Pioneer history of Wise County, Texas

Beyond a half century of time has intervened since the drama of settlement was enacted on the pioneer stage of Wise County; The memory of the events are growing dim in the minds of the remaining actors, who themselves are dropping, one by one, behind the scenes, never to return again before the foot-lights of time. Recognition of these somber truths has led to the compilation of the facts introduced in this book. The language used is inartistic, yet the facts themselves are there and must remain. For the errors of composition glaring forth from every page, it would be appropriate to apologize, but such an act would convict the writer of attitudinizing as a professional in the art of composition, a position that is at once waived and disclaimed. It has profoundly gratified me to be the means of the perpetuation of the lives of the pioneer fathers, their loyal acts and doings, into indestructible record, and while the structure is humiliating, it is none the less true that the opportunity to perform so felicitous a service has been responded to with the gratitude that a recognition of the high merit of the general task confers.

Perhaps more experience in the general details of the kind of work would have resulted in a more satisfactory volume. As respects the details of composition alone. Prof. Arlo Bates' meaning is acutely realized in his statement '' that the fault Qf a great deal of unsatisfactory writing is that the author is endeavoring to inform himself as he composed. He has been feeling his way, and is really ready to begin only when he has finished," based upon which the writer aims, in a measure, to justify the crudities of his work by pleading guiltiness to Prof. Bates' charge. Obviously improvements could be made if the work were begun over and completed again; however, the lack of time makes such impracticable.

But it would be nurturing hypocrisy to think that the language used has not conveyed some idea of the spirit of the times comprehended. Truthful conceptions of former experiences and phases of existence have been interpreted from far more complex and indistinguishable mediums than modern, amateur, vulgarizations of the English language. As Mr. Carlyle has said: "History has been written with quipo-threads, with feather-pictures, with wampum belts, still oftener with earth mounds and monumental stone-heaps whether as pyramid or cairn," assuredly from the jumble of incoherent statements to be here encountered, readers can decipher a sufficiently clear realization of the character of the foundation upon which the structure of their present county life is established.

From the same message in which was embodied the above quotation from Mr. Carlyle, another is found which expresses a principle adhered to by the writer in the preparation of this record. Relating to the office of historian and the character of fact to be presented, the quotation in full is as follows: "For whereas of old, the charm of history lay chiefly in gratifying our common appetite for the wonderful, for the unknown; and her office was but that of a minstrel and story-teller, she has now further become a school-mistress, and professes to instruct in gratifying." In most of the so-called histories of Texas counties examined in connection with the present labors, emphasis has been found, too often, to have been placed on the ephemeral or ludicrous phases of the lives of the people represented, a temptation that has not been yielded to in the present instance. The admixture of anecdote with fact tends, as presently viewed, to weaken the latter, which admittedly is the most important; further, could the issue be left to posterity, there would unquestionably be a decision in favor of fact. It will not be here assumed that the lighter sides of life have no relative value; on the contrary they have, and the instances of this character gathered in connection with other matter, but eliminated for certain just reasons, will doubtless be presented in a second volume at a later date.

While the aim has been to present the substance of the topic investigated, and that truthfully and accurately, it has not been possible, in every instance, to reach this high and well nigh unattainable ideal. From the point of view of the numerous witnesses there will be many misstatements and much garbling of fact, upon which account anticipations of criticism abide uncomfortably in the prospect. The hope of any two witnesses seeing the same occurrence in the same light has long been annihilated by our courts of justice, and in this book, which focalizes the statements of many, entire harmoniousness in this respect, is not to be contemplated. " The old story of Sir Walter Raleigh's looking from his prison window on some street tumult, which afterwards three witnesses reported in three different ways, himself differing from them all, is still a true lesson for us." (Carlyle.) Because of this human characteristic it is hoped that some of the essence of charity will be combined with the vitriol of criticism in the consideration of this work.

In the matter of compiling data relating to court and county administration, the task of accumulation has been rendered difficult by the two court-house fires which the county has sustained, and which destroyed all the old pioneer books and documents of value. On this account very little of the early transactions of the kind could be presented.

