Becoming a City and Becoming American, San Antonio, Texas, 1848-1861, Chapter 2

Becoming a City and Becoming American, San Antonio, Texas, 1848-1861, Chapter 2

By Lawrence Phillip Knight, Ph.d.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville




The simple fact that San Antonio was part of Texas and Texas part of the United States, made San Antonio American. For those United States natives living in San Antonio, it also made it Anglo, or at the least meant that it ought to be made Anglo. Other ethnicities need not leave San Antonio, but they must assimilate Anglo ways, must fit into the overall Anglo culture of the nation. What did assimilation mean? What did the Anglos expect of non-Anglos? What was acceptable and what was not? Finally, were there things the Anglos demanded--things that must be accepted?

The first and most obvious demand of the Anglos was that every citizens of San Antonio be an American. This was shown in an article in the San Antonio Ledger, in 1851, concerning the city's July Fourth celebrations. "English, Irish, German, Spanish all joined with the Americans as one brotherhood." The paper added that since a high percentage of the city's population was not "American," San Antonio needed to celebrate American holidays more than other cities so the population could learn to be American. [1]

The other Anglo demands were few in number. Anglo morals must replace Hispanic morals--or rather replace Hispanic practices. English was the language of the land, so it must at least be the official language of the city. Being American meant loyalty to the country, and that meant loyalty to the Union. Finally, the citizens of San Antonio must accept the practice of slavery, and abide by the rules laid down for its protection. However social assimilation was not required by the Anglos. Some social assimilation occurred, but it was neither required nor encouraged.

The first step in making San Antonio American was to establish and enforce an Anglo moral code on the city. That the city was an old one steeped in Spanish and Mexican morals, which included the fandango, bull fighting, cock fighting, nude public bathing, and a relaxed and open Sabbath, meant that the old inhabitants of the city and their descendants must accept Anglo morals. The first stronghold of the Tejano culture assaulted was the fandango.

The fandango, a dance in which young men asked senioritas to dance with them and in return bought them some pan dulce, or sweet bread, was the scene of much violence when the War with Mexico turned San Antonio into a military camp. George Giddings, later to gain fame as a founder of the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line, reported that at his first fandango a number of shots were fired over a gambling disagreement (gambling then being an integral part of the fandango), and a soldier was killed. Added to Giddings' surprise, after the victim was removed and his blood washed away, the fandango continued unabated. [2]

It was this sort of violence that prompted Mayor James M. Devine and the city councilmen of San Antonio to regulate the fandangos in 1849. To stop the violence associated with the fandangos, the city council forbade any fandangos within one mile of the center of the city (San Fernando Church) and branded the fandangos a public nuisance. Those violating the provision were to be fined not less than five nor more than twenty dollars. While a one mile radius may not seem prohibitive, Sister Mary Patrick Joseph of the Ursuline Convent noted that the convent, which was four-tenths of a mile from San Fernando Church, was "beautifully situated outside the 'City.'" What was true of San Antonio's northern boundary was true of all; the city did not extend from San Fernando Church more than one half-mile in any direction. The city, in effect, prohibited fandangos altogether. In his "State of the City" address [3] presented between his consecutive terms as mayor, Mayor Devine asserted that regulating the fandangos had not occurred without great opposition but believed that of all the Council's accomplishments the suppression [of] the licensed 'fandangoes,' [was] perhaps the most salutary. These hot beds of vice had, from the commencement of the Mexican war, up to the time of their suppression, become a most intolerable nuisance and I do not exaggerate when I assert, as my firm conviction, that all the murders, and outrages, which disgraced our city during that period and since, have flowed directly and indirectly from their toleration. It will be within the recollection of the members of your body, that the enforcement of this ordinance drew down on the officers the most immeasured abuse, not unattended with acts of personal violence. Very few, however now question the wisdom of our action in the premises. [4]

Despite the prohibition, however, the fandangos continued. In fact the council relaxed the ban; on February 22, 1853, Ángel Navarro chaired the committee on Petitions and Ordinances that offered a resolution on public balls or fandangos within the city limits. Those wishing to sponsor a fandango had to pay four dollars to do so, had to have a city policeman present at the dance, were restricted to what part of the city they could be held in, and would be fined if these rules were broken. The battle was not yet over, however. Navarro's resolution was overturned in June 1853 and the stricter 1849 rules were reinstated. But again fandangos proved too popular to be prohibited; instead the Council in 1854 voted to license them. The license charge was five dollars. Those not purchasing a license would be fined ten dollars for a first offense, twenty-five for a second offense, and fifty for a third offense; reception of a third offense would also prohibit the guilty party from holding a fandango for not less than six nor more than twelve months. Also a city marshall was required to be at the fandango at a cost of two dollars to the sponsor, firearms were prohibited, and the sponsors were responsible for any disturbances caused even if all city regulations were followed. In the election of city officers for 1855, a group of men who formed the nucleus of the American or Know-Nothing party in San Antonio gained control of the city. They aimed to Anglicize thoroughly the city, and their attempt to do so is covered in chapters III and IV. Their initial move in that direction, and one of their first orders of business, reinstated the 1849 prohibition of fandangos. Ironically their action caused Devine, the architect of the ban, to change his mind on fandangos, but that occurred later. [5]

The fandango was outlawed, resurrected, outlawed, resurrected, and outlawed again between 1848 to 1855. Waffling on ridding the city of this symbol of Hispanic culture called Anglo dominance into question. Were the Anglos to dominate, or were there factors which mitigated against Anglo dominance?

