The interesting, puzzling life of a Matagorda statesman, recluse

Matagorda County TXGenWeb
This is the 1841 Matagorda County that William Prissick knew.

EDITOR’S NOTE: D.E.E. Braman came to Texas in 1836 to fight in the Texas Revolution and became one of the state’s early great writers and chronicler of the Times - William Prissick was an important topic to him.
   We’ll be running Braman’s biography of Prissick over the next three or four editions.
    On the unpicturesque eastern shore of Tres Palacios bay, where the wire grass flats and the gradually ascending land toward the bay each commingle, and where mosquitoes and other insect and animal pests of low degree abound in summer and winter alike, stands a small, windowless ranch-house, that was once used by Allen and Poole for their herders, when they shipped cattle from Palacios. 
   These premises afforded a home for the Hon. William Prissisk for several years previous to his death. The innermost recesses of this house were accessible to all of nature’s elements—save sunshine; rain, wind and hail penetrated with little hindrance, and bleak northers howled and scurried through its rents and openings with undiminished force. 
   The only room was fourteen by sixteen feet, with bare rafters and studding; here and there daylight peered through the roof; several of the decaying weatherboards had dropped from their nailing at one end, and were convenient openings for slinging out any household refuse. 
   A box of earth in the middle of the floor was the fireplace, from which the smoke escaped through the roof in calm weather, and wherever the wind drove it at other times. 
   From a nail in one of the studdings hung a strip of rusty bacon rind; from another the vertebrae of a dried fish; in one corner was a used-up cast-net; at another place a two-gallon stone jug, with which the late tenant had brought his water about two miles from a cattle tank, and alongside the jug was a blue paper, fourth-gross match box, which, from its inside appearance, had contained very brown sugar. 
   This about concludes the inventory of the humble dwelling, as near as I can now reproduce the scene. The odor from the inside and the outdoor filth, even in the cold weather of winter, was sickening. 
   The bad smells, however, could by retreating from this “dread abode,” be left behind; but the moral sensibilities were affected by a more serious subject beyond a temporary shock, for there, within a few feet of the water jug, lay the lifeless corpse of William Prissisk on his couch, which consisted of prairie hay spread on the bare floor; over that was an old sail for a sheet; a piece of drift-wood served for a pillow; his lifeless body was clad in filthy summer wear, and was partly covered with an old brown blanket. Age, exposure and starvation combined had, after many years, extinguished his restive, restless life, and, according to his belief, his every attribute.
   After this fashion lived William Prissick, and there he miserably died during the very inclement weather in the early part of the year 1881, destitute, uncared for and unattended. 
   But during his life he asked no favors from anyone, and died as he had lived, in the bay, lay his water-logged skiff-boat, tied to a stake on the shore; the stump of a mast was still standing, but there was no rigging or other appliances on board. She was named the Never Sweat, and was now, like her master, at the end of her last voyage. 
   A few feet from the door was a large heap of oyster shells and the remains of crabs and fish, which were the refuse portions of Mr. Prissick’s edibles, and had accumulated in the same way that the prehistoric man left his sign in the kitchen middins.
   Mr. Prissick was born in County Shropshire, England at his father’s farm, called Polmer, seven miles from Shrewsburg, towards Wales, in 1805. 
   His mother’s maiden name was Weaver, and she was Welsch. Young Prissick received a good common and scientific education, and at the age of twenty-one he was apprenticed to a large mercantile establishment in Liverpool. 
   The third year of his apprenticeship he was sent as supercargo in the ship Chelydrea, D. Smale, master, to the African gold coast, where he remained six months. In his absence his father moved to Seacomb. 
   During his apprenticeship he married and had one son; and in 1831, on account of incompatibility between himself and his wife, he abandoned her and his child, came to America and purchased real estate in that portion of Ohio then called the Western Reserve, where he lived until 1834; and in the early part of the year he went back to England for the purpose of settling up his family affairs, in which settlement he conveyed to his son and only heir a large tract of land in Australia. 
   On account of troubles with his Ohio neighbors, he immediately, on his return, sold out his estate and came to Eastern Texas the same year and joined Captain Cheshire’s company of soldiers. 
   He received a headright to one league of land in Vehlin’s Colony, and was for several years engaged in surveying for Gen. T. J. Chambers, by whom he was much commended for his skill and scientific knowledge as a surveyorIn the summer of 1841 he suddenly and unheralded appeared in Matagorda.

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