On this day in 1991, Lutheran minister, educator, and prison administrator George J. Beto died in Austin. Beto, born in Montana in 1916, taught history at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin from 1939 to 1949, then served as the school's president from 1949 to 1959. He began a lengthy involvement with the criminal justice system in 1953, when governor Allan Shivers appointed him to the Texas Prison Board. After the death of Oscar Byron Ellis in 1961 Beto became director and chief of chaplains for the Texas Department of Corrections; he held those positions through 1972. Although many inmates admired him for his willingness to communicate with them--they called him "Walking George" because he unexpectedly visited inmates and employees at the various prison properties--they also regarded him as a stern "preacher" with "a baseball bat in one hand and a Bible in the other." He received much criticism for his use of authoritarian disciplinary policies, and many prisoners complained that Beto and his staff harassed and threatened those who attempted to file civil-rights suits against prison officials. After he retired as director of the TDC, he served as a professor of corrections at Sam Houston State University from 1972 until 1991.
On this day in 1928, Carl G. (the Big Swede) Cromwell drilled the world's deepest oil well. In the wake of his 1923 success with the famed Santa Rita No. 1, Cromwell had become drilling superintendent of the Texon Company's rapidly expanding field on University of Texas land in Reagan County. He also acquired his own leases and became known as an honest, generous, free-spirited wildcatter. In association with company engineer Clayton W. Williams, Cromwell experimented in drilling deeper than the average 3,000 feet. In 1926 Williams located a site and Cromwell's crews began work. In late November 1928, because of mounting expenses and problems, Cromwell was directed to shut down. Instead, he disregarded orders, went into hiding, and kept drilling. On December 4, at 8,525 feet, University 1-B came in. It remained the world's deepest oil well until 1931, the same year in which Cromwell died in an automobile accident.
On this day in 1882, the Matador Land and Cattle Company of Dundee, Scotland, purchased the Matador Ranch. The ranching venture was started in 1878 in Motley County in northwest Texas by partners Alfred M. Britton and Henry H. (Hank) Campbell. An early financier, Spottswood W. Lomax, gave the ranch its name of “Matador,” reflecting his enthusiasm for Spanish literature. During the following decades the ranch evolved into a massive enterprise. By the early 1900s it comprised 861,000 acres in Texas including land in Motley, Dickens, Cottle, Floyd, and Oldham counties. The cattle company also leased 500,000 acres in northern Montana and 300,000 acres in South Dakota. An average of 55,000 head of cattle were on hand. The Matador Division in Motley County served as a breeding ground, while yearling steers were sent to the Alamositas Division in Oldham County to graze and grow.
On this day in 1857, a public meeting was held in Helena, county seat of Karnes County, in which the citizens called Mexican teamsters an "intolerable nuisance" and called on the citizens of San Antonio to hire only Texans. Karnes County had been the site of several incidents in the so-called "Cart War." By the mid-1850s, Mexicans and Tejanos had built a successful business of hauling food and merchandise from the port of Indianola to San Antonio and other towns in the interior of Texas. Using oxcarts, they moved freight more rapidly and cheaply than their Anglo competitors. Beginning in July of 1857, some Anglos retaliated by destroying the Mexicans' oxcarts, stealing their freight, and reportedly killing and wounding a number of Mexican carters. Responding to pressure from Mexico and Washington, Governor Pease provided the carters with armed escorts. The Cart War subsided by the end of 1857.