I am sharing a review of WATERS PLANTATION, my latest historical fiction. It’s another Texas tale for you lovers of Texas history.
I am sharing a review of WATERS PLANTATION, my latest historical fiction. It’s another Texas tale for you lovers of Texas history.
When Texas was a Republic––a country all its own––the second president, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar had plans as grand as his name. He had organized the Philosophical Society of Texas before his election and he planned to lay the foundations for Texas to become a great empire. The problem was that the United States was the only country that recognized Texas independence. Mexico loomed as a threat to reconquer its rebellious people, and the new country had no money and no commercial treaties. Lamar instituted Indian wars that ran the Cherokees out of East Texas in 1839, and the following year, his campaign against the Comanches wiped out most of the Indians in West Texas––at a cost of $2.5 million.
With an eye to establish much-needed trade, the Santa Fe market looked like the best opportunity. Lamar imagined establishing a trade route that would allow Texas to gain jurisdiction over Santa Fe. He sent a commission with a letter detailing the benefits to Santa Fe citizens of joining the Republic of Texas. Then he ignored the Congress of the Republic of Texas when it did not approve his plans.
He called for volunteers and merchants to join an expedition to establish trade with the New Mexicans. To protect the expedition and their goods, a military force of five companies of infantry and one artillery accompanied the group of merchants, teamsters, and others. Twenty-one wagons carried supplies and the traders’ merchandise valued about $200,000.
On June 19, 1841, 321 eager “pioneers” set out with visions of establishing a foothold in
New Mexico that would spread Texas influence all the way to Santa Fe. When they reached the Wichita River on August 7, they mistook it for the Red and followed its route for ten days before discovering their error. Over the next six weeks, their Mexican guide abandoned them and they had to fend off Indian attacks. Their provisions ran low and they suffered from lack of water. They failed to find a route for the wagons to climb up the Caprock whose sheer rock face rose in places up to 1,000 feet to one of the largest mesas in the United States. Finally, an advance party moved ahead to seek help. Instead, they brought back a detachment sent by the Governor of New Mexico that forced the expedition to surrender on October 5. After almost four months of struggle in the desert-like country, the exhausted and sick members of the expedition were marched to Mexico City and on to Perote Prison in Veracruz. It was April 1842, well after Mirabeau B. Lamar left office, before the prisoners of the Santa Fe Expedition were finally released.
Always interested in mechanics and inventing, Jacob Brodbeck tried––apparently without
success––to build a self-winding clock while he was teaching school in his native Württemberg, Germany. In 1847 he arrived in Fredericksburg to serve as the
second teacher at the Vereins Kirche and then taught at other schools in Gillespie County. He married one of his students in 1858, and despite traveling the county as a surveyor and serving as district school supervisor, he and his wife had a dozen children.
Brodbeck’s real dream, which he worked on for twenty years, was to build an “air-ship.” He moved in 1863 to San Antonio to serve as a school inspector and took with him a small model of his invention that consisted of a rudder, wings, and a propeller powered by coiled springs.
When the blockade of Texas ports during the Civil War stopped the shipment of ice blocks cut from the lakes in the North, Brodbeck designed an ice-making machine. By the time his machine was complete in 1869, there were three plants producing artificial ice in San Antonio (and five other ice plants in the United States).
Meantime, Brodbeck attended local fairs to demonstrate the success of his model air-ship and to raise money to build a full-sized model large enough to carry a man. The Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo owns a copy of an article written by Brodbeck and published in the Galveston Tri-Weekly News on August 7, 1865, in which he touts his views: “For more than twenty years I have labored to construct a machine which should enable man to use, like a bird, the atmospheric region as the medium of his travels.” He sought subscriptions, not donations to fund and patent his airship. Stock certificates for the investors have been donated to the library.
Several prominent men invested in the venture and accounts vary as to when and where the “flight” took place. Brodbeck’s machine was equipped with an enclosed space for the “aeronaut,” a propeller for landing on water, a compass, and a barometer that was intended to measure the predicted speed at between 30 and 100 miles per hour. Some claim that on September 10, 1865, in a field east of Luckenbach––yes, the same Luckenbach made famous years later by Willie, Waylon and the boys––the airship rose twelve feet and traveled about 100 feet before the springs completely unwound and the sudden landing destroyed the contraption. Brodbeck, the “aeronaut,” was not seriously hurt.
