Yesterday's News In Tarrant
Articles from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 11 Nov. 1923
Transcribed by Rob Yoder
OLD-TIMER RECALLS THRILLS OF EARLY DAYS
Fort Worth Deserted Village in '51 When George Harris Came
When George L. Harris, 80, came to Fort Worth in the Spring of 1851 as a boy 7 years old, there were two deserted Indian villages within what are now the city limits. One of the old villages was strung out in a thin line from the Trinity River through that section of the present city now occupied by negro quarters. The other village was where the packing plants are located on the North Side.
The frames of the wigwams built by the Caddos had been left when the remnant of the tribe was moved to a New Mexico reservation a year or two before. The portions of the wigwams that were standing when Harris moved here were the willow frames constructed of light poles stuck in a trench in the ground in a circle several feet across and bound together at the top with grapevines, and portions of the mud and twig covering that the weather had not brought to the ground. In each frame was a small aperture serving as a door about two feet wide and three or four feet high.
On Rabbit Hunt.
The winter following his arrival, he and some other small boys were out hunting rabbits with their dogs in the deserted village located in the place where most of Fort Worth's negroes now live. The dogs ran some kind of animal into one of the old wigwams and then were afraid to go in after it. The boys thought they would drive out the animal by setting fire to the long grass.
The grass was waist high in most places over the county. It was of most luxuriant growth. Harris related, and was sufficiently dry to burn readily. As soon as the grass started to burn the flames leaped beyond control of the small boys and burned the entire village. It spread over the hills that Fort Worth is built upon and burned nearly to where Lake Worth is before the men in the little frontier village and army post were able to put it out.
The Indians who had lived in the wigwams were a peaceable tribe. They never went on the war path. The whites often made use of them as trailers, according to Harris. "They were similar in disposition to the Tonkaways," he said. "In that they were far different from the Comanches, the tribe that dealt out misery on the frontier.
Lived Near Courthouse.
Harris lives at 2004 Clinton Avenue. The first place he lived here was one-half mile from the courthouse near the former location of Bewley's mills.
In 1852 his father, Arno L. Harris, and an uncle, John Farrar, bought a house on a section of land on Village Creek. Their interest in the land and the house was sold five years later to Col. M. T. Johnson, who was connected with his son in Fort Worth. No money passed in the sale as cattle and mules were taken in trade. It was this same Johnson, according to Harris, who established Johnson Station. The land belonged to Porter King at the time of his death, Harris said.
George L. Harris was born Aug. 3, 1844, seven miles southwest of Duval's Bluff in Monroe County, Ark. In 1849 he came with his father, mother and family to Shelby County, Texas en route to join a wagon train going to California, which had started from a point several hundred miles to the north. When word was received that everyone in the train had been massacred by Indians west of Fort Scott, Kan., the Harris family decided to remain in Texas.
Moves to Ranch.
From Shelby County the family moved to Ellis County, and later to Tarrant County.
When the Village Creek home was sold Harris moved with the cattle and mules to a ranch 11 miles southwest of Fort Belknap. The mother and small children were left here as the senior Harris did not wish to expose them to danger at the hands of the Indians. G. L. Harris stayed on the ranch until the Winter of 1860 when he returned to Fort Worth. At the time his mother lived where the Chevrolet plant stands now. The house they lived in had been built by a man named McClelland.
Harris joined a regiment commanded by Pete Ross, a brother of Sol Ross, and did not return to his old haunts until June 25, 1865, when the war had ended. He is a member of R. E. Lee Camp, United Confederate Veterans.
Was With Pete Ross.
"I joined the outfit of Pete Ross, who came from Waco with some men at the beginning of the Civil War." Harris related. "Ross was collecting men at Dallas from Denton, Kaufman, Ellis, Tarrant and other counties to form the Sixth Texas Cavalry. I joined in time to vote for him as colonel. It was June 6, 1861, that I joined.
"I got to Arkansas and was turned back at Little Rock on account of my youth. Several of us who were just boys were given passes to go back. We didn't want to and turned up in Cabell's Brigade in time to get into the Jenkin's Ferry fight. Then I got into Dick Gano's Brigade. He was a Kentucky man a nephew of John Morgan, and died 10 or 12 years ago. I was in the fight at Pine Bluff, Duval's Bluff and was up in Kansas a while. At Lone Jack, Mo., I had a horse killed under me while I was in Captain Moffett's company.
"At the close of the war I was in Houston with Baylor, the man who killed General Wharton in his own office. Wharton had drawn a sword on Baylor and got shot for it. A bunch was sent to arrest Baylor. When they started off with him about 500 of us turned out and announced that Baylor wasn't going to be arrested. We were too strong for argument and Baylor went West. He was never tried, and never could have been as long as his own men were around him.
"I was always a buck private in the front rank and never held an office in my life. The nearest I ever came to having an office was one time when I almost got to be overseer of a road. I didn't want that job.
"The infantry and walking in general never did appeal to me." Harris said. "I had rather bo on a horse and have to curry him a week than to walk in the mud with the infantry. I never did walk when I could get out of it."
"I Never was shot but once in my life, although I was shot at a plenty," Harris said. "It was about 30 miles the other side of San Angelo when I was a Ranger under Captain Ratliff.
"I was riding along when all of a sudden a Mexican rose up and shot me in the right leg. I was up and on my horse in a few days and rode with my coat under the leg until it got well.
"I was in a hurry to get into some fighting that was on the docket and didn't want the rest of the outfit to kill all the Mexicans before I got there. It happened about 1868.
"I joined Captain Ratliff's outfit at San Angelo. The first 10 months took me up and down the border close to El Paso, to Deming and Silver City and on the Brazos, Wichita and Colorado Rivers. I was transferred to Captain Baylor's outfit and then back to Ratliff's. I joined in 1865 and was discharged finally in 1869 at San Angelo.
Plenty of Ammunition.
"When we were nearly off the map on some trip and an army wagon train came by we took off of it whatever we wanted in the way of food and ammunition. The trains couldn't get anywhere unless the Indians were kept off and as that was our job then, we could get whatever we wanted. We were furnished all the ammunition we wanted to shoot.
"At Big Springs, about 1869, some Indians came down and drove off 300 or 400 head of big-footed Northern horses that a colonel and his outfit had there. He sent a man to Sweetwater to get word to San Antonio that he needed some help and some horses. About that time Captain Ratliff with 28 Rangers came along and we got back all the horses.
"Ratliff went to the colonel and told him that if he couldn't take care of himself he had better go back to the white settlements. He called the colonel an old fool.
"Some of the army outfits were too slow in getting started to do any good against Indians. You had to be quick and alive to get them. Most of the army commands were splendid against the Indians and the Rangers and the army officers got along well together in co-operating in fighting the Indians.
Some Officers Green.
"Some of the officers were green at fighting and didn't know any more about frontier life than a hog does about a side saddle. Old General Miles lost a couple of dozen wagons once at Abilene when some of his men took off and left him. Some soldiers had to go out and get wagons and take them to Colorado Post."
"I never knew of but two Comanches being captured alive during the long years they were raiding." Harris said. "One of them was a child and the other was one whose easy capture I witnessed. On the other hand I have seen them fight with the utmost heroism to the last ditch when odds were against them and die rather than suffer capture. The Comanches were as brave a race as ever trod the soil or straddled a horse. They would rise from the death agony of a mortal wound to take one last shot or pass with a knife.
"It was in 1858 while I was on my father's ranch 12 miles southwest of old Fort Belknap on the Clear Fork of the Brazos that I witnessed the capture of a grown Indian. I was spending the night at the Harmason ranch a few miles away. During the early part of the evening the dogs bayed something in a little tree a short distance from the house. We took lights and went to investigate, thinking the dogs had a coon. We didn't know it was an Indian until the light spotted him crouched on a limb a few feet higher than our heads.
