Friday, September 26, 2014

ACCC2014 day one


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Staff Writer
VON ORMY— On Monday August 18, 2014 Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara issued his proposed 2015 city budget.  In an historic first for any city in Bexar County, the budget proposes completely eliminating property taxes for residents of Von Ormy. 
     Even with the elimination of property taxes, the city's revenues are expected to increase 30% over its 2014 budget.  Additionally, the budget conservatively projects $830,000 in reserves ending September of 2014. 
     Mayor Martinez de Vara told the Star, “this year’s budget focuses on tax relief, transparency and public safety.”
     The budget calls for doubling the fire department's budget, increasing the city marshal's office presence by increasing funding by 50%, provides for an Animal Control Officer and a new Traffic Patrol Officer position and the purchase of a new patrol SUV. 
     Additionally, the 2015 Von Ormy budget calls for an additional $300,000 for the purchase of a municipal building, a playground in the city park and a new patrol SUV for the City Marshal's office.  All of these capital expenditures are to be paid in cash from reserves to avoid any debt obligations. 
     Mayor Martinez de Vara told the Star, “in 2009 we established a goal of shifting the tax burden for operating the city from property taxes towards sales taxes.  We did this because over 95% of sales taxes are paid by non-residents and we understood that we could increase sales tax revenue much faster than property tax revenue.  Since that time we have increased sales tax revenue by over 400%.  In order to have achieved the same revenue by property taxes we would have had to increase them by 300% from where we were in 2009.”
   In order to wean itself off of reliance on property taxes the city avoided debt, established a "low fee, low tax" regulatory environment and reduced property taxes by roughly 10% or more each year.  The city's low tax/low fee environment encouraged small business expansion that greatly increased the city's sales tax revenue. 
     Mayor Martinez de Vara recalls, "We began offering relief to Von Ormy tax payers at the height of the recession.  The first year, when we reduced taxes by 10%, we were the only taxing jurisdiction in Bexar County to make a significant cut.  In fact, most increased their taxes that year.  I believe that government should not spend every penny it collects, rather we should spend what is necessary to deliver high quality core services to our residents.  Excess taxation is unjust taxation."  Without the city's pro-active economic growth policies, Von Ormy may not have benefited as much as it has from increased I-35 traffic that is due to the development of Eagle Ford Shale.
     Mayor Martinez de Vara said, "Like most working class communities the greatest investment that most of our residents have made is in their land and homes.  Many of our residents are on fixed incomes and property taxation is the single greatest threat to continued home ownership and the ability to pass the fruits of a lifetime of work onto the next generation."
    “I hope we get this budget passed, so we can add a second city motto.  'Tax Free Since 2015," the Mayor said.
     Von Ormy is not alone in seeking tax relief this year.  Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently proposed a cut in County property taxes, “We have rounded the corner in recovery from the economic recession.  Our economy is strong as we see through the increase in our tax base, so I see cutting the tax rate as the only prudent thing to do for taxpayers.”
     Since it incorporated in 2008, Von Ormy leaders have established a unique approach to municipal government that has come to be labeled by the media as a "Liberty City." The success of Von Ormy has led to several small communities in central Texas that have recently sought incorporation to follow this model of government, including Sandy Oaks, Kingsbury, Savannah Heights, Cowlick and Maxwell.
    In addition to its "low tax, no fee" approach, Von Ormy has also prioritized the protection of its citizens' civil liberties.  Von Ormy has no smoking ban, firework ban, gun restrictions or juvenile curfew.  Mayor Martinez de Vara recalled, "The primary purpose of local government is the protection of individual rights and cities should shy away from limiting freedoms and focus on those things necessary to provide a higher quality of life for residents such as police protection, fire stations and litter control."
   News of the proposal has resonated across the state.  The Austin-American Statesman recently called Von Ormy “The freest little town in Texas.”  The San Antonio Express-News dubbed Von Ormy the originator of the “Liberty City” movement—towns that focus on quality essential services, low taxes and minimal interference in the lives of its residents.   Jess Fields, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation said of the proposal “by establishing smart policies such as abolishing the property tax, Von Ormy has positioned itself at the forefront of a movement to restore good governance at the local level.”
     Eliminating property taxes would not be a first in Texas.  Von Ormy would join a handful of other Texas cities that have eliminated the tax.  Most notable among these is the City of Stafford which successfully eliminated property taxes in 1995 and is routinely listed in national lists of the best places to retire and start a small business because of its low tax environment.
     Eliminating property taxes would not only provide residents tax relief, but could spur increased businesses investment in Von Ormy.  Mayor Martinez de Vara said, “since the proposal came out, I’ve been receiving daily calls, emails and other inquiries from people looking to relocate here.  The attention has been very positive for the city.”
    Mayor Martinez de Vara also told the Star, “relying on sales taxes will require us to maintain higher reserves to hedge against fluctuations in sales tax collections. We have been doing this already for years as we have been chipping away at our property tax rate and shifting our tax burden off of our residents.  This is really just the end of a lengthy process that we have been implanting over the last few years.”


     For as long as slavery existed in Texas, slaves sought ways to freedom and escape their condition.  The term "Underground Railroad" has come to define the network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century slaves of African descent in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.   In Texas the Underground Railroad did not run north toward the slave-owning states-it ran south to Mexico, which began to restrict slavery in the 1820s and finally abolished it in 1829, some thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
     Although Mexico outlawed slavery, Texas held onto its slaves.  Following abolition, the State Legislature of Coahuila y Texas authorized the alternate practice of indentured servitude for life.  "Former" slaves were forced to sign lifetime service contracts with their masters, thereby extending their enslaved status by contract.  This was all mute following the formation of the Republic of Texas, which enshrined the institution of slavery into its Constitution.  In a direct response to abolitionist movement in the United States the Republic of Texas prohibited all forms of emancipation:

     Texas Constitution, General Provisions, Sec. 9. — All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude: Provided, The said slave shall be the bona-fide property of the person so holding said slave as aforesaid. Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slaveholder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave or slaves without the consent of congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the republic. No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the republic without the consent of congress; and the importation or admission of Africans or negroes into this republic, excepting from the United States of America, is forever prohibited, and declared to be piracy.

     Both sides of the Rio Grande remained in Mexican hands from 1836 - 1845, despite Texas claims to it.  The effective border was the Nueces River with little to no Texan population existing west of it.   Resistance to Mexico's abolition of slavery was one of the causes of the revolution that led to Texas’s independence in 1836. Following Texas' annexation to the United States as a slave state in 1845 and the subsequent U.S.-Mexican War, the international border was established along the Rio Grande River.  The river's numerous border towns provided a clear destination for runaway slaves with Piedras Negras being the a major hub attracting slaves coming from and through San Antonio.   Most of the slaves who escaped to Mexico came from Texas, and to a lesser extent Louisiana, The journey to freedom in Mexico, even from Texas, was long and difficult and dangerous.  While the U.S. Mexican border is quite extensive, the border towns of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, became a chief destination of runaway slaves seeking freedom in Mexico.  The town maintained a large presence of ex-slaves and also became the target of slave raiders from the United States seeking to recover fugitive slaves and capture individuals to sale.  
     The tenuous position of the Piedras Negras community of former slaves improved in 1850 with the arrival of a group of Seminole Indians from Oklahoma seeking to settle in Mexico.  The group was led by Chief Coachoochee (Wild Cat) who had been removed from Florida following the Seminole Wars (1836-1842). In Oklahoma, Chief Coachoochee partnered with a runaway slave named Gopher John who led a group of 100 runaway slaves who joined the Seminole Nation.  Both groups sought freedom in Mexico and led a colonization expedition to northern Coahuila. They crossed the border at Eagle Pass in July of 1850, Cora Montgomery a resident of Eagle Pass, Texas described their arrival in a letter, "We were sipping our chocolate, with every door thrown wide to welcome the breeze...when we were astonished to see Francisca coming up at a rapid pace...pointing...towards the hills.  We look out in surprise, for there, emerging from the broken ground in a direction that we knew was untraveled by any but the wild and hostile Indians, came forth a long procession of horsemen.  The sun flashed back from a mixed array of arms and barbaric gear, but as this unexpected army...drew nearer it grew less formidable in apparent numbers, and opened upon us a more pacific aspect.  Some reasonably well-mounted Indians circled around a dark nucleus of female riders...but the long straggling rear-guard was worth seeing...Such an array of all manners and sizes of animals, mounted by all ages, sexes and sizes of negroes, piled up to a most bewildering height, on and among such a promiscuous assemblage of blankets, babies, cooking utensils, and savage traps, in general, never were or could be held together on horseback by any beings on earth but themselves and their red brothers.  The party began to break away and vanish into the little ravines that dip down to the river edge, and we understood by these signs they were encamping among us."
     By 1850, a colony of runaway slaves existed in Pierdas Negras, Coahuila, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass.  This group joined the Seminoles and runaway slaves under Gopher John and Chief Coachoochee.  Together they requested land and the right to settle in Mexico.  Awaiting a response they temporarily encamped at San Fernando de Rosas (present-day Zaragoza, Coahuila), la Navaja, Coahuila and near Presidio Monclova Viejo.  The Mexican government granted the request for form a colony and assigned seventy thousand acres along the headwaters of the Rio San Antonio and Rio San Rodrigo. The grant also allowed members of the Kickapoo tribe to settle.  The Kickapoo had arrived in 1839 and assisted the Mexican Army in defense of the area.  The colony was approximately 50 miles southwest of Ciudad Acuña.  The treaty required the colonists to "obey the authorities and laws of the republic; maintain harmonious relations with nations friendly to Mexico; prevent, by all means possible, the Comanches and other barbarous tribes from continuing their incursions through the area; pursue and punish them; refrain from any commerce with these tribes; and maintain the best possible relations with the citizens of the United States."
     Relations with the citizens of the United States soon became a problem. Slave hunters began raiding into Piedras Negras and the new colony.  On November 10, 1851, for example, Mexican military reported a slave raid of "American volunteers" who crossed the border and attacked La Navaja, Coahuila "with the intention of attacking and capturing all the Negros as well as the Seminole Indians living there."
     The following year, Chief Coachoochee visited Mexico City seeking a new colony further away from the border at El Nacimiento, Coahuila.  The Ministry of War granted the request authorizing 17,352 acres.  The settlers were asked to establish villages and be able to provide two hundred warriors/militia upon request by the local military commander.  The two groups formed two villages on opposite sides of Alameda Canyon -- the Seminole settlement was known as El Nacimiento, the free African settlement was known as El Nacimiento de los Negros.  This is but one example of the fate of runaways slaves seeking freedom in Mexico.  Piedras Negras, Ciudad Acuña, Nuevo Laredo and other border towns had a persistent presence of runaway slaves.
     As the institution of slavery strengthened in Texas, so did the population of slaves within plantation districts along the river bottoms that yielded the best cotton crops.  With a critical mass of population, African American slaves were able to form not simply communities, but interpretive communities.”  These interpretive communities had the ability to understand the linkage between the pathway to freedom and Mexico, and take necessary actions to travel along that path.
     The scarce population from the mouth of the Rio Grande River to El Paso, Texas also contributed to the opportunity for African Americans to travel into Mexico along the pathway to freedom. According to the U.S. Census of 1860, there were probably 25,000 persons living along this section of the river, of which, “80 to 90 percent were Mexican.” In an effort to address the increasing number of escaping African American slaves, U.S. Army officials, ordered Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morris, commanding Fort Duncan on the Rio Grande, to arrest any runaway slave attempting to cross near his post. There were too few troops in the area to carry out this order.
