TEXAS * MONTHLY
Dedicated to the
History and Development of the State.
SINGLE NUMBERS SUBSCRIPTION
10 CENTS $1 A YEAR
* CONTENTS *
Why I Came to Texas, and What I
saw......... E. Kincaid325
The Type-Setting Machine...
........... .......... E. F. Deitz330
Carol..................................Ed. M. DeAbna
Adventures of An Old Texas
Ranger.James W. Nichols 339
How They Like
The Song of the River,
Poem..........................H.A. Moos 359
Henry A. Moos
: Seguin, Texas
POST OFFICE BOX No.
Copyright, 1891, by H. A. Moos. ----o---- Entered
at the Post office st the Post Office at Seguin,
Second-Class Mail Matter
ADVENTURES OF AN OLD TEXAS RANGER.
Written by Himself from Notes Taken down at the
Time and Place of Occurance
By James W. Nichols
We become acquainted with the Day Family--Both
families move to Texas-- Settle near San
Augustine--A fish story--My acquaintance with Judge
John E. Quitman--Move further west--A visit to the
Alamo--Obtain valuable historical information from
Mrs. Dickinson, the negro Jim Bowie, and Pepea
Hondonga--Find Crockett's gun and "outfit"--How they
were lost--"Marrying by bond"--Indian raids--Captain
Clements' company of minute men--Some "old
settlers"--A false alarm--Going to mill in the old
days--The adventures of Asa Sowell and myself--
Fighting fire and wolves--A half-roasted team--Cut
off by high water-- A happy time returning home--A
In the latter part of the summer of 1836,
Father sold out in Arkansas and decided to move to
Texas. San Antonio was his destination.
One evening, about a week before we were to
start, some movers drove up, bought some forage from
Father, and drove out and camped. After supper was
over, Father went out to the camp to chat and to
find out where they were moving to. Two of my older
brothers (John and Solomon) and myself went with
him. We learned that their destination San Antonio,
Texas. They were Johnson Day and family.
Father and Day made a covenant, in which they
agreed to travel together, and wherever they
stopped, to settle down near each other.
This arrangement seemed to suit some members
of both families, as there were several "grown up"
children in each. Day had one grown son: Milford,
and two grown daughters: Mary, or "Polly," and
Mahala. Father had three grown sons: Solomon, Thomas
and John, and one grown daughter: Martha. The other
children (four or five to each family) varied in
size and age, down to babies.
Two matches were made up, on our trip to
Texas, the one between Milford Day and my oldest
sister, Martha, and the other my brother John and
We arrived on the bank of the Sabine River,
without anything of much interest happening, and
crossed over into Texas on the 14th day
of December, 1836.
Then we moved to San Augustine, and decided to
stop a while. Both families rented land from Old Man
The winter was so severe that all our oxen,
excepting one yoke, died while they were being
We were compelled to have oxen, as they would
work on the range, and we could procure no forage
for horses. So in the spring Brother John and I went
down on the Autholine River and bought four or five
yokes of wild beeves from John Thorn, to break in
and to use in making a crop.
While there, I caught the largest fish I ever
saw. While Brother John and a negro man were working
with the steers, I concluded to catch some fish. I
had some large "cat hooks" with me--such as I had
been fishing with in the Irish Bayou. I set them out
one evening, and the next morning all my hooks were
broken. Thorn's son told me that the "store-bought"
hooks could not hold the fish in that river. So I
went to the shop and had me a hook made. I baited it
with a rabbit and set it out, and the next morning,
when I went to my hook, it had caught what I termed
a large fish, and another, still larger, had
swallowed it above its side fins, and was hung. I
could not get them out of the water, so went back to
the house and got Mr. Thorn and a negro man, both
large, strong men, to help me. We pulled them out of
the water, tied a rope in their mouths, ran a pole
through the rope, shouldered the pole, at least one
foot and a half of the larger fish dragging on the
The larger one weighed 116 pounds, and the
smaller one 40 pounds; so I had caught 156 pounds of
fish at one time and on one hook, Thorn said he had
caught one larger than that since he had been living
Finally we got our oxen so we could handle
them, and went home.
Shortly after, while Brother John and Milford
Day were freighting from Natchitoches to San
Augustine, Brother Solomon and I took a contract to
deliver a large lot of hay to some parties in town.
While delivering the hay I made the acquaintance of
Judge John A. Quitman, afterwards General Quitman,
of Mexican war fame. The Judge was in camp there,
with about fifteen companions, on a prospecting
tour. I was frequently in his camp, and became very
intimate with him and the most of his companions, as
they all bought hay from us nearly every trip we
We finished up our job, and not long after
this Father and Day began preparations to emigrate
farther west. We made the trip to Gonzales and
stopped for awhile. Father and Day had never
abandoned the notion of going to San Antonio before
they finally located, and now concluded to go and
look before moving. Father had heard and read so
much about old San Antonio, that he wanted to see
the place any way. There were several going out, and
Brother Solomon and I went with them.
While there, we visited the historic Alamo. In
going through some of the rooms, we noticed blood
upon the floors and walls, which could be so plainly
seen that it seemed to be only a few days old.
As I was in search of statistics for my book,
I spared no pains in gathering information; so I
hunted up Mrs. Dickinson, obtaining her version of
the affair, and then hunted up the negro, Jim Bowie,
and got his story. He told me there was a Mexican
woman in town, whose name was Pepea Hondega, who was
in the fort until the funeral pile was consumed by
fire. I went to see her, and received her story in
Spanish, as she could not speak good English. She
said there was another woman in the fort when it
fell, but she left with the army, and was then in
After obtaining all the information I could
concerning the fall of the Alamo, I sauntered around
town to see all that was to be seen. I entered the
jacal of a Mexican, and I saw, sitting in
the corner, a gun, broken off at the breech. I
picked it up and examined it closely--it was Colonel
David Crockett's gun. I had seen it the year before,
when he and his party stopped for a few days at
Father's house in Arkansas. For Father and he had
been school-mates, and Crockett visited him to renew
their old friendship. We boys noticed and admired
his outfit at the time. The naked barrel of his gun
weighed eighteen pounds, and has a plate of silver
let into it just before the hind sight, with the
name "Davy Crockett" engraved on it, and another
plate let in near the breech, with Drew Lane,
Maker," engraved on it.
The shot pouch was made of panther-skin, with
the tail for a flap, and was suspended by a strap of
the same material, all beaded with four rows of
different colored beads. His cap was made of
coon-skin, with all the long hair pulled out,
leaving nothing but the fur, and a piece made of
leopard-cat skin, to turn down over his ears, and a
fox-tail on top, which hung down behind. The cap was
lined with red silk.
I told my companions what I had found, and
they all went with me, the next morning, to see
them. There was a man with us who called his name
Henderson. He said he lived within a mile of Colonel
Crocket's family in Tennessee. He and Father bought
the entire "lay-out" and he started home with them,
but it was said that the boat that he was going up
on was destroyed by fire, and he with thirty-two
others were drowned; and there was nothing saved; so
the relics were lost with the boat--if the report
After spending several days in and around the
city, we returned to Gonzales.
Father and Day decided not to move to San
Brother John and Milford were anxiously
waiting for the old folks to settle somewhere in the
country, as they and their betrothed were getting
impatient for their wedding day to arrive.
There was no regular mode of marrying in Texas
at that time, as the license law had not yet been
established; but under the constitution of 1824,
there still remained the Mexicanmode of marrying "by
bond." The parties bound themselves, under a
penalty, to live together for a certain length of
time, then they could renew their bond or go free,
just as is the custom now in some parts of Mexico.
So the two couples married by bond, and when
the time ran out, they entered into another six
month's probation, and by the time that probation
ended, the license law was established; so each
couple took out a license, and lived together
happily as long as the lamp of life burned on.
Milford's wife died first; he is still alive.
Brother John, also, is dead, while his wife is still
Soon after we returned from san Antonio, the
Indians made a raid in our neighborhood, stole some
horses, and made good their escape. Joe D. Clements
raised a company of minute men to pursue the
savages, and Brother John and I joined it.
