 1861. Because of Ireland's promotion, Lieutenant W.L. George took command of the Company. A.J. Fry was Second Lieutenant and T.J. Ellis was Third Lieutenant.
Company K distinguished itself in a number of actions in Texas during the Civil War. Among the members of Company K recognized in the Official Records of The Union and Confederate Armies were W.E. Goodrich, W. Saffold, F.G. Roberts, S.N. Elliott, John Neill, John Haley and Nat Henderson.
On July 17, 1862, Company K was posted to Aransas Bay, assisting in the defense of Corpus Christi. Ireland's detachment captured the commander of the Union's fleet at Corpus Christi, Lieutenant Kittredge. Ireland's detachment also captured two Union gun boats, and at one point saved a Confederate vessel.
After recovering from his wife's illness and death, Captain Nathaniel Benton began to form a Cavalry Company of Volunteers, which would become Company B of the Thirty-Second Regiment, Wood's Texas Cavalry. He was assisted by E.B. Millett, First Lieutenant; D.C Burleson, Second Lieutenant; and G.H. Sherwood, Third Lieutenant.
Like Ireland's Company, Benton's saw service on the Texas coast and fought in the same battles in Louisiana. Blair's Landing was perhaps the bloodiest battle, for Sergeant Werner, E.P. Calvert, and J.H. Wafford were killed and a number were wounded.
Seguin had three Generals during the Civil War. Two were brothers and Rangers, and had fought for Texas Independence and were defenders of the Republic. One lived, one was killed.
Ben McCulloch died as he lived, fighting for what he believed in. Between 1861 and early 1862, he had conducted successful campaigns in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. On March 7, 1862, he was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, while leading the right flank of General Van Dorn's Army. His loss was deeply felt, not only in Seguin, but in Austin, as well, because of his many contributions to the State. As a side note, descendants of the McCulloch's discovered a packet of letters of Ben McCulloch in the attic of their home several years ago in New Braunfels. This author, with permission, xeroxed all the letters, and with the help of Greg Hill in the Seguin-Guadalupe County Library, had them bound. These letters are in the Texana Room of the Library.
Henry McCulloch's service was as distinguished as his brother's. He was tendered the rank of Colonel by President Jefferson Davis in 1861 and was charged to raise a Texas Regiment. As his brother had done in accepting the Union surrender at San Antonio, so too did Henry McCulloch. While John S. Ford took the Fort Brown Post near Brownsville, Henry McCulloch also accepted surrenders at other Union garrisons. Later Henry McCulloch was promoted to Brigadier General and served in the Northern Department of Texas. Interestingly, there were thirty-two Brigadier Generals from Texas in the Civil War, and three were from Seguin - the McCulloch brothers and General Jefferson.
Men from Guadalupe County and Seguin also served in other famous units such as Terry's Rangers, and Sibley's Brigade. They too acquitted themselves well. But what of home life when the men put aside their daily lives to take up arms for the cause? How did the communities of Texas function?
Not easily. The war years caused a great deal of suffering and sacrifice. Left to take up the burdens of survival were the women, children and men too old to fight physically, but certainly not mentally. The county government continued to function with James McClaugherty as Chief Justice from 1862 -1864, and R.W. Swift as Sheriff. W.R. Wiseman replaced McClaugherty in 1865 and Colonel Nathaniel Benton would be the last gentleman to hold the title of "Chief Justice" in 1866, at the beginning of Reconstruction.
The city government of Seguin apparently floundered. City Hall records, provided by the City Secretary, Linnette Haberman, reflect that during the Civil War, the City Corporation Charter was not maintained. However on May 28, 1873, it was renewed with William Rust serving as Mayor in 1873.
It would not be until the 1880s that Seguin would economically return to the prosperity she had enjoyed in the 1850s.
Court Minutes of the Civil War period reflect the enthusiasm the local citizenry had for the support of the cause. General Jefferson was awarded payments for transporting the local units to their Texas destinations. Monies were awarded to families from Galveston when they were forced to evacuate because of enemy ships. Galveston citizens taking up residence in Guadalupe County would receive $300.