"He had become separated in some manner from his party, had lost his horse, and nearly starved to death. He saw the light at the Harmason ranch and was making for the house when the dogs, who never did have much use for an Indian when their master was white, ran him into the tree. I don't guess we would ever have made his acquaintance if he hadn't been so hungry.
"We took him into the house, fed him, and then tied him so he couldn't get away. We didn't give him much to eat because we were afraid of killing him, he was so poor. Every once in a while he would make a noise and indicate he wanted more to eat by smacking his lips.
"The next day we turned him over to the soldiers. They let him eat his fill and he died.
"At the ranch house that same night was a man named F. M. Peveler. Peveler now lives near Granbury. He came to Fort Worth in 1852. He was 80 years old last April. I haven't seen him in about 40 years, but he promised to visit me during the Diamond Jubilee."
"Fort Worth always was a healthy town," Harris related.
"In 1860, the year the county seat was moved from Birdville to Fort Worth. A. B. Norton moved here from Dallas and established a newspaper called the Fort Worth Sheaf.
"There was hard feeling between the two villages on account of the articles Norton published in his paper. He played on the fact that Fort Worth was a healthy spot. He sang of the charm of frontier village and induced many of the Dallas people to move here.
Here's how Fort Worth looked in the 50's, according to Harris.
"Grass waist high, grew all over the countryside where Fort Worth now stands when I first saw the settlement in 1851.
"At the fort, where the soldiers were stationed, there were two buildings 200 feet long that were used as barracks. Two buildings about 20x30 feet were used as commissaries. The larger buildings were located where the old jail stood. The commissaries were where the present jail is located.
"A log house stood on what is now Commerce and Belknap Street. There was another house on Samuels Avenue where the old cemetery called Pioneer Rest is located. It belonged to Henry Daggett, a brother of E. M. Daggett. It was in that house that Charles Biggers Daggett was born.
"The county seat was at Birdville.
"About two dozen families lived within a five-mile radius of the fort. None lived north of the river.
Worth Sold Land.
"A squatter named Worth sold the land on which the fort was established. Worth had a claim to the land and sold it to Col. M. T. Johnson. Worth then lived on what is now Weatherford Street. When he sold the land he moved to a place on the Clear Fork and built a pole house in a thicket near a spring that is now dry. A doctor named Fields settled across from the Worth place. Field's family still retains the original homestead land.
"M. G. Ellis lived where the Fort Worth Packing Company's plant is now located.
"A man named Oldham had the first store here. It was a log building located two or three doors down the square from the present Exchange State Bank.
"Old man Louckx, the father of Charley Louckx, lived where the Carnegie Library is built.
"A few years later a family named Robinson settled on land where the big packing plants are built.
"I was in a number of Indian fights," Harris declared. "One of the first ones I got into was while I was on the ranch southwest of Fort Belknap in the Spring of 1860, the year I went back to Fort Worth.
Indians Steal Horses.
"A bunch of Comanches who had been raiding down in Palo Pinto County, came across the Clear Fork of the Brazos near the ranch and seeing our horses, made off with them. All the ranch hands including myself, shut themselves up in the corral and watched the Indians. They circled around us several times at a distance of about 300 yards and then departed.
"I set out to get help from the neighboring ranches. The Harmason ranch had about 15 men and the Duff ranch, where Oil City is now, had 10 or 12 men. Captain Buck Berry of the Rangers, who later lived near Graham, was camped not far from the ranch with 30 Rangers under his command.
"We took in after the Indians and after a chase of one and a half days caught them at the head of the North Prong of Big Elm, between 75 and 80 miles from the ranch. We tied into them like they were a bunch of prairie chickens. Jack Harmason and Frances Peveler were in the gang with us. The Indians numbered about 150 and there were 123 of us. We got our horses back.
"Captain Harris, a very small man, was out in that part of Texas most of the time then. It didn't take a big man to make a good one.
"I was signed up with Capt. Arch Ratliff, but I didn't care what outfit I went with. One was about as good as another. When the Rangers started off anywhere there they picked up as many men around as could go. We made it mighty hard for the Indians to stay in any one place very long. It was every white man's business when it was the business of one.
