Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Uvalde Texas

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Uvalde Texas

The short sentence from the Texas State History Association describes the west Texas town of Uvalde: Founded in 1853 … border warfare and lawlessness prevailed until the late 1880s.
If you’re a fan of “the old west,” Uvalde sat at the crossroads. The San Antonio-San Diego Mail route passed through Uvalde, heading for Del Rio and then to El Paso on the way to San Diego.
Another road led south to Eagle Pass on the way to Saltillo, Mexico. This road was the western trail of the El Camino Real to Mexico City. From the days, when Texas was under Spanish/Mexican rule, it was the primary commercial road from San Antonio to Saltillo.
The nearby Nueces River fed the wells and springs in Uvalde, making it an oasis in the west Texas desert. The Nueces flows from springs at the edge of the Edwards plateau in the hill country north of Uvalde. The Nueces meanders across south-central Texas from Uvalde to Three Rivers, Texas. The Nueces Plains formed a vast fertile prairie. During the Civil War, longhorn cattle roamed free to become the source of tens of thousands of beeves driven north in the great cattle drives of the late-1860s and 1870s before expansion of the rail system ended cattle drives.
I spent an afternoon prowling through the Virginia Wood Davis Archives in the El Progresso Memorial Library in Uvalde. I had the pleasure to meet and speak with Virginia, the well-known curator of the Archives. My visit was typical of visiting any library or bookstore—wanting to sit and read every book in sight.
My wife reminded me, “You schedule more things to do than we have time to do them.”
I found one interesting story of a ne’er-do-well in 1889, arrested for drunk and disorderly, turned on Sheriff Daugherty shooingt him dead, only to killed himself by a deputy. This Daugherty was no relation to the well-known Texas cattleman and early cattle trail driver.
In 1881, Uvalde hired a deputy sheriff named John King Fisher. What made it remarkable was Fisher had a reputation as a murderer, rustler, and horse thief. Fisher claimed, after his marriage in 1876, that he mended his ways. He bought a small ranch between Uvalde and Eagle Pass, staying out of trouble with the law until Uvalde hired him as a deputy. Within a few months, a country grand jury indicted the elected sheriff on corruption charges. County officials appointed Fisher the Acting Sheriff. A likeable fellow and efficient at keeping the peace, he made friends in Uvalde and planned to run for election in 1884.
To celebrate his rise in politics, an old pal of Fisher’s from his outlaw days, Ben Thompson, a notorious gunman in his own right, and the off-and-on elected City Marshall of Austin, invited Fisher to meet him in San Antonio.
Six months earlier, Thompson, while City Marshal of Austin, visited the Vaudeville Theater in San Antonio. In the back rooms, he entered a card-game with the theater owner, Jack Harris. The two quarreled over cards leading Thompson to shoot Harris. After a sensational trail, Thompson was acquitted, but he won no friends in San Antonio.
In an act of bravado, on the evening of March 11, 1884, Thompson and Fisher visited the Vaudeville Theater. After entering the darkened theater, Thompson and Fisher were shot in the back, killing both men. Following another sensational build up, a coroner’s jury ruled the deaths in self-defense, No one was ever charged with either murder.
Despite all the accusations of Uvalde be a rough town, few records exist to document any shooting or outrageous behavior. It may have happened, but “ain’t nobody talking about it.”

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Modern day Uvalde is a pleasant community. It is know as the spinach capital of the US, where water from the Nueces irrigates miles of flat lands south of the city. The most unusual relic in the area is a large abandoned plot that once housed the largest Internment Camp in the US. It held German Navy prisoners captured at sea, and Japanese-Americans families.
The road trip continued to Brackettville and Fort Clark in the next post.

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