     Resistance to the institution of slavery included sabotage, otherwise known as insurrection. In an 1858 statute of Texas, “insurrection of slaves’ is defined as, “An assemblage of three or more, with arms, with intent to obtain their liberty by force.”   There were several large scale slave revolts in Texas.  For example, in Columbus, Colorado County on September 9, 1856, more than two hundred slaves planned to attack every house in the town, simultaneously, and, “kill all the whites. . .plunder their homes, take their horses and arms, and fight their way on to a ‘free state’ [Mexico].”
      “There wasn’t no reason to run up North.  All we had to do was to walk, but walk South, and we’d be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande,” recalled Felix Haywood an ex-slave from San Antonio who was interviewed about his experiences as a slave in San Antonio by the WPA in 1937.
     To reach the pathway of freedom into Mexico runaway slaves found help from people within Texas. According to historian Obadele-Starks, “Flight across the border was initiated primarily by the escapees themselves and with limited help from northern abolitionists or antislavery sympathizers.” Almost seventy years after his emancipation, Felix Haywood of San Antonio had his own story recorded by a WPA interviewer for the Slave Narratives, “Sometimes someone would come ‘long and try to get us to run up North and be free. We used to laugh at that. There wasn’t no reason to run up North.  All we had to do was to walk, but walk South, and we’d be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande.”  His story helps to confirm the communication that took place between slave communities within the plantation districts. An example of slave sympathizers was uncovered when three white men, who had been implicated in the foiled plan for the October 31st revolt in Halletsville.  However, slave sympathizers were not only isolated to whites. In 1855, about twenty Mexican families in Seguin they had been accused of aiding and abetting runaway slaves in their escape from bondage.
   In 1857, the Bexar County Sheriff led a posse to Garza's Crossing (Von Ormy) to lynch unnamed "Mexicans" who had been accused of assisting slaves to freedom in Pierdras Negras, Mexico.  Newspaper reports at the time state that the posse was stopped by a group of armed German residents led by Dr. Theodore Heerman who insisted that they knew of no much persons in the community and refusing to allow the posse to enter the town.
    The success along the pathway of freedom into Mexico is evident through the voices of former slaves, and personal accounts of those who have traveled into Mexico south of the Rio Grande River. During his interview, Felix Haywood stated, “In Mexico you could go free. They didn’t care what color you was, black, white, yellow, or blue. Hundreds of slaves did go to Mexico and got on all right.”  Ronnie C. Tyler, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Texas State Historical Association, had collected more than 1,100 ads posting rewards for the return of fugitive slaves. The destination for many of these runaways was the Coahuila-Texas border towns of Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras.  Fredrick Law Olmstead, a journalist commissioned by the New York Times to travel through the American South to chronicle and research its slave economy (1852-1857) encountered two runaway slaves in Piedras Negras. In the course of an interview, one informed Olmsted that he was born in Virginia, brought to the South by a trader, and sold in Texas. Furthermore, he had runaway four or five years prior. He could speak Spanish fluently, and professed that he was a competent guide into Northern Mexico. Additionally, he informed Olmsted that runaways were constantly arriving in Piedras Negras, and that forty had arrived in the previous three months. From these accounts we learn that the pathway of freedom into Mexico was indeed existent.
     The question of how many runaways traveled the pathway of freedom into Mexico is unknown, and can only be estimated. The Austin State Times, in 1854, estimated that, “There were upwards of two hundred thousand escaped slaves in Mexico.” This estimate appears to be substantially high. A more reasonable estimate was given by John S. “Rip” Ford, doctor, lawyer, journalist, Mexican War veteran, and Texas Ranger. Texans had been willing to pay up to a $600.00 reward for the return of runaway slaves residing in Mexico. Ford, set out to capture and return these runaway slaves back to Texas. He claimed that slaves worth $3,200,000.00 were in Mexico. This would put the number of those who traveled the pathway of freedom into Mexico in the range of 4,000.

