William J.] 1829-1908 [Maltby.

Captain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life online

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Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 12 of 14)
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comrade, without a trained saddle mule or leader. On reaching the spot
designated by Benton we found the poor fellow lying straight on hit?
back. The wagonmaster ran his hand under his clothes and felt of
his heart, and said, "Boys, his heart is still." He opened his mouth
and poured some brandy down his throat. We then picked him
gently up and put him in the wagon, with his feet to the kettle
of coals, and went back to camp as we had come, me leading the
head mule all the way both ways. We got back about 12 o'clock at
night, and here some friendly hand gave me a cup of good, strong
coffee, the only thing I had taken since the morning before. Eeader,
the exhilerating effects of that coffee can't be described. Suffice it to
say that it warmed, vibrated and tingled to the ends of my toes,


for I had then run and walked in that biting storm over forty miles
without food. After drinking that seemingly life-giving coffee, I
stood around the fire until I was dry and warm. I then looked
around and found a wagon with but one occupant, covered up snug
and warm. I quickly crawled in beside him, raised the blankets
snuggled close up to him, with my boots and clothes all on, and was
soon in the land of dreams, surrounded by singing birds, flowing
fountains and perpetual roses, as a reward for what I had just gone

Providence seemed to pity our forlorn condition and sent us a
change in the weather, for the next morning the wind had ceased
and the sun rose bright and clear. We were all up early, trying to find
something to appease the cravings of hunger for by this time the in-
ner man was calling for help in no uncertain feeling. We russled up
some fat pickled pork, soldier hard tack and coffee, of which I ate
about one pound of raw, fat pork, five or six hard tacks and drank a
quart of strong coffee, and then felt equal to any or all emergencies.
The wagonmasters were compelled to keep their horses tied up to go
in pursuit of the mules; so after we had eaten our hasty and short
ration breakfast all struck out, horse and foot, in every direction to
round them up. By 10 o'clock we had most of the live mules caught,
but many had been frozen and rounded up for the last time by the

Teams were fitted up and we went back to bring up the wagons
and men that were left behind in the storm. We found all the men
that had been left in their wagons, covered up head and ears in their
blankets. By night we had got everything to camp. Rations were is-
sued, we got another square meal, and buried our dead comrade, who,
like many thousands, had lost his life in trying to carry out an un-
necessary military order.

The next morning what teams were left were hitched to
the wagons and Camp Necessity was left. About noon we reached
the Clear Fork of the Brazos at a good natural ford, due to the
guideship of Black Beaver. The major drove over and I followed


him with my cannon. When he reached the rise on the south bank
about one mile southwest, a beautiful hill covered with beautiful
trees was plain in sight. We moved forward to it, and as we ap-
proached it the hill and trees became less and less. When the Major
got near it, he halted, called his officers, got out of his hack, and they,
with Black Beaver, walked all over the little hill and grove, and when
he returned he said, "Here we locate Fort Phantom Hill, for this is
one spot where distance lends enchantment to the view." Hence
the r.ame, Phantom Hill.

The order was then to drive up and unload, camp and rest. The
word "Rest" was like pouring oil of gladness on troubled waters, for
we had traveled under the burning suns of summer and in the
frosts of winter, since early spring, before we reached this haven.

As the range was as fine as any in the world, and it was necessary
to recruit the mules before starting on the long trip back to Fort
Smith in the midst of winter, Phantom Hill was an ideal spot for the
purpose. Grass and water were abundant for the mules and wild
game for the men. There was a heavy crop of acorns in the big
rough near the post, and deer and turkeys had collected to it from
far and near. They had never heard the report of a gun or seen a
white man. They were so fat and contented that they did not seem
to fear us, and all we had to do was to sally forth after dark, armed
with a long pole, and knock off the low, spreading elms the nice,
fat turkeys which we would carry to camp. So we had turkey fixings
and flour doings to our heart's content. Antelope were in all direc-
tions, 500 in a herd, like flocks of sheep. We thanked the gods
of Phantom Hill for giving us this feast, rest and sunshine after the
storm. Who can blame the Indians for fighting for this paradise
when civilization sought to take it away from them by force of arms?

