Chapter 1 - One Woman's Legacy

(This rendering is a very rough draft requiring many clarifications to the train of thought , as well as grammatical corrections)


    This story starts with a glimpse into a Christian legacy, left behind by a woman named Henrietta Chamberlain King. All Godly legacies are founded on the legacy of Jesus Christ. However, God can and does build future legacies, on those which come before. To do this, He must sort out those actions of believers in the "here and now", which are in line with His will. Those gleaned Godly actions will not only start building that individual Christian's legacy, but will also help perpetuate the legacies of future believers. Henrietta's legacy was certainly one which perpetuated my own, as well as the legacies of many other downtrodden believers. However, as strange as it may sound, her unbelieving husband, Richard King, also became an unwitting contributor. As with Pharaoh, in the time of Mosses, God was able to use this vessel of wrath, despite himself. (Rom.9:21-23) However, it was the reflection of God's light, coming from his wife, which brought enlightenment to Richard's soul. Through this enlightenment, Richard was, in turn, able to remain a blessing, to his wife, their family, and many others, who depended upon him, throughout his entire life. Yet, it was the light generating power inside the born-again spirit of Henrietta, who carried things forward, breaching time, moving her husband's earthly legacy into the realm of the eternal. Many years after her death in 1925, her living works of faith would touch me and the men of my 1/18th Infantry Battalion of the First Infantry Division, in an incredibly unique and miraculous way.

    Let me now take the reader on a journey back in time to when this woman's legacy was about to be birthed. The year was 1850. The town was Brownsville, Texas.17-year-old Henrietta was living in an old worn-out river boat which was docked on the banks of the Rio Grande River with her father, her stepmother and three younger brothers. The rancid smelly residue of animal skins and sorghum molasses had been scrubbed away enough with lye soap from the decks of the old steamboat “Whiteville” to be tolerable smelling enough for its new tenants to carry on their daily activities without gagging. The Chamberlain family had just moved there from Tennessee, and Henrietta's father, Hiram, had rented this dilapidated riverboat because he had been unable to find suitable quarters in town. The boat not only served as a floating residence for the reverend and his large family, but it also served as a church meeting place which quickly became the beginnings of the first protestant church in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Though they had moved from Tennessee, Hiram was not from Tennessee. He was from Vermont and he and his family were certainly no strangers to frequent moves in a time when most people lived and died within a fifty-mile radius of where they were born. Hiram had been born into a family of Presbyterian ministers whose faith in Christ has been described by some historians as an “intense religiosity”. Many times, that is used as a satanic “spin phrase” to describe those Christians who diligently seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives. Hiram was a missionary at heart and had been a pastor to many people in places throughout Missouri and Tennessee but the greatest thing he would ever do for me, and the men who served with me in the 1/18th Infantry Battalion, was to be a great father to his daughter, Henrietta.

    You see, Henrietta had lost her mother at the age of three and shortly after that traumatic experience she had also lost her first stepmother. This could have been enough to send this young girl’s soul into a tailspin except for two things. Number one, even in the extremely lonely times after her mother’s death, Henrietta had allowed the Holy Spirit to develop in her a deep and abiding love for Christ. Secondly, she had also been the beneficiary of a bedrock love coming from her father, Hiram. He never failed to take every opportunity to encourage his daughter’s relationship with Christ. Just one example of this was his bold approach to furthering Henrietta's schooling. When she turned fourteen, though they lived in Missouri at the time, he sent Henrietta to a girl’s school in Holly Cross, Mississippi. This was a rare step for a father to take during this period in American history and just one more proof of the strong functional love Hiram had for his daughter. It was these two loving relationships, God and her earthly father, working in tandem, which built an incredibly strong foundation in Henrietta's soul. That foundation allowed her to blossom into a Christ inspired force, which would later richly bless many downtrodden families living in the Rio Grande Valley.  

    It was a sunlit February day in Brownsville. Henrietta busied herself on the decks of the "Ole Whiteville" with routine activities of the day. I am sure Henrietta's willowy shape, exquisitely chiseled facial features as well as her sparkling brown eyes would have caught the eye of almost every young man who had occasion to be on the docks that day. Most, however, would have just looked and marveled and that would be that. Why? Because her attractiveness was more than physical and that “more” part could also be quite intimidating. In her was a bold spiritual magnificence, which at first glance could stop a carnal soul in its tracks, and most, if not all the young men on these docks were carnal. As a matter of fact, on this fine February day, one more of that sort of carnal young man was coming around a downstream river bend at this very instant, but unlike those other carnal souls, he would quickly announce his presence in "no uncertain terms".

    The river itself is not much more than 100 feet across and still is the dividing line between the Unites States and Mexico. In my mind’s eye it’s easy to imagine Henrietta stopping her chores and joining her younger siblings along with some of the other renters on the “Whiteville” to gaze at an approaching riverboat slowly making its way upstream. Any newcomers to the area, including the Chamberlain family, would have wanted not to miss the sight of another riverboat as it passed by. Maybe it would dock beside them bringing new faces to their world. That would be better still. Now that the war with Mexico had ended there were just not that many of these big monsters traveling up and down this river. Long gone were the two American armies which needed to be resupplied by them. Yes sir, they were quite the sight for the average person of that era, and most had now stopped what they were doing entirely, because this one was most assuredly trying to dock. As it came closer and closer, the distinctive slap, slap, slap sound of its paddle boards hitting the water got louder and louder causing more heads to turn and look that way. However, as it approached the landing, suddenly the big wheel stopped, and the bow turned slightly starboard toward the "Whiteville". The wheel then reversed itself. River current caught the bow and pushed it further starboard. The big paddle now reversed itself again pushing the boat forward. Obviously, its pilot was struggling to run the narrow gap between the “Whiteville” on its starboard side and the dock on its port side. Men were now waiting on the docks to catch the big mooring lines thrown to them by several men on the boat. The space occupied by the “Whiteville” created a very narrow passage indeed for the twenty-five-year-old captain and owner of the “Colonel Cross” who was also its pilot. However, he finally made the tight squeeze without ramming into the “Whiteville on his right or the end of the docks on the left.

