I spoke with a gentleman today who is helping me identify the people in the picture of the car in front of the cable terminal.
He was able to identify one person and may be able to identify the woman and the driver.
Very exciting stuff...
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.
I spoke with Mr. Manning, 83, today. His dad, Jim Manning, was partners in the Puerto Rico mine with Earl C. Johnston. The Puerto Rico Mine was the mine for which the tramway and terminal were built.
Mr. Manning is the father-in-law of one of my wife's friends and he lives here in Austin. Wow!
His dad was the mining engineer for Mr. Perry, owner of the Terlingua Quicksilver mine. After his wife died from influenza, the elder Mr. Manning went to down to Mexico in 1929 and submerged himself in the Puerto Rico mine. It was apparently a very productive mine.
The younger Manning was born in 1921 and spent many summers with his dad in the mine. He remembers playing in the ore buckets as a kid and his dad reprimanding him because it was dangerous. He said that his dad used the tramway to get the ore out at one time, although I'm not sure this is true. All history books say the tramway shutdown in 1918, or so, and the elder manning didn't arrive there until 1929. However, there's a possibility that it is true because I've seen a picture from the W.D. Smithers collection at UT Austin showing the tramway in 1928 fully intact. So, there's a possibility that they used it.
Still, it sounds like Johnston & Manning Asociación Minevadas (sp?) worked the mine after it was abandoned by the previous "tenents", probably the ones for whom the tramway was built. He said no one really "owned" the mine. In Mexico, he said, things worked differently. Through a process translated as "Denouncement" in English, you could go into Mexico and "claim" land that no one else claimed and filing the appropriate papers. This is what his dad and Johnston did. I also think this could have been what Carlos Moser did as well.
They mined silver and lead (where's the zinc?), mixed together in an ore he called "galena". He said that around WWII, they were mining manganeese out of the Puerto Rico mine, which was used to strengthen steel. They used five or so big International Harvester trucks to transport the ore from the mine to Marathon.
He said if wasn't so old, he'd go down there with me and show me around. I would love to go there with him. What stories!
Back from a family vacation, I've received the letter from Mr. Z that contained Farmer Jennings' memoirs. Finally, a first person account! I'll post it in a few days.
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!
I've been feeling like research has been going slow, especially after the highlight of speaking with Mrs. X a few weeks ago, the first peron I've found who knew someone who built or worked at the Ore Terminal. I haven't had any luck finding a descendant of David (?) Rutledge, the customs inspector, nor anyone else, except Farmer Jennings.
I'm now pretty much convinced this is the Farmer Jennings as cited in Arthur Gomez's book...and he's the only one that any author mentions by name who was associated with this thing.
So today, I thought I'd do a little back tracking. I was reading about the indices at the Center for American History's website and somehow ended up trying to find out where Farmer Jennings was buried. I knew it was near San Marcos, TX. Seeing as I'm in Austin, I was thinking I'd go down to photograph the headstone.
I had done this research before, so all I was doing was trying to find the exact location so that I could drive there. Turns out, the cemetary has a website. It's called Humphries Cemetery. Farmer's buried there.
So, I emailed the webmaster, also a Jennings, to see if he had any information to share.
I also discovered the webmaster had another site dedicated to the Jennings Family. There's a picture there of Farmer's headstone. To see it, go here and click on page eight. It's the picture named "tombstone_rfj".
The webmaster then emailed me saying he didn't have much info on Farmer, but gave me the name of another person to contact South of Austin that may know more. So it looks like I'm back on track. Hopefully, the discussion with that person will prove fruitful.
Hiking the trail and being overwhelmed by the physical challenge of building the tramway made me think of the people involved in mythic terms. Man taming nature; man against all odds. Talking to descendents and seeing his tombstone makes Jennings more human to me. It's almost like I've got faint outlines of his life and am just beginning to fill in the picture with a little color.
I interviewed Mrs. X today over the phone to see if her father-in-law, Farmer Jennings, was the Farmer Jennings I'm looking for. She said she wasn't sure if she built the terminal and tramway because he was a rancher, but it wouldn't surprise her if he did.
This Farmer Jennings is the one that shows up in the 1930's census in El Paso. He was born in 1882, which would make him around 24 when the tramway and terminal was built, so he is a candidate. There are no other Farmer Jennings in the US Census in Texas, so I think he's the one.
Despite her not knowing, it's thrilling talking to someone who's most likely a descendent. She said she'd do a little research; hopefully it will come to something.