Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 158
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
3. Letter of James Williams Holt to Colorado
Citizen, May 11, 1909, and published in the
Citizen of May 14, 1909.
Weimar, Tex., May 11, '09
I visited your beautiful city a few days ago.
I like to visit Columbus; I like to mingle with her
hospitable sons and pure-minded daughters.
Columbus was the Jerusalem of my bare-foot
days, and in my old age the pleasure I derive
from viewing her silent, majestic old live-oaks
does not seem to have abated in the least.
Without a doubt it is the prettiest town I have
My first introduction to Columbus was in
December, 1849. Changes? Yes; many, many.
But it would take volumes to recount half of
them. Mr. J. A. Toliver and Mrs. Lessing are
the only people living in Columbus now who
were there in 1849. Our family-12 whites-
lived in a two-room pin-oak board house just
south of Mrs. Stafford's boarding house for two
or three weeks. The negroes, about the same in
number, pitched their tents on an adjacent lot.
My step-father, Mr. John Tooke, rented a farm
of Col. Wallace, north of the river, and there we
made a crop in 1850. In the summer he sold the
crop and moved to what was then known as the
"Navidad country," two miles east of the pres-
ent town of Oakland.
Of course I do not remember all who lived
in Columbus then, but recall the following: Ira
Harris and family lived on the bank of the river
south of the artesian well; Isam Tooke and
family in a two-story house (the lower story
used for a store) west of Harris. The next house
was a hotel kept by Dr. John D. Tolliver. A Mr.
Shannon ran a blacksmith shop just north of the
artesian well. Tinkler, the surveyor, lived very
near, if not on the same lot, where Felix Mahon
lives now. Uncle Asa Townsend, with his wife
and twelve children, lived on the George Little
farm. By the by, when I was a boy I heard Uncle
Asa say: "I'll be set fired if I can't feed twelve
just as easily as I can six." Other old land marks
were Asa Smith, Dewees, Wash Secrest, C.
Windrow, George W. Smith, Jones, Rivers,
The little court house, a wooden structure,
I think stood on the block east of the present
court house. I may be mistaken about this. In the
spring of 1850 I remember attending Sunday
school there, which was conducted by a Meth-
odist preacher by the name of Rottenstein--
rather a peculiar name for a Methodist.
The school house stood on the bank of the
river east of Mrs. Stafford's hotel. A Mr. Holt
was the teacher. Later in the year a more com-
modious house was built for the school pur-
poses, south of town and near the Jesse Johnson
residence. The upper story of this building was
owned by the Masonic fraternity. Here are the
names of some of the pupils who attended that
school: Tom and Joe Harris, Ben and Jim
Toliver, Sam and Mary Nail, Newt and Jasper
Cooper, Sumner, Mat and Hamp Townsend,
Dock Peyton, Victoria and Cynthia McNeil,
Jim and West Cherry, Peter Silvey, Mansfield
Coffey, Fab Hutchins, Bob, Ash and Texana
Carter, Love, William and Bettie Tooke, Martha
and Jim Holt. The last seven named had to cross
the river in going to and from school. As a most
unexpected and thrilling incident occurred one
morning while attempting to cross the river, I
cannot forbear to relate it. Be it remembered
that the boat, the rope, the pulleys, in short, all
the appurtenances thereunto belonging, were
anything but first class. Even the little ferry-
man, a cripple, was woefully deficient in mus-
cular force. The river had risen several feet the
night before, and when we drifted into the
stronger current the little ferryman and the rope
parted company, and our vessel with its excited
cargo began its journey to the sea. There is no
use to relate that the children ran hither and
thither over the boat and fairly rent the air with
Here’s what’s next.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/46/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.