November 11, 2005

Speaking at Center for Big Bend Studies Conference, Sul Ross University, Alpine, TX

I spoke at the Center for Big Bend Studies 12th annual conference today on Moser and the tramway. The talk was titled, "Finding Carlos: Uncovering the True Story of the Ore Terminal in Big Bend National Park." I think people liked it; I know I enjoyed it. I ran out of time, but at least I was able to tell Moser’s story, from the time Louis Lyons goes down to Mexico and Meets Carlos Moser, to Moser’s death. So I was able to paint the picture for the first chapter of the tramway.

What was so wonderful were all the people who came up to me afterwards to tell me their stories. Here are some snippets.

One women told me that the first towers on the US side were still standing 38 years ago (1967)!

Two gentlemen told me they hiked the trial up that big canyon that ends up winding up the wall you see when you look north from the last standing tower across a big canyon. To get to the trail head, they say look for a parking spot on the south side of the road after you pass Rio Grande Village. Park there and the trail is right across the street. They said it took them 45 minutes to hike to the beginning of the canyon, but they didn't go into the canyon and up the wall. From my measurements, they were anywhere from 1 to 2 miles from the trail head when they got to the canyon, depending on where they stopped. If you do this hike, get information from the park employees at Panther Junction. I haven’t done the hike, so I can’t give you anymore information…although I hope to do the hike some day. Using Google Earth, you can see a large scar on the southwest part of the canyon wall, near the last standing tower. My hypothesis is that this is where the cable engineer dragged the cables up the canyon wall. Hiking this trail could confirm or deny this hypothesis.

Another lady told me she fairly recently hiked to the ore terminal with her five year old grandson! They camped out at the ore terminal and then hiked from the ore terminal to Ernst Tinaja via the road leading away from the terminal going north. She said the hike from the ore terminal to Ernst Tinaja was fairly easy and that it took the morning.

Another gentleman told me he hiked the trail twice. When I asked him how long ago he hiked it the last time, he said, "Three years ago; and I got kind of winded. I was slow and the sun was going down. It was dark by the time I got to the wash [the final stretch of the hike before returning to the road]."

"Do you mind me asking how old you are?" I asked him.

He said, "78."

"And how old where you when first did the hike?" I asked him.

"Oh, I did the hike the first time six years ago!"

Here’s some great news. I have a picture on the site that's also in the February, 1911 article on the tramway showing a man and woman in an old time car in front of the cable terminal with a gentleman standing up. I've always wondered if that was Carlos and Aimee staring back at me. I finally met a gentleman I had been corresponding with over the Internet and he said, "That was my Uncle Alvie's car. He was a mechanic in Marathon and he told me the mining engineer had hired him to drive him and his wife to the cable terminal. That's the mining engineer and his wife in the picture."

So it is Carlos and Aimee...or most likely is. The man standing? Well, if you were to zoom in, it looks like he's wearing a badge on his left side, so I assume he was the customs inspector. I assume the person taking the picture was the driver, this gentleman's Uncle Alvie. My working hypothesis is that the woman in the car is Aimee Moser. I’m still note sure if Carlos Moser is the man in the car or the one taking the picture.

It was so great meeting people who were also interested in this. I've sometimes felt I was crazy. No...scratch that...I many times felt that I was crazy. But it was great to talk to people who shared my interest and great to hear the other presenters at the conference.

Posted by Joelg at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

At the Archives of The Big Bend, Sull Ross University, Alpine, TX

Spent a good chunk of the day at the Archives of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University in Alpine. I wasn't able to dig up much new, but I did find a few tidbits (all courtesy of the Archives of the Big Bend).

From The Marathon Eagle (which looks like it was owned by the Alpine Avalanch because the tone of the writing is the same voice as the Avalanch).
Wednesday, July 20, 1910.
No. 29. Vol 2.
"Boquillas Bouqets" (Which is a list of one to two line items listing all the things happening).

"Carlas Masee of San Antonio here on Business connected with the mine."

OK, it didn't hit me when I was reading it when I was sitting in the archives; it only now hits me now, late in the evening in my hotel room. "Carlas Masee". Duh. It's a misspelling of "Carlos Moser". This confirms the 1910 Census that says he was in Marathon. But, if he was only visiting, then he and Aimee may have still lived in San Antonio. Maybe there are San Antonio land records, if they owned their house in San Antonio...

Why can't they get his name right? It's like the Avalanch/Eagle are reluctant to write anything about the mines and Moser, but, seeing as it's such a big operation, totally ignoring it would be too tough to do. Couldn't they simply ask him how he spelled his name? Marathon's not a big town. You could just walk up to him and ask him. Isn't that what reporters do?

Then, here's the next paragraph.

"Misses Smith and Simpson of Surra Majada Mexico are here inspecting the Del Carmen Mine with a view of reopening it, we have not learned their decision."

"Surra" must be "Sierra". Doesn't seem like this reporter can spell...

