COYOTE HUNTERS OF THE QUESENBERRY
The Quesenberry - Paso de las Garzas
The Quesenberry-Paso de las Garzas is an area of South Bexar county, Texas from the Medina River Crossing on the Old Somerset Road east about three miles to the Poteet Road, now called Highway 16.
The last time I was on The Quesenberry to listen to hounds bark on the trail of a coyote was in the late forties. At that time the Quesenberry was still thick brushland from Somerset Road over to the Poteet Road. But what is that stretch of brushland like now? How much of that land was owned by the Quesenberrys - and were there more than one Quesenberry family living in that area? Do the Quesenberry descendants still own some of their land in that area? Is the new Toyota plant 2 or 3 miles to the east already bringing in more houses and perhaps even subdivisions to The Quesenberry?
I can see by a 1986 USGS topographical map and a 1995 USGS aerial photo that there are scattered houses built there since the late forties, and I saw a mobile home park on Watson Road. The thick brush of the Quesenberry is mostly gone now and coyotes would have to use the few small areas of trees and brush left for cover. Panthers are probably not usually found there now.
Back in the thirties my father Blake Pyron, my brother George Pyron, John McCain, my Uncle Casey Pyron, Brother Balcalm, the South San Antonio Baptist preacher, and some other men such as Otto Koehler who had packs of coyote hounds hunted on the Quesenberry. George said in 1978 that a man named Elgin Kilborn also hunted with them. Luther James was also a Somerset "Wolf Hunter," though I don't know if he ever hunted in the Quesenberry. There was a Somerset man named Woods who sometimes went along on hunts. The Quesenberrys may have owned most of that brushland from the Medina crossing on Somerset Road to the Poteet Road. The coyote hunters also hunted in an area they called the "Old Box School House, and usually off a small dirt road running from the old School House down to Atascosa Creek," which was about as close to Lytle as Somerset. And they hunted on a ranch called "The Turpey."
Turpey had a large ranch south of Somerset and used to fly over us in his early thirties airplane to his landing strip in what is called the Blackjacks, sandy land and hickory, oaks and far less thick brush than the usual brush country surrounding it..
My father had built a kind of dog cage to fit into a small trailer that he pulled behind our four door Model A. Balcomb, the South San Baptist preacher, owned a Model A truck which was equipped to hold several of his hounds - and he had built along the sides of the back shelves and cubbords like in the old chuck wagons the cowboys of the open range used. Balcomb would arrive in Somerset on a Saturday night before dark with his rig and park it at out house near town. When Daddy got off from work after dark on a winter night, they would head out to the Quesenberry, or wherever the group was going that night.
I wonder if at night in the winter out in the Quesenberry there is ever the sound of packs of hounds barking like crazy on a hot coyote or fox trail? Back in the late thirties when four or five "Wolf Hunters" all gathered in the Quesenberry, and the trail dogs jumped a coyote on a hot trail, they sometimes would turn all their dogs loose. They might even turn mostly untrained pups loose to give them some experience. There could be forty or fifty hounds in a pack, most of them barking. I doubt that sound is heard, nor is the sound of a horn being blown to call in the dogs after a chase likely to be heard in the Quesenberry in 2006. Its more likely, though, that there still some coyotes in that general area though perhaps they no longer make the Quesenberry their main territory as they did in the thirties, forties and fifties.. There is a book I read put out by the Texas Folklore Society on various activities people used to engage in many decades ago and most think have long passed into history. The book was called "Some Still Do." Coyote hunting with hounds was one of the topics.
Maybe some still do run coyotes south of San Antonio with packs of hounds. Maybe way out on a dirt road a few still build up a campfire, sit around telling stories of great hunts of the past, with the smell of coffee and bacon frying drifting over the moist night air. When my wife and I were home from Wisconsin at Christmas in 1961-62 I went coyote hunting with Uncle Casey Pyron, my brother George, and Warren Healer who had the dog pack. We camped on a little dirt road about two miles southwest of Somerset and built up a campfire. George went to sleep on the ground by the fire. It was that warm in South Texas. Healer's hounds were out in the brush barking only once in a while, indicating they had not picked up a hot trail. A coyote yelped up the road and George jumped up and started running that way, apparently to locate him for the dogs. Like my father, his brother, Casey Pyron, had been a hound dog man and "Wolf Hunter" when younger, who would tell many stories of coyote hunts of the twenties and thirties, of common dogs hunting with hounds on the trail, and of getting dogs out of holes or basements of old houses where they had fallen. I still have a horn made from that of a Texas long horn cow that my father, Uncle Casey and brother George used in the thirties to blow their hounds back into camp after the end of a coyote chase.
