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Texans Pleased With New Country, Miss Ice Water

The Houston Post Section 1, Page 1

Tuesday, December 31, 1963


Texans Pleased With New Country, Miss Ice Water


After we had recovered somewhat from the exhaustion of our six day flight, I tried to get some reactions from the settlers about their new homeland in the wilderness.

Everyone I questioned – men, women and children – with few exceptions spoke of being pleased by Paraguay.

“This is fun once you get used to it, “ said one woman.

I LIKE IT,” said Sister Dora Townsend . “There’s plenty of room for all my kids to run around. The only worry is whether they are going to step on a snake.”

Sister Eddie Couch, who said that she was born in the “good old J-D [Jeff Davis } Hospital in Houston, “ said:

“As far as the place is concerned, this is what we were looking for. It’s a little better than I had expected. I thought it would be a dry, dusty, land and it’s not. All out little teething problems will be wrinkled out eventually.”

These reactions were typical among 76 pilgrims from Texas, members of the religious group known as Camp Beulah, who are setting up a community in the primitive back-country of South America.

WHEN THE women of Camp Beulah were asked why they left the comforts of civilization to come to Paraguay, their replies were almost identical.

“The Lord told my husband to come and I came along too, “ said Sister Caroline Long and that was roughly the reply of them all.

“Ice water is the thing I miss most – something cold, “ said Sister Long. But I like it here.

“What I like here is that it is so quiet. Sometimes I still imagine that I can hear the noise of planes and cars and all the rows we heard in Houston. I thought I heard a telephone this morning.

HAVE YOU noticed the birds? They are not like the birds in Houston. They sound different.”

Her husband, Gaston Vernon Long, chipped in: “This land will grow anything. We are go-

The Houston Post Section 1, Page 5

Tuesday, December 31, 1963

ing to have things that we never had before. Give this place a year. If I can get used to drinking hot water, everything will be fine.

“I saw a palm tree yesterday – it looked just like a Houston water tower.”

Said Sister Bettye Smith: “I just like all of it. You can sure slow down and relax here. You are not always in a big rush. I don’t miss TV because we didn’t have one even when we could. I don’t miss elevators. They make me sick like an airplane. I’ve had enough flying for the rest of my life.”

FROM THE children there was universal approval of the Chaco. With its abundance of wildlife and vast possibilities for Tom Sawyer’s dream island come true.

“I like it fine here,” said 7-year-old Cheryl Borden, the younger daughter of a Woodsboro cowboy. “I like the houses and the river and everything.”

Miss Ice water - PIC 1Randy Watts, 14, said: “It’s a nice place and the houses are close together and there are plenty of cattle and horses to ride.”

Brother Jack Wood said: “I really appreciate being here. I appreciate what the people have done for us and the welcome that they gave us when we got off the plane. The Paraguayans have tried to be nice to us, fixing our houses up and doing extra things for us.

THE CLIMATE has been a lot different. We’ve been kinda fagged out because of the heat. We’re still not used to this much heat, but I really do appreciate being here.”

Wood was asked what he hoped to find in Paraguay that he could not find in Houston.

“Well, really, just freedom,” he said.

“What I call freedom to live like the Lord wants me to live without any criticism from the religious world – and I really thank the Lord that I am here.

“In America you must fit in a pattern. It’s completely organized and people have it organized within themselves. I wouldn’t say that religion is organized, but men and women are. You must worship God like they say. Also, the denominations are highly organized and I believe that in a few years we’ll see one church. I don’t think this is a good thing.

IT NEVER was. The Puritans of England, they died for what they believed, and I believe that today God has ordained that man should worship God according to the scriptures and not give one inch on what is true and what is right.”

Wood said that he is a reformed drug addict who at one time was in “every jail in Texas.”

“But in Paraguay the Lord welcomes a former drug addict just as much as anyone else,” he said.

He denied reports that the group had left America because it was tired of high taxation. “That’s rubbish,” he said. “We were a charitable religious organization and we didn’t even have to pay taxes. We just knew there was more freedom in Paraguay. I had a comfortable house in Houston.

WE HAD four bedrooms and two baths. Now we have two rooms – and a path.

“My wife and I will be heads of the school here. There are 500 native families, and I figure each one will have four or five children.

“None of these children go to school. So we’ll build a school for the Indian children. We’ll teach these children reading, writing, and arithmetic, and Christianity also.

“We’ll farm about 750 acres of land.

