(As told by Phil McAnelly)
The McAnelly family first moved into the Devine area in the late 1870s, although Pleasant McAnelly, the old Texas Patriot [the first McAnelly to arrive], probably rode through this country in the 1830s before Texas was even Texas, as part of the group of men with Ben Milam that drove the Mexican army out of San Antonio in the Battle of Bexar. During the battle, he was standing next to Ben Milam in the Veramendi house when Ben was shot in the head by a Mexican soldier. Pleas picked him up and carried him into a back room. He later said “When I saw his head fall back, I knew he was dead.” Pleas later rode with the Rangers, Bigfoot Wallace, and Lon Moore. He was about twenty five years old at the time. The large, wooden, bullet-riddled doors from the Veramendi house are still on display in the Alamo.
One of Pleasant’s sons, Pleasant Ernest (P.E.) moved into Medina County in the 1870s, and on Oct. 11, 1881, married Mary Jenette Redus, daughter of John and Sally (McLamore) Redus. John Redus was a rancher with land along the Hondo Creek from what is now FM 2200 between Devine and Yancey to Hwy 90 east of Hondo, some fifteen miles north. Mary grew up in the big rock house on the Hondo Creek that is depicted in the mural in Triple C Restaurant in Devine.
P.E. and Mary had eight children, all boys. In 1883, P.E. bought about 2,000 acres on the Hondo Creek between Devine and Yancey on what is now FM 2200. The Old Spanish Road between Eagle Pass and San Antonio ran through part of the ranch. They built a sandstone rock house just west of the Hondo Creek with rock quarried from the big hill on their land just east of the creek. The house still stands and can be seen about one mile from the creek on the south side of the road. The walls are 18 inches thick, which helped keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. There are four rooms, two big and two small, each with its own fireplace. One of the small rooms served as the kitchen; the others as bedrooms and living room. There was a big covered porch all the way across the front. A hand dug cistern just out the back door provided cool water, while a windmill out in front provided water for the livestock and the garden. There was a water trough about five feet long, two feet wide, and eighteen inches high, hollowed out of a single piece of sandstone.
The couple raised cattle, goats, and boys. As boys will do, they spent many hours up on the roof, carving their initials, names, or latest love into the sandstone with a nail. Some can still be seen today. Of particular interest to me is the one that says “Gladden + Hallie” – my grandfather, Gladden Clyde McAnelly, and grandmother, Hallie Loraine Nixon, daughter of John Phillip Nixon. (Hallie’s grandfather was the man for whom the town of Nixon is named.)
John Phillip Nixon was a large rancher in the Yancey area, and he had another ranch in the Tarpley area in northern Medina County. He raised cattle and horses – good horses. He was a founder of the American Quarter Horse Assoc. and owned the fourth horse ever registered, Nixon’s Joe Bailey, a beautiful stud that is still in the pedigree of many ranch horses in Medina County. John Nixon also sold horses to the U.S Army at Ft. Sam Houston during General Pershing’s failed attempt to catch Pancho Villa in 1916. At one point the army failed to pay for the horses, and some seventy years later, my grandmother found the bill and filed suit against the Army for the unpaid debt. She was finally awarded the money, at the agreed upon price decades earlier of $35 each.
Going back to the P.E. McAnelly family of eight boys out on the Hondo Creek, when the boys reached school age, P.E. and Mary decided they needed a home in Devine so the boys could attend school. It was about ten miles from the ranch to Devine, and with no vehicles and only horses and mules for transportation, it was way too far to travel two times a day. So, they bought property and built a house on what is now the corner of Hwy 173 and McAnelly Street where the grey brick house stands across from the Dairy Queen and on the banks of Burnt Boot Creek. Mary would stay in town with the boys, while P.E. would travel back and forth to take care of the ranch. At that time, Burnt Boot flowed most of the time, and there was a big, deep hole right north of the present-day bridge under the big oak tree. That was the favorite swimming hole for many little boys in Devine, and according to my grandfather, Gladden, it is where he learned to swim.
