The Role of Women in Nineteenth Century San Antonio - Journal of San Antonio

The Role of Women in Nineteenth Century San Antonio

Editor’s Note:

The Journal proudly offers this chapter from “The Role of Women in Nineteenth Century San Antonio,” by Rubye Du Terroil, who presented it to St. Mary’s University as her Masters Thesis in 1949. Here, readers will see the first chapter of the thesis, entitled “Women Enter Business and the Professions.”

Mrs. Du Terroil (1906-1992), once a music student at Incarnate Word College, completed her college education as an adult learner after World War II. When she was in her late 30s, she earned both her B.A. and M.A. at St. Mary’s. A life-long educator working at Ursuline Academy in the 1940s and at Loma Park Elementary (Edgewood I.S.D.) from 1952 to1977, Du Terroil took particular interest in advancing the recognition of the contributions of women to the development of San Antonio’s commercial and cultural environment. Her work on the thesis engaged her in an intense study of primary resources, and this extensive research led her to prepare a forceful analysis that revealed the long-ignored complexities of the role of women in the developing community.

The Journal’s Special Production Editor Sarah Lillibridge has met the many challenges of converting the original typewritten thesis to the electronic form presented here. Lillibridge carefully maintained DuTerroil’s original pagination in order to allow researchers the ability to accurately cite the source. Readers may rest assured that Journal editors faithfully reproduced the paper with only the following changes:

  • Underlined book and periodical titles in the original appear in italics;
  • Double hyphens appear as em dashes;
  • References to time periods using an apostrophe, such as “the 1860’s,” now appear in the contemporary style as “the 1860s”;
  • Addition of superscript; meaning that the original’s use of 19th here appears as 19th and that footnote numbers appear in superscript.

Women Enter Business and the Professions

an excerpt from

The Role of Women in Nineteenth
Century San Antonio

By Rubye Du Terroil, B. A.

August, 1949


Chapter Page

I. WOMEN ENTER BUSINESS AND THE PROFESSIONS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

  • Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
  • In the 1800s Women Became Engaged in Various Affairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
    • The Laundress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
    • The Bath-House Operator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
    • The Ministering Angel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
    • The Midwife. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    • The Governess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
    • Domestic Service. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
    • The Seamstress. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
    • The Beauty Operator and the Stenographer and Typist. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
    • Female Employment Bureau . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

C. The Hotel Proprietress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

  • Mrs. Catherine Louise Jacques. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
  • Mrs. Amanda Jane Dignowity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
  • Mrs. Phillip’s Hotel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
  • Mrs. Grayson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
  • Mrs. Schmidt’s Hotel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
  • The Rice Hotel and Hotel Kloepper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
  • Mrs. Brackett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
  • The Menger Hotel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
  • St. Charles Hotel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
  • Lockhart Boarding House and the Bancroft Hotel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

D. Restaurant Operators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

E. Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29


The activities of women in nineteenth century San Antonio represent an almost infinite variety and they abound in interest. The present study undertakes to gather the threads of these activities and unfold the story of the role that women played in social and economic life, and thus to demonstrate that San Antonio derives much of its unique character from the enterprising, intelligent, and earnest work of its women.

In the first half of the century, women’s work, for the most part, was inside the home; but around the 1850s she began working outside the home, and the number thus finding gainful employment increased as the century advanced. Women worked as laundresses, they were bath-house operators, mid-wives, nurses, governesses. They worked in domestic service in the homes of others, and in personal service in beauty parlors. They were seamstresses, stenographers in offices, hotel proprietresses, and restaurant operators. They were teachers, merchants, musicians, artists, authors, and journalists. In addition to these workers, not a few women were active in forming organizations and clubs for religious, charitable and other purposes.

In introducing the women of San Antonio to the reader, it has been my aim to present the several occupations in which they were engaged in chronological order. Since some women were outstanding in more than one field there necessarily is in some instances a repetition of names. Attention is also called to the fact that only a fraction of the club women have been named in these pages; while in other lines of effort all who were discovered have been mentioned. It is entirely possible that few distinguished women from various occupations, who can brighten the story of nineteenth century San Antonio still remain to be found.

In the preparation of this study, the main source of reference material has been San Antonio newspapers, and I am indebted to the staff of the Reference Department of the San Antonio Public Library for their assistance in securing material. In this connection, I wish also to express my appreciation to Brother Joseph Schmitz, S. M., of St. Mary’s University, whose suggestions, criticisms, and encouragement made this work possible.

Chapter 1

Women Enter Business and the Professions

Ever since St. Paul said, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, But to be in silence,” (I Tim. 2, 11-12), the tradition that women were members of a subject sex has universally prevailed. This tradition has exerted an almost tyrannical power over thinking about a most fundamental question confronting modern society: what should be the function of women in the work of the world? The answers vary according to the time of the writing, and the economic conditions prevalent. Time and again, men and even women have held that woman's place is in the home, that she should not work outside for pay, that she should not mix in politics, nor be occupied with matters regarded as peculiarly man's affairs. But leaders of women have frequently questioned these attitudes of men and some actually took a bold stand for their rights. Certain aspects of the question appear now to be settled—while other decisions hang in the balance and continue a subject of controversy.

In the midst of the arguments, one period stands out vividly as a challenge to the boasting words of the male:

"I sing to the wide world and she to the nest." Women, too, wanted to sing to the wide world and came forth with a public "Declaration of Sentiments" at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, urging equal rights and opportunities in all fields. When the feminist movement was launched, the westward ex­pansion of Anglo-Americans had already reached Texas, had swept away the tyranny of Mexican rule and rescued Texas or the institutions and culture of the Anglo-Saxon race. Emigrants flowed into Texas from all sections, and it is said that In the 1850s San Antonio had almost an equal number of Mexicans, Germans, and Americans. Here diverse ideals and forms of culture fostered by each of these classes of people came in contact, and each according to his Latin or Anglo-American heritage held an opinion respecting women's place in society.

But regardless of attitudes of people, women of 19th century San Antonio worked. And from the nature of their work it seems that the growth of the city rested upon the labor, skill, and intelligence of both sexes. As the town grew, women more and more changed their place of work from inside to outside the home. They did many kinds of work. They labored in domestic tasks, in personal service in beauty parlors, laundries, etc. They were hotel keepers, teachers, merchants, as well as authors, artists, and actresses. The organization of many clubs, hospitals, and girls schools was also considered the work of women. The present study intends to reveal some of the evidences of independence and initiative on the part of San Antonio’s female population in meeting the problem of women's place in the economic and social life of the time.

"Whatever position you put a woman, she is an ornament to society and a treasure to the world," said Mark Twain in a tribute to woman. Women are not only ornaments of society but they constitute some of its most useful members. When in the 1800s women threw off their coats and made dust in the economic life of San Antonio, they were indeed useful. Whatever work was open to them was much the same as that performed in their own home—the making of dresses and other wearing apparel, laundry work, various kinds of housework, etc. Few women turned to outside work because time never hung heavy on their hands; obviously home work was more pressing before the days of vacuum cleaners and other labor saving devices. Necessity was the mother of invention and whenever the need arose, women supported them­selves and their families in whatever way they best could.

No better example of woman's reaction to the straits of necessity can be found than that of the Widow Wren, who lived in a house raised on pilings situated by the river on Commerce Street. Deprived of the support of a husband, this lady did not become dependent on her two sons, Andrew and Tom, employees at the hardware firm of Leroy and Casgrove, to eke out the family income. Instead she found laundry work as a ready means of maintaining her home, and the proximity of her place to the river made that type of work particularly advantageous. The benefit of being near the river may be seen from the fact that in the 1850s, plumbing, as we know it today, had not yet made its advent into the city’s homes, and the river was the chief source of water supply. This water was in general use—not only for washing purposes, but also for drinking and bathing.

Bathing in the clear blue waters of the swift running San Antonio River was an early custom of the Mexicans. All ages of both sexes frequently bathed promiscuously together. Dr. Ferdinand Roemer in his travels through Texas viewed an amazing river scene in San Antonio:

" It was quite a startling spectacle to see here just above the bridge in the heart of the city, a number of Mexican women and girls bathing entirely naked. Unconcerned about our presence, they continued their exercises while laughing and chattering, showing themselves perfect masters of the art of swimming. Several times a few of them were carried near us by the stream and they would dive and re-appear again quite a distance below the bridge. If this was done to hide themselves from our view, it was the wrong thing to do, for the water so clear one could see the smallest pebble at the bottom."

When the Americans began to settle the city, to the astonishment of the natives, they erected canvas covered bath­houses. And by the middle of the 19th century these houses, floating on empty whiskey barrels, dotted the landscape for miles along the riverside. San Antonians could be seen at all hours of the day, with soap and towel in hand, hurrying to the river to bathe. Apparently the enterprising lady, Mad Masse, was inspired by the bath traffic to organize a business. On April 7, 1855, she announced to the public that on her home premises she had erected and fitted, at considerable expense, a spacious bath house, and was prepared to accommodate the ladies and gentlemen of the city with hot and cold baths. The baths from sunrise till twelve o'clock were exclusively for the accommodation of ladies and the remainder of the day for gentlemen. Season tickets were available, the terms of which could be learned by personal application.

