A Kleberg-East Wedding and Ranch Raiders

Early Years

In parts of South Texas, cattle ranchers were getting a slight relief from three years of heavy drought. Hebbronville, with a population of about 400, had become one of the largest cattle shipping midpoints in the country. It was the height of the Mexican revolution, and the Plan of San Diego had just been uncovered, making ranchers throughout the Nueces strip nervous about raiders from Mexico. Several Jim Hogg County ranchers held up in Hebbronville’s newly opened Hotel Viggo as a fortress against attack from Poncho Villa’s men. Woodrow Wilson was President – Babe Ruth hit his first career home run – Frank Sinatra was born – and the University of Texas Football team lost 13-0 to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.

Kleberg-East Nuptials

The year was 1915, and early on a Saturday morning in January was the wedding of Alice Kleberg to Tom T. East. It was announced the following day:

January 31, 1915

Wedding of Miss Alice Kleberg and Tom T. East Occurred Yesterday Morning.

A wedding that will be of great interest throughout the state was that of Miss Alice Kleberg, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. R.J. Kleberg, and Mr. Thomas East, of Kingsville which occurred Saturday morning at eight thirty at Santa Gertrudis, the ranch home of the bride; only the immediate families were present. Reverend S.E. Chandler of the First Presbyterian church performed the ceremony in the beautiful music room, which was decorated with clematis and Spanish moss.

The bride was given in marriage by her father and wore a brown cloth traveling suit and turban in harmony. She carried a bouquet of roses and orange blossoms. Her only ornament was a bar pin of diamonds and sapphires, the gift of the groom.

Miss Henrietta Kleberg attended her sister as maid of honor and was gowned in green charmeause. She carried a shower bouquet of white rosebuds.

Little Marietta Kleberg, a niece of the bride, was the dainty flower girl.

Mr. Caesar Kleberg attended the groom as best man.

Previous to the ceremony Mr. Richard Kleberg sang “When the Sands of Desert Grow Cold” with piano accompaniment by Miss Minerva King.

After the ceremony a breakfast was served in the dining room. Lovely sweetpeas forming the letters “A.K.” and “T.E.” made an attractive centerpiece.

Mr. and Mrs. East left immediately for the ranch home near Hebbronville.

The bride was reared in this city and has many friends here to whom the announcement of her wedding will come as a great surprise.

Mr. East is a son of Mr. and Mrs. E.H. East of Kingsville and is a prominent and popular stockman of this section.

Note: It is of historic significance to see that Tom T. East’s Best Man was Caesar Kleberg. Is it only a coincidence that those two friends of almost 100 years ago would have been the force behind both the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute and East Foundation?

When they started together, Mrs. East was age 22 and Mr. East was age 26. They began raising cattle, and managing the ranch. Less than two years later the young couple became parents with the birth of Tom T. East, Jr. (1917); followed by Robert (1919) and Alice H. “Lica” (1921).

Those first years must have been hard – South Texas in 1917 was in the depths of the worst drought of the 20th Century. Prior to 2011, it had been the worst drought on record. In addition to the challenge of raising a family and bringing the ranch through hard drought, the East’s were constantly at threat from bandits. In March of 1916, the ranch was occupied by a band of more than 40 armed Mexican bandits – Young Alice East was held hostage until rescued by a Ranger Party from Hebbronville summoned by Tom T. East. Another event, about 2 years later, was published in the New York Times (March 11, 1918):

Texas Rangers in Long Running Fight with Ranch Raiders

March 11, 1918

Special to the New York Times

HEBRONVILLE, Texas, March 10. – Captain W.L. Wright and a small force of Rangers under his command killed fifteen of the eighteen Mexican bandits who raided the San Antonio Viego ranch, owned by T.T. East, forty miles south of here, two days ago.

Captain Wright and his men overtook the bandits sixty miles south of here and pursued them for sixty miles, almost exterminating the outlaws in the running fight. The bandits crossed into Mexico and were followed by the Rangers.

Later the following year, rancher Claude McGill testified to the Texas State Legislature about the same raid as he had been on the San Antonio Viejo Ranch for business reasons. In his testimony, McGill recalled that the bandits sacked the ranch store where they found “saddle blankets, leggings, bridles, shoes, shirts and pants.” Claude McGill had owned the Santa Rosa ranch in Kenedy County – this is the same Santa Rosa Ranch that Robert East, more than 60 years later, bought from the McGill family.

In those early years of the East Family, they were just getting organized – they were growing and learning how to deal with every challenge that came their way. They emerged from the great drought of 1917 as a prosperous ranching enterprise. By persevering, the East Family became known as fine cattlemen, solid ranchers, and good land stewards.