    Now that the threat of a damaging collision was over, the young "Captain Richard King" could “vent the boilers” and I am not talking about the boilers on the “Colonel Cross”. I am talking about the volatile boilers of his own soul. You see, Richard was a perfectionist through and through. That was the one carnal human trait which defined his character the most. Like every perfectionist, he was convinced that the pursuit of perfectionism would save him and eventually be the vehicle to get him to a place where he could fill the sink hole inside himself. It was a sink hole which had been expanded greatly after being abandoned by his poverty-stricken parents at the age of nine. He believed that striving to do a thing perfectly was the one thing which would allow him to not only survive but thrive in what had proven at an early age to be a very hostile world. For Richard, the pursuit of perfection was "akin" to righteousness. It had curried the favor of those who had made his life easier, and it was responsible for taking him from being a stow-a-way to cabin boy and from being a cabin boy to a river boat pilot and finally from a pilot to a river boat captain and the owner of his very own riverboat, the "Colonel Cross". Like all satanic lies the belief that success in life can be achieved by working hard to do everything just a little bit better is partly true, but only partly. Now, Richard was about to exhibit in no "uncertain terms" the frustration that comes to a perfectionist when he crosses paths with imperfection. You see, perfectionists expect everyone else to be perfect too. When that does not happen, a perfectionist can get very mad, and Richard was now as mad as mad could be. Whoever parked the “Whiteville” in his way was not perfect or they would have moored the boat in another spot to give more room for other boats to dock. That is what he would have done and that is what Richard was thinking should have been done, in a perfect world of his own making.

    An angry spirit now arose within him like an obedient servant. His face flushed and his big burly hands turned white as he grasped the side rails on the deck beside the wheelhouse. He bent slightly forward, looking directly at the “Whiteville” as if it were a person, before he “let fly”. Then, out it came. It was a string of the same cursing comments, spewing forth, which had been used on the waterways of America for years and which I am sure are still being used today. Isn’t it strange how those “curse words” never change? As his loud barrage blasted verbal shrapnel across the decks of the “Ole Whiteville”, no one on the “Whiteville” dared to answer back or even to look his way. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities to imagine some mothering souls grasping their children and leading them into the interior of the "ole Whiteville" in a desperate attempt to shield them from such language. At this point, however, there was one person on the old steamboat who was not willing to ignore such a public display of vile behavior and she certainly was not going to run from it. Henrietta's brown eyes flashed, as the first vulgar rantings from Richard’s booming voice struck her ears. As others cowered before this disgusting display of filthy bellowing, she immediately acted. In my imagination, I can still see her running from the afterdeck to a spot on the “Whiteville’s midsection and then stopping directly across from the "cussin" captain as she initiated her "one woman" counterattack. Standing straight, with hands on hips, I see her immediately delivering a returning salvo of well-chosen words, while looking across the way directly into the captain’s eyes. Those few piercing words, whatever they were, spoken in grammatically perfect English and delivered in the tone and phrasing of a rebuking angel instantly penetrated the very core of Richard’s black heart. It was as though he had been struck by the hand of God and Richard King’s life would never be the same again while in the presence of the woman who now stood before him. Humbled, he stood silent. What could he say? He just gazed into the young woman’s eyes for an instant before turning away, as a strange sensation of calmness came over him, defying all human logic. Then, like an enraged beast which had just been calmed by the voice of its master, he simply faded away from the young woman's view and maneuvered behind some stacked cargo crates to hide in the shadows on the other side of the wheelhouse. This was the first meeting of “the beauty and the beast” and it was a meeting which would have enormous consequences for myself and the men of the 1/18th Infantry Battalion. Also just like in the story of “The Beauty and The Beast” Richard instantly fell passionately "in love" with Henrietta. 

    Richard couldn’t hide his feelings from his good Christian friend Mifflin Kenedy. A little later, after the incident on the docks, those feelings came oozing out while discussing an important business opportunity with Mifflin. As the business conversation took a pause, Richard nonchalantly started "pumping" Mifflin for more information about the new minister's family in town, while at the same time trying to disguise his true intentions for asking. Now, Mifflin knew almost everyone in Brownsville so he would have been the right person to question about the arrival of new people in town, but Richard's ruse had not fooled him in the least. The good Christian believer, Mifflin Kenedy, was no body's fool. He knew almost as soon as Richard opened his mouth, despite Richard's attempts at asking oblique questions, that his young friend had been smitten by the Reverend's daughter. He soon afterward introduced Richard to Henrietta on the streets of Brownville, but he also did something else which was especially important. He coached this “rough as a cob” riverboat captain on how to proceed on a course of action to get to know Henrietta better. Richard’s pierced heart had no choice but to heed Mifflin’s suggestions. One of those suggestions meant that Hiram Chamberlain’s church meetings would be occasionally attended, by a rough looking, rough talking and awkwardly un-churched young river boat captain who had one thing on his mind each time he darkened the church doors and it had nothing to do with improving his relationship with the God of heaven and earth. Somehow, some way, he had to make Henrietta his wife. It took four years, but he did it and I must admit that I can become a little judgmental of Henrietta's choice of husbands here, especially since the apostle Paul advised Christians to not become unequally yoked. However, as I review the outcome of this marriage and the positive impact it had on other people’s lives, including my own, I find it necessary to remind myself that Paul also said that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose. Henrietta loved God and I also believe she was called according to God’s purposes. On the other hand, if Christianity were a crime there simply would not be enough historical evidence to convict Richard of that crime.

    I believe that it is important to my story, to talk about the unbeliever, Richard King, just a bit more.  Like many people, for so many years, circumstances and fear dominated almost every major move Richard made in life and yet he was one of the roughest, toughest hombres to ever come down the pike. His emigrant parents, while trying to scratch out a living in New York, apprenticed him to a New York Jeweler at the age of nine. The resulting abandonment issues caused by that separation plagued Richard for life. Since he had been thrown off an emotional cliff by his parents this first time it became much easier for him to jump off the next few cliffs all by himself. He made his first jump at the age of eleven and ran from the jeweler. He became a stow-a-way on the Yankee Schooner “Desdemona”. He was discovered, but his demeanor, even at this young age, impressed the captain enough for that captain to arrange for him to go to work for a riverboat captain friend of his on the Gulf Coast, instead of turning him in to the authorities. Richard was a fugitive of sorts who could have been returned to the jeweler in short order, maybe for a small reward, but that did not happen. That riverboat captain was also impressed by Richard’s honest character, hardworking nature and intelligence. He was so much impressed that he unselfishly arranged for him to go to work for another friend of his, who he thought could better mentor him. He was right. Captain Holland was the man’s name, and he was an educated Connecticut man who taught Richard to read and write. This man treated Richard more like a son than a deckhand. When Richard was in his mid-teens Captain Holland sent him to live with his two elderly sisters in Connecticut. There, he got some formal schooling but although he did well in school, after only eight months, Richard was ready to make another jump. I strongly suspect that one of the underlying reasons for him abruptly “jumping ship” on the sisters was the fear of being discovered as a runaway apprentice. Connecticut was close to New York and the jeweler he ran away from. The newspapers were full of ads offering rewards for runaway apprentices. A misspoke word in the ears of the wrong person could have easily led to his arrest and return to the jeweler.

