you’re interested in history, and like getting out and about, you’ve probably
stooped to pick up a piece of Texas’ past at some point in your life. |
I made my first find in 1955. My granddad had taken me to old Fort Davis, now
a protected national historic site but then privately owned. Walking with Granddad
across the former parade ground, I kicked a dirt clod.
The clod broke to
reveal a square piece of metal. On examination, Granddad pronounced it a saddle
cinch buckle, something lost by a long-ago horse soldier. I stuck it in my pocket
and still have it.
I have found numerous other artifacts since then, some
the result of having looked for them, others discovered by happy accident. Decades
of accumulation have built a modest collection of everything from prehistoric
projectile points to old bricks. While I have never found anything that would
make headlines, others sure have.
the summer of 1893, workmen hauling sand from an island in the Rio Grande near
an old flintlock. According to the Aug. 11 edition of that year’s Fort Worth
Gazette, the musket was cocked, loaded and primed. Its stock was “partially
The story lacked any other details or speculation on how the
relic ended up in the river.
Laredo find, though
interesting, is nothing compared with a pair of discoveries made in San
Antonio two decades later.
In late 1912 or early 1913, Charles Arnaud
and Gus Loeloff, his brother-in-law, began tearing down an old adobe building
downtown. A frustratingly short five-paragraph article published in the February
1913 edition of the long-defunct Texas Magazine says the building had been used
“in bygone years as a fandango hall.”
Whoever mixed, molded and stacked
all those bricks had raised a sturdy structure. In addition to blending in the
requsite straw, the builder had added nodules of flint to the mud that would become
adobe when sun-dried.
As the two men swung their picks into the old walls,
metal suddenly clanged into metal. Dropping their heavy tools, the men pulled
their pocket knives and began scraping away the mortar still covering whatever
they had hit.
Soon they exposed what looked like a teapot, a copper vessel
with a spout. Pulling it from the wall, they found its opening had been sealed
with a rock. Removing the makeshift “lid” and the mass of spider web beneath it,
they found eight dusty Spanish coins. While the article did not report the dates
on the coins, they must have pre-dated Mexico’s independence from Spain, which
came in 1821.
The gold coins seemed like a big deal at the time, but in
retrospect, another item the two men found would probably be more valuable today
– an old dagger.
The weapon, discovered hidden by mortar near the top
of one wall, had a hand-carved pearl handle with a feathery design on one side
and a laurel-draped shield on the other. Separating the handle from the seven-inch
blade was an ornate handguard “almost as large as those of the swords used by
the Crusaders, bearing a bas relief of a wolf’s head.” The other end of the guard
bore the head of another animal that had not been identified.
one side and thick on the other,” the description of the dagger continued, “its
point is yet in fine shape and could do deadly work.” Even more intriguing, the
blade bore “peculiar red stains, believed…caused by blood.”
The old coins
were sent to Tiffany in New York for appraisal, but what became of the dagger
– a weapon likely made in Spain that well could have dated to the time of the Crusades – went unreported.
the spring of 1951, running a trap line along a rocky hillside on his family’s
Burnet County ranch, Donald Murchison walked up on a collection of rusty flintlocks
(their wooden stocks rotted away) and other artifacts scattered around what appeared
to be a very old camp site.
Murchison left to get his father, Oscar. In
addition to the old rifles, they found what a newspaper described as a “Spanish
axe,” scythe blades, a wood auger, a pair of steel stirrups, a “Spanish spur,”
a bullet mold, a cannon ball, assorted iron pots and a large brass key.
Murchison family has lived on the ranch for more than 85 years,” the article continued.
“The presumption is that the equipment was left on the hillside by victims of
Indians or robbers.”
a decade later, in the fall of 1961, Claude Steffey found a .44 caliber Colt Army
revolver on a ranch 3.5 miles west of Burnet
near Post Mountain. Manufactured in 1860, the pistol bore the serial number 3227
and had been converted from a cap and ball revolver to one chambered for metalic
Steffey came across the old weapon while gathering firewood
near the Hoover Valey Road. Only the pistol’s butt protruded from the ground.
Nearby Steffey found part of a holster and rivets with leather fragments.
makes one wonder what happened to the owner of the gun,” the article’s author
ventured. Indeed it does.
Books by Mike Cox - Order Now|| |