Eastland County, Texas
History of Eastland County Texas, 1904
Chapter 1, The New County
In 1858, before a white man had ventured to expose himself and family to the dangers of what was then an Indian infested frontier, Eastland County was created by an act of the Seventh Legislature of Texas. By the same act Callahan, Stephens, Concho, Wichita, Coleman, Dawson, Shackelford, McMullin, Frio, Zavalla, Edwards, Haskell, Knox, Hardeman, Dimmit, Baylor, Runnels, Jones, Wilbarger, LaSalle, Duval, Taylor and Encinal Counties came into existence. The bill was approved February 1, 1858.
The County was named for Captain William Eastland, who died a prisoner in Mexico. He is thought to have been one of the Muir prisoners, though Bean, in his memoirs in Yoakum's History of Texas, does not give his name.
Eastland County is ideally located, containing within its limits the divide between the Leon River and Palo Pinto Creek, and the eastern extremity of the backbone of the Colorado and Brazos Rivers. The depression between these two divides is cut into by Colony Creek, a tributary of the Leon River.
The northern slope of the eastern divide is drained by the two forks of Palo Pinto Creek, while the rest of the County is watered by the Leon, which rises just beyond the County's western limit, and makes its exit about three miles southwest of Desdemona.
The eastern divide is characterize by high hills of numerous shapes, which lie, in the main, ease and west. It is gashed with ragged ravines, and abounds in deep canyons, in confused and tilted rocks, producing a varied and picturesque scenery.
This broken ride of high lands bends northward above the first impressions of Colony Creek, and dips again southward around Cisco, the tongues of the Brazos licking into the northern slope of the backbone, playing hide and seek with the forages of Leon and Colorado on the south. As the great skeleton begins to spread itself westward, it leaves large canyons and gulches.
Trees of many kinds grow in great profusion - cedar and live oak on the hills; post oak and blackjack on the sandy uplands; pecan and walnut, elm and hackberry, cottonwood and willow along the streams, and in the glades mesquite abounds, and in many sandy locations the shinery. (*Some call a thick young growth of oak, shinery; others affirm it is a peculiar, stunted growth of oak. The latter opinion is, perhaps, correct.)
When the County was created its soil lay bare, void of fence or shack in its rugged nakedness. Under its huge boulders the wild cat found a safe home; its numerous caves afforded the wolves a hiding place; the bear, the panther, and the cougar roamed wild and free over its mountains, while the Indian, in his savage wildness, did not need to seek even the protection of a friendly canyon, so free was Eastland County from the tread of the white man.
The creation of those new Counties caused a stir throughout the contiguous frontier, and several settlements were made even in the first year.
The first man who came to the County was a Mexican, Frank Sanches. He had worked for Thomas Donahoo, of Parker, County, but came here with his own stock and located between the Jim Neal Creek and its junction with the Leon.
In 1855 or '56 John Flannagan emigrated from Kentucky to Texas, and settled on Kickapoo Creek, in Parker County. When the new counties were laid off, the impulse to "grow up with the country" again possessed him, and, moving over into Eastland with his family, he built a home on Colony Creek, about eleven miles from the center of the County. He was the first white man who moved into the County. One can but wonder if he looked down the years, and, passing by the choice locations of the Palo Pinto Creek section, south the center of the County for Financial reasons. Mr. Flannagan had a wife and four children, Golston, Wesley, Julia Ann and "Bud."
It is curious that a man, forgetting this he once loved, and moved by the spirit of unrest, will sever ties of long standing and expose himself and his family to untried dangers. This strange influence burned in the heart of W. H. Mansker as he sowed and reaped on his farm in Arkansas, and was fanned to flames by news of the Texas lands. With his family he pushed across the unsettled wastes of Easter and Middle Texas, and stopped awhile in Parker County, but hearing of the Leon country he moved on and camped on a lake in the southern part of Eastland County. Later he built a home there, and the lake still bears his name.
The next to cross the boundary line were James Ellison from Georgia; J. M. Ellison from somewhere in Texas; Dr. Richardson from Arkansas, with their families, and the Gilberts, four or five young men from Alabama. All these took up or bought surveys around Mansker Lake; Ellison to the south, at Ellison's Springs, where he still lives; the Gilberts, Jim Jasper and Tom, at Jewell, and Sing and Sam, brothers and cousins to the other Gilberts, three and one-half miles below Jewell on Sabano Creek. This ranch is now known as the Morgan place.
Following these was C. C. Blair, who came from Georgia to Alabama, stopped awhile in Collin and Parker Counties, and finally settled six or seven miles northeast of Mansker Lake. A little later this settlement became known as Blair's Fort.
W. C. McGough came from Georgia and camped at Blair's Fort. His first son, born at the Fort Aug. 17, 1861 was the first white child born in the County.
In the northeastern part of the County like settlements were being made. Wm. Allen came from Palo Pinto County in 1858 and located a ranch on Rush Creek (which he still owns), some twelve or fifteen miles east of the Flannagan Ranch. J. M. Stewart was his nearest neighbor, one-half mile away. Two or three other families settled in the same neighborhood.
In the same part of the County was the Edwards Ranch, and just across the line, from three to six miles was the Clayton Ranch, on Bear Creek. Bethel Strawn settled where the town which now bears his name is located three miles out of Eastland County.
In Palo Pinto County, at the foot of the hills, about five miles east of Strawn, Peter Davidson lived. He moved into Eastland in 1865, and made his home five miles south of Allen's Ranch. All old settlers know the location of those two ranches. On North Palo Pinto Creek, in Stephens County, thirteen miles northwest of Flannagan's, Bruce McKean lived. The frontier line in Eastland County at this time (1860), formed an obtuse angle, Flannagan's Ranch being the apex.
