Indian wars and pioneers of Texas Page: 814 of 894
INDIAN WA RS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
career as a business man commenced. His very
first enterprise was fraught with extreme peril,
from which men of less courage shrank. It was
on the 3d of February, 1859, that he left Gonzales,
Texas, with a party of eighteen, to make a trading
tour into Mexico.
Any one familiar with border troubles and border
characters, even at this late day, can have some
conception of the hazards of this trip in the next
decade after the Mexican War. On reaching Rio
Grande City the party was informed that it was out
of the question to think of crossing over into
Mexico, as the country was full of robbers and
brigands. Of the party of eighteen, only T. H.
Mathis and his cousin, J. M. Mathis, had the nerve
to cross the Rio Grande. Two young Alabamians,
who were not of the original party, also crossed
with them into the kingdom of the Montezumas,
together with a Mexican guide. As they lay in
camp on San Juan river, at China, the first night
after reaching Mexico, the custom-house officer
demanded of them a duty of six per cent of all
their money on the penalty of being imprisoned
and having all they had confiscated. They sent
their interpreter to tell the officer that they were
buying stock in his country, and would leave all
their money there; but that if he persisted in demanding
the six per cent he mignt come and get
it, that there were four of them well armed with
shotguns and six-shooters, and that many of the
Mexicans would bite the dust in the attempted robbery.
It is needless to say that Mathis and his
party were left unmolested. They remained in the
country six weeks, camping at night and throwing
out pickets like a regular army. But for this, they
would doubtless have been robbed or murdered.
Though this trip was quite successful, it was never
deemed prudent to repeat it. After making another
business trip to the Texas side of the Rio
Grande, Mathis temporarily left the stock business
and opened a five-months school in Gonzales
County in the spring of 1861. In the summer of
that year he removed to Victoria and extended the
scope of his business transactions, but was compelled
to close his business in the fall of that year,
on account of the closing of the Gulf ports at the
outbreak of the great Civil War. He then went to
Kentucky and Tennessee and bought a large lot of
tobacco, the price of which was rapidly rising in
Texas. He barely succeeded in getting out with this
commodity from Paris, Tenn., before the town fell
into the hands of the Federal troops. He shipped
this tobacco to Alexandria, La., and to it added
another lot purchased in New Orleans. Meantime
he sold the whole in Texas for one dollar a pound,
in Confederate money. In the spring and summer
of 1862 he was busily engaged in forwarding supplies
from Texas to the Confederate soldiers of the
Trans-Mississippi Department. In the fall of the
same year he joined Duff's regiment, Company E.,
and fought for the Confederacy till the close of the
war. He is not ashamed of the cause he espoused,
nor of the part he played in it. Yet when the flag
of the Confederacy was furled, he realized that the
war was over indeed. The same magnanimous
spirit with which he now treats the " boys who
wore the blue " enabled him to speedily forget the
bitterness of the struggle and, though with reduced
resources, to recommence his business career. He
again engaged in the tobacco trade between Tennessee
and Texas, in which he continued a year.
In February, 1867, he settled on Aransas Bay, and
selected the site on which the thriving little city of
Rockport now stands. The firm of J. M.
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas, book, 1880~; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/814/: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .