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OUTDOORS THE SAGA OF F ALONG THE BRAZOS ROBERT SIMPSON NEIGHBORS
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 2
North Texas Star
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3 OUTDOORS ALONG THE BRAZOS
CHASING OUR TALES
8 OF THE SAGA
ROBERT SIMPSON NEIGHBORS
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 3
Outdoors Along the Brazos
Why We Read and Write By Don Price
Most writing, from the ordinary to the sublime, springs from a very basic need of one human being to communicate with another human being. One writes for the same reason one talks, because one has something to say. If you don’t have anything to say – a theme going absolutely nowhere – it won’t come out right on the word processor or with pencil and paper no matter how hard you try. This truth is often overlooked, even at times by successful writers who have been published for years. Yet nothing else is as important to a writer who wants to polish his craft, to reach his goal, the plateau of which is prose poetry, as to score a hit with a great essay, a great theme. Here is one of the very best: Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” a great theme enhanced by the deliverance of prose poetry, which is Lincoln’s style. If the point you are trying to make is not rational, you’ve wasted your time as well as the reader’s. Experience is a great teacher, and all of us have to learn. Writing is not easy work. Thinking is never easy, especially for those of us who have short attention spans. But writing today will have been worth it someday, if only to yourself because you’ll know you tried. Who knows? Perhaps you’ve your own Gettysburg Address just waiting to burst from your heart. Laboring through the difficult parts will bring out that elusive element deep within you, and it’s known as your own “style.” It is hoped you will have found your balance by now, a benchmark, but you’ll still have to check your compass when it gets foggy. Quality writing from your own hand is as valuable to you as a gyroscope is to a ship’s captain in a tumultuous sea. If you lose your own way, your best writing will turn out to be your own GPS. Kind of amazing, isn’t it? No book in the library will fully supply you with the knowledge that will uncover your own style, for your style is really a mirror of your own personality. As Cicero said about 2000 years ago, “You are what you write.” Your style is everything that you are, your attitude, your philosophy, the whole quality of your mind, even your imagination. Bringing out your own style will emit more confidence in yourself and even in your own friends, more awareness within you and others, but you can expect another benefit from writing – it will make you a better reader. This alone is worth all the effort; the reading of classics will be an unconscious means of improving your literary style. Our Boyce Ditto Public Library is an excellent place in which to start: Saul Bellow is there, in Boyce Ditto, having won the Nobel Prize in Literature with a startling work titled “Herzog,” a story about a confused protagonist who sent many personal letters to the most influential men in America. The more letters Herzog wrote, the better he felt about himself. He never mailed the letters. Sinclair Lewis is also there in Boyce Ditto, having been the first American awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in the early 1930s. His “Elmer Gantry” should be required reading for every high school student. Continued on page 4
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 4
From page 3 John Steinbeck and his “Grapes of Wrath” are also in Boyce Ditto, another Nobel Prize winner in Literature. Having read this classic will deepen your understanding while you’re watching Ken Burns 2- part series on TV (last month) titled “The Dust Bowl.” Both venues are about the same thing, the hardships of West Texas and Oklahoma farmers. With prolonged drought, it can happen again. After reading a few classics by Noble winners (pun intended), you’ll be able to feel out another writer and what he is attempting to say, if he says it well, how the effect is created. Edgar Allen Poe, for example, is a master at creating a mood in his short stories, such a master of mood that he can have you looking under your own bed before you’ve turned the first page. You can find E.A. Poe in the Boyce Ditto Public Library. If you stay at this reading of Library of America classics (our library has over 100 volumes, the books with the black covers, easy to spot) long enough, you’ll be able to spot bad writing well within the first chapter. Then you’ll be able to appreciate good writing with relish because you’ll know how it got that way, how it affected you, and how easily E.A. Poe could have you looking under the bed not once but several times. Here’s where you’ll benefit: You (the writer) will often score A++ if you’ve gotten your point across with a timely “Letter to the Editor” essay. Timing is everything. In everyone’s life there are times of doubt, so it would be a good idea for you to step aside from the mainstream of our hectic technology for a few moments of introspection, yes, a few moments to absorb the wisdom of Abe Lincoln. Even the finest writers sometimes have to find a balance, just as the Barnum & Bailey tightrope walker, through a review, the studying of their own early manuscripts.
Then you can be sure you can communicate to the reader, cogently through written words; you’ll develop the craft of saying what you mean. The therapy derived from this kind of work will make you feel good about yourself, like the protagonist in Herzog, remember the guy who wrote all those letters to VIPs but never mailed them? Language is the greatest achievement of man. It helps you to understand others. Best of all, it helps you to understand yourself. Your essay is the mirror of your mind. It is you. Of the thoughts of most men, creative minds seem to be those that love life most. Walt Whitman, the poet, comes to mind. Robert Frost, of course. Our Boyce Ditto Public Library has the complete works of both. And so style takes its unique shape from a Christian attitude more than it does from the principle of competition. Moderation is the key, perhaps. One doesn’t need an impressive IQ but rather a leaning toward common sense. Everything has a bottom line. If you are still with me, if you’ve read this far, I’d better close before the cellphone crashes the mood, the effect of what I’ve been trying to say with a thousand words: What a man is, rather than what he knows, will at last determine his style. And writing will make a remarkable improvement even if you keep nothing but a personal diary. You can’t lose with a deal like that. What you and I should be concerned with is Information Overload, yes, along with a five second attention span. How much wisdom can one glean from this, a five second judgement call? Doesn’t anyone show concern that we seem to be on the fiscal cliff with both Information Overload and distractions? Doesn’t anyone see how much we are addicted to technology? There is no time to waste, while reflecting on the wisdom of Abe Lincoln, only multi-tasking. Faster, faster, faster.★
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 5
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Chasing Our Tales
By Sue Seibert
TEXAS RANGERS IN NORTH CENTRAL TEXAS
couple of months ago I told you about Larry Jones’ ancestor, John Westmoreland Jones, who was a Texas Ranger during the Indian wars. He lived outside of Weatherford. I also told you about my ancestor, Robert Devon “Uncle Bob” Routh, who was a Ranger at the same time in Brown County, Texas. Today I would like to devote my column to other Rangers who were in our North Central Texas area to fight the Indians in the 1800s. After the column about Jones appeared, I heard from Marie Polk, of Marie’s Motherlode Antiques, on North Main Street in Weatherford. She scanned a photo she had of some Texas Rangers who were gathered for, I think, a sort of reunion in 1908. They included Tom White, E. H. Lige Putman, Billy McCauley, Capt. Frank Johnson, Homer White, Oscar Roundtree and Buster Jones. Interestingly, Homer White was shot and killed later the same year by E.S. Stokes at the Weatherford Train Station. Another story of local Rangers was told by Doyle Marshall in “A Cry Unheard”: “Instead of being captured by the Indians on the Texas frontier, white men were normally put to death at the scene of battle. An exception was Nelson Lee, a 48-year-old former Texas Ranger captured by the Comanches in 1855 as he and fellow drovers moved a herd of horses westerly between San Patricio and El Paso. All but four of Lee’s party were killed by the band. The survivors were captured and taken to the main Comanche camp for the purpose of satisfying the vengeance of the Comanches by slowly torturing the four to death. Fortunately for Lee, an alarm clock in his possession was thought by the superstitious Comanches to have supernatural powers, and Lee was spared because he was able to manipulate the clock.