WE’VE GOT six tractors to farm with and there’ll be 17,000 head of cattle that are already bought.

“Brother Saint John has been appointed the general manager of the whole ranch. In other words, he is the boss. There will be nobody over him except at Asuncion  which is 400 miles away – so actually we just go as the Lord leads us.”

Brother Saint John had many responsibilities during the first few days in the Chaco. As head of this family of 76, he was consulted on every problem major and minor. His difficulties were increased by a sudden attack of cramps in his legs and a fever which left him pale and weak.

WHEN ILLNESS strikes any member of Camp Beulah prayers are offered first and medical attention comes later.

Brother Jack laid his hands on Saint John and called on the Lord to heal him as the whole community knelt in prayer.

Arriving a trifle late for the pre-breakfast prayers I asked one of the women what was the matter with Saint John.

“He was sick but the Lord has cured him,” she announced with unquestioning faith.

The followers of Saint John see the will of the Lord in every tiny incident. A doctor who had flown into the camp after a young boy had been bitten by piranha fish while swimming was giving the child a shot of an antibiotic. The glass capsule containing the drug accidentally fell onto the earth floor of the hut.

THE LORD doesn’t want him to have it” said one of the women.

The Texans got to work with great speed to improve conditions at the camp.

Within 48 hours of the group’s arrival, the men had laid a 900-foot-long pipe from the river to the cookhouse to provide running water. A three-horse power gasoline motor supplied the power for pumping the river water to a tap beside the kitchen. The Guarani Indians also built the women some sinks beside the cookhouse for washing up.

Miss Ice water - PIC -2-3

WHEN THE first spout of water sprayed from the pipe, the natives who had never seen tap water before were amazed and delighted.

Brother David Lawrence organized a temporary outdoor school for the pilgrims’ children. He started teaching the young Texans Spanish – and a number of Guarani children from the nearby homes of the native workers joined the class.

The Texans also set to work to build a shower house for the women. Lack of adequate sanitation was perhaps the biggest of the early problems.

Actually, the “Green Hell” of Paraguay, as the Chaco has been called, is no more a green hell than Texas in midsummer. But it seems to be one when you have no showers, no ice water, nowhere to shelter from the sun except a hot wooden hut with a dusty, uneven floor.

DUST WAS A big problem at Del Sol. There were frequently strong winds and the dry crust of the earth flew across the camp.

The heat and the dust caused sore throats and noses, and trying to keep belongings clean was almost impossible.

But we welcomed the wind which cooled us.

My roommate, Larry Murray, proved a handy companion. He showed me how to rig my mosquito net and how to make a sort of salad from the heart of a palm tree.

LARRY IS A strapping  6-foot 3-inch jack of all trades.

He is a qualified barber, a plumber, a horse wrangler, and a rodeo rough rider and during World War II was a parachutist. Larry made 140 jumps by parachute, including one in which he broke his knees.

When we left Brownsville and he was about to board the Constellation he had told me, “This is the first time I’ve been in a plane with the hope of landing in it.”

Most of the children of Camp Beulah behaved extraordinarily well during their long journey and when faced with their new surroundings.

BUT THEIR strict upbringing and their long clothes made them appear much more serious and restrained than the native children. The boys in their long trousers and the girls with their ankle-length dresses were more like little old men and women than boisterous normal children.

Brother Saint John said that he was much pleased by his first few days in Paraguay.

Before the first breakfast in the camp he led the group in singing. “I have decided to follow Jesus” and in a prayer of thanksgiving.

THERE WAS hymn singing and prayer before each meal.

“Thank You, Lord for giving us a cool night” prayed Brother Saint John after our first good night when the wind blew refreshingly.

“Everyone’s rested and we’re all intact. Thank You for all the things You’ve given us here. We know some of the things are different to what we expected but we thank You for all You’ve done for us, for giving us good clean water from the river and for this food.”

All the members of the Camp Beulah are looking forward to the arrival of their farm equipment and their tractors due by river in January or February.

“We have nothing to break the ground now” said Saint John, “ but we have great plans for making this place a real garden.

WE HAVE brought lettuce, cabbage, tomato, radish, celery, avocado, and almost every kind of seed. Every kind of vegetable they grow in the valley of Texas we have brought.

“I have sweet corn, carrots, watermelons, beets, squash, blackeyed peas, pinto beans, green string beans and even Irish potatoes. We also plan to plant fruit trees. I think almost anything will grow here.

