Located near the confluence of the Chupaderas and Calaveras much of Jaques Rancho these days is submerged beneath the waves of Calaveras Lake in southeast Bexar County. After having survived fires, Indian attacks and banditry the old structure finally succumbed to the relentless march of a growing San Antonio.
The Jaques (pronounced Jakes) trace their connection to Texas in its infancy. They were friends of Stephen F. Austin, Cornelius Vanderbilt and a pantheon of Texas legends. William Budd Jaques (1799 – 1870) was born in New Jersey. He twice served as San Antonio alderman in 1845 and 1865.
Below is an extract from an article written for the San Antonio Express Sunday, July 13, 1930. It is offered without changes.
…Stephen F. Austin is universally accorded the honor of being called the Father of Texas. His unselfish devotion to the colony well deserves this appellation, and it must be conceded that anyone rendering him aid when his life was threatened would be assisting to secure the public welfare of the Republic of Texas.
When Austin was in prison in Mexico, 1834–35 he probably would have perished had it not been for help he received from two sources: Father Muldoon, a priest, of the prison, and a secret friend, Mrs. William B. Jaques. It is with the latter and her family that this article deals.
Before her marriage to Wm. B. Jaques, in 1821, Mrs. Jaques was Miss Katherine L. Browne, and was the granddaughter of General Daniel Morgan of the Revolutionary fame. She was the great grand daughter of General Provost, whose successful speculations in 1755 won him the title of “Ready Money Provost.”
Mr. Jaques was engaged, at the time of their marriage, in the ferry business with Cornelius Vanderbilt. At first they used sloops and schooners, but, realized the value of steam propulsion as demonstrated by Fulton a few years previously, they sold their sailing vessels and opened a line between New York and New Brunswick, with Vanderbilt as captain, The project developed immensely and both were soon on the way to wealth. Mrs. Jaques and Mrs. Vanderbilt cooked on this vessel and served “flapjacks” to the passengers.
Soon after 1830, Mr. Jaques was compelled to sell his interests to Vanderbilt on account of ill health, and, with his family, went to Mexico City. Here his health greatly improved and he established a stage line between that place and Vera Cruz. Mr. Vanderbilt continues his shipping interests and developed a fleet so large that he was called “Commodore,” and became one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Soon after arriving in the city Jaques established a general merchandise store on the corner of Commerce and Yturri streets. A year or so later, he came into possession of a considerable tract of land lying 16 miles east of San Antonio on the Chupaderas Creek. This he developed into the only ranch of any consequence east of San Antonio. In 1841, Indians burned some of the barns, killed his tenants and drove off all his horses and over 100 head of cattle. This was a serious setback, for the principal use he made of this ranch was to supply fresh meat for his store in town. Fortunately, 40 head of hogs had been overlooked by the savages and with these he was able to supply the immediate needs of his customers.
To his surprise, Mr. Jaques discovered that hog meat sold as readily and at a higher price than beef. He then stocked his ranch with hogs, sending to New Orleans for better grades, and soon had the only hog ranch and the first in Texas. To preserve his pigs from the Indians, whose taste for pork was equal to that of the San Antonian, he constructed a barn of stone in which he housed them at night. This barn had three floors and the pigs could be driven onto each one from the outside; the lower floor was really a cellar, being below the level of the ground, the second was level with the barnyard and the third floor, or story, had a dirt ramp up which they could walk. The old barn is still standing, in fair condition.
On the knoll, east of the barn, stands the original building, a small log house. When the barns were burned in 1841, this little house escaped and was used for nearly a hundred years as a dwelling. It stands now in a field, and remains, expect for a shed in the back, as the hands of Mr. Jaques first constructed it.
Jaques returned to Mexico in 1839 and brought his family, of wife and two small daughters, to San Antonio. They stayed for a short while with John Bowen who lived in the old Quinta building, where three hundred (men) were imprisoned by Arredondo in August 1813, following the defeat of the Americans and Texas at the battle of Medina. Soon however, they moved to rooms in the rear of the Jaques Store on Commerce.
A week or so after Mrs. Jaques arrival 18 people were brought in from across the Alazan Creek and laid out at the old courthouse. They had been slain while out riding and were horribly mutilated. The Jaques, Mavericks and a few others who lived outside the Plazas were in great danger especially at night when the savages prowled through the town. The Plazas were enclosed, at sundown, by huge buckskin barriers strung across the ends of the streets that entered them. Outside these people had to look out for themselves.
The Council House Fight, in early 1842, took place near the rear of the Jaques’ store. It was here that Mrs. Jaques first displayed traits of her character in San Antonio. She had several of the wounded brought to her house and nursed them back to health. For two days, after this battle, she secured no sleep whatsoever. Mr. Jaques was out on his ranch at the time and did not hear of the affair until three days later. The only help she had during the time was one Mexican girl. Everyone else except the Mavericks, had gone inside the Plazas fearing Indian retaliation after the fight. The old Court House, behind which was the Council-House, was about one hundred yards west of her dwelling.