One answer to the question was the composition of the city council. From 1848 to 1855 only two of the annually elected San Antonio city councils (the council, by law, had eight councilmen) contained a majority of Anglos. From 1848 to 1851 Anglos held at least four seats on the council. In 1852 the Anglo contingent was reduced to three, and by 1853, when the fandango was reinstituted under the leadership of Navarro, only two Anglos sat on the council. Devine was once again mayor that year and may have been decisive in getting the council to reverse itself; in 1854 once again two Anglos served on the city council and the prohibition was again lifted. Only in 1855, when the Know-Nothings clandestinely secured control of the city council, did the Anglos once again secure control of the city government with at least six Anglo councilmen. While the composition of the council was not always Anglo, neither was it anti-Anglo. In 1848 one of the councilmen was Irish, in 1848 and 1849, one was Irish, one English, and one Scottish, and in 1853 one was Irish. But on only two occasions from 1848-1855 did the Anglos have a majority on the city council. Finally, though always a minority, there was always at least one Tejano on the council, and usually two, to voice the concerns of the Hispanic community. [6]

Marriage, relations, religion, and business may also have worked against Anglo dominance. Five of the non-Tejano councilmen who served on the council from 1848-1855 had Tejana wives. John Carolan, the mayor of the city in 1854, was the guardian of José and Vicenta Yturri, and Navarro was the guardian of councilman Brian Callaghan's children after he died. At least one councilman and one mayor were Catholics and may have felt more kinship with the Tejanos than did their Protestant counterparts. Also, four of the councilmen were owners of liquor establishments and probably saw nothing wrong with the fandangos (though they might have voted against them because they were a competing event), and fourteen others were merchants, craftsmen, or professionals in San Antonio who likely had business dealings with the Tejano community. [7]

A final factor which worked against Anglo dominance was the influx of European immigrants into the city, and the appearance of some of these individuals on the city council. In 1850 the first German took his seat as a city councilman. No German was on the council in 1851, but in 1852 two served, in 1853 two served, and in 1854 one or two served. The Germans were joined in 1853 by two Frenchmen, one of whom remained on the council through 1854. [8]

The problem in determining Anglo dominance was exacerbated by the omission in the city council minutes of recorded votes. Only one vote on the fandango gave individual votes. Navarro's proposal to reinstate the fandango in February 1853 passed 4-2 with Navarro, Jean Baptiste LaCoste, M. Lopez, and A.A. Lockwood voting for the reinstatement and C.N. Riotte and Callaghan voting against it. The result was inconclusive. Three of the four votes for the proposal were non-Anglos, but the only Anglo vote, Lockwood's, was also for the proposal. Both votes against the proposal were cast by non-Anglos; Riotte was a German native and Callaghan was a native of Ireland. On no other occasion concerning the fandango was the individual or total vote recorded; the minutes merely noted that a measure passed or failed. [9]

Observers of the fandango battle might question the desire of the council. Did it really desire Anglo morality? The decisions of one council to prohibit the fandango were overturned by the next, and that by the next. However there was no mistaking the city's attack on Hispanic morals; bull fighting, cock fighting, and public nude bathing faced attacks by the council, and the relaxed Hispanic day of rest was replaced by a stricter Anglo Sabbath.

Cock fighting--which in the 1840's occurred on Main Plaza on Sunday mornings, much to the dismay of a small band of Methodists attempting to hold Sunday services--was licensed by the Council in 1854. The licensing stage was of short duration, however. The 1855 ordinance that labeled fandangos a public nuisance did the same for cock fighting and for bull fighting, an event not mentioned until then in the council records and listed only once in the city's papers. A nonviolent event to which the council also objected was the practice of public nude bathing that was engaged in by some of the Hispanic families in the waters of San Antonio. The Council, in 1851, prohibited bathing and swimming "in public view" in the San Antonio River between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or "at any time to bathe in any unbecoming manner, and to remain naked on the river bank in sight of those passing by." Those violating the ordinance were to be fined from two to five dollars or be required to spend the same number of days in jail. The sport of observing the nude bathers must also have been popular, since one incentive of the ordinance was to pay anyone who informed on the bathers one-half of the fine imposed--though the ordinance did not specify how long the informer was allowed to gather evidence. Bathing, though not in public, was popular with Americans too, and could not be prohibited altogether; it merely had to be confined to the hours of darkness or within bathing houses--canvas curtained constructions that curtailed public viewing. So popular was river bathing that Thomas Grayson, owner of the Planter House, a hotel on Main Plaza, advertised the luxury of two bathhouses--one each for men and women--as one of the inducements to stay at his establishment. Even those as modest as the Ursuline Sisters found bathing in the river one of their few luxuries; Sister Mary Patrick Joseph wrote that the sisters enjoyed the river, "for we bathe every morning, & are quite refreshed." Bathing would remain popular with the people of San Antonio, but unlike the fandangos, no license would be allowed for the liberty of public nudity. [10]