“Give us a little time and we’ll have this place growing everything.”

NEXT:  The dangers of camp life.






Bobby and Richard Watts 16
Bobby and Richard Watts 16

The Houston Post Section 1, Page 1, (lost)


Cont. Page

Sunday, October 27, 1963

CAMP BEULAH GROUP (cont. from page 1)

[…] of land it plans to form.

The land has been made available for the group’s use by Pan-Western-Development Co of Paraguay.

IT IS AN AREA covered with palm trees and scrub called monte at Puerto Olympio, 325 miles by air from Asuncion, on the Paraguay River and close to the border of Brazil.

The only way it can be reached is by air or river as there are no roads.

St [sic] John said that Hugo Zanelli, a Houston freight forwarder of the M & M Building, is arranging the shipment of the group’s equipment through the Strachan Shipping Co.

More than 100 tons of machinery and household effects belonging to the pioneers are due to sail from City Dock 21 in the Port of Houston Thursday. It will be carried by the Argentine Freighter Granadero to Buenos Aires, and then by river boat to Puerto Olympio, where the river Paraguay runs through the settlement area at great width and to a depth of more than 60 feet.

WHILE MOST OF the menfolk labored with hammers and nails to crate their goods in Houston, the women and children of Camp Beulah, Inc. waited in a former motel and nightclub which has been rented as a temporary camp at Harlingen.

St. [sic] John said the group plans to fly from either Brownsville or Matamoros to Asuncion around November 3rd in a chartered Paraguayan airliner. The cost of the fares will be $11,200, he said.

He was loading a two ton lathe onto a truck at Big Joe’s machinery shop at 6615 Hurst, in North Houston, Saturday.

With him, helping to manhandle the lathe, which they were taking to Paraguay, was Eugene Couch, a missionary-printer of the 500 block of Columbia St in the Heights. Couch, his wife Eddie Lou, and three children are flying with the party.

HE WILL OPERATE the three presses on which it is planned to print schoolbooks for the children, tracts for the natives, a camp newspaper, and eventually, it is hoped, that a translation of the Bible in Guarani, the tribal dialect of the area.

Otherwise, only Spanish and Portuguese are spoken in this part of the jungle.

Other Houstonians in the group are:

Rev Jack Wood, a former pastor at Birdsall Baptist Church, Columbia St, who is taking his wife, Wyvonne, a schoolteacher, and their five children. Wood, who said that he founded Birdsall Baptist Church is to be the assistant manager of the settlement.

Willie Lee Smith, a parttime preacher of the 1400 Block of White St, his wife Betty, and son.

Vernon Long, a caterpillar and bulldozer operator of North Houston, his wife Caroline and four children.

Lenny Angerstein, a Houston missionary, his wife Hattie Joe, and son, Samuel, age 2 ½ months old, the youngest member of the party.

MOST OF THE members of the group are Texans.

Bobby Watts, a native of Abilene, is going to the jungle’s settlement with his wife Betty, and seven children, Richard, 16, Nelda, 15, Randy, 14, Kathie, 12, Timothy, 9, Dorothy, 7, and Annette, 2.

Two brothers named Townsend, from Corn city near Goliad are both farmers.

Dwight, 23 and his wife, Bertha, have five children while Calvin, 33, and his wife Dora, have seven.

None of the group is more than 42 years old, and the average age is about 30 years.

BOBBY WATTS SAID that most of the group members came together at Camp Beulah, the missionary training and boys camp, St John started at Coalmont near Tracy City, Tenn, about three and a half years ago. He said that Jim MacRoberts, a rancher with a home in New Orleans, who now lives in Paraguay, became friendly with St. John and it was through him that the land in Paraguay had been made available for the group to develop.

“Last December, God spoke to us and gave us a message to go to Paraguay,” said Watts, “and to do missionary work there.”

“Brother St John sold his ranch to raise money for the trip and we are all putting in our own belongings and farm equipment and are sharing in the project. We decided to call the settlement Camp Beulah after the ranch where we mostly all came together.”

“WE HAVE PICKED up a fewer more members on the way. I think all of us, including our wives, will be glad when we get there.”

St John said he had been down to the jungle a month or so to start the natives building houses for the group from palm trees. A mission hall and a church will be built later, he said.

“We are going because we have been re-born and it is God’s will,” he said. “He has so planned things that we have one of almost every skill necessary for survival.

“We have no doctor but there is a Mennonite mission about 100 miles away where there is a doctor and we hope to get a plane so we can fly there with anyone suddenly taken sick.

