August Santleben, son of Christian and Sophie (Haas) Santleben, was born at Hanover, Germany, on February 28, 1845. In 1845 the Santlebens settled in Castro's Corner, near the Medina River eight miles north of Castroville in Medina County; their young son August was four months old. The adventurous youth matured quickly on the frontier; at age fourteen he traveled a route by horseback between Castroville and Bandera as the youngest mailman in the United States. At the outset of the Civil War, Santleben freighted cotton between Columbus and Eagle Pass on the Mexican border. Because he was a Union sympathizer he fled to Mexico from Eagle Pass in 1862 and found employment at the Piedras Negras cottonyards, owned by F. Gross and Company. From there Santleben traveled with a theatrical group to Brownsville, where he enlisted in December 1863 as a scout along the lower Rio Grande valley for Edmund J. Davis's First Texas Cavalry, U.S.A. Santleben remained with this unit until the war ended in 1865. Shortly later he secured a mail contract that took him from San Antonio to Eagle Pass and on to Fort Clark in Kinney County. In 1867 Santleben teamed with Adolph Muengenberger to establish a stage line from San Antonio to Monterrey; it was the first service of its kind between Mexico and Texas. By 1869 the partnership had expanded its freighting business to include service between San Antonio and Monterrey, Saltillo, and Chihuahua that traversed the Chihuahua Trail. Santleben married Mary Anna Obert of Boerne on December 30, 1870. They had seven children and adopted two. Because the rapid westward extension of the railroad from San Antonio after 1877 greatly lessened the value of Santleben's stage and freighting services, he moved his family to San Antonio, where he served as a ward politician and as head of a transfer company. Santleben's memoir, A Texas Pioneer (1910), is considered by several critics to be the best of its genre. In it Santleben vividly describes encounters with Indian, Mexican, and White thieves during his years of staging and freighting on the southern Texas and northern Mexican frontier. The book also details the business of freighting by prairie schooner, Mexican oxcart, and mule-drawn wagon train. Santleben died at his home in San Antonio on September 18, 1911.
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Ben E. Pingenot, "Booknotes on August Santleben's A Texas Pioneer," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (July 1967). Charles W. Ramsdell, "Review of August Santleben's A Texas Pioneer," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 15 (July 1911). Roy L. Swift and Leavitt Corning, Jr., Three Roads to Chihuahua (Austin: Eakin Press, 1988).
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