Events Which Transpired in Hunt County and North Texas When Settlers Were Few and Indians
Frequented the Forrests -- Begins With President Houston’s Administration -- First Barbeque
and Many Interesting Items.
(Continued from last week.)[evidently, these are recollections
of Mr. Merrill, continued]
Some time in February
J. R. Horton and family, Lindley Johnson and family and Bill Richie, L. M. Brizendine,
Wylie Maddox and a man named Granger afterwards county surveyor, came from Lamar county
and increased the population of the community.
He was the first party to drive a stob on what is now the square of Greenville and he is
quite certain that the first building was a small log court house which was erected
on the square and he is quite sure that the first goods sold here were sold by Mr.
Moody, although some one might have sold whiskey before. Mr. Merrill remembered when a
barrel of whiskey arrived from Shreveport, La., and was opened on the square and every
body invited to help themselves. Several helped themselves so often that they were soon
drunk. A difficulty was started between Bill Richie and Dick Wemley. Wemley cut Richie.
It was thought he would die. Mr. Johnson had decided before to send his son, Tom, and
young Merrill to Lamar county to get wheat and this determined him. The boys went
away in a hurry to get the doctor and on the other mission also. The doctor, Dr.
Strinsell, who lived twelve miles this side of Paris, was found but he said he would
not go, for said he: If he is going to die he will die before I can get there, and if
he is going to get well I'm not needed. And he would not go.
The boys then went to the Johnson farm and in two days threshed out by the flail process
three bushels of wheat. This had to be relieved of the chaff which took two more days of mighty
hard work. Then they went to the mill at Honey Grove and after they reached the mill it took
all day to grind the three bushels of wheat. Next morning they started and by night were
half way home. Stopped with parties and gave them enough unbolted flour to make
biscuits for breakfast, which tickled all of them for biscuits were something
unusual in those days. They got home that night and the flour, unbolted, was
distributed and all were happy for they were to have biscuits at last.
Upon inquiry, they were told that Richie was about well from the cut which
hurried them away to the doctor. The doctor was right after all.
Mr. Merrill says that the first school, probably the first in the county,
was taught in a log cabin on the square by Mr. Granger.
The next year a clap board house was built on the hill just west of the old cemetery.
A party by the name of Quinlan taught the first school in that building.
When weather got cold, Martin Hart, Lindley Johnson and another party, who were the trustees,
looked about to get some one to build a chimney. They could find no one and so they
got Merrill to try his hand at it. He took the job for $5 and hired a young man in the
community at 50 cents a day. The chimney was built of black mud and sticks and poles.
Mr. Merrill says the young man did the work in two days and got one dollar and he pocketed
the remaining $4. The chimney lasted very well for that season. That was probably in 1847.
Merrill then entered school. He was the farthest advanced and the teacher soon got to turning
the school over to him for an hour or so and before the close Merrill was doing all the
teaching but Quinlan always collected and spent the salary. What he had done for the young
man the teacher did for Merrill.
To go back to an earlier date: Mr. Merrill said that about Christmas after his first arrival
he heard from some one that two buffaloes had drifted in on Caddo. This caught his fancy and
he spent several days afoot hunting the buffaloes but he never saw them. In the spring he
decided that he wanted to see how the country looked west a short distance. So he rode
westward. He got to the divide between Sabine and Caddo when he looked down a drain and
saw more than 300 head of mustangs, one behind the other. There were a number of colts
along and he decided he wanted a few colts. So he rode into the center of the long string
of mustangs and sent them on a run in two droves. He managed to get several colts and started
away when two fine black stallions went by in a sweep and all of the colts went with them
except one. In his eagerness to catch the colts he had overlooked the fact that night was
on him. So he set out and got lost. He decided to trust his horse and let him go.
But he had not gone far when he heard the wolves. They were on his trail. Then it was
he got scared and put spurs to his horse, leaving the colt to the night and the wolves,
which attended to it he supposes, as he never saw it again. Mr. Merrill left here in
1851 and went to California. But has frequently returned to see his relatives and friends.
He now lives in Bowie county. He is 73 years of age, but remembers many incidents that
transpired in and about Greenville. He did not have time but would have liked to have
given an account of early Greenville when it was run wide open. He says Greenville beat
any place he ever saw for gambling. He says a fellow could get a game any time.
* * *[now begin recollections of Mrs. Horton]
When the Horton family reached their new home there was no house for them and the weather
\was severely cold. Two bolts of homemade domestic was put about the ends and side of the
shed side of the barn. There the family kept very warm. They had no fireplace and the fire
was built just on the side of the entrance on the north. As soon as the weather would permit
a log house was built and their lives assumed their usual pioneer ways.
A few years later this structure was supplanted by a house built of lumber, which was hauled from Jefferson, which had then become the market place for the people of
North Texas. About the same time this latter building was erected Mack Wright also built a
plank house. At the early days these two buildings were noted as fine structures. The frame
of the Horton building is still on the same spot where it was erected.
Speaking of Mack Wright, Mrs. Horton could not refrain from telling about the two Riley
brothers of Wire Gr__ prairie, who sold a bunch of cattle to Mr. Wright and had come to collect. They were invited to take dinner at the Wright home and they accepted. A carpet was encountered at this place, a thing not before introduced into the community and the Rileys were unused to them. When the second brother reached the front door he found his brother at the fire place and some calico, as he thought, between them. He did not know how to get over the “thing” on the floor, so he enquired of his brother how he managed to get over, to which he replied: “I cleared it at two jumps.” “Well,” said the other, 'if you jumped it I can too,' and over he leaped, joining his brother at the fire place.
Monday following the arrival of this family in Hunt county was New Years but to them it was no more than any other day. A little later Mrs. Horton’s brother, R. P. Merrill, who lives at Corley, with others surveyed or rather laid off Greenville, a small part of it. Mack Wright had given 100 acres for the city to build on but only a small portion of it was laid off into lots. As soon as it was possible for
them to do it, Mr. Horton, Judge McDonald, Wm. Richie, Jas. Tischnor and brother,
John Hubbard, Lindley Johnson, Jas. McGaughey, Mr. Henley, Mr. Oldham, Mrs. V. A. King's
father, (who died recently in Abilene) and a few others, went about erecting a court house.
This was the first to be erected in the county, and was on the west side of the square, about
where the Murphy-Miller Co.’s store is now. Mrs. Horton prepared the dinner for those who were building the court house. This was early in 1846, when the war with Mexico was in progress. Mrs. Horton is especially proud of the fact that she cooked the meal for those men. She was a good cook and the dinner was enjoyed by the hardy pioneers.
The court house was built of hewn logs. The floor was made of puncheons and the seats also were made of split logs, the upper side being smooth to some extent. The legs to the seats were made of small saplins. There were two doors, made of four foot boards, and three windows which had board shutters. At that time windows such as in use today were unknown. There was one room only to this forerunner of the present structure. It was used for any and all kinds of public meetings. There court was held, preaching, school and occasionally a dance was held in it. Rev. Culver was probably the first to preach in the new court house. John Granger, the first county surveyor, taught the first school in it and the first to be taught in this vicinity.
This structure stood for some five years when it was abandoned for a house built of lumber
which was on the square between the present court house and the Greenville National
Exchange bank corner. A little later a brick building was erected where the court house now
stands but it was torn down shortly after it was built and the material with some boot, was
swaped for a brick on the lot, now occupied by the Boykin establishment. The building swaped
for had been used for a Union church house. This brick was used for several years when
it was disposed of and a more commodious house was erected on the square, which was
About the time the first brick was built a jail was also built. A. J. Hefner, father of
our townsman, Judge A. H. Hefner, contracted to build it for $997.75, but when
it was completed it had cost Mr. Hefner about $300 more than the contract specified.
This the county afterward repaid him. A description of the first jail by Judge Hefner we
append:The building was only 14-17 feet from wall to wall on the inside and this was divided
into two rooms by a partition wall. The walls were two feet two inches thick, eight and one
half feet high and consisted of three separate walls, the inner and outer walls were of hewed
postoak timber 10 inches square and stood six inches apart. The space between the two was
filled with the third wall which was also of hewn postoak 6 inches thick by ten in width
and set on end, thus completely filling the open space between the outer two. The partition
wall was of the same material as the outer and inner walls. The foundation upon which the
structure rested was made by digging a trench 20 inches in width the length of each wall
from outside to outside, into each of which were set two solid rows of bois d’arc block 34
inches long and of sufficient diameter that the two rows measured 26 inches across the top,
thus being the same width across as the thickness of the walls to rest upon them.
