Started out and got in Raymondville about 10
o’clock A. M. and went into our new home.
We crossed 4 toll bridges and was ferried
across the Canadian river. – Lena Bevers
twenty-seventh day after leaving Watertown, South Dakota, Lena Bevers recorded
that her family arrived in Raymondville, Texas about 10:00 AM. Her daughter
Florence wrote in her travel log that they had driven 50 miles that morning.1
They were still traveling about 15 miles per hour.
was only 15 years old when Herbert and Lena arrived there. It was a small
town. By 1914 the population was only 350, but there were “four
general stores, a bank, a newspaper, a hotel, a cotton gin, and a lumber
company. Agriculture, primarily the raising of sorghum, cotton, citrus fruits,
vegetables, and corn, drove the town’s growth in its early years.”2 Today, my mother and I didn’t find any dated historical
buildings of the early 1900s.
On January 5th, 1920 a U. S. census taker visited the Bevers family. At that time, Raymondville was in Cameron County, then in 1921 Willacy and Cameron Counties were reorganized. Raymondville became the county seat for Willacy County. According to the census record, Herbert was a farmer and he and his family were living on a rented farm.3 Herbert was 50 years old and Lena was 48. The six children that rode with them in the car are listed on the census record, as well as their son Willis who had accompanied the livestock on the train. Today, my mother and I spent a couple hours at the Cameron County Archives Office in Brownsville, Texas. We uncovered enough information that we believe will lead us to the area where Herbert Bevers was farming and we will go there tomorrow.
B. Winkelmann, Our Trip to Texas [Transcription
of Our Trip to Texas by Florence Bevers, 1919] (unpublished, n. d.): 5.
Left San Diego and drove for miles through timber. Stayed all night on the praire in the car. – Lena Bevers
November 7, 1919 was a very similar day for the Bevers family as the day before. They continued their drive south through timber. For my mother and I, the landscape today was also similar to yesterday’s: fields and pastures with patches of woods, especially at the edges of the fields and along the highway.
From Alice, Texas there are two routes that
we could take to get to Raymondville. U.
S. Highway 281 runs south from Alice to Linn, then Highway 186 goes east to
Raymondville. An alternative route would be driving to Kingsville, then take U.
S. Highway 77 south to Raymondville. On
a 1924 Rand McNally map there are roads at the location of U. S. Hwy 281 and
Highway 186.1 There is also a
road to Kingsville, but about 15 miles south of Kingsville the road doesn’t extend
to Raymondville. Therefore, the highways
we drove today were U. S. Highway 281 and Highway 186.
At Falfurrias, we decided to visit the Heritage
Museum. One picture on the display wall seems
to represent what Herbert was doing in Texas.
In Florence Bevers’ travel log, in the entry for November 8, 1919, she states that they had 50 miles to drive to get to Raymondville.2 Based on this statement, I propose that the Bevers and McElhanys spent the night in the vicinity of Encino or Rachal, Texas. The place where my mother and I stopped for a picnic lunch at a roadside park is close to the point where Lena wrote that they spent the night on the prairie in their cars.
Instead of staying on the prairie, my mother and I continued
south to Raymondville. After 26 days of
traveling, I drove into Raymondville at 1:50 PM. Our first stop was at the Register of Deeds
for Willacy County, where we searched the deed indexes to locate a transaction
by Herbert purchasing property in the Raymondville area. We were not successful in finding Herbert’s
deed, nor did we find one for McElhany. But
we did find the deed of Frederick Kammrath, who in 1919 was Florence’s future
father-in-law. After our research at the
Register of Deeds, we checked into our motel about 4:00 PM.
Left Skidmore and drove through Tynan, Mathis, George West, Cleggs P.O. and stayed all night in San Diego. Drove through timber all the way. – Lena Bevers
Having had to return to Skidmore on the previous day, on
November 6, 1919 Herbert Bevers and Mr. McElhany had to find a way to cross the
Nueces River. First, they head southwest
toward Mathis, traveling through Tynan on the way. Apparently, there was no way to cross there
either, so they drove northwest to the town of George West, where they were
able to cross the river and begin driving in a southerly direction again.