“Each time visiting Indians were in camp the proud chief sent for Lee to demonstrate his strange powers with the little metal box. Because of the “magic” of the alarm clock and Lee’s dramatic approach to displaying it, the various bands were eager to trade for him. Consequently, during his three years’ captivity he belonged to three Comanche bands. The last two traded an inordinate amount of goods for him. One of his chiefs, Big Wolf, entered into a “solemn league and covenant” with Lee. The captive promised to remain in peaceable possession of the chief and to not attempt to escape. In consideration of Lee’s promise, Big Wolf swore to “make a skeleton” of Lee in short order if he attempted to leave. “During the span of three years of captivity Lee never advanced beyond the rank of untrusted servant of the chief. After killing the chief, Lee made a daring escape from the band. During his captivity Lee apparently never adjusted in any respect to the Comanche life, although he took a Comanche wife with whom he lived until his escape.” Yet another local Ranger tale tells us about the Battle of Stone Houses in 1837. In the middle of October of 1837 a company of Texas Rangers chased a raiding party of Keechi Indians up the Colorado River. Lt. A.B. van Benthusen and 17 men split from the main group and went north to the Brazos River, where them met up with over 150 Keechi warriors on Nov. 10. The Keechis turned to fight and lost their leader on the first attack, but they immediately elected a new leader. They set the prairie on fire, where 12 Rangers were killed. Eight survived and managed to make their way to a settlement on the Sabine River on Nov. 27. The battle was named Stoned Houses because the location where it took place had three stone mounds that looked like the houses of the Indians. It was located about 10 miles south of Windthorst, Texas. A Palo Pinto County settler, Simpson Crawford, served as a Texas
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 7 Ranger and also fought in the Mexican War. He came to Palo Pinto County from Titus County and before that from Kentucky. He settled in the Keechi Valley area of the Peters Colony and married Mary Brown. Crawford was also a successful cattle rancher. Probably the most famous Texas Ranger scout in the Palo Pinto County area was Charles Goodnight. He served as a scout, guiding the Rangers to rescue Cynthia Ann Parker when she had been recaptured by the Comanches. Of course, he was a cattle rancher and laid out the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail over which thousands of longhorns when to market in New Mexico. His ranch was also in the Keechi Valley. Tennessee native William Carroll McAdams came to Texas in the 1840s and served as a Texas Ranger, fought in the Mexican War, and acquired land that is now under Possum Kingdom Lake in northwest Palo Pinto County. Richard Coffey moved his family to Parker County, Texas, in 1855. While living there he served in the Texas Rangers and assisted Capt. Lawrence Sullivan Ross in the rescue of Cynthia Ann Parker on Dec. 18, 1860. Norman Underwood was born in New York on Aug. 1, 1825, and died Jan. 5, 1892. He went to Parker County in 1852. He was on the tax list at that time. Norman and his wife, Elizabeth Elkins, had 10 children, including Mary Ellen Underwood. Norman’s older brother, Edmund (Edward), was a Texas Ranger who later bought and sold land in Fannin County, Texas. Brice Woody was born on Feb. 11, 1832, in Roane County, Tenn. He married in October 1855, in Parker County, Texas, to Missouri A. Miller. Theirs was the first marriage in Parker County. Woody served in Captain Thompson’s Texas Ranger company from October 1859 to May 1860. They had 10 children. John Woody, who served as the Parker County sheriff in 1866, was also a Texas Ranger. He was married to Leah Morris. In 1860 Capt. J.J. Cureton organized a company of Texas Rangers in Palo Pinto County. Among these men were J.J. Cureton, Capt. R.W. Pollard, 1st Lt. M.D. Sanders, 2nd Lt. J.H. Baker, 1st Sgt. Ben Milam, 1st Cpl. J.L. Daves, 2nd Cpl. M. Anderson, John Anderson, Charles Allen, G.W. Baker, William Brown, W.H. Blevins, Allen Baker, Abe Blevins, T.B. Blevins, J.P. Brown, S.M. Blevins, Front Ball, M. Bragg, Nathan Bragg, Jesse Bragg, W.A. Bell, John Bell, J.H. Coffee, J.H. Chick, Samuel Church, P.A. Chamberlain, Simpson Crawford, W. Grammer, Thomas Grammer, James Dulin, G.W. Dodson, John Dalton, J.M. Elkins, W.J. Eubanks, J. Farris, John W. Flinn, Jack Flint, Phillip George, Charles Goodnight, W. Henclewood, J.P. Hales, S.G. Harper, W.R. Hill, E.G. Hall, T.R. Harris, Geo. Harris, W. Hullum, Bev. Harris, C.T. Hazlewood, Pate Jones, Parker Johnson, Jacob Lemons, J.G. Moss, B.B. Meadows, Elisha Mayse, Cavelle Mayse, Rich Moss, W.J. Moseley, W.Y. Moss, Thomas Nelson, John T. Porter, J.T. Pollard, W. Porter, W.M. Peters, J.W. Robertson, Peter Robertson, Squire Robinson, J. Runnels, G. Huff, T.W. Robertson, William Shirley, J.N. Sparks, C.C. Slaughter, V. Simonds. W.N. Shultz, Thomas Steward, James Sanders, John Standley, W. Strong, I.P. Volentine, D.F. Wells, George Williams, James Yancey, H. Williams, D.C. Smith, N.J. Deaston, Thomas Alley, M. Southerland and Robert Wood. These men protected the Texas frontier during the Civil War years. The Texas Indian Wars began between settlers and Texas and South Plains Indians when the first Europeans and Spanish settler came to Texas, and by 1821 full-time Ranger militia companies were formed to fight the Comanches. By 1823 Stephen F. Austin saw the need for such forces and created a militia of 10 hired men to protect the frontier. Soon settlers were organizing their own companies of Rangers, and after the Republic was created Texas formed mounted Ranger patrols on fast horses to pursue and fight Comanches on their own terms. The Texas Rangers are an honorable part of law enforcement for the State of Texas, and they have served this state from 1823 until the present. We are certainly proud that they are a part of our local history. ★