The San Antonio Herald carried this news item concerning hot and cold baths: “As it is a well established fact that bathing is conducive to health, it is unnecessary for us to commend Mad Masse's Bath House. It is sufficient to announce there is such It place, to secure it a liberal patronage.” Mad Masse's career in the bath business was short-lived; that she secured a liberal patronage, however, seems evident from the fact that she was able to turn it over on April 19, 1855, to Mr. Merchant who gave notice that he was continuing the business.

Long before Mrs. Masse operated her bathing establishment, women entered business for economic gain. Among such women were two nurses, Mrs. Amanda Jane Dignowity, and Mrs. Catherine Louise Jacques. These women generously, and without pay, spent considerable time looking after the sick and needy. That their ministrations were badly needed is evident from a report of Dr. Ferdinand Herff, who claimed that in the 1850s there was a dearth of nurses as well as hospitals, and many times he was compelled to operate on strangers out-of-doors. "So great were her charities in her visits to the sick and dying, that she was called the mother of the poor," was said of Mrs. Jacques. She was an efficient nurse and very considerate of the sick or wounded. During the two cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1866 she was of outstanding courage. Of the cholera epidemic of 1849, Mrs. Samuel A. Maverick, thought to be the first American woman to establish a permanent home in San Antonio, said that scores of victims daily went to their death during its six weeks visit. Not a house escaped the pestilence, and in most of them there was a death; in some instances there were several deaths in a single family. Fear reigned all over the city. “Symptoms” were felt by all, and in anticipation that his time would come next, one man slit his throat. Many drank heavily and died drunk, while others were suddenly seized and fell dead in the streets.

The scourge of pestilence made its second visitation in 1866, and again for another six weeks duration. And as in the epidemic of 1849, death claimed victims daily. The benevolent Mrs. Jacques who had labored to preserve the health of San Antonians during the first scourge, continued stretching forth her hand to the sick and needy. While nursing the stricken lawyer, Russell Howard, she contracted the disease and died. To all she had extended her sympathy and her passing was lamented by the poor and unfortunate as well as the wealthy.

The care offered to the sick by Mrs. Jacques seems to have been largely a matter of devotedness rather than pro­fessional training, and the same is true of Mrs. Dignowity. She, too, experienced some share in those ills attendant on humanity without any thought of personal gain and reaped the rewards of public respect, and the blessings of the in­firm. Her skill and ability was requested and gained in countless cases of illness. In fact, it is quite impossible to determine the extent to which the stricken and distressed of society experienced this generous lady's tenderness and assiduity.

This class of nurses whose ministrations were to be had for the asking was supplemented by those who applied themselves to the profession for the support of themselves or their families. It is not clear to which of these classes Mrs. Salsmon, an experienced German nurse, belonged, but probably to the latter. Mrs. Samuel A. Maverick relates a visit of nurse Salsmon on August 28, 1851, to see her new baby, Mary, who was very delicate. The nurse suggested the baby be bathed in bone soup of one hundred degree temperature daily. The suggestion was carried out and at the end of the first month a steady improvement was noted.

While the compensation that Mrs. Salsmon received for her work remains a question, there is no doubt that it was not in behalf of self support that Mrs. Facett of Galveston advertised her valuable services in July, 1868, to the afflicted of San Antonio. She gave her address at the Kloepper Hotel. If experience is the best teacher, she was very competent; for her administrations in the sick room were said to cover a twenty-five year period and included the Gulf epidemics. Experience was not only the best teacher of nurses, but apparently the only teacher, since no claims were made in Mrs. Fawcett's advertisement, or similar notices, of professional training. In July, 1871, girl of eighteen years of age gave notice in the "Situation Wanted" column that she was of good experience and available for nursing. Particulars could be had by inquiring at Braden's Hotel.

Not only were women active in the field of nursing but they shared with the doctors in obstetrical work. One woman active in this field was the mid-wife referred to as Mrs. D., who attended Mrs. Maverick at the birth of her baby in 1851. Mrs. Maverick claims that she grew weak to the point of fainting, when Mrs. D. deliberately gave her lobelia disguised as raspberry tea. Now it is only fair to assume that this example was an exception and not the rule. Most midwives appear to have had high ethical practices which lifted them above deception. The following advertisement is typical:

" Mrs. Carl Rum solicits a share of the patronage of San Antonio and promises to justify the professional confidence with which that public may entrust her.To those desiring obstetrical assistance, Mrs. Rum could be found at her residence in Pat Buckley's house on Avenue D near the Alamo."

Apparently midwifery was a profitable profession comparatively speaking. Mrs. Felder, after the death of her husband, instead of depending on sustaining herself by operating their shop, the Felder shoe store on Market Street, advertised her services as a midwife. Women seemed to have monopolized the field of obstetrics; however, no information has been found regarding their experience, though it seems it should have been relatively high. Notwithstanding, the importance of the midwife to society is obvious.

