Two days before Thanksgiving in 1912 Margaret Edythe Young married the young man from across the sea who lived across the street from her in Galveston and left for San Antonio for a two-week wedding trip. We are going to use this posting to intersperse the description of the wedding from the News with some present day pictures of things they may have seen in San Antonio with our own thoughts about how they may have envisioned them.
A large number of relatives and friends attended the wedding of Mr. Anthony L. Bettencourt and Miss Margaret Edythe Young, which was solemnized at St. Patrick’s Church Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock.
When the young, first generation Texan, stood with her betrothed, born in the Azores, in front of the altar of St. Patrick’s and they recited their marriage vows publicly and their act was identical in substance and form to vows that had been recited since 1755 at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña which remains today as the oldest stone church in the United States. That is what used to be meant by a universal church.
The decorations of palms, ferns and festal touches of bride roses were confined to the altar, making a beautiful background to the ceremony.
While Galveston is almost a tropical island San Antonio sits on a limestone plateau that drifts off towards the desert. The dry air made it immensely attractive as a retreat from the heat and humidity of the coast and even today, at the beginning of what has already been terrible drought that threatens to be a long one as well, the desert flowers are in bloom in the shade of oaks some of which may have been mere acorns when Philip V of Spain declared the land ejido, or public land, in 1729.
The park that Edythe and Toney would have seen was no mere pastoral setting. There were spring fed bathing pools – separate ones for the ladies and gentlemen – rides, a baseball diamond that hosted many a Texas League game and more than a few Dixie League series, tennis courts, a theater and a bandstand for evening concerts. It is a tribute to San Antonio that all of these things are still here and still in use. The Boston Common may claim to be an older park dating its founding to 1634 but until cattle grazing was forbidden there in 1830 it was used mainly as a pasture, for military drills and for public hangings. I have been to Boston, I have seen the Boston Commons, they are NO San Pedro Springs Park – like most claims out of Massachusetts this one is long on brag and short on fact.
Miss Kate Greaney played the wedding music, Wagner’s March from Lohengrin and ‘Call me Thine Own’ during the ceremony and, as a recessional Mendelsohn’s Wedding March.
Miss Helen Koehler, as maid of honor, preceded the bride and was gowned in white marquisette over white messaline with white chiffon rosebuds. With this was worn a black chiffon hat, ornamented with black plumes. Miss Koehler carried and arm cluster of bridesmaid roses.
Entering with her father, Mr, John Young, the bride wore a brown whipcord serge outfit in coat style, with this a blouse of brown chiffon over yellow crepe meteor. Her travelling hat, of dark brown plush, was finished with French plumes of the same hue.
The flowers carried were roses with a shower of valley lilies on malina streamers. The only ornament worn was a palque of pearls, the gift of the bridegroom.
Father O’Sullivan, officiating pastor, the bridegroom and his best man, Mr. Edward H. Mitchell, awaited the bridal party at the altar.
When Anthony Lewis Bettencourt died in 1967 the assimilation process that had begun when Toney Luis Betancourt, the son of Manuel Francisco Betancourt, immigrated from the Azores to Galveston in 1891 had long since been completed. He was a graduate of Ball High School [’05] and working as a cashier for an ice company, which was a big business before every home had a Frigidaire, when he married and by the time their daughter was born in 1915 he would report his “nationality” as Anglo-Saxon on her birth certificate and his profession as book-keeper for Texas State Bank.
All of that is an indirect result of the Missions of San Antonio and others like them. The Franciscans had founded their first mission on the San Antonio River in 1718 and within a dozen years there were half a dozen sites all built with the purpose of acculturating and Christianizing the native people in order that they would be entitled to Spanish citizenship. This is a remarkable attitude for a colonizing power to take and stands in stark distinction to the Anglo-Saxon approach along the eastern seaboard of north America that was translated into the American approach that resulted in the near genocide of the native peoples in the last quarter of the 19th century.
The cause of this difference in approach was the result of the Catholic Church’s recognition of the common humanity of all people and the consequent ban against miscegenation laws. By contrast the British colonists had anti-miscegenation laws on the books as early as 1691 and the United States did not do away with the last of them until 1967 by judicial fiat rather than legislative prohibition. The Spanish colonial approach was by no means a model of perfect social justice an in fact created a caste system that had Europeans (Spaniards and Portuguese) at the top of the hierarchy followed by those of mixed race [criolio], unmixed blacks [negro] and native Americans [indio] were at the bottom. A philosophy of whitening emerged in which Amerindian and African culture was stigmatized in favor of European values although this would disappear over time and in the 19th century Benito Juarez, a Zapotec, would be president of Mexico for five terms
After the ceremony at the church, the bridal party, relatives and a few invited guests entered carriages in waiting and were taken to the Union Depot.
The bride threw her bouquet from the train and it was caught by Miss Anna Lange and Miss Helen Koehler.
Mr. and Mrs. Bettencourt will spend two weeks in San Antonio and on their return will go immediately to housekeeping in their own home at 3402 Avenue O.
It is one thing to orate loud and long, offering supplications to the Almighty, begging his guidance and favor and promising to be true to His holy word if only he will bless your body politic and allow everyone to prosper. The Puritans of New England have no rivals in this regard. The Franciscans were a mendicant order more given to good works than good words and one of the prime examples of is the 270-year old Espada acequia [irrigation system] with its dam and aqueduct. Misión San Francisco de la Espada needed water for irrigation so the missionaries and the indians built a dam, an irrigation ditch and an aqueduct. Proving that engineering is not everything the dam curved the wrong way but lime salts in the water eventually cemented the combination of brush, gravel and rocks into a solid structure that diverted water from the Espada ditch across Piedras Creek by way of the Espada Aqueduct. It is all to the good to speak eloquently about the “Water of life” but what a prayer is the work that provides water for life!
The brides present to her honor maid was an exquisite pearl crescent, while the groom’s present to his best man was a pearl scarf pin.
Many beautiful gifts were received. These were displayed in the drawing-room, cards removed.
The bride’s father, Mr. John Young, presented the young couple with a silver tea service and a chest of silver of fifty pieces.
Mr. Bettencourt is a young businessman of Galveston and, like his bride, has a host of friends in the city.
Starting with El Camino Real de los Tejas, including the lower road, the Old San Antonio road and the Laredo road all roads since the 18th century lead to San Antonio – well actually to Mexico City but if you are coming from the east you arrive at San Antonio first and that is the western terminus of this trip for the newlyweds and for us. Not that they took any road on their trip west – the Old Spanish Trail [US 90] would not be started on until 1915 – because there was no driving route for tourists and the cars of the day, however well-built they were in comparison to the vehicles on the roads today, would have required several days, several changes of tires and probably several mechanical stops to get there. They took the train on the Sunset Route leaving Galveston one evening and getting to San Antonio the next, leaving 60 degrees fahrenheit with 90% relative humidity for 54 degrees and only 60% humidity. And what a mecca they were visiting – if the railway advertising was to be believed San Antonio was the oldest, healthiest and most beautiful city on the continent. The place of resort for all in failing health. Consumption, asthma and rheumatism never originate, and, if not too far advanced, a residence will cure these maladies. In a population of 20,000, the death rate last year was only 12 in 1,000, smaller than any other city in the world. We spent last weekend visiting San Antonio and lunched with a lifelong resident who may have well been there when they were so there may be some truth to these claims.
In their role as visitors they would have seen things from two perspectives. Their first perspective would have been as Texans. The Alamo had been a tourist destination since two weeks after the garrison was put to the sword by Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón in 1836 while the Deguello played. As San Antonio became more anglicised and Americanized in the 19th century – even electing a Know Nothing candidate as mayor in 1854 who was anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic and was able institute specific anti-Mexican measures including the repeal of the requirement that the city secretary translate ordinances and essential documents into Spanish – the Alamo was transformed from a Spanish mission to the Shrine of Texas Liberty. Even with an uneasy cultural truce in effect it was the Alamo Mission Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas under the leadership of Clara Driscoll which finally triumphed over the De Zavala Chapter led by Adina De Zavala, grand-daughter of the first vice-president of the Republic of Texas, for control of the site. Both groups had played pivotal roles in the restoration of this Thermopylae of the prairie from 1902 forward and it would have been one of the central attractions to visit and celebrate the glorious defeat that had led to an even more glorious victory at San Jacinto commemorated by Louis Amateis in Galveston. It was a story they would have both known by heart with the heroes being Travis and Bowie and Crockett and the undeniable villain being Santa Anna.
The second perspective – and the one through which they would have viewed the missions – was as Catholics. No Catholic approaches these structures as mere tourist attractions. They are part of a living faith that goes back through the centuries. Not only through the three or so centuries since their founding, nor through the eight centuries since the founding of the friars minor who founded and farmed them alongside the native peoples they had come to serve but all the way back to the foundation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist described in First Epistle to the Corinthians and which is repeated on a daily basis at all four of these churches. Galveston had a long involvement in these missions since it was Bishop Odin – the first Catholic bishop of Galveston [and Texas] – who bought the sites back for the Church and it was Bishop Gallagher of Galveston along with Bishop John William Shaw of San Antonio who committed the Church to the restoration of the four southern missions. Their visits would have included a prayer to the Virgin at Conception by Margaret and they would have both been pilgrims in their visits and how much richer of an experience that is than merely going to gawk.