The men who ran hounds after coyotes in South Texas then did not hunt to kill the coyotes. which they called "wolves." They always referred to themselves as Wolf Hunters. Contrary to the sport of the brush country hound dog men, some men in Vermont and other states shoot coyotes with rifles. That was not allowed among the hunters of the Quesenberry. I don't see how at night in that thick brush you mostly cannot even walk through, they could shoot coyotes with rifles. In addition, if the coyote hunters of The Quesenberry were brought out of 1938 through a time machine to the year 2006, I do not think they would approve of using calls to lure coyotes out of the brush to shoot them. Some hunters with rifles now use coyote calls imitating the sound, for example, of a rabbit in distress. No,the object of the Quesenberry hound dog men was to hear their dogs barking and to determine from their barking what was happening out in the brush, a quarter mile to two or three miles away, though once in a while the coyote they were running would come near the camp fire of the men. A coyote is faster than a Walker, July or potlicker hound and rarely do the dogs catch a coyote.
There was an article on the killing of the Lead Dog, Pep in the Hunter's Horn, April 1936 page 16, about how in a Bexar county, Texas court trial in San Antonio my father, Blake Pyron, testified that he could tell what his hounds were running by the sound of their barking. He said the dogs "never changed their tune," when the lead Dog Pep was killed. The man who killed her said the hounds were running his hogs. Since the address of the farmer who killed Pep and another Pyron hound that night was given as Von Ormy, its likely that the incident occurred in the general area of the Quesenberry.
But the brushland of the Quesenberry just west of the Toyota plant may even now be filling up with sub-divisions that have all kind of restrictions like the one I happened to rent a half acre in during the summer of 1994 for my travel trailer up near Palestine in East Texas that had restrictions against living in a travel railer and on having more than a dog or two.
The Rich Men of the Earth, including some 20th century northeastern carpetbaggers and some financial elite, have made Texas a different place than my father and grandfather and especially my great-grandfather Gideon Blake Blackburn knew in their time. Gideon Blackburn and wife were in Texas during the days of the Republic.
J. Frank Dobie wrote something about the wind drinking mustangs being gone for 50 years from the Brasada, the brush country. Maybe the coyotes will never be gone from the Brasada.
Pyron Coyote Hounds About 1938
These hounds below are just some of the coyote hounds my older brother George Pyron and my father, Blake Pyron, had in the late thirties. Some of these dogs ran in The Quesenberry.
The Paso de las Garzas-Quesenberry Area Click On Photo To Enlarge It
The topographical map above shows the Paso de las Garzas and Quesenberry area, but its not too recent. Its from the eighties. On the left is Somerset Road heading northeast. And over to the right is the Poteet Road, also heading northeast. It is a heavier line on the map. About half way between Somerset Road and Poteet Road is Watson Road which is shown running north and south and turning to run east and west. Quesenberry road is the line running due north and south over to the west of Watson Road.
Click On Photo To Enlarge It
BLAS HERRERA AND PASO DE LAS GARZAS
Blas Herrera, who alerted the Alamo defenders to Santa Anna's approach, is buried in the Ruiz-Herrera Cemetary which is near the Medina River at about the end of Quesenberry Road.
In 1828, Blas Herrera married María Antonio Ruiz (1809-87), daughter of Col. José Francisco Ruiz, with whom he had ten children. Blas, Maria and their children lived on family land along the Medina River at Paso de las Garzas, which are the Herrera lands closer to the Medina.
José Francisco Ruiz was born in San Antonio on January 29, 1783. He was one of the four representatives of Bexar County at the convention in 1836 at Washington on the Brazos. A signer of the Declaration of Independence, he represented Bexar County in the Senate of the first Congress. Francisco Antonio Ruiz, his son, was the acting Mayor of San Antonio in 1836 during the Battle of the Alamo. He is buried in the Ruiz-Herrera cemetery at Paso de las Garzas, established in the 1840s.
Antonio's father, Jose Francosco Ruiz, wrote his son-in-law, Blas María Herrera, on December 27, 1836. He said "Under no circumstance, take sides against the Texans . . . for only God will return the territory of Texas to the Mexican government." Jose Ruiz represented the Bexar District as its senator in the First Congress of the Republic of Texas, from October 3, 1836, to September 25, 1837.
