George Langston.

History of Eastland County, Texas online

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Manskex'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. M;r. 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 Eanch^ 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 var-
mint" * fell, with a bullet through him, do\^Ti among the
tingling, quivering dogs, did this father and mother
think of aught else.

"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

*Next morning the coug-ar 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 sun-
set 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.


licr hair. ''To think a pig could make me forget my
children was what hurt/' she said.

Daily contact inures one to dangers, yet quickejis
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 mioon should
comte the Indians would be raiding the white settle-

On a hazy October afternoon, when one of the men
had just come in with a deer on his shoulder, Jim Mc-
Gough 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 fright-
ened 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.

Cattle and hogs were the commercial possibilities
of the County, on which the settlers relied for sustenance
and for money.

Blair's Fort stood five years, 18G0-1865.

The First Wedding.

"Ma, guess what I found." Mr. Blair stood in the

"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 fron-
tier, one hundred miles from the nearest mill, only ne-
cessities were pro^4ded — bread, coffee, beans, etc. ; 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, "Hbney 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 hexe."

"But, honey, you have a pretty white * nainsook dress
trimmed up in embroidery, and made low neck and
short sleeves. 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

*Mr. Blair paid fifteen bushels of wheat, at 75 cents a
bushel for the wedding dress.


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 wliich 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 petty 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
lat mavericks.

Coon Keith and Jim McGrough, 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 Co-
manche to Albert Sowdes' on the Sabanno, where he was
met by Mr. Smith. After a ride of a couple of miles
the two men camie upon a fresh Indian trail, and thev
wondered if there would be any interference in the wed-
ding 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 miiles 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
liome 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 thiek-leaved
branches of the sturdy oaks. The minister took his
stand, and the couple to be married walked out into the

Coon Keith, the man, was eighteen years old. He
had black hair and eyes, cheeks like June apples, carried
himself like the young Apollo he was, and was dressed
in blue pants and black ?ack coat, with two big * six-
shooters buckled around him. 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 crown-
ing this, her blood-tinged, yellow-brown hair combed
foosely 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 :

Beef, a la barbecue.

Turkey, with dressing and sliced eggs.

Venison, bread, butter, coffee, milk.

Honey cakes.

After the wedding, Eeverend 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 cock was crowing for day. ,

*Tom Keith, a cousin, had intimated that h^ meant to
enter objections when the time qame.


Miss Lizzie Keith, now Mrs. Presley of Curtis, maid
of honor, and Joe Smith, best man, both wore white.

Mr. K>eith has accumulated much wealth, and lives
with his still beautiful wife in Erath County, not many
miles from Desdemona.


An Indian Race.

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 Mts. 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
mftn, 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 an}^ better way, Mr. Brandon took her np 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 dans:er. 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. Grlancing baclrward, he was filled with unfeigned
horror, for not one Indian, but twenty, swung: into
view, and came after them yelling like demons, the ar-
rows playing about them thick and fast.

Brandon, leaning forward, loosened the rein and
urged the horse onward. The woman's grip about him

"My Grod !" he thought, "she is shieldinsr me !" And
as his gloom had been lifted by the sweet breath of na-
ture in these woods a couple of hours before, so now, the
responsibility for the life of this woman, on her errand
of miercy for one he loved, thrilled him, angered him,
lifted the burden from his soul, and in his restored man-
hood he thundered :

'^'alt ! wheel ?' The horse obeyed his master. The

♦Color of horse not known.


man * fired thrice in quick succession at the bewildered
Indians as they tumbled off their ponies into the grass.

"Go, * Greneral, go !" shouted Brandon^ and again
the miad dash forward for life !

The Indians instantly recovered their ponies. On
they came; on, on, like a horde of devils, while their in-
fernal 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
hia adul, wIjgq Mrs. Kohen cried out:

"I am shot, Steve !"

Again was he angered, angered at the fiends seeking

'^^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, m'y back is full of arrows: I am killed already.
Think of your sick wife, and drop me and save your-

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

*There is a differencp of opinion about the kind of sun
used. Messrs. McGough. Sam and William Allen. Smith and
Strawn and Mrs- Farm of Cisco, a sister-in-law of Mrs, Ko-
hen, are authority for the incident,

+'Presumed name.


defiance that startled tbe woman into tightening her
hold, he sent six bullets on errands of fate. Hope
surged mightily in his bosom, as he shouted :

"Forward, Greneral I" 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 victory. H<.'
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 tlio
stock, for it must be done before night, heard the clat-
tering 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 ivon!

