While picking wild blackberries, I often reflect on the likelihood that early settlers most certainly did the same . . . and of course centuries of native people before them. Not only do those thoughts somehow create some unexplainable bond with those who came before me, I am also reminded of the immense history of the land . . . all land, for that matter. We truly are just passing through and are just momentary stewards of the land in a tiny spec of time.
When I was boy, I always wondered where is the Indian Country? they often referred to in cowboy movies. Certainly, it was not Snyder, Texas where I grew up . . . or so I thought. Since most of the westerns were filmed in Utah, it is no wonder I was confused. The movie sets did not remotely resemble West Texas where I lived. It was many years before I came to realize that I had grown up in the heart of Camanche country – between their winter home of Palo Duro Canyon and their summer campsite of the Big Spring (now known as Big Spring, Texas). So, I ask, have you given much thought to the history of your area?
Local Texas history has always fascinated me. We have so many modern-day links to the past that we are unaware of. One of my friends is a Hornsby, of Hornsby Bend on the Colorado River east of Austin. He farmed the original family homestead and will someday be laid to rest in the famous Hornsby Cemetery. The Hornsbys, a fearless clan by reputation, settled much further west than any of the rest of the original Austin Colony. Their stories, and there are many, are fully intertwined with the early creation of Austin, Texas.
Another interesting piece of history is now recognized by a TXDoT sign, although some locals have known about it for years. For William B Travis’s ultimate sacrifice at the Alamo, his two sons were awarded a league of land (4,428.4 acres) that lies south of our modern day Ranch Road 150 and east of Driftwood. An adjoining neighbor told me many years ago that while his own portion of the creek had many large cypress trees, the Travis tract did not. As history has noted, Travis left his family in dire financial straits. According to the neighbor, Travis’ sons had to sell off the cypress trees for lumber to settle family debts.
Closer to home, for me anyway, is the history of Gotier’s Trace. Perhaps you have seen the Bastrop County Road that bears this name, or the Texas Historical Marker at the entrance to Bastrop State Park. With no way to venture into the wild frontier that was granted to Stephen F. Austin for his colony, Austin hired James Gotier to blaze a trail from San Felipe (now Seale) to a small Mexican military outpost on the Colorado River . . . now known to us as Bastrop. Gotier cut a trail adequate for colonists on horseback, and perhaps eventually ox carts, to travel to the new settlement. Along the Trace, Gotier built what is believed to have been the first “house” in Bastrop County. His initial homestead, undoubtedly a very humble log cabin, was located somewhere within a few hundred yards of our ranch, north of present-day Smithville. Our place would have almost certainly been considered part of that first homestead. In fact, it is possible that the first Trace crossed our place. Whether Austin was to pay Gotier in currency or in land will never be known. Gotier and much of his family were killed in the Rabb Creek Massacre south of Giddings. They met their end at “Gotier’s Camp” that was on what was a second, later “Gotier Trace” that was further north and veered closer to modern day Giddings. (As often happened in the early frontier days, three different spellings of Gotier’s name exist.) The Indian attack was just a few months after Davy Crockett and his volunteers passed through and convinced James’ son-in-law to join them at the Alamo . . . and, well, we know how that turned out. While I had been trying to learn more about the history of our place, I had the incredibly good fortune to meet and spend a day with James Gotier’s great, great, great grandson, Perry. An earnest student of his family’s history, Perry graciously shared a great deal of information and introduced me to other descendants of settlers in our little area known as Pin Oak.
Perhaps you have a similar tie with days gone by? If so, I would love to hear about it. Also, I would encourage you to write the stories down. These little pieces of history fade into the mist of time unless someone takes the time to commit them to paper. Again, we are just passing through. We will be someone else’s stories someday.
The last week or so has been one of my favorite times of the year – dewberry time! I am all about dewberry cobbler, dewberries on breakfast cereal, and best of all, dewberries on Bluebell Homemade Vanilla!
Finally, it is still not too late to get out and find some sweet dewberries! Enjoy!