"The Indians were as thick as grasshoppers and were all over the country in the light of the moon. They were about the only neighbors we had except the buffaloes.
"All the men within a 50-mile radius were signed up with the Rangers as "minute men" and were ready to drop whatever they were doing when the call for aid came. There were not enough men on any one ranch to fight raiders and it was only by co-operation that the forays of the Comanches could be dealt with.
Charley Reeves Killed.
"In the Fall of the same year I witnessed another fight on Rock Creek in Young County in which Charley Reeves was killed. In the Fall of 1859 I was at old Fort Davis in Shackelford County when two men were killed.
"In the winter of 1860 a good fight came off at the head of Cedar Creek. Two Rangers and seven cowboys killed one Indian and recovered 30 head of horses which had been stolen from the Chester ranch at Carter's Crossing and from the Duff ranch where my father's was."
"It was a sight to see an old-time stage leave one of the stations." Harris smilingly remarked. "As often as not part of the mules that were hitched were as wild as a prairie flower and about as gentle as a wildcat with the toothache. The wild mules would be thrown in with several gentle ones to make two or three spans.
"Then the lines would be slipped and the stage with the passengers inside holding on for dear life would leave in a cloud of dust with the wild mules kicking, pitching and running like the devil. Speed was what they wanted and they sure got it at times," Harris said.
"The stage would roll out pitching like a log in a whirlpool during a rise, the drivers would be throwing the whip to the mules and pouring it on.
"Mules were used on the West Texas stage lines because no selfrespecting Comanch would ride one of the darn things and the teams could be turned loose during the night without fear of the Indians running off with them. The mules were bought in bunches of 100 or more at $8 and $10 a head.
"In those days the mail came from Dallas to Fort Worth. A man named Frank Adams had the contract. The mail was brought over by two men in a hack. Mail going west connected with the California stage line at Fort Belknap. The mail came from Shreveport to California through Fort Worth. It took four weeks for a letter to get to the Pacific coast.
"West of Fort Belknap the stage line was guarded by detachments working to the Colorado River and to the Pecos River. It took about 100 men to guard the line."
[A photo of George L. Harris accompanied this article, however it did not reproduce well.]
Cynthia Ann Parker Wild, Harris Says
George L. Harris, 80,was an Indian fighter, Ranger and Confederate veteran. He was a Tarrant County pioneer. The following is taken from his story of thrilling, interesting experiences of the early days.
"Cynthia Ann Parker was as wild as a snake when she was captured by Sul Ross and she had to be tied hog fashion to a horse to move her," Harris declared. Sul Ross was in command of the men who effected the capture.
"When Tonkaway trailers had located the Indians Ross sent a part of his outfit across the river to come up back of them so as to prevent them getting away by going down stream. I was in the outfit the lieutenant took across. We had to go three miles down stream before we could cross. We heard firing and got to the scene just as the last struggling Indians were being shot at.
The capture was made above old Camp Cooper on the south prong of Red River."
Many Pioneers Still Residing in Fort Worth
According to George L. Harris, pioneer, whose experiences of pioneer days are vividly related in the accompanying article, the following are some of the early pioneers some still living in Fort Worth. Included in the list are early settlers, Indian fighters and Texas Rangers:
Maj. Ripley A. Arnold.
BORN IN TARRANT COUNTY IN 1849,
She was born in Fort Worth in 1849.
"I would like to know whether or not anybody now living in Tarrant County was born earlier than that. I believe I am the first white child born in Tarrant County." said Mrs. Charles Mitchell, radio fan of Haslett, who came to The Star-Telegram office with her husband to shake hands with the Hired Hand. Mitchell has been in Tarrant County 67 years and his wife has been here 74 years.
Mrs. Mitchell was the daughter of Seybourne Gilmore, who came to Fort Worth in 1847 and was the first county judge of Tarrant County. He held the first election which declared Birdville the county seat of Tarrant County and two years later, in 1857, presided when Fort Worth was voted the county seat.