As my recollection serves me, about the first of January, Mr. Lock-
lin, the wagonmaster, was ordered to hitch up the train and draw
rations to carry the outfit back to Preston and at Preston to draw
rations to last to Fort Smith.

Everyhing went smooth with us till we got to Preston. Here


Major Wood, the quartermaster, kept several of the best teams,
mine with the others. The other boys who had to give up their
teams took it as a matter of course. Not so with me. Mine was
the fanciest and best team in the train, and I loved them better
than I ever loved any mules that were really mine. They turned
over to me an old, broken-down team to drive to Fort Smith, and I
swore straight up and down that I would not drive them. But as my
home and dear mother were at Fort Smith, and the thoughts of get-
ting to see her soon by driving the team, and getting to tell her
that her boy had seen the elephant, rhinoceros or some other big
animal in the location of Phantom Hill, made me relent; so I made
a virtue of necessity, got some shears, reached them up nicely and tied
two of the poorest ones behind the wagon. The quartermaster -bought
corn all through the nations. I fed and curried them and tried to
make them look pretty, especially to drive into Fort Smith. So the
morning we drove in I hitched them all up, and when we got near
the Fort Mr. Locklin halted the train and sent for me.

"Jeff," he said, pointing to his baggage team in the lead, "this
is your team to drive into the fort."

Eeader, I was prouder of that promotion than any promotion
that I ever received in a long life on the frontier of Texas. I hope
the reader will pardon this seeming piece of egotism. The old-time
government mule-whacker is fast passing away in Texas, and those
of them who were ambitious loved their mules and prided themselves
on their close drives; and the cowboy loved his mount, and was as
desirous of approbation and applause as a congressman at the present

In the spring of 1851 a mule train of forty six-mule teams was
loaded with an army supplies and ordered to Phantom Hill. I went
with it as carpenter, hunter, etc. Colonel Abercrombie was sent along
to take command of the post. He had a nice ambulance to haul him
and his nice little wife, and he called her the pet name of "Dickey."
When we got to the west fork of the Trinity it was swollen from
heavy rains. I went in and waded it to see if we could cross.


It was only about waist deep and we began to prepare to cross. Colonel
Abercrombie asked me if I would carry "Dickey" over. He saif!
she was afraid to go over in the ambulance as the current might
capsize it. As I was already wet, I said, "Yes, with pleasure." Miss
"Dickey," as I will call her, was a. very small, neat little woman,
weighing about 100 pounds, which was nothing for me to carry at
that time, particularly when the load was in the shape and sub-
stance that it was. So I picked her up and set her on my shoulder
and made across, and when I set her little feet on the south bank
of West Trinity the temptation was so great that I had to give her
a nice, little brotherly hug. She smiled and thanked me for bringing
her safely across. I respectfully raised my hat and replied, "It is
yours and the Colonel's to command; it is mine to obey."

Our train moved on to Phantom Hill, unloaded and returned to
Fort Smith. As it passed Preston Major Wood, the quartermaster
at that place, wanted me to stop with him, which I did. In the
fall he received orders to abandon the quartermaster's department
at Preston and go to Austin and take charge at that place. I went
with him in charge of his wagon train. After we got to Austin he
placed me under Major Albert Sidney Johnston, who was then pay-
master in the United States army, with headquarters at Austin.
He paid off the troops at Fort Crogan, Phantom Hill, Belknap, Gra-
ham and Fort Worth.

At that time there was not a house where Fort Worth now stands.
The old post was occupied by one company of dragoons, commanded
by Captain James Oaks. In 1852, or 1853, Lieutenant-Colonel R. E.
Lee did command at Phantom Hill, although history says not. At
that time the post was occupied by several companies of the Fifth

A train of forty six-mule teams was loaded with government sup-
plies for Phantom Hill, with orders to move Lieutenant Colonel
R E. Lee with five companies of the Fifth Infantry to Fort Mc-
Intosh, Laredo, on the Rio Grande.

I was with the train as carpenter from start to finish. The season


was very bad, waters were high, and we were a long time on the road.
We were two weeks getting across the Nueces at old Fort Ewell.

