A Pioneer Mother’s Experience: Part II

by Edited by Jim Fish

Following, are the words of Mrs. Mary Kate Cruze of San Antonio, Texas (circa 1928):

“In 1860 we moved from Cannonville to Jacob's Well on Cypress Creek, where Father contracted to take care of a herd of cattle owned by John Meeks and sons of Webberville. But knowing nothing about handling stock, he gave it up and moved to the Blanco River, about twelve miles from San Marcos, where he farmed, made shingles and shoes. A neighbor, Mr. W. A. Leath, had a tanyard and made very good leather.

“We still had no schools, so Father built a cypress-slab schoolhouse, where Mother taught her own and the neighbors' children. In 1861 and 1862, I attended a boarding school in San Marcos, which was then only a small village. My teacher was Prof. T. L. Lyons.

“There was a little settlement below us on the Blanco River called "Arkansaw" and three or four men from there were forced to go to war. One morning we were startled to see a detachment of soldiers drawn up before our house. The commander explained that they were hunting three men from "Arkansaw" who had deserted the army and asked Father to be on the lookout for them, naming a place where he might report in case they were seen in that locality.

“He asked if he might have some bread baked. Mother and I went to work in a hurry and soon had a hundred biscuits done, to which we added all the butter we had on hand. The commander was delighted and insisted that we accept pay, but we refused. The soldiers marched away after repeating their request for Father to be on the lookout for "Jap" Brown, "Little John" Pierce and Harris, the deserters. These men were never found, though they were hunted from time to time throughout the war and we learned later that they had lived in caves a short distance from their homes.

“After the war, they came out of hiding, though no one outside the little colony knew where they had been. A sister-in-law of Jap Brown told me of the many narrow escapes he had while in hiding. Mrs. Brown was a very industrious woman and the neighbors wondered how she wove more cloth, raised better crops and more hogs than anyone. When a soldier left for the front, Mrs. Brown invariably donated socks and gloves, did sewing, or any other useful favor that she could do.

“Father and Brother Charlie went to war, as did my best friend and schoolmate, and I had an anxious time thinking of my loved ones, though they all came home safe and sound. Great was the rejoicing from then on and balls, picnics and many kinds of amusements took the place of our sad lonely hours. Many were the weddings that followed for few indeed were the boys who had not left their girls behind them.

“On July 24, 1865; I was married to Joseph S. Cruze at my father's place on the Blanco River. Though I was not yet sixteen and my husband lacked three days of being twenty. We felt full-grown and far from children. We had lived through many trials and tribulations. We felt that we had missed our childhood.

“Father was a magistrate in our precinct for several years before and after the war, also was elected assessor several terms. Then he moved to San Marcos and was appointed postmaster. His health failed, and he moved to Pearsall. In 1888 he came to visit us on our ranch where he took sick and died. We laid him to rest in the Leath graveyard on the Blanco River, beside his little daughter who died in infancy. Mother died in Dallas, January l897.

“In the first years of our married life, we had hard times. We moved to Bastrop County where Mr. Thomas McKinney had a sawmill on the Colorado River and my husband contracted to haul the lumber to Austin. McKinrtey agreed to furnish ten wagons and teams, but he let him have only two. It was well, for the mill broke down. Mr. George Maverick, the mill foreman took sick, likewise my husband and I, with chills and fever, so we moved back to the mountains in Hays County.

“We had no home, so we moved into a little vacant shanty that someone had built near a small spring that my husband had found when he was a little boy. The house had neither floor nor chimney and was chinked with mud which fell in on us when it rained. Mr. Cruze soon built a chimney and floored the house and we lived there for four years and were happy as larks.

“He made several trips to Port Lavaca; likewise, he had all the pleasure and hardships of cow hunts. I know I have baked a thousand biscuits for his trips. The time he spent on the trail seemed very long to me, as I stayed at home, took care of the babies and the place.

“He had the same experiences that most trail drivers had, swimming swollen streams, thunder and lightning, and stampedes but came out unharmed. He used a packhorse to carry his bedding and provisions and sometimes he would pack the old horse so heavily that he would sit down and had to be helped up. Once when he had gone about two miles from home, the pack turned under the old horse and he ran away, kicked the pack to pieces and scattered biscuits for a mile. Later he made a big "KYAX" as he called it, somewhat on the order of the old saddle bags, but very commodious, then he bought a real packsaddle and had no more mishaps with his kitchen outfit.

“In 1868, two cattlemen hired him to help round up a herd of cattle near the Pedernales River. He worked a month at two dollars a day, and when the work was done, neither man would pay him. Mr. Cruze also made two trips to Kansas over the Chisholm Trail and of all the men he associated with on these trips and cow hunts, my half-brother, Albert Heaton, of Del Rio, is the only man now living that we know of.

“On his last trip to Kansas, his main helper was Adam Rector, who could ride and rope with the best. One morning he and Adam were leading the herd when suddenly he saw the negro wheel and come tearing by him shouting, "Indians! Indians!" and in spite of his yells, Adam kept going to the rear of the herd. He knew that it was a poor time to run so he stood his ground. Soon the Indians came up to him looking very savage, and one of them made a grab for his quirt.

“Instantly he grabbed the Indian's [hand], the strings slipped off each wrist and they had traded quirts. Then they began a guttural demand for beef. He motioned to the rear of the herd, and they went on until they found the boss, who gave them a yearling.

“Mr. Cruze drove his own cattle and made wages, besides which was more money than we ever had before and wisely did not waste any of it. He bought two "Kansas" wagons as they were called, complete with sheets, bows, etc., a Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine, a set of moss agate jewelry, a side saddle, bridle, blanket, riding skirt and a fine pacing pony, which would go only as far as he liked, then turn around and go home in spite of me. He bought and established the "Cruze Ranch" where we lived for fifty years. In 1917 we sold it to our son, Joe S. Cruze, Jr., who made it his home.

“Our eldest son, Albert, lives in Houston, Will in Travis County and John in California, while two daughters, Margaret and Mrs. Addie Harlan and her son, Forrest live with us. Our youngest daughter, Mrs. Nell Curry, lives in Floresville. We have eight grandchildren, including twin baby girls, slightly more than a month old. We are well satisfied in our new home, Los Angeles Heights, San Antonio, and we are never so happy as when our children or some old friend comes to see us, for as ever the latch string hangs on the outside.”

Ozona June