In the fall of 1840, Mrs. Jaques rented a large house on the southwest corner of Yturri and Commerce, which she turned into the best boarding house in the state. She was so pleasant and agreeable to all that her place was filled continually with the best people. President Lamar visited San Antonio in June, 1841, and with his staff occupied a considerable suite of rooms in her house. A “grand ball” was given in his honor in the “long room” of the Yturri house and the society of San Antonio turned out in full dress. The president and Mrs. Seguin opened the ball with a waltz. This we are informed, was not a very impressive beginning, for the general, while possessing many other talents, could not dance. At this same social function there were several gentlemen who did not own a dress-coat, but by combining tactics one at a time use the only coat in the particular bunch, while the others stood outside and waited his turn on the dance floor. These young men were the forefathers of many of the leading citizens.
When Mrs. Jaques heard of the fate of the Santa Fe expedition, and the subsequent taking of all its members to Mexico City, she followed the precedence she had established when Austin was in prison, sent them letters of encouragement in candy, food clothing, etc. These prisoners were released in the first months of 1842, and arrived in San Antonio a few weeks before the capture of the city by the Mexican invader, Vasquez. Many of them stopped at the Yturri house, and finally joined Captain Hays’ Rangers. Vasquez marched into town in March, 1842, and the property of all San Antonians was confiscated. The Mexican general exerted himself to see no looting was done but to no avail. He kept his soldiers under fair control, but possessed no power over the Mexican population of the city.
Many stores and houses were looted. Several were burned, Included in the latter were the stores of Mr. Jaques and John Twohig. When Twohig heard of the approaching army he first told all to help themselves from his supplies, and then, as the town was abandoned, set slow matches to several barrels of powder in his store. This store was filled with valuable goods intended for trade with the Mexicans and Indians, and as soon as the Texans were out of sight a grand rush was made on it by the Mexicans who had stayed in town. The store was jammed with men fighting for goods when the first barrel exploded. All the rest went off in quick succession. We are not informed as to the number killed; our historic sources merely say many were killed or injured. Twohig had intended this for the Mexican soldiers, and not the Mexican sympathizers who remained in the town.
Jaques was placed under guard by Vasquez and when Woll, later in the year, took command of San Antonio, he ordered him shot. A Mexican colonel Carrasco, who had befriended Austin in Mexico, saved his life and he, with 53 other prominent men of the town were chained together and marched to Mexico City. It is said that the anxiety brought on by the uncertainty of her husband’s fate caused Mrs. Jaques’ coal-black hair to turn white on the first night Woll departed with his captives.
Jaques returned to San Antonio in 1844, and purchased the property of Senora Trevino, on North Soledad Street. Here they erected a large two-story frame house, which stood till torn down for the extension of Travis Street. (The Milam building now stands on the site). There Mrs. Jaques kept a boarding house until 1866. Wm Jaques re-established his ranch but owing to marauding Indians it was never again profitable, in his lifetime.
In 1849 cholera broke out in San Antonio and Mrs. Jaques practically closed her boarding house and nursed the sick of the town. As high as 18 people died in one day when the disease was at it worst. A camp was established at San Pedro Springs, but nothing seemed to check the malady and hundreds of people fled to the mountains above Leon Springs, but nothing seemed to check the malady. The Indians contracted it and died by the thousands. The cholera lasted three months, but in that time it carried off nearly a fifth of the population of the little town. Through all the trying events Mrs. Jaques labored 20 hours a day nursing the sick and caring for the helpless.
Dr. Ferdinand Herff Sr., brought his young bride to Mrs. Jaques’ boarding house in 1850 and stayed till he established a home for her. Through Dr. Herff she and her husband became acquainted with Count von Muesbach, a German nobleman who settled Fredericksburg. Muesbach dropped his title and built a house at Leon Springs and settled down to a life of ease. This house was built over a fine spring so that in the event of an Indian attack their water supply could not be cut off. This house is standing today and the spring flows with almost as large a volume as it did when the house was built in 1856…
…In the year 1859, Mr. Jaques brought in some wheat from his ranch and took it to the old mill at Garden Street Bridge to be ground. The stones of this old mill were not set for such fine work, but after considerable adjusting and bustling around it was turned out, the first flour made in San Antonio, Jaques had persuaded Carl H. Guenther to come from Fredericksburg and establish his mills here.
When the Civil War broke over the land Mrs. Jaques threw the doors of her boarding house open to all soldiers and charged them nothing. Nor would she take the money of anyone who was engaged in any manner with any kind of charity work.
Cholera struck the town again in 1866. And carried off 292 citizens. Once more Mrs. Jaques left the management of her boarding house to the care of a tenant and went among the poor and needs. Working with her future son-in-law, Dr. Cupples. Some of the people were so poor that they could not afford a candle for their houses, so Dr. Cupples carried one in his pocket to use at night.
While engaged in this work she contracted the terrible malady herself and died, in 1866.
Her daughter, Laura, survived her and married Dr. Cupples in 1874. Dr. Cupples died in 1895, and Mrs. Cupples in 1903. From this union only one child is living, Mrs. Catherine J. Lambkin, 102 Upson Street, San Antonio. William B. Jaques died in 1870.
We have more spectacular lives, in the history of San Antonio, than those of William B. Jaques and his wife, but it is doubtful if any two people have done more for the betterment of the city than they have. They seemed to possess the happy faculty of not only entering whole-heartedly into every worthy cause, but entertaining all their friends in it. In an indirect way, Mr. Jaques was responsible for the settlement of German and French people in the country. For it was he who persuaded Dr. Cupples to come to San Antonio, and it was Dr. Cupples in turn who asked Castro to come here…