The few remaining pioneers have lived free, open and un- fettered lives; in most all instances they have rebelled against being subjected to restricted and narrowing routines, which condition, coupled with the impatience natural to their advanced ages, has rendered the work of securing the treasures of their information, a delicate and subtle task, necessitating in most every case the invoking of patience, diplomacy and tact. It is in justice to say, however, that all have withstood the fire of questioning creditably, and with a degree of willingness manifested that reflected their great interest in and appreciation of the ends to be attained.


Table of Contents

Preface 9
Introduction 13


Chapter I.
1. The Coining of the First Settlers First Home and Environments 25
2. Subsequent Arrivals and Localities Sought 32
3. Gregarious Tendencies Notable in Settlement 37

Chapter II.
1. Cactus Hill 39

Chapter III.
1. The Pioneer Store and Merchant 46

Chapter IV.
1. Land and Pre-emption Claims 49

Chapter V.
1. The Delaware Indians 51

Chapter VI.
1. Church and School Beginnings 54
2. Sand Hill as a Center 54
3. Old Swayback 55

Chapter VII.
1. Organization of the County 60
2. First Election and Remarks 63

Chapter VIII.
1. County Seat Contest 69
2. County Seat Located Called Taylorsville 70
3. Bishop Lays Out Town of Taylorsville 72
4. Beginning of Decatur 74
5. First School, Church and Other Beginnings at Decatur 78
6. Miscellaneous Notes Pioneer Infant 79

Chapter IX.
1. Second Village in County Established Prairie Point 81

Chapter X.
1. Analysis of the Citizenship Study of the Times and Manners -Problems and Conditions 82
2. Early Markets and Commerce 88
3. Farming Modes and Conditions 90
4. Wild Game Buffalo Wild Horses Trained Instinct in Horses 95
5. Cattle and Hogs, and Conditions 99
6. Home Life 93
7. Social Life, Amusements and Pleasures 103

Chapter XI.
1. Summing Up First Period 108



Introductory Statement 112

Chapter I.
1. Local Attitude Toward Issues of War 114

Chapter II.
Military Organization 116

Chapter III.
Raising Companies for Confederate Service 120

Chapter IV.
Changes and Conditions Incident to War 127

Chapter V.
Conspiracy of the Peace Party 130

Chapter VI.
A Glance at Decatur in War Time 134

Chapter VII.
Pursuit and Arrest of Deserters 139

Chapter VIII.
Changes in County Administration at End of War 143

Chapter IX.
Demonstration of the Union League 148

Chapter X.
Conditions Briefly Summed Up 154



Introduction 157

1. Sad Death of Brave Young Bill Birdwell 163
2. Death of Jake Moffiit and Escape of Alonzo Dill 166
3. The Extermination of the Russell Family 168
4. Big Raid in Which John Bailey and Mrs. Vick were Killed 171
5. Massacre and Capture of Babb Family 174
6. Murder of Nick Dawson 178
7. Captain Ira Long's Hot Engagement 181
8. Death of Conelly and Weatherby and Wounding of Clabe Cates 183
9. Captain Earheart's Exploits 186
10. Capture of the Ball Boys 188
11. Killing of Johnson Miller 189
12. Brave Fight of Frank Coonis 190
13. Death of George Halsell 191
14. Pleas Bryant Wounded 191
15. Capture and Detention of Ran Veasey 193
16. Captain George Stevens, John Hogg and Jenning Brothers' Fight on the Wichitas 195
17. Raids and Killings in South and Southwest Wise County 197
18. Brief Comments on the Times and Indian Marauding Characteristics 207
19. Epoch-Marking Event in Savage Depredation History Last Raid in Wise County Assassination of Huff Family 210
20. Result of Huff Massacre End of Trouble Summing Up 217





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The settlement of the territory afterward to become Wise County began in the fall of the year of 1853, when the first prospective white settlers arrived to view the country. From this date until the latter fifties immigration continued to flow in, but in 1858 or 1859, it was stopped on account of a sanguinary occurrence of far-reaching importance which happened within the wilds of what is now Jack County when outlaw Indians massacred the Mason and Cameron families on Lost Creek. This murder dampened the impulse of immigration, and not until many years were normal conditions of safety such as were conducive to the influx of civilization, restored.