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 8
The Saga of Robert Simpson Neighbors – part 7
By Jim Dillard
(This is the seventh and final part of a series on the life of Robert Simpson Neighbors who was a soldier in the army of the Republic of Texas, Texas Ranger, prisoner of war, legislator and Indian agent for the Republic of Texas and State of Texas.) The group of men from Erath County that attacked Choctaw Tom’s hunting camp at Indian Hole on Elm Creek in Palo Pinto County on Dec. 26, 1858 and killed seven was but the vanguard of a much larger movement and force that was organizing throughout the region. The stage was now set for a volatile confrontation between Maj. Robert Simpson Neighbors’ Indians located on the two reservations in North Texas and a mob of lawless civilians bent on removing them from Texas once and for all. Little did they know that the actions they were about to take would only serve to plunge the Texas frontier into 15 years of fear, bloodshed and Indian raids more violent than they had ever seen. When Major Neighbors received word of the massacre he left San Antonio by stage on Jan. 6, 1859, for the Brazos Reservation. In Austin he met with Richard B. Hubbard, United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas, who advised him that the United States courts had no jurisdiction over the matter. However, Governor Runnels assured Major Neighbors that measures would be taken to arrest those responsible. He also issued a proclamation forbidding the unlawful assembling of armed bands to attack the reservations and encouraged local authorities and peace officers to arrest the offenders. In Waco affidavits were issued for the apprehension of Garland’s band by Judge N.W. Battle, who issued writs to Captain Ford to arrest the offenders. Attorney Edward J. Gurley was employed as counsel for the Indians. Major Neighbors arrived at the Brazos Reservation on Jan. 22 and made arrangements for the Indian victims to travel to Waco to Continued on page 10
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 9
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January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 10 From page 8 testify and give evidence of the attack and murders. He also learned that a “commission of citizens” represented by George B. Erath (for whom Erath County is named,) J.M. Norris and Dixon Walker, with an escort of 12 men, had arrived at the Brazos Reservation to help resolve the situation and prevent further hostilities. According to the “commissioners,” an amicable agreement was reached whereby the Indians agreed to remain on the reservation and not attack the local population of white citizens. Major Neighbors later learned the Indian chiefs on the reservation had made no such agreement with them. Problems soon arose over attempts to have the responsible men arrested when Captain Ford, then stationed at Camp Leon near Cora in Comanche County, declined to act. Citing that no civil authority had any power to give him an order, he would only assist after local authorities had exhausted Photo taken by Andy Dillard all means to make arrests. In the end, at Fort Belknap Cemetery Captain Ford did not attempt to make any arrests for fear of starting a civil war between his forces and the offenders. Local sheriffs also refused to get involved and the murderers went unpunished. By March 1859 tensions were mounting as news spread that a large band of citizens had gathered several miles above the mouth of Rock Creek in Palo Pinto County and planned to attack on the reservations. Captain Ross notified Major Neighbors, who was then in San Antonio, to return, stating that “… your presence is much needed, as it will require all the influence that can be brought to bear to reconcile the Indians.” Fearing an attack, Capt. Ross sent a courier to Major Thomas at Camp Cooper for assistance. Captain John King of the First Infantry who had just arrived at the Comanche Reservation was dispatched to the Brazos Reservation and arrived there on March 23 with one company of infantry. A few days later a wagon was sent to Fort Belknap to obtain a small cannon. Major Neighbors immediately hired a carriage and departed San Antonio on March 14 to once again make the long weary trip to the Brazos Reservation via Camp Colorado (located on Jim Ned Creek in Coleman County), Camp Cooper and Fort Belknap, arriving there on March 23. He remained there until March 28 and since no attack occurred returned to San Antonio. Captain King and his troops also returned to Camp Cooper. Another company of troops under Captain Plummer arrived at the Brazos Reservation on April 10 and set up camp. Major Neighbors finally came to the realization that his Indian reservation experiment was nearing its end and that, for the benefit and security of the Indians then on the Texas reservations, they must be moved across the Red River into Indian Territory. Civil unrest and lack of support at state and federal levels now doomed the success of his efforts. The possibility of an attack on the reservations by local citizens remained likely unless a solution was soon reached. On April 19 he received official orders and authority from acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles Mix to abandon the reservations and “… the Indians removed where they can be protected from lawless violence, and effective measures adopted for their domestication and improvement.” Ironically, he also learned that he had officially been appointed as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Texas by President Buchanan for a four year term effective March 1, 1859. Major Neighbors conducted a census on the two reservations and reported to Superintendent Rector in Indian Territory there were 258 Tonkawa, 204 Tawacano, 171 Waco, 380 Comanche, 244 Caddo and 235 Anadarko, for a total of 1,492 Indians on the Texas reservations. Although the welcomed news of the pending removal of the Indians from the reservations in North Texas quickly spread across the frontier, there were still individuals determined not to wait for Neighbors to complete the undertaking. John R. Baylor and other citizens from surrounding counties continued to make threats against the agents and reservation Indians. A meeting was held in Galconda (present day Palo Pinto) where Baylor made speeches using very threatening language against them. After hearing these reports, Major Neighbors recommended to the commissioner in Washington that the Indians be removed as soon as possible since their security could not be guaranteed much longer. Despite known threats to his life along the roads leading back to the frontier, Major Neighbors said farewell to his children and frail wife Elizabeth Ann, who was expecting their fourth child any day, and left San Antonio on May 17 to return to the Comanche Reservation. In route Neighbors wrote his wife a touching letter from Leon Springs, 26 miles north of Austin: “My Dear Wife – I hope you are reconciled to my leaving. We are in the hands of an all ruling Providence and we cannot disobey his mandates. It is my destiny to sacrifice myself for others – I cannot say much … Kiss the children and may the Great Ruler of the Universe Bless and Guard you – I will return to you as soon as possible …” Even while on his return trip to the reservations, some 500 men had gathered in Jacksboro under the leadership of John R. Baylor and Peter Garland and were in the process of proceeding to the reservations to attack. Women from the town had made them a banner to carry into the fight inscribed with the quote “Necessity Knows No Law.” From their Rock Creek Camp on May 21, 1859, the mob divided. Half of the men led by Peter Garland headed toward Camp Cooper on the Clear Fork of the Brazos to attack and capture artillery from the infantry units stationed there. The rest under John R. Baylor advanced onto the Brazos Reservation. It appeared the final showdown was at hand and the fight that was to ensue would be a decisive victory for the citizens. Continued on page 12
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 11
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January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 12 From page 10 However, as the force approaching the Comanche Reservation neared their objective, dissension arose among the ranks and most of the men decided to return to their homes rather than face the cannons of the United States military unit at Camp Cooper. Early pioneer Henry Belding from Palo Pinto County who was with this group recorded that Captain Howard who was leading this group feared they would be defeated and ordered a retreat. It had rained heavily and travel conditions were miserable for the men. They returned to Rock Creek in Palo Pinto County and disbanded to their homes. At the Brazos Reservation, a similar scenario played out when Baylor and his so-called “Army of Defense” came face to face with Capt. J.B. Plummer’s unit and his cannon. They retreated but not before killing an 80-year-old Indian man and a woman working in her garden. This action enraged Indians on the reservation who pursued the invaders to the Marlin Ranch, located 8 miles north of the agency. A group of 50 to 60 Indians led by Anadarko Chief Jose Maria attacked them and killed seven of the men. Five Indians were wounded plus one of their warriors (Caddo John) killed before they returned to the reservation. Baylor’s party moved back to Dillingham Prairie in Palo Pinto County near Rock Creek where some organized into smaller units and others returned to their homes. Charles Goodnight, school teacher J.H. Baker of Palo Pinto, Jack Cureton, and W.C. McAdams from Palo Pinto County were among the men who moved onto the Brazos Reservation and participated in the fight at the Marlin Ranch. Neighbors arrived at the Comanche Agency on May 25 and while there learned of the birth of his son, Ross Simpson Neighbors. He knew he was nearing the end of his work in the