SOURCE: Cross, F. M., A Short Sketch-History from Personal Reminicences (sic) of Early Days in Central Texas, Brownwood, TX: Greenwood Printing Co., 2nd Ed., June, 1910.
PREFACE: Having been solicited by my many friends to write up a short sketch-History of the early settling of the central part of Texas, I have decided to give the reader a brief account, from my own personal reminiscences, of the very earliest happenings in the territory now divided into the seven counties as follows: Milam, Bell, Coryell, Lampasas, Hamilton, Comanche and Brown.
This little book will give you some idea of the hardships the old pioneers had to bear with and the privations they underwent; it also tells something about the game that was found in the country, and the Indians and their depredations.
As I never thought of writing a book like this until very recently and am doing it almost entirely from memory, I may possible make a few mistakes with regard to names and dates, but should any occur they will be honest mistakes and will make little or no difference in substance.
Hoping that the following pages will give general satisfaction and prove of interest to those who may read them, I am,
F. M. Cross
A Short Sketch-History Containing an account of the early settling of the portion of Central Texas comprising the Counties of Milam, Bell, Coryell, Lampasas, Hamilton, Comanche, and Brown.
I was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, in the year 1834. My father moved to the State of Missouri when I was but a child and from there came to Texas landing in the town of Cameron, in the fall of 1846. Cameron was the county seat of the most western organized county of that belt of country. The improvements of the town consisted of a court house made of clapboards a hut 14x16 feet in size; one dry goods store kept by C. N. Huby, and one grocery store run by Uncle Joel Blair, who died long ago in the town of Belton. I would guess the capital stock of those two stores combined would have amounted to $600, though the supply was sufficient for the population at that time. The population of the town was C. N. Huby and family, Joel Blair and family, and one Mr. Iglebarger and family, who lived in a log cabin, and as people were passing by that way they got dinner with him, so his house was called the hotel. There was a family by the name of Stokes living a half mile from the store, who claimed citizenship in the town, and we were willing to recognize him as a city lad, for he had the only mill to grind meal for us all and every man had to do his own grinding. It was a steel mill and run by physical power.
These four families, with one Dr. Flemmin, who was a bachelor, constituted the population of the town until our arrival, which added four more families to it, to-wit: J. M. Cross and family, T. J. Nabors, wife and two children, Uncle James Blair and family, and one Mr. Trotter and wife. This man Trotter put up a shop and went to work and being a fine gunsmith, was kept busy, as everybody had to have firearms in good condition in order to protect themselves from the red men.
When my father landed in Cameron he bought two lots and paid for them with a brace of pistols that cost him $12.50 in Springfield, Missouri. On one of those lots he build a log cabin in which we lived during that winter and the spring of 1847. A great many emigrants came into this part of the State and located on the Brazos and Little Rivers, so my father, desiring to go a little farther to the front, sold those two lots for $25, thinking he was doing well to double his money. The sheltering in the log cabin through the winter paid for the erecting of it, (but let me say just here that I was in Cameron about twenty years ago and the two lots with the frame buildings on them were worth three thousand dollars.) We went on up the Little River and stopped in what is known now as the John L. Marshall Valley, and there build another log cabin and planted a little corn crop on Knob Creek, near the Pilot Knobs, and made good corn without any fence. We kept the buffalo run off through the day, there were no other stock nearer than the three forks of Little River, and they seldom came down there, so in the fall this crop was gathered and we moved nine miles above the three forks of Little River and settled on the Lampasas River, on what is now known as the old Shanklin Ranch, about 30 miles west of Cameron, which was still under the jurisdiction of Milam county.
I am just giving you a history of the sparsely settled wild country, as it was when I came to it. As to the wild game, there were buffalo, bear, deer, antelope and all kinds of smaller game from the lobo wolf down. The rivers were full of alligators and fish of all kinds. My father bought and settled four places in the country before Bell County was organized. During that time we had a little school one mile above the three forks of Little River taught by Ed. Flint, who has long ago gone to his reward. I will give the names of all the pupils of that school as far as I can recollect, that are still living, to-wit: W. B. Cross, now of Brown county; S. E. Wills of Bell county,’ Joel and W. B. Blair, and Mary Blair of Bell county, Mary Blair’s maiden name was Roberts and myself. These six are all that I can say are now living. Though from a short letter in the Belton paper, written five or six years ago by W. B. Blair, giving all the surviving ones, I think there must be a few others, if I could locate them.
When my father settled on the above named ranch, he and Uncle Jack Nabors were the extreme frontier settlers on the Lampasas river. Below us, on the Leon river, there was a widow Taylor, living in what is still called the Taylor Valley. At the three forks of Little River was Mose Griffin, below him was the Fulcher Colony. Nat Shields, Jeff Reed and wife and William Reed; they were all in that immediate settlement. Just below the Reed Settlement were John Dunlap, John Earley, and Uncle Bob Childress, who died near Temple, several years ago. Still on down the river was old Major Bryant. That place was called Bryant’s Fort, as it was a place of resort for the above named settlers in time of Indian trouble. On Donaho Creek, in the southeastern part of Bell county lived an old man by the name of Wills – his given name has slipped my memory. He was the father of W. R. Wills, whose widow lives near Killeen. Also on this creek lived Uncle Billy Connell, the father of Geo. T. Connell of Brownwood.
Now as emigration was coming in so fast we decided to organize a new county. I leave it with citizens of Milam county to figure up the difference between 1846 and 1910, and hope that some one there may write me at Blanket, Texas, giving an estimate of the population of your county at the date of this book.
As to the Indian troubles, I will not say anything about that, except when it may be necessary to speak of them in some particular incident, as the Wilbarger History of the Indian Depredations in Texas is so true that no man living can give it more correctly.
Shortly after my father moved to the territory of Bell County, some men he knew matched a wild race on some fine horses; stock that had been brought from the Old States. I was a ten year-old boy at the time and my father being somewhat of a sportsman, had trained me to ride races. I know this is no credit to me, though it is a fact. The race took place down on Little River near the old Fort Bryant, mentioned previously in this book. One of the parties, Nat Shields, asked my father to let me go down and train his horse about three weeks and ride the race for him. On the day the race was run Captain Ross of Waco and his little boy, Sullivan, were there, also John Harmon of Cameron; each of these men had brought a fine horse, running stock. They were short distance horses and had a five hundred yard race to run the next week. Mr. Harmon asked me to go with him to Cameron and ride the race for him, which I did. Captain Ross came over from Waco the day before the race, bringing his horse and his rider, Sull Ross, his boy. The race track was one mile below Cameron on Little River at what was then called the Monro Tracks. On the day of the race everybody was there. The people would go as far to a horse race those days as they will now days to a show of any kind. When we got on the race track the judges were arranged at each end of the tracks, and Sull Ross and myself mounted the horses. Harmon had hold of the bridle just at this time, he gave me a dollar and said to me: “Tell that boy that you will bet him a dollar that you win the race”. By the time I had spoken the words Captain Ross handed his boy a dollar. We gave the money to old Uncle Willis Bruce to hold for the winner. I beat the race by twenty-seven feet. Here I can say I won the dollar off of a boy who in after years made one of the best Indian fighters Texas ever had. It was he, Sullivan Ross, that rescued Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured by the Indians at the old Parker Fort. After the Civil War he served the people of Texas as Governor. Sull Ross, as he was always called, was a good friend of the writer and I am glad to hear of his honored life. He was the president of a High School in East Texas when called to his reward in the great beyond.
Indian Depredations in Bell County in the Spring of 1857
A new settlement was being formed in the Northwest part of Bell County near Sugar Loaf mountain, by homesteaders and newcomers who were not familiar with Indian warfare. During the light moon of April, 1859, the Indians raided this settlement and killed a man by the name Pierce, and Mr. Riggs and his wife, and captured a boy of Riggs’ and two little girls, but these escaped.
