This is the fourth of article on Wests, and the third on G.W. West.
It is commonly stated that George West had to go to work to help support the family because his father, Washington “Wash” West, had invested heavily in Confederate currency. That is an interesting statement for I seem to remember somewhere hearing someone use “Confederate currency” as an euphemism for slavery. If that is what was meant, then the West’s financial difficulties could be attributed to the end of slavery. If actually Confederate paper money was what was meant, then that too would have place them in a bad financial condition as Confederate currency were bills of credit, not secured or backed by any assets, so when the war was over, the money became all but worthless. Many of the Confederate currency bore the statement that they were payable, “six months after the ratification of a treaty of peace between the Confederated States and the United States.”
It would be odd that Washington West was investing heavily in Confederate paper money as most people valued it very poorly, especially towards the end of the Civil War, otherwise known by some as “The War of Northern Aggression.” Paper money was printed with a face value, for example “One Dollar,” but was valued at less. You could buy items for example, for three dollars in paper, or one dollar in silver (coin). The later in the war, the greater the difference. It could be that Washington West was a strong believer in the armies and leadership of the south and he traded for the currency, saving it for the day that the South won and they would then be redeemed at full value. While he most certainly would have been “cash poor” at the end of the war, he was not land or cattle poor. He was however, labor poor, necessitating the West boys, George, Solomon and Ike, to take on some of the work around the farm and ranch. Washington West having injured his back at some point, was limited as to what he could do, and that may be partly why their home became an inn for the stage stop at Sweet Home.
Rarely mentioned in the George West narratives is that the three boys were not the only West children. The eldest child of Washington and Mary West, Carrie Thomas West (Bristow) was born in Tennessee, then followed George and Solomon (Sol) in Tennessee. Louise May West (Shiner) was born 1856, after the family had to moved to Texas, followed by Isaac (Ike). Then the West’s last child, Sammy W. West, was born and died Jan. 6, 1861. Sammy is buried with grandparents, Washington and Mary, in the West Family Cemetery.
As yet, I don’t know how many slaves the Wests owned in 1865; the Civil War ended in April of 1865, for the tax records in some of the years didn’t list the slaves, and some years are badly damaged, but one record I could find showed that Wash West owned and paid taxes on 11 “Negroes.” Some of those worked the ranch and at least one worked in the home.
With the war’s end and the ending of slavery in Texas, the children of the West family were depended on to help with the inn and the ranch. It can be expected that the girls helped their mother keep the inn while the boys helped their father on the ranch as they got old enough. George was old enough at war’s end, 14, that he could be of good help to his father with the cattle, learning from him and the hired hands. Former slaves who remained in the area as well as neighbors worked for wages. Soon George would be hiring out to their neighbors, and eventually worked in partnership with some of them, working for “old man” Bennett and then being in partnership with his son J.M. (John) Bennett in many deals. Sol and Ike would join in the ranch (spelled commonly in the day “ranche”) and then in partnership with George, and finally on their own. All became notable men in the cattle business.
A question I have not found discussed was where George W. West got his education, for he was a well-educated man. From what I have seen, he was a man who both read and wrote well, and he clearly had a command of math. He was the bookkeeper in the partnership he had with McCutcheon, as told by Sol West in “The Trail Drivers of Texas,” and his many business deals speaks well of his education. It is possible that the Wests were all educated at home, or there may have been a “ranch school” for the children that lived in the area, as was common across Texas, including Live Oak County. I am sure that he got a lot of education “on the job” as well, from the cattlemen with which he worked, partnered, and associated in his time in the business. Still ahead, we will look at George Washington West’s land and cattle holdings, deals and his involvement in Live Oak County. Stay tuned for part 4 on George West.