Since my mother and I stayed in Sinton for the night instead of Skidmore, we needed to return to Skidmore on U. S. Highway 181. When we turned out of the driveway of our motel, we assumed the highway we were getting on was the highway that would take us to Skidmore. It wasn’t until 10 miles later that we realized we were not on U. S. Highway 181, so we turned around and found the intersection where we could head in the right direction. At Skidmore we took Route 359 to Tynan and Mathis, then followed a service road beside Interstate Highway 37, which at one point was closed, so we drove on the interstate for part of the way.
Tynan was a very small town in the midst of crop fields and windmills. We didn’t find any historical buildings. Mathis is also a small town and we found a few old buildings, but it didn’t appear that they were in use. We continued on Interstate Highway 37 until we came to U. S. Highway 59, which took us to the town of George West. This town was only seven years old when the Bevers family drove through it. George West became the county seat of Live Oak County in 1919. Although it is a small town, it was the largest one we visited today.
To get to Clegg, we took U. S. Highway 59 southwest to a
farm road that the navigation program on my mother’s phone directed us to
take. Then we traveled east among shrubs
and short trees. At the point were the
navigator said that we had arrived at Clegg, there were only a couple ranch
houses and some farm buildings.
The landscape was not what we envisioned it would be like based
on Lena Bever’s statement that they “drove through timber all the way.” Much of the land that we drove through today had
been cleared of trees for crop fields and pastures. There were sections of trees, but the trees
were not as tall or as old as we expected them to be.
From Clegg, the navigation program directed us to U. S. Highway 281 and Highway 44 in order to get to San Diego, which is the county seat of Duval County. The courthouse in San Diego was only three years old when the two-car caravan drove through the town. “Duval County’s first courthouse was built shortly after county organization in the late 1870s. It burned down on August 11, 1914. It was replaced by the current Classical Revival style red brick courthouse which was built in 1916.”1
The Bevers family stayed overnight in San Diego, Texas. We didn’t find a motel there so we drove to
Alice for the night, arriving there about 2:45 PM.
Left Floresville and drove through Poth, Falls City, Karnes City, Peltus, Normanna, Beeville, Skidmore, Papalote, and Sinton. We had to go back to Skidmore as we could not get across the river at Sinton. Stayed all night in Skidmore. – Lena Bevers
On November 5, 1919 Herbert Bevers and Mr.
McElhany drove the most miles on that day than on any other day of the 27-day
trip. They drove about 112 miles, driving
through four counties: Wilson, Karnes, Bee and San Patricio. They also drove through four county seats:
Floresville, Karnes City, Beeville and Sinton.
Between these county seats were very small communities, some of which
are no longer in existence. According to
an article written in 1922 in The Parsons Daily Sun, the towns that Lena
listed in her travel log were on a branch of the King of Trails Highway.1
My mother and I started our tour at 11:00 AM
in Floresville, Texas. We had ten stops
on our itinerary for the day. All of the
towns were along U. S. Highway 181. Of
the ten places, we were able to find something to photograph in seven of
them. Pettus, Skidmore and Papalote did
not have anything historical.
Medio Creek Bridge, a through truss bridge, is about one mile west of Normanna. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. “The bridge arrived in kit form and was assembled by the Austin Brothers Bridge Company.”2 It was “built in 1897 by the New Jersey Iron and Steel Company, this bridge has served as one of the major crossings on the road from Beeville to San Antonio. … The bridge remained in service for vehicular traffic until 1987.’”3
When the Bevers family arrived in Beeville, the streets were not paved. They were paved in 1921.4 “Beeville’s 1912 Courthouse has most of the accessories you look for in a courthouse – A clock, dome, statue of the Goddess of Justice and large Corinthian columns.”5
When the two automobiles arrived in Sinton, Lena wrote in
her travel log that they could not get across the river, and her daughter
Florence wrote that “it was in the Gulf storm territory so every thing was torn
up.”7 On September 14, 1919
there had been a devastating hurricane.
“San Patricio County as a whole sustained considerable
damage during the 1919 storm.