On this trip I was very much impressed with the soldierly bear-
ing and Christian simplicity of Colonel Lee.

I was in government employ continuously from the spring of 1849
to December 20th, 1855, I might say on the frontier of Texas, in the
various capacities of teamster, wagonmaster, carpenter, scout, dis-
patch bearer and, like David Copperfield of old, doer of odd jobs;
in which time I have seen as many of the officers who did United
States duty here on the frontier as any living man, I suppose.


(Abilene Eeporter, May 22, 1891.)

Capt. W. J. Maltby, one of the most prominent Texas farmers
and horticulturists, favors the Eeporter with the following inter-
view. Capt. Maltby needs no introduction to the progressive farmers
of this State; he needs no introduction to the horticulturists of the
United States, with whom he has met in national convention at the
annual meetings of the American Horticultural Society. He is a
member in high standing of this organization, and is also a member
of the Texas Horticultural Society, and is on important committees
of both. The reporter asked :

"May I ask you what you think of the future of Abilene and
the Abilene country ?"


"I think that in the near future Abilene will be a city of 50,000

"Why do you think so ?"

"Because it has the three first great natural advantages to make
it a city: (1) Health a perfect absence from malaria. (2) Location
distance from other places of note. (3) Fertility of its soils and
vastness of their extent. Every observing man that travels over the
Abilene country will be convinced that there is not now,, nor never
can be, any local cause for sickness, which is the first consideration
in any country. As to location, must say that it is the best located
of any inland city in the State. It is directly in the geographical cen-
tei of the State, and Texas, as a State, will be the wonder of the world
and the center, like the center of man or beast, is the vital part. The
name Abilene should be changed to Central City, which would add
one million dollars to it and the country the first year.

"Abilene is destined to become one of the leading railroad centers
of the State, the natural gaps in the mountains on direct lines to the
seaboard south, and to Denver, Colorado, and Santa Fe north, the
lines running their entire length through fertile agricultural, horti-
cultural and the best of stock-raising countries, which will make
them paying roads from the start, insures their building at an early
date. As to the citizens and business men of Abilene, they are worthy
to occupy the goodly country of their choice. For morals, hospitality,
enterprise, 'git up and git' they may have equals, but no superiors;
and let me make the assertion, without fear of contradiction, that
for morals and orderly conduct, Abilene takes the lead.

"In case a flow of water is not reached in the artesian well what
will Abilene do for a supply of water to support a city ? That cuts
no figure in the case whatever. Abilene has a never failing spring of
pure water of sufficient volume, and with sufficient elevation, to put
the water 100 feet above the city, for a city of any size or capacity."

"Then do you think that the Abilene country is an agricultural
and horticultural country, and the place for the industrious, enterpris-
ing homeseeker and capitalist?"

"I do."


"Are you a practical farmer and fruit grower?"

"I am."

"How long have you lived in this country?"

"I am the pioneer or one of the pioneers. My advent into this
country dates back to the location of Forts Belknap and Phantom Hill,
in the year 1850."

What has been your experience and observation in regards to
rain fall sufficient to make general crops?"

"I have seen the country settle up from Red river to the Rio
Grande on the thirty-second parallel, and the history of each county
west as it settled up has been the same. Too dry for two or three
years to make farming successful, but as more land was put into cul-
tivation and the prairie fires were stopped that destroyed and stunted
the growth of the forests and native trees, the rainfall increased each
year, until there is an abundance and oft-times too much for suc-
cessful farming."

"But the Abilene country has had serious drouths which have
materially retarded its progress?""

"I admit that, but such a thing will never occur again, because
our seasons are so long, and on any 100 acres of our tillable soil
in the Abilene country, any intelligent, practical and well-to-do
fanner can grow all the grain, grasses, fruit, fleers and vegetables
that grow in the temperate zone. Under favorable seasons intelligence
and perserverance, backed by long seasons and the best virgin soil
of vast extent, will never record failure."

"How do you think our climate and fruit in the Abilene country
will compare with California ?"