“Bobby Watts is a qualified pilot and we have ranchers, farmers, a diesel mechanic, a man qualified to run the boat, school teachers, five ordained preachers, and a bulldozer operator to cut the roads. We will grow grain and other foods only for our own use at first, since there is no one to sell produce to but later possible developments will depend on God’s will. We are all happy to accept this challenge.”

Second half of Camp Beulah (1st half is lost)
Second half of Camp Beulah (1st half is lost)


Texans Face Savage Peril With Bible, Rifle, Pistol

Pilgrims pray for relief of dysentery.
Pilgrims pray for relief of dysentery.


January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 1

Texans Face Savage Peril With Bible, Rifle, Pistol


Every man of Camp Beulah group has a Bible. He also has a rifle, as well as a six-shooter at his side.

As Brother Jack Wood of Houston put it, “Every man will have to take his life in his own hands. Here it’s a case of praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

The 76 pilgrims from Texas, who are seeking a new life in the wilderness of Paraguay, find that defense is one of the problems in their goal setting up a self-sufficient community.

APART FROM the jaguars, pumas, snakes and crocodiles, Wood said that on the back of adjoining land bought by McRoberts lives the Moro tribe – the most savage tribe in all Paraguay.

They‘ve killed three missionary families in the last four years,” he said.

Brother St. John’s predecessor, the former manager of Del Sol, also died with his boots on.

He was an American, a native of Virginia, named Letcher Winthrow.

WINTHROW, a strange, hermit-like man, had lived in Paraguay for about eight years. He finally took a Guarani woman to live with him as a common law wife. They had a baby daughter, a pretty little girl who is now going to school in Asuncion. Fortunately, Winthrow, shortly before he died, acknowledged that he was the father of the child. Thus his common law wife and baby were able to inherit his estate.

One night at the very place where we stayed, Winthrow found some rustlers, as he called them. He said they were stealing two of his cows. When it ended one of the alleged rustlers was dead.

WINTHROW SAID that he did not know he had killed one of the men. He went back to his shack and went to sleep.

Later, the dead man’s body was found. There was a bullet wound in the man’s back. Relatives started a hue [sic] and cry.

Meanwhile, Winthrow had decided to go to the settlement at Olimpo, the nearest village,

See PILGRIMS on Page 15


Continued from Page 1

January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 15

and report the incident. When he got there he discovered that the police were looking for him to arrest him for murder.

Winthrow told his story. He was tried at Asuncion on a charge of murder. The court decided that he was justified in killing the rustler and he was acquitted.

A BROTHER of the dead man warned Winthrow: “I’m going to kill you.”

Despite the warning, Winthrow returned to Del Sol. Hr had sold some cattle and had about $2,000 on him.

With complete disregard for his safety, Winthrow went riding in the dusk. He was bush-whacked near a water hole and shot dead.

The $2,000 vanished. Winthrow’s killer is believed to have taken it and fled across the river into Brazil. The rustler’s brother has not been seen since. Winthrow, whose body was not found until two after he was shot, is buried where he fell. His grave marked by a pile of stones.

RUSTLING IN Paraguay, said McRoberts, is not a serious problem. He said there are no bands of rustlers running off large numbers of cows. If people are hungry, they sometimes kill a cow, cut it up, and take away the carcass. The rustler’s are hard to apprehend. They live little evidence and it is hard to tell whether the animal has been killed by humans or a jaguar.

Many of the cattle ranches in the Chaco are of immense size and cowhands only see the animals, at most, once a week.

One ranch about 40 miles from Del Sol covers 11 million acres.

McROBERTS believes that there are tremendous opportunities in Paraguay, although he does not expect to make any profits out of his ranching there for at least ten years.

He says that from the vast areas of rich grazing land a great meat producing industry can be built. He intends to ranch scientifically with the modern methods of the United States. Just before we arrived at Del Sol, McRoberts completed the purchase of another great tract of land adjoining this property.

Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc. is investing a vast amount of money in Paraguay.

McRoberts, a puckish man of great enthusiasm, had a personal interview with President Kennedy a $1 Million loan repayable at 9% to develop his ranches.

HIS COMPANY IS matching each United States Government-loaned dollar with its own capital.

In his view, with American know how, the rich earth of land-locked Paraguay can be developed to compete with Argentina as a source of meat supply. He has many other plans of marketing the produce of this fertile land.