    Below is the complete interview given by Felix Haywood, former slave of San Antonio, Texas, to the WPA in 1937.  Haywood was 92 years old at the time.


     Felix Haywood  is a temperamental and whimsical old Negro of San Antonio. Texas, who still sees the sunny side of his 92 years, in spite of his total blindness. He was born and bred a slave in St. Hedwig, Bexar Co., Texas, the son of slave parents bought in Mississippi by his master, William Gudlow. Before and during the Civil War he was a sheep herder and cowpuncher. His autobiography is a colorful contribution, showing the philosophical attitude of the slaves, as well as shedding some light upon the lives of slave owners whose support of the Confederacy was not accompanied by violent hatred of the Union.
     Yes, sir, I'm Felix Haywood , and I can answer all those things that you want to know. But, first, let me ask you this? Is you all a white man, or is you a black man?  I'm black, blacker than you are, said the caller. The eyes of the old blind Negro, - eyes like two murky brown marbles - actually twinkled. Then he laughed:  No, you ain't. I knowed you was white man when you comes up the path and speaks. I jus' always asks that question for fun. It makes white men a little insulted when you don't know they is white, and it makes niggers all conceited up when you think maybe they is white. And there was the key note to the old Negro's character and temperament. He was making a sort of privileged game with a sportive twist out of his handicap of blindness. As the interviewer scribbled down a note, the door to the little shanty on Arabella Alley opened and a backless chair was carried out on the porch by a vigorous old colored woman. She was Mrs. Ella Thompson , Felix ' youngest sister, who had known only seven years of slavery. After a timid "How-do-you-do," and a comment on the great heat of the June day, she went back in the house. Then the old Negro began searching his 92 years of reminiscences, intermixing his findings with philosophy, poetry and prognostications.
     It's a funny thing how folks always want to know about the war. The war weren't so great as folks suppose. Sometimes you didn't knowed it was goin' on. It was the endin' of it that made the difference. That's when we all wakes up that somethin' had happened. Oh, we knowed what was goin' on in it all the time, 'cause old man Gudlow went to the post office every day and we knowed. We had papers in them days jus' like now.  But the war didn't change nothin'. We saw guns and we saw soldiers, and one member of master's family, Colmin Gudlow , was gone fightin' - somewhere. But he didn't get shot no place but one - that was in the big toe. Then there was neighbors went off to fight. Some of 'am didn't want to go. They was took away (conscription). I'm thinkin' lots of 'on pretended to want to go as soon as they had to go.  The ranch went on jus' like it always had before the war. Church want on. Old Man Johnson , the preacher, seen to it church went on. The kids didn't know war was happenin'. They played marbles, see-saw and rode. I had old Bustar, a ex, and he took me about plenty good as a horse. Nothin' was different. We get layed-into (whipped) time on time, but gen'rally life was good  just as good as a sweat potato. The only misery I had was when a black spider bit me on the ear. It swelled up my head and stury came out. I was plenty sick and Dr. Brennen , he took good care me. The doctor always took good care of people when they was sick. Hospitals couldn't de no better for you today Yes, maybe it was a black widow spider, but we called it the 'devil biter'.  Sometimes someone would came 'long and try to get us to run up North and be free. We used to laugh at that. There wasn't no reason to run up North. All we had to de was to walk, but walk South, and we'd be free as soon as we creased the Rio Grande. In Mexico you could be free. They didn't care what color you was, black, white, yellow or blue. Hundreds or slaves did go to Mexico and got on all right. We would hear about 'em and how they was goin' to be Mexicans. They brought up their children to speak only Mexican.  Me and my father and five brothers and sisters weren't goin' to Mexico. I went there after the war for a while and then I looked 'round and decided to get back. So I comeback to San Antonio and I got a job through Colonel Brockenridge with the waterworks. I was handling pipes. My foreman was Tom Flanigan   he must have been a full-blooded Frenchman!  But what I want to say is, we didn't have no idea of runnin' and escapin'. We was happy. We get our lickings, but just the same we got our fill of biscuits every time the white folks had 'em. Nobody knew how it was to lack feed. I tell my chillen we didn't know no mere about pants than a hawg knows about heaven; but I tells 'em that to make 'em laugh. We had all the clothes we wanted and if you wanted shoes bad enough you get 'em  shoes with a brass square too. And shirtal Mister, them was shirts that was shirtal If someone gets caught by his shirt on a limb of a tree, he had to die there if he weren't out down. Them shirts wouldn't rip no more'n buckakin.  The end of the war, it come jus' like that  like you snap your fingers.  How did you know the end of the war had come? asked the interviewer.  How did we know it! Hallalujah broke out   Abe Lincoln freed the nigger With the gun and the trigger; And I ain't goin' to get whipped any more. I got my ticket, Leavin' the thicket. And I'm a-headin' for the Golden Shore!' Soldiers, all or a sudden, was everywhere  comin' in bunches, crossin' and walkin' and ridin'. Everyone was a-singin'. We was all walkin' on golden clouds. Hallelujah! Union forever, Hurrah, boys, hurrah! Although I may be poor. I'll never be a slave Shoutin' the battle cry of freedom.'
     Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes and nobody had made us that way but ourselves. We was free. Just like that, we was free. It didn't seen to make the whites mad, either. They went right on giving us read just the same. Nobody took our homes away, but right off colored folks started on the move. They seemed to want to get closer to freedom, so they'd know what it was  like it was a place or a city. Me and my father stuck, stuck close as a lean tick to a sick kitten. The Gudlows started us out on a ranch. My father, he'd round up cattle, unbranded cattle, for the whites. They was cattle that they belonged to, all right; they had gone to find water 'long the San Antonio River and the Guadalupe. Then the whites gave me and my father some cattle for our own. My father had his own brand, 7B, and we had a herd to start out with of seventy. We knowed freedom was on us, but we didn't knew what was to come with it. We thought we was goin' to get rich like the white folks. We thought we was goin' to be richer than the white folks, 'cause we was stronger and knowed how to work, and the whites didn't and they didn't have us to work for them anymore. But it didn't turn out that way. We soon found out that freedom could make folks proud but it didn't make 'em rich.  Did you ever stop to think that thinking don't de any good when you de it too late? Well, that's how it was with us. If every mother's son of a black had thrown 'way his hoe and took up a gun to fight for his own freedom along with the Yankees, the war'd been over before it began. But we didn't do it. We couldn't help stick to our masters. We couldn't no more shoot 'em than we could fly. My father and me used to talk 'bout it. We decided we was too soft and freedom wasn't goin' to be much to our good even if we had a education.  The old Negro was growing very tired, but, at a request, he instantly get up and tapped his way out into the scorching sunshine to have his photograph taken. Even as he did so, he seemed to smile with these blurred, dead eyes of his. Then he chuckled to himself and said: Warmth of the wind And heat of the South, And ripe red cherries For a rips, red mouth.  Land sakes, Felix !  came through the window from sister Ella .  How you carries on! Don't you be a-mindin' him, mister.


By Art Martinez de Vara
VON ORMY—Texas history is notable for its legends, tall tales and heroic characters. Myth and fact intertwine in the complex story of Texas, its origins and independence.
     The Lone Star, as a symbol of Texas, is one of these legendary tales that has come to define Texas.     Today the lone star is emblazoned on our state flag. We teach our children that it symbolizes Texas as an independent nation and Texans in their independent character. But where did it originate?
     Many will be surprised to learn that the first known use of the lone star as a symbol for Texas was made by José Antonio de la Garza, a land grantee in South Bexar County. As postmaster of San Antonio he minted official coins with his initials on one side and a lone star on the other.   
     José Antonio de la Garza was born in San Antonio on May 31, 1776. His parents were Leonardo de
la Garza and Magdalena Martinez. His family were converses, or forced Jewish converts to Christianity, who settled in Nuevo Leon, Mexico from the Canary Islands in the late 16th century.
    In 1813, José Antonio de la Garza was elected mayor of San Antonio, in what was perhaps the most eventful year in the city’s history. Early in the year, a revolutionary army of Tejanos took the town and declared independence from Spain. By year’s end the revolution was squashed at the Battle of Medina, the town was devastated by the Spanish and its population scattered into exile.
    Economic despair set in as a result of depopulation and increased hostilities of rebels and Indians. Apparently, community leaders prevailed upon the governor of the province, Lt. Col. Manuel Prado, to authorize Manuel Barrera to coin 8,000 copper coins to facilitate commerce in March of 1817. No specimens are currently known from this minting.
    In May 1817, Prado was succeeded by Antonio Martinez as governor and military commander of the province of Texas. In December 1818, he granted the request of José Antonio de la Garza, the local postmaster, to mint 500 pesos' worth of "small change in copper coins called Jolas, which shall circulate only through the town with values of one half of a “Real each." This amounts to 8,000 pieces authorized. The small coins were worth the equivalent of a nickel. In a town with a population of about 2,000 people, this would have had a significant impact on relieving the shortage of small change.
   The petition granted also stated that "these shall be engraved with the first letters of my name and surname and the year of this date." Garza was also required to redeem Barrera's coins issued the previous year in exchange for his own. Perhaps this exchange was so successful that no Barrera Jolas survived. While significant parts of the United States were at one point Spanish territory, the Texas Jola is a unique issue in that it is the only known Spanish Colonial coin made in what is now the United States of America.
    The de la Garza Jolas first came to the attention of collectors when one was sent to The Numismatist, the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects, which published a line drawing of the piece in 1903, but was unable to provide any information to its owner. A historian knew of them in 1892 but this knowledge did not make it to numismatic circles for more than half a century. Meanwhile, the house in which de la Garza may have minted these coins was destroyed in 1912, so all information about this issue is likely to come from the coins themselves and documents in the Bexar Archives. It has been speculated that the star on the reverse was the inspiration for the "Lone Star" that became and is perhaps the best known symbol of Texas. In 1959, a group of approximately 60 specimens was discovered during excavation work along the San Antonio River. The area of the find was once a 19th century campground used by cowboys. A few others have been discovered since, virtually all of which have been dug. Apparently they did not circulate long, so most are not greatly worn but, having been buried, most do show corrosion.  After acquiring permission from the Spanish government of the time, Garza acquired a reputation throughout Texas due to his initials "JAG", being on one side of the coin, along with the year “1818”.  Garza struck his coins in his home located on Houston and Soledad Street over a period of a year and a half. The home was destroyed in 1912.
    In 1824, thanks to the success of its currency, Garza was granted two leagues of land in what would become South Bexar County and the City of Sandy Oaks, becoming thus one of the largest landowners in Bexar County. His ranch head was located between San Antonio and Medina River.
    In 1832, Garza was renamed Mayor of San Antonio. In this year he signed the articles resulting from the Convention of 1832. Probably at the beginning of 1834 he bought the San Francisco de la Espada Mission. This purchase, however, was deemed illegal by some residents, leading to a rejection of him, which was further strengthened when, in the middle of Texas Revolution, some of the residents of the city thought that the owner's family sympathized more with the idea that Texas should remain Mexican.
    In the 1840s he and his family moved to a new home near Calaveras Lake. The house, a two-story structure was built forty years earlier, in 1801 and had a triple function: it could serve as a church, school and community center. Garza probably died on May 5, 1851 in San Antonio. In 1876 Garza County was named after the Garza family, which had been in San Antonio for two centuries.

Art Martinez de Vara is an attorney and has a Master of Arts in Texas History from Sam Houston State University.