In 1858 the Counties of Denton, Parker, Palo Pinto, Eastland, Brown, Lampasas, Burnet, Gillespie, Kendall, Bexar and San Patricio marked the frontier line in Texas which, for twenty years, made little advance. The Comanche Indians and their allies, the Kiowas, held undisputed sway over the remaining two-thirds of the State, with here and there a lone settlement of some venturesome pioneer. Between this frontier line and the Indians rode the dauntless and intrepid Texas Ranger, laboring day and night for the defense of the white citizens.
In 1865 the United States Government, having decided to pursue the policy of placing the Indians on reservations, established the Comanches-"the Arabs of the New World, whose hand was against every man, and every man's hand against them" - on a reservation on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, about five miles from where Fort Griffin was located later. Forty miles below this reservation, and ten miles southeast of where Graham City now stands, and about the same distance below the junction of the Clear Fork with the parent stream, was a second reservation, called the "Tonk Reservation," containing, besides the Tonkaways, remnants of the Caddo and other tribes. The two reservations were connected, the former with Camp Cooper, and the latter with Fort Belknap.
The Comanches and Kiowas were always political allies and hated enemies of the "Tonks" and Caddos. When this is remembered, together with the fact that the Tonkaways were mild, and in the main, friendly, it is not surprising that reinforcements were frequently drawn from this reservation for raids against the treacherous, thieving, murderous Comanches. Five hundred of the latter were fed at the upper reservation by the Government, and given horses and cattle, but it is estimated that two thousand were roaming the Western prairies as wild and untamed as the eagle in the clefted rock of the highest peak.
The Comanches chafed under restraint and longed for the freedom of the plains-perhaps for the freedom of the scalping knife. In 1856 a few daring ones store slyly out and made raids on the white settlements. In the early spring of 1857 the raids were renewed with sudden vigor, and were continued throughout the year.
An expedition, commanded by Colonel Rip Ford, was sent out by the State in April, 1858, against a band of hostile Indians located on the Canadian River. One hundred friendly Indians from the lower reservation, under the Tonkaway chief, Placido, joined the expedition, which was under the command of Captain L. S. Ross. The Indian scouts having located the enemy, the Comanches were attacked at daybreak May 12, 1858, the allies leading in the charge.
The Comanche chief, Prohebits Quasho, called "Iron Jacket," from the scaled coat of mail he wore, believing, it is said, that his armor bore a charm, rode in front, inciting his followers to deeds of bravery by his own cool daring. The bullets fell around him; still he rode unhurt. At last an Anadarko chieftain among the allies, sent a well-directed rifle bullet which pierced the charmed armor, and Iron Jacket fell to rise no more. The Comanches fled in wild confusion, and several prisoners were captured, among them, No-po, the small son of Prohebits Quasho. This was known as the battle of Antelope Hills.
Some months later, October 1, 1858, the same force against surprised the Comanches at their homes just at sunrise. Lieutenant Van Camp and several soldiers were killed. The loss of the Indians was heavy. In this battle a Caddo ally recaptured a little white girl whose identity has not been determined.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Indians had agreed that anyone found off the reservation would be shot, the year 1858 had barely ended when they were in Erath County stealing horses. From the years 1855-1859-the time when the government was attempting to herd the Indians, feed them, and keep peace with them-there was continued and serious trouble between them and the white citizens, for the former would steal horses and scalp the whites nearly every light of the moon, and the latter would seek to repel and punish the invasions.
At last, however, matters reached a climax, and the Indians were removed by the Federal Government across the Red River into the Territory, where they have since remained. The Comanches were not slow to see and set upon the existing fact that they had greater freedom, and depredations continued, becoming more frequent.
It was the custom in these turbulent times for neighbors to work together in clearing land, plowing and planting, the women and children being placed in the nearest house.
Early in the year of 1860, (February 7th), close to the eastern boundary line of the County, Jim Stewart, with Mack Allen and Bethel Strawn, was clearing off underbrush about a quarter of a mile from his home. Near by were Sam and William Allen and William Lowder.
In Mr. Stewart's little one-room cabin, with its lean-to, were his wife and Misses Emmaline and Martha Allen, the latter being a sister of William Allen.
While the two girls carded, Mrs. Stewart presided at the spinning wheel, all discussing, the meanwhile, the colors they would use in their new dresses.
"Mine is to be solid red." said Martha.
"I'm going to make mine red and green," announced Miss Emmaline.
"Mine'll be the prettiest of all, then," followed Mrs. Stewart, "for Jim wants me to make it red and green and blue."
"Listen!" suddenly cried Miss Martha Allen, who sat near the door. The wheel stopped instantly, for the girl's face was blanched with fear.
"Indians!" gasped Mrs. Stewart.
"Ye Gods! Such a lot of 'em!" added Martha, as twenty Indians swung around the bend of the road out of the dense undergrowth bordering the Palo Pinto Creek, and bore down upon the little cabin.
Quickly shutting to and barring the door, Mrs. Stewart caught up her gun, and, placing the muzzle against a crack in the door jamb, said:
"Now, girls, let's keep cool."
"Yes, and our scalps, too," grimly added Miss Emmaline.
The Indians began plundering the place of harness, saddles, pans, buckets-anything. Now they were on the gallery!
"Girls, I'm going to shoot," whispered Mrs. Stewart, with her finger on the trigger. "I'll kill that big fellow right now."
"Don't," cautioned Miss Emmaline, afterwards Mrs. Bethel Strawn, who is still living. "Don't! Wait until they try to get in!" This wise counsel prevailed.
The Indians kept up a hideous yelling all the while, presumably to frighten the inmates of the cabin, but, instead, it proved their salvation, for the men over across the ravine, heard the terrible noise and, recognizing it at once, feared the worst, and rushed with breathless speed to the rescue.
As the men came shouting together, and rushed wildly down the bank of the deep ravine back of the cabin, Mack Allen called in wildest frenzy:
"Charge, boys! Charge!"
The Indians, cowards in the face of danger, and thinking, doubtless, from the noise the six men made, that a whole company of Rangers was rushing upon them from out of the wood, mounted their ponies, and were gone as suddenly as they came.
The men hurriedly followed. Upon arriving at the house of Mr. Woods, seven miles below, they found it deserted, and spurred their horses onward. Two miles further they came upon the dead bodies of Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Lemley. Gently lifting and placing them in the limbs of the trees, far from the reach of the prowling wolves, they again pressed on for fear a worse fate awaiting the Misses Lemley, who, at the time, were at Mrs. Wood's home. Although the white men were reinforced as they pushed on, and made frantic efforts to overtake them, the Indians successfully eluded them and escaped.
The two girls were kept over night, robbed of their clothing, and turned loose with only one garment each to protect them from the night's chilling frost or the norther's keen blast.
Think of it! Before the hills and valleys and uplands of this beautiful country had even been trod by the white man's feet; when the hungry coyote howled his mournful lamentation through the dreary night; when the panther and the catamount lay perched upon the limbs of the forest waiting for prey; alone, despairingly, shuddering over their awful fate, shivering with cold, now knowing which way to turn, possessed with a horrible sickening fear that the Indians would return-the two girls hiding among the rocks, running from one covering to another, finally made their way back to the settlement and found themselves at the home of Turkey Roberts, five miles north of Stephenville.
During the years 1857-1862 the Indians were unusually active along the frontier. When one remembers the topography of the counties forming the boundary line of civilization, the numerous streams which cut their way through mountains, leap into canyons, and tumble out pell mell into the valleys, where they wind in sinuous, undulating way, is it to be wondered at that the red man of the forest yielded to the temptation of his environments and sought revenge for the appropriation of his domain to the uses of the white man?
Although the primal object of the Indians in making raids into the white settlements was to steal horses; yet, if there were the slightest pretext, they murdered with all the zest of their ancestral inheritance. During these perilous years the pioneer settlers were forces to come together for mutual protection.
In the southeastern part of Eastland County eight families were forted at C. C. Blair's Ranch. The houses were built and the tents stretched around an open square, and there were enclosed by a close picket fence eight or ten feet high. The families living at Blair's Fort were those of Ellison, Kuykendall, the Gilberts, Mansker, C. C. Blair, W. C. McGough, and a little later, William Arthur. There were others who found refuge in the Fort from time to time.
As the largest number of families were gathered here, and it was also a frequent stopping place for the Rangers on their journey hither and thither, large supplies of bread-stuff and ammunition were kept on hand. (There was later a road opened between Stephenville and Fort Griffin, which passed through Blair's Fort.) As the traveler went northward, however, he found Flannagan's Ranch practically unprotected, guarded only by an elderly man, "Bad Reece," who was kept about the house. In the Allen neighborhood were three forted ranches-Allen's, Clayton's and Edward's. Smaller ranchmen built their houses in group of two, three or four. McCain in the edge of Stephens County, and Uncle Peter Davidson at the foot of the mountains in Palo Pinto County, both had their ranches well forted.
On Gonzales Creek, a little further up the country, in Stephens County, lived the pioneer settler, Mr. John Reynolds, whose sons, George, William D. and P. W., have large interest in Cisco.
It was in 1860, shortly before Blair's Ranch was forted, that the Indians stole all the horses belonging to the Ranch. The men followed hard after them, and the women were left to guard camps. A daughter of the Fort writes: "We children were kept in a little two by four house, and the women sat under the wagons, expecting every minute to see the Indians come.
"By and by the Indians got so bad we all went to Stephenville and stayed six weeks. At that time there was one store, one drug store and a blacksmith shop in that town.
"On our way back to the old Fort we had a narrow escape from the Indians. We had just passed Mr. Ellison's the only house between the two places, when his dog began to bark, and, as he stepped to the door, the Indians shot, one arrow striking in the ground at his feet. He had only to shut his door and get his gun. They left him, but, providentially, did not overtake us.
"When we reached home we found three or four hogs killed and laid in a heap, and one old sow walking around with an arrow sticking in her back. Presently a cow came running home with seven arrows in her. Poor thing! We had to pen her before we could pull them out. That is one time we expected every minute to be attacked."
Billy Cross and family, a wife and five children, lived at Mansker's Lake. It is presumed that it was these same Indians, above referred to, who stole sixty of Mr. Mansker's horses, and were pursued by Mr. Mansker, his son, Tom and Billy Cross. They overtook them on Flat Creek and had a furious fight, Cross being killed, and Mr. Mansker's and Tom's mounts shot from under them. The Indians escaped with the horses, not one of them ever being recovered. Mr. Mansker and Tom made their way home separated and afoot.
Shortly after this fight, Mr. Cross's family and a Mr. Dalton's at Blair's Ranch, moved back East. It was just about this time that the fort was built.
One night Mr. and Mrs. Blair sat around their own hearthstone alone with their children. This was before the ranch was forted. A large and ferocious cougar, emboldened by hunger, came up to the yard fence and, catching a pig, made off with it. Both Mr. Blair and his wife ran impetuously after it, "sicking" the eager dogs on in their violent efforts to regain the shoat. The dogs outran them, but by the excited barking they knew the cougar was "treed," and followed on to the creek. Not until the "nasty varmint" fell, with a bullet through him, down among the tingling, quivering dogs, did this father and mother think of aught else. (Next morning the cougar was skinned, his fat rendered to grease hides and his carcass given to the chickens, as such meat and clabber were all they had to live on. The cougar's hide was stretched to the martin-box pole, and the skillet of rendered fat set outside the door. Not a hog was to be seen all day, an attack like the one the night before always frightening them into the woods. But towards sunset they came home. Mrs. Blair was alarmed at the vicious, ugly sounds she heard, and going to the door she found the hogs were acting like wild, tossing the skillet in their fury, rearing up to get to the cougar's hide, and "ughing" and "booing" in the most ferocious way. The children were brought in. The hide was taken to the field.)
"Lord a'mercy, Pap; the Indians!" screamed Mrs. Blair, and they ran, leaped and tore through the brush in their frantic efforts to reach their unprotected children. Mrs. Blair has always affirmed that the agonizing fright of those few minutes frosted her hair. "To think a pig could make me forget my children was what hurt," she said.