State Governor Clark, when he realized the war would continue for some time, called on the County Judges to hold public meetings, encouraging their citizens to help collect supplies for the soldiers. Justice W.P.H. Douglass responded by calling a public meeting at Seguin on September 9, 1861.
Committees were appointed and within three weeks the people had donated warm clothing, blankets, comforts and other items. The Southern Confederacy reported that "many ladies, out of affection for these boys in the army, sacrificed their last blankets, saying that they would rather sit by the fire all night in the winter and warm one side of the body at a time than have the soldiers suffer."
Moellering wrote that "while the soldiers were freely sacrificing themselves on the bloody battlefield their unprotected families often suffered much from the discourtesies and petty depredations of unscrupulous persons at home." In a letter from Mrs. Andrew N. Erskine to Andrew N. Erskine, "They (the unscrupulous persons) often broke agreements, beat their debts, rustled stock and drove sharp bargains with helpless women for providing necessities or for doing labor indispensable in the upkeep of property."
The county government also realized there was a need to help provide for the families who had soldiers away on the battlefields of the North and South. Various creative financing efforts were tried. Some worked, some didn't. Most importantly, though, was that the community came together during the war and the citizens tried to help each other.
One effort that almost passed the Commissioners Court was to levy a war tax to help raise funds for the needy families who had men that had enlisted and were away. A committee called the "Soldiers Aid Society of Guadalupe County" would be authorized a sum of $2,500.00 from the war tax fund to be spent for the needy soldier's families. The funds would be raised by placing a tax rate of fifteen cents per hundred dollar evaluation. However, in the end the committee declined to ask for the funds and the Court rescinded its order for the appropriation.
The war tax on property continued for the remainder of the war, and other ways were found to provide for the needy families.
At the same time, Confederate money depreciated drastically in value. As an example, a load of wood that sold for $4.00 before the war cost $80.00 in Confederate treasury notes. Consequently, Con-federate monies for the needy families became impractical. Undaunted by these set backs, the compassion of the Court manifested itself in another way. The war tax could purchase items such as corn, bacon and pork at a fixed rate. The destitute soldiers' families could then purchase such food items at a reduced market rate, thus enabling them to not only retain their pride and self image, but support themselves as well. Agents were appointed through the region to identify the needy families. The Court, as Moellering wrote, held "sacred" their obligation "to provide for the dependents left at home."
In 1864, there was a shortage in crop production. With all ablebodied men gone, with demands to provide military supplies, and provide aid for the needy, disastrous side effects on this agricultural community occurred. Hundreds of acres of land went fallow. Combined with drought conditions and a greatly reduced labor force, even the seed for planting had become scarce.
Seguin and the county actually fared better than many of her Southern sister cities. For instance, Mexico provided an outlet for the sale of cotton and other staples. The letters of A.N. Erskine reflect that cart trains going to Corpus Christi and other points south often used the ferries over the Guadalupe River near Seguin. This may have enabled county citizens to purchase such items as medicines, coffee, sugar and other shelf items that were in short supply.
Regardless, it was not an easy period for Seguin and the county. However, when the men returned, it was not like returning to Gon-zales after the "Runaway Scrape" where the livestock were scattered and the homes and barns burned to the ground. Nor was it like what the Southern soldiers faced when they returned, only to find burned fields and broken families.
Seguin's soldiers were more fortunate. Their houses still stood and their families remained unscathed from the scourges of war. Homes went untouched by enemy soldiers. The churches and schools still functioned.
By the close of 1865, quietly and without fanfare, Seguin and Guadalupe County began to weave the loose threads of life together again, hoping to make Seguin even better than before the war.