Mr. Brandon was hit six times, and they pulled seven
arrows from poor ^Irs. Kohen's back. Strange as it
may seem, she recovered rapidly. Som-e time after this
she became the wife of Mt. Clayton, * and now lives
in El Paso, Texas.

A TuKKEY Hunt.

That same night two men, Joe Smith and "Bad
Reese," working on the Flannagan Ranch, about twelve
miles southwest of the Brandon Ranch, went out to hunt
Anld turkeys, thinking there was little danger, as no
Indians had been seen for some time.

*Mrs, Clayton died Feb. 24, 1904, at Toyah.


Suddenly, when the}^ were down nfear the edge of
tlie hank of Colony Creek, they heard a stealthy tramp
on the (lead leaves.

"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> iogether, they took two steps out from oif 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 th? ranch, and next morning told
the other men there, John Flannagan, his son, Golston,
(Gols), and Eal Smith, they were laughed at for their

"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."

If the warning had only been heeded the two young
men — Joe Smith and Gols Flannagan — would not have
been started out alone that morning to Blair's Fort, and
the lone grave under the tree still bears testimony to the
grim truth that "it was sure Indians."

The following account of the attack of these same
twenty Indians who had chased the self-reliant Brandon,
who had all but captured Smith and Eeese the same
night, and now finish up their gruesome work, is told
by Joe Smith, who lives at Victor, Erath County, seven
miles from Desdemona.


The Lost Arrow Head.

"On the 16th day of Decejnher, 1860, Gols Flan-
nagan and myself started in an ox wagon to Blair's
Fort, fifteen miles away, for some bread stuff. iWe had


JOE SM[TH. Victor. Texas.

only gone a mile ^vhen we were waylaid by Indians, who
opened fire on ns at close range from a little ravine by
the side of the road, which we were about to cross.

"Fifteen or twenty red skins facing a fellow on a
turn in the road is enough to make the cold chills run
down any man^s back — Grols was only nineteen and I
was twenty — ^but we didn't have time for more than


that, for the hullets and arrows sung a funeral dirge
about us.

" 'I'm shot !' I 'exclaimie.d, falling backward in the
covered wagon^ and pulling a stinging arrow out of my
knee. Gols turned and looked at me in a dazed manner,
not seeming to understand. There was a red spot on
his shirt front, and I knew be was hit, too.

"The young oxen, at sight of the Indians, wheeled
around and ran as if wild, followed by the howling
fiends. Presently the animals left the road and took


to the open, mlaking for a timbered spot. They ran
some two hundred yards, when the wheels hit a tree,
and they broke loose from the wagon.

"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 miy way to the ranch. Gols
had not come in. ^Bad' Eeese went at once to look for



Page 16, paragraph 2. 1855.

Page 24. Billy Cross was killed on Armstrong creek.

Page 28, paragraph 3. Albert Sowell.

Page 49. On Aug. 1, 1904, Mr. Lewis T, Coffer, who lives
with his daughter, Sarah Gordia Williams, at Straws Mill,
Coryelle County, Texas, came to my home and gave me a true
account of this attack of the Indians.

His wife was killed and buried Aug. 20-24, 1866. She
emptied five chambers of the big navy revolver before she
was overcome, placed behind an Indian and carried off. When
they had gone only 100 yards from where her bonnet was
found, and where the ground was " terribly torn up," proving
how she struggled for her life, Jim Temples, who had heard
her screams, overtook them. The woman sprang to the
ground and was shot with her own revolver. The Indians
fled. No braver woman than Amanda Coffer ever faced a
treacherous Comanche.

Joseph William Coffer, his son, lives at Gholson. McClel-
lan County, Texas.

Page 81. Mr. Davidson b. Nov. 5, 1823.

Page 87. I. H. Eversole.

Page 89. Court House burned Nov. 29, 1896.

Pages 100 and 101. Conner.

Page 104. Mr. Hill came to Texas in 1884 and was married
to the daughter of Mr. Parvin Dec. 25, 1902.

Page 123. James Caldwell had charge of W. T. Caldwell's

Page 135. Lisenbee.

Page 212. Mrs. Jessie Sowell.

Alameda — High Knob.
Robert Cone.

Page 213. Gunnoway.

Page 217. Commissioners.

