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Historians struggle to identify sources of information that have first hand knowledge. Eyewitnesses to historical events are treasured “primary sources”. On Sunday, October 22, 1905 an article by J. B. Polley appeared in the San Antonio Daily Express describing the settling of the Cibolo River valley. In 1847, as a boy, J. B. Polley came to the Cibolo River valley with his father the legendary J. H. Polley. J. H. Polley came to Texas in 1821 as one Stephen F. Austin’s original 300 settlers.
This article chronicled in some detail the arrival of various settlers and the locations of significant landmarks. Although the article contains racial characterizations, it is offered here unedited for historical accuracy.
OLD TIMERS ON THE CIBOLO
In the year, 1847, San Antonio stood thirty miles out in the wilderness broken west of the Guadalupe River, by only a few, far-between habitations of white men. There was a small, narrowly confined settlement at Castroville, on the Medina; twelve to fifteen ranches along the valley of the San Antonio River extending down to the site of present day Floresville; a stage stand at the point on the Cibolo Creek where the road from Seguin to San Antonio crossed it and a ranch owned by the Caravajal family, located fifty miles below the stage stand at the point where the La Bahia Road crossed the stream.
On the Comal, a beautiful little river, not three miles long, a colony of Germans had established themselves, the place now being known as New Braunfels. On the east side of the Guadalupe River, thirty-five, seventy-five and one-hundred miles from San Antonio, respectively, were the small towns of Seguin, Gonzales and Victoria, and at intervals between these were a few widely separated farms and ranches. Cuero was not then in existence, Helena, not dreamed of by the wildest imagination. Opposite Sequin was the Flores Ranch opposite Gonzales, perhaps another ranch – it was ninety miles to Goliad, 100 miles to San Patricio and 150 to either Laredo or Eagle Pass.
But wilderness as was the immense unoccupied territory beginning on the west bank of the Guadalupe River and stretching south and west to the Rio Grande, and north, practically to the Artic Ocean, large portions of it were to the eye veritable paradises of promise and none more so than that part of land of the valley of the Cibolo, lying below the stage stand at the crossing of the Seguin and San Antonio Roads. It would be difficult to convince a person who never saw the valley until it was covered by a dense growth of mesquite, chaparral, and prickly pear, that up to 1852 it offered to the view a landscape of unsurpassed loveliness.
Averaging a mile and a half in width; divided longitudinally into east and west valley by the stately pecans, elms, hackberries, sycamores and cottonwoods which, growing close to the water’s edge and in narrow aprons, bushes and shrubs, green or russet, according to season, the meandering and often tortuous course of the stream; the level surface, as far as up and down as the eye could reach, dotted by such lonely mesquite trees as had withstood the ravages of prairie fires, by motts of elm, hackberry and haw, and the groves of majestic, wide spreading live oaks, fringed by the verdure clad hills to the east and west that marked the beginning of the uplands, and enlivened by the countless thousands of cattle and horses, and scarcely wilder deer which grazed on its thick and luxuriant coating of nutritious mesquite grass it presented a panorama of natural beauty the like of which will never again be witnessed by human eyes.