El Capote Cabin

 The first of the colorful characters to lay claim to El Capote Cabin was a captain in the American Revolution from Avignon, France, Joseph (later changed to José) de la Baume, eldest son of a French count.

I don’t think I have ever seen a cowboy that didn’t like Western History. I hope you enjoy this for Don José was my 6th Great Grandfather and he was, indeed, a “colorful character.”

Actually, he was a Captain in the French army (Layette’s Army) during the revolution and was present at Lexington when the British surrendered.

From there, he went to Louisiana (which was, at the time, property of Spain) and became a Spanish subject and a Captain in the Spanish Army. 

Then, when Mexico won its independence from Spain, he became a Mexican citizen.

Finally, as a very old man, he was still alive when Texas won its independence from Mexico and therefore became a Texian. His home was in San Antonio and only a couple of blocks from the Alamo (about where the Chamber of Commerce Building stands today).

Born a Frenchman, he became a Spaniard, a Mexican and a Texian but was never a citizen of these united States. — jtl

via the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech Univerity

Near the Guadalupe River bottom country, where pecan, elm, hickory, oak, cypress, cottonwood and walnut trees grew, the one-room El Capote Cabin was built. The rustic dwelling was part of the Capote Six Leagues, a stock farm located upon a plateau between the Oakville Escarpment and the Austin Chalk Cuesta. Spanish for “the cape,” El Capote was named for the nearby hills that spread out like a flowing cloak.

The cabin was built in one county that split into two—Gonzales and Guadalupe—right through Capote property. Further, the cabin existed under the governance of three flags: the Republic of Texas, the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. El Capote’s owners engaged in dangerous lifestyles, including trail drives and wars with Indians and factions from Mexico, England and Cuba. The old cabin’s story contains more adventure and mystery than any other structure at the National Ranching Heritage Center.

The first of the colorful characters to lay claim to El Capote Cabin was a captain in the American Revolution from Avignon, France, Joseph (later changed to José) de la Baume, eldest son of a French count. After the war, de la Baume received from the Mexican government six leagues (26,568 acres) in Green DeWitt, a Texas land grant colony. Throughout the duration of his ownership, de la Baume maintained his home in San Antonio, never residing on El Capote soil.

The de la Baume heirs maintained ownership of the Capote property but rented it to French Smith. He made improvements to the land, adding various structures and outbuildings, and it is speculated that he could have built El Capote Cabin during this time.

French Smith was a well known person in the Republic of Texas era. An Indian fighter, who also faced Mexican forces, he became a popular political figure. A story told that Smith was in a party sent to rescue three women taken by Comanches in the Linnville Raid. Indians shot the women, but one survived when her steel corset stay deflected the bullet. In 1846, Smith was made a member of the first district court in Seguin.

After a few years of ownership, in 1844, the de la Baume children were forced to sell out after failing to pay land taxes on their inheritance. Michael Erskine, who was an early cattleman in Texas, acquired the land and moved with his family to the Capote property. In 1854, Erskine mortgaged El Capote land to put together a cattle drive to the gold fields of California. Erskine invested his significant profits in mining ventures, all of which failed. He returned to El Capote five years after he had left and for the remainder of his life put together trail drives to Louisiana. Erskine died in 1862 returning from a cattle drive to New Orleans.

The property later was sold to Judge Leroy Gilbert Denman, who was appointed as associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court by Gov. James S. Hogg. It was Judge Denman’s grandson who made a gift of El Capote Cabin to the National Ranching Heritage Center.

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