Daily contact inures one to dangers, yet quickens one's instinct to watchfulness. This is strikingly true of the frontiersman. At this Blair's Fort a man would pick up his gun and go out hunting alone, when it was well understood that when the light of the moon should come the Indians would be raiding the white settlements.
On a hazy October afternoon, when one of the men had just come in with a deer on his shoulder, Jim McGough went to the spring, three hundred yards away, to water his horse. While there he was attacked by the Indians, and attempted to outrun them to the gates of the Fort. In this short, but impetuous race, the frightened animal pitched him into the brush. The Indians, endeavoring to head him off, chased up the other side of the dense thicket, but seeing the gates closed, they disappeared, when Mr. McGough came running up to the Fort with his face covered with blood.
"Ma, guess what I found." Mr. Blair stood in the doorway.
"Found?" echoed Mrs. Blair, rising up from the hearth, where she was putting coals on the lid of the skillet into which she had just put the "corn dodgers" to bake. "Found?" A cougar or panther, like as not." Then noting the look of satisfaction on his face, she cried out, "Not a bee tree, Pa?"
"Yes, a bee tree, and chuck full of honey, too. Where's a tub?"
Mrs. Blair smiled and looked at Sarah Jane, who clapped her hands, while all the little Blairs jumped up and down in glee.
When one remembers that on this far Western frontier, one hundred miles from the nearest mill, only necessities were provided-bread, coffee, beans, ect.; no sugar, no fruit-one can readily comprehend the glee of the small children at thought of a "tubful of honey," but may wonder at Sarah Jane crying, "Honey cakes, Ma! Honey cakes! Oh, think of it!" A bee tree wasn't found every day, and they had no cakes any other time. But a more subtle reason, still, existed and caused Sarah Jane's delight.
Only the night before the daughter had said, "But think, Ma, a wedding without cakes! And everybody'll be here."
"But, honey, you have a pretty white nainsook dress trimmed up in embroidery, and made low neck and short sleeves. (Mr. Blair paid fifteen bushels of wheat at 75 cents a bushel for the wedding dress.) And another thing you have-I wasn't goin' to tell you 'til he was through with 'em-is such a pretty pair of shoes as Bill McGough is makin' you, the vamp all notched; and he's goin' to shine 'em up, and they'll look like real store-bought shoes." Now, that the cakes were assured, Sarah Jane's cup of happiness was running over.
Preparations for the great event to take place next Thursday assumed a new dignity which was personified in beautiful Sarah Jane, for there was not a boy on the Sabanno, or in the Fort, but envied handsome Coon Keith. All the pretty jealousies within those picket walls were for the time forgotten and everybody lent a hand in the preparations. Venison and turkey were brought in in the greatest plenty, and the men barbecued the fat mavericks.
Coon Keith and Jim McGough, on good mounts, went to Comanche town for the license, and on the day of the wedding Joe Smith was delegated to go for the preacher, Reverend Coker, who came alone from Comanche to Albert Sowles' on the Sabanno, where he was met by Mr. Smith. After a ride of a couple of miles the two men came upon a fresh Indian trail, and they wondered if there would be any interference in the wedding arrangements. They halted presently where the Indians had had breakfast. There was the cow freshly slaughtered, part of her meat lying still in the skin, and the fire warm and glowing.
The men rode cautiously and slowly on. It was past the noon hour, and they had ten miles yet to go. The wedding was to take place at four o'clock, and Smith was "best man."
At last the trail made a sharp turn to the west, and the men rightly surmised that the Indians were going home on the Western route, and again spurred their horses onward, and were soon at the Fort.
At last the hour arrived. The long tables glistened when the sun fell on them through the thick-leaved branches of the sturdy oaks. The minister took his stand, and the couple to be married walked out into the yard.
Coon Keith, the man, was eighteen years old. He had black hair and eyes, checks like June apples, carried himself like the young Apollo he was, and was dressed in blue pants and black sack coat, with two big six-shooters buckled around him. (Tom Keith, a cousin, had intimated that he meant to enter objections when the time came.) The girl holding to his arm so timidly, half frightened by the impetuosity of the man's eager love, looked like a unique lily. A faultless skin, without a shade of color, large, deep blue eyes, her throat and shoulders and arms rivaling her embroidered nainsook dress in whiteness, and crowning this, her blood-tinged, yellow-brown hair combed loosely back and tied with white ribbon, made a picture that still lives vividly in the minds of those who saw her.
The menu of this first wedding was:
After the wedding, Reverend Coker wanted to preach. This, they would not allow on such a festive occasion, but gave themselves up to the pleasures of "Weavely Wheat" and kindred games until the yard was beaten into powder, and the cook was crowing for day. Miss Lizzie Keith, now Mrs. Presley of Curtis, maid of honor, and Joe Smith, best man, both wore white.
In Steve Brandon's home everything was going wrong. His wife had been ill for two days. The four or five grown boys could turn "flapjacks" and make "corn dodgers," but their big hands were clumsy when they tried to "pat up" Ma's pillow, or give her a dose of medicine.
"I'm goin' for Mrs. Kohen," Mr. Brandon announced after dinner. "She's over at Clayton's. Keep a sharp lookout for the red skins, boys."
"You do the same, Steve," feebly called out his wife, as he buckled on his six-shooter and left the house.
The sun shone from a clear sky on that memorable afternoon, December 15, 1860. Brandon was a brave man, but his heart was heavy with forebodings as he started on that fateful journey of five or six miles. As he went deeper into the wood, however, thinking of his sick wife and his own imminent danger (as it was the light of the moon) he realized, perhaps unconsciously, that nature is capable of restoring one's peace of mind and calming one's fears.
Mrs. Kohen readily consented to go, and for lack of any better way. Mr. Brandon took her up behind him on his trusty black steed and started off in a smart pace for home.
When they had covered but half the distance they were most abruptly apprised of immediate danger. The air was cut by the whizz of an arrow, which lodged in a tree directly in front of them. The noble animal knew as well as the riders that an Indian was behind them, and plunged wildly down the homeward path in a race for life.