Battle does things to a man's temperament. Most men who go through such an experience weather the challenge fairly well. Some not so well. War is a horrible thing, yet for communities and nations to survive, war is sometimes necessary. Oftentimes during war men mature quickly, become mentally tougher. They learn to reach deep down inside themselves and a new spirit is forged. When the war is over, the haunting echo of taps fading into the darkness, the men begin their own private rebuilding. Their community, their families, their very livelihood takes on a new, cherished aura. They are older now than their years tell. Slowly the nightmares, though they never completely vanish, become fewer and fewer and the men grow stronger. Their families grow stronger. Their communities grow stronger. Seguin's men were no exception to the experience of war.
Although the National Reconstruction Act was not passed until March 2, 1867, elements of establishing law and social order in the South began in 1865.
The first observable act of Reconstruction in Texas occurred in June 1865. General Gordon Granger, U.S. Army, arrived in Galveston and on June 19, 1865, proclaimed all slaves as freed men. Today Juneteenth is a State holiday.
Along with the proclamations, ex-Confederate soldiers were instructed to report to specific places to apply for parole. Also, all Confederate laws were declared illegal.
On July 3, 1865, the last Commissioner's Court under the "old"government met.
Later in July, President Andrew Johnson appointed A.J. Hamilton as the Provisional Governor of Texas.
Hamilton appointed all county officials. No elections were allow-ed. Chief Justice was W.C. Wiseman; William Stern, C.S. Arbuckle and F.A. Blumberg were Justices of the Peace and unofficial Commissioners; B.A. Brown was Sheriff, Joseph Zorn served as Treasurer, H. Voelker was Assessor and Collector, S. Wright was County Clerk, James Wilson was District Clerk, J.A. Wells served as Surveyor. They took office by September 6, 1865.
The war weary citizens of Guadalupe County had a choice. They could rebel against the authoritarian hand of the Reconstructionists or wait patiently until things returned to normal. Guadalupe County citizens, along with many other counties in the State, chose to support, as much as possible, the governor and a return to law and order.
To illustrate this point, in the South there were a great many people who refused to accept defeat. There was a movement to resettle in Mexico by those people who feared reprisal at the hands of the Northerners. Arrangements had been made with Emperor Maxmilian of Mexico for such a settlement. In a January 1866 meeting, the people of Seguin and Guadalupe County voted to remain and make the best of what they could. This was home. It was time to rebuild.
A county election was allowed in 1866. Nathaniel Benton, who lost his right arm at the Battle of Blair's Landing, was elected Chief Justice. The Commissioners were Claiborne West, J.A. Wells and Ernest Blumberg; B.A. Brown was Sheriff. Treasurer was Joseph Zorn, while Asa J.L. Sowell was Assessor-Collector. County Clerk was S. Wright, and District Clerk was James Wilcox. M.O. Yager was Surveyor, and William Jackson was Coroner.
By 1867, the Radical Reconstructionists were able to legislate reforms that made the Reconstruction period a bad memory for the South. It was so much a bad memory that a Republican would not be elected Governor in Texas for over 100 years.
States were divided into Military Districts and were to be administered by Majors General until new governments could be established under the reformed congressional guidelines. Voters had to take an oath. Any voters who had taken up arms for the Confederacy or had aided the Confederacy were disqualified from voting. This caused many of the newly elected officials to abandon their offices. County officials who were appointed to office by the Reconstructionists in 1867 were C.C. March, Chief Justice; Commissioners were H. Voelker, John B. Chessher and Andrew C. Williams; Sheriff, J.B. Lilly; Treasurer, E. Dolle; County-Clerk, F.A. Vaughan; and County-Attorney, A.E. Cotton.
According to Moellering, in 1867 two other events occurred in Seguin. The Freedman's Bureau was established at the Davis home where the Plaza Hotel stands today, across from the Market Square. A company of Union soldiers were stationed in Seguin to enforce the Reconstruction laws. Their bivouac area was along Live Oak Street. Rows of tents on both sides of the dirt street extended from King's Creek on the east to Walnut Branch on the west, just behind present day Saint James Catholic Church.