Another account of the flight places it in San Antonio’s San Pedro Park where a bust of Brodbeck was placed several years later. And a third rendition claims the flight actually took place in 1868.
Regardless of the locale and the date, Brodbeck was undeterred and set about traveling the United States to raise money for another attempt. He could not persuade audiences to invest in the plan, and he was in Michigan his papers were stolen. The DRT Library holds a typed document that claims to be the transcription and translation from German of the inventor’s detailed specifications of his airship
He returned to his ranch outside Luckenbach and lived for another six years after the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.
and gatherers who lived 16,000 to 20,000 years ago, which makes them older than the Clovis People thought to have been the first in the New World. The Gault Site offered a perfect locale in a wooded valley near several springs feeding a creek where limestone outcrops provided high-quality flint (chert) for use in tool-making. The rich soil and abundant animal life made the area an ideal living environment.
For decades, the family that owned the land allowed treasure hunters to dig for a fee. Texas’ first professional archaeologist J. E. Pearce excavated part of the site in 1929-30 and reported it was one of the largest Clovis sites in Texas. However, paid digging continued even after 1991 when test excavations disclosed extensive evidence of older occupation. Although researchers were analyzing and cataloging the artifacts, it was 2007 before a private individual purchased the land. He donated fifty-four acres to the Archaeological Conservancy, a nonprofit that protects sites nationwide, and he gave the balance of the land to the Gault School of Archaeological Research at Texas State University in San Marcos.
Archaeologists dug a test pit below the 13,000-year-old Clovis occupation through thirty centimeters of sediment to find this unknown civilization. To determine the age of the stone artifacts, they used optically stimulated luminescence, which determines when particles of quartz and feldspar in soil samples around the artifacts were last exposed to sunlight.
Touted as one of the most important Paleo-Indian archaeological discoveries, the project has yielded 2.6 million projectile points, tools, flakes, and other artifacts. It is fortunate that the earlier pay-to-dig amateurs did not go deeper. The treasures included almost 200 stones carved with grids, spirals, and designs with perfect parallel lines and herringbone
patterns thought to be the oldest art in the Americas They found a stone floor (possibly the earliest known house) with “toss piles” of flint or chert to the northeast and large animal bones to the southwest (upwind from the smell of rotting flesh). Apparently, just like modern campers, these people kept their site clean and tossed their trash off to the side.
The abundance of tools and weapons indicates that this was a huge manufacturing area that attracted people over a long period. There is also evidence of leather-working such a hide-scrapers, and tools to cut and work or punch hide.
Clark Wernecke, an adjunct professor at Texas State and director of Gault School of Archaeological Research said that researchers who study these artifacts cringe when they hear someone call these ancient people “a primitive culture.” He reminds us that these folks invented tools that we are still using today.
For tours of the Gault Site, contact Williamson County Museum, Georgetown Square, 512/943-1670.
Great News! WATERS PLANTATION, the long-awaited sequel to THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and to STEIN HOUSE is available. It follows many of the characters from both books who move from the Indianola seaport to Washington County, Texas, and continue their story during the political turmoil that builds after Reconstruction.
WATERS PLANTATION, my tenth book, is historical fiction. It will be available on November 6, but you may preorder on Amazon.
Here is an overview:
It is 1875 in Texas, and Albert Waters takes pride in his image––prosperous merchant and plantation owner who freed his wife’s slaves before the Civil War and gave them land after her death. Then his son Toby, ready to depart for Harvard Medical College, demands answers. Was his mother a slave?
How does a man account for the truth that on a drunken night, when all he could think about was Amelia his long-ago lover, he gave into the touch of a slave girl?
Al and the Waters plantation co-operative of former slaves create a community that prospers as they educate their children and work their land. They organize against political forces regaining control through rape, lynchings, and the rise of the KKK.
Al believes he has been given a new life when Amelia arrives with dreams of moving her family from the hurricane dangers of the Texas coast. In the rapidly changing world swirling around him, Al will have to confront the image he has held of himself if he wants to keep Toby and Amelia, the two people he loves most.