The hiss and sight of the arrow lodged in the tree instantly restored to Brandon's mind the gloom that had rested upon his soul as he entered the woods from home. Glancing backward, he was filled with unfeigned horror, for not one Indian, but twenty, swung into view, and came after them yelling like demons, the arrows playing about them thick and fast.
Brandon, leaning forward, loosened the rein and urged the horse onward. The women's grip about him tightened.
"My God!" he thought, "she is shielding me!" And as his gloom had been lifted by the sweet breath of nature in these woods a couple of hours before, so now, the responsibility for the life of this woman, on her errand of mercy for one he loved, thrilled him, angered him, lifted the burden from his soul, and in his restored manhood he thundered:
"Halt! wheel!" The horse obeyed his master. The man fired thrice in quick succession at the bewildered Indians as they tumbled off their ponies into the grass. (There is a difference of opinion about the kind of gun used. Messrs. McGough, Sam and William Allen, Smith and Strawn and Mrs. Parm of Cisco, a sister-in-law of Mrs. Kohen, are authority for the incident.)
"Go, General, go!" shouted Brandon, and again the mad dash forward for life!
The Indians instantly recovered their ponies. On they came; on, on, like a horde of devils, while their infernal yells and hissing arrows environed their victims as with a funereal pall. The white man urged his horse forward. The air was thick with hideous sounds. He gasped for a good breath of God's air. The Indians gained on him! The gloom was again settling upon his soul, when Mrs. Kohen cried out:
"I am shot, Steve!"
Again was he angered, angered at the fiends seeking life.
"Hold fast!" he cried, as he wheeled and fired. The Indians repeated their former movement with greater agility, and the race was on again.
Not a moan escaped the lips of the woman as she pleaded:
"Steve, my back is full of arrows; I am killed already. Think of your sick wife, and drop me and save yourself."
This appeal cleared the atmosphere for once and for all. How good was sweet nature's breath! With every barrel loaded, Brandon wheeled, and with a shout of defiance that startled the woman into tightening her hold, he sent six bullets on errands of fate. Hope surged mightily in his bosom, as he shouted:
"Forward, General!" The gallant steed seemed to have caught his master's spirit, as, unfalteringly, he once more threw himself into the race with death. Brandon's cries now came as shouts of victor. He gained on the Indians, and, coming in hearing of his home, he raised his voice and called loudly.
One of the big boys, out at the barn feeding the stock, for it must be done before night, heard the clattering of hoofs, listened, heard the yelling Indians, then his father's call. He rushed into the house.
"Jim, you stay with Ma. Come Steve, you and Tom. The Indians are after Pa." They ran out with their guns, making a great hullabaloo, whereupon the Indians fled, and the race was won!
Mr. Brandon was hit six times, and they pulled seven arrows from poor Mrs. Kohen's back. Strange as it may seem, she recovered rapidly. Some time after this she became the wife of Mr. Clayton, and now lives in El Paso, Texas. (Mrs. Clayton died Feb. 24, 1904, at Toyah.)
A TURKEY HUNT.
"What's that?" whispered Reese.
"Sh'. It's Indians, sure's you're born," said Smith, and, catching the other man's hand, that they might stay together, they took two steps out from off the dead leaves on to the soft grass bordering the stream, and cunningly striding on up the creek, artfully dodged the red skins.
When they reached the ranch, and next morning told the other men there, John Flannagan, his son, Golston, (Gols), and Ral Smith, they were laughed at for their scare.
"It was Indians, I tell you, sure's you live," affirmed Smith. "I heard their steps. They were all about us. I believe they were in six feet of us. They'd 'skyed' us, you know, before we got too low down, and couldn't see us anymore. Oh, you can laugh, but it was Indians."
THE LOST ARROW HEAD.
"I was nimble as a cat in those days, and the Indians having fallen some little distance behind, I leaped from the wagon and ran off in the timber. There I looked and waited for Gols, thinking perhaps he was hiding in a little hollow below me. My knee got to hurting me so bad I decided to make my way to the ranch. Gols had not come in. 'Bad' Reese went at once to look for him, and found him dead and scalped. Reese and Ral Smith went out and brought him in on a horse. Early the next morning the men went to McCain's Ranch for help, and Mr. Highsaw and Lyman McCain came back with them and buried Gols, and we all moved up to their forted ranch the next day. By April I was able to get around on crutches. From about the middle of January I was at my father's house in Parker County, and was disabled for six months.
"One day in 1886 something pricked me on the under side of my knee. On examination, I found a sharp black point sticking through the skin, and knew at once that twenty-five years ago I had been shot with a double-headed arrow, and had only pulled one head out. Three weeks later, on February 21, 1886, after having carried it in my knee for twenty-five years, two months and five days, the arrow head came out."
In 1861 news did not travel fast in Eastland County, for it lay on the very border land of civilization, with its three or four scattered settlements.
Recruiting agents went where some degree of success might attend their patriotic efforts, and it was not until 1864 that men in this section were called upon to bear arms.
It was not from a desire on the part of the Government to make every man feel the burden of war that the frontiersman was impressed, or even that he might take part in the civil strife caused by the black man, but he was called upon to repel systematically the invasions of the red man.
Prior to 1868, Eastland, Shackelford and Callahan Counties were under the jurisdiction of Comanche County. After this date Eastland was attached to Palo Pinto.
At every meeting of the Legislature laws were passed for the protection of the frontier. They were adhered to as closely as the conditions and times would permit, and that was all the law required. About the 1st of February, 1864, Eastland was organized under the Conscript Law for military purposes.
Forty men were required to form a company, and at that time it took every man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five in the Counties of Eastland, Shackelford and Callahan to muster the required number. (Chapter 36, Section 3, General laws of the Tenth Legislature reads: "That the commissioned officers of each company of fifty men or more shall consist of a Captain and two Lieutenants; if less than fifty men, two Lieutenants," etc. However, the spirit of the law was met in these frontier counties.)
Think of the rich fields of corn and cotton and grain that thrive in our County to-day; of the handsome and substantial houses that dot its surfaces; of the many beautiful churches, school houses, public buildings, and of the whirring machinery; of the eighteen to twenty towns with their three hundred to three thousand inhabitants; then, in imagination, wipe out all these farms and houses and towns; fill the primeval forests and prairies, without a vestige of a shack of any kind, with the snarling, hungry animals, and the fiendish, treacherous Indians, and you have a picture of the territory traversed by those early guardians of our country. Flannagan's Ranch, McGough Springs and Jewell marked the western limit of the white man's tread in Eastland in 1864.
The following roster was furnished by T. E. Keith, who joined the Company as soon as he was eighteen years old:
Sing Gilbert, First Lieutenant;
Privates: W. N. Arthur, Thomas Mansker, James Stubblefield, J. B. Smith, John Temples, James Temples, John Ward, Frank Caddenhead, Tom Caddenhead, Ike Ward, C. C. Blair, J. M. Ellison, S. C. Shirley, W. C. McGough, Joe Henshaw, Gabriel Keith, B. M. Keith, G. B. Ely, Sam Gilbert, Tom Gilbert, James Gilbert, Jasper Gilbert, Taylor Gilbert, Joseph Dudley, William Fisher, J. J. Keith, J. M. York. (It was not known until after the war closed that four or five of these men were deserters from the army. Ike Ward was arrested during the war, taken to Arkansas, court-martialed and shot as a deserter.)
1-ELLISON'S SPRING FIGHT.
On the 8th of August, 1864, J. L. Head, Corporal, led out eight men for a ten days' scout, camping the first night at McGough Springs. On the morning of the 9th the men went west till they struck the Leon, near where the Texas Central Railway now crosses it. There they discovered a large Indian trail leading southeast, the signs indicating there were at least thirty-five or forty Indians, some riding, some walking. The men, knowing they were down to steal horses, pushed hard on after them. The trail crossed Nash's Creek about three miles east of Carbon, where the Indians killed a beef for breakfast, then continued south until they reached the present location of the W. W. Boone place, one and one-half miles north of Jewell. It was then the Gilbert ranch.
Captain T. E. Keith, of Curtis, furnished the following description of the battle:
"There we overhauled them, seven of us-Harris York's horse having given out, he had pulled for the ranch. We fought them at long range for awhile, until we saw we have no sort of showing, when our Commander ordered a retreat to the Gilbert Ranch for reinforcements. At the two ranches we got five more men, making our number twelve, with Sing Gilbert, our Captain, in command.
"We returned to where we left the Indians, took up the trail, followed it east about twelve miles, where three hundred yards south of Ellison's Spring, in Uncle Billy Jones' field, we discovered them. Our Captain ordered a charge and led it up to within thirty or forty feet of their line.
"Think of it! Twelve men, armed with muzzle-loading rifles and shotguns and pistols, charging right up to a line of forty Indians, and most of them on foot and coming to meet us!
"Captain Gilbert ordered a halt. We fired on them, but they kept coming. Our Captain ordered us to fall back. We turned right in their faces, and on that turn is where they got in their deadly work.
"The Indians wore shields that would turn our bullets, and were armed with bows and arrows, which, at short range, were more accurate and deadly than rifles and six-shooters.
"On that turn our Captain was shot in the neck with an arrow, and died in less than two hours. Button Keith's horse fell, and they killed him right there. Jim Ellison received a deep arrow wound in the hip, which disabled him for life. Tom Caddenhead was shot through the thigh just below the hip joint and pinned to the saddle, and Tom Gilbert was shot twice through the arms. Two men killed and three disabled in less time than it takes to make the statement. Five out of twelve knocked out and not a load left in a gun or pistol! (Mr. Keith was unmounted in this direful retreat and separated from his party a few awful minutes, but recovered his horse and escaped unhurt.)
"Well, there was nothing left for us to do expect to outrun them to Ellison's house, which we did in grand shape, the Indians following us to within eighty yards of the house.
"Runners were then sent to the Gabe Keith Ranch, fifteen miles away, to the Gilbert Ranch, twelve miles, and to Mausker's eight miles, to let them know of the trouble. About nine o'clock that night my father, J. J. Keith, started to Stephenville to have graves prepared for the two dead men-that being the nearest graveyard. The distance was thirty-five miles, and not a settler at that time between the two places.
"He arrived at Stephenville at daybreak, and heard bells, and horses running on the hill east of town. Believing that Indians were stealing the horses, he alarmed the town. Joel Dodson and another man, however, had heard the bells and running horses, and, taking their guns, had gone to investigate. While crossing the Bosque they heard a noise in the bed of the creek above them. Listening and sky-lighting they decided they were Indians near and tired, whereupon the savages ran off, leaving five bloody pallets and two guns they had picked up on the battle ground the day before at Ellison's Spring, proving that they were the same Indians and at least five of them were wounded. (One of the guns recovered belonged to Mr. Keith, who dropped it when he was unmounted.)
"On the eleventh of August, Captain Gilbert and Button Keith were consigned to their last resting places at Stephenville, and the curtain was dropped on the bloodiest battle with Indians ever fought in Eastland."
List of scouts in Ellison Springs fight:
"I led the Scout and trailed the Indians with two dogs, named Colonel and Hats. (Colonel was a dog with a pedigree. Hats was a mongrel.)
The fight began on the hill west of the Methodist church and was intensely exciting as the little band, chasing the Indians northwest, fired as they ran, the Indians as vigorously returning the attack. Mr. McGough says: "There were many shots fired-the Indians having guns. Albert Henning was wounded, and I was fortunate enough to hit the Indian who shot him."
It was believed at the time that Mr. McGough killed this Indian, but the timber growth being dense, the Scout deemed it best not to follow farther, especially as the Indians had fled, leaving the large bunch of horses they had stolen and were driving to the reservation.
