Lavaca County, Texas Newspaper Profiles


Shiner Gazette, 16 Jun 1910, page 1

Mrs. Jemima Howe Carnes

An Interesting Reminiscence

Mrs. Jemima Howe Carnes will on September 8 next be 86 years old. Mrs. Carnes’ maiden name was Cole. She was married at the age of 18 to William James Carnes in Louisiana. She is the mother of thirteen children, five of whom are dead. There are twenty-nine grandchildren and twenty great-grand children. Her own children who are living are: Joseph Carnes of Floresville, Wm. Carnes of Hallettsville, Ralph Carnes of Gonzales county and Seth Carnes of Yoakum, Mesdames Mary Atlanta of Livingston, Martha Massie of Smithville, L. M. Kokernot of Gonzales and Cora C. Ward of Shiner, whose tender care and companionship is so unselfishly administered to her aged mother. Her husband, Wm. J. Carnes, during the civil war sent a substitute to the Confederate army at the outbreak of the war, and served in an official capacity as guardian and protector of his neighborhood and housing and supporting many of the Confederate women and children throughout the war.

Her oldest son entered the army at the age of 17, was wounded at the battle of Shiloh, was sent home on furlough, and met his death at this time, in taking his stand as guard one night while defending his town against “jayhawkers” as grandma termed these desperadoes.

At this point in her reminiscences, the aged mother broke down, completely overcome, recalling the incidents of the death of her first born, as though it was but yesterday. Her remarkable memory of the past is almost marvelous, relating events of the long ago, that are thrilling and romantic, with a perfectly unclouded memory.

Soon after the death of this son the family moved to Texas from Louisiana, each “prairie schooner” being drawn by seven and eight yoke of oxen. This journey was begun in August and the destination on the banks of the Navidad in Jackson county, was not reached until October.

At the close of the war she and her husband were left with nine children and fifty cents. Their lands and possessions laid waste in the havoc of war, their slaves set free, even the daughters with thousands of dollars in Confederate bills quilted in their clothing, awoke to find their money valueless, and the home that had sheltered the wounded privates, as well as officials, but a shadow of its former splendor.

Grandma Carnes recalls the comet of 75 years ago accurately. She was then about ten years old. That comet she states was more brilliant and very different looking to the present one. The night of the falling of the stars, or as it was termed then, “the eruption in the air,” created much alarm. The meteors appeared to be as large as cocoa nuts, and continued falling throughout the night, with a whizzing, swishing noise, which continued throughout the next day, though the meteors were invisible. The community for several days was in a great state of alarm and mourning, and two disastrous storms that followed during the same week, left death and destruction in their wake.

Grandma Carnes has always lived a devoted Christian life. Her picture, as she requested us to say, represents her studying the Bible, which is open at her favorite chapter, the 14th of John. She is a close reader, enjoying the secular papers, and has been a reader and subscriber of the Texas Christian Advocate since its publication.

Her home was often the home of Bishop James Keener and family, and she now has in her possession the record books of the Sabbath school and quarterly conference of her parish is Louisiana, as far back as 1858. She takes pride in being elected to honorary and life membership in the Epworth league of Shiner, and says to think she has lived to her advanced age and then to be hunted up and interviewed for the first time in her life by a newspaper representative.

When questioned as to her creed and church relationship, she smilingly remarked: “I’ll give you an answer framed sixty years ago –

“My Saviour’s name I’ll gladly sing,
He is my captain and my king;
The devil’s camp I bid adieu,
And Zion’s peaceful land pursue;
The reason why I tell you this –
The devil hates a Methodist.”

E. E. L.

Contributed by Matt Cross


San Antonio Express, 27 Oct 1935

Moulton Pioneer Rounds Out Century of Life

Mrs. Catherine Prajer Born Oct. 28, 1835, Grateful for What Texas Has Given Her – Town Will Help Her Observe the Day.