The lower and upper floors were of hewn postoak 10 inches square, crossed with oak boards
two inches thick, spiked down with 20 penny nails driven one and one half inches apart and
the spaces between these were filled with small nails driven every half inch square.
There were four windows 12 inches square with iron grates two to each room and these were
the only means for either light or ventilation. There was a strong door in the partition
wall between the two cells, thus connecting them together. The only other door to either of
the rooms was an opening in the upper floor called a “trap door,” with two shutters, one
opening downward from the lower side and the other upward from above. Prisoners were lowered
into the cells below by means of this door and taken out in the same way, but as to the means
used for this purpose I do not now remember. It may have been that a light ladder was kept
in some convenient place (?) as occasion required.
Four posts were set in the ground at the west end upon which was a platform some four feet
square about the same height as the upper floor. A rough stairway came from the ground
to this platform which by means of a door in the gable gave access to the trap door used
for entering the cells below.
If you can imagine a pen built of hewn logs nearly square, walls about 11 feet from bottom of
till to top of plate, two small grated windows in the sides,
an ordinary shingle roof without cornice of any kind, a gable which is reached by a rough
pair of steps you will have a very correct idea of the general appearance of Hunt county's
first prison house. My recollection is that it was situated on North Johnson street,
west of where the jail now stands.
Court had been held in Hunt county previous to the building of the court house.
Judge Mills of Red River or Bowie county, Mrs. Horton did not remember which, held court
under a large oak tree in the north part of the city and it is said that the tree still stands.
It is related but likely without any reason, that lawbreakers were tried under the tree and
hanged to its branches.
To emphasize the lack of population in this immediate vicinity we might quote the late James
C. Harrison. He stated and frequently laughed about getting lost about where Greenville
now is. He came here to a barbeque. He got tired and went to a wagon nearby, crawled under
it and went to sleep on the grass. About night he awoke. The wagon was gone and the people
also who attended the picnic. The grass was about as high as his head. Not being acquainted
with the county he was lost.
Mrs. Horton recalled an incident which occurred about 1848 or 1849. Cooney Wilson and son,
Jim, and ___ started west from Sodom. When ___ about Wise county Indians sw(ooped?) down upon
them. The father and ___
were killed outright but Mrs. Wilson and three sons were taken alive. (The?) boys were
recovered later by the government and returned to this secti(on?) ______ Martin Hart,
a noted character of the county. But Mrs. Wilson rem(ined) some three years with the savages
(be)fore an opportunity came for (her) escape. When the time came she ___ it. She got lost
in Red River bot(tom) northwest of Paris and was found t(here?) by some one who took her
to Paris. During her stay with the Indians they taught her to ride. They would put her on
a wild horse and let it go. After a few hard falls she learned to stay on and thus became
an artist at horse riding.
When the Horton’s arrived at their place near this city there
was a store on Sabine about 2 1/2 miles below where they settled. The main line of goods
was whiskey and this line was covered by a single barrel. Whiskey was always the principal
stock kept by the frontier stores. To explain the importance of whiskey as a stock, Mrs. Horton stated that where a bolt of clothes was found there was also a barrel of whiskey.
The first store put up in Greenville was erected and kept by a Mr. Shaw. The cabin, for
it was no more than that, was located three doors west of the southeast corner of the
square on the south side. It was built of logs. The next person to locate as a merchant
was the party who had previously kept store on Sabine mentioned above. From then on now
and then a new store was put in and added to the growth and prosperity of the community.
The first hotel was kept by Jas. Sampson. It was located on the corner where Davison's store
now is and was built of cedar logs. It was somewhat below the level of the Beckham in point
of commodiousness and comforts but it served the purpose of those days.
Upon their arrival the Horton's found A. F. McDonald, afterward a prominent citizen of the county, and family,
living near the Horn burial grounds, and Thomas Henley nearby. Also Mr. and Mrs. Enloe. They
probably lived a half mile away south. Wm. Richie, Tom Tenison, Chas. Warfield and John Hubbard were in this vicinity and they were soon joined by Sandy Merrill, Mack Wright, A. J. Hefner,
Henry Wall, Mr. Aiken and others. There was a great influx of population from then on and the
county filled up rapidly, so to speak.