Perhaps it was assumed that the relaxed Hispanic Sabbath was at the root of perceptions of Hispanic immorality. The Hispanic Sabbath, according to Benjamin Lundy, was quite unobtrusive. All the shops were open, and "[s]ome of the people were at church and some at work." To counter the Mexican vices, then, a stricter Sabbath must be kept. Many citizens, including Mrs. Mary Maverick and the mayor's wife--but including only one non-Anglo--petitioned the council to pass a Sabbath ordinance. The council complied with an ordinance that required businesses to close on the Sabbath, a measure Mayor Devine pointed to with pride. Apparently, though, the law did not establish the deed, because the San Antonio Ledger reported in 1852 that while the fandangos not only continued unabated, and even rose in popularity, the Sabbath remained unobserved. In fact the greatest hindrance to establishing an Anglo morality was the small number of Protestant churches in the city; by 1854 only a Methodist, a Presbyterian, and a German Evangelical church represented the Protestant faith. Worse, those churches were not always pastored. The Alamo Star reported in its November 27, 1854, edition that no churches were open on the previous Sabbath because there were no preachers. [11]

English was the primary language of America, and was made the official language of the city in 1844, when the council met for the first time following the two invasions by the Mexican armies. Prior to 1842, the meetings were held, or at least recorded, in both English and Spanish. A sign of the Anglo dominance of the council was that the meetings were held and recorded only in English. A mark of assimilation was that all councilmen were fluent in English, and there was no record that any argument over the English only arrangement occurred; it was expected that the Tejano, German, and French members of the council speak and write English, and they did. [12]

The best know of San Antonio's Tejano citizens was José Antonio Navarro, who signed Texas' Declaration of Independence, helped write the Texas Constitution, and joined the ill starred Santa Fe expedition of 1841. When that expedition was captured by the Mexican army, Navarro "spent his money freely to keep others alive." He was the representative to the Republic of Texas from Béxar County in 1838-1839, and retired from the state senate after two terms in 1848. Navarro, however, was seldom involved in public service during this period, probably because of the need to manage his extensive property holdings that included land on the Colorado River below Austin, a ranch in Atascosa County, and the San Geronimo Ranch just north of Seguin; he sold the latter in 1854 when he moved back to San Antonio. The only public office he held from 1850-1855 was that of alderman for 1854; his first place finish in the balloting revealed that this Tejano citizen of San Antonio was popular throughout the city. Further proof of his popularity was the fact that the house of his birth, on Flores Street north of Military Plaza, was called the Navarro House throughout this period regardless of ownership. [13]

José Antonio Navarro's son Ángel Navarro continued his father's legacy. Navarro spoke English, advertised his services as an attorney in English language newspapers, and sought the votes of Anglos when he ran for public office. Most notable, however, was his schooling; he received his degree from Harvard University, one of the most prestigious schools in the land. Few if any of Navarro's fellow San Antonians could boast of such a prized degree. The life of J. M. Rodriguez also proved assimilation. Rodriguez remembered that he and his sisters were sent from San Antonio to attend school in Seguin, an Anglo town, because the "little Mexican school in the neighborhood" taught all courses in Spanish. From there his sisters went to the Ursuline Academy, where many languages were taught, while he attended school in New Orleans. The most active of Tejano leaders in local government during this time was Juan A. Urrutia. Unlike many Tejano leaders, Urrutia was not wealthy. His land holdings in 1850 amounted to $900 to which he added two city lots in 1855 on which he owed $424. Despite a lack of wealth, the Urrutia family had been city leaders in San Antonio since the 1740s, a tradition carried on by Juan. [14]

The assimilated Tejanos were also treated with respect by Anglos. An example of this was the treatment of Tejano councilmen by the voters and by their peers. Ángel Navarro, Rodriguez, and Urrutia each served in public office. Navarro was elected to the city council for 1854 and to the state legislature in 1857, 1859, and 1861. He was also a successful lawyer in the city and a leader of the city's bar association. Rodriguez was elected to the city council in 1857--the same year he was elected as a county commissioner. No Tejano, however, held public office more than Urrutia, who was elected as an alderman in 1850, 1851, 1852 (when he received the highest number of votes of all candidates), and 1854. While an alderman he was appointed to the committee to oversee the sale of city lands, the Committee on Public Improvements, and the Committee of the Fire Ordinance. Urrutia also held the job of Ditch Commissioner in 1850 and from 1852 to 1855. The respect afforded Urrutia was clear in two instances. In 1850 he was appointed as a member of a committee chaired by Sam Maverick to hear a complaint by José de la Baum that the city had sold land that belonged to him. Later that year the committee found in favor of de la Baum, and the city was asked to restore or replace the property wrongly taken. Thus a Tejano city leader was appointed as part of a committee to hear the complaint of another Hispanic citizen, and the committee, though composed of a majority of Anglos, found in favor of the Hispanic claimant. Two years later Urrutia himself petitioned the council to recompense him for land his father had owned but which the city had sold. Urrutia had no proof other than his own word that his father had owned the land. Nevertheless his fellow councilmen accepted his word and recommended he be recompensed for the land. [15]