Not long thereafter the Indians made another
raid, and stole some horses. Captain Clements being
sick at the time, eight or ten of us started in
pursuit, with old "Uncle" Dan Davis in command,as he
was an old settler, and had some experience with
Indians. We followed their trail about fifteen
miles, then lost it. In scattering to look for
signs, we lost Uncle Dan, our leader. We whooped,
halload and shot off our guns. We waited nearly two
hours, but heard nothing of him (nor did we find the
Indian trail) and concluded to return.
It was after dark when we entered the town,
and we found all the citizens in great confusuion
and making fortifications. I will here mention the
most of the men who had families there at the time:
Dan Wash, Zack Davis, Zeke and French Smith,
Adam Zumwalt, Geo. W. Nichols (my father), John
Sowell, Francis Berry, John Clark, Eli Mitchell, Joe
D. Clements, Ed. Ballinger, Jim Gibson, Miles Dykles,
Ben Duncan, Johnson Day, James Hodges, Sr., James
Hodges, Jr., John G. King, Tom Lambert, Milford Day,
John W. Nichols, BillMatthews and Simeon Bateman.
The unmarried men were: John Archer, Arch.
Gibson, Bird Smith, Anson Neill, Andrew Neill, Arch.
Jones, Dave Hodges, C.C. DeWitt, dave Dirst, Andrew,
John and Asa Sowell, Bill Hodges, Solomon, Thomas
and James W. Nichols (the writer) John Baker, Bill
and Mike Coda, and others.
These men, besides several others, were now
gathered together to defend the town.
It appeared that when old Uncle Dan Davis
separated from us on the Indian trail, he became
crazy, and started for home, arriving in town just
before we did, his horse so run down that he ahd to
walk and lead him the last few miles. He reported
the woods full of Indians. He said that he had seen
four or five hundred, but in several bunches, and
all naked, and painted--some red and some black.
Well, he had always been truthful and a strict
church member, so of course the people believed
every word he said. They had all the women and
children brought in and placed in Zumwalt's house,
which was strongly fortified. All the men remained
outside, guns in hand.
After a while a strong guard was put out. John
Archer and myself were put on the side where the
attack was expected, with orders not to hail, but to
shoot on suspicion. We both felt sure the attack
would commence on that side, and we laid our plans
accordingly. Sure enough, the attack commenced about
midnight--but not by Indians.
Old Man Zumwalt had a big, fine sow, a great
favorite. The night was very dark, and the old sow,
seeing horses tied around, concluded they must have
corn, and she would divide with them and take a
share. She was moving that way, when Archer saw her
body. He said afterwards that he thought she was
about three Indians, crawling on "all-fours" to get
to the horses, in order to stampede them. He
squatted down so as to get all three in range,
leveled his gun and fired. A body fell, but not
three Indians. We got a light, and found that he had
killed the old sow. All this nosie awoke old "Uncle
Dan" from his slumbers, and he came out raving mad,
cursing and swearing, (no one had ever heard him
utter an oath before) shot off his gun, and cried
out: "Now you have done it!"
"Done what?" some one asked.
"Why, the Indians all get away," said he. "I
had them all in the pen, and now you have let them
"I did not see any Indians," said one.
"Look! Replied he; "don't you see them on top
of your house. Look! Some are going up
feet-foremost! Look! There are a thousand naked
devils, all painted!"
Then we began to see that he was insane. And
for a year afterward he was a raving maniac.
We now knew that his first report was caused
by his hallucinations, and so broke up the fort.
Not long after this the Indians made another
raid on the town, stealing several horses. Mr.
Zumwalt had a good horse in a log-stable. The
Indians tried the door of the stable, but finding it
locked, they shot arrows through the cracks between
the logs until they had killed the horse. They had
collected a small bunch of horses and started off,
but finding Zeke Williams' horse hobbled with a pair
of iron hobbles, they could neither take nor cut
them off; so they killed the horse, cut his legs off
at the knees, and took legs, hobbles and all with
them--evidently to learn the combination, so they
would be able to take others off if they should ever
find them on any horses in the future.
