August 23, 2004

Moser's Obituary

Spent time at the Center for American History (CAH) at UT, where I do much of my newspaper research. I figured I should be able to find obituaries of some of the people involved with the mine and maybe those obituaries would have some tidbits of information that could help me in my research.

I was going to look for the obituary for Carlos Moser and J.W. Rutledge. Both died in El Paso county. The JW Rutledge I was looking for was 89 and could have been the John Rutledge in the 1910 census who was an 18 year old customs inspector in Boquillas (his dad was 31 years older, also a John, and also a customs inspector in Boquillas).

I knew when Moser died, thanks to Liz Hicks, Genealogy editor at the German-Texas Heritage Society. (To whom I am extremely grateful for her research help.) So I tried the Alpine Avalanche. No luck, or maybe I missed it. In the winter of 1915, the Avalanche was only published once a week, or maybe that's all that was microfilmed.

Seeing as Moser died in El Paso county, I tried looking in an El Paso paper, namely, the El Paso Herald. Oddly enough, the CAH doesn't have the 1915 editions on microfilm, they have the actual papers. I figured, I'd look on the day he died (not a smart idea) and each day through Sunday, figuring the Sunday edition would pick up any death's that were missed the week prior.

To my dismay, the Herald did not employ that great invention used by time strapped modern society...the Table of Contents. So, I had to slough through stories about Pancho Villa, Germany's aggression, local El Paso happenings, and ads for various snake oil treatments. After a half hour, I was frustrated, because I hadn't found it, but that didn't mean it didn't exist. In other words, it was very easy to get a false negative, while it's impossible to get a false positive (unless I incorrectly identify the subject of the obit).

As is often the case when I'm doing research, I have to go over the same material twice--or more--to really understand what it's telling me. So it was with the El Paso Herald. This is a constant theme in my research and is probably due to my ability to be distracted easily. In general, the material is not that hard to understand. I'll read something and get some stuff out of it. Then, when I hit a brick wall, I'll go back and re-read stuff and find there's more in there to milk.

Deciding that false negatives were too easy to come by, I decided to concentrate on the two days after the day Moser died and went back and scanned each page, column by column. With great relief and a lot of surprise, I found Moser's obituary.

From the El Paso Herald
Wednesday, March 3, 1915
Pg. 3
Center for American History

Owner of Boquillas Del Carmen Mine Dies Here.

"Carlos Moser, owner of the Boquillas del Carmen and other mines in the state of Coahuila, Mex., died Monday evening at a local hospital. The Mexican mine owner was 58 years old at the time of his death and had been operating in Mexico for the past 20 years.

"Mr. Moser was a native of Stuttgart, Germany, and has a brother, Wilhelm Moser, living in Germany. His wife, Mrs. Aimee Lyon Moser, was with him at the time of his death."

OK, it's not much. But it is something. There are a few interesting facts in these two short paragraphs.

1) Clearly, Moser was ill and his wife had enough time to get him to El Paso. From what did he die? My bet would be influenza.

2) They say he was from Coahuila, Mexico (clearly the Boquillas area). Yet, the 1910 census shows him in Marathon. I think he was most likely living near the mines and most likely was the mine engineer and got down to Boquillas as soon as the tramway was operating. Mining Engineer was his profession; I bet the mines are where he wanted to be.

3) Notice they talk of "mines". Plural. Could Moser have hauled most of the ore from this area? According to Gregory's 1908 master's degree thesis, we know there was more than one mine in Boquillas, with the Puerto Rico being the richest. We also know that ASARCO had closed their smelter there by 1907 as they consolidated all their smelting operations that year. Could Moser have been the only one mine owner in Boquillas at that time? He was a freelance mining engineer. Could this have been his first time as a mine owner? If so, could he have lived his dream for the last five years of his life?

4) Notice they call it the "del Carmen Mine". According to Gregory's thesis, there is a mine named "Boquillas del Carmen." It's 51.16 "pertenencias", which is an area measurement. That's the largest mine, in terms of area, in Gregory's list and therefore, probably Boquillas. (The Puerto Rico mine, the most productive mine in Boquillas, is 18 pertencencias.) Could this have been the "del Carmen mine?" If so, is this why the tramway ended five miles away from the entrance to the Puerto Rico mine? Is the entrance to the Boquillas del Carmen mine five miles away from the Puerto Rico mine?