The new ranch – Estancia Puerto Guarani- lies about 20 miles down the Paraguay River. It is one of the world’s largest ranching operations, occupying about 2 ¼ million acres of waist high grass. It has freshwater streams, extensive farm buildings, citrus groves, and its own deep draft docks on the river, which is almost a mile wide at this point.

UNLIKE DEL SOL, Estancia Puerto Guarani has been established as a ranching community for a considerable time.

The Paraguay River, one of the world’s largest waterways, provides a means of transport all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Tributaries of the river interlace the 2.5 million acres of the ranch, making it one of the most highly irrigated regions of the country.

The ranch has its own quaint railroad, engine and machine shops, a general store, private police force, a church, school, workers’ quarters, and a population of more than 1,000 persons.

“When I first brought the Texans over,” said McRoberts, “I intended to house them at Del Sol until they could build their own permanent homes.

I THOUGHT that with their tractors, bulldozers, and generators, they could soon make the place reasonably comfortable.

“But now that we have bought Puerto Guarani, I think I will move Saint John and his followers over there. It will be much easier for them. There is already electricity there and fine buildings and every kind of facility.

“I think they will find it less arduous until they have become thoroughly accustomed to the climate and the terrain and the language.”

After nearly a week of life in the wilderness, I found myself longing for some hot water with which to shave, a floor that wasn’t uneven mud, a bath and a cool drink.

FOR A WEEK I had lived with no more exciting drink than tepid water. I was so hungry most of the time from the excess of fresh air and heat that I wolfed oatmeal, spaghetti and noodles, rice and bread, made in the frying pan with relish. Even the Guarani rolls -almost as hard as wood- were welcome.

On Friday I packed my dusty belongings because on Friday the weekly mail plane lands on the landing strip beside the camp and I wanted to catch it.

I said goodbye to my kind hosts of Camp Beulah, Inc. Larry, Randy, and Brother Couch helped me with my gear over the rock-hard ground to the landing strip. I presented my water bottle to Larry and prepared to wait for the plane. It was due between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.

IT WAS SO HOT on the landing strip that a phonograph record I had bought on the way down in Chile curved at the edges.

It became necessary to move under a tree. Here about 10 cows and several bulls were also sheltering. For three hours the cows and I waited. I had to get up frequently from my resting place on the ground to shoo the cows away from my belongings.

About 1:30 PM Brother Saint John sent a small boy to say he didn’t think the plane was coming. So I returned, somewhat embarrassed, to join the group for lunch.

I found a few days later that the plane had not come because the cross wind on the landing strip was too strong for a safe landing.

Jack Wood -Displaying fishA GAUCHO who rode in from the radio station about 10 miles away reported that a plane with McRoberts on board would pick me up at 7 AM Sunday.

The radio station is a small one by which McRoberts, in Ascuncion.

Two more days of life in the Chaco persuaded me to rise earlier than ever that Sunday.

It was a lovely hot morning but there was one distinctive upsetting feature to life. I noticed that none of the women had gone to the cook house, and I was hungry, even for a plate of rice and beans and river water.

LARRY MURRAY gave me the stunning news “they fast on Sundays,” he said.

When the small four-seater plane arrived I rushed across to greet McRoberts. He had with him in the plane Dr. Angel DeAldecoa, vice president of Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc, and his son, a young medical man and an English-speaking pilot who was born in China.

McRoberts took Saint John and another member of the group on a flight to his new property at Puerto Guarani.

Meanwhile, Dr. De Aldecoa, who speaks fluent French, invited me in that language to join him for ‘le petit de jeuner’.

WE WALKED together over to a native house near the camp. I had often seen men, women, and masses of native children pouring from its doors. But I had never dreamed of the good old-fashioned earthly delights it stored.

On a table covered with a neat blue tablecloth places had been laid for us. A native woman brought in our plates, each bearing a massive slice of steak topped by two fried eggs, fresh baked bread, and a pot of steaming coffee; the sort of meal I had forgotten existed.

As I savored my eggs and coffee I thought it might be a good thing if these Indians did a little missionary work among my late hosts to cap the meal and complete my restoration to civilized living, Dr. De Aldecoa with the magic aid of the Coleman ice box from the plane produced some glasses, a bottle of whisky and huge lumps of ice.

NEVER WAS A lonely sinner of the Chaco brought back to civilization more pleasantly.

Glancing round instinctively to see if any Camp Beulah non smokers were in sight, I lit a cigarette.