The purpose of the Freedman's Bureau was to assist the freed slaves in becoming citizens of the county. Many had remained in Guadalupe County, taking the last name of their owners if they had been treated well. Education was to be provided where possible, and in general, help the freed slaves learn how to live as a free people of the United States.
Indeed, some Black families became land owners. In several in-stances, former owners deeded land to their former slaves. In other cases, land was made available at reasonable costs and, sometimes, the former slaves stayed on as hired help for the landowners, although according to Moellering, this was very unprofitable for Guadalupe County farmers.
Several events occurred which left a sour taste in the mouths of Seguin's citizens. However, seldom did the Seguinites break the laws, although that, too, did occur from time to time.
The Military Command of the Seguin-Guadalupe County region was under Brevet Major General J.J. Reynolds. Not only were the county officials appointed via his directives, but the juries were purged of Confederate sympathizers; the Commissioners Court was directed to destroy all the Confederate currency in the Treasury; and a special property tax was levied to help defray expenses in law enforcement such as arresting and jailing felons, feeding prisoners, road building and repairs, and jail construction.
Furthermore, the commander divided the county into five voting precincts, each precinct having a Justice appointed by the Reconstructionists. Moellering pointed out that General Reynold's subordinates interfered in the voting elections of November 1869, to ensure the proper radical officials were elected.
In addition to the restraints imposed upon the citizens of Seguin by the Reconstructionists, agriculture was in a depression. Then, in 1869, the worst flood in Seguin's history occurred. Reverend Fitzsimon's account reflected that the Guadalupe River "flooded the entire area south of Seguin, covering the site of the fairgrounds, and reached the base of what is known as McKee's Hill. George B. Hollamon stated that the rise was fifty-five feet."
The Reconstructionists compounded the agricultural depression by some of their actions. Federal agents had been instructed to seize all Confederate property. The most valued property was cotton.
Much cotton was seized without permission of the private owner. These seizures were then followed by stricter restrictions and regulation. It became so bad for the cotton farmers that they quickly lost the monetary incentive to grow cotton - what little incentive remained. Colonel Bird Saffold, in 1866, reflected that the economic restrictions were bad enough for him to sell part of his plantation because he did not "wish to raise cotton for the Puritan, Pilgrim, Plymouth down east celebrities any more," according to the Western Texian.
By 1868 the Freedman's Bureau, through Congress, had arranged that landowners could not offer labor contracts to the freed slave to work on the plantations. Moellering wrote that "under these discouragements agriculture recovered slowly, and the people, thrown largely upon their own resources, directed their energy to the products of grain, feed, fruits, vegetables, and such animals as cattle, hogs, and chickens to insure an abundant food supply."
But rather than be beaten by the climate, and "carpet bag" rule, the people of this region turned to their own ingenuity.
In 1854 Michael Erskine proved that cattle drives could be successful. By the end of the Civil War beef had become a much desired commodity in the East. The war years had seen the Texas Longhorn and its mutations fairly well ignored. Consequently they were left to their own devices and rapidly increased in numbers.
The Bicentennial Minutes section on "Ranges and Cattle Drives" by Virginia Woods reflects that "in 1866 fat beeves brought up to $5.00 each; however, a year later three-year olds sold locally for $9.50 per head, while amazingly this same animal at that time would have sold for $70.00 in New York."
This region was in an excellent geographic position for the cattle drives. The county lay between two well-used trails or tributaries of the Chisolm Trail. The primary trail from San Antonio to Austin passed through the northwest corner of Guadalupe County. The other trail tributary to the Chisolm Trail linked the southern counties of Bee, Karnes, Goliad and Gonzales to the San Antonio-Austin Route and actually went through the center of Seguin. Inspection corrals for the drivers were erected at the Andrew C. Erskine home on North Austin Street. Theodore Koch's leather goods store in Seguin would do a lucrative business during the cattle era, providing the drivers with saddles, bridles and other necessities.