5) We know know where's he from: Stuttgart. Good chance his family either left Germany or perished in the Holocaust.

6) Is wife's maiden name was "Lyon", or is that her middle name? According to the 1910 census, she was from Missouri. Where did they meet? Where did she go after he died? Did she remarry? If so, to whom and where?

So, the point of all this research and conjecture is to find a living relative of Carlos and Aimee Moser. There are no children recorded in the 1910 census--or at least none living with them in Marathon. So, I'm fearful that there are no direct descendents. Direct descendents are the greatest hope for family stories because people would be more apt to know about their grandfather Carlos and grandmother Aimee than they would about their great uncle (or cousin) Carlos and great aunt Aimee.

Carlos was 23 years older than Aimee. They were married in 1908, so they had seven happy years together. Could they have met in San Antonio? If so, would there be a Lyon family in San Antonio? Was she Jewish as well? That would narrow the field. This was the first marriage for both of them.

And what was it like for Aimee to move from San Antonio to Marathon, and then probably to Boquillas? While Carlos would have been used to life in a frontier mining town, would she? In the early 1900's San Antonio was the biggest city in Texas. It was modern; it was booming. While there may have been up to 3000 people in Boquillas, west Texas and northern Mexico would still be the dry, hot and desolate country it is today.

I suspect Aimee would have gone back home after Carlos' death. Would that have been San Antonio? Or, somewhere in Missouri? 1915 is the last date I have for her, when she was 29.

Posted by Joelg at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

Why an Aerial Tramway?

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Manning, whose father, Jim Manning, "owned" the Puerto Rico mine from 1929 to his death in 1940. He had a partner, Earl C. Johnston, that continued the operation until after WWII. I put owned in parenthesis because in that situation in Mexico, you "denounce" the land, which gives you many of the rights of ownership, without actually owning the land, or something like that. I'm still researching the specifics of denouncement.

According to the history books, the tramway was built to transport ore from the Puerto Rico mine to the US.

Bob was eight in 1929 and remembers riding the ore buckets from the small tramway that transported the ore from the mouth of the Puerto Rico mine down the mountain. It was dangerous, especially when the buckets were full of ore, so his dad constantly yelled at him and his brothers whenever they did it. According to J.A. Gregory's master's thesis on the Puerto Rico mine in 1908, the "gravity cable" was 1900 feet long. This wasn't the aerial tramway to the cable terminal in the US. It was simply the way they got ore out of the mine for transportation.

Gregory also describes the two roads to the mine. One was used when traveling to/from Boquillas and the other was used to haul the ore to Quatro Cienegas. Bob remembers wagons drawn by 10 mules that hauled the ore to Quatro Cienegas. They were double wagons, with the first wagon full of supplies for the trip and the second one full of ore. His dad would only let him ride for four miles before he had to walk back, so he never made it to Quatro Cienegas.

Bob spent his summers at the mine, as his dad worked there from 1929 until just a few days before his death in 1940. His dad rarely came back to the US.

Interestingly enough, Bob had never heard of the aerial tramway and cable terminal. When I showed him the USGS map that clearly showed the tramway, he asked me, "Are you sure this isn't a proposed tramway?" I said it was the tramway that started operations in 1910.

I recorded him as he read J. A. Gregory's master's thesis and he recognized much of what Gregory described. In it, Gregory describes the aerial tramway; the fact that it was recently surveyed and towers were currently being built; and that the embarkation terminal was five miles away from the Puerto Rico mine. Gregory calculates the cost of transporting the ore from the mine to the tramway using mule drawn freighters and makes a suggestion for installing a narrow guage railroad.

As I said, this was the first time Bob had ever heard of the tramway and he's the closest thing to a living eyewitness I have, even though he was eight years old the first time he went to the mine in 1929 and that was 10 years after the tramway was abandoned. He asked me a question that I don't have answer to, namely, "Why did they need this aerial tramway when they had wagon roads?"

