The Historical "Blanche McMullan"
Returns to Sulphur Springs, Thursday Night
by: Bobby McDonald
It was the return of historical Hopkins County matriarch, Blanche Weigers McMullan (1871-1963), that returned to the Hopkins County Heritage Museum, on Thursday night, for the annual joint meeting of the Hopkins County Genealogical Society and the Hopkins County Historical Society meeting and social. Mrs. Lavyn Sisco, portrayed McMullan in her sixth annual presentation.
Blanche Weigers was born in Jefferson, Texas, on September 10, 1871, but moved with her parents of German ancestry to Sulphur Springs in 1874. Blanche had two main interests during her formative years in Sulphur Springs, her music and her pony. She studied piano under the tutelage of Mrs. Ayers and later studied music with Mrs. Ringo and Miss Fannie Beckton, and was one of the privileged young women of the era, that received a formal education. She attended a finishing school and college in Jefferson, where she graduated with a degree in music. However, it was her love of horses that attracted her to beau, Thomas McMullan.
McMullan, a native of Belfast, Ireland, was orphaned at an early age and grew up with a deep love for horses, as well. He attended school in Belfast, but spent his summers on a country farm with two Shetland ponies, that allowed him to develop excellent riding skills. But, at age 15, he'd viewed the ships in Belfast leaving for America, and the wandering lust of adventure caused him to sell his ponies and book passage on a ship to a new and adventuresome life in America. He landed in New York, where he was accepted by the Irish Community, and worked to gain enough money to purchase a wagon and team. With a means of transportation, he took off toward the frontier of Texas, working along the way, to earn his board, keep, and traveling expenses.
And, it was during a stormy night in the Ozark region of Arkansas, that fate changed his life, in an unusual way. At the height of the storm, he heard a cry in the distance, of a man for help. Taken to following the cries, he discovered a young man, just a few years older than he, drowning in quicksand. Acting quickly, he retrieved a rope from his belongings and climbed a tree to rescue the trapped man. Upon rescue, McMullan discovered the man was James Cotter. The two men became lifelong friends and business partners.
And, it was in 1879, that the two men happened in Sulphur Springs, on the day that the railroad came to Sulphur Springs, and soon discovered that the huge crowd of people, didn't have enough places to eat. The men used their skills in baking and food preparation, to offer food to the citizenry, from their wagon, parked on the corner of the square. They made enough money to pay rent on a building and open a "Soup Kitchen" business, in the thriving new town.
Tom and Jim rand the soup kitchen for several years, providing hearty fare for cattle drivers and railroad men, and some say served the first Hopkins County Stew, from their establishment. Their cooking skills afforded them enough money to purchase and open a hardware store, that proved to be a lucrative business, in the block between Main Street and Connally Street, facing Davis Street, in Sulphur Springs. They sold wagons, farm tools, and other hardware and farm items, from the store. Community minded men, they both joined the "Bucket Brigade" Fire Fighting Team, in Sulphur Springs, and took their places as businessmen in the town.
Jim Cotter took Miss Lula Armstrong as his bride in 1888, and it was Blanche Weigers that "caught the eye" of Tom McMullan. The couple began taking moonlit rides on their horses and even made a trip to the "Sour Well" in Sulphur Springs, where Tom took a drink of the bitter liquid, and "downed it in one gulp," proving that his sweetheart was a "keeper." Although, Tom was serveral years, Blanche's senior, her parents finally consented to him marrying her, and they were wed on January 19, 1890, following announcing their engagement in August 1889.
The Catholic wedding ceremony was a "rarity" in Hopkins County, among an almost totatly Protestant populace, but was described as a beautiful affair, before a white candlelit altar, performed by Rev. Joseph Granger, with a nupital mass. Blanche wore a beautiful creation of wine colored taffeta, with green accents, and topped with a green hat.
Tom presented Blanche with a large new Victorian home as a wedding present. The home, located on Water Oak Street, consisted of fourteen bedrooms, large sleeping porches on the upper deck, indoor bathrooms, gingerbread trim, and a music parlor, where Blanche could continue her music interests. And, shortly, Tom and Blanche began filling the home with children. The were the parents of twelve children, nine of which lived to adulthood.
Seeing the thriving cattle business, Tom and Jim traveled to Brewster County and Alpine, Texas (called Murphyville at the time) and purchased ranching interests. The town of Alpine only had three buildings, two adobe structures and a derailed box car for a depot, when the men made their trip West. They eventually purchased 26,000 acres in Green Valley, Leoncita Springs, and Presido County, between Alpine and Ft. Stockton. They stocked the ranch with Hereford cattle, beginning with a cattle drive in Sulphur Springs, led West by Jim Cotter. They first hired a manager for the growing ranch.
But, Jim finally moved his family in 1907 to the ranch, and Tom stayed in Sulphur Springs to run the hardware business. The two families traveled back and forth, between the two business establishment, until 1923, when considering their ages of Jim at 76 and Tom at 68, the two friends, decided to divide their interests. Jim took the ranch in Alpine and Tom remained in the hardware business in Sulphur Springs.
And, it was only two years later, that Tom became ill with pneumonia and passed away, as the entire town of Sulphur Springs mourned his passing, with Blanche and her family. And, tragedy again struck the family in 1926, when Blanche's beloved home, caught fire and burned. However, the strong woman rebuilt in the exact same location and continued her life in Sulphur Springs. Jim Cottter sold the ranch in 1932 near Alpine and retired to a home in that city, where he continued to live and influence life, until his death in 1942. He and Lula celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1938, and Blanche made the trip by train to celebrate with her lifelong friends. And, she and son, Mac McMullan returned for the funeral in 1942, to lay Tom's friend and business partner to rest.
Time passes swiftly for those who are active in life, and Blanche Weigers McMullan advanced in years, in her beloved Sulphur Springs, and passed away in 1963, at age 93 years old, surrounded by her nine children and grandchildren. She'd seen the formative years of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County. She's remembered for her generosity, fine musical talents, community service, and dedicated support of the St. James Catholic Church, in Sulphur Springs. And, she saw her granddaughter, Jean McMullan crowned the Sulphur Springs Centennial Queen, in 1954.
A beautifully appointed dessert reception was hosted by the Historical Society, in the Atkins House,
following Thursday night's historical presentation.