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Hernan Contreras Papers

  • US TxAM-C 25
  • Collection
  • 1852-1993

This collection contains correspondence throughout the life of Hernan H. Contreras, both personal and professional, descriptions of his family home, a warranty deed on property owned by the Contreras family in Starr County, a map of these lots, photographs of family and coworkers in the U.S. Department of Immigration office in Starr County, an autograph book from his public school career, utility bills, receipts, junk mail, and oil and gas leases.

The collection also contains a multitude of papers from Mr. Contreras' wife's family, particularly those of her father, Casamiro Perez Alvares. The contents of these papers include oil and gas leases, utility bills, newspaper articles, correspondence with the U.S. Marshal's office in Galveston, subpoenas, arrest warrants, witness testimonies, receipts, government bulletins, poll tax receipts, land and city tax receipts, family photographs, marriage licenses, wedding invitations, funeral notices, personal letters, business letters, bank statements, checks, deposits, Christmas cards, a pamphlet on communism, a report card, ration sheets from World War I, Letters to the Editor of Newsweek magazine, articles on Estela Contreras' run for political office, and a picture of Estela Contreras from 1993. There is also a collection of reels accompanying all the paper items.

Contreras, Hernan, 1902-197?

Santa Rosa Ranch Papers

  • TxAM-CRS 27
  • Collection
  • 1890-1910

This collection consists mainly of correspondence, legal documents, a corporate minute book, and handwritten notes recording the litigation connected with ownership of a large tract of land (89,000 acres) in Hidalgo country known as the "Big Santa Rosa Pasture". Actual litigation took place from 1903-1910.

Individuals involved in the case were: Dillard Rucker Fant and his wife, Lucy Fant; Daniel J. Sullivan; J. C. Sullivan; James V. Upson; Wiliam R. Elliott; Conrad A. Goeth; James Webb; J. M. Chittim; Archie Parr; Kate V. Elliott; G. G. Clifford; A. E. Chavez; J. A. Galligher; W. M. Sanford; Fred Kelly; F. A. McGown; F. W. Church; H. R. Wood; F. Groos and his wife, Hulda Groos. Legal counsel involved in the proceedings were: James E. Webb and Conrad A. Goeth of Webb and Goeth, F. A. McGown of Denman, Franklin & McGown, and R. L. Ball, all based in San Antonio, Texas.

At the onset of the difficulties, D. R. Fant had leased the Big Santa Rosa Pasture to the cattle-raising partnership of Chittim and Parr. J. M. Chittim was a large rancher in South Texas and Archie Parr, was a State Senator popularly known as the Duke of Duval. Based on the large annual rent monies Fant had expected to collect from Chittim and Parr, he then also borrowed money from D. Sullivan of D. Sullivan and Company Bankers (founders and owners of the large South Texas Mariposa Ranch) and, using the same collateral, borrowed more money from the competing F. Groos and Company Bankers (later a founder of Wells Fargo Bank).

When it appears, that Chittim and Parr defaulted on their rent payment for the Big Santa Rosa Pasture to Fant, Fant was then forced to default on his own payments to both banking organizations from whom he had borrowed funds. The bankers, in return, sued and foreclosed on the Big Santa Rosa Pasture.

Through the Santa Rosa Ranch Papers extensive set of legal documents, attorneys' memoranda, telegrams, letters, and financial disclosures, the most absorbing story of Texas land politics unfolds.

Notable among the papers is the Santa Rosa Ranch Minute Book, a ledger volume with handwritten entries detailing the Articles of Incorporation, By-laws and minutes of the first stockholders' meeting of the Santa Rosa Ranch Company. Also present is a manuscript plat map in black and red ink on light blue linen, of the 1905 Maria Rodriguez survey, which has been encapsulated and is housed separately in a Map Case Drawer.

Santa Rosa Ranch

Las Moras Ranch Collection

  • TxAM-CRS C000046
  • Collection
  • 1869-1913

This collection consists chiefly of correspondence regarding the Runge family of Galveston, Tex. and Menard, Tex., including Henry Runge, his sons Henry J. Runge and Louis Hermann Runge, their cousin Julius F. Runge, as well as family members in Hannover, Germany, including heirs Hans Eyl and his wife Meta Eyl; German immigrant and Texas businessman Walter Tips (1841-1911) who, after the death of Henry Runge, had formed the Las Moras Ranch Company (December 21, 1879) with his wife's aunt Julia Runge, wife of Henry Runge, and Runge's sons Henry J. Runge, and Louis H. Runge; German Emigration Company lands, lawyers and law firms in Austin, Tex. and San Antonio, Tex., including C. A. Goeth, the firm of Webb & Goeth, Adolph Goeth, the business partner of Walter Tips and brother of C. A. Goeth.

Also present are: legal documents, including deeds, wills, powers of attorney, some ranch operations records, including ranch inventories, accounting ledgers, and handwritten notes. These papers record the operations and transfers of ownership of over 130,000 acres of property, principally in the Texas counties of Comal, San Saba, Tom Green, Concho, and Menard, collectively known as the Las Moras Ranch.

Beyond the acquisition, operation, and ultimate liquidation of this ranch property, however, an interesting part of Texas history, that of the Adelsverien or German Emigration Company, and early German immigrant settlement are illuminated through the documents in the collection.

The collection series reflect the history of the ranch from its foundation until its sale in 1913.

  • Series 1 begins with an 1867 legal document showing a transfer of ownership of many thousands of acres of land from Hermann Arnold Henry (Heinrich) Runge (1821-1861) of Funchal, Madiera, Portugal to his brother and business partner, Henry Runge (1816-1873). Henry Runge paid for the land in American Gold. Other documents in the papers include a very large judgment against the Adelsverien or German Emigration Company, a copy of the lengthy handwritten "Last Will of Henry Runge," probated April 2, 1873, and that of his wife, Julia, dated March 23, 1896.
  • Subsequent documents in Series 2-Series 4 of the papers highlight the operation and eventual liquidation in 1913 of the Las Moras Ranch, including transcontinental communications between Germany and Texas among heirs to the Runge fortune. Several of these family letters scattered through the papers may be particularly difficult to translate since they are written in Kurrentschrift, a Gothic handwriting style.
  • Playing important roles in the later transactions concerning the ranch properties were the sons of Henry Runge (1816-1873): Henry J. Runge (1859-1922), Louis Hermann Runge (1861-1936), and his nephew Julius F. Runge (1851-1906). Henry J. Runge and Julius F. Runge were financial advisors, while Louis Runge served as the ranch manager and lived on the Las Moras Ranch property. Walter E. Tips (1841-1911), another German immigrant, Texas Senator, and successful hardware merchandiser, who married into the Runge family, along with C. A. Goeth (b. 1869), a San Antonio attorney, were involved in the ranch operations and legal issues concerning the eventual dispersal of Las Moras Ranch property.

Las Moras Ranch, 1869-1913

Johnson County War Collection

  • TxAM-CRS 163
  • Collection
  • 1884-1893

This collection contains financial and legal documents related to the Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder Creek, which was a range war between large cattle ranchers and small ranchers in Johnson County, Wyoming, in April 1892. The financial documents include a bill of sale written in compliance with the Maverick Law of 1884 and a promissory note. The legal documents were produced in connection with the criminal proceedings against the participants of the range war.

Johnson County War

Mercurio Martinez Papers

  • TxAM-CRS C000563
  • Collection
  • 1767-1963

The Mercurio Martinez Papers (1797-1963 (bulk: 1910-1963)) include correspondence, copies of legal documents such as wills, deeds, affidavits and courtroom briefs, maps, a few photographs, field notes for land surveys, genealogical charts, accounts of family and regional history by Mercurio Martinez, and historical accounts from other sources, principally newspapers. There are also financial records of various kinds including tax records, bills and receipts, books of check stubs and account sheets.

The vast majority of the papers relate to families, places and events in Zapata County. Webb County is also well represented, as is the region surrounding the town of Guerrero, Tamaulipas located on the south bank of the Rio Grande opposite Zapata County, Texas. A few papers deal with families, places and events in Starr County and further south in the Rio Grande Valley and a few files deal with Mexican, United States and world affairs. Unless otherwise noted in the inventory, files deal with Zapata or Webb County matters.

The oldest original papers date from the latter part of the nineteenth century and include such documents as Mercurio Martinez's Texas Teachers Certificate, 1898 (Series 1-3/4); a General Land Office map of Zapata County, 1885, (Series 3-14/25); and a certificate appointing Proceso Martinez, Sr., Mercurio's father, to the Zapata County Board of Appeals, 1870, (Series 3-25/23). There are also copies and translations of nineteenth-century documents including partition deeds, deeds of sale, birth records, and maps. Accounts of family and local history written by Martinez in the 1950s and early 1960s deal with events dating back to the Spanish settlements along the lower Rio Grande in the 1750s. Genealogies are generally traced back to the first colonists to arrive in the region. Family records, therefore, cover a time span of more than 200 years, from the settlers who arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande in about 1750 to their descendants in the early 1960s. Each decade from 1900 onward is represented in the papers. There are more files from the 1950s than any other single decade.

Among the most important files in the collection are those on the relocation of the town of Zapata due to the construction of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande in the early 1950s, the salvation of the community of San Ygnacio from destruction during this period, the accounts of family history and genealogy from Zapata County, and the papers related to the division of lands between descendants of original holders of Spanish grants and sales of family lands. Maps, genealogies, and legal documents provide a clear picture of the rapidity with which even extensive landholdings can be reduced to tracts hardly adequate to support the families of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original owners. Reconsolidation of holdings through the purchase of interest from siblings and through cousin marriage are also documented. It is also possible to trace shifts in settlement and land-use patterns. For example, the original grantees of porciones along the Rio Grande held land in long narrow blocks extending inland from the river. Over the generations, these blocks were subdivided among heirs and parts of them were sold outside the families. Through separate inheritance from parents, through marriage, and through purchase, individuals came to own small pieces of land located in widely separated tracts. This pattern of dispersed holdings, each of economically inefficient size and too far apart to be worked as units, has been noted for many peasant societies. These papers clearly reveal the processes whereby such a land-holding pattern developed out of the more economically efficient block holdings within a few generations. The most completely documented tract of land is the vast Jose Vasquez Borrego Grant made in 1750. It was later divided into the Dolores, Corralitos, and San Ygnacio Subdivisions. The first settlement was made at the Hacienda de Dolores on August 22, 1750. This settlement was abandoned, apparently during Indian troubles in the early 19th century. A settlement or Rancho of Dolores was founded nearby in the Dolores subdivision of the Borrego Grant by Cosme Martinez in 1859. Meanwhile, the town of San Ygnacio had been founded in the San Ygnacio subdivision in 1830. Until the early 20th century, an hacienda in the Corralitos subdivision was occupied by members of the Vidaurri family, who were descendants of the original grantee's daughter, Alejandra Vasquez Borrego de Vidaurri.

Also of interest are the Corridos, or ballads, composed by Mercurio Martinez and dealing with dramatic events in Zapata County history such as an escape from prison, a contested election and the destruction of Zapata by the rising waters of Falcon Reservoir.

Martinez, Mercurio, 1876-1965