"Very favorably, the difference in the climate is the way the
thing is done. The Californians sell climate for from $100 to
$500 per acre and throw in the land. The Abilene country
sells land for from $5 to $ 25 per acre, and throws all the
right they have to the climate in, and there isn't more than a nickel's
difference in the climate, taken all through. The fruit of the future
will vie with the fruit of California, with nearness to market in. favor
of the Abilene country."


"Have you lands for sale or are you interested in the sale of

"No, I have no lands for sale nor am I interested in anyway
wnatever with the sale of lands, but shall buy, as fast as my limited
means will allow me, and keep as a .heritage for my children."


Editor Sentinel:

As you are in the middle of the road and desirous of giving
justice, to all men, politically and otherwise, for the advancement of
our State and the betterment of its people, as you see it, I submit
this article asking your comments and the comments of others on a
subject that has engrossed my attention for many years, and, from
my point of view, a question of no small importance to the State of
Texas and its people. I wish to incite thought and get the people
to commenting, for "in the multitude of counsel there is wisdom,"
saith the Scripture; again, "there is a time to all things," and
again, "cast thy bread upon the water, and it shall be gathered up
many days hence," etc. So I here make the bold assertion, without
the fear of successful contradiction that the State of Texas has a
rich gold mine in the proper enactment of a scalp law a mine that
will "pan out" more gold and more happiness to its people than any
gold mine in California.



The wealth of a State consists in its public improvements and in
the homes and happiness and prosperity ot its citizens. With the
proper enactment of a scalp law Texas can furnish homes to thousands
of poor but deserving tenant farmers who never would be able to ob-
tain a home under present conditions; and the waste places of West
Texas can be made to rejoice and blossom as the rose, and the song
of the hardy pioneer and his happy children to echo from Dan to
Beersheba in praise of the State that utilized a curse and converted
it into an untold blessing.

The prairie dogs of West Texas are worth as much to the State
a.3 the land, if utilized as they should and can be. If the State will
put a bounty of 5 cents each on prairie dog scalps and make it sure
and secure for the space of ten years, every section of agricultural land
in West Texas will be dotted with homes, and the increase in taxable
values will in twenty years treble what it now is which would be bread
cast upon the waters, returning three-fold after many days, and many
people made prosperous and happy.

Now, for the gold mine. If the State will put this 5-cent bounty
on prairie dog scalps, and make it permanent and secure for the
space of ten years, then the foundation is laid for the people of the
State to realize 10 cents clear on each dog; that is, it would put
that amount of money in circulation out of something that is worse
than nothing, as is generally considered. We have boarded and lodged
Mr. Prairie Dog for lo ! these many years, and he can be made to pay
handsomely for his entertainment. Estimating that there are fifty
million prairie dogs in West Texas, and that ten cents on each one of
them can be put into circulation, we see that it would add five million
dollars to the circulation in West Texas, out of worse than nothing
as viewed from an ordinary standpoint. But as all questions have two
sides to them it may be that the dog was put in West Texas by a
wise Providence to furnish the means whereby people could obtain
homes. From my standpoint it would be easy to settle up West Texas
by means of the prairie dog, but difficult unless we utilize this means.
The way to realize the ten cents on each dog is for the State to prop-


erly fix the scalp law. When that is done and is generally known a
grand and continued Oklahoma rush will be made for the school
lands of West Texas. If properly set on foot there will be a general
demand for their pelts and oil. Their pelts will command 5 cents
apiece and each dog will render 5 cents worth of fine oil, which will
put into circulation among the people $5,000,000 in the space of ten
years, which amount will be used in the purchase of lands and the
making of homes, resulting in a richer mine for Texas than any
in California.

To go into the general details of this subject would make this
article too long. My object is to incite thought and invite criticism,
a ; the time for the destruction and utilization of the destructive ani-
mals of West Texas has probably come.

Prairie Doggie, thine for the right, homes for the people, and
justice and progress for the howlers. W. J. MALTBY.

I see an article in the Sentinel from the old captain. It sounds
somewhat funny. I wonder if the captain ever had any experience
in getting the ropes on the worthless little doggie that he thinks
there is so much money in. The hide may be all right, and the tallow
too; the question is how to catch the dog in quantities that would
pay. Will not the time and expense overrun the profits? I have
managed to kill the dogs off twenty acres with poison and carbon
and if ever I found a dead dog on top of the ground I do not remem-
ber it. And even if I could poison the dog and get him I would
not like to pull the pelt from him. I think the Captain was letting
his mind wander off in imagination and was thinking ol the wonder-



ful wealth that could be accumulated in case the doggie was as large
as a mule and as fat as a bear in mast time. His idea that there
was more money in that worthless dog than in the richest gold mine
in California was purely imaginary and not real. I think a success-
ful recipe how to kill the doggie would bring the dog catchers mora
money than the 5-cent tax and the hide and tallow put together.
Just think of the tenant farmers out in West Texas catching dogs
and selling hides and tallow and paying for the land that he caught
the dogs off. Putting $5,000,000 in circulation would be worth
wonders in West Texas. I will agree with the Captain that if the
State will pay 5 cents for the scalp, and 10 cents can be had for
the hide and oil, and they can be caught in large quantities so that
the expense will not be so great, the $5,000,000 can be put in circu-
lation. In multitude of counsel there is wisdom, and in killing a
multitude of prairie dogs there is much labor and expense. 1 hope
the Captain will go into the details of this wonderful scheme. There
is a time for all things and there must be a time to kill prairie
dogs, and I find it a difficult matter to kill them out of their dens.
I wonder what Middle, South and East Texas would say to taxing
them to kill the dogs for West Texas. I fail to see the point where
exterminating the dogs would bring prosperity and happiness to
its citizens. With proper enactment of a scalp law Texas can furnish
homes to thousands of poor and deserving tenant farmers is another
statement that needs to be explained, especially to as shortsighted
a man as I am. The Captain slings a ready pen and gets off in fine
style, but fails to make his points. There is not a tenant farmer
who is able to go into the dog killing business, who is not able to
take up a school claim and go to farming and make a good living,
and kill the dogs off his own land without a scalp law. My guess is
that I am into it now and there will not be a grease spot left of
me when the Captain gets through with me. There is one point the
Captain made. He said the editor of the Sentinel is in the middle
of the road. C, A. CLEMMEK.


(West Texas Sentinel, Abilene, Texas, March 12, 1893.)

Editor Sentinel:

Under the above heading, in your issue of February 17th, you
published an article from me on the scalp law, in which I made some
bold and unqualified assertions, and left all the gaps down and in-
vited comments and criticisms, to which I took as a text or quoted
three passages of Scripture, to-wit: (1st.) In the multitude of coun-
sel there is much wisdom. (2nd) Bread cast upon tfie waters will
return after many days. (3rd) A time to all things.

In the first place, I am proud to know that buncombe speeches
and Duncombe articles in newspapers don't go with men who claim
to be in the middle of the road; that it takes "brass tack" arguments
to win, and that if a thing is so why is it so. So I doff my hat in
great respect to Bro. C. A. Clemmer for taking up the gauntlet that
F threw down. For agitation is the life of all things. We must ag-
itate and tickle the soil with plow and hoe and it will mile in corn
and other useful and necessary products. 'So when the public mind
is agitated on questions of importance it will smile in wisdom from
a multitude of counsel. So Bro. C. can drive a tack here.

Bro. C. said that I made one point that The Sentinel was in
the middle of the road; so we here drive a brass tack. As to my
experience in getting the ropes on the worthless little kuss of a prairie
dog, let me say that I have made and eaten many savory pot-pies


out of the little kuss Jong before he made his appearance in the
Abilene country, and I here offer to bind myself to make one or tens
of thousands of traps at 10 cents each that can be handled by any
six-year-old boy or girl with perfect success, and be as durable as
any other farm implement and not injure the scalp, hide or tallow.
Those that are one-half or two- thirds grown are as good to eat as
squirrels, the older ones, after being rendered, their meat can be
fed to the pigs. So we will use the little fellow, lock, stock and
barrel, and sing: D'oggie, doggie, huah, huah, ah, huah. 0, my little

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Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 12 of 14)