Mr. Pierce, Mr. Riggs, Mr. Elms and a few others lived in that settlement near Sugar Loaf Mountain. Mr. Pierce and Mr. Riggs were engaged in hauling cedar from a nearby cedar brake and it was his custom to wait the coming of Pierce each day when they would proceed to the brake with their wagons. On this sad April morning Mr. Pierce, accompanied by a small boy by the name of Dave Elms, - Mr. Riggs not being ready to start, - drove down toward the cedar brake which he had scarcely reached when the Indians sprang from ambush, surrounded his wagon and killed him. While they were killing Pierce the boy attempted escape by running, but the Indians pursued and captured him. When the Indians ran into Pierce, Mr. Riggs had started with his wagon, but on witnessing the attack he abandoned his team, ran home and taking his wife and three children, started to his brother’s place which was within sight of his home. All this was in full view of the Indians and when they had murdered Pierce and captured the boy, they turned their attention to the fleeing family. Leaving one of the bucks to guard the boy Dave, they overtook Mr. Riggs’ family, killed and scalped Mr. and Mrs. Riggs and carried off the two little girls, leaving the boy unhurt. After having committed this atrocious deed the Indians returned to Mr. Riggs’ home and took such articles as suited their fancy and that they could carry off. When the savages caught the boy, Dave Elms, they stripped him bare, and because he resisted they whipped him unmercifully with a whip made of cow’s tail. The Indian who was left to guard him, became deeply interested in the tragedy just then being enacted and when his whole attention was fixed on the slaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Riggs the boy made his escape. After his escape the first man he met was Mr. Ambrose Lee, he lived in the little settlement and lives today on the same place, a venerable old pioneer and respected citizen. Mr. Lee seized his gun and hastened to where Mr. and Mrs. Riggs had been killed and where he found their mutilated bodies, and the little babe crawling around in the blood of its parents. Mr. Lee was the first man to reach the scene of the tragedy; A. M. Wood was the second. After plundering the Riggs’ home, the Indians went south about ten miles taking all the stock that came in reach, then turning west they came in sight of a man on horseback. Four of their number gave chase, killed and scalped him taking his horse and all his effects. The Indians driving the herd of stolen horses passed along near the body of this unfortunate man while he was yet alive and the little girls who had witnessed the chase and killing, heard his groans as they passed the dying victim of savage ferocity. The man’s name was Peevy.
The Indians had out spies on each side of their course and after traveling some distance, their spy on the north side reported a body of horsemen approaching. They immediately changed their course and took down a rough hollow, in order to keep out of sight of the horsemen discovered by their spy. Each of the Riggs girls were mounted behind an Indian. The savages were going on a run, and the smallest girl fell off. The elder girl fell off. The elder girl saw her fall and seeing the Indians made no effort to get off, she jumped off. The Indian she was riding with grabbed for her and caught her by the clothing, and held for some distance her head and arms almost touching the ground, finally she grabbed a brush and held with such strength that her skirt tore off and was left in the hands of the savage while she was left bruised and bleeding on the ground, the Indians having no time to look after their captives. This brave girl made her way back to where her little sister had fallen. It was now late in the evening and the air was chilly. The little child had sustained bruises in her fall on the rocks but with her sister’s aid was able to travel. They began the toilsome journey in the direction they had come. After nightfall they came to a vacant cabin, abandoned by some pioneer, in which they passed the night. The little child complained of cold and hunger, and, although there was no food to be had, the older sister, herself but a child, showed the qualities of a Texas heroine. She removed every vestige of her clothing and wrapped the shivering form of her little sister forgetful of her own comfort, thinking only of her sister’s comfort.
Next morning the little girls followed a path which led them to another vacant house where they found that the occupants had just left, frightened away, probably, by the Indians, leaving all their household goods. With lacerated and swollen feet the children could go no further. Some time during the day a man came to the house who had not heard of the Indians being in the country. He placed the two girls on his horse, walked and led the animal and took them to Capt. Dameron’s, where they found quite a number of people forted up. Here were a few men for protection. The others had gone in pursuit of the Indians. Here at Capt. Dameron’s the girls were cared for until they were delivered to their relatives. DaveElms has been known ever since that fatal day as Indian Dave Elms. I do not know where the girls live at the present time.
At the time of this tragedy I lived in Comanche county, but after the civil war I moved to Bell county, where I met Dave Elms and he gave me this account of the circumstances.
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NOTE: F. M. [Francis Marion] Cross was the son of James Madison Cross and Lucy N. Bailey. F. M. was married three times: (1) Mary A. Watson, (2) Mary Angelina Wilkins & (3) Nancy Cox.
We must say a special thank you to Jerry Caywood of Rockdale, Texas, for typing the above for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 7 Jan 2005 and last revised on ____________