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More Saragosa Tornado

Interest in Saragosa sparks research

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(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
PECOS, AUG. 24, 1987 - After receiving calls from all over the country
for information we might have on Saragosa, most of which we did not
have, we started trying to put together some sort of history of
Saragosa. Information is very scarce in all sources we have checked, but
we have found enough information to put together what we believe is a
fairly accurate account of the history of "the little place that was. "

The "Handbook of Texas" says: "Saragosa, in south central Reeves County,
was originally located on Toyah Creek four miles east of the present

Headquarters of the Antonio Matta horse ranch, it was a traveler's stop
with a hotel, restaurant, saloon and post office by 1900.

With construction of the Pecos Valley Southern Railroad in 1911, the
town moved to the railroad to become-a station and a shipping point for
alfalfa, cotton and fruits. Population was 25 in 1920; in 1940 four
businesses and a population of 60 was reported."

Some of the above is incorrect. The location was about two miles east
instead of four, and was some ways south of Toyah Creek. We find no
record of a post office having been at the Matta place it came later.
The Matta place was never called "Saragosa" although it could be
referred to as the original Saragosa.

In 1882 the "go west" fever had spread and a group of young people in
Kimble County organized a party to head west in search of new homes,
their first goal being New Mexico.

The covered wagon train left Kimble County on September 19, 1882. The
party included, among others, Mr. and Mrs. Lance Duncan and their three
children, Edna, Josie and Arkie; Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Kountz and baby son,
Hez; Doug Coalson and A.J. Hart.

The wagon train traveled by way of Fort Concho, Fort Lancaster,
Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River, and on to the Rancho de Matta in
what is now Reeves County.

The ranch headquarters was then in Pecos County, Reeves County not
having been created until 1883 and organized in 1884. The party was
headed by A.J. Hutchinson.

The little community was the headquarters for the Antonio horse ranch
and was a traveler's stop with a hotel of sorts, a mercantile store, a
saloon, a restaurant and was an Indian trading post.

Antonio Matta married an Indian princess which made for an easier
rapport with the Indians. Matta bought horses from the Indians and in
turn sold them to the army at Ft. Davis and Ft. Stockton.

There was no mail service in the area at that time but someone had built
a telegraph line into the Matta headquarters with a telegraph key at the
place. It was the only telegraph key within an area of many miles and
was used frequently by the soldiers at Ft. Davis.

We do not know who built the line nor where it went, although we believe
it probably went to El Paso or possibly Fort Concho.

After staying overnight at the Matta headquarters, the Hutchinson party
continued their journey westward, ostensibly to New Mexico.

The following night they camped at a small spring about seven miles
north of the present town of Balmorhea on the Don Garcia land grant. We
believe this spring was, or is, where the home of Cora Moore was later

Winter was approaching and the party arranged for a winter lease on the
Don Garcia place. We do not know how Garcia got this property.

While on this location, some of the party members explored the mountains
and valleys around Balmorhea and decided this was as good a place to
settle down as they would find in New Mexico.

They started a search for locations, and established homesteads. Lace
Duncan located in the Ft. Davis area. Kountz located in the mountains
south of Balmorhea, and Doug Coalson went to Toyah as did A.J. Hart.

Reliable information on the Rancho de Matta is very scarce. We have no
idea what prompted Antonio Matta to settle here. There was no
communication and no public roads other than cattle trails.

We believe the Matta head quarters was established in the early 1860's,
some time after Ft. Davis was established in 1854. For the next 16
years, Ft. Davis was the focal point of warfare with Comanche and Apache

The fort was vacated in mid-1861 when the Civil War started and the
troops did not return until June 29, 1867 after the war was over. The
Fort was disbanded on July 31, 1891.

There is no evidence, documentary or otherwise, to show when the Matta
headquarters was established, but we believe it was during the period
after 1867, probably in the early 1870's.

The Matta Ranch covered many sections of land, to what extend we do not
know, nor do we know whether the land was owned or just "occupied."
There is no record in the Reeves County files of any acquisition or
transfer of land by Antonio Matta.

Saragosa fund distribution slated Friday

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PECOS, AUG. 27, 1987 - The third distribution of monies donated to the
Saragosa Relief Fund at both Pecos banks will be held in Saragosa on

Distribution is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon behind the Saragosa
Building Committee trailer.

Mary Mitchell, coordinator of the Saragosa Relief Fund, said persons
unable to attend the distribution may receive their designated portion
at a later date "as all funds are held for each individual deemed

In addition, she noted that persons who have or are in the process of
obtaining guardianship of children who lost both parents in the tornado
need to provide the committee with a copy of their documents before
funds can be released for minors.

New Saragosa home will be cleared, rebuilt

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PECOS, AUG. 26, 1987 - The second home built in Saragosa is being
cleared off its foundation and re-started from ground up.

An inspection from the Red Cross building adviser in Saragosa encouraged
Texas Baptist Men's convention to pay all bills and start all over
again, said John LaNoue, on-site disaster director for the Baptist
organization, which is coordinating volunteer labor.

"From day one on that job, we were concerned," LaNoue said. "There was a
little error in the foundation, and we tried to compensate for it."

The job on the Nunez home east of Highway 17 was halted about a week
ago, with the interior the major part left unfinished, he said.

"We weren't happy with it ourselves," LaNoue said. "It is structurally
stout stronger than most. But it's just not neat there were some things
that weren't exactly level, some misalignment of joints."

The Baptist Men used mostly volunteer laborers, "trainees," on the home,
because the experienced builders had not yet arrived in Saragosa, he

LaNoue said the rush was to build one, two and three bedroom homes one
of each to not only get started on the job but to serve as sort of a
display for those 24 families who will have their homes built with Red
Cross aid.

He said most citizens are "happy" with the help they are receiving, but
that a few "agitators" have voiced the opposite opinion.

"We've had these people circle the Nunez home, come in and push at it,
shake it, and say, 'That house is going to cave in in the middle,"'
LaNoue said.

"The plans for the homes are the same ones Red Cross has been using
successfully for 30 years in these situations," LaNoue said.

Retired, experienced builders that generally build churches for the
Baptist organization have now moved into about 35 recreational vehicles
parked in Saragosa and have started six more homes, LaNoue reported.

All volunteer labor is being closely supervised by these builders, and
homes are being inspected in various stages by the Red Cross building
adviser, LaNoue said.

Saragosa Foundation to apply for grant

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By Karen Oglesby
Staff Writer

PECOS, AUG. 26, 1987 - The Saragosa Foundation has agreed to apply for
millions of dollars in state funds to build adobe homes and perhaps
start a brick factory in that community.

The foundation is working with Texas Rural Legal Aid attorney David
Horton in conducing on-sight research to determine housing and
employment needs as well as energy needs for living there. Less than the
$3.5 million that was originally estimated is available through the
energy efficiency division of the governor's office for SAVES, Saragosa
Alternative Village Energy Systems.

The exact amount would be determined by the details of the project,
which will take at least a month of research to develop, said Dallas
builder Barbara Harwood.

Mrs. Harwood after the May 22 tornado worked with legislators in passing
SAVES as a project for oil overcharges that had been refunded to the

This weekend, she and oil overcharge specialist Ed Vine met with some 40
Saragosans in that community.

"The people are very excited, and they all want to do their part," she
said. "I have told them there are no guarantees. We have a 60:40, 70:30
chance of do this."

Though the money is there and is designated for the SAVES project, a
detailed proposal must be submitted as application.

The Saragosa Foundation, with the help of rural legal aid, plans to draw
up the proposal after all data that is currently being researched is

"The goal is to submit the application in October," Mrs. Harwood said.
"It probably will be December before it's all settled with the
governor's office, and construction can then start right away.

Though people in Saragosa may rather have an adobe home, many might not
want to wait that long with the possibility that SAVES doesn't happen,
she conceded.

The SAVES project would go toward building any homes still needed at
that point and perhaps in rebuilding the old homes on the west side of
the town that there not affected by the tornado, Mrs. Harwood said.

SAVES would actually be an experiment in energy efficiency by testing
the adobe homes in West Texas' dry, hot climate, Mrs. Harwood said.

"We would be field testing various energy-efficient technologies that
have never been tested in one place before," she said.

After training from project organizers, Saragosans will be monitoring
their new homes to keep track of temperature and comfort levels and
energy savings reflected in utility bills.

"If it works here, the homes may be useful in all the states with the
same climate, which is one-fifth of the United States," Mrs. Harwood

Willie Nelson donates $2,500 to Saragosa fund

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PECOS, SEPT. 3, 1987 - Country singer-songwriter Willie Nelson has sent
another $2,500 to be given to Saragosa children who lost one or both
parents in the May 22 tornado.

The money was sent by Tony Joe White, who last month personally
delivered $5,000 to Saragosa that had been donated by Waylon Jennings
after a benefit concert in Austin.

The Saragosa Foundation will distribute the money to the 23 children who
lost their parents, according to foundation president Tony Gallego.

"The majority of these children are in school, so probably the money
will go toward school clothes and things like that," Gallego said.

Besides that money which was earmarked at White's request, another
$2,640 has been collected in donations to the foundation.

"We've talked about maybe helping the high school kids go to college
with books or tuition."
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