Indian service and longed to return to San Antonio to be with his wife and children. The wheels were already turning in Washington to facilitate the removal process as orders were forwarded for the military to perform escort duty for the Indians to the leased district lands east of the North Fork of the Red River between the 98th and 100th meridian in Indian Territory. Superintendents Neighbors and Rector were to jointly locate a suitable site for the Indians to live. Following the recent conflict between local citizens and Indians on the two Indian reservations, Governor Runnels appointed a partisan commission to further investigate Major Neighbor’s administration of the reservations. The commissioners arrived at the Brazos Reservation on June 16 and held an inquiry on the state of affairs. Neighbors despised the continued barrage of accusations against him and the Indians and defended his record, pledging to relocate the Indians as soon as possible. He was notified that to prevent another uprising, a force of 100 state troops would be sent to help keep the Indians on the reservations. They would come from McLennan and Bell counties and be commanded by Commissioner J.M. Smith or John Henry Brown. On June 26, 1859, Superintendent Neighbors, along with the head chiefs of the Indians on the Texas reservations, set out for Fort Arbuckle where they conferred with Superintendant Rector. A suitable site was selected on the Washita River near the mouth of Sugar Creek in present Caddo County, some 4 miles east of present Anadarko, Okla. Much to Major Neighbors’ chagrin, the Texas force of 90 men under command of John Henry Brown arrived on July 11 and set up camp near the Brazos Reservation at Caddo Springs on the Brazos near the east line of the reserve. Neighbors saw their presence as nothing more than an electioneering tool of Governor Runnels who was up for re-election and sought to appease to the local citizenry with a show of state force. Their role was to help keep Indians on the reservation until they could be removed and prevent any additional uprising from the local citizenry in the surrounding counties. Neighbors feared this state force would only serve to heighten tensions among the Indians as they made preparations for relocation across the Red River. Conflicts soon arose over the authority of the state force and United States Army troops under Captain Plummer, then stationed on the reserve, but no additional attacks were made. Four additional companies of troops were also being relocated to the reserves to protect the Indians as they were moved northward. Neighbors hoped to have the Indians on the move by July 30 for the 15-day journey it would take to reach their new home. He began making necessary preparations for moving the Indians, which included contracting some 80 wagons and Mexican ox-drawn carts, purchasing provisions to feed the Indians on the trip and accounting of all government and Indian possessions left behind. Since the government had not yet provided the necessary funding for the move, the entire operation was carried out on credit and faith. Movement of Indians from both reservations was coordinated and military units put in motion to protect the Indians during their exodus. Maj. George H. Thomas (during the Civil War his moniker would become “The Rock of Chickamauga”) at Camp Cooper would escort Major Neighbors and the Indians with two companies of the First Infantry and two companies of the Second Cavalry. The 1,051 Indians and military escort from the Brazos Reservation moved to their first camp site on Salt Creek located 3 miles north of the agency near the Belknap Road crossing and were joined there by Maj. Neighbors on July 31, 1859. They traveled toward the Red River for seven days and arrived at a camp site 2 miles below the mouth of the Big Wichita River where they rendezvoused on the same day with Colonel Leeper and 370 Comanches from the other reservation. On Aug. 8, Major Neighbors escorted the Indians, four companies of troops, agency personnel and teamsters across the Red River at Steen’s Crossing and safely out of Texas. Neighbors wrote in a letter to his wife, “If you want to hear a full description of our Exodus out of Texas read the Bible where the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. We have had about the same show, only our enemies did not follow us to Red River. If they had – the Indians would have in all probability sent them back without their interposition of Divine
January 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 13 Providence.” Major Neighbors officially delivered the Indians to Agent Blain of the Wichita Agency on Sept. 1, 1859. (six Indians died on the trip and one was born.) Major Neighbors wrote to his wife that before he left he spoke to the Indians who had assembled and shook hands with over 1,000 warriors, many who cried like children on his leaving, including old Tonkawa Chief Placido. Others “… clung to me and refused to let me go. When I rode off from them, they threw themselves upon the ground, yelling, in the wildest grief, so that it required all my fortitude to leave them.” But leave them he did on Sept. 6, 1859, along with 20 civilians and agency employees, Agent Ross and his two sons, Peter and Robert, Colonel Leeper, a wagon and two ambulances. Since the military units that escorted