THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
INTERVIEW WITH: Mr. J.C. Melcher
DATE: May 12, 1987
PLACE: Port Lavaca, Texas
INTERVIEWERS: Bill and Precious Gregg
TAPE II, SIDE 1.
G: Continuing conversation with Mr. J.C.Melcher of Port Lavaca, driving to Indianola describing the Indianola Bay area which he had visited as a young boy (even seeing the pilings from the shore to the boat dock for cargo and passengers with 3 feet deep water within a few yards of the shoreline within the Bay.
M: Somewheres, but they...it's real interesting how they developed this town down in here.
BG: The rain fell on the roof of the house and the gutters led into the cistern.
M: That's right, and the house was here, and there was a round gutter went down into that thing.
BG: My mother says, "Even in Louisiana they used oyster shells to make that stuff."
M: Actually now, they mix that stuff up but they mixed up the oyster shells up with it, see.
BG: They didn't have any gravel and the oyster shells are perfectly good for what they wanted.M: And they mixed that sand and cement (with oysters) and made those cisterns.
BG: My, wouldn't you like to have a plate of those big oysters!
M: We had nice oysters, and it was late when they opened up above the causeway. But it hadn't been opened in about 4 or 5 years. Real nice oysters, ... (and we did have)
M: See, they closed the sea on the first and we only had oysters about a month this year.
BG: See that marker. We talked about the two hurricanes, in '85 and '86 ...
M: 1875 and '86.
PG: ... and as you said (to Melcher), a point of debarking and shipping up to Victoria and across.
M: They brought the silver up from Mexico (silver ore up from Chihuahua, Mexico) on donkeys and horses, 2 gauge on each side and swung down into Goliad and shipped it out of here. Could you believe that? You had Indianola, New Orleans and Vera Cruz as ports. Actually, you had New Orleans and Indianola on thhe Texas Coast (that gave you three ports), then Vera Cruz down there in Mexico; and that was your places, in there. There's the other side of the Bay (West Matagorda Bay) up in through there is the ALCOA thing -
PG: We wondered what it was - we could see lights last night.
M: All of this will wash away when we get another blow.
PG: We really haven't had some for a while.
M: We're past due a good blow; I can tell you that much.
PG: I've been listening to programs about geography, (in San Melcher
Antonio we watch Public Television) programs about geography and soil.
BG: (noticing a fisherman on shore) I don't see him carrying -
M: Whoa, look, he's got something, a redfish. He's got a nice one.
PG: He's happy! He's showing it off.
M: That's just one dam' fish. That's not many fish!
PG: I hope he's not having company for dinner!
M: That was a beautiful redfish (it was).
PG: Can you go wading on this beach?
M: No, it's all full of rocks and stuff; this whole thing is eroding back here. Now we're going to cut around here to the side. We can't go down to the front, to the beach area, in car. We're going to loop around this way. Now, back up in there - the other cemetery is back up in there. There's only a few of the stones left; the vandals have stolen up to 250 stones. We do have a plaque, and we will put the markers down - we just haven't gotten around to it. The original Cemetery is there. I'm going to take a quick scoop and go up to Cemetery Ridge where the Germans, a few of them, are buried. There's a hole down there and there's some rattlesnakes (and the abutment is gone) and if we walk M: around it might just be our luck to tie up with one of them!
BG: I'll let my wife do the walking.Melcher
(looking back at shore)
M: See them all trying to fish and crab. I bet that they haven't got a thing. We used to catch rackribs and stuff. I haven't seen any fish laying around. If you wanna go, and boy - I don't understand why there's not more (birds) acorns. I don't know, dear. They stand around the edge to catch something. But it's kinda spoilin' weather we have this afternoon. (some bird is seen on side.)
M: Sure went huntin' on Powderhorn. (that's a flight of waxwings.)
PG: I found one that was hurt and fell back in our street and took it to the vet to go to the animal shelter.
BG: Sixty years ago you came down to this ridge (for rabbits).
M: Well, they had homes on this Ridge and we'd eat breakfast by lamplight and get up on the Bank - there's a bank a foot and a half bank on this side of Powderhorn (we'd go by the Powderhorn and pick up the dried cow droppings and put 'em on tree limbs. (There's your coral bean, young lady; just blooming now. You'll have to come back down here swimming and I can show you up here where you can "steal" you some!)
BG: I remember the names of one of those men. One of the BG: names was "Mendez," Canary Islanders.
M: And "Gonzales." They were descendents of those people who came in here with them camels. (and when you're young, you're not interested in history, and I never asked them what Melcher
their daddies told them.) (coral bean reference). Mendez and Gonzales went from Spain to Morocco. They learned to work with camels there and that chain of islands over there and came into Galveston. And they were working in Galveston. Someone heard that they knew how to work with camels. Some lady in Indianola (heard that they knew) and wanted camels brought over and would pay them real good to bring 'em. They go back over to Morocco, go naked, load up them camels, get 'em and they bring them camels over here. That lady gave 'em a good command of English language. "Bodquet" was the customs man down there and got 'em jobs as cowboys.. They lived and survived. They were nice, bright people.
BG: Less cloudy and dark ... you could take a good picture of that.
PG: This was like a natural park with coral bean plants and shrubs.
M: They had homes up here a little further up but in '61 the eye hit just right and took care, of course, I think they were dead by that time. They (Mendez and Gonzales) have very few descendants and they didn't leave much family history. This cemetery here was what we called the M: "original" old cemetery where a lot of them Germans were buried. In olden times a foot wide and 2 inches thick in there as headboards and the paint that kinda preserved the names. Well, that was alright until '61 and after '61 that eye hit right, bango, and Melcher
this thing, it came. That was why we called it, "Cemetery Ridge." There's a Confederate veteran buried up in there and a few of the Millers up in there. This is where they were buried (driving by exact location in car).
See, now we're right opposite where them Germans landed. They probably had a catwalk across that bayou comin' across here. We're opposite that Miller's Point I was telling you about. This road runs on up there a ways and stops. There's an elderly lady up there. She's in the hospital now, nearly dead. She'll probably die.
There's a younger lady came out ... they own it. (I really don't know if they still own this land or sold it.) There's a younger lady living, married into that family. Their homes were back up in there, a little further up. Now, this stuff here, a man by name of "Doribas" bought the tax title and it laid here for years. They cleared it that way. Then they passed a law ... they (buyers) were quit-claiming this stuff along that bayfront there where you and I were, where they (Germans) landed. Coming up from the beach, and building houses. So, the Commissioner's Court passed a law where no one could claim title, (I've forgotten M: how far back from that beach (pointing to area by Melcher). To stop a commission you've just got what rights you've got, then go and build a home and then you go by limitations after ten years. And they (Commissioner's Court) put a stop to that. They Melcher
passed a law that no one could issue and build so far from the beach. That's the only way to do it. But you see your car (Melcher pointing down to beach where Gregg's car was parked.) (to indicate short distance of restricted beach)
M: There went a redbird right there, a cardinal. Now the migration is about over with - when your spring migration was on, your painted buntings and indigo buntings and things like that. There's a nice clump of trees here where they can roost and not be disturbed. And you had quite a few of those migrants in here. There's a little rabbit, a red one, sitting in there.
PG: Yeah, it sure was sitting in there, it sure scooted across while we were up (looking).
END OF TAPE II, ABOUT 15 MINUTES.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.