    By the time he ran away from the sisters, Richard had already learned that working a riverboat, not only provided a sheltered environment of sorts for a boy like him, but also provided security from being caught and sent back into what amounted to nothing more than child enslavement, since the jeweler had been using him as a household servant instead of teaching him the arts of his craft. A riverboat was isolated from the general public and thus prying eyes, because it was always moving and never staying in one location long. At the same time knowing that he always had a hot meal and a bed to sleep in, had to be very comforting. He also got paid, not much, but a little. How many boys his age, with no parents, could find a way to have food on the table every day and earn steady wages to boot? To a highly intelligent adolescent who had been abandoned by his parents at such an early age, riverboat life had to be comfortable, safe and liberating. It was a “no brainer” for a brawny quick-witted kid like Richard. Shortly after leaving the sisters, he found work as a deckhand on Captain Henry Penny’s boat in Florida during the Seminole Indian Wars. He spent the rest of his teen years working in these Florida waterways. He worked his way up the latter to become a pilot in his early twenties which was no small feat. An achievement like that obviously required a person to have a much better than average intellect to be able to remember how to navigate sandbars, currents and obstructions dotting the long stretches of river. It also required uncanny attention to detail. Also, to possess the wherewithal to successfully navigate the social order as well as the technical operations of riverboat life and emerge at the top of the pecking order speaks volumes about Richard’s ability to adapt.

    It was the Quaker, Mifflin Kenedy, who was responsible for Richard moving to Texas. Richard and Mifflin had met when Mifflin was captain of the riverboat “Champion” in Florida and Richard was the boat’s pilot. Later, Mifflin, left Richard behind, while following repairs, being made to the “Champion” in Pittsburg. There, he was offered a job, by the Army Quarter Master to become Captain of the new riverboat “Corvette”, which was being built at the same location. Mifflin quickly accepted the job, which required him to immediately take the newly built “Corvette” to Texas. Shortly after arriving at the Rio Grande River in Texas, he began carrying supplies and troops up and down the river for the Army, during the war with Mexico. Not long after Mifflin arrived in Texas, he wrote to Richard and ask him to join him, as his pilot for the "Corvette". Richard accepted the offer and that’s how Richard wound up in Texas. When Godly legacies are being built, there is always a Christian working behind the scenes in the "woodwork" somewhere.

    However, on that February day in 1850, when Richard looked into Henrietta’s eyes for the first time, he was floundering financially. He was working harder than ever but slowly sinking under a tidal wave of circumstances. Before the war ended, Richard became Captain of the “Colonel Cross” but he soon lost that job, when the war ended. To survive, he invested some of his savings and bought a flop house, which provided lodging and spirits for "down and outers" and drunkards. He did this, while waiting on the government to auction off the well-worn surplus riverboats, which were no longer needed by the Army. These were being disposed of by a slow-moving government auction sale, which finally took place in April of 1849. Richard purchased the “Colonel Cross” for $750. It had originally cost the government $14,000. This seemed like just the right break. There was no doubt that he was the most skilled Captain and pilot on the Rio Grande, but all that made little difference. Within his own strength he was now faced with having to build a business in a dying post war economy. This time his efforts alone were not going to save him. This time his hard work would not be enough. Richard needed a blessing from God. However, in this church age, other than salvation, Godly blessings just don't happen for people of this fallen world, except through believers. Devilish counterfeits to God's blessings happen all the time, but Godly blessings do not. The river freight business had shrunk considerably. By the time he met Henrietta in February of the next year he was barely scratching out a living. Financially, he was inching toward the "rocks" abroad an old worn-out river boat. To put it bluntly, Richard had now reached the most desolate time of his entire life and yet he was about to become a major participant in a legacy too grand for his carnal mind to grasp. Many would probably say that the most desperate time in young Richard's life was when he was given away by his parents, or when he had run away from the jeweler to become a stow-a-way on the “Desdemona”. "But oh no”! His most desperate time was that period of his life just before he laid eyes on Henrietta. It was in this moment in time that he had reached his deepest decent into those most desperate places of the soul. As he stood cussing at the “Ole Whiteville” that day, for being in his way, I am sure that he had no idea how close he was to having his soul completely succumb to a hopeless way of life. He was in the deepest depths of despair. He was fighting the river in a broken-down old riverboat and the river was winning. If the river had won there would have been no living, breathing legacy to follow, infusing life into the personal legacies of so many other souls in the years to come. However, God is merciful. He threw Richard a lifeline and her name was Henrietta.