Between 1866 and 1874 Seguin, and the county, saw the cattle industry help greatly in its economic recovery. By the 1880s Seguin would recover and be on her way, as in the 1850s. Not surprisingly, the 1880s would also witness the decline of the cowboy or cattle era in Texas and American History.
What was the cattle era like during the Reconstruction period? Tough, demanding, dirty, backbreaking, exciting, romantic, lonesome, and above all, monetarily rewarding.
A man could be a man. Boys, like Levi Anderson, became men quickly in the cattle business. A man was not judged by the color of his skin or what his past might have been. His work was his acceptance. Mexican, Black, White worked together, sweating, cursing, bragging, and fighting. So long as the cowman didn't break the code and did his work without complaining, he was accepted. But if he ever broke the unwritten code, he was done and word followed. The cowboy didn't lie, he never turned his back on his fellow driver, and he was loyal to the trail boss. The cowman was expected to be independent, yet be a team worker.
Mrs. Virginia Woods' comments on the cattleman in this region were most descriptive:
Former Confederate Captain, Eugene Millet, was perhaps one of the more enterprising local cattlemen. During the cattle era he was reported as having driven "more than 270,000 head of cattle to the Northern markets." In 1867, a young, inexperienced cowboy named Levi B. Anderson became one of his hands. He wanted to be a cowboy. He did and he became a legend in his own time. Within two years of trail riding, he became a trail boss, enduring the "misery of cold rains, mud, swollen rivers, stampedes and the endless loneliness of the long rides" from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico to the far northern reaches of Fort Felterman, Wyoming. For twenty years, he rode the trail. He was the father of Miss Matti Lou, longtime and beloved teacher, and L.B. Anderson.
The herds driven up the cattle trails had anywhere from 500 to 3,000 head. Many of them were the wily, sinewy, tough Texas Long-horns. Former Confederate Captain J.F. Ellison drove over 100,000 head north. On his first drive out he employed all Negro cowboys, bossed by their own, Emanuel Jones. It was Ellison who inaugurated the concept of the trail brand in 1869.
At the expense of getting ahead of the Reconstruction years, there was an incident that occurred concerning the trail brands in 1877.
Henry Holmes Batey was the brand inspector and operated out of Seguin. Eighteen-seventy-seven was known as the year of the "big cattle steal." The code of claiming the unbranded Maverick had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous cowboys. Consequently the cattlemen got together and formed an association to protect themselves from being rustled. Watches were placed on the trails and at inspection centers such as in Seguin. Part of the brand inspector's job was to examine the herds for stolen Mavericks. One day H.H. Batey refused to allow a herd to pass through the county unless the trail boss agreed to an inspection. Nothing more was said and Mr. Batey went on about his business.
A short time later, he decided to take a nap under the oak trees near the intersection of King Street and Kingsbury Street, by today's Seguin Garden Club's garden. It being noon, he had covered his eyes with the brim of his hat. He fell asleep, never to awaken again. A lone rider, riding a gray horse came up to where H.H. Batey was dozing and shot him in the head.
How soon thereafter no one seems to know, but Mr. Batey's brother, Ladd Batey, heard of the killing. Saddling up, Ladd Batey got on the trail of the gunman. All he knew was that the killer was riding a gray horse. From town to town he rode asking about the gunman. Finally, nearing the Red River he saw the killer.
Ladd Batey returned to Seguin. True to the code of the cattleman, all he ever said was that he saw the lone gunman crossing the Red River. He never said if the gunman made it to the other side.
Although the cattle industry somewhat alleviated the agricultural depression, there was little else to help the economy.
Education continued at a reduced schedule during the Civil War, but suffered drastically after the war. Had it not been for the interests in education by the various religious denominations, education would have suffered even more.
Civil War's end saw Dr. B.M. Franklin at the Guadalupe Female College. Three gentlemen, William O. Yager, E.G. Bands, and Alexander M. Erskine provided the line of succession at the Guadalupe Male College.
In 1868 disaster struck. The two academies did not have the revenues to continue operating. Sheriff J.G. Lilly, in a public auction, sold the academies to John Ireland for $850.00. Later Dr. Franklin bought the Female College and J.A. McNeill bought the Male College. Towards the end of Reconstruction, Reverend J.M. Wilson succeeded Dr. Franklin at the Female College.
In Mrs. Donegan's Bicentennial Minutes, "A school was established at the Lutheran Church in 1870; from the year 1871, this school was of a public nature. A contract was made with the State of Texas for the rental of the church to be used as a free school at $150.00 for 10 months, signed by trustee John Schmitt and J.C. DeGress, Superintendent of Public Instruction in Texas," and the arrangement would last for fourteen years.
One of the tasks of the Freedman's Bureau was to assist in the providing of education for the freed slaves. Through the joint efforts of a White preacher, Reverend Leonard Ilsley, the members of the Second Baptist Church, and the undaunting efforts of William Baton Ball, public education for the Black children began in 1871.
Under the guidance of Reverend William B. Ball, a former Buffalo Soldier on the western frontier, a white frame building was erected on the site of today's Lizzie M. Burges Kindergarten School. The first name of the school was Abraham Lincoln School, but would be changed to Ball High School in 1925 in honor of the Reverend Ball. Later, Reverend Ball would become a driving force in higher education for Blacks.
The Male and Female Academies, by 1872, had become defunct. In 1872, the Jesuit Fathers bought the Male and Female Academy buildings and later sold the Female Academy to Colonel George W. Brackenridge. Colonel Brackenridge believed in education and through various business transactions was able to ensure that the Negro College, Guadalupe College, would always have a home. Higher education for the Black population began in the Female Academy on the present day site of Joe F. Saegert Middle School on Bowie Street.
During Reconstruction three churches made tremendous strides in the community - Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics.
The Methodist Church had been the mainstay of pioneer religion and education in Seguin since 1842. The congregation decided to build a new church in 1867 under the leadership of Reverend J.G. Walker. The cornerstone was laid on the southwest corner of the present day 700 block of North Austin Street. The land was obtained from Dr. J.E. Fennell and W.C. Baxter. The trustees of the new church were Reverend David Thompson, A.T. Woods, I.N. and J.W. Fennell, W.G. King, J.B. Dibrell, and Henry E. McCulloch. Edward Nolte bought the old church, remodeled it, and used it as a mercantile and banking business for a number of years.
Emmanuel's Lutheran Church began its history in 1867. Its cornerstone was laid February 21, 1870, on the west side of the 200 block of Travis Street. It took nine years to build.
Its door were opened for services on August 14, 1879, under the Pastorate of Reverend Johannes Wolfschlegel. The charter members were: Adam Schick, Ehrenfried Glaeser, Carl Diets, C.W. Schmidt, Daniel Wagner, Johannes Schmidt, Ernst Dolle, Louis Schrader, Freidrich Naumann, Heinrich Klassing, Mrs. August Tiemann, Mrs. Koehler, Conrad Heinz, Sophie Moss, George Schmidt and H. Beutnagel.
Until 1872, the Catholic population worshiped in San Antonio. Sometimes priests visited from San Fernando Cathedral or Saint Mary's Church. Often times the members of the parish held services in the home of Mrs. Louise Johnson.
Father James S. Chaland began organizing the parish members. In 1872 construction of the present day Saint James Catholic Church, on Convent Street, began. On March 30, 1873, the church was dedicated by Reverend Thomas J. Johnston of Saint Mary's in San Antonio.
The German Methodists were organized in 1874 by Reverend Carl Urbantke and would open in the Spring of 1875.
The Reconstruction Period ended with the election of Governor Richard Coke in 1873. By 1874 the town of Seguin had learned that through patience, hard work and faith, they could and would hold their community together. A new era, a new life was being built and they were determined to reap the benefits of their renewed efforts.