In those early days there was no mill in the
country to grind corn, and so little of that article
was raised, that there was not much use for mills.
The nearest mill to Gonzales was Grassmire's Mill,
on the Colorado River, nearly seventy miles distant.
As it was understood that there was plenty of
meal to sell at that mill, there was soon enough
money made up to buy a load of meal, but who would
go after it? Father agreed to furnish a wagon, one
yoke of oxen, and a driver, if others would furnish
money to buy his meal. Old Man Sowell agreed to
furnish one yoke of oxen, an assistant driver (for
company) and some money, if others would furnish the
rest. They soon made up enough money to buy the
It was decided that Asa Sowell and myself
should go. Neither of us had ever been there before,
but after talking with some of the old settlers, and
getting the direction, which was all I required,
(for my knowledge of the woods far exceeded that of
any other person of my age) we hitched up and rolled
out, with no sign of a road, or even a trail, to
travel the whole way.
Our oxen were fat and unruly, and it was
"awful" hot the first day. We arrived at Peach creek
about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, where we rested
some two hours. Not knowing where we would get our
first water, we watered our oxen and filled up our
gourds. It was cool that evening when we started,
and we made good headway. After traveling about 8
miles, we came to a brushy ridge. As the sun was
setting, we could not see how to pick our way
through the brush, so we camped there.
The next morning, as only my oxen were in
sight, I told Asa to take a look for his, while I
made some coffee. He soon came back and said he
could not find them, so I told him I would go while
he ate his breakfast. I thought I could soon strike
their trail--as the grass was high and thick--and
find them. I soon struck their trail and could
follow it without difficulty. I walked fast and
trotted on the trail for about two miles, when I
found their broken hobbles. I knew then they had
gone a long way off. I stood, thinking for a minute,
considering what I should do. I knew Asa was young
and inexperienced, and therefore decided that I had
better go back to the wagon and get him, so we would
be together if anything should happen; for we never
knew, in those days, when there was danger, until it
was upon us.. I reurned to the camp and found Asa
standing up in the wagon, nearly scared to death, as
he had heard a gun fired in the direction I had
gone. He said he thought, as I stayed so long, the
Indians had attacked and killed me, and he was just
thinking about hitching up the oxen that were left
there, and taking the back track, he was so uneasy.
We then tied up my oxen, took our gourds (then
nearly empty) and our guns, and struck out on the
trail of the oxen, which led nearly due north, while
our course had been nearly due east. We followed the
trail until about sundown, when Asa said he would
have to rest, and sat down. He then said he was
We had neglected to provide anything to eat,
so while he was resting, I walked around to see if I
could find a squirrel or a rabbit, or some kind of
bird to kill, (for I was in the same fix, as neither
of us had eaten anything since early in the morning)
but could find nothing.
After traveling till dark, we camped on the
trail of the oxen. Next morning, as soon as it was
light enough to see the trail, we resumed our
journey. We traveled until two o'clock in the
afternoon, when we came to a large trail, about two
days old. I examined it and found that it had been
made by a squad of Indians with a large drove of
horses, which they had stolen down on the Lavaca
River. Here we lost the trail of our oxen, but,
after circling around for awhile, we found it again,
and found the skeleton of a buffalo the Indians had
killed. The buzzards and wolves had picked the bone
perfectly clean. A mile farther on, we found the
carcass of a buffalo that the Indians had wounded,
and which had strayed off and died and we came upon
It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon of
the second day after leaving the wagon; we were out
of water, and terribly hungry. The dead buffalo was
swelled so the buzzards and wolves could not get
hold of it to eat it. It had been dead about three
days, during exceedingly hot weather, and was
therefore not very fresh; but "hunger knows no
difference," and we decided to try some, anyway. I
cut off a piece. It did not smell very nice, you may
believe, but we roasted it and ate until we were
As all kinds of game will run for miles from
an Indian trail, we now knew why game was so scarce.
After eating, we followed the trail several miles
farther, when we both began to feel very thirsty,
but kept on until Asa gave out and I was almost in
the same condition, when we sat down and rested a
while. We then resumed our journey, with the gloomy
prospect of having to pass another night without
water, staring us in the face. Nevertheless we
trudged on, and soon came to a deep, beaten trail. I
told Asa that the trail led to water, so we left the
ox trail and followed the old buffalo trail a few
miles, (fortunately for us) when we struck a deep,
dry creek. The trail led up the bed of the creek,
and we followed it for a mile, when we found water,
and--behold! There stood our oxen!
After drinking and resting, then resting and
drinking, we filled our gourds, caught the oxen and
started for the wagon, then at least twenty-five
miles away, and the sun about half an hour high. We
traveled about two miles, when Asa said he was sick,
and lay down. I tied the oxen to a tree and went
back to him. He soon commenced vomiting, and kept
that up at intervals until dark. By this time his
gourd was empty, and when he again asked for water,
I gave him mine. He tool a hearty drink and lay down
again. While he was quiet, I began to study the
situation: My oxen at the wagon, tied up for two
days and a night without water or grass, and the
prospect good for another day, if not more, and I
then at least twenty-three miles from them, with an
awful sick companion--for I had reached over and
felt his pulse and discovered that he had a burning
fever. He drank so much water that my gourd was soon
also emptied, and then he lay down and slept
soundly. I tried to sleep, but could not, as I was
so uneasy about him.
In about an hour Asa awoke and began begging
for more water, and when I told him there was not a
drop in either gourd, he fell back and groaned: "O,
Lordy!" His fever seemed to be increasing. He lay
still for about an hour; then roused up and said:
"Water! water! water! Oh, for God's sake, a little
It was a "ground hog case." I knew, from the
fix he was in, he was bound to die before morning,
"Asa," said I, "if you will promise me that
you won't die before I get back, I will go and get
you some water, as dark as it is."
"Well, I will try," replied he.
I scanned the country around to see if I would
know the place again in the dark; but just then the
thought struck me that if I build a fire I could see
that a long distance, in that flat. But there was
one grat drawback to this; the grass was so tall and
dry. I looked around, and found a tolerable naked
place, scraped off the grass as best I could with my
butcher-knife, and build a small fire. I then took
both gourds and started. I had the buffalo trail to
guide me. I made it to the creek pretty well, but
found it very dark under the banks. I groped my way
to the water, filled both gourds, and started back.
When I got in sight of the fire, the light
blinded me so I could hardly travel. I did not
discover the cause of so much light until I arrived
within about eighty yards of camp. A new difficulty
had arisen. While I was away, the wind had sprund
up, and had blown some sparks and small coals into
the dry grass, which was burning at a fearful rate.
And Asa--oh, where was he?
I ran as fast as I could, and rushed in to try
to save the oxen. But the wind had grown so strong,
and the fire had increased so, that though I tried
to fire against it, it did no good. Soon the wind
whirled and changed, and the fire ran under the
oxen. They reared and kicked and tried to break the
rope, but could not get away, and had to take the
chances. The fire singed all the hair off their legs
and bellies, so that, in a few days, the hide peeled
off in patches.
"But to return to my mutton." After I found
that the fire had out-run me and gotten away, I
whooped and hallooed for Asa, but received no
answer. Then I hunted for him, hallooing every few
steps, but in vain.
I went back to try and find the place where we
had first stopped, recollecting a large, bending
live-oak tree, the branches of which touched the
ground on one side. I had noticed it before starting
for the water, and now searched for it, but, after
such a brilliant light, the darkness seemed more
intense than before. I groped my way back to it,
constantly peering about in every direction, and
musing thus: "Well, while I was gone after water,
Asa died and the wolves ate him up, or dragged him
off, or else the fire burned over him, and blackened
him so that I cannot recognize him in the dark,
I walked around and around, trying to find the
place where I had left him, all the time peering
into the darkness and smoke, until I stumbled upon
the gourds, and, not far from there, I discovered--Asa,
lying flat on his face.