    There is no mistaking the exact moment when Richard King changed from being a looser to being a winner. You see, the winning started the very day he saw Henrietta for the first time. Before that time, his ability to start winning at life did not exist. Winning for him only existed through the light radiating from the Godly Henrietta and other Christians, like his friend Mifflin Kenedy. From that very first moment, on the docks, as he stood "cussing away", his life started to change for the better. As he stood, cussing like a mad man, Henrietta and the others were not just hearing the ranting of an angry man. They were listening to the cries of a hopeless man, who was trapped in a very barren existence. Yet, something else was also happening on that February day in 1850. As Richard “God damned” this and he “God damned” that, “The Lord of All” was watching. He knew the end from the beginning. He knew the desolation of Richard’s soul. “The Lord of All” also saw the agony of being abandoned by his mother and father and the crushed soul which that abandonment had produced. God saw what lay underneath Richard’s festered scares. God also saw the future and knew Richard’s mind. God loved Richard. God knew that sadly, cussing and fist fighting his way through life, would be the only way Richard would choose to vent his frustrations. Richard would never turn to Him. He would always find a way to vent his anger, himself, but at least he would vent it, before it turned into bitterness. Believe it or not, God can work in a limited way with someone like Richard. I am not saying that He will work in an eternal way, but He will work in a limited natural way. You see, it is bitterness, not anger, which chokes out one’s ability to feel compassion for others and leaves little room for God to do anything in that bitter person's life here on this earth. I am not talking about an eternal solution here. I am only describing a temporary one. Despite all his volatility, all his life, God knew that Richard would never become bitter and thus never lose his ability to feel natural love for others. All his life he loved "Etta". All his life he loved his family. All his life he loved his friends. All his life he loved the people who tended to his ranch and “let me tell you this". Loving others is a close second to loving God”. Yes, God knew that Richard would reject Him as his Lord, for the rest of his life, thus choosing to dwell in hell for all eternity, but still God loved him. If only Richard could have taken God up on the offer, which He makes available to every human being. However, I don’t believe he ever did. I hope I am wrong. 

    Amazingly, in February 1850 miracle number one happened for Richard very soon after he first met Henrietta. Here is one reason for that to happen. Richard's youthful soul was still largely untarnished and he had just entered into the presence of a very powerful light in Christ, when he entered into a friendship with the Chamberlain family, which began to illuminate his soul. Today, many very remarkable and accomplished souls in this generation are experiencing that same phenomena at work in their own lives due to their associations with believers. However, many of these remarkable, but spiritually unborn people, are not aware that these fruitful associations even exist. Yet, these kinds of relationships are the lifelines that hold civilization together. Ignorance of this building block of civilized society is leading America and other nations of the world into a very tumultuous time. It seems that it is going to get worse before it gets better. However, it will get better as God's ministers gain the understanding necessary to first live in relationship, themselves, to The Risen Christ and then boldly proclaim the benefits of that understanding to others.   

    God used Mifflin and Henrietta at about the same time to rescue the rebellious Richard King. Mifflin approached Richard with a new business opportunity around the same time that he introduced Richard to Henrietta on the streets of Brownsville. Coincidence? I do not think so! The riverboat business faced stiff competition. Even one of the area’s richest merchants, Charles Stillman, who owned several boats, was feeling the pain. Business was so bad that after the war ended, Mifflin had gotten off the river entirely and was trying his hand at land speculation, which didn't go so well either. To aggravate the business climate in the area even more, many young Americans, who normally would have been bringing their new blood to this American Frontier, were bypassing Texas altogether and heading straight to the gold fields in California. Then it happened and it happened in a way that can only happen through God’s divine intervention. Stillman ask Mifflin to join him as a partner in his riverboat business, hoping that by joining forces with the knowledgeable Captain Kenedy he could turn the riverboat part of his business dealings around and start making money on that segment of his business dealings again. Mifflin’s stellar reputation must have preceded him, for Stillman to approach him with such an offer. Mifflin agreed, under one condition. That condition was that Stillman would also include his good friend Richard King as a partner in the deal. Mifflin’s innate understanding of the riverboat business was remarkable. He realized that his rough neck perfectionist friend was just the kind of person needed to ramrod the "day to day" operations with him. He also knew he could not handle the business operations on that large expanse of river by himself. He needed another "hard driving" person whom he could trust and that was Richard. Stillman agreed, so Mifflin approached Richard with the proposition and Richard accepted under one condition which was a huge one.

    During the war Richard had fought this river with riverboats that were designed for rivers back east, not the Rio Grande. They were underpowered and were also prone to running aground in the swallow waters upstream of Brownsville. To keep this from happening cargo would have to be off loaded and hauled further overland causing the costs of hauling freight to skyrocket. Richard was emphatic in his response to Mifflin’s offer. As a Rio Grande River pilot who had attended the river’s "school of hard knocks" for some time now, and a perfectionist to boot, he would not consider taking on a venture like this by doing things the same old way. He then gave Mifflin his critical assessment of what he knew needed to happen if this business venture was to have any chance of success. It was a very tall order. They would need a much sturdier, swallower draft riverboat which could go further upriver into swallow water, and it needed a more powerful steam engine to buck the strong river currents. To make matters worse this would only solve half the problem. To solve the other half of the problem, they would need another boat with a much different design to brave the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That boat would be used to relay cargo from the sailing ships at the Port of Brazos Santiago on the Gulf of Mexico to a terminal about 15 miles upriver at a place called White Ranch. Two boats like these would cost a large sum of money. It would be more money than Mifflin or Richard had seen in their entire lives. However, it was exactly what was needed, and Richard was adamant about it. Fortunately, they had a partner in Charles Stillman who was the business shark of his day. He agreed to provide the financing to build both riverboats. The order and timing of these events were not just coincidence or good luck. They were the divine intervention of God and when God intervenes, that intervention always has consequences which reach much further into the future than anything we can imagine. As I have already mentioned, the timing also coincided exactly with Richard meeting the Chamberlain family for the first time. Stillman approved the idea, and the partnership was formed. Mifflin followed the construction at the Pittsburg Shipyard while Richard stayed behind to oversee the day-to-day business on the Rio Grande. He also attended the church in Brownsville every chance he got just to get to know Henrietta and her family better. And, oh yes, he probably got involved in one or two fist fights while doing some heavy drinking on the side just to let off steam.

    During this next four-year period while Richard forced himself to tread extremely uncomfortable territory, to win the hand of Etta, his fortunes in the South Texas business arena soared to a completely new level, through his partnership with Stillman and his friend Mifflin. In just a short time the company monopolized the steamboat business on the Rio Grande River. With this new level of business success, his personal standing in the area was elevated to new heights, which few men of that era, who were cut from his mold, would ever experience. The respect he garnered on both sides of the Rio Grande also grew exponentially. Here is the short version of why that happened. You see, every important “shaker and mover” in the area would have an occasion at some point to come in contact or at least know of the young Captain of the shiny new riverboat “Grampus” and these were not just white Americans but influential Mexicans also. The border was a cauldron of mixed races with passions which suited a man like King well. He was now in his prime. He would never be more fit or better looking or smarter than at this moment in his life. Adversities from childhood until now had shaped him into the almost perfect prototype of a man to fit the mold which was now beginning to shape his future. During this period, he kept moving up and down the Rio Grande River which allowed him the rare opportunity to not only meet many different types of people, but to also stay in contact with them. He got to know soldiers, Mexican revolutionaries, Mexican and American merchants, politicians, lawyers and Texas Rangers, just to name a few. He also developed a strong connection to a host of working-class people who hauled freight, built warehouses, worked as deckhands and as laborers, doing everything from loading his freight to keeping the woodpiles stacked high with the mesquite wood necessary to fire his boilers on the “Grampus” and the “Comanche”. Most everyone who took the time to get to know him found it easy to connect with him, probably because they were drawn to his raw honesty, hardworking attitude, hard drinking, as well as his occasional bare knuckles displays of those pent-up emotions which I have already mentioned. A broad spectrum of people from “down and outers” to "up and coming' leaders in the area could easily come to respect and even admire a man like Richard King.

    Mifflin got married before Richard. He fell in love and married a 26-year-old Mexican beauty and widow with five children from Mier, Mexico on April 16th, 1852. Mifflin was a believer, but the passions often expressed by the phrase “falling in love” affects believers and non-believers alike and that’s all I have to say about that. In May of that same year there was a state fair in Corpus Christi which was around 165 miles north of Brownsville. Richard had been invited by its promoter, Henry Kinney to attend and he did, but getting there presented him with a real problem which he had yet to face. Since he had been in Texas, he had done little exploring beyond the riverbanks of the Rio Grande and for two good reasons. For one he had been too busy keeping the “Colonel Cross” afloat until very recently when the partnership was formed. The other reason for not exploring the region located North of Brownsville was because of the danger associated with doing so. It was a stretch of grass land and mesquite trees as wild and dangerous as anywhere in the entire American Frontier. It was known generally as the “Wild Horse Desert” although it was not what most would think of as being a typical desert. It had springs and running streams if you knew where to find them, and a lot of seasonal creeks. Wild game abounded as well as wild horses. It also had and still does have some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the entire world, which were accented then and now with the sound of cooing doves and yelping coyotes. In1852, although a person with a frontiersmen’s skillsets would have had little problem traversing this landscape, it would have been an extremely dangerous, if not suicidal undertaking, for a sheltered newcomer, like Richard King to go it alone. The skillset required to stay alive in the Wild Horse Desert, without a doubt, was somewhat unique. Those men who rode as Texas Rangers were probably the absolute best examples of men who had acquired these kinds of skills. That is one reason why Richard did what he did next. For all his bravado, Richard was not one to take needless changes with his own personal well-being. Crossing this land by himself or with another "tenderfoot" would have been “fool-hardy”. So, Richard “buddied up” with a Texan Ranger Captain named Gideon Lewis who made the trip with him. More than likely, he had met Gideon sometime earlier, possibly hauling supplies upstream for the ranger outpost at Lake Tampaquas.

    Despite their vastly different skillsets, these two traveling companions had one thing in common. The pride of life was beginning to sink its talons into both as it does with all "upwardly mobile" young people who have no interest in building a relationship with God. At this point it was gaining a much more deadly grasp on Gideon, however, than Richard. Here is the reason for that. Richard’s source of pride and self-respect was being built up by the trappings of a successful steamboat business, which provided a service to others. He was also being exposed to the influence of a very Godly family in his courtship of Henrietta Chamberlain. His steamboat business served the needs of others and serving others always mitigates the destructive effects caused by the pride of life. Gideon’s pride of life, on the other hand, was being fed by much more destructive forces. He was a recognized war hero, but war plows up the soul of every soldier no matter which side he fights on. War heroes are extremely susceptible to the pride of life, although they may be sleeping in a gutter. Gideon also garnered automatic respect and power over others through the authority he carried as a captain in the Texas rangers. He was drawn to politics as well, which without God's anointing can be as destructive as war to the human soul. His most deadly fault, however, which is an offshoot of the pride of life, was his inability to control his passions, which fueled an incessant desire for other men’s wives. This would eventually get him killed by a jealous husband. Nevertheless, at this stage, while traveling together to the fair, both men were in their prime, headstrong and about the same age. This made them particularly good traveling companions and also gave them a chance to bond. Since Gideon had been a courier during the Mexican War and a ranger after the war, he no doubt had extensive knowledge on how to not only navigate, but also best survive travel through the Wild "Horse Desert" as they went along their merry way to the Lone Star Fair.

    I mention this trip to the “State Fair” for a very important reason. It was during this trip that Richard was able to see the land, that he would soon purchase which was to become the beginnings of the world-famous King Ranch. It was located on probably the best piece of ground along the 165 mile stretch between Brownsville and Corpus Christi on a creek known as the Santa Gertrudis. It was a 15,500-acre tract which Richard later bought from the Mendiola family for $300 dollars. He received a warranty deed for it in July of 1853. This obviously wasn’t a lot of money for him to generate, but he still brought Gideon into the deal as a half partner. He obviously didn't do this because he needed financing. He did it because Gideon had experience buying and selling land in the area, but also possessed other useful skills and connections, as well. For one, he was associated with a tough breed of men, who could work the purposed cow camp, which they planned to establish. You, see, the "White Horse Desert" was the most dangerous place in the entire country, if one wished to live there full time. Now, Chicago holds that title.  

    I am giving the reader just a glimpse of the bigger picture which was forming here. I will say this. God’s domino trail leading to the 1/18th Infantry battalion was falling fast and furious in the years between February 1850 and 1855. The first domino was when Richard first looked into Henrietta’s eyes on the boat docks in Brownsville in February of 1850. If the “ole” Riverboat “Whiteville” had not been tied up in the wrong spot he may not have met Henrietta. Without Mifflin's introduction to Stillman and the enormous capital supplied by Stillman there would have been no Kenedy & Co. riverboat business to fund the startup of the cow camp and the ranch, itself. Without the state fair in Corpus in 1852 there may have been no motivation to buy the land in the first place. Without Gideon's expertise in not only knowing how to provide security for the cow camp but also the knowledge to aid in the purchase of other tracts of land, there may have been no ranch as we know it, to follow. Here is why this is true. They had to travel through extremely dangerous country, in the next few years, to locate the owners of these large tracts of land so they could acquire signatures for clear titles. That was not easy. Many now lived in Mexico. These large tracts were tied up in Spanish Land Grants, which had been passed down and sometimes divided up amongst several generations of heirs. The legal entanglements required a lot of time, patience and forethought to unravel. Gideon possessed some of the skills and connections needed to make all this happen. Once the hard part of acquiring legal ownership was done, next came the impossible part. I say impossible because the dominos to bridge this gap had not been created in the first place. The agrarian model which worked so well for large plantations back east would never work here on the Wild Horse Desert for two major reasons. Number one was frequent droughts. There were vast grasslands, but it was not good farmland, because of the inconsistent supply of water. There were many seasonal creeks and small spring fed creeks but not enough "year around" fresh water for farming. The second reason was the lack of a dedicated work force to raise cattle or for farming. Back east this was provided by the institution of slavery.

    There was also a third reason why the "Wild Horse Desert" was untenable. During this period in Texas history, anyone who crossed the Wild Horse Desert without an armed guard was very foolish. Trying to live here permanently was not only foolish but “down right” crazy. Centuries before, the Spanish had developed the concept of ranching in this very area and great herds of tough Spanish cattle as well as thousands of wild horses roamed free in the area at that time. Large walled ranchos owned by Mexican ranchers dotted the landscape. These landowners also owned exceptionally large herds of cattle and horses and employed hundreds of vaqueros to manage the livestock. Beautiful ranchos existed here even before the Revolutionary War. However, when Texas won its freedom from Mexico in 1836 the last of those ranchos disappeared. Why? Because gangs of cutthroats called “cowboys” from north of the Nueces River regularly raided the Wild Horse Desert driving the cattle north for profit and killing anyone whom they saw fit to kill. Any Mexican whom they saw was high on that list of targets. By the time Richard started buying land, the cattle which once roamed the Wild Horse Desert were gone and so were the ranchos and so were the settlers. When Richard traveled through it in 1852 it was very beautiful, but it was also devoid of human settlements. To top things off, there were Comanche raiding parties coming down from the north and Mexican banditos who regularly came up from the south. Need I say more? 

    Amazingly, during his courtship of Etta, Richard had not only completed some difficult business ventures but was in the process of completing some impossible ones on the "Wild Horse Desert" as well. He was the first to establish a permanent cow camp on Santa Gertrudis creek. For reasons I have just mentioned, it was a miracle that Richard was able to put down permanent roots there. His second impossible feat was conquering the heart of Henrietta Chamberlain. He could not have accomplished this feat of winning her heart alone, if he had not also won the blessing of her father, as well. Henrietta was remarkably close to her family, and especially to her dad. To win him over, it’s a safe bet that Richard was forced to become a regular visitor at Hiram Chamberlain’s church in Brownsville. As I have said, it took four years, but his persistent efforts eventually paid off. Richard achieved the impossible. How? Because Richard, like so many people I meet today, was a good reflection of God’s light, when he was around that light, and he was around the Chamberlain family a lot in those four years. His ability to reflect light, brought in more and more earthly blessings, and these blessings made him a very appealing person in the eyes of born-again believers like Hiram Chamberlain. The truth is this. Most Christians, like the world around them, still look at the outward appearance and attitudes of others. That reflective quality in Richard grew brighter and brighter as he spent more time with not only Etta but her family. Etta's father was also impressed by the financial changes he saw in Richard's life, I am sure. Being a good reflector of God’s light, did nothing but help Richard's success in his day-to-day business dealings during this time. The Chamberlain family could not help but see all this. There was the excitement of his wealth building steamboat business with Mifflin and Stillman, as well as the establishment of a cow camp on the Santa Gertrudis, but there was also something else that the "Man of God", Hiram Chamberlain, could not help but notice. He could not help but notice the genuine love Richard possessed for his daughter. The sum of it all was very persuasive, causing Hiram in the end to accept Richard as a very suitable husband for Henrietta.

    I keep repeating this because it bears repeating over and over. Richard was a good reflector of light, but a reflection needs a source. That source came not only from Etta, but from missionary Hiram Chamberlain and his church. No matter what Richard’s motive was for being in church and no matter whether Richard was a believer or not, his mental state was changed for the better during these four years, as he sat in church listening to the word of God being peached by Hiram. Now the word of God is powerful, and it has a supernatural effect on whoever hears it, especially if they listen to it regularly and especially if the reading of it is reinforced by the actions of God’s people modeling this word before that unbeliever. When I read the historical account of events in Richard’s life, during this four-year period, while he was listening regularly to the word of God, I am amazed at the number of good outcomes which not only happened to him but for others around him as well. Richard's forward thinking during this time was amazing and far removed from his previous line of sight. Here is an example. I believe it is one of the greatest displays of God’s reflective light working through Richard in his entire life. At the beginning of 1854 just before he and Etta were married Richard went to a small village in northern Mexico to buy cattle. After buying every cow that the village had, its inhabitants were left with extraordinarily little means to feed their families. Two years of severe drought made things even worse. Starvation for the village was just around the corner when "without batting an eye" Richard offered jobs to everyone who was willing to follow the herd back to the Santa Gertrudis Creek cow camp with him. Almost the entire village of over a hundred people took him up on his offer. These men, women and children would become the nucleus and life’s blood of the King Ranch. They were to become known as King's People (Los Kinenos). Many years later, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education, Lauro Cavazos, would write a book, "A Kineno Remembers", detailing how important growing up on the ranch had been for him and his future success in life. His childhood had been greatly influenced by the descendants of those people who had walked to the ranch from Mexico with Richard.   

    Richard married Henrietta at the church in Brownsville on December 10, 1854. They spent the first several months honeymooning at the cow camp on San Gertrudis Creek. Etta would later say that this was one of the most wonderful times of her entire life. I believe that statement to be tremendous evidence of the internal emotional courage which the Holy Spirit of God had forged in this young woman's soul, because the White Horse Desert at that time was still one of the most dangerous places on earth.

    The next thirty years would provide ample proof for the principle which I have briefly touched on here. It's a principle which can be described this way. Henrietta was the generator of light and Richard reflected that light. However, as it always happens with all who only reflect the light of God, his ability to reflect God’s light became tarnished with time by the circumstances of this world, while the light generating power in Henrietta burned ever brighter. This is not to say that Richard became a bad person. As a matter of fact, I believe Richard remained as good a person as anyone who has ever "come down the pike". I would have loved to have met him. However, although I will meet Henrietta in a few years, I am afraid that I will never meet Richard. I hope I am wrong. 

