THE JOHN WILLIAM STORY

b. 06-24-1818 d. 09-18-1898

 

Posted by: Frank X. Spencer (10-17-2007)

The J.W. Spencer Family - Member History Report for Spencer, John William

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN WILLIAM SPENCER

FIRST SPENCER IN PRESIDIO, TEXAS

Written by Frank X. Spencer

 

"I have prepared this brief biography from record search at the Presidio County Court House, history books, written stories of the west written by various authors, family interviews I conducted with 3rd and 4th generation Spencer's. Of most importance is the written record from a transcript of John W. Spencer's day-book that was given to me by an unknown source.

 

Although the information contained in this day-book is true, this was a transcript of the book. This day book was given to Maria Luisa Spencer by William Spencer from El Paso. Maria Luisa informed me that she had this day-book and at one time she loaned it out to a son or nephew of William Spencer and she had not seen it since. It is my intention to write about what I have learned from my research and will also quote other authors that interviewed members of the Spencer family and actually had the day-book of J.W. Spencer in their hands and transcribed it.

 

I hope that what I write here will inspire other family member to look for other sources of information, documentation, and pictures, to make the John William Spencer story more complete and factual. It has been my lifelong goal to reflect back and pay tribute to the man that brought the Spencer's of Presidio to life, while setting life long achievements that established the reputable name of Spencer in Texas and northern Mexico. It is with this same enthusiasm that many other members of the Spencer Family embark in a venture of recognizing this great man and bringing many of the descendants of J.W. Spencer together on October 31- November 4, 2007, in Presidio and pay tribute to this great man."

 

John William Spencer was born June 24, 1818 in the state of Indiana and died September 18, 1898 at the Spencer Ranch up river from Presidio, Texas. John William and his brother and a group of men traveled to Mexico City. Little is known about John W. brother as after he made a trip from Mexico City through San Antonio, Mr. John William Spencer lost contact with him. It is believed that the many Spencer's in Mexico City at the present time may be descendants of his. It is believed that many Americans were in Mexico, some of them had been discharged from the American army there. In the spring of 1848, John W. Spencer, Ben Leaton and John D. Burgess met in Chihuahua City and decided to open a business in Presidio. These men were in Mexico during the Mexican war.

John William Spencer married Maria de Jesus Baeza in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico as per Church Record (as per transcript of marriage record of Church of Ojinaga) on the 19th of February 1851, Father J. Antonio Gomez, married the couple. Jesusita Baeza was 18 years of age while J.W. Spencer was 33 years of age. J.W. Spencer and Jesusita had seven boys and three girls, one of the boys named Alexandro died at the age of one year, born in Presidio del Norte State of Chihuahua. Jesusita gave birth to two girls that were given the same name, written by J.W. Spencer in his day-book as Mary Helamana (this name believed to be Mary Salome), the first Mary was born on November 14, 1856 in the State of Texas in Presidio County, and died on April 7, 1858 at Spencer's Ranch in Presidio County. The second child named Mary Helamana (Salome) was born April 1, 1859 in Presidio del Norte. The first son Arcadio born in Presidio Del Norte on January 12, 1852, Alexandro was the second born son, C. B. Spencer born in Presidio County on December 16, 1854, Presciliano born at the Spencer Ranch on January 4, 1861, John Richard born on February 14, 1863, William born on May 5, 1865 and Pedro born April 15, 1866 and died April 29, 1866 an infant, and the youngest of the family was Carolina, born 28, April 1868. Jesusita died soon after she gave birth to Carolina on May 9, 1868, at the age of 35. Jesusita was married to J.W. Spencer for 17 years and gave birth to 10 children.

Two years after the death of Jesusita, J.W. Spencer married his second wife Felicitas Molinar on September 22, 1870; she was the daughter of Juan V. Molinar in Presidio del Norte, Mexico.

 

The following is a direct transcript from a document prepared by an unknown author which I have spoken about in my introduction, unfortunately a page is missing from the copy that I have and the documentary that the author writes about J.W. Spencer begins bSelling the homestead (see transcript of a letter to Mr. Spencer Esq.), he moved to a ranch fifteen miles East from Presidio. In 1854 he and Milton Faver raised stock to fulfill a contract to furnish Fort Davis with meat. As the army encouraged wheat raising, they soon added a flour mill.

 

His grandson, Manuel Spencer, said that he spoke bvery queer Spanish which is evident from his spelling of Spanish names in his day book. He was a man of integrity and instilled in his sons and grandsons the necessity of honesty and character. The reason he did not die wealthy was because he gave so much to the poor.

 

Many people lived on his ranch where, among other occupations, he raised bees. He was inordinately fond of honey himself, and kept one hundred bee boxes.

 

Spencer knew little of fear. Once he and his son William were riding west of Presidio when the boy thought he saw an Indian, however, Mr. Spencer was not alarmed. Shortly his horse was shot from under him. He quickly sprang to the rump of William's horse, and they galloped to safety. Another time he planned a trip to Juarez and was warned of the danger of attack there. He replied that no would harm him, and they did not.

 

By 1860 he had become fairly well established and influential. He was running a general store and hiring sheep herders. (See transcription of his day book)

 

The spirit of the times and the men is illustrated by an incident which occurred in 1867. Among refugees fleeing from Mexico, there was none giant who was caught entering the women's room at Spencer's house. As the Judge, J. Hubbell, had been killed by Indians, the townsmen appointed their own magistrate and jury. John W. Spencer (Plaintiff) was chosen judge. Capt. Moses Kelley, Larkin Landrum, Richard C. Daly and several Mexican citizens, including the powerful blacksmith, Patricio Juarez, formed a jury which soon found the stranger guilty and sentenced him to receive one-hundred lashes. Juarez was appointed executioner. He first tried willow branches, but they broke, so he finished with a bull-whip. This custom was still in use in the 1940's when Juan Ochoa, Deputy Sheriff, spanked obstreperous young men rather than put the m in the untenable jail.

 

Spencer searched for gold for thirty years. One day he and William were going to Cibolo Ranch to visit General Shafter, who had come from Illinois in 1848. A mule ran away and became entangled with a dagger palm. Trailing her, Spencer found the ore for which he had searched so long. He continued to Cibolo Ranch and informed General Shafter.

 

Another author, however, ascribed the original discovery as having occurred in 1860, rather than in 1876 as described above. She stated that at the earlier date, he had sent silver ore for smelting to Mexico which had issued $20.50 per ton ore. The richest vein was discovered on a trip he took in 1883 to Fort Davis. Enroute he stopped to rest in the Chinati Mountains and discovered rich ore, samples of which he took to General Shafter. The Presidio Mining Company was organized in 1885. Another authority state however that the bfour original owners of Shafter Mine-Presidio Mining Co. were General Shafter, Lieutenant Bullis, Lieutenant Wilhelm and John William Spencer.

 

Spencer received an income of $500 per month from the mine, which continued at his death to be paid to his second wife. When she died it was stopped.

 

He was generous with his family and gave his grandsons large sums of gold each month (Manuel Spencer said he received $20, but William Spencer said it was $5 to $10). Conscious of his family responsibilities, he wrote a letter to Mr. Spence, Esq. Concerned about their rights to a homestead. (See Transcripts). He willed half of his estate to his heirs by his first wife and half to his second wife, by whom he had no children. At her death the property was to revert to his children. She, however, failed to render taxes and her property was sold to pay the before her death.

 

John William Spencer is buried across the road from the ruins of his ranch buildings. His grave is covered with a plain slab of marble upon which is inscribed:

 

JOHN W. SPENCER

BORN JUNE 24, 1818

DIED SEPTEMBER 18, 1898

 

UN RECUERDO DE SU ESPOSA

 

Numerous graves of his peopleb also lie in that desolate spot, but they are marked only by large piles of stones, as is the custom of the country. Neither of his wives is there.

 

Much information was gathered with the thoughtful cooperation of two grandsons, Mr. Manuel Spencer of Presidio, and Mr. William Spencer of El Paso. Both imparted many facts and the latter lent his grandfather's papers for transcription. Mr. Carlos Russell of Casa Piedras and Mr. Henry Daly of Presidio, son of Richard Daly, also assisted.  This is a direct transcript from document prepared by unknown author. Although the transcript of J.W. Spencer day-book appears to be factual as Mary Luisa Spencer confirms that such information was contained in the day book she once had in her hands.

 

Based on a transcription of two handwritten pages on ruled letter paper by Gabina Valenzuela Spencer, wife to Frank Spencer son to C. B. Spencer and grandson of J.W. Spencer she wrote: John William Spencer married to Jesusita Baeza in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico on February 4, 1851, age of Jesusita Baeza 18 years born the 14 of June 1833 and died in May 9, 1868. John W. Spencer married the second time to Felicitas Molinar on September 22, 1870.

 

Arcadio Spencer born January 12, 1852 and married to Emiliana Flores.  Carlos Spencer born December 16, 1854 and married to Julianita Ramirez.

 

Salome Spencer born April 1, 1859 and married to Fermin Flote.

 

Precilliano Spencer born January 4, 1861 and married Panchita Rodriguez

 

William Spencer born May 5, 1865 and married to Maria Garcia.

 

Carolina Spencer born April 28, 1868 and married to Pedro Munoz. (Carolina and Pedro had a daughter Francisca who married Miguel Nieto.  Francisca and Miguel had a daughter Emma who married Jose de la Luz Jimenez,  they parented Luis A. , Jose A. and Francisco X. Jimenez)

 

John William Spencer was appointed to Notary Public by Edward Clark Governor of the state of Texas on the fifth day of April, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty one and in the year of the Independence of Texas the Twenty Sixth.