Practically all windmills in the county were either blown to the ground
or dismantled. Power and communication
lines were severely damaged. Many
buildings were either damaged or destroyed.
The county received 14 inches of rain in 12 hours and flooding was
extensive. The greatest damage sustained
in the county was that of the complete destruction of all of the cotton crop
that had not yet been picked.”8
Possibly Herbert and Mr. McElhany were
planning to travel alongside the railways which ran along the Gulf Coast
through Kingsville and south to Brownsville and the Mexican border. This route would have taken them through the
town of Odem. The hurricane of 1919
washed out the S. A. U. and G. railroad west of Odem.9 Due to the inability to continue south from
Sinton, the travelers returned to Skidmore and Florence wrote that they stayed all
night in their cars.10
When my mother and I were looking online for a motel in Skidmore, we weren’t able to find one. Therefore, we decided to make our reservation in Sinton instead. We arrived in Sinton about 2:45 PM and went to a public library to look for information about the hurricane of 1919. Then we made it to the motel about 4:00 PM.
Left New Braunfels and drove through Solons, Comal, Selma, Fratt and San Antonio. Ate dinner there and stayed about 3 hours, while Mr. McElhany fixed the car and we waited for a telegram from Harding. Left there and drove through Elmendorf, Saspanaco, Calaveras, and stayed all night in Floresville. Had fairly good roads. – Lena Bevers
This morning my mother and I began the day by driving to Gruene, which is not far from New Braunfels. We had not gone there yesterday because we passed by too late in the evening. Gruene is a small community, but has a very attractive historic area.
Through Solms and Comal we drove on a road that was at one time the Camino Real or King’s Highway, and we located an historical marker that was placed on the highway in 1918. A plaque at Comal gave additional information about the road, calling it the Post Road. Perhaps Lena and Herbert and their family were driving on this road. Shortly after leaving Comal, we had to get on Interstate 35 to continue our drive. Selma and Fratt are suburbs of San Antonio.
Lena wrote in her travel log that Mr. McElhany had to have his car fixed in San Antonio and they also had to wait for a telegram. Although it is not known whether the two automobiles drove into the center of San Antonio when they were passing through, my mother and I decided to visit The Alamo before proceeding south. In the article below about San Antonio, The Alamo is cited as the heart of the city in 1920.1
Between San Antonio and Floresville, there were three small towns. None of them had historic areas that we could identify.
Started out early and drove to Taylor and had
breakfast. We drove through Hutto and
Round Rock. We stopped to have Mr.
McElhany’s car fixed, the wheels were out of line, so the rest of us went out
to the River and washed out some clothes, and ate dinner out there. Left about 1 o’clock and drove through
Austin, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, Gruene, and stayed all nite in New Braunfels. Had fine roads. – Lena Bevers
The traveling party had stayed the night in their cars, so on November 3, 1919 they departed early and had breakfast in Taylor, then headed to Hutto and Round Rock. Mr. McElhany’s wheels needed to be aligned. While that was being done, the rest of the party went to the river and washed their clothes, and they ate their dinner by the river. North of the town of Round Rock is a stream called Brushy Creek. Presently, there is a lovely park along Brushy Creek, named Round Rock Memorial Park. After seeing the two short blocks of historical buildings in Hutto, my mother and I had a late picnic lunch in the Round Rock park along with many families who were enjoying a warm (but not hot), clear and dry fall day.
“The famous ‘Hutto hippo’ showed up later, in 1915. Local legend has it that a circus train stopped in Hutto to deliver mail, and take on water, as well as care for the animals. During the stop, a hippopotamus escaped its keeper and headed for the muddy waters of Cottonwood Creek. The train depot agent was forced to telegraph local communities to let them know to ‘STOP TRAINS. HIPPO LOOSE IN HUTTO’ ….”1
Based on the map of Austin above, which shows the route entering Austin from Taylor on Guadalupe Street, and the location of the bridge that crossed the Colorado River, it is very likely that Herbert Bevers and Mr. McElhany drove past the Texas State Capital. This is the route my mother and I took to pass through Austin. We crossed the Colorado River at the same point that is shown on the map above, but I haven’t researched enough to say whether the bridge is the same one that spanned the river one hundred years ago.
By the time we were out of the suburbs of Austin, the sun was low in the sky. Traveling on the city streets was slow. Also, daylight savings time had ended the night before, and we had not taken into account that it would get dark an hour earlier. We took a few pictures in Buda, south of Austin, and then decided that we needed to head to the motel, instead of going to the historical districts of Kyle, San Marcos and Gruene. For much of the way to New Braunfels we drove on the frontage road of Interstate 35. Some of the time it was faster driving on the frontage road, because there was too much traffic on Interstate 35 and the vehicles were driving slowly. When we arrived at our motel at 6:30 PM, it had been dark for at least half an hour.
Even though the caravan had a delay in Round Rock until 1:00 PM, they covered a lot of miles on this day. From Taylor to New Braunfels, it was about 75 miles. Lena notes that they “had fine roads.” The introduction to Route 779 in the 1920Blue Book explains why the roads were so “fine” in this area. There was Tarvia on the roads from Austin to Buda (15 miles).5 The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines tarvia as “a viscid surfacing and binding material for roads that is made from coal tar – formerly a U.S. registered trademark.”6
Left Bartlett and went a round-about way to
Granger and from there a round-about way to Taylor. Ate a lunch on the road for dinner. Got stuck twice quite bad. Had supper at a farm house and stayed all
night in our car. – Lena Bevers
On November 2, 1919 the roads were in no
better condition than they were the day before.
Again Herbert Bevers’ car got stuck in the mud, very severely. Lena recorded that they took round-about ways
to Granger and to Taylor, Texas.
According to The Official AutomobileBlue Book 1920, the
distance between Bartlett and Taylor using Route 778 was about 18 miles.1 This was the shortest number of miles that
they traveled in one day. When they
drove through Granger, they had brick paved streets to drive on. It was unusual for a small town to have paved
roads at that time.
The Bevers family ended their day at a farm house near Taylor. There they had their supper and then stayed in their car for the night. Since we arrived in Taylor yesterday, my mother and I took a long side trip to visit two of my daughters in Houston, Texas. We’ll stay overnight and return to the route at Taylor tomorrow.
Left Troy and had muddy roads, got stuck four
times. Drove through Temple, Little
River and got to Bartlett and stayed all night in our car. – Lena Bevers
The introduction to Route 778 in the The
OfficialAutomobile Blue Book 1920 describes the roads from Waco to
Austin, Texas: “Most of the road has been gravelled but heavy rains have
washed the lowlands leaving several dirt stretches which become mires in wet
weather.”1 Lena and
Herbert Bevers and their children became well-acquainted with the mires on this
route. They got stuck in the muddy roads
four times on November 1, 1919.
Due to the terrible condition of the roads
they were only able to travel about 32 miles.
After leaving Troy, they came to the large town of Temple. In this town, the headquarters of the Santa
Fe Railroad’s Southern Division was located, so the train depot was much larger
than other depots in smaller towns. The
Santa Fe Depot currently houses the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum. My mother and I toured the museum, which
elicited many questions in our minds about Willis and Arthur Bevers experience
as they traveled with the Bevers’ cattle and horses from Watertown, South
Dakota to Raymondville, Texas.
Upon exiting Temple, we took Texas State Highway 95 south to the small towns of Little River and Bartlett. This highway roughly follows the route that Herbert and Mr. McElhany were on one hundred years ago.
Evidently, there were no accommodations available in Bartlett, because Lena wrote that they stayed in their cars for the night. There currently are no motels in Bartlett either, so we drove further south to Taylor, Texas to check into a motel we had reserved online. We arrived in Taylor about 3:00 PM.
Finished fixing the car then left Hillsboro and had 3
miles of mud. Had to be pulled with a
team for 1/2 mile, cash $10.00. We drove
through Abbott and ate dinner in West.
Had paved road to Lorena, 15 miles.
