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No resident of Southern Texas is more conversant with its early history than is Charles Brunson, of Columbus, Colorado county, who came to this state more than half a century ago, and has since been actively identified with its industrial interests. He roughed it with the courageous pioneers who labored so hard to develop the varied resources of this region, and to make for themselves and their children pleasant homes in this fruitful and goodly land. A native of Germany, he was born July 9, 1830 in Westphalia. His parents Anton and Louisa (Berg) Brunson spent their entire lives in that Province, and there reared their family of six children, their names being as follows: William, Christina, Christian, Frederick, Charles and Anton.
At the age of fifteen years having received a good common school education, Charles Brunson began the battle of life for himself. With a laudable intention of bettering his fortunes, he made up his mind to emigrate to the new world and taking passage at Bremen landed after an ocean voyage of sixty-three days, in New York city, a stranger in a strange land. On account of an eruption on his face. he was detained several days at the quarantine station, and thus separated from his companions. Leaving New York city, he started westward, going to Buffalo by rail, a part of the way the rails over which he traveled being of wood with strap iron on the top. From Buffalo to Toledo he went by boat from the latter place going by way of the Miami canal to Indiana. At Fort Wayne, Mr. Brunson secured employment with a merchant, who gave him six dollars a month and his board to work in the garden and stable. A few weeks later he began working on a farm, receiving nine dollars a month and his board. Being subsequently taken ill, he went to his sister's home, fourteen miles from Fort Wayne, to recuperate. When well he worked for a time in a rock quarry, receiving $20 a month wages, but being stricken with a fever had to return to his sister's. On recovering from his illness, Mr. Brunson worked for a while with his brother-in-law, after which he drove horses on the tow-path of the Miami canal for a few months. Going thence to Logansport Ind., he next secured employment in a sawmill, his wages being $12 a month and board. His employers soon after transferred him to their iron works, lying four miles from the city, but not satisfied with his position there, he resigned.
Returning to Logansport, Mr. Brunson found employment in a hotel stable, where he soon became acquainted with the proprietors and drivers of various stage lines and after a while began driving the stage running from Plymouth to La Porte. From that time until 1853, with the exception of a few months when he drove a bus in Cincinnati. Ohio, Mr. Brunson was engaged in stage driving in Indiana, a part of the time driving between different points on the road leading from Detroit to Chicago, and a part of the time driving on the National Road, which was built by the United States Government, and extended westward from Columbus, Ohio, to St. Louis, Mo. In 1853. hearing of the big wages paid stage drivers in New Orleans he started for that city going by rail to Jeffersonville, Ind., thence by boat to New Orleans arriving there when yellow fever was prevalent and dangerous. He immediately found employment, at $20 per month and board, as bus driver, but, the report coming a short time later that there was a great demand for expert stage drivers in Texas, which was being rapidly settled, and in which there were very few railroads, he started by steamer for Galveston. From there he went to Port Lavaca, thence to Victoria. and from there to Gonzales. where he secured employment at $40 a month and board, to drive a four-horse stage from that place to Lockhart, the fare between the places being $3.50, or ten cents a mile with extra charges for other than hand baggage. At the end of three months Mr. Brunson went to Waco. then a small village, and from there, and from other points in Texas, drove stage until 1855. when he had chills and fever. and made up his mind to return to Indiana. Unfortunately his whole wealth at that time was the $i80 owing him by the proprietor of the stage route, and being unable to collect the amount, he was forced to continue his former employment, driving over various routes in Southwestern Texas, becoming familiar with all of its territory, there being scarce a hamlet in this section of the state in which be had not acquaintances and friends.
At the time of the breaking out of the Civil war Mr. Brunson was in the town of Clinton, and a short time later he went to Corpus Christi. making an overland trip, and there met a Mr. Stanley. who induced him to go on a trading expedition to Brownsville where he remained forty days. In the fall of i861 he made up his mind to enlist but was, requested to remain in civil life to assist in protecting the women and children. Soon afterwards he made arrangements with a Mr. Schenck to open a livery stable in Monterey Tex., and started with horses and carriages for that place, but, on account of the illness of Mr. Scheuck, he was intercepted on the way. and returned to Columbus. In July.1862, Mr Brunson was engaged to drive the stage between Austin and Bastrop and continued thus employed for six months. In January, 1863,. he entered. the employ of a Mr.. Sawyer, who offered him $75 a month and board to haul supplies to Louisiana. Loading up at Hempstead, he started for Vermilion, but at the Sabine river met Mr. Sawyer returning, the Louisianians having been driven back by the Union troops, who took all of the provisions. In Polk county, finding good grazing land. Mr. Brunson stopped there a month, and then started for Houston, which was a mere hamlet. Camping for a while on the present site of the union station, he loaded with cotton, and started for Mexico with one hundred and seven yoke of cattle and fifteen wagons in his train. Once he received orders to unload, as they were to run the blockade to Corpus Christi- At the end of two weeks he was ordered to reload, as the blockade was impregnable, and proceed to Van Zandt county. andl from there to Eagle Lake. where he arrived on Christmas day.
The ensuing year Mr. Brunson made a trip, with fifty-six yoke of oxen, to San Antonio and return, to Rio Grande City and return, and to Laredo. On his return from the latter place, he struck camp in the bottom lands, at Horton, and there remained for a time. He was ordered, in the spring of 1865, to Brenham to get merchandise that had run the blockade, and was told by the merchants to trade the merchandise for horses, mules, or anything that would bring cash. When he was about twenty miles from Corsicana the break up came, and the country was filled with jayhawkers, and roving bands of desperadoes. He was in great danger of losing his merchandise, but friends came to his rescue, assisting him in secreting his goods until the danger was past. his goods being stored with a Mr. Love in Fairfield. Returning to Columbus. Mr. Brunson filled contracts for hauling railroad ties and merchandise to Austin with ox-teams. after which he made a trip with government freight from Alieyton to San Antonio. In 1866 he hauled lumber from Spring Creek, Harris county, to Columbus, Gonzales. and Eagle Lake. When through with this contract, his employer owed him $1,500, and he gave Mr. Brurison power of attorney to sell the teams, which included fifty-six yoke of oxen, wagons, etc. Selling these at public auction, he got his money, losing nothing in the transaction.
Desiring then to locate permanently. Mr. Brunson established himself in Columbus as a dispenser of wines and liquors, that being in recon- struction days, and has since continued the business successfully. He was first located on the northeast corner of the block south of the court house, the northwest corner, where the bank now stands, being then occupied by a hotel. It was during his first year there that the Hon. Clay Hubbard was shot in his place of business. Mr. Hubbard had some words with a stranger at the hotel, and later at the bar. The stranger went away. procured a gun. and was seen approaching by Mr. Hubbard, who rushed in and asked Mr. Brunson for a gun, as he was unarmed. Mr. Brunson had no gun, but he tried to assist Mr. Hubbard into the pool room, but he would come out. and as he did so the stranger fired the fatal shot. then mounted his horse and started off. The horse stumbled, threw his rider, who escaped on foot. The following day the United States soldiers found the murderer and shot him.
Advantageously located in the business center of Columbus, Mr. Brunson now occupies a brick block which he erected in 1891. It is 33 feet wide, 90 feet deep, two stories in height. the second floor containing a well appointed opera house. In 1896 he erected the adjoining brick building, which is 26 feet by 90 feet, two stories in height. He has a commodious residence, made of brick, which he built in 1870. and in his pleasant home entertains his many friends most hospitably.
In 1871 Mr. Brunson married Margaret Hoffman, who was born in Germany, and came to America with her parents, who died soon after their arrival in this country. Fraternally Mr. Brunson is a member of Caledonia Lodge No. 68, A. F. & A. M.; of Columbus Lodge NO. 51. I. 0. 0. F: and an honorary member of Hermann's Sons.
A Twentieth Century History of Soutwest Texas, Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1907 pages 358-361
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