North Texas Star

May 2013

GEORGE WEBB PALO PINTO SLAUGHTER: PREACHERMAN

A TALE OF

AUNT BERT

OUTDOORS ALONG THE BRAZOS

BIDDY LAFAYETTE ERWIN:

Building Palo Pinto County One Stone at a Time

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 2

North Texas Star
ADVERTISING Mary Jo Watson (940) 229-9941 or (940) 798-2556 maryjo@mineralwellsindex.com CIRCULATION circulation@mineralwellsindex.com PUBLISHER Mel Rhodes publisher@mineralwellsindex.com LAYOUT & DESIGN Lindsay Bryant ads1@mineralwellsindex.com CALL (940) 325-4465 ONLINE www.mineralwellsindex.com COVER PHOTO A Pond on a Woodlot in Palo Pinto County By Don Price

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 3

OUTDOORS ALONG THE BRAZOS
By Don Price

4

A TALE OF AUNT BERT
By Wynelle Catlin

8

BIDDY LAFAYETTE ERWIN
By Randall Scott

Building Palo Pinto County One Stone at a time

10
By Jim Dillard

GEORGE WEBB SLAUGHTER:
Palo Pinto Preacherman

14

A Woodlot in Palo Pinto County
he hinterland is all round, a copse here, a motte there. It's our bastion, our citadel, our strength. Early sun's rays dapple the lichen-smothered fence, every sandstone in its niche, laid by calloused hands over a century ago, a freestanding wall without the aid of mortar. Except for those precious stones pushed over by today's generation, boasting to peer pressure, a real show, bragging rights in a tire-smoking ride to town. It's fall before you've realized, pockets of leaves a zenith of contrasts, beginning to make us aware of Palo Pinto pockets of gold. Every leaf a treasure for a thirsty soul, but you must hurry to quaff it all because the next norther's gusto... a sun-mottled glade in early morn, not a sound but the cough of a skittish doe. Little sentinels of post oak dot the dome, protected by cacti bristling red fruit. Every ounce of it is here but we don't see it because of our frustration, our worry, our stressful lives. Nature is a panacea, a stronger utopia, making a headline of some media rather paltry. Taking a bit more time to read the Good Book brings a gush of understanding. Being four score and three, I'm so thankful I can walk, I can hear, I can see; and He is thanked frequently for a strong heartbeat. Falling on your knees would make you humble, if you are seeking, something spiritual for a famished soul, something that satisfies more than Coke or Winston. No one's pestering you in the live oak grove, not the paparazzi, not even a digital camera, and there's no hard rock. Peace will cloud you, time is of no essence, so you might discover your Timex has lost a lot of its value. A shock is the tiny lake, a mirror of serenity, its slick shattered by foraging fish. It's peppered with stumps, ringed with Ashe junipers, a shock reeling one back to reality. Thoughts of trivia are gone. I have to pinch myself, realizing it's not a dream. I

Outdoors Along the Brazos
By Don Price

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 4

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can't believe it's like Walden Pond. Harken! Is that you standing in shadow beneath a willow, Henry David Thoreau, the author of "Walden", a masterpiece, which sold only a half-dozen copies 160 years or so ago? But there is another place, a picturesque place, a place for one who cherishes tranquility. It's our own Lake Mineral Wells State Park plus its own rail-trail connecting the twin cities of M. Wells and W'ford. Have you been to Penitentiary Hollow on the eastern shore of the park's 646 acre lake? A labyrinth of joy. Have you ever walked the Cross Timbers Trail in early morn, a 9-mile loop in the park's north end? You'll wend Rock Creek's bottomland on this trek, then a steep hill. Still, if you've got energy to burn, try the switchback near the park's amphithe-

minutes of our most important business engagements to awe one glorious sunrise? Can't we turn off our cellphones for at least a couple seconds? Vincent Van Gogh's art is everywhere high and low in autumn's equinox; sumac will be the deepest shock of coloration; day after tomorrow it's gone. Please excuse me for digressing, but have you ever heard a gray fox suddenly bark a few feet behind you in dusk's stillness as your wandering thoughts were on the Great Sphinx? The solving of this riddle, the enigma requiring such deep concentration that you completely forgot where you were? And you jumped out of your skin, causing the plastic webbing of your aluminum lawn chair to r-i-p! And you were so tankful (pun intended) no one else saw you but the fox. Something funny like that usually happens as you are in a chair or ensconced on a log in the woodlot. Be still long enough and most any animal – even a bird – will surprise you with its antics. Use patience and observation, but you've got to turn off your cellphone to make it work. A song at twilight, the dusk oozing through post oak and blackjack until three grazing does have snuffed in to nothingness; you've stared at them so long they've become shapeless, fading into cows, horses... one final wide-eyed blink and the does have been A Pond on a Woodlot in Palo Pinto County erased, blending in with pasture grasses. This atre a few times. was the last day No one will have of hunting seato rock you to son. sleep tonight. Another time Winding water twilight is fast trails hug the approaching, shoreline for those with flicks of who wish to stroll jagged yellow through the Old bolts darting Growth Forest, the from black thunCast Iron Forest, derheads; the and flora [in seacrashing you son] along the hear is from primitive trail is feeding largeworth a camera's focus. It's all there. mouth black bass ripping the slick surface just before Blessed quietude. Please don't litter. Do a little think- the storm hits, a great time for the angler, about 30 ing before you cast aluminum or plastic aside, let the minutes or so just before the wind gets too strong. next fellow know you care. Hurriedly you'll open your big tackle box to grope Let us stop for just a moment of thankfulness. This is for a 75-year-old wooden lure, a yellow Jitterbug, a our very own Lake Mineral Wells State Park & killer just before the high wind hits, when the pond's Trailway, hardly more than a stone's throw from town. [we call 'em stock tanks in West Texas] surface is like How wealthy can we be? glass. Wouldn't it be nice if we could set aside a couple of Continued on page 6

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Continued from page 4 Timing is perfect for this circa 1930's wooden yellow Jitterbug, a wobbling surface lure, but this angler is not so sure, on second thought. "Wait a minute," he must be thinking out loud. The angler is hesitating to tie this sought - after collectors' lure to the end of his braided casting line. With the storm approaching, a favorite time for big bass to feed savagely, what if a record-breaking lunker tackles this one-and-only collectors' plug, then pops the line? If this happens, the very next morning in Whataburger our hapless plugger will be moaning about the ancient wooden lure he lost, not the perch. Thoreau: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." But to have a remnant of peace each day, notwithstanding an ancient wooden lure, if only I could spend a few priceless moments in a woodlot. Fall will be here before you realize, the peaceful autumnal equinox, a flame of falling leaves spreading crimson throughout the creek bottom, pecan yellow

and oak rust; to go barefoot once more before Jack Frost's rime clings to the lichen-covered sandstone, the freestanding wall without the aid of mortar – the countrymen's fence in the beginning of this narrative. Just to stroll down the pickup's loam road through a canopy of elm, cedar and oak is rewarding enough, out there early when the dew's heavy and you don't know what you'll see round the bend. Getting out there even before the big orange wafer shows, to walk up on cottontail and squirrel, fox and deer, all the while chuckling to yourself at their lurch of surprise. Now and then you'll skirt' way 'round to keep from spoiling their show. Thoreau again. "Only that day dawns to which we are awake." This advice of the great sage covers everything we do. To know a small pond [stock tank], to know it well takes years of observation, for it holds to its bosom secrets. It has its own ecosystem; some of its fish seem to have their own quirks. Ask an ichthyologist. We

could go on about this forever. It would take an entomologist time to catalog the insects on just one acre of ground hugging the shoreline of this pond. With these myriad possibilities in mind, how long would it take an untrained towns person to absorb a fraction of the wonders of several hundred acres of Palo Pinto landscape holding many stock ponds? Where are the sinuous channels, the main creek channel? Where are the flats and drop offs, the barnacled hollow stump where a great largemouth black bass has found his castle? And how about pinpointing the channel's dog leg where another granddaddy lives. Do you think we can find everything on Google? Spiderwort and wild onion, larkspur and yucca belong; even hairy Jimson weed grew on this earthen dam some 35 years ago. Folks won't likely stop long enough to recognize this pond, a wild rose, a wild rose in late bloom. It holds a magnificent orchard oriole partially hidden in its bramble and no one knows. †

A Pond on a Woodlot in Palo Pinto County Photos by: Don Price

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 7

Thursday December 6, 1934

STORIES & SNIPPETS

COUNCIL ASKS ADOPTION OF 5-POINT PLANS

The Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce has been asked by the West Texas Chamber of Commerce to consider the declaration of principles of the All-State Council or regional chambers of commerce adopted at the Waco meeting of the Council in October, with a view to adopting the principles as the local chamber’s policy also. The request was received by Henry Love, the West Texas Chamber of Commerce for Mineral Wells, and George Barber, secretary of the local chamber. It was sent by J.A. Rix, assistant manager of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce in charge of organizational [matters] at the direction of president James D. Hamlin. The principles which the local chamber have been asked to adopt are as follows: •First: We stand for a championship of private business, industry, and ownership of property as the road to recovery, to which end we shall sponsor all Federal and State measures, which tend to lend encouragement and confidence to private business and shall oppose all measures and administrative acts which have or will destroy the confidence of business and capital and retard its welfare. •Second: We call for a rapid balancing of the Federal budget; for a reduction of the Government’s extraordinary expense and for a drastic curtailment of existing and proposed Government Bureaus. •Third: Will shall oppose every effort of the Federal and State Governments to go into business in competition with private and semi-private business. Although granting to the government the right of regulation of public utilities, we oppose the Government destroying private investments by competing with utilities. •Fourth: With local and state Governmental liens already existing against a great portion of the existing tangible private property of the state, with local public debts burdening property for many years to come and with greatly decreased property values and earnings, we believe that something must be done to relieve tangible property from a portion of the ad valorem tax – otherwise the private ownership of property will cease to be the cornerstone of American civilization and prosperity. We therefore call upon our Legislators to study the question of the burdens of the ad valorem tax as imposed by State, School, City and County Governments with the view of immediately lifting from property at least one-half of the ad valorem tax now levied. •Fifth: We recommend this Declaration of policy for the profound consideration of all local chambers of commerce in Texas and indulge in the hope that these local bodies will in turn officially adopt it. Publisher’s note: So this balanced budget issue is not new? This series of pieces from the past is meant to remind us of this area’s unique history. The material comes from old issues maintained at the Index office and is presented pretty much as it appeared in print. These papers are quite yellowed and brittle, deteriorating from age. By publishing these pieces perhaps we can keep them in play in the digital world for years to come. For clarity, some punctuation issues have been addressed. Hopefully you will enjoy these tiny windows to the past. Feedback is appreciated and will be shared. E-mail publisher@mineralwellsindex.com or send your letter to Mineral Wells Index, P.O. Box 370, Mineral Wells, Texas 76068, attention publisher. You may also drop it by our office at 300 S.E. 1st. St. in Mineral Wells. Thanks for reading!

A TALE OF AUNT BERT
y Aunt Bert was a pretty baby – so pretty an Indian woman tried to trade for her. Blond curls framed her pretty blue-eyed face. When she was a baby, my grandmother and Aunt Bert’s father lived in Indian Territory, where he was a horse trader interacting with the native Americans. One day Grandmother was in their log cabin with Aunt Bert and two toddlers, when an Indian woman, carrying a baby, came and entered the cabin. She kept telling Grandmother something but they didn’t speak the same language. Muttering, the woman went over to the crib, laid her baby in it, picked up Aunt Bert and started out the door. Grandmother grabbed a butcher knife and told her to put Aunt Bert down! Her actions spoke louder than words. Unhappily, the Indian woman put Aunt Bert back in the crib, picked up her baby and left, mumbling balefully.   When Grandmother’s husband returned after his day of trading, she told him of the incident. He laughed uproariously. He had jokingly told the Indian woman he’d trade his blond blue-eyed papoose for her black-haired  browneyed one. Later, the horse-trading husband left with a herd of hors-

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 8

M

By Wynelle Catlin

es he intended to sell. She never heard from him again. Grandmother left Indian Territory, but she left behind one of the toddlers. The child had fallen out the cabin door, hitting her head on the rock doorstep. She died of the injuries and was buried there.   For several years, Grandmother did odd jobs in and around Jack County to feed and clothe herself and her two little ones. One year at cotton-picking time, she moved her wagon, with the two little girls, near a field of cotton belonging to Robert Powell. Powell was older than Grandmother. His wife had died and he had a family of grown children. He and Grandmother decided to get married. They bought a cabin in the Squaw Mountain community. That cabin, restored, now stands on the grounds of Jack County Museum in Jacksboro. They moved into the cabin with her small children and they increased their family – two boys and two girls. My mother and her twin brother were the last born. The cabin, though roomy for that time and place, became crowded as the children grew. There was a lean-to kitchen. The main room, 12 feet square, served as their bedroom as well as parlor in cold weather In warm weather the porch which ran across the front was a gathering

Aunt Bert holding the little boy with all the children.

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 9
place for family and neighbors. Grandpa sometimes got his fiddle out and there was music and singing. Above the main room was a half-walled attic, which was a bedroom for the children. Then, as the boys got older, they needed more space so Grandpa closed in half the front porch, making them a room 6x8 feet. One year, the schoolteacher boarded with them, sharing that room with the boys. When my mother was 6 years old, Grandpa died of pneumonia. Neighbors built a coffin and the body was laid out on the kitchen table. Aunt Bert was a teenager, but she helped prepare and serve meals which were temporarily prepared and served in the spacious root cellar, which was just a few feet from the kitchen door. Grandmother continued to live in the cabin with her six children. With the help of the boys, she plowed and planted and raised crops while Aunt Bert did many of the household chores, tended the younger children, milked cows, gathered eggs. She also served as telephone operator when that service became available. A switchboard was set up. Wires had plugs dangling from the ends. When someone wanted to talk to someone else Aunt Bert answered the ring, then plugged into the appropriate hole to connect the two phones. Since everyone on the line could hear when phones rang, there were rarely private conversations. There were very few ways for farm families to have things they could sell for cash, but one was the raising of turkeys. A turkey drover came through once a year, driving a herd of turkeys. Available turkeys were counted, and added to the herd, and money handed over. Raising turkeys was important to the family.  One of the chores that Aunt Bert performed was following the turkeys when they were turned out each morning to go through the woods eating seeds and grasshoppers. She watched and when a turkey hen went to her nest to lay an egg, she would tie a strip of cloth nearby so she could find the nest again. When the nest had 12 eggs in it, she would take the eggs up and carefully carry them to the house to set under a broody hen to hatch. If left in the woods, wild animals or snakes would help themselves to the eggs or baby turkeys after they hatched. Many years later, I was aspiring to be an author. All would-be authors keep a little notebook in which they write ideas for future articles or books. My mother and I liked to go visiting, and when we drove, we would reminisce about days of yore. One day as we were driving she talked about Aunt Bert following turkey hens to find their nests to get their eggs. Following Turkey Hens turned into “Old Wattles,” a children’s book, published by Doubleday. I used the real cabin as the setting and had my fictitious characters live the way the family had. And I had my main character follow a turkey hen to find her nest the way Aunt Bert had When the other children grew up, married and left to raise families of their own, Aunt Bert stayed with Grandmother, even taking care of her tenderly through her last illness. My mother thought that Aunt Bert, in her younger years, had a sweetheart, but she didn’t know why she never married. The pretty baby the Indian woman tried to trade for was a beautiful young woman. And she kept her beauty even after the blond curls turned white. †

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Biddy LaFayette Erwin
B u i l d i n g Pa l o P i n t o O n e S t o n e At A T i m e
by Randall Scott