While Tejano leaders were accepted by Anglos, the same was not true of the majority of the Hispanics of San Antonio. For the most part the Hispanics, or "poor Mexicans," as they were usually termed, were either invisible or held in low regard. Even the kind observers of the Mexicans, Sisters Mary Patrick Joseph and Mary Augustine Joseph of the Ursuline Convent, often described the Mexicans as ignorant and sometimes as indolent, though Sister Mary Augustine Joseph defended the Mexicans by stating that the other citizens of San Antonio "lay the fault of all that goes wrong at the door of the poor Mexicans," thus noting the distinction between poor and other Hispanics. The Western Texan editorialized in 1852 that most Mexican citizens of San Antonio were not "one whit elevated above the Comanche, and many of them infinitely below in the scale of moral being--repulsive objects in the eye of civilization." Most of the city's Hispanics were all but invisible. They lived in jacals, little huts constructed of sticks and mud, spoke Spanish, attended San Fernado Church, if they attended services at all, and abided in their own society--outside of Anglo dominated San Antonio. In only one area were the Hispanics considered important prior to 1855; they were the cartmen--the freighters--who carried goods into and out of San Antonio. [16]

Like the Tejano leaders, the leaders from among the Germans were also fluent in English. Charles Hummel was elected as an alderman for 1850, and was chosen by the Council to replace another German, Dr. F. Herff in 1853, though he refused the offer. Hummel came to San Antonio in 1847 and went into business as a gunsmith at which he was quite successful. He first immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1837, returned to Germany in 1846, married, and then moved to San Antonio. Other Germans who served as aldermen during this period were Henry Huffmeyer, who served in 1852 and 1853, and Hugo Frederick Oswald, who served in 1854. Oswald, like Hummel, was a successful businessman and member of the board of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad. He purchased the Texas Staats Zeitung and published not only the proceedings of the council meetings in German, but also received contracts from the state government to print state laws in German. Oswald was also interested in education and ran for the position of school trustee in San Antonio when the city initiated public schools, and was later involved in education through the Casino Club and its involvement with the German-English school. But the majority of Germans, unlike the majority of Hispanics, were accepted as Americans despite their lack of English skills. [17]

The first half of the 1850's was, in fact, a honeymoon period between the Anglos and Germans. Certainly the English language newspapers were taken with the Germans. In an editorial in November 1852, the Ledger stated that the Germans were "hardy and intelligent and industrious and moral emigrants," and that they made "the best of citizens and we heartily welcome them." Whether it was flattery or misperception, the Ledger overestimated the number of Germans in the city, reporting that they outnumbered the Americans--which was not true in 1852. The Alamo Star noted that the Germans were industrious and were building twelve houses east of the river, and everyone knew that the Germans built substantial stone houses, not jacals. German organizations were also held in esteem. In 1854 the Germans of San Antonio organized a Turnverein or gymnastic club. The club was simply a way for the Germans to exercise themselves, but the Western Texan saw the Turnverein as something far greater. The Turner associations fell out of favor in Germany, the paper reported, because some of the strongest opponents of tyranny, those who took part in the revolutions of 1848-49, trained at the turn grounds. Turnvereins, the paper noted, now only existed in the United States because a healthy body produced a healthy mind, and a healthy mind only resided in freedom. Therefore the paper wished the organization "a long career of pleasure and usefulness." The city's English language newspapers saw the Germans as true Americans despite language and cultural differences, because the Germans loved freedom, and no trait was perceived as being more American. During this period the Germans who came to America were assumed to have fled tyranny, and were, therefore, American in spirit. [18]

Mayor Devine, who showed little love for the Hispanic culture was smitten by the Germans. Although willing for city council pronouncements to be printed in Spanish, he was more desirous that they be printed in German. He noted that the Germans were "willing to obey laws even though they don't understand them." He, like the city's papers, remarked that the Germans were "industrious" and "sober." His attitude was further revealed in a political advertisement aimed at Germans. First he wrongly exaggerated their numbers, stating that one-half of San Antonio's voters were Germans, and followed with the startling pronouncement that the Germans had no representatives in city government--but that he would be proud to represent such an honorable constituency. [19]

Despite Mayor Devine's claims that the Germans were not represented in city government, the Germans quickly occupied positions of leadership within the city, though never as a majority. The primary point is that the Germans were accepted as assimilated without the knowledge of English while the Hispanics were not. [20]

Another demand of the Anglos for assimilation was loyalty to the Union or recognition of the supremacy of the Union, a concept that was badly strained over the disposition of the territories gained from the war with Mexico because of the slavery question. So intense was the debate that secession was bandied about by some southern leaders. Such was not the case in San Antonio, however. The city, though southern, opposed secession.

That opposition was personified by two of the city's Anglo leaders. Samuel Maverick left his native South Carolina, because he disagreed with the secessionist sentiment of his native state following the Nullification Crises. A sense of adventure led Maverick to Texas in 1835, and malaria drove him from the Texas coast to the more healthy climes of San Antonio where he remained. Maverick's opposition to secession did not wane after he arrived in San Antonio. Maverick ran for the office of state representative in 1851 and spelled out his beliefs to the voters in the Western Texan. Maverick's first statement in defining his political sentiments was of union. While he remarked that the national government must be kept within its bounds, his greater fear was that the states were not being kept within their bounds. Maverick wrote, "I think it equally important that the states should be restrained from infringing upon the grounds set off by the Constitution to Congress." To save America each Texan had to play his part. "[T]he Texian must not be only a Texian, but must lift himself up into the light of that other great truth, that he is also an American--a part and parcel of the sovereignty of the United States." Isaiah A. Paschal, a Georgia native, also stood for the Union. He defended the Union in a speech given in celebration of the seventy-fifth year of American Independence. Paschal noted that America had grown under the union from a group of discordant colonies to a nation that stretched from coast to coast and from the Rio Grande to the St. Lawrence River, and that America was a light to all who loved liberty throughout the world. But Paschal, like Maverick, was cognizant of the forces threatening Union. On one side were the abolitionists who would force their unconstitutional will on the minority, and on the other were those who desired secession as a panacea for all the South's troubles. The South's and the nation's troubles had one solution, Union. "Accursed be the hand that shall ever attempt to root it (the Union) up." Texas, Paschal stated, was staunchly Union, as was proved by Texas parting with millions of acres of land to secure the Compromise of 1850. "[W]hen discord and civil strife threatened to convulse this Union to its very center, Texas appeased the raging elements by a generous sacrifice of her own interests." [21]

The city's papers were also filled with Union sentiment. The gratitude for the Union-saving Compromise of 1850 did not end with that year. In 1851 the Ledger joyfully reported that the legislature of Massachusetts had rejected the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the paper supported the reelection of Congressman Col. Volney E. Howard who had helped push the Compromise through the House. That same year the Western Texan refuted secessionists who used John Randolph's writings to tout their cause. Randolph wrote in 1833 that the state of Virginia had not surrendered any of its sovereignty when it joined the Union. The Western Texan quoted the Constitution to show that Virginia could not have joined the Union without surrendering some of its sovereignty, but the larger question loomed: could a state secede? The paper answered that by quoting a letter from James Madison to Alexander Hamilton. Madison's reply to a query from Hamilton was that the "Constitution requires an adoption in toto and forever." The paper summed up its attitude by stating that during the process of ratification of the Constitution the "right to secede was no where maintained." The Ledger in an article commemorating Thanksgiving Day 1851, which occurred on March 6 of that year, also praised the Compromise of 1850 that saved the Union. The editor reminded his readers that Texans escaped tyranny by freeing themselves from Mexico, ensured their freedom by joining the Union in 1845, and did not now want to jeopardize that freedom by separating from the Union they had worked so hard to join. [22]

The next year both Henry Clay and Daniel Webster died, and both were mourned in San Antonio. The City Council memorialized Clay by writing, "No more shall the voice of Henry Clay be heard in the Halls of the National Legislature, spreading Oil upon the troubled waters; he is dead; his spirit has returned to the God who gave it: may it rest in peace." The City Council ordered that flags be flown at half-mast, businesses closed, and guns fired on the half-hour on July 17, 1852 to honor one who had helped save the Union. The Democratic Western Texan joined the council in mourning Clay. Four months later, at the death of Daniel Webster, the City Council ordered the same honor be shown to another union man. [23]

The final demand of assimilation was the acceptance of slavery. Because San Antonio became a southern city with the influx of Americans, slavery added to the complexity of the city. Although San Antonio contained few slaves, the city developed extensive slave codes to regulate them. Slaves had to be indoors by certain times, and any slave found outside without a pass after those hours would be kept "in the Calaboose" overnight at a charge of five dollars to the slave owner. The worth of slaves as humans was shown by the provision that for a mere one dollar above the fine the city would whip the disobedient slave--the punishment being the biblical thirty-nine stripes. Despite the severity of the city slave codes, slavery was seldom an important topic in the city. Some citizens of San Antonio owned slaves, slaves were sometimes advertised for sale in the papers, and some slaves were rented out, but in the city's daily affairs, slavery was of little import to anyone other than the slaves. However in 1854 there was, or seemed to be, a slave problem, and the city responded with something akin to hysteria. The problem was nothing as severe as a rebellion real or imagined, it was simply that a few slaves ran away, and not even from San Antonio, but from its neighbor to the east, Seguin. Nevertheless, the city reacted quickly. The Alamo Star warned that the Hispanics were not to be trusted. "We learn that since the negroes have commenced running away, the citizens of Seguin have commenced running all the 'straggling Mexicans' out of the country. A great many has [ sic] arrived here. Our citizens should be on the lookout." Thus, the paper determined that Hispanics were the cause of the slaves running away, and while the article did not directly mention the Mexican citizens of San Antonio, the implication was unmistakable. Frederick Law Olmstead, who visited San Antonio in 1854, remarked that though some of the Hispanic leaders owned slaves, most Hispanics hated slavery. The Anglos responded by forming a vigilance committee that included some of the leading men of the city, all of whom were Anglos. All citizens were also warned to be on the alert. However the runaway slave crises warranted all of two reports in the paper, proof that a crises never really existed, and the committee was never heard from again. The incident revealed, however, that though slavery might not be a problem in San Antonio, any threat to the institution, real or imagined, would be dealt with severely. This was further proved the following January when three of the leading men in the city offered a $1,000 reward "for the apprehension and conviction of any free person who may be guilty of enticing away or stealing any slave from the County of Bexar." [24]

Opposition by Hispanics was expected if not accepted; what shocked the Anglos though was the opposition to slavery by the best group of immigrants, the Germans--at least by some of them.