Born in 1892, when females were not expected to have a career, Waldine Amanda Tauch received encouragement to draw from her father who was a photographer. He allowed her to copy his photographs. In an interview conducted in the early 1980s, Waldine said that the
day before she started school in Schulenberg, someone showed her an ivory bookmarker. She was so taken with the image on the piece that she asked her teacher for one of the large pieces of chalk. Using her father’s pocket knife, she carved the image with such detail that she earned immediate praise. She knew at that time that she intended to be a sculptress. She worked in clay and later she used soap, wood, chalk, and stone.
The family moved to Brady when Waldine was in her teens and some stories claim she caught the attention of ladies in the Tuesday Study Club when she carved butter into a centerpiece for a tea table. The women’s organization raised money for her art education and a friend of the renowned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini asked him to accept Tauch as his student.
Waldine said that her mother “wanted me to get married and have children, but my father who was a photographer was so happy someone was going to help me be a sculptress.” Ten days before she graduated high school in 1910, Waldine moved to San Antonio to study with Coppini. When her scholarship funds ran out, he and his wife claimed her as their foster daughter.
Waldine followed Coppini’s naturalistic style in classical sculptor, but she refused to listen to him when he warned that she was too small for the physical rigors needed to follow her dream of creating larger-than-life-sized works.
In 1923 Waldine followed Coppini to New York to help care for his wife and assist in his creation of the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next twelve years in New York, she received commissions primarily for portrait busts and for small genre figures produced by Gorham for the mass market.
She returned to San Antonio in 1935 to win the commission inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936) to carve The First Shot Fired for Texas Independence, a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite honoring the 1836 Battle of Gonzales.
Waldine had moved from assistant to a partnership when she and Coppini shared the cost of opening a San Antonio studio that grew into an academy dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. After Coppini’s death, Waldine renamed it the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in honor of her mentor.
The commissions kept coming, including the eight-foot bronze of General Douglas MacArthur when Tauch was seventy-four years old. Her biographer, Alice Hutson, explained that the skeleton of a figure begins with arranging boards to form the shape and pose. Then pipes are bent within the board frame to form the right curve before the figure is packed with clay. Even clothed figures are first created nude in order to get the muscular structure correct. In an interview, Tauch said that when she was creating the MacArthur figure, she used his army physical record to get his weight and height and that Mrs. MacArthur loaned his uniform. Tauch laughed when she disclosed that a man had written a poem after he came into her studio while she was working on MacArthur. The nude figure wore only his shoes and his cap. The startled gentleman wrote that “nobody in San Antonio knows the man the way Waldine does. She knows him from head to foot.”
Biographer Hutson says when Tauch created the heroic-sized bronze Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965) she used three male models. Seems she liked the facial contour of one model for the head, but his body was too slender. So, she used the torso of another man. His legs did not look good, so she used a third model whose legs she admired.
In 1964 Tauch was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. Five years later the Texas Senate presented Tauch an award for sculpting outstanding Texans, stating that her general patriotism added to the culture of Texas.
Her work is found in front of the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University and at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon. Figures are housed in workshops and at exhibitions, at the MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and in the Witte Museum in San Antonio.
Waldine Tauch died in 1986 and is buried in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park in a plot beside Pompeo Coppini and his wife.
Alice Hutson points out that Waldine Tauch created her grand bronze figures in an era before the Women’s Movement before women were allowed to do such things. In that early 1980s interview, Waldine Tauch said “I am happy I had my career. I did what I wanted to do. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
A group of German noblemen known as the Adelsverein, promoted the huge wave of German immigrants that began landing on Matagorda Bay in 1844. Some of the early arrivals remained on that barren strip of shell beach and established a port that became Indianola.
Most of the emigrants moved inland and created settlements such as New Braunfels and then Fredericksburg.
Germans continued to arrive by the shiploads and in early 1847, Dr. Ferdinand von Herff and Hermann Spiess organized a group of idealistic young university students calling themselves Die Vierziger––“The Forty,” who dreamed of a utopian community, a socialistic colony. When one of the founders of the Verein heard of the Forty, he offered $12,000 in cash, tools, livestock, wagons and provision for one year if they agreed to be the first settlers in the remote Fisher-Miller grant north of Fredericksburg.