And while the midwife went her way assisting people into the world, other women of importance to society were busy in various fields. Many families, whose incomes permitted, employed a resident governess. One such family was that of the Zork’s, living upstairs over the dry goods store of Zork and Griesenbeck on Commerce, three doors down from Market Street. The governess they employed for their two girls is described as being red headed and pretty. She married the Grand Marshal of San Antonio parades, Captain Karber.

If a woman making her contributions to society in some line of professional work wanted to shirk the obvious duty of house cleaning, she had ample opportunity to have the noxious work done for her. A widow lady announced in the “Situation Wanted” column in 1868 that she desired a position as housekeeper or seamstress. Particulars could be had by applying to Mr. N. L. S., at the clerk’s office, Menger Hotel. And it was stipulated that only ladies of first class need apply. Similar announcements followed. Evidently housework became common as a result of the Civil War. For it is well known that before the War domestic service, for the most part, was left to slaves.

The widow lady requesting employment in domestic service in 1868 also sewed a fine seam. In this artful work she had her allies. A partnership of two seemingly skillful ladies, Mrs. Northway and Mrs. Means, advertised in 1872 the opening of their millinery and dressmaking shop on Commerce Street. They promised to give prompt service and produce the most approved styles; a choice selection of the most fashionable kinds of millinery goods was advertised. Obviously these ladies were fully alive to the value of charming attire, and could have fitted out the female’s wardrobe to nothing short of elegance. The importance of their work to society can best be explained by the fact that there were no railroad facilities enjoyed by the city in 1872 and trade was within a limited territory, as well as irregular. Indicative of the fears over irregular shipping is the following news item of January, 1871:

"Serious apprehensions are felt that the severity of the winter will cause a discontinuance of two-thirds of the freighting between here and the coast. Oxen will not work in such severe weather as that which visited us just before Christmas. Rates are already considerably advanced. Never has our city felt the need of a railroad as much as now."

Under such shipping difficulties ready-to-wear clothes were not in abundance, but the need for such was certainly not acute with seamstresses as Mrs. Northway and Mrs. Means, capable of pleasing the most fastidious. Another lady engaged in dressmaking in the latter half of the 19th century was Mrs. P. W. Street, living next to Turner Hall at 223 Nacogdoches Street.

While the dressmaker was occupied with female attire, other refinements of personal appearance were not forgotten. At 218 West Commerce Street, Miss Dare operated a hair dressing parlor, featuring toilet articles, perfumes, and hair goods for sale. She was prepared to give scientific treatment to the complexion. After a patron received a hairdo and facial at the hands of the expert Miss Dare, she could go to 211 Winslow Flats and get a professional manicure from Mrs. R. T. Gray, who claimed the treating of imperfect nails to be her specialty. In addition to beauty work, other special ability was available. Mrs. Mary Irving, stenographer and typist, advertised for work, and anyone desiring legal work could leave their orders at 218 Pecan Street, or at the St. James Hotel.

It is obvious that women rendered valuable services during the 19th century and in 1886 they were able to register the availability of such services with a Female Employment Bureau under the management of Mrs. M. M. Earhart. The following card gives a bird’s-eye view of their work:

"All young women desirous of employment in any capacity, will call at 15 Augusta Street. Heads of families and business houses requiring female help, as house servants, seamstresses, governesses, clerks, copyists, apprentices to trades, etc. can secure the same by applying at the Female Employment Bureau, No. 15 Augusta Street, opposite the covenant."

Women constituted a large proportion of the hotel keepers. These hostelries were of all types, from that of the woman who was prepared to keep only a few boarders to that of the hostess whose excellent inn was of state-wide renown. One of the earliest proprietresses was Mrs. Catherine Louise Jacques, whose activities in another capacity have already been considered. Some time before June 16, 1839, Mr. and Mrs. William Budd Jacques with two small daughters moved from Mexico to San Antonio. In the same year of the arrival in the Alamo City one of the little girls died. Thus it seems that ill fate had followed them hither, for in Mexico, Mr. Jacques was believed to have made and lost a fortune. Misfortune did not long hold William Jacques in its clutches. Establishing residence in San Antonio he became popular in city affairs, and served as alderman from January 1, 1846-65; and again in 1866 when reinstated by an act of the Legislature.

Mrs. Catherine Louise Jacques accompanied her husband in carrying the burden of life, and proved to be intellectually and physically his equal. Together, hand in hand, they went forward. A lovelier character was nowhere to be found than Mrs. Jacques, who in 1841 opened a boarding house on Yturri and Commerce Streets, and offered board to all nice young Americans. Spacious quarters must have been one of the accommodating features since she rented a whole block from Mrs. Yturri, a Spanish woman of considerable wealth, who owned all the property fronting on Commerce Street west to include the corner of Commerce Street and Main Plaza.

If the quality of the guests attracted to the Jacques boarding house was according to the quality of the landlady, they were indeed superb. She was a hospitable woman, pleasant, very kind, and highly esteemed by the gentlemen of the town. She didn’t feature a strumming of the violin, a pounding of the piano, and a tooting of the B-flat horn while folks were feeding, thereby filling the air with the idea that something was being given for nothing; instead premiums were really to be had. An example of her generous hospitality was evidenced on Easter Sunday, 1841, when she invited many of the young gentlemen and all the American families to dine with her. An elegant dinner was served to the huge crowd that assembled, and in the afternoon all promenaded up Soledad Street, thus climaxing a very enjoyable day. Indeed, the young Americans boarding with this kind lady were very fortunate and must have been very happy in having found such an atmosphere of home life in which to live.

A peaceful influence prevailed at the Jacques inn but an air of tranquility did not always pervade the city. Besides the forays of Indians, there were invasions form Mexico. During the invasions under Vasquez and Woll in 1842, women and children fled temporarily from the town for safety, a flight which since has been referred to as the “Runaway of ’42.” Mrs. Jacques was among those who fled on that February day. And on her return to the city she probably found her home, as did the Mavericks, robbed of all its contents. At any rate she was not long in making a new start, and in 1844 moved to Soledad Street, having purchased the Trevino property. The names appearing on the deed of said property were Francisco Trevino and Anavato and Maria J. Martinez. The two-story house standing on the acreage, which had served as a haven to so many, had to be demolished in order to open Travis Street across the river.

The character of Mrs. Jacques seemed to have mirrored itself in her guests, though she had ample opportunity to have the undesirable person intrude on her hospitality. For vagrancy was high in San Antonio and the vagrant was of a different type than encountered today. Culprits fleeing from justice in the United States frequently found refuge in the city of the Alamo. Vagabonds came in such numbers in the year 1838 that proprietors of hotels were asked to turn over to Major John Smith (San Antonio’s first American Mayor), a list of all persons stopping at their inns. The town organized a vigilance committee and many a wanderer was ordered out of town, on his way to Mexico before sundown. The severity of such a command can be seen from the fact that the road to Mexico had but few settlements and was infested not only by hostile Indians but by ferocious animals.

While lawless characters were probably fighting to sustain life on the lonely road to Mexico, many distinguished guests found lodging in San Antonio. Among those finding shelter beneath the hospitable roof of the noble Mrs. Amanda Jane Dignowity were: General Sam Houston, Ex-Governor Yell of Arkansas, Reverend Mark Anthony, Bishop Odin, and Archbishop Lamy. Amanda Jane, the wife of Dr. A. M. Dignowity who conducted a drug store, was a beautiful young lady, tall, graceful, with blue eyes and fair complexion, and hair worn in ringlets. In addition to physical attractiveness, she possessed a happy and gracious manner which made her quite a charming hostess.

Apparently the gentle and gracious dignity of Mrs. Dignowity contained not a trace of affectation. She had that happy faculty of putting people at their ease and making them pleased with themselves. Therefore she was never in want of patronage and without a doubt had more than she could accommodate when in July, 1868, she informed her friends and patrons that she had moved to the yellow front house on the west side of Military Plaza, and she was prepared to lodge comfortably a few boarders. At the same time she listed for rent her well-known residence, situated on a hill, one mile east of the Main Plaza. The public was reminded that this was an opportunity to satisfy someone’s desire for a comfortable summer home with the best cistern water in the state of Texas.

It seems that Mrs. Dignowity sacrificed the use of the best cistern water in Texas for an economic gain. Her new location was near the concentration of commerce on Main Plaza, more conveniently accommodated the working public, and thus made inn-keeping more profitable. However, profits were not made without competition. Main Plaza was an area at the time of not a few inns; in fact, it was sometimes referred to as the hotel center of town. Among its several two-story houses was one built on the south side of the square known as Mrs. Phillips’ Hotel. This inn was highly patronized in 1850, and it was here that General Brooks of the United States Army made his headquarters.

Mrs. Phillips evidently did a thriving business, enjoying local as well as traveling patronage. However, all the hostelries did not solicit the trade of both of these groups, but confined their attention almost exclusively to one as is evident from the following notice:

" It will no doubt be gratifying to the traveling public and to those visiting San Antonio to learn that Captain Grayson has again taken the Planter’s House in this city. No lady of our acquaintance is better qualified to preside over a public house, than Mrs. Grayson."

While Mrs. Grayson lodged the visitor and traveler, the local citizen desiring quarters could turn to Mrs. Adams, who on October 8, 1860, informed her friends that she had assumed possession of the new and spacious dwelling house, recently erected by F. Guilbeau near the Presbyterian Church on Flores Street, and that she could accommodate with board and rooms a few private families.