    There was a great civil war during the first half of the 1860’s which earned a huge increase in income for the King family as Richard became heavily involved in exporting Confederate cotton, through Mexico. It was a natural thing for him to make this contribution to the Confederate war effort, because of his many business connections in south Texas and Mexico. These connections allowed him to easily skirt the Union blockades and find friendly routes through Mexico to continue shipping cotton to foreign countries. However, as with all unbelievers, his choices in life seemed to cause more and more anguish to his soul. He barely escaped a Union raiding party at the ranch one night. The leader shot dead, in the darkness, one of his dearest and most trusted ranch hands. Francisco Alvarado was mistaken by the Yankee raiding party for Richard, himself, when he came to the door of the ranch house. After the war, Richard became one of the first ranchers to start driving cattle north to railheads, where they could be sold for better prices to Eastern beef buyers. However, the hardships plaguing his ranching business continued to mount over the years and his health declined. There were many bandito raids and rustlers from south of the border. There were droughts and diseased cattle. Each year open range was replaced by more and more barbed wire fencing, making it harder and harder to drive his cattle to railheads up north for transport to markets back east. The bandito raids never stopped during his life time. Yet, through all the strife, and all the changes, which the ranch went through, Henrietta was Richard’s most constant stabilizing force. Though they had a nice house in Kingsville, Henrietta made the ranch her home. She was present at the ranch during at least 26 bandito raids, and she was also present when the Union raiding party showed up that fateful night while Richard, forced by circumstances, ran for his life. He was forced to leave her and his entire family behind to fend for themselves. Later, well into the turn of the 20th century many an old vaquero would recall “La Madama” as they called Henrietta, bringing food and other supplies to their armed outposts, as they manned them to defend against bandito raids on the ranch.

    By the beginning of the 1880’s the relentless wearing down, by the world, of Richard's soul, had taken its toll. Richard was a well-worn and tarnished shadow of that vibrant young man, who had darkened the doors of missionary Hiram Chamberlain’s church. All his life, he drew strength from the spiritual warmth of his wife, but I do not believe that he ever understood "the why of it". In her company, perhaps he found the only place of peace he would ever know. The cattle drives, which were a main source of income for the ranch became increasingly harder to make happen. Disease and drought continued to shrink ranch profits. Although he had constantly added to his land holdings, over the years, he had also steadily added debt, after the war had ended. He drank heavily. On April 8, 1883, shortly after losing his youngest son, Robert Lee, to pneumonia, this magnificent strong man’s soul was nearing the end of its strength. History records that Richard King wrote the following words in a letter to his beloved wife Etta. “I am tired of this business, as I at all times have made a mess of everything, I have undertaken . . . and now I want to quit the Rancho business and will so do”. Shortly after writing that Richard found a British Syndicate buyer for the King Ranch. Fortunately, the sale fell through. Though no one can be sure, I am personally convinced that had these buyers bought the ranch, the everlasting legacies of many souls connected to the King Ranch would have been lost, because there would have been no King Ranch legacy, as we know it, today. The story of the 1/18th Infantry Battalion in Vietnam would have ended much differently too. May I also say, “Much more tragically”? Two years later, in 1885, the spent Richard King died of stomach cancer at the age of 61 in the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, with all his family at his bedside. Just a few days before his death, he was able to write out his will. He left everything to his beloved wife Etta Chamberlain King. He was such a magnificent and successful man in so many ways, and such a pitiful looser in the eternal scheme of things. Again, I pray that my last statement is wrong.

    While Richard was still alive, debt on the ranch had continually mounted. It equaled almost as much as the appraised value of the land itself. If Richard had sold before he died or had the ranch been sold by Henrietta at the time of Richard's death, then life would have become much different for the many families who worked the land, and their children after them. No doubt, it would not have remained to become the stabilizing force, which it later became for so many.

    God knows all. A young lawyer, Robert Justus Kleberg, had been put on retainer by Richard King several years before Richard's death and he soon made King Ranch business his full-time occupation. He also fell in love with Henrietta’s youngest daughter, Alice. Appointing the young Kleberg to manage ranch business was to be one of the most fortuitous choices Richard could have made other than the "passing of the baton" by making his wife, Henrietta, sole heir of the ranch. At this time in history, this was not necessarily the norm. God did not will Richard to die early, but his death was also no surprise to God. He died an early death, partly because of his heavy drinking, but also because of the enormous stress that came from believing he had to strive to maintain control of every aspect of his life, while turning his back on the strength to be gained by a personal relationship with his creator. Today, in America, we will see more and more of this type of thing happening, as those incredibly talented people currently responsible for igniting the communications revolution face growing older with only the strength inside themselves to rely on. It is the same “ole” story being played out again and again, through the lives of so many remarkable human beings who have had the opportunity to grow up in a country which allowed them the freedom to create what they have created. Richard's early death robbed him of the opportunity of being at his youngest daughter's wedding. Today, many are in the process of being robbed of the opportunity to have a daughter in the first place. How sad, because that is one of the most important ingredients of a personal legacy. Many times, we can be robbed of that opportunity, in the name of a very self-centered and nebulous pursuit, which many simply call "success".

    The Kleberg marriage was a match made in heaven, not only for Robert and Alice Kleberg, but for the ranch families as well. In the coming years, the Kleberg’s became very good facilitators of ranch business under the watchful eye of its owner, the Godly Henrietta King. The management values, taken from the pages of God's word and established by Henrietta would stabilize ranch life throughout some extremely hard times in the first half of the twentieth century.