A few years later, a Mr. Sublett, formerly of Comanche, discovered the grave of an Indian near Cisco, and from the headdress he was supposed to have been a chief. (Near Cisco is an Indian grave, where even yet parties frequently find trinkets. Whether or not this is the grave referred to is not known, but the prevailing opinion is that it is the same.) As McGough fired six shots at the chief who had wounded Henning, the discovery gave weight to his opinion that he had wounded the Indian unto death.
When they had gone thus tediously a mite or two, however, a black hound pup, belonging to Masker which had attached itself to the scout, suddenly scented the trail and was off on a long run, never looking to the right or left, as the men loped hard after him all the day long. It is said that a dog seldom took up a trail in this way, but when one did it was safe to follow the lead. It proved so in this instance.
Late in the evening, when two of the men had fallen a mile or two behind, their horses having failed, the Scout came upon the Indians, eight in number, at the head of Highsaw Cove, a branch of Barton's Creek. As soon as they saw the hound, they recognized it as their Nemesis, and each Indian greeted him with two rounds of ammunition. (If the fine animal had not been killed the men think they would have tracked the last Indian to his death.) The leader of the scout, Mr. Ballew, ordered a charge. Then followed a fast and furious fight. The Indians who had dismounted were at a great disadvantage. To escape they had to climb up over rocks and knoll right in the face of the Scout, but succeeded in escaping in the gloom of the deepening night, leaving only one man on the field, together with their horses and blankets, eight in number. As the sagacious dog was dead, and, in the light of the moon coming over the horizon, each man would stand out as a target for the Indians hiding among the rocks, the Scout wisely decided to be satisfied with the result, especially as two of their number, Ballew and Joe Allen, were severely wounded and needed attention.
From the dead Indian's attire, he was recognized as the leader of the band. His handsome, fringed buck-skin suit, his quiver full of arrows and large, strong how made of mulberry and his shield were part of the trophy the men carried off. (Mr. William Allen still had in his possession the bow and the shield. The latter was made from the hide of a buffalo's head, cut round, and is about one-half inch thick. A strap of leather on the under side, which was worn over the thumb, protected the body, and not being held firmly, a bullet, when it struck the shield, would glance off instead of passing through. The shield measures twenty-two inches in diameter.) Not without regret it must be recorded that they also carried his scalp.
"Look here, boys!" one of the men called out after the Indians had escaped, "Look here! Some Indian has a badly wounded foot," and he held up a shattered stirrup lying near.
IV-THE LITTLE DOG SCOUT.
On the bank of Palo Pinto Creek in the northeast of the county, one of the men discovered a moccasin track. Like true frontiersmen, they followed the trail on the road for several miles with the keenest anticipation without a thought of danger.
V-THE STOLEN BOY AND FRANK SANCHES.
It was about this time and in the same locality that Henry Martin, a son-in-law of Mr. Mansker, was killed. He was separated from other members of a party who were attacked by Indians while rounding up cattle, and lost his life.
VI-BATTLE CREEK FIGHT.
I-IN THE MIDST OF LIFE.
Mr. Coffer was sick with fever and his family was in danger of starving.
Four weeks had he lain prone upon his bed and the fever was still high, but his wife was full of cheer and strong in hope.
"Why, husband, think what goodly company we'll have if we starve! But we have beans yet-a bucket full, and whoever comes to stay with us through the night brings something for you. Your fever did not run so high to-day, either. There now," she added, patting up his pillow, "isn't that better?"
"You always look on the sunny side, Martha. I'm glad you do."
"I must go bring up the filly before it gets any later, 'cause I put her a little farther down toward the creek."
"Martha! How dangerous!" interposed her husband.
"The grass is so much better there. Besides, don't you see I am buckling on your six shooter, and here's 'old trust,'" taking up a gun. "Why, husband, I could fight a dozen Indians!"
But the woman could not deceive her husband. He well knew she did not possess the courage she feigned. It frightened her even to handle a gun. How could she defend herself if attacked!
"Dear Lord!" he moaned in an agony of apprehension, "make me well for her sake!"
"Just the sight of that wood terrifies me," she whispered to herself, pausing half way between the house and the gate. "I've a good notion not to go after all-but-oh, I guess there's no Indian hiding." and nerving herself or the dreaded ordeal, she ran quickly down to where the young mare was "lariated out," and was stooping to untie her when two Indians arose from the nearest clump of bushes and with a frightful yell let fly two arrows.
The hissing arrows, the sight of the "red demons," their onward rush so paralyzed her that she dropped her gun, and a moment later fell dead with an arrow in her heart.
Hastily scalping the woman, the Indians mounted the fine young mare and were gone.
The man on the bed with the baby playing by his side, listened with bated breath for the first sound of his wife's voice. He heard the sharp, quick yell of the Indians, then caught the sound of her cry. With one effort, he leaped from the bed-and fell. He forgot that he was sick, forgot that he had not stood on his feet for weeks.
He raised himself on his elbow, but could see nothing. He listened for the sound of his wife's running feet, but all was silent. Again he listened. He heard the gallop of the mare he had raised from a colt, and he knew the Indians had scalped and probably killed the mother of his baby. He raised his voice and called-
"Martha!" Oh, Marth-e-e!"
In his horror his voice sounded shrill and clear.
"She's dead! Dear Lord, she's dead! But the dead could have heard that call. Where's the baby?"-feeling around him. "Is she dead, too? I'll call her. Su-No! No! I'm afraid. Why, how warm it is! I was cold a moment ago. How strong I feel! Martha, the fire's made. I'll go feed the filly, I hear her nickering. The dawn is breaking."
One hour later, the neighbor who came to stay through the night, found the man lying on the floor, burning with fever and talking incoherently, and the baby asleep on the bed.
"Why, Martha, are you still asleep?" the sick man said, as his neighbor lifted him upon the bed.
"The filly is gone," he rambled on, "the Indians must have stolen her. Thank God, it was not my wife or baby they got."
