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Horse Thieves, Riding the Trail etc.. from C.W. Ackermann, born in 1855

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"I was born in the year 1855 on the Salado Creek four miles east of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.

My first adventure I can remember was when I was six years old. One day my brother, ten years old, asked me to go with him to hunt some cows. We both rode on one horse. After we had ridden for several miles we found a cow with a young calf. My brother told me to stay with that cow while he hunted others, then he would return for me. While he was gone the cow and calf rambled off and I got lost from them in the high grass. I kept on hunting the cow and in the meantime my brother returned for me, but could not find me. After hunting for me a while he concluded I had followed the cow home, so he went on home.

My parents immediately began to search for me.

In the meantime I kept on walking in the direction the cow went, believing I was going home, till night came. The wolves began to howl and scared me so I climbed up a little tree, where I remained till they stopped howling. Then I crawled down and slept soundly under the tree till the sun woke me up. I got up and started off again. I walked all day with nothing to eat but chaparral berries and I was fortunate enough to find a small pool of water that afternoon. By night I had not reached home, so I made my bed under a tree as I had done the night before.

That night there was a big thunderstorm and rain. I was completely drenched. But my courage never failed, so in the morning bright and early I started out.

I heard some roosters crowing, so I went in that direction, thinking I had at last found home. But, to my disappointment, it was only a Mexican house. The dogs began to chase me, but the old man called them back, then took me in his house where they were just ready to eat breakfast.

I was scared almost lifeless, for I could neither speak nor understand Spanish. I could picture them roasting me for dinner and all kinds of horrible things they might do with me. Nevertheless, I greedily drank the cup of coffee and ate the piece of bread they gave me and asked for more, because I was almost starved, but they would not give me any more.

Immediately after breakfast the old "hombre" saddled his horse, tied a rope around me and put me behind him on his horse. Then he rode to an American family and got a written note from the white man that he (the Mexican) had not kidnaped me, but was taking me home.

The old Mexican took me on home and received a generous reward from my father.

Afterward I learned that I had roamed to Chipadares, a distance of about twenty miles from my home. At that time that was the nearest settlement southeast of home.

During the Civil War I was just a mere boy of nine years. Nevertheless, I recall some thrilling adventures.

My father was exempted from the army on account of owning a flour mill. This mill was located on the San Antonio River about sixteen miles from our farm. Father had to run the mill himself, so he and mother moved there and left my older brother, 13 years old, and I at the farm to take care of the stock and everything.

One day while I was alone the Confederate soldiers came around gathering up horses. They threatened to take mine and had me scared to death. I begged hard for my horse and I told them that I needed him to get supplies with. After frightening me real good they told me I could keep my horse. I was the only one they left with a horse around that neighborhood.

The schools in those days were very much different to the schools of today. We only had private schools and these lasted the entire year. Our only vacation was two weeks in August.

The only subjects they taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, history, geography and grammar. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we studied reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. On Thursday and Friday we had history, grammar and geography.

I started to school when I was eleven years old and attended three years. After that I was sent to San Antonio, where I studied surveying.

When I was a boy, rounding up cattle was a very exciting event. In those days people did not have their pastures fenced, so the cattle often wandered many miles from home.

About the beginning of spring we would start on the round-up. Three or four neighborhoods would send out ten to fifteen men together. Out of these one man was selected as captain. I was just fourteen years old when I went out on my first round-up. My father put me in the care of our captain and from him I learned how to rope and brand cattle and many other important things one should know about round-ups.

I often roped and branded as many as eight or ten calves by myself in a day. Branding was not a very easy task, either, for we had to run the brand. We had no ready-made brands as now. Many times we had to gather the wilder cattle at night. When they went out on the prairie we would sneak a tame bunch of cattle in with them and thus drive them in a corral. Sometimes we would build a stockade around water holes, leaving only one opening for the cattle to get in. Even with such a trap we were often unable to hold the wildest ones in.

Licenses permitting one to carry arms was unheard of in my earlier days. Every man always carried his "six-shooter" buckled to his side. This was necessary on account of there being so many robbers. There were about forty or more highway robbers scattered over the country in squads of 5 or 6 men.

I remember one time as three of the other boys and myself were coming from the market in San Antonio we were waylaid by some robbers. Fortunately we spied them in time and each of us galloped off in different directions. They fired at us, but we all escaped unharmed.

When I was sixteen years old I had a little experience with horse thieves.

My father noticed a suspicious looking man riding around our place one day, so he told us boys we had better watch the horses. My brother and I went out to guard the horses that night and just about midnight the thieves came in two or three different squads. How many there were we never knew. We watched them give signals to each other with the fire of their cigarettes. Then we fired at them and scared them away. We hit one of them, but never knew if we killed him or not. After that we were never bothered with horse thieves.

The robbers were certainly skillful. I recall one day when my brother and I were out on a hunt, we laid down to rest. We used our saddles for pillows and put our belts and "six-shooters" under them. And while we were resting someone sneaked up and stole my belt and "six-shooter" right from under my head. I suppose whoever it was thought I had money in the little money pouch on my belt, but they sure got fooled.

In 1872 we were not allowed so much liberty. A law was passed which prohibited men from carrying concealed arms.

In 1874 horse thieves and highway robbers were so bad something had to be done. The ranchmen formed an organization known as the "Stock Association" to rid the country of these marauders. I was one of the fifty deputies elected. After a year's time we had Bexar County clear of robbers.

My first trip up the old cow trail to Kansas was in the year 1873, when I was just a boy of eighteen. My father decided to take some of his cattle to the Kansas market, as they sold so cheap here. At that time one thousand-pound beeves sold in San Antonio for $8.00 per head and in Wichita, Kansas, for $23.80 per head.

Father asked a bunch of young cowboys if they thought they could take his cattle to Kansas. As we were all young fellows, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, eager for adventure, we willingly consented. So on the first day of February we began gathering our cattle and finished rounding up a herd on March 14th. Early next morning we started on our journey. We traveled all day and that night made our first camping place where Converse, Bexar County, now stands, but at that time it was only an open country.

That first night was one never to be forgotten. It rained all night long and our cattle stampeded eighteen times. During one stampede they ran into one of our men. His horse was run over by the cattle and crippled, while the man was carried off about a fourth of a mile on top of the cattle. He escaped with only a few bruises. We were lucky not to lose any cattle that night, but fifteen head were crippled.

The next morning we bought a two-wheeled cart to carry our bedding and provisions in. Then, with a yoke of oxen hitched to it, we began our journey again and made our next stop on the Santa Clara, where now stands the little town, Marion. That night there was an electric storm which was followed by cold weather and frost. After a few days rest we resumed our trail. When we reached the Guadalupe River it was up about six feet. Our cattle had to swim across and our cart was taken on a ferryboat.

At our next camping place we had another stampede and lost thirty-five head of cattle, which we never found.

When we reached the Colorado River it also was up about four feet. After swimming that we kept on the trail to Round Rock, where our yoke of oxen was stolen, so we had to rope and hitch two wild steers to the cart. When we reached Fort Worth, at that time a small town of one hundred inhabitants, we sold our cart and bought a wagon and team of horses.

It was a very rainy year and every river we came to was up however, we crossed them all without loss. When we reached Washita River, in Indian Territory, we had to stay there eight days on account of heavy rains. There I had my hardest time of the trip. For six nights I slept only about one and a half hours and never pulled off my slicker and boots.

Upon reaching the Canadian River we found that so high we could not cross for two days.

Our next stop was on Bluff Creek, on the line of Kansas. There one of our men, Joe Menges, roped a buffalo calf which we carried with us to Wichita and sold it to "Buffalo Joe," who was running a beer garden for the amusement of the trail men.

We camped on the river called Ninnesquaw for three months in order to fatten our cattle for the market. Then my father came to Kansas by train and sold them.

On the seventh of September we began our return trip, bringing with us forty-five head of saddle ponies. It took us twenty-seven days to make the return trip to San Antonio. Only five of us made the return trip, Hartmann, Eisenhauer, Markwardt, Smith, and myself.

On my journey I saw many buffalo, but killed only one great big one. I also killed seven antelopes.

One morning while I was eating breakfast one of the boys came running up and said, "Chris, come on quick, buffalo ran in the herd and they have stampeded." I jumped on my horse and went with him. The first thing I saw was one of the boys, Philip Prinz, galloping after some buffaloes trying to rope one. When he spied me he came and asked me for my horse. I would not give it to him and told him to let the buffalo alone if he didn't want to get killed. He got a little sore at me, but we rode on back to camp together.

I think we were the youngest bunch of trailmen on the "Trail" that year. The oldest man, "Ad. Markwardt, our cook, was only twenty-five years old, and the rest were between eighteen and twenty-two years. Those that rode the "Trail" with me were Alf. Hartmann, Steve Wooler, Joe Menges, Phil Prinz, Louis Eisenhauer, Ad Markwardt, Henry Smith, a negro, and my brother, Fred.

Besides making trips over the "Trail" to Kansas, I often made trips to the coast.

Years ago there were no trains we could ship our cattle on as nowadays. Whenever we wanted to take cattle to the seaport we had to drive them. We usually drove them in herds of about two hundred head.

In the spring of the year we usually began rounding up our cattle, as the beef buyers usually came in the early fall. Our captain would give us orders for the trip, then we would start out, each man with his pack-horse and two saddle horses.

There were large stock pens scattered over the country. We would each go in different directions and all meet at one of the pens. At night when we went into camp we would hobble our tamest horses with buckskin hobbles and staked the wilder ones. We hung our "grub" up in a tree so nothing could bother it.

After we had all the cattle together we would start for home. As we came near to each man's house he would cut his cattle out of the herd.

Then came the beef buyer. After he bought as many as he wanted he would get ready for the drive to the seaport. I helped him out many times just to take the trip.

We would often lose cattle on these trips, for they would stampede and, of course, we seldom found those that got lost. At one of our camping places an Irishman had built a pen on rollers. When the cattle stampeded in that pen there was no danger of losing any. When they would run the pen went right with them. It was often carried as far as fifty yards.

In the year 1874 I had another very thrilling experience. On account of such a dry year my father decided to move to a different location. He did not know where to go, so he gave me the job of hunting a suitable place.

In August of that year I started out with two saddle horses and one pack horse. I went in a northwestern direction, then turned toward the Concho country. I went as far as the New Mexico boundary line, then started back home.

The country I traveled through was very wild. There were just a few small settlements scattered here and there and the people even seemed uncivilized.

I saw antelope and buffalo by the thousands. It was that year the government was trying to kill out the buffalo. I passed many mule teams loaded with buffalo hides. Even though the country was wild I found some excellent locations for a ranch, especially in the Concho country.

When I returned home and told father about the wild country and people he decided not to move so far away. So he bought a ranch close to where now stands Wetmore. Later he gave me this ranch. I moved up there in 1877 and lived a bachelor's life till I married Emma Bueche in 1882.

We lived on that same ranch until 1905. Then I bought a small farm of 500 acres at Fratt, about nine miles from San Antonio, and left one of my sons in charge of the ranch.

I am now living a quiet, peaceful life on my farm. Every time I go up to my ranch memories of those old wild, happy days come back to me.

Now I am 65 years old and have a clear record of never being arrested and never was involved in any kind of lawsuit."

----- C.W. Ackermann, Trail Drivers of Texas, 1924. C.W. died in 1936 and is buried underneath a handsome marker in the Bueche Cemetery in Bexar County.  As if we need any proof that the story of him being lost really happened, I'm posting a notice from the New Braunfels newspaper that was posted on July 5, 1861.  It's in German, but it reads:

Child lost

A young boy [belonging to] Mr. Friedrich Ackermann on the Salado, seven years old, left the ranch of his parents last Friday, and has het to come back. Any news regarding the boy would be thankfully received by his parents.

Also shown: the grave marker of C.W. Ackermann. The photo comes from Find A Grave.





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