The event that sparked the opposition seemed innocent enough. A Saengerfest, or singing festival, was held in San Antonio in May 1854. Germans from all areas of western Texas attended the meetings. But an association named the Freie Vereine, literally free clubs, of San Antonio and Sisterdale used the occasion to call a mass meeting of the attending Germans to discuss needed reforms in the political system. The political meeting first criticized the major political parties for having neither the will nor the power to change American society. Although they met as a German language organization and wrote out their grievances and demands in German, they explained that they were not a German party, but Americans who were merely joined together by their language. Before making demands, they noted their love and loyalty for the United States, and then listed their demands under political, social, and religious headings. While some of their demands might have rankled some Anglos in San Antonio, none would likely have aroused the ire that their demands on slavery did. First slavery was bad. Second, slavery opposed the very principle of democracy. Finally, any state that wanted to eliminate slavery should receive help from the Federal government in eliminating the institution. Thus, the two largest groups had struck against at least one portion of assimilation. [25]

Though it was not demanded, some social assimilation also occurred in San Antonio. The city had few social organizations in the 1850s, and little information on them is available. The information extant shows little ethnic interaction on the social level. Alamo Lodge #44 of the Free and Accepted Masons organized in San Antonio in 1847. In 1848 Hummel joined the organization and in 1851 and in 1855 was its Senior Warden. No other Germans and no Hispanics (the animosity between Masons and Catholics may have been the reason) were listed in the city's newspapers in relation to the Masons--though the organization was seldom mentioned in the papers and only officers names were ever listed. Three other organizations also appeared in the pages of the city's newspapers, one spiritual, one moral, and two intellectual.

The Bible Society of San Antonio was led by Captain J.H. Beck. At one of its meetings the Western Texan reported that not many people were present, but that a good cross section of town attended: three lawyers, three preachers, three farmers, three students, two printers, two carpenters, one tinner, one stone mason, and one gold digger were among the men and some women. The ethnicity of the crowd was not revealed, but the officers including Beck were all Anglos. Closely related to the Bible Society was the Sons of Temperance. The Worth Division No. 21, Sons of Temperance, dedicated to abstinence from the consumption of alcohol, had their first recorded meeting in San Antonio early in 1850, a meeting that made front page news. Mrs. Frank Paschal, an Anglo, presented the Banner and Bible to the Worth Division of the Sons of Temperance. Little else was recorded about this group, but it was doubtful that either Hispanics or Germans showed much interest in a temperance organization. Two societies in San Antonio were devoted to the elevation of the mind. The goal of the San Antonio Lyceum was expressed at the inaugural meeting of the society by its first president, T.J. Devine. Devine hoped that the society would educate, lead, and inspire the citizens of San Antonio by bringing before them the examples of great men like Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, and others. The society was actually a debating club, and such subjects as "Did the Governor act wisely in calling an Extra Session" and "Would the acquisition of Cuba be desirable for the United States" were debated by some of the city's leading citizens, at the society's meetings in the County Courthouse. Of those members listed as officers or debaters, all were Anglos. The Youth's Debating Club was to the young people of San Antonio what the Lyceum was to the adults. The Alamo Star, a newspaper originally aimed at the youth of San Antonio, covered the meetings of this organization. The debaters were all young people, and the topics included woman's suffrage and bull fighting, the latter a "monstrous act" that was the cause of Spain's decline but which was still practiced "across the San Pedro." The club's existence was short lived, however, and in that short life, neither German nor Hispanic was listed as a member or debater. The only German social organization mentioned in San Antonio in the early 1850s was the Turnverein, and though no list of members was given the papers, there was no hint that other than Germans joined the organization. Among Hispanics, no formal social organization was mentioned in the city's newspapers. [26]

Social assimilation seldom crossed ethnic lines. Some Tejanas married Anglos', Hummel, and probably a few other Germans, joined the Masons', but in areas other than government, religion, and business Anglos, Germans, and Hispanics seldom mixed. Put another way, unless members of different ethnic groups were married or members of the Catholic Church, once the work day was over, they did not fraternize.

Had assimilation occurred in San Antonio by 1855? Had the Hispanics and Germans become "Americans" to the satisfaction of the Anglos? An assessment of the council's attempts to replace Hispanic with Anglo morality revealed limited success. The fandango battle lasted seven years, and as the San Antonio Ledger noted, fandangos occurred even in years when prohibited. Bull and cock fighting disappeared as an issue, though Frederick Law Olmstead remarked that the game-cock was a staple of Hispanic households in the city. The public nude bathing initially moved through a loophole in the law to San Pedro Creek, though that too was prohibited in 1854. Nevertheless the heat and dust of the city necessitated bathing even if in private. Finally the Sabbath law remained unobserved. Some Anglo laws were obeyed and some were not. Some aspects of Hispanic morality were put away, or at least removed from Anglo eyes, and some continued. The end result, then, of the Anglo assault on Mexican morality was compromise; some things Anglo were adopted, some things Hispanic remained. Thus American in San Antonio, in the area of morals, was a coming together of an Anglo and Hispanic morality influenced by the Germans and other European immigrants. [27]

What of other assimilation? Fluency in English was demanded of the city's leaders regardless of ethnicity, but it was not demanded of the common people. The city printed important information and city ordinances in German and Spanish, Germans had their own newspapers, and there was no pressure to make the Germans learn English. Neither were the poor Hispanics required to learn English, though for a different reason--they were not considered important enough to bother with. In the case of the Germans, they were considered American without speaking English, and of the majority of the Hispanics, English skills would not make them Americans. Since there was no overt opposition to being part of the United States or being in the Union, questions on those elements of assimilation did not occur. However on the issue of slavery, opposition from the two largest ethnic groups in the city existed, or was perceived to exist. [28] It was simply assumed that the poor Hispanics hated slavery and aided runaways when possible; the only proof available was that poor Hispanics associated with slaves and seemed to take no notice of their color. For the Germans the proof was evident in their pronouncements from the Sangerfest. Certainly assimilation into the Anglo culture was not complete. [29]

The definition of American was not clear in San Antonio in 1855. Certainly it was a mixture of cultures and peoples dominated by Anglo laws and morals, the English language, love of the United States and Union, and the demand that slavery be accepted. But many of these points, and especially the latter, were contended. Political parties now entered the battle of defining American.

[1] San Antonio Ledger, July 10, 1851 (quotation).

[2]Emmie Giddings W. Mahon and Chester V. Keilman, "George Giddings and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 61 (Oct., 1958), 223-224.

[3]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, March 7, 1849, 29-30 (quotation) (City Clerk's Office; cited hereafter as SACCO); Sister Mary Patrick Joseph and Sister Mary Augustine Joseph, Letters from the Ursuline, 1852-1853, ed. Catherine McDowell (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1977), 143; elections for city officers occurred the last week in December and the city year began on January 1 of the following year.

[4]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, January 15, 1850, 74-75 (SACCO).

[5]Ibid., February 22, 207-208, June 7, 1853, 219, April 13, 1854, 279-280, January 8, 1855, 307 (SACCO); San Antonio Ledger, Nov. 17, 1855.

[6]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book A, Dec. 25, 1848, 140L (SACCO); San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Dec. 31, 1849, 67-68, Dec. 30, 1850, 119, Dec. 31, 1851, 148, Dec. 31, 1852, 196, Dec. 26, 1853, 243, Dec. 25, 1854, 304 (SACCO).

[7]Frederick C. Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio: Genealogies of the Early Latin, Anglo-American, and German Families with Occasional Biographies (San Antonio: Artes Graficas, 1937), 201, 263-264; United States Seventh Census (1850), Bexar County, Texas, Population Schedules; United States Eighth Census (1860), Bexar County, Texas, Population Schedules; Chabot (Frederick Charles) papers, 1837-1890, Box 2L728 (Center for American History, the University of Texas at Austin; cited hereafter as CAH); Bexar County, Marriage Records, Vol. C, 1852-1855, Sept. 13, 1852; San Antonio Ledger, Dec. 30, 1852, Jan. 19, 1854, Jan. 12, 1856; San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, May 15, 1856, 422 (SACCO).

[8]Ibid., Dec. 31, 1849, 119, Dec. 31, 1851, 148, Dec. 31, 1852, 196, Dec. 26, 1853, 243 (SACCO).

[9]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Feb. 23, 1853, 207-208 (SACCO).

[10]Josephine Forman, We Finish to Begin: A History of Travis Park United Methodist Church, San Antonio, Texas, 1846-1991 (San Antonio: privately printed, 1991), 5; San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, March 23, 1854, 275, Jan 4, 1855, 307 (SACCO); San Antonio, Ordinances, Book 1, 1850-1868, Ordinance 01-9, May 8, 1851 (first and second quotation) (SACCO); San Antonio Ledger, January 19, 1854; Sister Mary, Ursuline, 166 (third quotation).

[11]Thomas Earle, (ed.), The Life, Travels and Opinions of Benjamin Lundy compiled under the direction and behalf of His children (n.p., 1847; reprint, New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1971) 49 (quotation); San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Feb. 12, 1849, 25, 74-75 (SACCO); San Antonio Ledger, December 30, 1852; San Antonio Western Texan, November 11, 1852; San Antonio Alamo Star, August 5, Nov. 27, 1854; Sister Mary, Ursuline, 163, 177.

[12]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book A, Aug, 23, 1842, 90L, March 30, 1844, 100L (SACCO).

