June 28, 2004

Interview /w/ Farmer Jennings' Daughter and Grandson

Today was very exciting. I finally contacted Mrs. X, Farmer Jenning's daughter-in-law! (In the tradition of this blog, I'm keeping the names of the families anonymous, until I ask their permission to use their names). When we spoke a number of weeks ago, she had mentioned that her sister-in-law had asked Farmer to write his memoirs and that she'd call if she talked to her.

I followed up with Mrs. X today and she gave me her sister-in-law's name and number in Palestine, TX. So, I called Mrs. Y, Farmer Jennings' daughter. Mrs. Y was very nice and we spoke for about 30 minutes. It was so exciting to talk to someone so close to the man who built the ore terminal and aerial tramway. Mrs. Y is the family historian. She said Farmer didn't speak much about the tramway and ore terminal; I've found in my research that men from that time period in that part of Texas spent little time talking and when they did talk, it was about cattle. Still, two things she mentioned reverberated with me:
1) Farmer told her he thought the whole thing was a scam.
2) She thought it was near Dryden, or Sanderson, Texas, which would have been much east of Boquillas (I think maybe 60 miles east).

Mrs. Y said she and her husband had gone looking for the tramway near Sanderson, but never found it.

More intrigue... (Why is it that every turn in the story seems to contradict every other?)

She said she didn't have his memoirs handy, but her children had a copy and that I should call her son, Mr. Z in Houston.

So, I called Mr. Z this evening. His mom had called him earlier today letting him know I'd call. He had the manuscript ready. Most of it had to do with cattle ranching in the area in Mexico south of Sanderson, but what he did discuss of the building of the tramway and terminal was so exciting. Finally, I am getting the story of people who lived and worked there!

I'll summarize now because I'm thrilled to finally be learning the story, but I'll post the manuscript when I recieve it, as Mr. Z has agreed to let me do so!

It sounds like Farmer was the foreman, working under a director, at least while improving what sounds like the Old Ore Road. It took them 60 days to grade the road from the Terminal to Persimmon Gap using Mexican Laborers, hand tools, and a grater (whatever that was). Then, it took another 30 days to get to Marathon.

Farmer then worked under a German engineer when building the tramway and terminal. He could only speak German and Spanish. It sounded like once the towers and terminal were built, Farmer transferred to Marathon to manage the delivery of the cables, while the engineer stayed on-site. It took a year's time to string the cable and the larger spools weighed up to 12,000 pounds and took 10 mules to haul from Marathon to the Ernst Basin.

Also, they ran out of money. The stockholders met for two days in San Antonio's Southern hotel, "cussin' and discussin'". Sounds like the investors gave the deal to the promoter. There were many small investors. There will be more details once I post the manuscript.

The manuscript confirms that it was the Del Carmen company, so that, coupled with the $100,000 figure which Gomez also mentions in his book "A Most Singular Country," and the fact that Farmer mentioned 2 miles of the tramway went into Mexico and 4 miles into the US, I'm now convinced that Farmer Jennings helped build this aerial tramway and terminal.

I'm looking forward to being able to tell Mrs. Y that the tramway her dad built is in big bend and she can see pictures of it for the first time on my website!

Posted by Joelg at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack