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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Little Mysteries

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
There are big mysteries ranging from the most weighty of cosmic questions to the whereabouts of famous people who have disappeared without a trace. And then there are little mysteries.


For instance, how did a German medal dated 1844 end up in a farmer's pasture near Lometa in Lampasas County? One of side of the commemorative coin, in German, was the inscription: "Remembrance of German Exposition Industrial Products of Berlin." On the other side were these words: "Forward with German diligence and German energy. Be united."

In 1936, as Texas celebrated the centennial of independence from Mexico, Bronte resident Bill Martin told a reporter that his father had found in the medal 30 years before.

The unnamed journalist said in his article that the medal probably was lost during an unsuccessful attempt to establish a German colony farther up the Colorado River than the better known German enclave around Fredericksburg. The project was abandoned in 1852 and the old land grant sold at auction by the sheriff of Bexar County, which at that time included that part of the state.

While how the medal got to the Lometa area will never be known, it's easy to learn more about the Berlin event where the medal was obtained. Held in the Zeughous, Berlin's old arsenal, the Allgemeine Deutsche Gewerbe-Ausstellung attracted 3040 exhibitors, 685 from Berlin. An estimated 260,000 people attended, including, presumably, whoever lost the souvenir in distant Texas.


Guadalupe County farmer Bernard Pankau found a small mystery on his farm near Seguin in 1938. He noticed an old knife that had been unearthed, presumably following a heavy rain, in a washout. When he picked up the knife, he said, a small gold coin fell from it.

How a coin could fall from a knife the finder did not explain in a brief story carried in the Guadalupe Gazette-Bulletin on May 12 that year. Less than a half-inch in diameter, the coin bore the legend, "California Gold 1849." Thirteen stars stood out on one side of the coin, a representation of Lady Liberty on the other.

The article offers no description of the knife or any further detail, leaving readers to ponder all the possibilities. One thing's a bit more certain: The value of such a coin today, depending on a more accurate identification, would start at about $400.


A primary ingredient of any mystery is the passage of time.

In 1936, Dr. R.S. Sutton of Bartlett knew exactly where a silver Swiss watch once owned by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's could be found-in the good doctor's personal collection. The timepiece, manufactured in 1820 and distributed out of London, bore the manufacturer's number of 41442. Enclosed in a silver case, it had four gold bonds around its outer edge. Engraved on the outside of the case was "El Salvor" and the inner case has the words, "Cylindre Quatre Rubis."

The watch was taken from the body of Gen. Manuel Fernando Castrillon, who had been killed in the battle by two Texas scouts who later said they thought he was Santa Anna trying to escape. (Actually, having failed to keep his men from abandoning their artillery in panicked flight, the veteran officer had stood with arms crossed over his chest, waiting to be killed.) Santa Anna had given the watch to the general.

Scout Jim Dottery kept the watch as a souvenir of the battle. (The roster of Texans who participated in the battle, plus those who were in the area but did not fight, does not list anyone named Dottery. There was a cavalryman named James Douthitt, but given that "Dottery" is likely a misspelling of "Doughtery," the mystery of his true identity remains.)

Whoever took the watch, he held on to the time piece until some point prior to the Civil War, when he traded it to one William Freels in consideration of a yoke of oxen, a cap and ball revolver and title to several hundred acres. During the war, Freels gave the watch to Mrs. Josephine Malecheck as collateral for merchandise he had purchased from her. Later, he let her keep the watch to settle his debt.

Mrs. Malecheck later gave the watch to her granddaughter Myrtle, who let her father take it when it quit working. In 1925, he had it repaired. Dr. Sutton apparently acquired the watch, which still ran, from the Malecheck family.

That brought the chain of possession up to 1936, when the Associated Press distributed an article about the historic time piece. Hopefully, the San Jacinto battle relic has not been lost, but an online check turned up no reference to it.


The same newspaper that carried the story about the watched once owned by Santa Anna on Aug. 16, 1936 also had a short article about a Del Rio woman who owned the infamous Judge Roy Bean's wall clock. The clock hung in Bean's Jersey Little Saloon at Langtry until some time after the death of the so-called "Law West of the Pecos," when a family member gave it to G.L. Turner.

As of the centennial year, the clock-patented in 1885-was still keeping perfect time and had never been in the shop. Again, what became of it is another of those small mysteries, this one facilitated by the passage of the very thing that clock had been built to measure—time.
Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" July 12, 2019

Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

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  • Dust Storms 6-24-19
  • Horses as Transportation 6-18-19
  • Hiking the Dog Canyon, Part II 6-10-19
  • Hiking the Dog Canyon, Part I 5-30-19

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    Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

  • Dallas' Long-Haired Judge 7-1-19
  • Dust Storms 6-24-19
  • Horses as Transportation 6-18-19
  • Hiking the Dog Canyon, Part II 6-10-19
  • Hiking the Dog Canyon, Part I 5-30-19

    See more »



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