A Synopsis Of the Able Address Judge Crosby Delivery Today
EARLY FRONTIER DAYS
“Rancho De Ponce,” Then “Franklin” A Small Trading Post, Now the Live And the Thriving City Of El Paso.
I assume that I was selected to deliver an address on this auspicious occasion, because of the fact that I am today the oldest resident pioneer of what was first known as “Rancho de Ponce,” then for a brief space of time as “Franklin,” and subsequently as the town of El Paso, then with no delineative sign on the map, and now recognized as the young, vigorous, active, promising city, the “bright particular star,” of the southwest.
Under these circumstances, even were my ability equal to the effort, I beg that you will expect noting more from me, than a brief, plain, unvarnished historical recitation, of the rise, progress, and some of my onions as to the future possibilities (which are now most flattering) of our present advancing, vimful, and “git up and git” (in cowboy vernacular) little city.
In 1852 Hon. Rufus Doane, the then State Senator from El Paso county, A.C. Hyde, afterwards county judge, Hon. Joel Ankrim, then district judge and myself, finding ourselves at San Antonio, en route for this point, “chipped in” and purchased an ambulance and team of mules, and received permission from W.T. Smith (“Uncle Billy”) to travel in company with his train, some twenty wagons and teams. We were warned in advance, that we were expected to be “grubbed” for a sixty days trip over an expanse without a sign of civilization, and to be armed and ammunition for any contingency.
The country west of San Antonio, even as near as Castroville was then subject to raids from the Comanche, Mescalero, and other tribes of Indians. Fort Ingo, on the Leona river, ninety miles west of San Antonio, was then the outpost of the frontier limit.
We wended our way westward, averaging some twenty miles a day without any occurrence of note, until we reached the point of departure from the Pecos the next watering place, Comanche Springs. Here we were confronted by the appearance of some sixty Comanches, on the Mesa. They were a gay looking set of ducks, as they had just come out from a raid on Mexico, and were mounted on the best of horses, gaily caparisoned with silver mounted saddles, bridles, etc. etc. We soon learned that their only armament was bows and arrows, crude lances, and a few “Escopetas” which they had secured on their raid.
As with teamsters, muleteers, and some seven or eight Americans, skilled in Indian warfare, except your servant, who was a semi-tenderfoot, we numbered some forty in party; armed up to date, we were not inclined to stampede, but returned the Comanche salutations saucily and confidently. Night came on and we moved along our dreary monotonous way without seeing more of these, then “Lords of the Plains.”
After a long, weary, but not altogether uninteresting trip of fifty-seven days, we arrived at San Elizario, then the eastern initial town of El Paso County. After this long toilsome trip, fraught with danger from beginning to end, it was indeed a joyful climax to reach this home of civilization, to see the various kinds of fruit trees in full bloom, the vineyards giving promise of fruition, and more than all, to receive the genuine hospitable welcome from the denizens of the village, many of the walls of the structures of which were covered with the mould of centuries past. As, is perhaps known, this was one of the original Missions or Presidios, established in this part of the country, under the authority of the Vice Regal Government of “Espana Mera” or Mexico, as it was subsequently entitled.
From san Elizario our fleet of “Prairie Schooners” finally reached “Rancho del Ponce,” or Franklin with “Uncle Billy Smith” under whose guidance we had made our long, wearisome, but still to me most novel and interesting trip. Mt. Franklin, acquired its name from a party by the name of Franklin Coon, who had made a verbal purchase of the Ponce Rancho, which he subsequently abandoned and returned the possession thereof to Ponce de Leon, the original owner.
It was here that American civilization and its attendant push and enterprise, first took root in the remote, secluded and almost unknown valley of El Paso.
The speaker then referred to the establishment of Fort Bliss, the personnel of its garrison, the various forts in New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas, and contiguous Forts, viz.
Davis, Fillmore, Craig and others. The organization of the syndicate to purchase “Ponce Rancho, and to organize a Town Company,” the original members of which were the two Gillets, V.St. Vrain, W.T. Smith and himself. The opinion of parties as to this then considered wild dream. The charter by the legislature of the original Texas Pacific, and how and for what reasons originated. His selection as counsel for the company and the duties imposed upon him. What was done in pursuance of this employment; the old citizenship, etc., of the original Pioneers of the valley; the organization, proceedings, etc. of the courts of that period. The general class of litigation. The then existing methods of commercial transactions; the only exchange to be had, viz. Quarter-master, commissary and pay-master’s drafts; the volume of money and bullion then in circulation; the continued shipment of silver to New York and the retention of gold here, on a basis of 15 ½ to $1.00. The social relations between Mexican an American families on either side of the river. The prominent and wealthy families being the Jaquez, the Mirandas, Sanchez, Saminagos, and above all, the Cura, Ramon Ortiz, who for sixty years filled the high and responsible position of head spiritual adviser and ecclesiastical administrator of the church affairs in that parish.
Having in my youth read Kendall’s history of what was then known as the “Santa Fe Prisoners” (Kendall, the historian then chief editor and proprietor of the New Orleans Picayune, the then leading newspaper of the south, being one of the prisoners) in which appeared a graphic history of the ill-fated expedition and its arrival at El Paso, enroute to Mexico, these poor unfortunates beings chained together, weak, sore, were shoeless, and in rags, and consumed with a wolfish hunger, appealed to the grand Cura for succor and relief. From his scant means, this truly good Samaritan, in the fullness of his big heart and devotion to the Christianly instructions of charity, though a patriot at his heart’s core, expended all that he could command of his own resources and those of his friends, in the endeavor to assuage their sufferings.
(The speaker then referred to the society, male an female, as it existed in El Paso in the early days stating that a more cultivated, refined and educated few, could not be found.)
The laying of this corner stone, under the auspices of the Masonic Fraternity, ever foremost in deeds which signal the advance and the onward march of good performances, is an omen that this structure will serve, not only as a monumental record of El Paso’s wonderful growth, but also, as an ever enduring testimony of the public spirit, enterprise, foresight of those who, in their trusted capacity as guardians of the publics weal and who will consummate the “Cap stone” which will testify to El Paso’s onward march, assured future, and just mead of praise.
The history of El Paso’s future will award due and deserved credit to the municipal government, which originated and will carry to completion this edifice, destined to attract the views of coming strangers.
As an evidence of El Paso’s present commercial importance, the following official memorandum is submitted.
The total number of registered packages, handled per annum, 93,000. Issue of money orders about ten thousand (10,000) per year. Number of money orders paid about the same. Total volume of money order business about $225,000 per year. The office receives and handles on an average of about 20,000 pieces of mail daily of which about 6,000 pieces pass through this office for other points. The receipts of the office approximate $25,000 per annum.
The port of El Paso now ranks seventh in importance as to receipts an volume of business. Total receipts from customs for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898, $471,000.00. The above collections were made at the low cost of 8 per cent, which is a very favorable showing as compared with the cost of collecting the Revenue from customs at other parts in the United States.
El Paso’s collections were equal to all other of the custom districts in Texas as combined. There are 34 employes carried on the pay rolls for this district. Value of exports for fiscal year ending June 30, 1898, $4,106,000.00. Other districts in Texas show a cost of collecting the revenue from 20 to 28 per cent.