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The Story Begins …

While studying several sets of the Federal Census in Victoria County, Texas, I happened upon a remarkable story. It has the makings of a novel — a strong heroine, a troupe of colorful characters, a convoluted plot, and cowboys! And it’s set along the San Antonio River in Texas, of course, in the 1800s

The lady in the hat with bow on her blouse is probably Betsy Carlos. It's possible that Will Sample is on the left behind her. Perhaps one or more of the other men shown were her sons. Photo made before 1910 at the Mount Zion Church on the San Antonio River Road.

Betsy Garza/Carlos

The old San Antonio River Road wandered its way between the “San Antone” and Guadalupe Rivers, taking travelers across original Land Grants where Irish settlers and their Tejano neighbors had established large ranches. Early settlers in this area were the Sidecks, Fagans, Teals, Byrnes, Terrells, and de la Garzas. Betsy’s story begins on the Carlos Rancho, where she is listed as one of three slaves belonging to Carlos de la Garza in 1860.

Census records for Justice Precinct 3/Victoria tell quite a story when you stack them chronologically and lay the records out like the River Road meandered.

Betsy’s household grows with children, same as at the neighboring ranches. With Internet resources available at our fingertips, we can find marriage records, cemeteries, deeds, Wills … and even photos! All help to unravel the story of this remarkable woman.

About this Story

If you have grown up along the River Road and know the ranchers’ names and stories (as I have), it will be easy to keep everyone sorted! If you are a descendent of Betsy’s, you will know all of this and more. I will say, however, that for all the familiarity I have with the characters and their history, I am still finding surprising morsels on a regular basis.