Like Mrs. Adams, many proprietresses in the 1860s advertised their accommodations, and that they had ample opportunity of receiving a liberal response in patronage is evident from the growth and prosperity of the city. With a population of about nine thousand inhabitants, San Antonio in 1860 had a large Mexican trade and was supply depot for the United States Army stationed on the frontier. Money was plentiful, merchants conducted profitable businesses and controlled the commerce of the surrounding regions. Also stage coach service had considerably improved, which obviously was conductive to increasing the transient population. As early as 1857 G. H. Giddings and R. E. Doyle established and began operating a stage coach line from San Antonio to San Diego and all intermediate points. New coaches drawn by six mules left San Antonio twice a month for California. Coaches also left daily for Indianola, Texas, where they made connection by water with all parts of the United States.

With such a boom in business and travel, hotels would be among the first establishments to profit. One of the best examples of a prosperous hotel in the 1860s was that of Mrs. Schmidt and its services were second to none. A traveler walking east on Commerce Street could have entered the second building from Navarro Street on his right and stood within Mrs. Schmidt’s high class hotel and restaurant. The lot on which this inn was situated extended to Market Street, and in its center was a vine-covered pavilion where the patrons chatted away exchanging confidences while waiting for the dinner gong to call them. Mrs. Schmidt, a true culinary artist, had the reputation of setting the most palatable table in the city, and not a few celebrities and business men came to her place to dine. Among those regularly found under the pavilion where Judge George H. Paschal, Stuttering Lane, Henry Lewis, the brilliant lawyer, and others.

Widow Schmidt not only served elegant meals, but with the aid of her son, August, managed the hotel with such business acumen that an air of tranquility seemed to prevail, though, despite good management, an occasional theft was unavoidable. One can image the consternation of the young lady boarder who had her entire wardrobe stolen. She was at the table enjoying a mid-day lunch when the goods were taken. An Ex press news item commented: “The loser is one of the most worthy persons in the city and the loss is a sad calamity to her.”

Leaving the recovery of the lady’s clothing to the police, the hotel management continued its good work. As a result of the general prosperity of the 1860s and a decided population increase around 1870, when San Antonio again became the central headquarters of the United States Army, the noted Schmidt Hotel, like many other city hostelries, saw its golden days, and in keeping with the spirit of the times, in April, 1871, began the erection of a new hotel building in front of the old one. Obviously such an edifice was an attractive addition to the appearance of the city’s Main Street, as well as a source of pleasure and profit to the proprietress.

Mrs. Schmidt didn’t fail to advertise the services of her first class hotel. Her advertising was sometimes short, a mere reminder that she would still esteem the public patronage, or again a friendly notice designating her location; again, after a while, an inventory of her services was enumerated—offering the best accommodations to travelers with board and lodging by the day and the week. As a result of her gentle requests, the hotel received its quota of guests. Among them were people of all professions and trades to delight in the services of the pioneer hostelry. And apparently nothing was spared in accommodating travelers; for example, the canary bird salesman was permitted to put his birds on sale at the hotel. A daily paper carried the announcement of his arrival with a choice selection of beautiful singers, to be had at modest prices.

Other women of the 19th century advertised through a period of years, but no one appeared in print so many times a year as did Mrs. Schmidt. Nevertheless, they spared no effort to keep their inns ever ready for the accommodation of travelers. Two such women were: Mrs. Clements, proprietress of the Rice Hotel on North Flores Street, and Mrs. Kloepper, keeper of the Kloepper Hotel on Commerce Street. This hostelry, which later become one of San Antonio’s public schools, was a two-story building with a long L-shaped one story in the rear. Its proprietress was a widow lady with two children, Adolph and Helena. Adolph later became a printer and Helena the wife of George C. Saur. Mrs. Kloepper advertised first class entertainment, and sheltered and entertained many excellent guests. Among her regular boarders was the experienced nurse, Mrs. Fawcett.

Not only did this proprietress provide for the needs and comfort of men, but maintained extra facilities for the care of animals. In her spacious yard attached to the hotel and fronting on the river, any quantity of stock could be secured. Obviously travelers with teams found this inn ideal, for as a rule they were as solicitous about the care of their teams as they were about their own well being.

While the larger hotels maintained provisions for the care of the stock, the small boarding houses catered only to the needs of man, and their facilities were limited to the accommodation of a very few patrons. For example, Mrs. Brackett whose pleasantly located residence was in the northern part of the city, could board two gentlemen with their wives and a few single men. Whether the hotel was large or small, however, its accommodating features became more luxurious after the city’s forward strides in 1866 when artificial gas was introduced for lighting purposes and an ice-manufacturing plant was established. Before that time ice was rarity and the little amount obtained was shipped from New York or Boston to Indianola, then hauled to San Antonio by ox carts or by mule drawn prairie schooners.

Whether before the introduction of gas and the manufacturing of ice or later, the Menger Hotel, lending an air of civic advancement to Alamo Plaza, was one of the most obliging and luxurious hotels of the city. A daily paper commenting on this pioneer hostelry said: “The Menger is the best hotel in the State for anybody to put up at…” It was founded by Mr. W. A. Menger in the 1850s, and he remained owner and operator until his death, after which, in 1871, Mrs. Menger informed the public that her husband’s passing would cause no changes in the affairs of the Menger, and solicited the liberal patronage formerly bestowed. With the aid of her husband’s former assistants, Mrs. Menger assumed all of Mr. Menger’s business, including that of the hotel as well as of the brewery. She took over the management of this noted hostelry during a period of great prosperity and the patronage was indeed liberal. Among the names of many eminent people that have appeared on its registry were: General W. T. Sherman, Secretary of War Belknap, who supervised the building of Fort Sam Houston, and Governor Edmond J. Davis of Texas.

Distinguished guests were not the only ones to delight in the services of the Menger; it was also the scene of many a gay social. Mrs. James, an early resident of San Antonio, says:

"All the balls and parties of those days were given at the Menger. Four generations of my family have danced in the ball room of that famous hotel. I myself was the first lady chairman of the pioneer ball and enjoyed it beyond measure."

A brilliant ball at the Menger was one given in honor of General Trevino of Mexico on the occasion of the announcement of his engagement to the lovely Bertie Ord. General Trevino was accompanied by his entire staff and “champagne flowed like water.” Bertie Ord was the daughter of E. O. C. Ord, who constructed the famous quadrangle and other buildings at Fort Sam Houston. She married General Trevino in San Antonio in 1879.

Among the many other balls given at the Menger was one given by the Army and Civilian Social Club in honor of General Mackenzie. The Fire Department ball was held there on Thursday, July 4, 1872, and the annual Masquerade Ball of the Turner Association on Saturday, February 24, 1872.

While celebrities “wined and dined” at the Menger, Mr. and Mrs. Saffroi opened the St. Charles Hotel on Acequia Street. Ladies and gentlemen were offered first class board and lodging on moderate terms. Rooms were elegantly furnished, the table was supplied with the best food on the market and all accommodations were guaranteed to give satisfaction.

If the performance was at all equal to the promise, Mr. and Mrs. Saffroi should have done a thriving business. Their place was highly recommended to lovers of good eating, and their French dishes should have pleased the most fastidious since a chef lately imported from Paris was in charge of the culinary department. Apparently it was not only a good place to dine but a good place to work as well; according to the advertisement, wages were no object and the highest would be paid a competent and reliable cook.

Cooks came and went, but women hotel keepers abounded. Among those advertising near the end of the century were: Mrs. Lockhart, whose boarding house was located on Soledad Street, and Mrs. R. P. Trester, proprietress of the Bancroft Hotel at 323 St. Mary’s Street. Mrs. Trester seems to have been an experienced hostess since she formerly was of the Porter House. At her newly furnished hostelry on St. Mary’s Street she solicited both regular and transient boarders at moderate terms. The physical comfort offered at the first class and modern Bancroft was no less than that available today at many hotels. It had steam heat, commodious rooms, hot and cold water, and gas and electric lights. Not much information on Mrs. Lockhart’s boarding house is forth-coming; however, it was used for something else than the necessities of travel as is evidenced by the notices of its social entertainments. Hence there is every reason to believe that something more than the “comforts of home” were enjoyed.

Among those who merit mention along with hotel keepers are the restaurant operators. And one of the best known at work in the 19th century was the attractive Spanish woman, Madam Garza. This charming lady, at her place on West Dolorosa Street, across the San Pedro, served the best Mexican food in town. Her menu was a duplicate of those seen today in Mexican restaurants. Perfect order was maintained at Madam Garza’s and she was patronized by the best people in the city.

While the best people in the city dined at Mrs. Garza’s, numbers of people working the vicinity of the market place probably frequented Mrs. Royal’s lunch stand at the big market in the left corner. Mrs. Royal announced in 1885 that she was prepared to serve a fine breakfast at low rates through the whole Christmas week. On her menu were roast pig, baked turkey, and all kinds of cakes served with coffee. Sally Royal’s place seems to have been noted as a coffee stand. She was a large negress of light complexion, and for reasons not stated, she incurred the ill will of the Callaghan regime in 1885 and was ordered to vacate. The market master, Antonio Bruni, was instructed to evict her and proceeded to do so, but Sally resisted, and when Bruni threatened her with force, she seized him, dragged him to the water tank and bodily plunged him in. It was a cement tank about three feet deep and twenty feet square and the water was used for drinking and cleaning purposes by the tenants. Thus Sally had her vengeance. However, she was indignant at the attempt of the city officials to physically evict her and sued the city for damages. When the Bexar County courts returned a verdict in favor of the city, Sally appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Texas and after a period of considerable length, a verdict was rendered in her favor and she was granted two thousand dollars. But in the meantime, she had died leaving no heirs; therefore, the amount was never paid and the judgment still stands against the city.

It is apparent that San Antonio had among its female population many entrepreneurs—who were very competent and successful in their undertakings. Their occupations demanded not only business acumen but in several cases executive ability. Obviously a few women named were eminent in their respective fields and more was known of their achievements. But the other women, however slight their notice by contemporaries or how vaguely known to posterity, through the management of their affairs, shared in building San Antonio.


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The Alamo Express (San Antonio).

The Gulf Messenger.

The San Antonio Express.

The San Antonio Herald.

The San Antonio Light.

Mary R. Beard, Women As A Force In History, Preface v.

Ibid., p. 27.

Ibid., p. 27.

Ibid., pp. 146-147.

Frederiok Eby, The Development of Education in Texas, p. 1.

Charles Albert Sloane, I Remember, pp. 13-14.

San Antonio Daily Express. May 14, 1873.

Vinton Lee James, Frontier and Pioneer Recollections of Early Days in San Antonio and West Texas, p. 140.

Mary A. Maverick, Memoirs, p. 39.

Charles Albert Sloane, op. cit., p. 15.

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer, Texas, pp. 124-125.

Sloane, op. cit., p. 15.

San Antonio Herald. April 7, 1855.

San Antonio Herald, April 7, 1855.

Ibid ., April 19, 1855.

Bliem, The Medical Career of Dr. Ferdinard Herff, p. 9.

Frederick C. Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio, p. 289.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., pp. 55-56.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 108.

Esse Forrester O’Brien, Art and the Artist of Texas, p.14.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., p. 105.

Pearson Newcomb, The Alamo City, p. 88.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 108.

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., p. 26.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., pp. 110-111.

San Antonio Daily Express, July 17, 1868.

Ibid., July 11, 1871.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., p. 110.

San Antonio Daily Express, July 9, 1868.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 148.

Ibid., p. 141.

San Antonio Daily Express, Dec. 1, 1868.


San Antonio Daily Express, March 2, 1872.

Person Newcomb, op. cit., pp. 91-92.

San Antonio Daily Express, January 4, 1871.

M.B. Fenwick and Sara Hartman, Directory of Society and Ladies Address List, p. 10.

Ibid., p. 48.

Ibid., p. 80.

Ibid., p. 91.

San Antonio Light, January 11, 1886.

Frederick C. Chabot, op. cit., pp. 289-290.

Ibid., p. 290.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., pp. 54-63.

Frederick C. Chabot, op. cit., p. 290.

Mary Ann Maverick, op. cit., pp. 54-55

Ibid., p. 31

Ibid., p. 60

Ibid., p. 63

Frederick C. Chabot, op. cit., p. 290

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., pp. 14-15.

Ibid., p. 16.

Ibid., pp. 26-27.

San Antonio Daily Express, July 1, 1868.

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., pp. 42-43.

San Antonio Herald, May 1, 1855.

Alamo Express, San Antonio, October 8, 1860.

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., pp. 81-82.

Ibid., p. 76.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 141.

Ibid., p. 146.

San Antonio Daily Express, January 24, 1869.

Ibid., November 10, 1870.

Ibid., April 14, 1871.

Ibid., October 12, 1873.

Ibid., February 17, 1872.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 42.

Ibid., p. 137.

San Antonio Daily Express, July 2, 1868.

Ibid., July 17, 1868.

Ibid., July 1, 1868.

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., pp. 85-86.

San Antonio Daily Express, June 16, 1875.

Ibid., May 2, 1871.

Ibid., December 10, 1870, and November 10, 1870.

Pearson Newcomb, op. cit., p. 94.

Charles Albert Sloane, op. cit., p. 157.

Ibid., pp. 156-158.

Frank H, Bushick, Glamorous Days, p. 59.

Charles Albert Sloane, op. cit., pp. 156.

San Antonio Daily Express, June 29, 1872.

Ibid., February 10, 1872.

Ibid., July 11, 1872.

Ibid., July 12, 1872.

Ibid., July 25, 1872.

San Antonio Light, January 13, 1886.

M. B. Fenwick and Sara Hartman, op. cit., p. 22.

San Antonio Light, January 13, 1886.

Frank H. Bushick, op. cit., p. 34.

San Antonio Light, January 20, 1885.

Vinton Lee James, op. cit., p. 144.