Nov 18 2014
A month or two after the coming of Dr. Sutherland, Mr. Joseph F. Johnson, a resident of Seguin, began the erection of a hotel at the Springs. The building was in harmony with the time, consisting of six or seven cabins placed in a row ten feet apart they and the intervening spaces being all under one roof, and only two rooms and the space between them floored with plank –the balance having dirt floors. To make the place more attractive than even “streh” palatial accommodations and the magnificent bathing made it, he built a ten-pin alley, with a hundred yards of the other building. The enterprise received, for a time, quite a large patronage from San Antonio, Seguin and Gonzalez and other places. It was while it was in full blast that a story gained circulation among the negroes in the vicinity, which brought Sulphur Springs, and particularly the black sulphur one in the front of the hotel, in exceeding bad repute among the credulous creatures.
The tale was that a young darkey from Seguin had brought a written message to Mr. Johnson. Having delivered it, he rode down the hill to the big, black sulphur spring – then twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter. Its waters boiling up through a dozen or more vents in the white quicksand that formed its bottom, and immense quantities of gas from sulphur deposits below escaping in bubbles, large and small – unsaddled and staked his horse, and then undressed, jumped feet foremost into one of the largest vents and disappeared, never again to be seen by living man. Of course it was a hoax – such being the specific gravity of the water and the expelling force of the ever rising gas that a strong man, standing erect and pulling with all his might on a beam firmly fixed underneath the surface cannot pull his head under water. Still, every darkey believed the story, and from that day to this, it is impossible to prevail on any of them who lived in the neighborhood to go into the spring, lest he or they be overtaken by the same fate which befell the darkey of 1850.Even today forty years after emancipation, no “Jim Crow” law is needed to keep them out of it.
In the fall of 1849, a couple of bachelor brothers from Nova Scotia, Dick and Henry James, established themselves and a few Mexican hirelings on a farm and ranch seven miles above the Sulphur Springs. In the same year, the military authorities of the United States established a depot of supplies for the army in Texas, at Indianola, and opened up a direct route from Victoria to San Antonio that crossing the Cibolo four miles below Sulphur Springs, followed up the west valley of that stream to an intersection with the “Old Gonzales Road” – a route which, it is said, was laid out by Santa Anna when marching east to his defeat and capture at San Jacinto. Previous to this action by the military authorities, travel between Indianola and San Antonio had been via Goliad. Now the most of it was diverted from that route and the sight of the long army trains that began to pass backward and forward through the Cibolo Valley, and of Troops moving toward the frontier promised so much protection as to be very comforting.
About the same time, preparations were made to run a stage line between Indianola and San Antonio. It got fairly into operation in the spring of 1850. Dr. Sutherland keeping the one stage stand on the Cibolo. As San Antonio had come to be the headquarters for that part of the old army sent to Texas frontier, comparatively few of the many army officers who, either as Federals or Confederates, gained destination during the war between the States, but traveled this route at one time or another and stopped at Dr. Sutherland’s.
The year 1849 marked an epoch in the history of San Antonio, that is well worthy of record. In brief, it was the introduction into the markets of the city of the first American watermelons. Previous to that date, the American citizens and the few darkeys who had followed their masters that far west, had perforce to be content with a few small and insipid specimen of this fruit that were raised by Mexicans, and it goes without saying that the arrival of two wagonloads of the large sized and thoroughly ripe delicacies created a stir. The benefactor and public-spirited citizen in the case was a gentleman who afterwards became known far and wide as “Old Dan Cotter.” Early in the spring of the year named he settled on the Ecleto, twelve miles east of the Sulphur Springs, and fencing in with brush a ten acre patch of white sand planted it in watermelons.