An Introduction to Maggie Oranna Bonewitz

  • Born on November 9, 1867 in Fairfield, Iowa
  • Parents: John Esli Bonewitz and Josephine E. Smith
  • Moved with her parents to Omaha, Nebraska about 1880
  • Married Charles Monroe Daily on November 18, 1891
  • Children: Gladys, Oranna, Robert, Iona, Elizabeth, Joseph (and an un-named baby boy)
  • In 1909 Maggie and Charles decided to try farming; they moved their family to a farm in Soldier Township, Shawnee County, Kansas
  • In January 1913, Maggie and Charles returned to Omaha
  • On Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, a tornado drove through the west side of Omaha, destroying Maggie and Charles’ home
  • In April 1915 Maggie and Charles moved their family to a farm in Rauville Township, Codington County, South Dakota
  • Sometime later Maggie and Charles moved to a farm in Lake Township, Codington County, South Dakota
  • Maggie and Charles retired from farming in 1932 and moved into Watertown, South Dakota
  • Her husband Charles died on March 9, 1945
  • Died March 15, 1947 at the age of 79 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Watertown, South Dakota
Maggie Bonewitz, on her wedding day
November 18, 1891

Why go to Texas? — Why leave Texas?

In my series of blogposts from October 13 to November 8, the focus was on how Herbert and Lena Bevers and their family traveled from Watertown, South Dakota to Raymondville, Texas.  But I didn’t address why they chose to move to a farm in Texas.  As recorded in the U. S. censuses and state censuses, from the beginning of their marriage in 1892 until 1919, Herbert and Lena farmed in four locations in South Dakota:

  1. Agency Township, Roberts County (1900)
  2. Rau Township, Codington County (1905)
  3. Oxford Township, Hamlin County (1910)
  4. Elmira Township, Codington County (1915)

The first property that I have evidence of Herbert owning was a homestead in Agency Township, Roberts County.  In the Register of Deeds Office in Sisseton, Roberts County, there is a record of Herbert paying $400.00 on October 24, 1902 for 160 acres from the United States.  A deed record in the same office shows that on the following day, Herbert and Lena sold that property for $2,300.00.  It is not known whether he purchased property following the sale of that homestead, but according to the 1910 U. S. census and the 1915 South Dakota State census, Herbert was renting farms, instead of owning them.

Somehow Herbert heard that land in southern Texas was available.  The New Handbook of Texas provides a description of land development that we can use to speculate:

“The real surge of Anglo settlement came after the building of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway into the lower [Rio Grande] Valley in 1904.  Close behind the tracks came the land promoters, who worked enthusiastically to convert pastures to plowed fields. … The railroad companies, more aggressive than land promoters, bought large tracts of land, subdivided them, and sold them to customers they recruited elsewhere.  Magazines, pamphlets and brochures with photographs of the happy and easy life that awaited the new settler in the area were scattered throughout the Mississippi valley.  Between 1905 and 1910, on the first and third Tuesday of the month, prospective farmers could purchase thirty-day round-trip tickets from St. Louis and Kansas for twenty dollars and from Chicago for twenty-five.  The excursions would take them to investigate the possibilities of the ‘Magic Valley.’  They bought land, settled in communities planned by ranchers or land developers, chose the most profitable cash crop that could be cultivated, and began to recruit Mexican day laborers.”1

Two men who saw the lucrative advantages of being real estate agents in southern Texas were Alva A. Lindahl and William A. Harding, who in 1910 lived in Minnesota.2,3  (On November 6, 1919, Lena stated in her travel log, “we waited for a telegram from Harding.”4  It is quite likely that she was referring to William A. Harding.)  By the mid-1910s Lindahl and Harding were purchasing and selling property in the newly established Raymondville area of Cameron County.  One example of their sales is the transfer of 6000 acres (known as Rancho Tresquilas, San Juan de Carricitos Grant) for $205,000 from Harding to Lindahl.5,6  The grant in this description refers to “the earliest Spanish land grant [which] was El Agostadero de San Juan Carricitos, made to José Narciso Cabazos on February 22, 1792.”7

A review of deed records in Cameron County deed registers reveals that Lindahl and Harding sold properties as individual agents and also in a group.  In 1916 Frederick Kammrath, who was from Minnesota and the future father-in-law of Herbert and Lena’s daughter Florence, purchased 160 acres from a group which included Alva A. Lindahl, his wife Ethel G. Lindahl, his father Ole Lindahl, his sister L. V. Harding and his brother-in-law W. A. Harding.8  Alva A. Lindahl served as the trustee for this group.  In the 1920 U. S. Census, Alva A. Lindahl’s occupation is listed as farm dealer and W. A. Harding’s occupation is real estate salesman.

In 1919 Herbert and Lena joined the stream of people traveling to Texas to begin a new farming endeavor.  One of their grandsons relates what he was told about their experience:

“Grandpa had … a farm near Raymondville but it was all cactus and mesquite trees so they had to clear the land.  The South Dakota horses were not familiar with the cactus so they didn’t know enough to walk around them.  Their legs got full of thorns and swelled up.  Grandpa had to buy some Texas horses to clear the land.”9

Mesquite trees and cactus near Raymondville, Texas (Photograph by EJJ November 9, 2019)
Cactus along U. S. Highway 181 (Photograph by MRW November 5, 2019)

Obviously, the climate and terrain of southern Texas was drastically different from South Dakota, but also the social atmosphere was very different.  In the late 1790s, Spaniards had settled in that area and in the early 1800s immigrants from Mexico began arriving.  Over time the Tejano culture developed, an intermingling of European, primarily Spanish, culture and Mexican culture.  In the 1880s and 1890s, Anglos moved into the region and gradually took control of ranches through marriage and defraud.10  An ethnic divide began to develop, with Anglos assuming superiority over Hispanics.  The division escalated following the arrival of the railway:

“The county’s new residents, however, mostly Protestant and white, were more reluctant to assimilate, and as a result ethnic divisions began to widen.  After 1910 social relations came to be increasingly dominated by ethnic separatism. … Segregated facilities – including churches, schools, and restaurants – were established for Hispanics and Anglos, and many of the former felt the sharp sting of discrimination.”11

“As more settlers came in from northern states and transformed ranches to farms, ranchers (early white settlers) sided against farmers (newcomers); the division led to the reorganization of [Willacy County in 1921]. … Relations between Anglos and Mexicans became even more antagonistic during the late 1920s, as evidenced by the Raymondville peonage cases of 1927, which showed that Mexicans were controlled by the Anglo minority ….”12

One family event is known to have occurred while the Bevers family was in Texas.  Eight and a half months after arriving in Texas, seventeen-year-old Florence married Theodore (Ted) Kamrath, the son of Frederick Kammrath, on July 20, 1920 in Brownsville, which is located about 50 miles south of Raymondville on the Mexican border.  It is believed that Herbert and Lena farmed near Raymondville for only one year.  One of their grandsons was told that they gave up and returned to Watertown, but their son Willis stayed in Texas for another year, working on a road crew before returning to Watertown.13  Florence and her new husband didn’t stay in Texas either.  They moved to Ted Kamrath’s home state, Minnesota.

Notes:

  1. A. A. Garza, “Willacy County,” The New Handbook of Texas vol. 6 (Austin, Texas: The Texas State Historical Association, 1996): 975.
  2. Year: 1910; Census Place: Center Creek, Martin, Minnesota; Roll: T624_710; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0110; FHL microfilm: 1374723.
  3. Year: 1910; Census Place: Winnebago, Faribault, Minnesota; Roll: T624_696; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0090; FHL microfilm: 1374709.
  4. L. Bevers, Our Trip to Texas (unpublished, 1919): 11.
  5. “Harding, W. A.,” General Index to Deeds – Grantors (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 51.
  6. “Lindahl, Alba A. Trustee,” General Index to Deeds – Grantees (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 51.
  7. A. A. Garza, “Willacy County,” The New Handbook of Texas, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcw10.
  8. D. Kroeker, “Alva Andrew Lindahl,” Kroeker Family Tree, https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/71024103/person/36240481145/facts.
  9. 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.
  10. A. A. Garza & C. Long, “Cameron County,” The New Handbook of Texas vol. 1 (Austin, Texas: The Texas State Historical Association, 1996): 919.
  11. A. A. Garza & C. Long, “Cameron County,” The New Handbook of Texas vol. 1 (Austin, Texas: The Texas State Historical Association, 1996): 921.
  12. A. A. Garza, “Willacy County,” The New Handbook of Texas vol. 6 (Austin, Texas: The Texas State Historical Association, 1996): 975.
  13. 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.

The Search for Herbert and Lena Bevers’ Texas Farm

On Thursday, November 7, 2019 my mother and I accomplished the main goal of our trip to Texas.  We retraced Lena Huppler Bevers’ travel log to the best of my understanding of the roads that were in existence in 1919.  Once we got to Raymondville, we had another hope to fulfill.  We wanted to see the farm where Herbert and Lena and their family lived.  On Thursday and Friday of last week, we did some research at the Willacy County Records Office and the Cameron County Archives Office.  The only information we had to start our research was the statement in Lena’s travel log saying that they had arrived in Raymondville and a record in the 1920 U. S. Census of Herbert Bevers which said that he was renting a farm in Justice Precinct #8 of Cameron County.1  I had learned that Raymondville and its surrounding area wasn’t a part of Willacy County until 1921, so I was unsure where we should look to find property records for the Raymondville area.

The first thing we wanted to determine was whether Herbert had purchased property in the Raymondville area.  Our search in the Willacy County and Cameron County offices didn’t reveal any transaction by Herbert.  So, our conclusion is that he was renting a farm for the entire time that he and his family were in Texas.  We also looked for purchases of property by Mr. McElhany, but we didn’t find any transactions by him.  In addition, because we knew that Herbert and Lena’s daughter Florence got married in Texas, we looked for a purchase by someone with her married name: Kamrath, and we did find a purchase near Raymondville by a man named Frederick Kammrath.  This was Florence’s father-in-law.  We then obtained a copy of the deed which gave us the legal description of the Kammrath property.  At the Willacy County Deeds office, we were able to take a picture of an historic plat map of the Raymondville area.  The roads were not yet named on that map, so it took some comparison of landmarks on a current map in order to identify where the Kammrath property was.

The following photograph is an edited portion of The Kleberg Town & Improvement Co. Map of Raymondville and Other Districts, Cameron Co., Texas, dated April 18, 1906.  In the upper right corner is the town of Raymondville.  Along the right side, the railroad tracks of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway are drawn.  In the town on each side of the railroad tracks are 6th and 7th Streets, and 1st to 5th streets can be counted to the left of 6th Street.  Presently, the main road that enters Raymondville from the west is Highway 186 (Hidalgo Avenue).

In December 1916, Frederick Kammrath purchased Lot 1-2, 7-8 Section 6, Raymondville Tract No. 1, containing 160 acres (highlighted above).2

Another thing we did to locate where the Bevers lived in 1920 was look for the property transactions of five property owners listed on the 1920 census sheets close to Herbert’s name.  We found three owners, Eddie A. Jones, Curtis S. Stockwell and E. H. Whitney.  On the plat map above, Eddie A. Jones owned Lots 11-14 in Section 63, Curtis S. Stockwell owned Lots 9-11 in Section 74 and E. H. Whitney owned Lot J in Raymondville5.  This gives us evidence of the location of the farm where the Bevers family lived.  All three of the owners were in close proximity to Frederick Kammrath’s property.  Curiously, the Kammrath name does not appear on the 1920 census of the area where the Kammrath property is located.

Based on the information we had learned, we started out Saturday morning, November 9, with a drive to the property that Frederick Kammrath purchased.  We believe there is a strong possibility that Herbert Bevers was renting the Kammrath farm.

Kammrath farm, lot 1 (Photograph by MRW November 9, 2019)
Kammrath farm, lot 8 (Photograph by MRW November 9, 2019)
Stockwell farm, lot 9 (Photograph by MRW November 9, 2019)
Jones farm, lot 11 (Photograph by MRW November 9, 2019)

Notes:

  1. “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHYY-RT1 : accessed 20 November 2019), Herbert J Bevers, Justice Precinct 8, Cameron, Texas, United States; citing ED 38, sheet 2A, line 50, family 28, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1784; FHL microfilm 1,821,784.
  2. “Kammrath, Frederick,” General Index to Deeds – Grantees (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 31.
  3. “Jones, Eddie A.,” General Index to Deeds – Grantees (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 3.
  4. “Stockwell, Curtis S.,” General Index to Deeds – Grantees (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 101.
  5. “Whitney, E. H.,” General Index to Deeds – Grantees (Brownsville, Texas: Cameron County Clerk): 18.

An Introduction to Herbert James Bevers

  • Born March 8, 1869 in Sheepridge, Yorkshire, England
  • Parents: Alfred and Mary Bevers who immigrated to the USA about 1883 and 1884, respectively
  • Immigrated to the USA in August 1888
  • Married Lena Huppler on November 24, 1892 in Watertown, South Dakota
  • Children: Edgar, Clarence, Arthur, Willis, Florence, Helen, Hazel, Estella, Harold, Margaret
  • Rented or owned farms in Roberts, Codington, Hamlin and Deuel Counties in South Dakota and in Cameron County, Texas
  • Drove with his wife Lena and six of his children from Watertown, South Dakota to Raymondville, Texas in the fall of 1919 (to read about the trip, see Lena’s travel log)
  • Died November 26, 1944 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Watertown, South Dakota
Photograph taken in 1942

Our Trip to Texas

A Travel Log by Lena Huppler Bevers

October 13, 1919 to November 8, 1919

In the fall of 1919 Herbert and Lena Bevers moved their family from Watertown, South Dakota to Raymondville, Texas. It took 27 days to make the trip and each day Lena wrote a few sentences about their travels, such as the road conditions, the towns they traveled through, where they had dinner and where they stayed for the night.

Two years ago I realized that the one hundredth anniversary of Herbert and Lena’s trip was approaching. I began researching for the routes that they would have taken, and as I researched I gradually became aware that 1919 was in the midst of a very significant period of road development in the United States. Long distance travel by automobile was just becoming practical and advantageous for the general population.

Beginning on October 13, 2019, according to my best research efforts, my mother and I will drive the route Lena recorded in her log and each day I will post what I have learned about traveling in 1919 as well as what I learn about a few of the changes that have occurred in the century that has passed since Herbert and Lena made their trip to Texas. I hope that you will find the time period as interesting as I do.

To see Lena’s original travel log, click here: 1919 Lena Huppler Bevers’ Travel Log.

An Introduction to Lena Huppler

  • Born on January 15, 1872 in Switzerland
  • Immigrated with her parents to the USA in 1874
  • Parents: John and Anna Huppeler who died in 1875 in Wisconsin
  • Believed to be raised by a relative or local family near Sparta, Wisconsin
  • Moved to Codington County, South Dakota in 1886, possibly with her brother Christian Huppler or her cousin Kate Huppler Dellman
  • Married Herbert James Bevers on November 24, 1892 in Watertown, South Dakota
  • Children: Edgar, Clarence, Arthur, Willis, Florence, Helen, Hazel, Estella, Harold, Margaret
  • Resided in Roberts, Codington, Hamlin and Deuel Counties in South Dakota and in Cameron County, Texas
  • Wrote a travel log in 1919 when Herbert and Lena moved their family from Codington County, South Dakota to Raymondville, Texas
  • Died on December 9, 1943 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Watertown, South Dakota