The neighbor gave him a drink of water and put a wet cloth on his head; then finding the woman lying dead, mounted his horse and rode rapidly to the nearest house to give the alarm.
For many days the sick man's life hung in the balance, and it was not until the green grass covered her grave that he ventured to ask where his wife lay.
II - IN SEARCH OF A WIFE.
One day, early in 1869, Mrs. Blair took her small children, leaving Delphia and Charlsie at home to do the family wash, and went to see a sick married daughter living near. She left a pot of peas and bacon on the hearth, with some fried eggs and bread in a skillet all ready for the girls' dinner.
There was small danger of Indians at that time, yet the instinct to watchfulness had been well trained, and the frontiersman was ever on the alert.
When the noon hour arrived the girls came in to eat their dinner.
"I'm going to eat my peas first and save the best for the last." Delphia remarked.
"Well, I'm going to eat the best first," laughed Charlsie, "and then I'll know that I have it." A noise at the gate aroused the girls and Charlsie, aged thirteen, went to the door.
"Mercy me! Delphia, it's a big negro man." Her sister came to look and cried out, "Charlsie! It's an Indian!" The younger girl darted under the foot curtain of her mother's bedstead, while Delphia hurriedly hid herself between the two feather beds.
The Indian came on, opened the door, looked around, (Charlsie watching him through the curtains), went to the glass, combed his hair, turned to the fire-place and discovered Delphia's eggs as well as Charlsie's peas. These he quickly dispatched, scooping up the peas with his hand.
Mrs. Blair had sent her little boy, Dave, and a smaller girl, Adeline, across the field to her home for some medicine. When the boy stepped in at the door, the Indian looked up and said, "Come in," but the little ten year old lad turned, and catching his sister by the hand, made his way back to his mother as fast as his legs could carry him, coaxing his sister, when she stumbled or fell behind, "Run, Sissie, run, or the Indian will catch you."
As the children did not see the girls, the mother naturally supposed they had been murdered, and she started home, screaming. She was cautioned to go by a neighbor's, and not expose herself to a like fate. This she did, and she and Mr. Bell cautiously approached the house, the mother not being able to restrain her grief, as no sign of life appeared about the place. When they entered, the Indian rose, held out his hand and said, "Howdy," ("bobsheely.") Mr. Bell shook hands with him. "I don't want to shake hands with you," said Mrs. Blair. "Tell me what you have done with my children."
"Why, Ma, here we are!" cried out Charlsie, coming out from under the bed, while Delphia at the same time tumbled out from her snug hiding place. The mother, clasping her children to her breast, began shouting. When her joy had somewhat subsided, she went up to the Indian and said, "Now, I'll shake hands with you, I've found my children."
It is not definitely known when the Texas Ranger service was instituted, but as early as the colonization of Texas under Austin, companies of volunteers were formed to repel Indian invasions.
The Congress of the Republic, after Texas had gained her independence, made provision for a mounted force to guard the frontier which, in 1836, was Nacogdoches, Houston and San Antonio; but "it was in the Mexican War of 1846-1848 that the Texas Mounted Volunteers in the service of the United States, under such noted leaders as Walker, Hays and Gillespie, achieved world-renowned fame and clothed the name of Texas Ranger with its traditional glory."
The "State Police" of the reconstruction period which became so odious to the citizens of the State was, in no sense, a part of the Ranger service. The former was characterized by outrage and lawlessness; the latter by intrepid acts of bravery, self-sacrificing courage, calmness in danger, and a recklessness of self-preservation that will be the admiration of ages. It was at first semi-military, neither officers nor men who wore uniforms, there was no strict discipline, no music-only mid-night rides in tracking a foe, only cool daring in encounters.
The Ranger service was an outgrowth of the times. No military in the world ever excelled the early Ranger in devotion to duty or obedience to orders.
When it is remembered that all over the broad expanse of Texas there was a moving frontier line made by the hardy Anglo-Saxon pioneer, and many hundreds of roving, hostile Indians composed of numerous tribes, each with a stronghold in the fastnesses of the mountains of the unsettled West, it will readily be understood that a mounted service for frontier protection must from necessity be maintained. Again, when the vastness of the unsettled country is taken into consideration, it is not to be wondered at that the Indian was not the only menace of the frontier, not yet, his oft-time ally, the secretive Mexican, but that bands of desperadoes infested the country. In all times of frontier settlement there has always been a border warfare born of necessity-so it was in Texas.
When the Ranger service was organized, Texas and no money; the times and conditions did not warrant an effort toward a strictly disciplined military body; but an armed force, both for internal and border protection, was demanded. This was not alone because of the foes mentioned that threatened her welfare, but the demand was accentuated by the loose characters that drifted hither and thither, ofttimes renegades from justice, caring little if they did murder, or were themselves dispatched.
"Out of this combination of circumstances and the necessities arising therefrom, was the Ranger service evolved, and so efficient and valuable did it prove that, as soon as practicable the organization was given official recognition and a legal status and title."
When Texas was a part of Mexico she needed the Rangers; when Independence perched aloft her banner, the frontier Battalion sustained her; when she entered the galaxy of Stars as the one of greatest possible magnitude, the Volunteer Companies protected her frontier; when she came out of the Union, standing with the glorious, honorable minority, she needed more than ever before the loyalty of her brave sons; and, then, when again she re-entered a united government, her Southern flag furled, her individual rights assailed and imposed upon, governed by aliens, and looked upon as a reprobate, did she need the fearless strength of the Texas Ranger. (A detachment of Rangers, mounted, ready to start, was sketched at Blair's Fort in 1863 by a Mr. Stuart. Mr. Jim Mat Stephens of Dublin, Tex; owns the picture and is having its painted by an artist in St. Louis. For further information of the Ranger service, see Scarff's Comprehensive History of Texas.)
In the year 18__ (sic) Captain Whiteside, who formerly lived in Cisco, but now deceased, commanded a body of Rangers and was located at Ranger Camp. This was near the site of the town of Ranger and gave the village its name.
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