AUCTION 23

 
 

“An extraordinary account of the Texas Revolution from a woman’s viewpoint, including one of the best descriptions extant of the Runaway Scrape”

 
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627. HELM, Mary S[herwood Wightman] & [Elias R. Wightman]. Scraps of Early Texas History, by Mrs. Mary S. Helm, Who, with Her First Husband, Elias R. Wightman, Founded the City of Matagorda, in 1828-9. Member of the Texas Veteran Association. Austin: Printed for the Author at the Office of B. R. Warner & Co., 1884. [2], [i] iii-iv, [1-3] 4-198, [2] pp. 8vo (21.7 x 14.5 cm), original dark brown blind-stamped cloth with gilt lettering on upper cover, early blue marbled endpapers. A few spots to the binding which has moderate shelf wear (especially at corners, where a bit of board is exposed). Hinges cracked (but holding) with old reinforcement. Title offset with light blue coloring from marbled endpapers and a few small stains. Interior overall very fresh. Tipped onto verso of front free endpaper with ink note from Dr. S.K. Stroud to Dudley R. Dobie: “Sunday, 10 Nov 68. Dear Dudley- Please accept this patched up old 500 scrapbook as a very small token only of my appreciation first of your personal friendship and second of your professional help in the building of Sandy’s library. I can never express how much I value books. S.K. Stroud Sorry it isn’t in better condition. I am fresh out of mint copies.” In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Stroud of Corpus Christi was a book collector and bookbinder, Dudley Dobie met him though Dan Kilgore.

     First edition. Basic Texas Books 90:

This valuable book contains not only the personal recollections of Mrs. Helm in Texas, but also a lengthy description of Texas written in the 1820s by her first husband, Elias R. Wightman. One of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred, Wightman came to Texas in 1824 as a surveyor for the new colony. According to Mrs. Helm, he wrote the first description of the colony and “compiled the first map of Texas in 1828, from which all subsequent maps obtain their basis.” The volume begins with an extraordinary account of the Texas Revolution from a woman’s viewpoint, including one of the best descriptions extant of the Runaway Scrape...Mrs. Helm relates her adventures in Texas between 1828 and 1835, including the initial colonization of the Matagorda Bay area.

Bradford 2219. Eberstadt, Texas 162:390. Graff 1847. Howes H399. Tate, Indians of Texas 584: “Includes Mrs. Helm’s descriptions of the Karankawas who still resided in the area where she settled.”

     Helm joined her husband on “long journeys through unsettled regions to reach those sites [to be surveyed] for future cities.” She declares: “It was voted that I should have the honour of being the first white woman to ascend the mouth of the Colorado River.” Her comparison of Anglos and Mexicans exhibit the expected contemporary prejudices. On the other hand, the appendix contains a section on “Horsemanship of the Spaniards” extolling the skills of the Spanish, Mexican, and Native American, with descriptions of methods, saddles, lasso, equipage, etc. There are but few first-hand accounts of the Texas Revolution by women.
 
     Handbook of Texas Online:

Mary Sherwood Wightman Helm (1807-1886) pioneer teacher, the daughter of John Hutchinson and Janet (Henderson) Sherwood, was born on July 3, 1807, in Herkimer County, New York. She began teaching at the age of sixteen and was teaching in a district school when she became reacquainted with her former teacher, Elias R. Wightman, who had recently returned from working as a surveyor for Stephen F. Austin and Green DeWitt in Texas. After a short courtship the two were married, on October 26, 1828. The Wightmans gathered a group of approximately fifty to sixty colonists, a majority from New York, and on November 2, 1828, set out for Texas. They traveled by wagon to the Allegheny River and from there down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. There they chartered the schooner Little Zoe and set out on December 26; bad weather and difficulty in sailing through Matagorda pass kept them from landing at Matagorda until January 27, 1829. The Wightmans lived in a small fort for several months until they were able to obtain material with which to build a crude cabin.

They founded Matagorda, where they owned a salt works and much of the surrounding land. Mary taught both day school and Sunday school in a log schoolhouse in Matagorda from about 1829 until 1832. The Wightmans also received some land on Caney Creek, in what is now Matagorda County, which they farmed with the help of several slaves. During the Texas Revolution Mary, her sister, an orphan girl, the Wightman slaves, and several neighbors tried to flee from the Mexican army by sea. The group was stranded in Galveston and after much hardship finally got back to Caney Creek.

In 1841 the Wightmans moved to Covington, Kentucky, in search of a more healthful climate. Elias died there on October 26. About 1845 Mary married Meredith Helm, who helped found Connersville, Indiana, where they lived until Mary’s death. Mary Wightman Helm was a member of the Episcopal Church and an honorary member of the Texas Veterans Association. In 1884 she published Scraps of Early Texas History, a compendium of history, personal reminiscences, religious dogma, and a number of her first husband’s essays on the geography of Texas. The book includes lucid and detailed accounts of her experience in Texas, including the Runaway Scrape, her perceptions of the Karankawa Indians, the hardships of daily life and life during a revolution, and comparisons of various cultures.

     Handbook of Texas Online:

Elias R. Wightman (1792-1841) one of the founders of Matagorda and a Stephen F. Austin Old Three Hundred colonist, was born early in 1792 in Herkimer County, New York, one of eleven children of Esther (Randall) and Baptist minister Benjamin Wightman. Wightman taught school in New York, eventually marrying one of his students, Mary Sherwood (see HELM, MARY S.W.), whose book, Scraps of Early Texas History (1884), includes gleanings from her husband’s surveying field notes. Wightman was in Texas as early as 1824, and by July 1825 he had been appointed by Stephen F. Austin as one of the appraisers of goods damaged on the schooner, Lady of the Lake. In August 1826 Wightman and several other persons petitioned Austin for the establishment of the town of Matagorda, and Wightman himself petitioned for a league of land on the east side of the Colorado River. As one of the Old Three Hundred colonists, he received title to a sitio of land in the area of present Matagorda County on May 25, 1827. In 1828 Austin sent Wightman and David G. Burnet to the United States to help recruit settlers for his colony. Wightman went to New York, beginning his return journey south in November 1828 with approximately fifty to sixty colonists, including his parents, whose 1830 burials, the first in the Matagorda Cemetery, are commemorated by a Texas Historical Commission historic marker. Traveling by wagon train, river, and finally from New Orleans on the schooner Little Zoe, they reached the mouth of the Colorado and the small fort built there for the protection of the incoming settlers in late January 1829.

Wightman may have been at an 1829 meeting in San Felipe de Austin to discuss the founding of a Masonic lodge there, and by August 1829 he had been elected surveyor for Matagorda, where he had built his home. By that October he had surveyed the town of Marion on the Brazos River. Around that time he was also corresponding with Austin about operating a salt works and had agreed to teach school at Matagorda for a year. Wightman was working for Austin as a surveyor in 1830, and the Austin Papers contain voluminous correspondence between the empresario and the surveyor. The Wightman family participated in the Runaway Scrape in 1836. In 1837 Wightman was among the first justices of the peace elected in newly organized Matagorda County and the following year was involved with the Caney Navigation Company, a group organized to improve transportation on Caney Creek by clearing its channel and adding connecting canals.

($400-800)

Sold. Hammer: $650.00; Price Realized: $796.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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