FLATONIA – On Oct. 28, Mrs. Catherine Prajer will have rounded out 100 years of life, she having been born in what is now Czechoslovakia, Oct. 28, 1835. Her two daughters, the only children, the numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, many friends and the city of Moulton, will fittingly celebrate this momentous day at her home, one-half mile west of Moulton, where she lives within speaking distance of her older daughter, Mrs. Charles Beran. She was born in those momentous days when Texas was struggling to gain its liberty from Mexico. Texas was the land of her dreams from earliest childhood, having heard from relatives and friends who had left the old country, to establish a home with the liberty-loving people of the Lone Star State where such wonderful opportunities awaited those who would do their share. The glowing descriptions of the vastness, fertility and beauty of the Empire of the West entrigued her beyond words.

Her dreams, however, failed to materialize until she was 32 years old, married and the mother of a nine-year-old daughter. Her husband, Martin Prajer, too, had the same dreams, and great was their joy, when the year 1867 found them, after a long stormy ocean voyage, safe among relatives and friends in Texas, and in “Little Bohemia,” as the little village of Braha [Praha], in Fayette County, is affectionately called.

Thrilled beyond measure with everything about them, especially the prosperity of their one-time neighbors in far off Bohemia, now fulfledged American citizens, they were instantly inspired to establish a permanent home – a modest one, it was true, but the neuclus of what was in a few years to be a substantial farm home, surrounded with broad fertile acres, the result of tireless, if slowly successful efforts.

Mr. Prajer died early in 1880, and later the same year the daughter, Marie, was married to Charles Beran, who passed away recently on their 55th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Prajer carried on the duties of her farm until 1913 when she was 78 years old. Even then, when she felt that her life was nearing its end, she did not give up her independence. She sold her farm at a handsome profit, immediately erecting a comfortable home for herself close to her daughter, where she still lives cherishing the memories of the past and comparing the many varied and wonderful activities that have transpired throughout the world since she first saw the light of ray 100 years ago, content to calmly await the summone that must come.

She is intensely interested in the homely, everyday affairs, especially everything that concerns her loved ones and friends. The weightier affairs of the world that heretofore interested her greatly, in the yesteryears, she says laughingly, “she leaves to younger and wiser heads, those who are living on borrowed time should and rightly so, have their thoughts fixed upon their home beyond the skies. Her memory is astouding. Without the least hesitation, or pause to refresh her memory, she inquires about the intimate affairs of her friends’ children of other mmebers of their families, calling them by name, even if she had not seen or heard their names mentioned for years. That is most unusual even in one half her age.

Her eyesight and hearing is rapidly failing. Just recently she fell while on the porch, fortunately no bones were broken, slightly bruises only being sustained. Since then she will not venture out of doors. Throughout her life she has been blessed with wonderful health, even yet it is amazing. When she was 60 years, she was ill for a few days, and four years later her arm was broken in a fall.

She is cheerful and daily thanks God for the many blessings, especially for her faith in His mercy and goodness, for her loved ones and many friends whose love and loyalty have made the evening of her life so pleasant. She sympathizes deeply over Mrs. Beran’s health which has been poor, the past year. Mrs. Beran is 77 years old, the mother of 8 children. Her sons, the Beran Brothers, are ginners, garage owners and prosperous farmers, creditably filling their niche in life, as are her daughters. She has 37 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. J. Machac, the younger daughter, born soon after the arrival of her parents in Texas, lives at West Texas. She has 9 children and 11 grandchildren. The Misses Lillie and Della Maresh loving give every care and attention to their 100-year-old great-grandmother and their grandmother who is 77.

Contributed by Matt Cross


Victoria Advocate, 23 Jun 2005

Family, baseball mattered most to Sembera

By Mike Forman

Carroll Sembera made his first start for the Houston Astros on the final day of the 1965 season. Unfortunately for Sembera, it was also the last start of the season for St. Louis' Bob Gibson.

"I remember my dad saying while Bob Gibson was going for (win No.) 20, he was going for 1," Michael Sembera said. "My dad got the 1, but it wasn't the 1 he wanted."

Many of Michael Sembera's memories of his father are about baseball, which comes as no surprise since Carroll Sembera's greatest loves were his family and baseball.

Sembera, who died Wednesday, June 15, at the age of 63, was working as the Midwest scouting coordinator and national cross checker for the Seattle Mariners.

But Sembera was also looking forward to retiring so he could spend more time at home in Shiner with his wife, Margie, and visiting their family, which includes Michael and daughters Sonya, Jacqueline, Michelle, and LeeAnn.

"He was an outstanding baseball man," said Jim Walton, Sembera's first professional manager and the person responsible for bringing him into the scouting profession. "He was dedicated to the game. He also had a light side. He had his own domain, which was his wife, children, and family."

There was not much doubt Sembera, who was a member of Shiner's first Little League all-star team in 1952, was headed for a career in baseball.

Dorothy Seale remembers her brother was "always outside with a ball in his hands," and often threw rocks or "green plums he picked off the tree" when a ball wasn't available. Seale recalls the time the school principal asked Sembera to throw him the ball and Sembera threw it so hard it left the principal's hand "burning."

Even though Sembera grew to over 6 feet tall, he never weighed more than 160 pounds. Thus, it came as no surprise that the high school football coach told Sembera to stick to baseball, which proved to be wise advice. Sembera, as a sophomore at Shiner High School, struck out 24 batters in a seven-inning game.

Sembera earned a scholarship to Trinity University in San Antonio but returned to Shiner in short order after discovering one of his duties was to hold tackling dummies for the football team.

Sembera pitched for the semi-pro Shiner Clippers throughout high school and beyond and was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962 - the same year he married Margie - after a throwing session with scout Red Murff.

Sembera's professional career was delayed when his father suffered a serious accident, which left him in a coma for months before claiming his life.

Sembera eventually reported to Moultrie, Ga., where Walton took note of the tall, lanky pitcher from Texas.

"In those days they didn't have radar guns," Walton said. "It was hard to judge someone on anything other than the quality of their pitches. He had a fastball and a great natural slider. I was amused with him. I'd say, 'Carroll you have this natural slider,' and he'd say, 'I don't know how I throw it. I just throw it.' "

Sembera's slider was good enough to earn promotions to Modesto, Calif.; Durham, N.C.; and Amarillo before he was called up to Houston, which had switched its name to the Astros while playing its first year in the Astrodome.

Sembera not only made use of his slider in Houston, he also revealed his sense of humor on a club filled with characters, including his roommate, the late John Bateman.

Sembera earned the nickname "Pencil" from the media because of his slender build, but his teammates called him "The Hat" in a pun-like reference to his surname.

"He was skinny, but he could run everybody into the ground," said Astros broadcaster Larry Dierker, who played with Sembera in Houston. "I wasn't around him that much, but I remember him well. He was kind of a character. He had kind of a dry, Texas sort of a wit."

"He was one of those dry-witted guys," Walton added of Sembera, who often pointed out he made it into the Hall of Fame through the back door by being among the pitchers who surrendered home runs to Hank Aaron. "The things he said were very amusing and sometimes quite comical."

Sembera played three seasons with the Astros, appearing in 71 games and going 3-9 with four saves before being selected by the Montreal Expos in the 1969 expansion draft.

Sembera earned the first save in Expos history by protecting the lead in the franchise's first game. Sembera appeared in 28 games during his two seasons with the Expos, going 0-2 with two saves before being released in 1970.

Margie and the children, as they were born, were there at virtually every stop, which also included a winter league stint in Puerto Rico. They joined Sembera as soon as school ended and returned to Shiner after the season concluded.

"That was our life," said Margie, who remembers the snow on the ground when she arrived in Montreal, the car getting a flat tire on the road from either Montreal to Vancouver or Vancouver to their next destination, and being dropped off at their house in Puerto Rico at night by a cab driver who didn't speak English and not having any food or water only to be welcomed by their neighbors across the street. "He was on the road so much. It was quite different, but I enjoyed it."

Sembera spent three years in the minor leagues with the St. Louis and Cincinnati organizations before arm trouble forced him to retire in 1973.

The family purchased the 10th Inning Lounge in Shiner in 1975, but at the urging of Walton, Sembera joined the Major League Scouting Bureau in 1982.

"He always said he would like to be a scout," said Margie, who ran the 10th Inning until the family sold it in 1996, a year after three men attempted to rob Sembera shortly after he had closed the lounge one night. He fought the intruders off with the lounge's moneybag until a passing car caused them to flee.

Sembera worked 11 years for the Major League Scouting Bureau - turning in a positive recommendation on University of Texas pitcher Roger Clemens, which some teams chose to ignore - before going to work for the Mariners in 1993.

"He had a talent for doing what we do," Walton said. "He had a keen eye for evaluating players. Carroll was an extremely honest guy. He always had an opinion and if you asked him for an opinion, he'd give you an answer."

Sembera, who said Roberto Clemente was the toughest hitter he ever faced, was often so blunt in his scouting reports, he was given the moniker "Mr. Chainsaw Scout," in reference to the movie, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

"He was super critical of the guys that he was going to see," Walton said. "He was not an easy grader. You had to earn it with him."

Or as Margie so aptly said of her husband: "If he didn't like something, he would let you know."

Sembera rarely had anything bad to say about baseball, even though he never made much more than the minimum salary, which was around $12,000 when he played, and he always had good things to say about his family, which includes 10 grandchildren.

"He'll be sadly missed across baseball and even more by his family," Walton said. "You can't replace someone like him."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at

Contributed by Matt Cross

The Killing of Robert Ragsdale

by Norman C. Krischke

Originally published as a Footprints of Fayette Article

Robert Ragsdale was killed by cattle rustlers on June 23, 1880. He left a wife, Susan P. (Robinson) Ragsdale and six children: Annie, Susie, Bessie, Charlie, James W. and Robert, Jr.

It was very early in the morning of June 22, 1980 that Searcy Secrest, Hamilton "Vic" Diickson and Short Day started out from the Secrest home on Mulberry Chreek (near present day Baumgarten Road) to round up stray cattle, drive them home, butcher them and sell the meat to butcher shops in Flatonia and Schulenburg. When they passed the Ragsdale ranch house located about a mile west of Moravia, Lavaca County, they entered Ragsdale's cattle pen and stole four beeves. Unknown to them, James Ragsdale, 10 year old son of Robert, saw the men and could testify as to their identity. The men rode about 20 miles west and returned late in the evening driving 20 or more cows and calves before them. They drove them past what is now the Dennis O'Rourke's house to a point a little south of Bob and Jean Durkee's house, which at that time was the Josef Staha home. O'Rourke's house is across the road from the William Waddell house. Waddell was a witness to the killing. About 200 yards east-northeast of the O'Rourke house is a tree; Ragsdale died very near this tree. Between the Waddell and Staha houses was a public pen for holding cattle. Robert Ragsdale had been in Hallettsville for a few days on business and arrived home too late on the 22nd of June to go after his stolen cattle.

The next day Ragsdale rode toward Schulenburg to report the theft to the constable. He rode upon his cattle near the public pen and demanded their return. Searcy Secrest refused to give them to him and gunfire erupted. Ragsdale's horse, a fast Spanish pony, was shot in the front shoulder and Ragsdale made a dash toward St. John's where he knew some men were working on a house. The three men raced after him and shot him out of the saddle; he had suffered six bullet wounds. As he was on the ground, Searcy's brother, "Bud", named Thomas after his father, rode up, and was told by Searcy to shoot him aslo so they would not take all the blame for the killing. Bud shot Ragsdale, the seventh shot, in the temple and "Spliit the frontal bone all along". Ragsdale's body was loaded on a horse that was led toward a ravine in a dry wash. The body slipped of the horse and he was dragged by a rope around his ankles about 200 yards to the shallow ravine where he was concealed. It was mid-afternoon before he was found.

This is only part I of Norman Krischke's article. Part II has not been located.