"Just as I expected!" thought I, "dead. By
But, on going up to him, I found that life was
not extinct--that he was still breathing. He had
been fighting the fire like "killing snakes at a
dime a dozen," but, coming to the same conclusion
that I did--"that the fire had out-run him and
gotten away"--he had left off fighting it, and had
started back to see if I had come. He had gone that
far, when he became exhausted, and fell down in a
I got a gourd of water, wet his face and head,
and poured some of the water in his mouth. I then
wet my handkerchief, put it on his breast, and
poured water on it until I had emptied one gourd,
but he was still unconscious. I must have worked
with him an hour, before he came to himself. He
opened his eyes slowly and looked around a little
wildly. I said: "Asa, here is some water; don't you
want a drink?"
He raised up and drank, and asked: "Where are
we?" Before I could speak, he exclaimed: "O, Lordy!"
and lay down again, and was soon snoring gloriously.
I lay down, but there was no sleep for me, and
I fell into the following train of thoughts: "Well,
this beats bob-tail, and bob-tail beats Bill's bull,
and it is said that Bill's bull beat the devil. What
an eventful trip we have had, and it is not
half over yet. I wish I was back home under my
"mammy's" bed, cracking peanuts." I was lying there,
studying these things over, when I heard a gang of
wolves "let all holts go" howling, seemingly not
over twenty yards distant. I jumped up and went for
my gun, the first time I had thought of it since I
had returned with the water; and O, cracky! it, of
course, was not there. I woke Asa and asked him
about our guns. He said, "When the fire broke out, I
snatched up both guns, wrapped the shot-pouch straps
around them and laid them up in a tree," pointing to
the old stooping tree.
I had heard some fearful stories about wolves
attacking people, and it made me feel "sorter
spotted behind the ears." I got the guns down, and
was so glad that I exclaimed (handing Asa his gun):
"Bully for your sore toe, if it never gets well!"
Asa staggered to his feet and took his gun.
The wolves kept advancing and howling, until
they were within fifteen steps of us. We both
prepared ourselves to shoot at the same time; then,
if they still advanced on us, we agreed to take to
the old stooping tree, which stood near by. The
wolves still advanced.
When they got close
enough we both fired and both killed his wolf
and the other ran off. We went and dragged them
up into camp, took out their livers, and roasted
and ate them.
By this time day had begun
to break and we started for the wagon. We made
it about one o'clock, and my oxen
looked---well,------ I can't hardly
Well---they looked like a shit-poke after
swallowing a live eel a dozen times and could
not make him stick. Not knowing where we would
find the next water, after eating a hunk of
bread and bacon, we hitched up and started.
a fine looking team to start with, one yoke
looked half roasted and the other was so gaunt
they would hardly make a shadow. But we went on
and happened to strike water a little before
sundown and then we camped for the night.
time Asa was all right, and I teased him a
little about the fire getting out the night
before. I told him I knew that when I left for
water he spread the coals out to roast his hunk
of buffalo meat that he had put in his pocket to
eat later, and the fire had broke out that way.
But he said the hunk got to stinking so bad he
threw it away. That night I enjoyed a good
day we made it to the mill and found the mill
crowded with about twenty loads of corn. I told
Asa that was bully for us, there would be plenty
of tall corn to sell us a half dozen loads if we
wanted that much.
found the Colorado River about a mile wide at
that place and we were now out of provision. We
could get plenty of meal at the mill, but
nothing else. By inquiring I learned there was
a store on the opposite side of the river where
we could get a little of anything we wanted,
flour, molasses, tobacco and whiskey. There was
a tight small skiff but no one would take the
risk in crossing. I told them I could go and
they said that if I would go they would pay for
all the provisions I needed and give me five
dollars extra if I would fetch what they wanted.
We agreed and I took jugs, sacks for sugar and
coffee, and canteens and gourds for whiskey.
jumped in the skiff but the drift was running
without intermission at a fearful rate. That
was what scared them all off, but I pulled up
the river at my leisure until I was about a half
mile and saw a little gap in the drift and
scooted through. I went to the store, got all
that I was sent for, and made it back with about
two gallons of "fighting" whiskey.
rate they had not had it more than an hour until
there was five or six fights.