Chamal Colony of Tamaulipas

The Unfinished dream of ...

The Chamal Colony

By Ken Titt

On February 20, 1903, some two hundred people left their homes in Greer County , Territory of Oklahoma, to begin a new life, in a new land: Mexico. Led by George E. Blalock, who had been a sheriff in Greer County, the group was formed into what was known as The Blalock Mexico Colony, a corporation chartered under the laws of the Territory of Oklahoma, to carry on a number of business enterprises in Mexico.

The first contingent of adventurous settlers arrived in Old Chamal, Tamaulipas, Mexico, late Saturday, March 7, 1903. They moved down to the Bouquilla River, east of Charco Largo, and chose a hill on the north side of the river to become the townsite of their new home, Chamal. The second and third group of immigrants left Oklahoma in December, 1903, and January, 1904, respectively. This brought the total number of colonists emigrating from Greer County to about five hundred, excluding the other families and individuals who came to the Colony from various states, between the years 1903 and 1912.

Both sets of my maternal great-grand parents were among these colonists. James H. Shafer, with his wife, Louisa Ana (Callaham), and their son, James Edward, were part of the first group of settlers to arrive. An advertisement in an early (1903) issue of the Chamal Record (semi- monthly newspaper) solicits trade at his general merchandise store.

It wasn't until November of 1905, that my other great-grandfather, William E. Frasier, brought his family to Chamal. With wife, Emma (Merchant) and a host of children too numerous to mention, he set up and began to operate his general store, which was located across from Shafer's store, each located on the beautiful public square.

Before long, the Shafer's son, James Edward, began courting one of William Frasier's daughters, Robbie Ann. These two (my grandfather and grandmother) were married on October 11, 1908, in the nearby city of Ocampo. They continued to live in Chamal and eventually their first four children were born there.

The Chamal colony grew. The families "had a reign of enjoyable life and prosperity". They owned their own land, they farmed, fished, hunted and ran their businesses. By 1912, they had their own school, a church, a newspaper, a saw mill, a grist mill, a doctor, various businesses, a large town plaza ringed with citrus and other trees, and a covered public well that provided water for those who had no well of their own.

However, this pleasant way of life and bountiful living was disrupted in 1913, after the assination of Mexico's President Madero and Vice-President Suarez. The revolution which had been brewing since 1910, became full-scale when military leader Huerta took power of the Mexican government.

Residents of the colony received warnings, and later, orders from the United States State Department to evacuate. Over the next few years, during the various phases of the revolution, most all the residents of the colony returned to the United States. Though fleeing for their lives, really, they did so reluctantly.

Between outbrakes of rebellion and violence, many of the residents made attempts at returning to what was left of their homes in Chamal. James H. Shafer and his wife settled in Wharton County after their exodus. Both died there, he in 1916, she in 1918. William E. Frasier's family went to Dallas County; but, around April of 1915, William and his son-in-law, James Edward Shafer returned to Chamal.

They made an attempt to bring life back to the colony. As he wrote in his diary, "Farming was next in my mind, so choosing the best I had of what was left, Ed Shafer and I cleaned off a patch of twenty-two acres and with two well ridden, poor ponies, I had gotten from the ranks of the braves, we proceeded without tools or feed to crop it .... Will say, however, that I never raised a more valuable crop taking the times into consideration, than I ever raised in all my life before. We made corn for the hogs to wallow on; filling all the space for such and everything fat. I landed my family back on Chamal, January 6th, 1916 and started into business right, enjoying what Ed and I had made."

Their efforts, along with those of others who tried to rebuild Chamal into the paradise it once was, ended when the revolution escalated. Many of the Chamal residents, upon receiving orders to evacuate, fled their homes once again, and sought refuge at Lonesome Cove, a site in the mountains twenty miles north of Chamal. In July 1916, the Mexicans on both sides and the United States government ordered the colonists at Lonesome Cove to leave the country. The J.E. Shafer family returned to Texas, settling for a while in El Campo. The Frasier family returned to Hill County.

Shortly after this final exodus, revolutionary forces won the area fighting, and all property the Chamal residents left behind was declared the property of the Mexican people. Despite this, by 1921, after the Mexican political situation had stabilized, some of the colonists returned to their property. Most of the original stockholders, however, never returned. Many, like George Blalock, and my great-grandfather, William E. Frasier, who did return, died shortly thereafter and are buried in the colony cemetery.

Each year, the decendents of these colonists hold a Blalock Mexico Colony Reunion to share thoughts and memories of our ancestors who had a dream and lived it, though for the short time it lasted. I attended the 1996 reunion which was held at San Antonio, Texas. As with most "family" reunions, I met relatives I didn't know existed and met people I'll never see again; but, what was really overwhelming was the awsome sense of "stepping back into time" and for just a short while, reliving some of "my family history."

I have added several pages related to this article. These include the promotional flyer, advertising the Colony and the benefits of relocating to Tamaulipas; The Journal notes of William E. Frasier - telling his story in his own words; three sample editions of the Chamal Record; and even photographs of a few of the brave souls who dared to live the unfinished dream that was Chamal.

The Chamal Colony promotional flyer
The Chamal Record
The Journal notes.

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