The quote below is from: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fhe73.htmlDuring the siege of Bexar in late 1835, Herrera served under the command of Capt. Juan Nepomuceno Seguín...
"Early in 1836 Seguín sent him to Laredo to keep surveillance on Mexican troop movements and to report any advance on San Antonio. About the middle of February, Herrera brought the information that Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna's troops were approaching the city. Herrera's next assignment was to escort and protect José Antonio Navarro and José Francisco Ruiz during their trip to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where they signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836."
Many of the children, grandchildren and later descendants of Blas Herrea lived at Paso de las Garzas, the Herrera lands west of that of the Quesenberrys.
I am not sure yet how much of that land from the Herrea holdings east to the Poteet Road the Quesenberrys owned during the thirties and forties.
The San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society told me that Jackson T. Quesenberry came to Bexar county in about 1864. Jackson T. is the father of Graham and Charles Quesenberry. Charles J. Quesenberry lived on Somerset Road and died in 1922. I believe Charles J. is the father of Joseph C. Quesenberry. Bexar county online land transaction records show that in 1978 Joseph and his wife deeded 30 acres to their daughter (it says that on the deed) Sophie Ann Quesenberry Bucklew, on the east side of Quesenberry Road and south of Watson Road, which is in the aea the coyote hunters called The Quesenberry. The deed copy says the land is in Bexar county block number 4298. I knew Sophie Ann Quesenberry in Somerset High School in the late forties, and was at their home once in perhaps 1947. Land was also deeded to Esther Joyce Quesenberry Herrera and to Richard Quesenberry by Joseph Quesenberry and wife in 1978, and Sophie Ann, Esther Joyce and Richard were their children.
Ron Teel used to write a column in the Devine Newspaper, called View From the Eagle's Nest. I wrote him once in response to his comments on the history of the Medina River Crossing on the Somerset Road. At that time I had a subscription to the Devine paper. In the spring of 1948 five of the Junior Class Somerset High School played "hookey." The senior class got to go on some kind of a trip, and so we decided to go on our own trip. Five of us got into Daddy's old 1936 Ford car and went to the Medina River Crossing to go swimming. Actually, we were mostly too poor to have real swimming suits, so we waded in the river. I have one photo from that day that has survived, one of Melvin Schupp, who was to become the preacher of Old Rock Baptist Church, with Billie Kurz in the Medina below the old bridge. Dorothy McCullough and Lamar Miller were also along that time.
Teel writes that "I suppose the river has changed little since Pyron and friends used to go swimming in the cool, green water that gurgles through the cypress roots. Looking up at the tall bluff above the river, I thought about old Indian Caves which are now collapsed.
Walking along beneath the new bridge, I thought about how Santa Anna camped here when the Medina marked the northern most boundary of Coahuila, Mexico. I thought about how his soldiers bathed themselves and watered their horses before they crossed over into Estado de Tejas, before the fateful event which we call the Battle of the Alamo.
In later years people used the same campground, today known as Devil's Bend, as a resting place before they drove their wagons or late automobiles toward San Antonio. Occasionally you will find reminders of all this history as you walk along; like pieces of glass bottles, of old pottery and hand-blown glass bottles, old shell casings, and perhaps a rusty bolt from a wagon, or a horseshoe, or bit from a horse's mouth... Then he ends up saying that the waters of the Medina at Garza's Crossing "...provided for something far more important in people's lives...untold numbers of human beings have been immersed in these waters in Holy Baptism after accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior." Good for you Ron Teel!
My father, Blake Pyron, used to tell the story about how when he went to San Antonio and came home to what later was the town of Somerset late at night in his buggy pulled by one horse, that he would go to sleep and let the horse find his way home. I wonder though about the horse finding his way over the Medina River bridge, if in about 1910 it was anything like I remember it from the late forties, a turn from the road above, going down and across a fairly narrow bridge.
What Teel said about using the Medina to baptize people brings back vague memories. My sister Louise says she and some others were baptized in the Medina, probably at Garza's Crossing.
I did not know that the area south of the Medina before 1836 was part of the state of Coahuila, while that north of it was "Estada de Tejas."
Below is the one photo that survived of those I took in May of 1948 of our Somerset High School Junior class trip to the Medina River. Melvin Schupp and Billie Eileen Kurz are shown wading in the muddy waters of the Medina below the old bridge on the Somerset Road.
See Part Two Coyote Hunters of the Quesenberry for photos of the Pyron Model A car used for Coyote hunting, and the dog trailer.