Several Killed in Elections.
"While my father counted the votes he could hear the reports of pistols on the outside. Those were wild times and several killings resulted from the excitement of the election." the pioneer recalled.
Mrs. Mitchell was born in the house built on the land granted to her father as a pension by the Texas Government after the Mexican War, in which he fought.
Charles Mitchell is not a newcomer, having been in this county 67 years. His mother, Mrs. John A. Mitchell, lived in the old barracks when Charles was a baby. She taught music in those early days and brought the first piano into the wilderness town. It came by water to Shreveport and an ox team brought it on to Fort Worth at the end of its three months journey.
Married 51 Years.
"We've been married 51 years." the kindly old gentleman said, with a twinkle in his clear blue eyes. They are a lively old couple, even at their advanced age. He enjoyed telling of how they were married in 1872 when "It was no trouble to get a license, but it was a different matter finding a preacher." After making two attempts he found an aged magistrate who performed the ceremony. "And, it stuck just as well as if a preacher had done it." he laughed.
"Why don't some of those old timers tell more about the teamsters who drove the wagon trains, I wonder. They were characters in those days. They were the carriers, the newspapers, the information bureaus of all kinds. The only one I can remember was Hunt Kelley. He was a great fellow to the boys. He went out into the world and got wise and we would listen to him by the hour."
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell have two daughters, Mrs. M. F. Quayle of Smithfield and Mrs. F. L. Green, Denver Avenue, North Fort Worth.
Owned by Westmo'lands'
Recalls Early Days
By Kathleen E. Houston
Black as the proverbial ace of spades is "Auntie" Ann Steward who lives at 1509 Chambers. She is close to 100 years of age - if not older. She is one of five generations.
The aged negro woman well remembers when her "whitefolks" brought her to Texas in a covered wagon to "get away from the Federals."
Came in Covered Wagon.
"Law sakes, honey, 'cose I come to texas in a covered wagon with my white folks, the Westmolands." she declared.
"Old Aunt Annie mighty nigh 100, I speck. Now, John, that's my boy is gwine on 70 and he be my third one.
"My white folks run us from Tennesee theys scared the Federals gwine to kill old marse. My folks good to me, never had to work till freedom come. We left John's papy back in Tennessee, his folks wouldn't sell him.
"About 50 of us darkies come with old marse. Plenty eat, plenty wear, plenty everything, old marse done good to us.
"Want a story, law sakes child, what you want dis old mammy to tell you? Once I's gwine to meetin, four five others, too, in a ox wagon. Black boy named Nelson drivin dem oxen dat smell water, and law dey sho' done some runnin. Nevah stop till dey got to water neither. We sho' thought our day had done come. Didn't get to no meetin' neither.
"Dances? Sho' the boys say I'se a fine dancer. Done dance all night wid a tumbler water on my head. Swin' dem partners, cut de pigeon wing, I sho' could dance!
Ku Kluxers Then, Too.
"The Klu Klux done come one night. Dey sho' try to scare us, say dey want a drink. What did dem fools do but drink two water buckets, yes,m each one. Scared at first but soon es we got use to dem we knowed dey couldn't hold all dat water in dar stomaches.
"Day say, `We's just from hell,' sho' was ugly. Nevah hurt us none.
"Durin the war dar aint no coffee, and we parch corn meal. Make good coffee, too.
"Ah brung John to Texas wid me. Old marse hired us out to Mrs. Betsy Moore. I'se right good at spinnin' an' weaving. Miss Betsy done spun an' made John his fust pair breeches. John had been gwine round in his shirt tail all dat time. Miss Betsy sho good. I nevah washed no dishes nor cooked. I washed my hands an' et. Cose I was a fine spinner.
"Went to go back to Tennessee about time we thought de war was ovah. When us all got to de ribber de yankees done took de town an' we come back!
"Dem was de days. I sho would like to libe dem ovah again."
This page was last modified 12 Oct 2005.
Tarrant County TXGenWeb