them across the Red River had since returned to their duty stations, danger existed along the roads from hostile Indians, renegade white horse thieves and murderers. John Baylor’s men were also likely still in the area and looking for revenge. Several of Major Neighbors’ friends encouraged him not to return to San Antonio by way of Belknap, but he believed there was no danger in doing so. The trip back from Indian Territory was met with danger and on the second day out they were attacked by wild Indians who wounded Colonel Leeper and stole three of their horses. Several of the raiding Indians were killed including one white man with short red hair whose face had been covered with paint. At the Red River the water was at flood stage and a log raft had to be constructed to ferry them back to Texas soil. When Major Neighbors and his party reached the Brazos River crossing just west of Fort Belknap on the evening of Sept. 13, its waters were also too high for crossing. They were forced to camp there for the night before resuming their trip toward Camp Cooper. On the morning of Sept. 14, 1859, Major Neighbors went into the small town of Belknap located one-half mile east of the fort to conduct business. He had declined an offer by Major Thomas at Fort Belknap of an escort to go with him. He spent two hours in the office of County and District Clerk William Burkett writing reports to wind up his accounts as Texas Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He remarked to Burkett that he was now free from his government duties and could return to his sweet wife and children in San Antonio never to leave them again. Soon after Major Neighbors and a Mr. McKay left Burkett’s office to visit Colonel Leeper in the post hospital at Fort Belknap, a gun shot rang out. Mr. McKay went back into the clerk’s office and said, “Major Neighbors is killed!” As the two men had walked down the street, they were approached by Patrick Murphy, one of Neighbor’s former antagonists, with gun in hand, who confronted him and asked, “I understand that you have said that I am a horse thief. Is it so?” Neighbors replied, “No, I never did.” At that moment Murphy’s brother-in-law, Edward Cornett, stepped out from behind a chimney and put a double-barreled shotgun to Neighbors’ back and pulled the trigger. Neighbors exclaimed, “Oh, Lord” and fell mortally wounded to the ground. Witnesses testified to Sheriff Edward Wolfforth that Cornett was the killer. He was eventually indicted by a Young County grand jury but failed to appear for trial. Cornett was killed on May 25, 1860, by Wolfforth’s posse in the hills around Fort Belknap while attempting to arrest him for trying to kill Dennis Murphy, his wife’s father or brother of the same name. Being a Mason, an emblematic Photo taken by white apron was placed on Andy Dillard Neighbor’s body while it lay in at Fort Belknap state. Robert S. Neighbors was Cemetery reportedly buried the following morning in the civilian cemetery located just east of Fort Belknap and his personal possessions forwarded to his wife in San Antonio. A historical marker has been erected at the cemetery near an old rock vault in which he is believed to have been buried, although there are various accounts concerning the exact location of his grave. There were several theories as to the reason for his assassination, some believing he was killed out of fear by those who thought he would seek prosecution against them for their role in the mob uprising against Indians on the reservations. Others theorized it was a matter of personal animosity on the part of Cornett toward Neighbors, who did not even know him. In the years following his murder and the beginning of the Civil War, the frontier of Texas once again languished into a lawless region dominated by brutal Indian raids, livestock thefts and the death of many settlers. The line of civilization literally receded a 100 miles during this period and people began to “fort up” or return to communities to the east until the military returned to the region after the war. The Indian wars continued until 1876 when the Comanches were finally forced onto reservations in Indian Territory. Robert S. Neighbors left a legacy of honesty and integrity as a loyal servant to the cause of protecting the Indians in Texas from those who sought to annihilate them. Many descendants of those Indians he escorted into Oklahoma remain there today. From his upbringing as an orphan to the climax of a life devoted to service and duty, he is truly a Texas hero that should never be forgotten. (Sources: “Robert Simpson Neighbors and the Texas Frontier 18361859,” by Kenneth F. Neighbours; “Rip Ford’s Texas,” by John Salmon Ford; “Painted Pole: The Beldings and Their Ranches in Palo Pinto County,” by Barbra Gibson; “Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman,” by J. Evetts Haley; The Handbook of Texas Online at www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/index and other Internet sources.) ★
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GONE … AND FORGOTTEN
By Wynelle Caitlin
here were three of us, white hair shining as we scrambled like teenagers up the steep hillside. We were looking for the remains of Degress Cemetery near Cundiff in northeastern Jack County. We had gotten over a barbed wire fence that was mostly lying on the ground. I had to hold on to shrubs and low-lying trees until we reached the top of the steep hill. Then we waded through dried grass and bushes, brushed past prickly pears, and stumbled over rocks hidden in dried weeds before we saw the scattered remains of the cemetery. Larger sand rocks which could have once been headstones were scattered haphazardly, knocked about by time and cattle. Briars, brush, stickery weeds made them difficult to find. And we had to watch where we stepped because of holes made by burrowing animals. Only two markers were custom made of granite and they were broken away from their base and lying on the ground. A longtime student and writer of Jack County history I had never heard of this cemetery nor the one-time community of that name until Sandi Argo of the Jack County Herald-Gazette told me about it. She and her husband had once lived nearby and had fenced it to keep the cattle away. But that fence was long gone by the time the three of us scrambled up the hillside to the plateau where the remains rested. The three of us were my brother, Neeley Tipton and me. My brother and I had been driving along the highway near Cundiff one Sunday afternoon when I saw the sign--Degress Lane. Remembering that I’d wanted to get more information about Degress Cemetery ever since Sandi had told me about it, we
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turned in, and followed the lane to Tipton’s ranch house. And yes, he knew about the cemetery, he would be glad to take us there, but it would have to be another day as he was shipping some cattle. Already had them penned up, and a truck on the way. So my brother and I went back, on a nice Sunday afternoon, to the Tipton Ranch settled by Neeley‘s grandfather in 1902. I said hello to Neeley’s wife, who was Lucille Damron, playmate of my childhood in Jermyn. Neeley said we could walk to the remains of the cemetery but it was snaky and brushy so we got into his pickup truck. He drove down Old Highway 24 which had the honor of being the first road to be paved in Jack County– begun in 1924 and finished two years later. For the base, sand rock had been brought in and smashed by men with sledges. Neeley drove a short distance down the highway, filling us in about history of the area. He turned down a lane to Jack Grace Ranch and said we were on a road that was once the Butterfield Stage route. It had been in use as a road since the 1850s when the route had gone from Decatur to Jacksboro. A short distance more and we dipped down into a gully that crossed Lick Branch which had no water in it. Though it once did. Lick Branch was so-named because there was a salt lick where deer and cattle came. Early settlers also got salt there. Degress, pronounced d-grass, had begun as a stagecoach stop where travelers could rest, and the horses or mules changed. The town which grew up along the banks of Lick Branch, became a sizable and thriving community which
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included churches, a school, general store, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, post office. Then in 1892, the founder of nearby Cundiff, got the post office moved to Cundiff. Since there was no longer a stagecoach service, when the post office was moved, Degress slowly faded away. And the cemetery which holds some 30 to 35 graves became derelict and untended. The only markings we could read were on the two smaller four-sided granite steles, lying on the ground. We managed to turn one over enough to read the information: Annie Stovall, b. Nov. 20, 1886, d. Sept. 19, 1887. On its neighboring side of the stele was inscribed William Stovall, b. Aug. 27, 1872, d. Jan. 1886. Neeley said the stele was erected for a brother and sister. The other fallen granite marker said George M. Pultz b. July 1877, d. May 14, 1893. We searched among the fallen sandstone rocks for recognizable inscriptions. Some had had names chiseled in them but were no longer readable. A sunken place was where a Campsey had been buried and the body dug up and moved to Post Oak. There were remains of fences, but they hadn’t been intact for a long time, not even the one Sandi Argo and her husband built when they lived nearby. Carefully, the three of us made our way down the steep hillside, sadly leaving behind those long-ago people who had lived and been buried there. And had since been forgotten. ★
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JANUARY 6, 1886 The post of ce at Oran is established. Reportedly, the citizens of the community–then called "Black Springs" after springs found in the area– wanted the post of ce named Black Springs; but, as often happened in those days, the United States Postal Service had other ideas, and Oran was chosen, instead. It is generally believed that the town's new name was in honor of Texas Gov. Oran Milo Roberts (1815-1898). JANUARY 19, 1889 Col. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie (Bad Hand) dies on Staten Island in New York. After an illustrious career during the Civil War and Indian Wars of Texas, the colonel suffered "paralysis of the insane" and was placed in an asylum. He is buried in the military cemetery at West Point. JANUARY 19, 1946 Infantry Replacement Training Center at Mineral Wells (Camp Wolters) is deactivated.
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