By the time the cultured and wealthy young men reached Galveston, their numbers had dwindled to thirty-one, plus a young woman named Julie Herf (unrelated to Dr. Herff) whom they hired for her housekeeping skills and her fluent English. When the exuberant party reached Indian Point (it had not yet been named Indianola), they had so much baggage and freight, that they had to wait for additional wagons to carry such things as machinery for constructing a mill, a kennel full of dogs, and many barrels of whiskey. One of the young men wrote that they “lived like gods on Olympus. . .sang, drank, and enjoyed themselves” all the way to New Braunfels. Their trip further north to a site near to a site near present Castell, took longer than expected because they were trying for the first time in their lives to drive a herd of cattle to their new home on the north side of the Llano River.
Immediately they set about transforming the wilderness into Bettina, the idealistic community named for Bettina von Arnim, the writer and muse to the Prussian socialist movement.
They erected white tents and a barracks made of posts and beams covered with grass. Julie Herf had a lean-to kitchen on the side of the barracks where she provided steaming pots of food to sound of the “vigorous songs of hearty workers.”
Among the happy throng of eager laborers were seven lawyers, two architects, a musical instrument maker, a hotel keeper, a brewer, and a theologian. There was also the necessary miller, blacksmith, butcher and a few mechanics and carpenters.
Dr. Herff began learning the dialect of their Comanche and Apache neighbors who had recently made a lasting peace treaty with the residents of Fredericksburg. He had been treating the Comanches who showed up at Bettina for various ailments for a short time when one of the natives arrived with advanced cataracts. Although Herff had performed cataract surgeries in Germany, operating on eyes in the wilderness was another proposition. Fearful the Comanches would not understand his refusal, he decided to meet the challenge. He had brought the latest in ophthalmologic instruments, but he needed good lighting for the delicate surgery. Ether was the only anesthetic available, but it was highly flammable, which ruled out using candles or kerosene lamps because the flames had to be held close to use his magnifying lenses. Herff solved the problem by performing the surgery outdoors under bright sunshine. He was not concerned about infection because infection was unknown at the time. However, he was a very clean man and he insisted the area be dust free, no wind, and free of bugs. On the prescribed sunny day, a dozen members of the Forty stood around the operating table and kept away insects by waving palm leaf fans.
Aware that free flowing tears kept the eye clean, Herff reasoned that irrigating the eyes with water would serve that purpose. He later wrote that he used his 160-power microscope to view the cistern water and realized it was “infested with numerous small moving bodies which I called animalcules, [so] I decided to clear the substance by boiling it.”
The surgery was a success and the Comanche thanked the doctor profusely, promising to bring him a gift––a woman. Sure enough, three months later, the Indian brought Herff a teenage Mexican girl. The cook/housekeeper Julie Herf took the girl, named Lena, under her
wing, and apparently life turned out well, for Lena eventually married Hermann Spiess, one of the founders of the Forty, and they had ten children.
Bettina, however, didn’t fare so well. Herff and another of the leaders, returned to Germany to marry. In their absence, the communal spirit that trusted everyone to work when he felt like it, resulted in most of the Forty not working. The heavy dominance of professional men who saw themselves as directors of others instead of workers, led to the laborers feeling the injustice and refusing to carry the load. By the summer of 1848, the settlement was abandoned.
Some of the young men moved to other German freethinker communities such as Sisterdale and Comfort; other spread out across the Hill Country to establish careers as lawyers, ranchers, merchants, and writers.
Ferdinand Herff returned to San Antonio with his German bride, and because he believed that professional satisfaction was its own reward, he served mostly indigent patients. He continued to perform remarkable medical surgeries such as removal of two large bladder stones from a Texas Ranger. This was Herff”s first time to use chloroform and he operated before a large crowd, including William (Big Foot) Wallace. He continued to perform cataract removals; corrected a depressed skull fracture to alleviate traumatic epilepsy; and opened a young man’s stomach who had swallowed lye. At the age of eighty-four, he operated at a remote ranch on his daughter-in-law for an ectopic (fetus outside the uterus) pregnancy.
He worked to achieve high standards of medical practice, helped organize medical societies and boards across Texas and founded Santa Rosa, San Antonio’s first hospital.