It's a good question. I assume the answer is that when you factor the cost of the construction of the tramway, the cost of transportation over the tramway and on to Marathon, the cost of transporting the ore over to the US side is less expensive than transporting it through Mexico.

Now I assume that's true. I don't know for sure if that's true. Gregory only does a financial analysis assuming the tramway is operation. He doesn't do a comparison analysis by shipping to Quatro Cienegas via wagon train.

Still, it's a good question.

Another good question is why the tramway ended five miles away from the Puerto Rico mine? Why didn't they just go the extra distance to the most productive mine in Boquillas? Could it be this was the most convenient collection point for all the mines in Boquillas? Or, did they simply run out of money and that's as far into Mexico as they afford to build?

Posted by Joelg at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

Alpine Avalanch - 1915

I went to the Center for American History to do see if I could find the obituary for Carlos J. Moser who died on March 2, 1915.

I got confused and thought the date I was looking for was March 15th, so I never looked at March 2nd. However, I did finish out the rest of 1915. I found this interesting paragraph from October 28, 1915 on pg. 2:

"The big cable across the river used to bring ore from the Boquillas mines to the American side was completed last Friday and teams will begin today hauling the ore to the railroad for shipment. More than 1000 men are employed on the Mexican side and 500 on this side of the river in getting this rock to the railroad."

Weird, because I have citations from 1910 saying the cable was working five years earlier than this article.

So what's going on? Could the reporter have made a mistake? Could this citation be the source of the confusion about the years of operation?

Another hypothesis is that some mechanical failure caused the tramway to close down and it was now fully repaired. In any event, I need more information to piece together this story. When I nail down the story, I'll post the citation to the main website.

The numbers are interesting. At its height in the late 1800's, it was estimated that Boquillas had 3,000 inhabitants. 1000 men and their families could be 3000 total, meaning that in 1915 Boquillas was still going strong. The 500 men on the US side were probably freighters, as the cable terminal itself probably took only two men to run and a one customs officer to inspect.

Posted by Joelg at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2004

Research at the General Land Office

I was at the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to see if I could determine who owned the land upon which the tramway and terminal were built.

At a suggestion of another researcher I spoke to recently, I brought photos to show the archivists. That really fired them up and it generated some good conversation. One of the people I spoke to said her family had land in Brewster county; she told me that the park service "blew up" many of the old structures. People in the area started asking, "Yeah, whatever happened to X?" because "X" was no longer there. She said that when they confronted the NPS, they admitted to destroying structures, but didn't say why. Don't know when this occured.

Could the NPS have been involved in salvaging the tramway and terminal? I'm confident that it was salvaged for scrap metal because: 1) there are no rollers to be found that once supported the traction cable (there would have been one roller per side on a tower and pictures of the tramway in operation clearly show them), 2) the big, spoked wheels that powered the traction cable looks like their spokes were individually pulled, 3) there's no evidence of an engine at the cable terminal, and 4) the tramway had two cables (a traction cable and a track cable), but you only ever see one when hiking. The salvage operation is a mystery to me.

One of the librarians escorted me to the map room and introduced to me an archivist there. They were both interested in this project. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate the exact location of the tramway on the survey maps from 1904 and 1915 because they didn't have many physical attributes marked on them. I'll need to bring in a topo map with the tramway marked so that we can superimpose it over the survey maps to determine who most likely owned the land.

The archives did give me some interesting tidbits of information. Many of the blocks were given to railroad companies, like the Galveston and Houston Railway Company, but they were required to sell the land fairly quickly. Also, the land was divided up in a checkerboard pattern, where many of the "black" blocks were given to the railway companies and the "white" blocks were kept by the state. This also made it harder for the railway companies to become land speculators.

More to come when I return to the GLO with a map showing the location of the tramway...

Posted by Joelg at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

Pictures of Road Construction

Mrs. Y sent me copies of two photographs that show her dad, Farmer Jennings, and his road crew as they were building the road from the Cable Terminal to Marathon.

This is the first construction photo I've seen! One shot is front of their mules, the other is in front of their tents. In one shot, one of the men is holding a tea cup and saucer.

I'll post it in a few days.

Posted by Joelg at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack