Sunday was a special day for me. I must share some of the excitement of a family that has long been proud of its heritage, even though many details of a Civil War event will probably remain unanswered. Previous writing about this event can be found in the blog archives.
Seven men were executed 150 years ago this week, six by hanging, and one was shot. I am a descendant of the one which was shot. His name was William Martin Sawyer. He and the rest of his company were traveling to Mexico. The story gets muddy here with disagreements on details and the purpose of their visit. Some think they were commissioned to purchase livestock in Mexico, however, their papers and documentation was not believed by the Confederates which had intercepted them on their trip. They were executed as deserters.
All of this took place several miles south of Bandera, Texas, on a ranch that is now named, "Hanging Tree Ranch." The ranch is owned by Phil Watkins of San Antonio. Mr. Watkins and his ranch staff have always been very hospitable to family members wanting to visit the grave-site and view the common grave of the seven executed men. On Sunday, Mr. Watkins had extended an invitation to all known descendants and historians from the area, to visit the ranch and share pictures, documents and stories which have been passed down through the generations. The ranch visitors were served a chuck-wagon bar-b-que lunch just a few feet from the grave. As we shared the delicious meal, we all renewed old acquaintances, met some people we had never met before, and everyone learned a little more about the history of our families.
I certainly want to say "thank-you" to Mr. Watkins and his staff. Lots of man-hours went into the preparation of the food and the pasture, which made our visit more pleasant. Everything was just perfect for lots of visiting and storytelling, as well as the opportunity to take pictures.
I was especially happy to see some of the older folks telling stories to the younger ones. I thought about how much my dad would have enjoyed the occasion. He was the first one that shared with me the story of the hanging tree. Today we know more of the details, because of our sharing of the stories. While some of those details will never be known for sure, I wanted you to see the pattern of passing family stories from one generation to the next. Your family stories are very important. Do not let them end with your generation.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Remember the old church song? "Tell me the story of Jesus; write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard."