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Sale 988 — The Steven C. Walske Collection of Civil War Special Routes

Sale Date — Thursday, 27 May, 2010

Category — Trans-Rio Grande Mail: A. J. Grayson

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 988, Lot Number 369, Trans-Rio Grande Mail: A. J. Grayson"Forwarded from Mazatlan Mexico by A. J. Grayson", "Forwarded from Mazatlan Mexico by A. J. Grayson""Forwarded from Mazatlan Mexico by A. J. Grayson". Manuscript endorsement on cover addressed in another hand to Mrs. Catherine Johnson at Austin Tex., original letter datelined "Mrs. Bralys Cala. June 25 /64" indicating California origin, carried outside the mails to Mazatlan, where Col. Andrew Jackson Grayson arranged for it to be carried to Texas, faint pencil notation on the front reads: "Brought by D. Owen who stops at the San Roman house -- by Mr. Shaw, Austin Texas Oct. 19th 1864", letter and left edge of cover dampstained, cover also opened a bit roughly at left but the endorsements are intact


A biography of Andrew Jackson Grayson can be found at "Andrew Jackson Grayson was born in 1819 on the family plantation in Louisiana. Subject to frequent illness he was permitted by his parents to occupy much of his time as he pleased. As a result he passed many of his days in the nearby woods hunting small game and observing birds and other wildlife. He attended a local school until the teacher found him drawing birds during class and told his father. He was promptly sent to college in Missouri with orders not to study drawing. After the death of his father he used his small legacy to go into business in Columbia, Louisiana. But business didn't interest him. He left his clerk in charge of the store while he roamed the woods and the business soon failed. By 1842, the year of his marriage to Frances Jane Timmons, he had decided to move west. In 1844 they moved to St. Louis to prepare for the journey. In the spring of 1846 Grayson, his wife, and their infant son, Edward, started overland for California with a group that included ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri and, until their tragic turnoff at Fort Bridger, the Donner party. Soon after their arrival in October, Grayson joined the California Battalion. Later he went into business in San Francisco and purchased lots there and in other parts of the bay area. In 1853 Mrs. Grayson saw an exhibit of Audubon's plates Birds of America at the Mercantile Library in San Francisco. She took her husband to see it, and he realized that he must resume his drawing. The family settled in San Jose where he taught himself drawing, paint mixing and taxidermy. After short residencies in Tehuantepec, Mexico, in 1857, and in Napa Valley in 1859, studying and drawing the local birds, Grayson settled in Mazatlan to work on his proposed 'Birds of the Pacific Slope.' Grayson spent the last ten years of his life in the area around Mazatlan and nearby Islands, and contributed many articles on natural history to newspapers and magazines in Mexico and California, writing under his own name and the pseudonyms 'Wanderer,' 'Rambler,' and 'Occidentalus.' He sent many birds and other specimens and detailed bird biographies to the Smithsonian Institution. Although discouraged by lack of funds, the repudiation of his contract with the Academy of Science and Literature following the execution of Maximilian, and the accidental death of his son in 1867, Grayson seized every opportunity to complete his project. Financial aid finally came from the Smithsonian but it was too late; Grayson was already ill with coast fever from which he died on August 17, 1869."

There is scant information about Col. Grayson's activities on behalf of the Confederate States. In August 1863 he wrote to Jefferson Davis to request letters of marque and reported on his efforts: "...As I am a stranger to you, sir, I can only say that our native homes are not widely separated, mine being in Louisiana, on the Ouachita River in hearing of the guns of Vicksburg, where all of my relatives (when last I heard from them) have their homes. My only son Edward is now in the Confederate Army, having gone on from here with Judge Terry and others last February. I have aided and been the means of sending many Southerners from California through to Texas for the purpose of joining the Confederate Army, and also made arrangements for sending and getting papers to and from the South by the way of Brownsville, Matamoros, and Monterey for our friends in California." More information comes from a note found inside another cover from California to Mrs. Catherine Johnson (the addressee on the cover offered here), which is endorsed by C.S.A. forwarder Jose Quintero. The note of instruction reads: "Send letters to J. A. Quintero, Monteray, Mexico, instructing him to forward to Col. A. J. Grayson at Mazatlan who will forward them to Cal.; at the same time enclosing 25 cents to pay postage. Put your letter into an envelope, seal it, and direct it to your friend in Cal. Just as it were to go by the ordinary mail; then put that into another & direct it as above."

"San Roman's house" in the pencil notation refers to Jose San Roman, a merchant, banker and broker in the contraband cotton trade of the Civil War. He came to America in the late 1830's and settled in New Orleans. In 1846 San Roman moved to Matamoros and established a dry-goods firm. By 1850 the business extended across the Rio Grande to the newly incorporated town of Brownsville, Texas. San Roman prospered and expanded his business into commercial credit, real estate and cotton brokerage. By 1860 San Roman moved to Brownsville and with his partners monopolized credit services to smaller merchants, forcing many of them out of business. During the Union blockade, San Roman became a key figure in the contraband trade in Bagdad, Brownsville, and Matamoros. His firm served as a brokerage house for hundreds of cotton farmers west of the Mississippi River. He moved back to Matamoros in the early 1860s and sold cotton wholesale to textile firms in New York, England, and Germany, thereby avoiding the interference of United States military and civil authorities on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. By 1870 he was considered one of the wealthiest men in South Texas.

E. 3,000-4,000
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