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 10

ike an ephemeral flash of lightning, a baby born confusion about it. chums, and best friends, and ,no, there wasn’t much premature on the western frontier usually sufHand-me-downs were a time-honored family tradition adventure in it; but with everybody off to war, they could fered an abbreviated life. Too many tombstones where each child inherits what the older sibling outgrew spend all their time paling around together. were etched with just one date, and his parents feared or discarded. In this case, Fred was no help to his little On Armistice Day, Fred was discharged from the Army Biddy LaFayette Erwin’s would read: March 12th 1900. brother. His clothes, carriage, and crib were so large that and returned home to enroll in the 1919 fall college Modern medical science offered they engulfed the poor infant semester. Biddy stayed in Oran to work the fields and pathetic excuses while Maude’s docto present more of a hazard await his turn. In just three or four years from, Fred tor gave little more than hygienic than serve the intended purwould graduate and then his life‘s adventure would advice in a feeble attempt to save pose. To compensate, Maude begin, or so Biddy thought. May 3, 1922, was graduation Biddy’s life. But it was his father, swaddled him tightly in a blan- day at Whitt High School and it was his custom to give a Samuel, who provided the best care, ket and then carefully placed farewell address to his beloved students. But on that day most of which was prayer for divine him inside a shoebox. it would be Professor Erwin’s last benediction. In the intervention. Handkerchiefs became diapers, middle of his speech Sam grabbed the podium, collapsed Their first son, Fred, was carried and for a crib, a dresser drawer onto the stage floor and died of a massive heart attack. to term without any problems and remained open near her bed. In Professor Samuel LaFayette Erwin was 54 years old. born healthy at his fully expected later years Biddy overcame his Fred was in his final year of college and with no man weight. Fanny Maude (Froman) frailties as if they'd never hapin the house domestic responsibilities fell on Biddy’s Erwin, herself, was a strong and pened. By the time they’d young shoulders to provide and care for his mother and healthy Texan. She descended from moved to Oran, Fred and sisters. His father’s passing diminished any chances of hearty stock, the Biddy and Cassie Biddy had grown to the same attending college in the near future. So, he had to use (Yeary) Froman family, resident pioheight, and two sisters, Grace what was available to him. Taking inventory of his life, neers of early Lou, and, Stella Mae, were he found farming to be his only skill and he was good at Parker County. born to the Erwin family. it, yet it gave him little consolation.  Biddy Erwin fishing at Farm Road 4’s Dark And, so it wasn’t With the expense of educatDepressed by his predicament, Biddy felt slighted until Valley Bridge on the Brazos River north of to their surprise, ing four children, Sam and a sweet distraction changed everything. He was introPalo Pinto, circa 1920s. but with humble Maude conceived a plan to send each child duced to a newly hired Whitt schoolteacher, a very young thanks to God, that through college one at a time as they could and beautiful Lera Williams. Her parents were Samuel their prayers were answered when the tiny boy survived. afford. His older brother, and Pearl Williams, and Sam was Maude named her second son in honor of her father, Fred was first and then known by many as the preacher Alcibiades (pronounced, Al-See-Bee-A-Dees) Sid Biddy would have his over in Graford, Texas. Lera was Froman. Folks couldn‘t pronounce it, so they just called chance after Fred gradujust the right amount of medicine to him, Biddy. She’d heard her father’s stories about their ated. Sam would do what cure whatever ails a young man and Kentucky family heritage and how uppity blue bloods was needed to provide the two hit it off immediately. For named their children for Greek Gods or Roman his children a proper months they dated at the homes of Emperors. But they weren’t blue bloods, and besides, that education with all of both the Williams’ and Erwin’s resiwasn’t why she liked the name. The answer was simple, life’s opportunities that dences and at church socials and the name was uniquely theirs and when she said “Biddy” came with it. His own parties. While seen everywhere out loud, she smiled with pleasant memories of her college education at the together in romantic interlude, their father’s love and admiration for her. She had to admit University of Alabama courting gave credence to the recent Alcibiades was a tongue-twister, and so she spared her had served him well in sightings of little cupids flying boy the misery and went with the nickname, "Biddy." the field of education, about. There was a downside. The name “Biddy” came with and now, Professor Biddy and Lera some baggage. Her father was killed in a gun battle with Erwin was the adminisObadiah (Obie) Bean at his 105th birthday were married on the his neighbor, Will Rivers, on Nov. 27, 1891, which was trator for the Whitt 19th of October, 1926. and Bob Erwin. Obie shared fishing stories only nine years before. On the lawless frontier, dueling school district. They moved near her about his good friend Biddy Erwin with his pistols was an acceptable means of settling disputes World War I delayed their plans when parents at Graford and son, Bob. among gentleman. But times were changing and some Fred enlisted in the Army. It seemed to in the following years condemned the barbaric practice. Either way, tongueBiddy like everyone he knew went off to Biddy milked cows on wagging Texans weren’t going to forget the Fromanfight the Kaiser. He, too, wanted adventure, the fun of his dairy, farmed vegetables, fruits, and cash crops, and Rivers shootout anytime soon, if ever. She knew it, Sam friends living the college campus lifestyle or even risking raised chickens, while Lera kept up the household cleanknew it, and everybody else knew it; so just make it sim- danger to seek his fortune in some distant land. The only ing and cooking, taught grade-school classes, attended ple, give the boy his grandfather’s name, (“yes, he’s Bid adventure Biddy could find was fishing with his buddy, Abilene Christian College, and completed her masters Froman’s grandson”) and there won’t be any questions or Obadiah (Obie) Bean. They were the same age, school Continued on page 11

L

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Continued from page 10 degree from TCU. Somewhere in there they had three children: Biddy Jean was born May 16, 1927; Bobby Ray was born July 10, 1928; and Patsy Pearl was born Aug. 20, 1932. And, these were the good times. The years of the Great Depression hit them hard right when they needed money the most. Children quickly outgrew their clothes and shoes every few months and these necessary items were expensive purchases. Yet, while they had it bad, others had it worse. At least they had their gardens, cattle and dairy food supplies when so many were starving. It made Biddy recall those bad memories back in Oran working hard for little pay when his father passed away. Times like these were tolerated when he went fishing with his friend Obie at Dark Valley Bridge on the Brazos River. It was his only escape from gloomy and depressing thoughts. Those lost feelings of pending doom added to his hardship and despair when he sat on the porch one night and turned on the radio. He listened intently to the Fireside Chat radio broadcast, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Biddy wasn’t afraid as much as he was determined - determined not to give up. He’d learned to put his faith in God and not some spendthrift president or government scheme. But he would take FDR’s job offer working for the WPA. Works Projects Administration was the President’s answer to a skyrocketing unemployment rate of 17 percent. While a civilian work corps built much-needed bridges and dams, the commerce of their paychecks would hopefully circulate enough dollars to improve the economy. Or, so the plan envisioned. When Biddy came home each night Lera was stunned at what she saw from across her supper table. Exhaustion and fatigue had robbed him of his speech and only a faint squeak passed his lips. Too weak to eat, she put Biddy to bed and prayed for God’s strength to help him survive. His project was to demolish the old 1890s Palo Pinto Courthouse stone-by-stone and rebuild a new one from the same sandstone. During the construction process he learned the trade of stone mason. And, it was truly a blessing. Higher-skilled positions fetched better paychecks, and the task of a mason wasn’t nearly as laborious. On occasion, he even had the time and strength to go fishing with Obie. Continued on page 12

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Continued from page 11 tile. When finished, the entire compound depicted a By 1940, Biddy and his WPA crew had completed the square fortress where 29 guest rooms fashioned the north new courthouse and were reassigned a few miles upriver and south walls. The main lodge formed the western to the town of Pickwick where they joined another WPA wall, and to the east, a towering adobe gateway provided crew building a hydroelectric dam. a grand entrance. Inside the fortress a Completed in 1941, it was named swimming pool filled the courtyard. for a US Senator, Morris Sheppard, Biddy was lucky to have a paying and small creatures indigenous to job while the nation plunged deeper the area named the lake Possum into full economic depression. Soon Kingdom. The lake filled rapidly, after the Japanese attack on Pearl and to the glee of Obie and Biddy, Harbor, many of the workers joined the fishing was good. military, leaving job vacancies for Elmer Seybold hired Biddy for the those who wanted work. Biddy was too construction of his new guest ranch old, and his son, Bobby, was too young west of Mineral Wells on the Brazos to enlist, which was a blessing to a River. A crew began by building a family that needed multiple incomes. lodge on a cliff overlooking panHis masonry skills were in demand at oramic views of the river valley both the Seybold Guest Ranch and at escarpment below. With the Brazos Camp Wolters Army Base construction at their feet, Obie and Biddy kept sights, sending him back and forth to their poles handy for an evening of build a cowboy bunkhouse for fishing after working hours. In the Biddy LaFayette Erwin  Elmer and troop barracks for distant west were majestic scenes of Uncle Sam. the Palo Pinto Mountains where It was a cold day in February, Biddy had hunted whitetail deer. He Thursday the 15th 1945, the day after constructed the lodge with stone sidValentines Day on the road from ing that was then mudded over with stucco, and in the Graford to Mineral Wells that Biddy and Lera were southwestern style of architecture, roofs were of red-clay severely injured in a car wreck. Ambulances quickly

rushed them to Nazareth Hospital where Biddy was bandaged and released with only minor injuries. But, Lera’s kneecap was so badly lacerated doctors said she would probably never walk again. By the end of WWII, in just three months time, Lera had proved the doctors wrong and was walking on crutches. But the accident had changed things and he realized it was his turn to make the drive between Mineral Wells and Graford. Biddy moved his family to Mineral Wells where Lera was teaching fifth-grade classes at Sam Houston Elementary School. She wouldn’t be driving those long distance miles commuting to and from school any longer. Biddy drove to Possum Kingdom lake where he parked his car and took a boat to his job as manager for the upscale fishing resort Costello Island. What started as a cattle ranch became a fishing resort for the rich and famous, or whomever could afford to charter a fishing guide with expensive accommodations. It wasn’t so luxurious as it was exclusive. It catered to the discriminating fisherman who wanted guaranteed privacy and complete anonymity. There were no roads. The only access was by air or water. Guests flew aircraft onto the island’s private airstrip or docked their yachts at the pier. There was no air taxi service, which dictated a selfsufficiency on the island. All food supplies and consumables for the restaurant and cabins were brought in by boat. In keeping with his guest’s desire for privacy, Biddy

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wouldn’t identify his clientele. Most were political figures, senators and governors, who few people today would recognize. Others were actors and sports figures. It was well known that Loren Green of the hit TV series “Bonanza” frequented the island, as well as John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. Biddy was doing what he enjoyed, and that of course, was fishing. In his capacity as fishing guide, Biddy captained two identical Chris-Craft fishing boats to accommodate his guests. Each had twin inboard engines, 30-foot mahogany hull, and brass cleats, instruments, and captain’s wheel. They were beautiful boats and when they had time on their own, Obie and Biddy could go fishing in high-class style. Biddy suffered a stroke in 1956 and was confined at home with limited mobility while Lera cared for him. All the while, she continued to teach school in the Mineral Wells school district. His final years of illness took their toll and Biddy passed away Oct. 22,1961. His internment was at Graford Cemetery. Biddy LaFayette Erwin was 61 years old. †

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To the reader: Biddy’s son, Bob, attended Obie's 105th birthday on Dec. 16, 2004, in Weatherford. When introduced, Obie thought for a moment and then asked Bob if he was related to Biddy Erwin of Mineral Wells. When Bob replied, his eyes brightened with excitement and he was thrilled to tell fishing tales about his old friend, Biddy Erwin. “I always had to look out for Biddy. ‘Cause he was younger than me,” Obie said. In reality, Obie was only four months older than Biddy, and to a youngster, that’s a big age difference. The following year, the oldest man in Parker County and Biddy’s best friend passed away. Obadiah Bean was 106 years old.

* * * * *
Consultants: (1) Lera (Williams) Erwin - wife of Biddy Erwin. (2) Bobby Ray Erwin - son of Biddy Erwin. (3) Patsy Pearl (Erwin) Harvey - daughter of Biddy Erwin. References: (1) “History Of Palo Pinto County Texas” copyright 1986, “Erwin Family” - by Grace Mann. (2) “Palo Pinto County History,” copyright 1978, “Oran” - by Dessie Morris Harris. (3) “History of Parker County” copyright 1980, “PROFESSOR ERWIN’S FAMILY” - by Lera Erwin. (4) Texas Highways - magazine, June 2012 issue, “Hacienda Dreaming: Seybold Guest Ranch” Lori Moffatt. (5) Cowboys and Indians - magazine, April 2010 issue, “Ranch Dressing," Seybold Guest Ranch Chad Windham. Randall Scott, author of “The Tinner,” is a member of Western Writers of America, Western Literature Association and Texas Historical Association. You can find Randall on the Internet at http:// Randall-Scott.com.
Fred Erwin, World War I veteran United States Army.