The first school house was built somewhere about where
the cemetery was started and where it now is. Mrs. Shaw, wife of the merchant, was first to
succumb to disease and was the first to be buried in what now is East Mount. The next to
join her ____ city of the dead was John Granger, the next John Brisindine, next Mrs. Sallie
Hamilton, mother of the late Asberry Hamilton, and then two young women who died from attacks of fever. Mrs. Shaw died from an attack of fever. The first burial took place about three years after the Horton’s settled here.
The 4th of July, 1847, Mrs. Horton gave a barbeque, the first in Hunt county. It was given at their home and was attended by 100 people. Every thing was furnished by the Hortons except two chicken pies, furnished by neighbor women. Hams were barbequed and Mrs. Horton furnished plenty of light corn bread. Those attending came from all parts of the county and some from Hopkins county, Lamar and Fannin counties. This was a very big gathering for those days.
Their three children born in Tennessee were: Billy, Susan, afterwards Mrs. Hawkins, and James. Paralee was the first born in Texas. She and Sarah were born in Lamar county. Sarah married Crawford Simpson. Alpha was the first born in Hunt county who married N. A. Kimbrough. Mrs. Horton has many grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has three great, great grandchildren.
Mrs. Horton has gone through sorrow and privations
during her long life but the most serious was the death of her husband which occurred
March 23, 1860, just before the beginning of the civil war. He was born in 1811, and
followed the frontier all the days of his life. Mrs. Horton’s place became a refuge
for veterans about the close of this bloody conflict. She had plenty for those days and none
of them went empty handed away. She had sons in the army and she loved the cause of the Southland.
She related that during the war she had occasion to talk to a neighbor about
the shearing of 700 or 800 sheep and in the course of the conversation he remarked that
she must have considerable money as she had sold $500 worth of steers, and $100 of this
and $100 of that and now had a great many sheep to shear. A stranger overheard the
conversation and in a few nights she was disturbed. Going to the door she saw some
one in the moonlight drop behind a tree. She aroused some of the family and the party
ran away. Her son John, who was unable to be in the army at that time, got up and tried
to load the only gun, a rifle, on the place. He could not get the ball down to the
powder but down enough he thought to do good work. They did not wait long until the
party appeared from another direction. When he got close enough the son opened up on
him with the rifle but the ball wounded him only slightly. The dogs were put after
him and the daughters brought an ax into play but then the fellow got the best of the
chase. A neighbor, A. F. McDonald, heard the shots and surmised that something was wrong.
He thought he heard a horse running and shortly the man passed in a run, making as much
fuss as a horse. This running was what he heard. The party was afterward caught and sent
to the army. Afterwards he deserted and joined the Federal army.
Mrs. Horton says she was not brave. One night during the war no one was with her
but small children. There was much talk of the negroes uprising. Consequently she
was easy to catch onto anything that looked out of the ordinary. She happened to look
toward the field. She saw what she thought was a negro raise his head. He lowered it.
Then raise it again. By this time, she was scared badly. She took up her little child
which had the measles and led another one or two into the high oats nearby. The oats were
wet with dew which made it very dangerous for the sick child. She remained there as long
as she dared to and then returned to the house. The negroes head was still where she saw
it before. Then she knew it was their horse which had been staked out there without her
An incident what happened during the war was related. It appears that a company made up largely of men from this county was located at Bonham about 1863.
A number of soldiers who were members of this company had furloughs and were in and
around Greenville for a short stay. They were tired of army life and decided to go
to Mexico. Arrangements were made and Chris Arnold, Jim Garrison, Leonard Garrison,
Joe Roby, Jake Dunn, George Capeheart, John Hunnicutt, John Hughes and several
others made up the identity of the party. Mrs. Hunnicutt remained behind and later
left to join them at their destination. She returned in a year. She had found no
trace of them. It is supposed that they were butchered by Indians. The nearest news
they had from them was a little pony carried away by one if them. It turned up here
after some time but it could tell no tales of those it accompanied away.
Mrs. Horton is passing the remaining years of her life away near this city,
dreaming of those happy days, days of sacrifice and privations, but to those who
passed through them, the happiest days the world ever knew. Long may she dream of those days.
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