Hiram Chatman Fowler
Reminisces

Source:  Burnet Bulletin, 29 Jan 1925
transcribed by JoAnn Myers, October 2006


SOME EARLY HISTORY
(Marble Falls Messenger)

Editor Messenger --

In accordance with the request of Senator J. H. Faubion, that I write you regarding some of the incidents connected with the early immigration to and settlement of portions of Burnet and Williamson counties.  I herewith transmit some leaves taken from my diary of those days.

I was born January 13, 1844 in Coke County, East Tennessee.  About 15 or 20 of September 1852, my father, Josiah Fowler, with his wife (my mother) and eight children, together with a family of ten negro slaves, Dr. L. M. Gett and family, Mr. James Black and family, and Alex Oromton and negro men all started on a trip of two thousand miles overland, in wagons, to Texas -- our anticipated destination being Gonzales.

In order to avoid the almost impassable muddy roads in the swamps of Louisiana and East Texas, at that date, they thought it good judgment to make a detour to the north, through the hilly country thereby lengthening the road some five hundred miles.

The first town of any note, on the route was Knoxville, in East Tenn., then Nashville where they halted and the caravan marched through the State Penitentiary in order to imbibe a dislike in the minds of the young people of the crown to ever being sent to such an institution.

We crossed the Mississippi river--a mile wide in an old dilapidated flat bottomed row boat, at or near Columbus, Kentucky.  Then we went to Little Rock, Arkansas, through the semi-civilized Chockta Indian nation, crossing Red River at the junction of the Klamicia river into Texas.  Oh, what joy filled our hearts.   We were at last actually on Texas soil, but alas we were still 350 or 400 miles from our destination.

Our first town to pass through in the state was Paris, in Lamar County.  Here Mr. Black left us, saying he was really in Texas and that was good enough for him; we never heard any thing more from him.  Our next town was McKinney, in Collin County.  then Waxahachie, Dallas, Waco, McClenan county, Belton, Georgetown and Austin.  All these towns were comparatively small and unimportant places -- some only having a post office and a few stores -- even Dallas, that now boasts of nearly 200,000 population, was a very small town -- with an old ferry boat that reached nearly across the Trinity River -- with no roads, except where immigrants had navigated their "Prairie Schooners" across "God's own country." 

Austin was little more than a mere village.  The first wild jackrabbit I ever saw was within four hundred yards of where the great granite capitol of Texas now stands, which cost the State 2,500,00 acres of the best land a crow ever flew over.

We camped for the Christmas holidays nine miles south of Austin, on Onion creek, at the Smith Crossing, then on to Gonzales, where we remained ten days, leaving there on January 8th 1853 going north, back through  Austin to Spicewood Spring -- eight miles from Austin on January 9.  We camped at Mr. Babcocke's who was the father of the Hon. J. M. Babcocke, afterwards County Commissioner of Williamson County.   After remaining at this camp one day, on the 11th of January came to Judge Scott's on Oatmeal Creek in Burnet County on January 12th, came by Mormon Mill and Mormon Town and crossed to the South side of the Colorado River at the Mormon Crossing -- about half a mile below what afterwards became known as the Eubank Crossing.

On January 18, cold and snowing, my brother (Pleas) just older than I, and Dr. P. M. Yett, while trying to go to Uncle Levi Fowler's some two miles down the river from our camp, became lost, and doubtless would have frozen to death had they not walked all night by turns between two tall trees to keep warm.  That evening, just as the sun went down -- our long journey had lasted 110 days, came to an end.  No wagon had ever before been in five miles of where we stopped.  But we were not without neighbors.

A short two miles away, was a camp of some fifty Indians and they had plenty of bear meat, deer, etc., together with about a wagon load of acorns (for bread) piled up.  However, after being requested to go west and protesting in about two weeks they broke camp and left and never troubled us any more.

This camp was less than one half mile from where the town of Spicewood is now located.  Soon after we became permanently located, my father bought the land where these Indians were camped and I remember to have seen their deserted Tepees many times.

Senator Faubion requests that I state what I know, if anything about the Mormon settlement in Burnet County.

On January 12, 1853, the day before we reached the end of our journey, we stopped and examined Mormon Mills, on Hamilton Creek, one mile north of the Mormon town.

The mill and town appeared to be about two years old.  The mill was a crude affair, but was doing good business, mostly sawing, as there was not a bushel of grain raised in that territory up to that date, but during 1853 quite a lot of small patches of corn was grown and a little of it ground into meal.

 The Senator has described how the mill was located there, hence it is unnecessary for me to repeat it; suffice to say it was an ideal location for an over-shot water mill with perhaps thirty foot fall and absolutely cut off from damage by high water by a high rock bluff on the north.

This accounts for the selection and choice of the place, for machinery, by the Mormons, who were nearly all trained mechanics.  Very few or none, ever following tilling the soil for a livelyhood, it also accounts for the abandonment by them of their temporary settlement west of Mount Bonnell on the Colorado river, some three miles from Austin, which occurred in 1850-1851, because that location was very difficult of access and egress and would also prove to be extremely expensive to maintain buildings as every small rise in the river was liable to cause irrepairable damage and loss.

Their Burnet County town or colony was also idealy located, being only a short mile from the mill where a number of their men were employed on a beautiful plateau, adjacent to a large, cold spring, gushing out of the top of a bluff, at the very edge of town.

Here Colonel Wyatt,  their commander and High Priest, had his dwelling in the center of the Plateau, surrounded by the humble residences of his followers and church members, who numbered between forty and sixty men and many women and children.  These people believed and practiced poligomy, otherwise, they were peaceable, law-abiding and quiet.

Col. Wyatt was, all in all to them --had you wished to employ one of more of them, you had to see Col. Wyatt  about it and after the job was complete, you must settle with him.  If one of them owed you a nights lodging, or a bushel of corn, he said Col. Wyatt would pay you.

While the inhabitants of this little town seemed happy and contented -- about five years later, about two-thirds of them started overland, in wagons, to Salt Lake, Utah, while the balance elected to remain in Burnet County and became good and useful citizens of the community in which they lived.  I attended school tow or three years with some of these children and found them real smart students.

I was also, later on in the Confederate service with some of the men and they were sure fine soldiers, good and efficient scouts and faithful to the "Lost Cause."

It was reported at the time they started to Salt Lake that only a few days after starting, Col. Wyatt became seriously sick and died in a few hours.

Mrs. S. P. Kinser,  in a recent letter to the Marble Falls Messenger about the Mormons of Burnet County, does not mention this and it may be a mistake.

This letter is already too long.

H. C. Fowler, Liberty Hill, Texas


For more information about H. C. Fowler and his family, see Burnet County History, Vol II, page 95
 

 

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