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 14

George Webb Slaughter:
PALO PINTO PREACHERMAN
By Jim Dillard
s George Slaughter made his way through the narrow and cluttered streets of Bexar (San Antonio) during the early days of 1836, he could not help but notice signs of fear and foreboding among the inhabitants. The confusion and clamor that filled the city would not deter him from his duty: he was on a mission. In his saddle bag was a message from Gen. Sam Houston that had to be delivered to Colonel Travis in the Alamo, a message that would ultimately result in defining the Texas spirit of patriotic sacrifice. Mexican forces under General Cos had been forced to surrendered and abandon the Alamo on Dec. 9, 1835, following the Siege of Bexar by volunteer Texas forces. Led by James Bowie, Edward Burleson, James W. Fannin Jr., Juan N. Seguin, James Clinton Neill, Stephen F. Austin, Thomas J. Rusk and William Barrett Travis, the hard won victory had sent a clear message to Mexico that an independent Texas would be fought for at all costs. Cos and his troops were allowed to retreat into Mexico with the assurance they would never return. Although most of the volunteer Texas units had disbanded or retreated, Travis, Bowie and a small group of men moved into the Alamo and prepared defenses against the approach of a larger Mexican Army led by Cos’ brother-in-law, General Lopez de Santa Anna. Having received intelligence concerning the events unfolding in and around San Antonio, General Houston knew the small force gathered at the Alamo would have no chance against the approaching Mexican Army and had written an order to Travis and Bowie to blow up the Alamo and retreat to Gonzales. When Slaughter handed

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the dispatch to Travis, he read it and gathered the men around him to convey the message from Houston. Rather than comply, he drew a line in the sand with his sword and asked whoever would stay and fight with him to the bitter end to step across the line. Bowie, ill and bedridden, asked to be carried across. Almost all of the men stepped forward and sealed their fate. Slaughter wasted no time and left immediately to return to General Houston with the disparaging news. Few reinforcements ever reached the Alamo and it fell to the overwhelming forces of Santa Anna on March 6, 1836, when all 189 of the Texas defenders were killed. It was George Slaughter who first encountered Mrs. Dickerson and her infant daughter on the road between San Antonio to Gonzales. They were the only survivors of the massacre at the Alamo and had been released by Santa Anna to take news to General Houston of his victory. George Webb Slaughter’s father, William Slaughter, had moved his family to Mississippi in 1810 and began farming and stock raising in the area west of the Pearl River. He and his brother, John, had participated in the defense of New Orleans against the British in 1815. George Webb Slaughter was born on May 10, 1811, in Lawrence County, Miss. Lured by the boundless prospects of adventure, financial gain and cheap virgin land across the Sabine River in Texas, William Slaughter decided to move his family to Texas in 1825 after the birth of their son, William Ransom. However, being a devout Protestant, William was reluctant to become a Catholic in the Mexican state of Texas as was required, so he settled in Sabine Parish, La., a few Continued on page 16

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 15

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 16
Continued from page 14 miles east of the Texas border. In addition, nearby Fort Jessup provided security from Indians raids and the lawless faction along the border. At the age of 18, young George Slaughter could not resist the opportunities that lay across the Louisiana border in Texas and began freighting goods across the Sabine River to San Augustine and Nacogdoches. His stories about Texas influenced his father to move the family across the river in 1830 where he settled on one square league (4, 428 acres) in Sabine County and continued to grow cotton and raise livestock. George Slaughter, like many other new immigrants who had staked their claim in Texas, became involved in the independence movement long before the events in San Antonio unfolded during 1836. In 1832, he had taken up arms with other settlers to drive Mexican soldiers out of East Texas after they threatened to ally themselves with nearby Cherokee Indians. After a two-day fight through the narrow streets of Nacogdoches during July 1832, the Mexican troops were forced to surrender. George soon developed a thriving freighting business as more and more settlers flooded into Eastern Texas. With his good reputation as a freighter, newcomer Sam Houston hired him to transport his legal library from Louisiana to Nacogdoches. After the initial first shots of the Texas Revolution occurred at Gonzales on Oct. 2, 1835, George joined

Stephen F. Austin’s volunteer army then assembling near San Antonio. During the Siege of Bexar, he participated in an engagement known as “The Grass Fight.” When a Mexican caravan of pack animals was observed approaching San Antonio, Colonel Burleson dispatched Jim Bowie with 40 cavalry and William H. Jack with 100 infantry soldiers to seize the supply train. When the two opposing forces met, a protracted battle ensued with the Mexican units eventually retreating into San Antonio. It was later discovered that the pack animals were only carrying hay to feed the Mexican Army’s horses and livestock. During January 1836 Slaughter became a courier for Sam Houston and it was during that period that he took the message to Travis in the Alamo. Following the fall of the Alamo, Slaughter served as a procurer for Houston’s retreating army. After the Battle of San Jacinto (I find no record that George Slaughter was there), George Slaughter returned to his home in East Texas and became engaged to 18-year-old Sarah Mason. Their wedding plans were delayed since there was no civil law yet established in the new Republic of Texas. He returned to service as procurer for the Texas Army until October 1836. Continued on page 18

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MAY 5, 1900 The Daily Index (Mineral Wells Index) is established in the "City Built on Water." MAY 10, 1811 Palo Pinto County cattleman/pioneer and Baptist preacher George Webb Slaughter is born in lawrence County Miss. In 1857 he established a ranch some 5 miles north of Palo Pinto. MAY 18, 1871 A band of some 100 Native Americans from the Fort Sill Reservation in Oklahoma attack Henry Warren's wagontrain on the road between Fort Richardson in Jacksboro and Fort Belknap near Graham. Kiowa Chiefs Satanta, Satank and Big Tree lead the raid. The wagon master and six teamsters were killed and some 40 mules taken. The Indian casualties were one dead and ve wounded. The remaining warriors immediately returned to the reservation north of the Red River. MAY 27, 1871 Arriving at Fort Sill, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman personally arrests Satanta, Satank and Big tree for their leadership roles in the Warren Wagontrain Raid in North Texas on May 18.
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May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 18
Continued from page 16 After completing his service with the Texas Army, he returned home and on Oct. 12, 1836, married Miss Sarah Mason, who was five months pregnant at the time. The marriage is reported to have been the first one sanctioned by the new government of the Republic of Texas. Slaughter resumed his freighting business in Sabine County and was engaged in the employ of the new government. When their first child was born on Feb. 11, 1837, they named him Christopher Columbus Slaughter in commemoration of their wedding date (Columbus Day.) Over the years, 11 children would be born to George and Sarah. With the influx of more and more settlers into the region, conflicts soon arose with resident Cherokee Indians who occupied a large area in Northeast Texas. An all-out war eventually erupted and George Slaughter once again answered the call to duty. He joined other volunteers under the command of Thomas Rusk and moved to invade Indian lands in present-day Cherokee County. After several decisive battles, the Indians were eventually forced into Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Slaughter then returned to his home in Sabine County and continued his farming interests jointly with his father. Four additional children were born to George and Sarah. In 1846, George Slaughter was ordained a Baptist minister at Bethel Church in Sabine County, and began his lifelong labor of spreading the gospel throughout frontier Texas. For seven years, in addition to his farming and cattle-raising ventures, he rode throughout the counties of Sabine, Jasper, Newton, San Augustine, Rusk, Nacogdoches, Shelby, Angeline, Panola and Cherokee where he organized 27 churches and baptized 871 lost souls. He also preached in the parishes of Louisiana, including DeSoto, Natchetoches and Sabine, where he organized seven churches and baptized 362 people. With a thriving new cattle market in New Orleans and a growing family, George began to expand his livestock interests by acquiring an additional 3,000 acres. In 1849, George, his son, C.C., and his brother, William, drove 92 head of cattle 175 miles west to a new ranch located along the banks of the Trinity River in Freestone County near the town of Butler. He left William with the cattle and returned to Sabine County to continue his farming operations. When his father died in April 1850, George decided cattle raising was a more financially viable business than trying to grow cotton on the worn out soils of East Texas. In 1852, with his four sons, C.C., George, Peter and John, he headed west to their land in southern Freestone County where there was ample grass to support their growing cattle herd. While living in Freestone County George Continued on page 19

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 19
Continued from page 18 Slaughter organized five churches and baptized 297 converts. Within five years, the cattle herd had increased to 600 head. Each year they drove small cattle herds to markets in Shreveport for shipment to New Orleans. As more people began to move into Freestone County and convert vast acreages of native grasslands into farming lands for cotton production, George’s son, C. C., encouraged his father that they should look for new land for their cattle-raising operations along the Brazos River Valley or on other streams to the west. For two months during the summer of 1855 the Slaughters roamed over hundreds of miles of West Texas grasslands searching for new ranch lands suitable to accommodate their ranching enterprise. They ventured up the Brazos River from present Hill County to near Fort Belknap in Young County and then southwest along the Colorado River. Since the Colorado River Valley was still home to vast herds of buffalo and roving bands of Indians, they decided the Brazos River country of Palo Pinto and Young counties would be their best choice. The lush grass and rangelands in the Western Cross Timbers provided good grazing lands along with wellwatered tributaries of the Brazos and ample building materials from the oak and cedar covered hills. With protection of the military at Fort Belknap, and two Indian reservations located nearby on the Brazos and Clear Fork of the Brazos, a ready market existed for their cattle. Other settlers were already ranching cattle in the region including the Cowdens, Daltons, Goodnights and Lovings. The decision was made: George Slaughter bought 2,900 acres on a sharp bend of the Brazos River 5 miles north of the fledgling town of Golconda (Palo Pinto) and would make his new home there. In 1856, C. C. Slaughter drove the family’s cattle herd north to the new ranch and supervised the building of a house. The following year the entire family, which included seven children, completed the move and settled into their new log cabin. Although Palo Pinto County had been created by the Texas Legislature in 1856, it was not organized until 1857. The country was lightly populated and Fort Belknap was 30 miles to the northwest. George Slaughter and his sons were initially able to profit from selling cattle to the military at the fort and at the two Indian reservations. When the reservations came under reprisals from the local citizenry for contributing to civil unrest, Indian depredations of livestock, and killing of settlers, a movement was put into motion to expel the Indians into Indian Territory north of the Red River. Despite the presence of marauding bands of Indians throughout the region, he weekly traveled alone on a 60-mile circuit with nothing more than a bedroll,

Bible, hymnbook, picket rope, revolver and carbine and ministered to settlers wherever he could find them. Many settlers and their families had “forted up” in remote areas of the frontier for self-protection from Indians and George often visited these forts to preach and minister. He traveled throughout Palo Pinto, Jack, Young, Stephens and Erath counties and the unorganized region including the present counties of Baylor, Archer, Shackelford, Callahan and Eastland, where he organized 26 churches and baptized 793 people. Having studied medicine, he was often the only “doctor” for miles around and was often called upon for his expertise in “saddlebag medicine.” A most distressing incident occurred at the Slaughter Ranch on Dec. 27, 1858, when a group of reservation Indians who were hunting game off the Brazos Reservation with permission was attacked in their camp as they slept by a group of men from Erath County. The attack, which took place only a mile from George Slaughter’s house at Indian Hole on Elm Creek, resulted in the death of seven Indians and one white man of the raiding party. Hearing the gunshots, young C.C. Slaughter ran to the scene of the atrocious attack. Knowing that Indians who had escaped would flee back to the reservation to report the incident, Slaughter saddled his horse and set out to the reservation to try and prevent a raid against the town of Palo Continued on page 20