Evidently, cattle rustling was a problem in the late 1880s in Medina County, because P.E. took out an ad in The Devine News that showed a rough drawing of a cow with a “P” brand on its hip, and the warning of “Anyone caught rustling cattle with my brand will be shot.” We never heard of him shooting anyone, so I guess the warning worked.
During their years in Devine in the late 1890s, P.E. bought some land along the railroad on what was at that time the highway between Laredo and San Antonio. The highway came in from the south, paralleling the railroad tracks until it reached Herring Street, where it crossed the tracks and then turned north in front of the old bank building that still stands on what is now Transportation Drive. P.E.’s land was on the west side of the railroad tracks. He and his boys built a brick building that was called the McAnelly Building. Over the years, it served as a drug store, Opera House, and more recently, small businesses and apartments. It is still standing today.
As a citizen of Devine, P.E. was an active member of the Methodist Church, was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge, and served on the school board for Devine. It was while he was DISD School Board President in 1908 that the “new” school on College Street was built. It was complete with an indoor gymnasium, cafeteria, woodworking shop, and a free-standing Homemaking Building where girls learned cooking, sewing, and home management. That school – known for years as the “Green Alamo” – now houses the VFW. The Homemaking Building served until recently as the DISD Administrative office, and it still serves as office space for DISD.
All of the McAnelly boys were very well educated, most attending college, including to a very young Texas A&M. At DHS, my grandfather, Gladden, was Valedictorian of his class in 1909, exactly 80 years before my oldest son, Lance, graduated from Devine. Gladden was an excellent baseball pitcher – left-handed with a tremendous curve and great fastball. When he graduated, he was drafted by some team in the then fledgling Major League Baseball Association. His father, P.E., told him, “A man should not be playing a boys game,” and would not let him go. Unhappy with the decision, Gladden refused to go to college, got married and started ranching. When he told me about it fifty years later, I could still hear the bitterness and disappointment of what may have been. I’m not sure he ever fully forgave his father for that.
Two of P.E.’s sons, Ernest and Redus, later taught manual trades, woodworking, and carpentry skills in the basement shop at “The Green Alamo”. Years later, his granddaughter, Dora Mae McAnelly, would teach Homemaking in that same building. In the next generation, Herb Faseler, Dora Mae’s son, served as the band director for DHS in the early 70’s, and now his granddaughter, Abbie Beadle, teaches English at DHS. I, Phillip A. McAnelly, taught Ag Science, or Vocational Agriculture, at DHS. I retired after thirty-three years to ranch full time on the same land that P.E. had purchased one hundred and twenty years before. My wife, Linda, taught reading, English, and GT, and she taught every grade before becoming Assistant Superintendent and finally Superintendent. Linda retired in 2016 after forty years in education. This represents five generations in the Devine school system, spanning over 110 years.
An interesting side story is about my brand, UF. Many have seen it on the wall at Triple C, and many times I have been asked what it stands for. The story that has been handed down through the generations is as follows. During the time of turmoil before Texas independence, the Mexican army would have small patrols or incursions into Tejas to insure that the settlers were following Mexico’s wishes. Having no supply lines, cold storage, or any other way of safely transporting food for the troops, the soldiers would kill cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, or whatever they wanted that belonged to the settlers. That, of course, caused even more discontent and an even stronger desire to be free. Pleasant, or Pleas, as he was known, must have had some livestock taken. He made his brand UF, which he said stood for “unfinished”, because he “had some unfinished business with Mexico.” Whether that is true or not, I do not know, but it has been passed from one generation to the next for one hundred fifty years.
One of the wonderful things about living in a small rural town is the fact that one has the opportunity to be friends and workmates with other families whose friendships have lasted over one hundred years. As we look back in Devine’s history, we find many of the same names we find here today. We work, play, laugh, cry, and worship with the offspring of those who shared the same experiences decades, even a century, before.