[13]Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio, 203-204 (quotation); items found at the Navarro House State Park, San Antonio, Texas; San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, December 26, 1853, 243 (SACCO); United States Seventh Census (1850), Guadalupe County, Texas, Population Schedules; San Antonio Ledger, Dec. 30, 1852, Jan. 25, 1855.

[14]Ibid., Jan. 16, 1851, Dec. 30, 1852; Ron Tyler et al. (eds.), New Handbook of Texas (6 vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association), 4, 221; J.M. Rodriguez, Memoirs of Early Texas, (San Antonio: privately printed, n.d.), 15 (quotation), 34; United States Seventh Census (1850), Bexar County, Texas; San Antonio Herald, Nov. 13, 1855; Jesús F. De La Teja, San Antonio de Béxar, A Community on New Spain's Northern Frontier (University of New Mexico Press, 1995), 151.

[15]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Dec. 31, 1849, 67-68, Jan. 3, 72, Feb. 23, 99, Oct. 2, 11, Dec. 21, 114, 30, 119, 1850, Dec. 31, 1851, 148, Aug. 26, 185, Sept. 8, 186, 1852, Jan 18, 203, Dec. 26, 1853, 243, Jan. 13, 1854, 254, Jan. 23, 1855, 308 (SACCO); Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas (Austin: n.p., 1939), 30,35,42; San Antonio Ledger, Jan. 15, 1852; San Antonio Ledger and Texan, June 1, 1861; San Antonio, Council Journal, Book C, Dec. 29, 1856, 31 (SACCO).

[16]Sister Mary, Ursuline, 197 (first quotation); San Antonio Western Texan, Oct. 14, 1852 (second quotation); United States Seventh Census (1850), Bexar County, Population Schedules.

[17]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Dec. 31, 1849, 67-68, Dec. 31, 1851, 148, Dec. 31, 1852, 196, Nov. 2, 1853, 233, April 10, 1856, 466 (SACCO); Charles Hummel folder, Institute of Texan Culture, San Antonio; Julian P. Greer, Jr., "The Antebellum History of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad" (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State College, 1968), 66; Hugo Oswald to Gov. E.M. Pease, Jan. 9, 1857, Governor's Papers: E.M. Pease (Archives Division, Texas State Archives); San Antonio Alamo Star, Oct. 21, 1854; Casino Club Papers, 1856 (John Peace Collection, University of Texas at San Antonio).

[18] San Antonio Ledger, November 18, 1852 (first and second quotations); San Antonio Alamo Star, May 20, 1854; San Antonio Western Texan, October 13, 1853 (third quotation).

[19]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Jan. 15, 1850, 79-80 (SACCO).

[20]Ibid., December 31, 1849, pp. 67-68, Nov. 2, 1853 (SACCO).

[21]Rena Maverick Green (ed.), Samuel Maverick, Texan: 1803-1870 (San Antonio: n.p., 1952), 28-29; San Antonio Western Texan, July 31, 1851 (first and second quotations); San Antonio Ledger, July 10, 1851 (third and fourth quotations).

[22] San Antonio Ledger, March 6, June 12, 1851; San Antonio Western Texan, September 11, 1851 (quotations).

[23]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, July 14, 177 (SACCO) (quotation), Nov. 8, 1852, 191-192; San Antonio Western Texan, n.d.

[24]United States Seventh Census (1850), Bexar County, Texas, Slave Schedules; there were 389 slaves in Bexar County in 1850; San Antonio, Ordinances, Book 1, 1850-1868, Ordinance 01-3, Oct. 2, 1850 (SACCO) (first quotation); San Antonio Ledger, December 30, 1852; San Antonio Alamo Star, September 2, 1854 (second quotation), 16; Frederick Law Olmstead, A Journey Through Texas, or, A Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards, 1857; reprint, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), 163; San Antonio Ledger, January 25, 1855 (third quotation).

[25]Ernest William Winkler, (ed.), Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1916), 58-61, the troublesome portion of the document was " Die Sklaverei ist ein Uebel, dessen endliche Beseitigung den Grundsätzen der Demokratie gemäss, nothwendig ist; da sie aber nur einzelne Staaten betrifft, so forderen wir: Dass die Bundes-Regierung sich aller Einmischung in Sachen der Sklaverei enthällt, dass aber, wenn ein einzelner Staat die Beseitigung dieses Uebels beschliessen wird, alsdann zur Ausführung des Beschlusses die Bundeshülfe in Anspruch genommen werden kann."

[26]Charles Hummel folder, Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio; San Antonio Ledger, Jan. 15, 1852, Feb. 9, 1854; San Antonio Western Texan, Jan. 6 (first quotation), January 20, (second quotation), Oct. 13, 1853, Aug. 3, 1854; San Antonio Alamo Star, May 13, July 15, (third quotation), May 20, Nov. 21, 1854.

[27]San Antonio Ledger, Dec. 30, 1852; Olmstead, Journey, 160; San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, April 27, 1854 (SACCO).


[29]San Antonio, Council Journal, Book B, Jan 15, 1850, 76, Jan 17, 1852, 153 (SACCO); Earle, Life of Lundy, 48; Olmstead, Journey, 160.