We drove through Waco, Lorena, Bruseville, Eddy and stayed all night in
Troy. – Lena Bevers
To start out the day of October 31, the repairs to Mr. McElhany’s car had to be completed. Florence Bevers wrote in her travel log: “Left Hillsboro and went out and finished Cornies car ….”1 Perhaps Mr. McElhany’s car had been left on the road the evening before, so in the morning they had to go back to where it was to finish working on it. Florence’s notation using the name “Cornie” is a clue to what Mr. McElhany’s first name was. Possibly it was a nickname for Cornelius or for Clarence (In The First 100 Years in Codington County, it states that a Clarence McElhany moved to Texas about the same time as the Bevers did.2)
When the car was fixed, Herbert and Mr. McElhany resumed
driving, but their progress was impeded because the road was muddy for three
miles. The Bevers’ car got stuck in the
mud, so a team of horses was hired to pull the car for half a mile. It cost $10.00 cash to hire the team. One of Lena and Herbert’s grandsons states
that he was told the following about this experience: “The car that got towed
into town … by horses was the Model A.
But it really wasn’t broke down after all. They thought it had a broken axle but it was
in the mud up to the hubs and the wheel was spinning in the air. A costly mistake, $10 in those days would be like
$150 now for the tow.”3
At Hillsboro, the Meridian Highway joined the King of Trails Highway. The Meridian Highway is the transcontinental highway on which the Bevers family had started their journey 19 days previously in Watertown, South Dakota. The name of the highway was “derived from the Sixth Principal Meridian, which extends north-south through the Great Plains region.”4 If the Bevers family had not gotten off the Meridian Highway in South Dakota, they would have traveled through Columbus (Nebraska), Wichita (Kansas), closely bypassed Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) and driven through Fort Worth (Texas). When they were in Fort Worth two days prior, they could have gotten on the Meridian Highway and driven to Hillsboro, instead of travelling to Lancaster and then to Hillsboro. Once again, it is not known why they didn’t take this route.
In Texas, “the main, or trunk, line [of Meridian Highway] extended north-south through the middle of the state and generally followed the path of the Chisholm Trail, famously used to run Texas cattle to the railheads in Kansas in the heyday of the Cattle Drive era after the Civil War.”5
After their car was towed and the two cars reached a better road, they cars went through Abbott and then stopped in West where they ate dinner. My mother and I got on the road about 10:00 AM today, using the frontage road that runs alongside Interstate Highway 35. We passed through Abbott and West within the hour.
In the running directions above, at mile 76.3 the town of West is listed, indicating that the train station is on the right. When we drove around West, we found the station.
Next, the caravan arrived at Waco, a large commercial city of 55,000 people.
“One of the factors that made Waco so important stemmed from the two bridges that crossed the Brazos River. To augment the 1870 suspension bridge, Waco built a metal truss bridge over the waterway in 1904 a few blocks upriver. Its completion provided a secondary means for vehicular traffic to cross the river. The metal truss bridge linked Elm Street in what is known as East Waco to Washington Street in downtown Waco…. Its completion relieved burdens placed on the older suspension bridge….”7
Before crossing the river, the King of Trails Highway split off from the Meridian Highway, heading southeast to Houston and Galveston, Texas. The Bevers family continued southwest on the Meridian Highway, crossing either the steel bridge or the suspension bridge.
“Waco’s Historic Suspension Bridge was the longest single-span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi when it was completed in 1870. The bridge was built with cable supplied by the John Roebling Co., who built the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Crucial to traders and travelers for well over a century, the bridge stands as an icon of Waco history….”8
Waco is a city with modern freeways, and we found a lot of road construction going on. My mother and I tried to follow Business U. S. Highway 77 into Waco, but we soon had difficulty identifying the route and we ended up passing the street that we wanted to take. Eventually we found ourselves on a bridge crossing the Brazos River. Due to lanes merging and stopped traffic, it took about 15 minutes to cross the bridge. We had wanted to go to a park along the river before crossing the bridge. At the park we would have been able to see the Suspension Bridge. While we were sitting on the bridge in traffic, we saw another bridge to the west and I thought it was the Suspension Bridge, so when we finally got over the bridge, we headed for a park on that side of the river to take pictures. It wasn’t until we got to the motel that I realized that the bridge I took a picture of wasn’t the Suspension Bridge after all.
In 1919, as the caravan drove through the city of Waco, an impressive sight would have been noticeable from a great distance. The ALICO Building which was constructed from August 1910 to October 1911 claimed to be “the highest and most beautiful building in the south”; having twenty-two stories, the building was once the tallest in Texas and the tallest west of the Mississippi.13
We were happy to leave the traffic of Waco and head south again on the frontage road of Interstate Highway 35 to stop at each of the towns that Lena mentioned in her travel log: Lorena, Bruceville, Eddy and Troy. Bruceville and Eddy became one community in the mid-1970s and is now called Bruceville-Eddy.
The Bevers family ended their day in Troy. When we were in Troy, there was no motel, so we decided to drive further south on Interstate Highway 35 to Temple and stay in a motel there, arriving about 3:15 PM.
B. Winkelmann, Our Trip to Texas [Transcription of Our Trip to Texas by Florence Bevers, 1919] (unpublished, n. d.): 4.
“Robert Mc Elhany Family,” In The First 100 Years in Codington County, South Dakota, 1879-1979, by Codington County History Book Committee (Watertown, South Dakota: Watertown Public Opinion Print, 1979): 261.
D. L. Bevers, Herbert and Lena Bevers trip to Raymondville Texas [Transcription of Our Trip to Texas by Lena Bevers, 1919] (Unpublished, n.d.): 4.
David Moore, et al., The Meridian Highway in Texas (Austin, Texas: Texas Historical Commission, May 27, 2016): 1.
David Moore, et al., The Meridian Highway in Texas: 4.
Left Lancaster and had fine road for about 40
miles, and then we had rough roads. Ate
dinner in Hillsboro. Got 4 miles from town and a spring broke on McElhany’s car
so we had to go back and stayed all night at Hillsboro. – Lena Bevers
My mother and I started our tour today in Lancaster, Texas, at the town’s lovely little town square. In the center is the town well which is surrounded on four sides by small historic buildings. A town clock and a walkway lined with trees invite shoppers to sit and rest awhile.
From Lancaster, we set out on U. S. Highway 77 which approximately follows the route the Bevers family would have taken. Florence recorded that they traveled through Red Oak, Waxahachie, Forreston, Italy and Milford on the way to Hillsboro.2 We stopped in Waxahachie, which is the county seat of Ellis County. According to our AAA TourBook for Texas: “it is a town where the gingerbread of Victorian-era buildings sates even the most jaded architectural palate. Twenty percent of the Texas buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places are in Waxahachie. The 1895 Ellis County Courthouse, one of the most photographed structures in the state, is a red sandstone and granite edifice decorated with ornate capitals, carved by expert Italian artisans.”3
After leaving Waxahachie, we didn’t see anything notable in the small towns along U. S. Highway 77, except a few buildings in Forreston.
Our next stop was in Hillsboro, Texas, where we found another outstanding courthouse. It isn’t the same one that was standing when Lena and Herbert traveled through Hillsboro. “Just over a century after Hill County’s grand 1890 courthouse opened, it burned to the ground. A 1993 fire gutted the modified Second Empire-style edifice designed by noted architect W. C. Dodson. With help from native son and music legend Willie Nelson, the county rebuilt the three-story courthouse topped by a seven-story clock tower. Today it’s the heart of a vibrant downtown with an 1870s rock saloon, a Renaissance-Revival library and reportedly the oldest pharmacy in Texas. Nearby neighborhoods of Queen Anne homes testify to the 19th-century prosperity of this cotton and railroading town.”4
Once again Mr. McElhany’s car had trouble, Lena wrote that a spring broke when they were four miles south of Hillsboro. They turned around and found a place to stay in Hillsboro, so that is where we stayed also. We arrived at our motel at 1:30 PM, ate lunch near the motel, then went to the historic district to take pictures. The weather was unusually cold today, with rain and wind. It was unpleasant each time I got out of the car to take pictures, and to fill the car with gas – but the cold weather didn’t stop us from getting our favorite dessert this evening: ice cream.