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Continued from page 19 Pinto. He met an advancing group of Indians covered in war paint bent on exacting revenge for the massacre and was able to convince their leaders the people in Palo Pinto were not involved. A disastrous confrontation was averted but, much to the chagrin of the Indians, the culprits involved in the killing of their people were never prosecuted. In 1858-1859, George Slaughter became the first pastor for the Baptist Church in Palo Pinto and in 1861 established the Slaughter Valley Baptist Church on his ranch north of Palo Pinto. In 1859, he had helped establish and build the first Baptist church west of Weatherford in southwestern Parker County at Soda Springs in Littlefield Bend of the Brazos. While George Slaughter traveled throughout the region on his mission of ministry, his sons C.C., George, John and Pete kept busy tended the growing cattle herd and gathering free-ranging cattle from the roughs along the Brazos River. Cattle were herded to pens they constructed nearer the Indian reservations where government contractors bought cattle to supply the Indians. However, with the disruption created by the clash between settlers and Indians and their final removal into Indian Territory in 1859, George and his sons were forced to begin looking for new markets for their cattle. With the outbreak of the Civil War and the departure of federal troops from forts along the Texas frontier, Indian depredations increased in Palo Pinto and surrounding counties during 1860-1861. Like many other families, the Slaughters frequently retreated into Palo Pinto and “forted up” for safety with other citizens and settlers in the area. During this period many small stockmen left the country, abandoning their cattle which were allowed to roam free until after the war. Despite several encounters with Indians, the Slaughters remained and increased their cattle herds; but the Confederate currency they received from any sales was of little value. They began looking for new cattle ranges in southwestern Texas away from Indians and Jayhawkers, but finally returned home to continue their ranching operations in Palo Pinto and surrounding counties. In 1866, while driving a small herd of cattle along Dry Creek east of present Graham, George Slaughter was attacked by 13 Indians, but fought them off with his pistol and trusty carbine. It was not until 1867 that federal troops returned to frontier Texas and began a campaign to chastise marauding Indians who had killed countless settlers and stolen thousands of cattle and horses over the previous eight years. Cattle were everywhere but of little value unless they could be sold at a profit. In 1867, George and his son, C.C., formed a partnership and began a drive of 900 head of cattle to market in Shreveport, La. On the trail near the Trinity River, they combined their cattle with another herd of 600 belonging to Col. H.T. Johnson and trailed them to a packing plant in Jefferson, Texas, where Johnson had a contract. With the assistance of the Slaughters in crossing the cattle across the rain swollen Trinity River, Johnson met the deadline for his sale, and the Slaughters also sold their herd there for $24,000. Rather than attempt the return trip home with that much money, they spent $4,000 on new wagons, teams of oxen, groceries, men’s clothing, boots, shoes and other dry goods for barter back in Palo Pinto County. When they were within 3 miles of Palo Pinto, they hid the remaining $20,000 in $20 gold pieces under a rock for safe keeping. They would use their gold “bank” to purchase more cattle and increase their cattle herds. With the goods they brought back from Jefferson and in partnership with John A. McLaran, they established a mercantile store in Palo Pinto under the name of Slaughter and McLaran. They were able to barter goods for as many as 700 head of cattle per year for the next five years. After restrictions against Texas cattle being driven into Kansas were relaxed during 1867, Joseph G. McCoy constructed new shipping pens on the railroad at Abilene, Kan., thus opening up

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 21
a new market for Texas cattle. C.C. Slaughter soon convinced George to drive 800 head of their cattle north. They would send another 2,500 head up the trail to Abilene during 1868 with the two sales netting almost $40,000. The Slaughters continued to raise cattle and fight off Indians during the next several years. George Slaughter moved his family to Emporia, Kan., in 1871 to help supervise the sale of family cattle. While there he organized three churches and baptized 97 converts. He returned to his ranch in Palo Pinto County in 1875 where he built a $25,000 mansion where he lived out his final 25 years. He dissolved his partnership with his son, C.C. Slaughter, and ranched there with his younger son, Peter, until he retired in 1884. C.C. would go on to become one of the most successful cattleman in Texas history. In 1882, George Slaughter founded the First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. When a tornado blew away the Slaughter Valley Baptist Church building in 1886, the congregation decided to move into the town of Palo Pinto and constructed a new church building. The building was built from lumber from the old church and new lumber freighted in from Fort Worth by Reverend Slaughter. It was then decided to unite with an existing Baptist congregation there and the two churches united, moving into the new Slaughter church building named the Baptist Church of Christ of Palo Pinto. That church building was used until 1952 when it was replaced by the current building known as the First Baptist Church of Palo Pinto, which is still in use. George Webb Slaughter died 11 years later at the age of 84 on March 19, 1895, at his home north of Palo Pinto. His tombstone in the Palo Pinto Cemetery was inscribed as follows: "Farewell Father – Here Lies an Honest Man Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” During his life-long mission as courier of the Word of God, George Slaughter baptized over 3,000 people, organized approximately 75 churches, married many couples, spoke over the graves of countless settlers, and preached wherever he could find someone to listen. George Webb Slaughter crossed his own line in the sand and never stepped back across it. †

* * * * *
(References: "Painted Pole: The Beldings and Their Ranches in Palo Pinto County – Pioneer Days to Computer Age," by Barbara Belding Gibson; "C.C. Slaughter: Rancher, Banker, Baptist," by David J. Murrah; "Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign," by Stephen Moore; The Handbook of Texas Online and other Internet sites)

May 2013 • NORTH TEXAS STAR STORYTELLER & RAMBLER • Page 22

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