   Pro. 22:1 says that we should value a good name more than great riches. Immediately, after Richard's death in 1885, history records that Richard King’s lean holders were more than happy to take Henrietta’s signature on the debt owed them by her husband, which spoke volumes about the name respect she had among Richard's business associates. In less than 10 years the entire debt was paid off. Corridors of ranch land were deeded over to railroads so they could extend railheads into the area, making the hard business of driving cattle to them up north a thing of the past. Water wells were drilled which tapped into vast underground artesian rivers flowing underneath the ranch. Kingsville, itself, was built on land donated by the King Ranch. As important, schools and churches were not only built on land donated by Henrietta, but she also donated the lumber to build them. The vaqueros who worked on the ranch worked hard but so did Henrietta and so did the Kleberg family. Many times, the owners were to be found in the dirt working side by side with their Vaquero’s. Each soul, living on the ranch, had a respected and important part to play and each soul was given as much responsibility as they were able or willing to handle without prejudice. Where much is given, much is required. Robert Kleberg Sr. not only worked alongside the ranch's Kinenos, but, as a skilled attorney, he also handled the ranch politics and business connections outside the ranch, which only he could handle, during this period of Texas history. There were deep cultural divides between Hispanics and Whites and Women and Men. Women would not win the right to vote until 1920. Still, Henrietta held the reins of power over every aspect of ranch life guided by her heart as a servant in Christ. God had a way of constantly reminding this missionary’s daughter that all power should only be exercised through one’s ability to handle the responsibility which comes with that power. Else, execution of one’s power is turned from Godly judgments into the devil’s tyranny. She could have sold the ranch, especially after paying off the debt, and lived very comfortably as a wealthy woman for the rest of her long life, but she didn’t and I thank God that she did not do that.

    In his book, "A Kineno Remembers", Lauro Cavazos Jr. detailed how important his father, as well as King Ranch culture had been in contributing to his success in life. He said that his father, Lauro Cavazos Sr. was hired by Henrietta, herself, when he was 18 years old. He also said that his father worked seven days a week up until almost the time of his death in 1957. The senior Lauro not only had a "driving personality", intelligence and a strict moral code which was shaped "early on" by his Catholic mother, but he also did not labor under the fear which hobbles many other human beings in this life, because of the protective atmosphere provided by the ranch. In 1915 he repelled one of the largest bandito raids in ranch history, making quite a name for himself with the locals as well as with his ranch family. He also volunteered to serve in the military during World War I, was promoted to Sergeant, and was decorated for his service. However, here is an example of another way he displayed his lack of fear, in an action taken, which is not often thought of, as being an act of fearlessness. Yet, it certainly is. After returning from the war, he let it be known to the Kleberg’s, who ran the "day to day" operations at the ranch, that he was not going to settle for being just another ranch hand all his life. That took "guts" for a young Mexican of his generation to do this. In his forthright way, and with a quiet voice, he told Bob Kleberg that he would be moving on further west for "greener pastures" if Bob could not find a way to give him more responsibility. Bob was no fool. He knew Lauro. Lauro had now worked for him "day in" and "day out" for years. He also knew that Lauro was a gift from God to him, and the ranch. He was not about to let that "gift" slip through his fingers. Bob immediately started training Lauro for a foreman position. It took several years. However, in 1926, a year after Henrietta died, Lauro became foreman of the Santa Gertrudis Division of the ranch and held that position until his death. Working side by side with Bob Kleberg Jr. he was instrumental in developing the first and only American breed of cattle known as the “Santa Gertrudis Breed”. He was one of the best horsemen in the country and also helped the ranch breed some of the best quarter horse stock ever produced. He was elected and served as a justice of the peace in his local community.

    The dynamic "at play" here, giving Lauro Sr. the opportunity to accomplish "all this", originated through the enlightened spirit of Henrietta Chamberlain King. Yes, Lauro Sr. was an excellent reflector of that light, but the light itself was generated by her, and before that, by her missionary father, Hiram. It was the light from Henrietta's "born again" spirit, which provided the foundation for Lauro, as well as many others, to pass on "good things" to their own families, during a terribly prejudice and economically challenging times. Supported by this character-building foundation, Lauro was able to make sure each one of his children spoke English. He used his good standing in the community, which was bolstered by his association with the King Ranch to battle school board authorities, getting his children into the best school in Kingsville, which was also an all-white school at the time. He made sure that each of his children finished college. In the pages of his book, Secretary Lauro Cavazos Jr. makes it noticeably clear how important his father's guidance had been to him. Americans today would do well to have had an earthly father of Lauro Cavazos's caliber. However, he could not have done it alone, without a woman like Henrietta Chamberlain King in the background. Interestingly, it was Henrietta, and not the Kleberg’s, who hired Lauro Cavazos, when he first came to the ranch looking for a job and he answered to her alone until her death in 1925. 

    Yet, what does all this talk about Richard King, Henrietta King or the Cavazos family have to do with my own story? What exactly is the connection that makes it worth my time to spend an entire chapter recanting the history of a ranch in Texas? Well, one good reason why I am talking about this so much at the beginning of my story is because I would not be alive now to recant anything, if it were not for the legacies left behind by Richard and Henrietta King, the Cavazos family and the King Ranch.
 

    In 1966, as I joined the First Infantry Division operations North of Saigon, a dark cloud of hopeless despair was hanging over the 1/18th Infantry Battalion. However, in March of 1967 that cloud started to dissipate. As I watched this cloud being rolled back, I would struggle for many years to understand how that could have happened in the midst of so much chaos and bad leadership. It was a miracle certainly too big for my limited spiritual understanding to comprehend at the time. Nor do I completely understand it now. However, as I began writing this story, a story which I thought was going to be mostly about me, the story started "taking wings". Information suddenly started flooding in, through people, and through some remarkably accurate historical documentation I found on the internet. Those people and that information gave me a much bigger picture, than I ever expected to find. That picture has turned into a story, which exemplifies how life and hope can be made to blossom amid certain death and despair. It is also a story, which exemplifies everything I said in the first paragraph of this chapter and gives us some insight on how unstoppable Godly legacies are as they grow, bringing enlightenment to the entire world. It took the revelation of the Holy Spirit, however, to open my blind eyes to be able to see this, because it is much more elaborate than my natural mind could ever have imagined. By His revelation, however, I am able to see, how God worked, so long ago, through Richard and Henrietta King, the King Ranch, and the Cavazos family, to bring life, where there was only death and despair. Here is the connection. You see, Lauro Cavazos Sr. had a second son, who also grew up on the ranch and whose life was shaped by that same ranch culture. His name was Richard too, and it was Lt. Col. Richard E. Cavazos, who took command of my 1/18th Infantry Battalion, in March of 1967.


Note:  Located at  https://www.iam777.org/Book/Chap1_7.html