W. R. Hodges — Precinct 1.
Cap Poe — Precinct 2.
James Irby — Precinct 3.
M. F. Cannon — Precinct 4.

ms TOR Y OF EA8TLA Nl) CO UNT Y, 3 7

him, and found him dead and scalped. Eeese 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 hack
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 mirldle 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. Tliree weeks later, on February 21, 1886, after
having carried it in my knee for twenty-five years, two
months and five davs, the arrow head came out.'^

In War Times.

In 1861 news did not travel fast in Eastland County,
for it lay on the very border land of civilization, \vit!i
its three or four scattered settlements.

Recruiting agents went where some degree of suc?ess
might attend their patriotic efforts, and it was not imitl
1864 that men in this section were called upon to tear

It was not from a desire on the part of the Gov-


ernnient to make every man feel the burden of war tliat
the frontiersnmn 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 inva-
sions of the red man.

Prior to 1868, Eastland, Shackelford and Calla-
han Counties were under the jurisdiction of Comanche
County. After this date Eastland was attached to Palo

At every meeting of the Legislature laws were passed
for the prucection of the frontier. They were adhered
to as closfeiy as the conditions and times would permit,
and that w^as all the law required. About the 1st of
February, 1864, Eastland w^as organized under the
Conscript i^aw 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,
Shackelfoid and Callahan to muster the required num-

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 surface; of the many
beautiful churches, school houses, public buildings, and
of the whirring miachinery; of the eighteen to twenty
towns with their thre.e hundred to three thousand in-

='^Chapter 36, Section 3, General laws of the Tc^nth Legis-
lature reads: "That the commissioned officers of each com-
pany 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 fron-
tier counties.


habitants; then, in imagination, wipe out all these farms
and houses and towns; fill the j^rimeval forests and
prairies, without a vestige of a shack of any kind, with
the snarling, hungry animals, and the fiendish, treacher-
ous Indians, and you have a picture of the territory
traversed by those early guardians of our country. Flan-
nagan^s Eanch, McGough Springs and Jewell marked
the western limit of the white man^s tread in Eastland
in 1864.

T]:e following roster was furnished by T. E. Keith,
who. joined the Company as soon as he was eia-liteen
years old:

Sing Gilbert, First Lieutenant;.

J. B. ^IcGough, Second Lieutenant.

J. L. Head, Sergeant.

H. York, Corporal.

Privates : AY. X. Arthur, Thomas ]\Iansker, James
Stubblefield, J. B. Smith, John Temples, James Tem-
ples, 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. YL Keith,
G. B. Ely, Sam Gilbert, Tom Gilbert, James Gilbert,
Jasper Gilbert, Taylor Gilbert, Joseph Dudley, William
Fisher, J. J. Keith, J. M. Y^ork.

As three of these men lived in Comanche County —
Joseph Dudley, William Fisher and S. C. Shirley — there
were, really, only twenty-eight mien in Eastland. A

*It was not known until after the war closed that four or
five of these men were deserters from the army. Ike Ward
^vas arrested during the war, taken to Arkansas, court-
martialed and shot as a deserter.


few months after the organization of this company, how-
ever, all the available citizens of Callahan and Shack-
elford Counties were added to it, making the required
forty, and First Lieutenant Gilbert was made Captain,
J. B. McGough, First Lieutenant, and N. H. Kuyken-
dall. Second Lieutenant.

The Company was divided into three squads, and
each man was required to serve ten days out of thirty.
The starting place was Nash^s Spring, half way between
McGough Springs and Jewell, and the incoming scout
was always met by the outgoing squad, thus keeping a
lookout committee continuously on duty.

Several days after Lee's surrender a detachment
of Gilbert's Com^pany arrived at Blair's Fort. There
they received the sad news from Lewis Keith, who had
just returned from Louisiana, and the Company dis-

When the danger of being "pressed^^ into the Con-
federate Army had passed, it is said that at least one-
third of the men in Eastland County moved back across
the Brazos River. That this was a fact, the census of
1870 proves, as the entire population numbered only
eighty-eight. The only wonder is that any remained,
as there was no Government protection at all until the
next Legislature met.

All honor to the brave men and women who still
possessed their homes and held the line of civilization
in Eastland ! All honor to the gray hairs of those who
fought for her in those perilous times, and who still live
among us ! Eternal honors be to the glorious manhood
and womanhood that creates pioneers !


I — Ellison's Spring Fisht.

On the 8th of August, 1864, J. L. Read, Corporal,
led out eight men for a ten days' scout, campinsf the

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Online LibraryGeorge LangstonHistory of Eastland County, Texas → online text (page 2 of 10)