"A Few Of FR's Finest" was born one year ago today. Together with Mama_Bear and Daisyscarlett, Billie turned a dream into a reality. The three Finest "sistahs" worked hard to bring profiles of individual FReepers to the attention of those that came to visit the Finest on a regular basis. Following is a "History of the Finest" lovingly written by our own jwfiv. Kick off your shoes, sit back and relax, for you are in for a rich and detailed story, promised to entertain and to bring you closer in spirit to what makes the Finest well...."The Finest."
"A History of the Finest ~ told by jwfiv
A light drizzle was softly tapping on my window, which was open just a bit to let the cool breeze in. I was hoping it might keep me from dozing off...to no avail, I confess. Between listening to the rhythm of the falling rain, and the hum of Maggie's beloved electric fan, I had become Little Nemo in Slumberland, and was working on the 21st of 40 winks when I was hit right between the eyes by the scoop on this caper , like a bird in the way of a Gary Johnson fastball.
Maggie was off on one of her solos, leaving me to mind the store. I don't know where she goes until she comes back, and sometimes not even then...it's on a need to know basis, and that's OK with me, cuz I'm just glad to be a cub reporter, and her sidekick. I caught reference to magic lariats, glass airplanes and someone named Condi as she spoke into her decoder ring before leaving that morning...she said something about "an errand for George", then whoosh, when I turned around, she was gone.
My little nap ended with a start when I heard the Mac chiming to announce that new mail was in the hopper. I was thrilled to find an anonymous source named Dick Morris, wogue and wapscallion, as the author of the message. I'd lately been watching him tattle-tale on the doings and motives of x42 and Senator x, and was skeptical that he seemed so eager to turn over what he considered might be clues to the origins of an unidentified conservative website called FreeRepublic, and specifically a part of it he referred to as "The Finest".
His message said that I would find a manila envelope containing photos and documents of interest, and possible scandal, waiting for me at the front desk of the Hotel Monaco.
I dashed out the door and into the rain, ran the four blocks to the bus stop and caught the 2:45 E Street run, which took me across Main to a part of town I'm not really comfortable in. What used to be a family neighborhood was now a place of shadows, known locally as the DeeYew. I never have figured that one out, so I just call it Creepsville.
Keeping my eyes straight ahead, ignoring the hawkers and liberal loonies, I walked the final two blocks to the Hotel, where the desk clerk handed me the envelope, just as I had been told would happen.
Not waiting for the bus, I blew my comic book money on a taxi and hurried back to the office to open the envelope and find within it several aged documents, receipts, old newspaper clippings, deeds and writs, as well as a couple of tintypes and time-worn photograph.
Going through the various scraps of info, I pieced together a story that began when America was still a young nation.
I don't know if the tale which follows accomplishes my source's purpose, however, I think it's one worth telling, and see no scandal or mischief, only charity and good deeds.
The documents tell of three enterprising young women who founded the San Antonio Rose, a saloon and café on the outskirts of San Antonio de Bexar, near the old Alamo Mission.
The only known photo of the San Antonio Rose, ca. 1855.
A deed with the names Wilhemina Himmelblau, Eleanor L'Orso Marrone, and Daisy "Red" O'Hara is proof of its founding, in June, 1840. There was also a photocopy of a census record for the Republic of Texas, from that same year, with their names listed as proprietors. Newspaper articles and a tattered one-sheet from 1848 attested to its reputation for "honest card play and whiskey that ain't been watered down".
Miss Willie, Miss Lori and Red, as the three were affectionately called, were known far and wide for their hospitality and good cheer, and hosted many a weary traveler and cowboy dusty from the trail
The three women were daughters of the South but loved the Union, too, and encouraged the discussion of politics and religion, which came natural to the pioneering spirit. In 1859, the Rose burned down when an argument between patrons became a brawl and a broken oil lamp lit the lace curtains on fire. No one was hurt, luckily, and in the aftermath, the penitent customers, and townsfolk, rallied together to build a new and more grand venue. To honor the community for standing with them, the ladies retired the name Rose and the first Finest Saloon was born.
Independence Day, 1876; a crowd of regular customers is pictured in front of the Finest Saloon, built on the spot where the San Antonio Rose stood before burning to the ground.
On the top steps to the right, standing from right to left, are Wilhemina Himmelblau, Eleanor L'Orso Marrone, and Daisy "Red" O'Hara.
On the far left, second row, is Ladimier Tekcz and his two sons, Shane and Clint; and standing to his left is Travis Meek, one of the first of the famed Texas Rangers.
The two women in top row center, wearing the similar hats, are Lady Margaret Exington and her sister, Lady Nanette, reunited after the former's brief time as captive of the Comancheros, and subsequent rescue by Marshal Meek.
In front center, hand on hip, is Arthur O'Naughtt (who earned a mention in the history books serving as a balloon observer for the North during the Civil War, and afterwards as a detective for Wells Fargo). To his left are, respectively, Louis deWolff, gambler and merchant; Don Carlos Ounaeoli (frontier chef and early Tex-Mex cuisine enthusiast); and Daniel McForty, the Fifth Earl of Kirkaldy (Scottish arms merchant, horse trader and, later, Colonel in the Confederate Army, First Georgia Volunteers).
This is believed to be the earliest extant photograph taken by Valerie Kloop, an immigrant from Holland who traveled the breadth of her adopted country, capturing images of Her pioneers and the cities that sprang up in their wake as they moved West.
The Finest thrived in the years that followed, not just as a saloon and café, but as a steakhouse famous for its barbecue, Cajun and Mexican cuisine (thanks to their brilliant chef and chief bottle washer), and as a community meeting hall, polling place and even a classroom, when the river was high.
In 1881, the three founders decided it was time to let go their hostess duties to devote more time to their loves and families. After turning over the building to a local church and temperance union, they each spent time travelling the world to visit the places from which so many of their guests had come, before settling down into their comfortable later years.
The three founders of the San Antonio Rose, sipping
hot chocolate in the Chicago Train Station,
Easter Sunday, 1899. The man in the middle,
seated at a table behind the ladies,
is identified as none other than Th. Inman,
the famous, some say notorious, chief copy
editor for the Chicago Daily Herald.
Friends to the end, they always kept in touch, by post, telegraph, and, much to their delight, "Mr. Bell's telephone"...and would yearly have a breakfast together, sitting by a window or at an outdoor cafe, sharing fond memories of days gone by...and wondering what joys the future would bring.
The story of the three founders would seem to end here, with the mention of their annual reunions...exept for a torn page from a 1936 issue of Look Magazine which was in the mysterious package. On that scrap of old paper was a brief article about a Fourth of July Picnic at the Tres Hermanas Rose Garden and Park in San Antonio, on the site where once stood the Finest Saloon.
The Garden was said to grow the most beautiful of yellow roses and, to that day, bluebirds nested year 'round in the tall cottonwoods that stood watch over the San Antonio Rose.
Well, that may not be exactly the way "A Few of FR's Finest" began, but a little poetic license never hurt.
Please feel free to add your own personal story of what the Finest has meant to you over the past year. Meanwhile, thank you all for being a part of the Finest Family. May God Bless you all.
~~~ Billie, daisyscarlett, Mama_Bear,
dansangel and dutchess ~~~