I recently wrote about the grandfather I never knew, Clarence Buller, and how I only learned of his existence long after I had grown up. That family knowledge deepened when my brother and I discovered two old copies of the Palacios Beacon in our parent’s papers after our mother died back in 2004.
One of those newspapers told of the death of Clarence’s father, Louis H. Buller, over a New Year’s holiday weekend, 1930-1931. Louis, who had served a couple of terms as an alderman for the town of Palacios during the ’20’s, accompanied his son, Linder, to Oyster Lake on Matagorda Bay on Friday to set up a weekend fishing camp. Saturday noon, he headed back across the bay to pick up his other two sons, Wesley and Clarence.
He never made it.
Rough weather had blown in, so no one missed him at first, simply assuming he was with the others. When he had not shown up at home by Monday morning Clarence headed for the camp only to discover that Louis had been gone since Saturday. Linder had not missed him, thinking he must have stayed at home once he got there. They now realized their father was missing out on the water.
A search party was quickly assembled, including support from an airplane, spreading out across the bay. The mast of a small boat was spotted extending about 18 inches above the now calm bay waters, two miles south of the ‘red light.’ Searchers reaching the spot late Monday evening were able to see the body lying on the deck of the submerged boat and recover it.
I wonder about my great-grandfather’s last hours. Alone on a small boat, sailing across a bay generally calm and quiet that unexpectedly turned rough that weekend — did he know the danger he was about to face? What happened to cause the sinking? At what point did Louis realize the boat was going down and that he would drown? What were his dying thoughts?
These are things I will never know.
But as I explained before, none of this was ever even part of my family knowledge prior to finding that newspaper headline 15 years ago. Once Granny Tilly took my father out to San Diego by 1927, Clarence and that whole branch of the family tree disappeared from sight, so I had never known anything about any of them.
Finding this admittedly old news and searching out Clarence’s grave in the Palacios cemetery have given me the present of an unknown past. Turns out I had — likely have — unknown relatives on my father’s side: 2 uncles, Linder and Wesley, as well as 2 aunts, Elnora and Mrs. Denver (Lena) Looper. The article mentions grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so I have cousins unknown to me out there somewhere.
All this was revealed by a single old copy of the small-town paper, the Palacios Beacon, still publishing today. And that other newspaper clipping? I’ll share that one sometime soon.