"Reopening it"?!?!? Hmmm.... OK, we know, "they [the investors] gave the deal to Moser" in the Southern Hotel sometime around 1908/1909 because it's in Farmer Jennings Memoirs. We also know the US Zinc Tariff came into effects sometime around 1909/1910 and it's effect was devestating for the Mexican Zznc industry because the US bought all of Mexico's zinc. And, we know from Moser's 1911 article was that he was there for the zinc. The new piece of information is that Aimee's son told me when Aimee was Marathon, Moser traveled to NYC to secure a loan.

So, it's conceivable that Moser wasn't shipping ore. But if that's true, it didn't last for long, as the following bears out:

Alpine Avalanch
October 26, 1911
Page 1, Col 7
“Another car load of 3 inch ore from the Del Carmen mines was shipped from here this week.”

This appeared on page 1. This is the first time anything about the mines appeard on page 1 in the Avalanch, except for the previous citation on from the Marathon Eagle. Why did these two citations appear on page 1? Why was it such a big deal when in the past it wasn't?

Something's going on and I'm not quite sure what that is.

According to the Alpine Avalanch, Moser was shipping ore as early as March, 1910. You can view the citations here. In fact, Customs Officer Rutledge moved to the Ore Terminal in March, meaning everyone was preparing for this thing to work.

What may have been going on is this: the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Bill of 1909 may have gone into affect sometime after March, 1910 and that's what caused the seeming shutdown of the operation after March 1910. The bill became law in August, 1909. Maybe the bill didn't go into effect right away, or maybe it wasn't practically enforced until Rutledge moved to the Ore Terminal....I'm simply not sure what's going on here.

Posted by Joelg at 09:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2005

Research At Big Bend National Park Headquarters

I spent the afternoon at the Big Bend National Park office. Archeologist Tom Alex very kindly spent time with me going over what the park had. I don't think he was that sure of me initially, but once we got to talking, the conversation just kept on going.

But first, I need to back up. Last week, I was double checking some facts on Leschen & Sons, the company that made the tramway. In a Google search, I found a citation from a book called For All Seasons: A Big Bend Journal by a Roland Wauer. It was a paragraph on the tramway and ore terminal and Wauer pretty much got the basic facts straight! He was the first author I found who did! What's more, he mentioned "Don Carlos Moser" by name as the man on the blueprints of the tramway.

Blueprints! No one's ever mentioned blue prints before!

Man, if I had come across his book earlier, I would have saved so much time...but then again, maybe I wouldn't have found Farmer Jenning's daughter...

Anyway, I checked out the book from the library and the citation that's online is the complete citation. Wauer's a former NPS naturalist and his book was more about botany and animals than artifacts. But, he said in his writing that he always fascinated with the tramway ruins, so he wrote about it.

As I was setting up my appointment with Tom Alex, I think I had mentioned Roland Wauer. He knew him and referred to him as "Ro". "We don't have any blueprints here," he said. "If you talk to Ro, ask him where they are."

So I did. I tracked him down and got him on the phone, a day or two before I drove out to big bend. When I asked him where he saw the blueprints, he said, "I have them." He also had a 53 page document on the tramway prepared for him by a guy that worked at the customs office in El Paso, dated 1949. I was floored.

Turns out, Wauer worked at the park in the '60's. He got interested in the tramway and did some research in the late '60's, with the hopes of some day writing a book, but he never did. "I'm more interested in butterflies, now," he told me. I had called him in the afternoon and he had just returned that morning from a butterfly collecting trip in Mexico.

I told Mr. Wauer I'd send him an inventory of what I had found at the park office so that we all knew what was where.

Now, back to Tom Alex. He takes me back to the records room and opens up a drawer, lifts up a file and says,"We don't have much...here it is...oh, it's been sent for scanning." Meaning, it wasn't there. My heart sank. I drove all the way from Austin, took time off from work, left my family, and now it was missing. "No, that's not it." My hopes brighten. "Here's what we have."

He lifts out a thin, three hole punched, bound report. It's 53 pages of pictures and captions, one picture per page. Looking at the cover, I see it's the original of the document that Roland Wauer has! It was pictures of the mines, with miners, the tramway on both sides, the intermediate water station on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, a photo of the water tank being transported on the tramline, etc. Wonderfully neat stuff.

So I volunteer to scan it all in the HP scanner they have. It takes me a while, but now it's electronically catalogued in the National Park system.

Tom told me a story that Ross Maxwell told him. I'm not sure if the facts are true, but here it is. All the wood for the towers came from the Mediterranean, "Cedars of Lebanon". They were shipped in by the old port and Indianola, Texas. This was particularly strong wood, apparantly.

In all, a wonderful day. Spent the evening at Ms. Tracy's cafe in Terlingua. Had a great conversation with folks at dinner. Looking forward to the talk.

Posted by Joelg at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack