Dallas Man Tells
of Indian Fights
Henry C. Clark's
With Captain John B. Denton
Came to Town in
Early Farmers Around
Restricted Their Crops to Wheat
By W. S. ADAIR
(Submitted by Don O.)
father, A. J. Clark, settled in this part of the country not
a great while after the much-trumpeted advent of John Neely Bryan,"
said Henry C. Clark, 1022 East Seventh Street. "He
was here early enough to take part in the battle with the Indians
on Village Creek, which, I think, was in 1841, and to vote in
the county seat election of 1846. He voted for Cedar Springs,
in preference to Dallas. He came from Tennessee. My
mother, Sarah Myers, was a daughter of the Rev. David Myers,
a Baptist minister, who must have arrived about 1846. My mother's
oldest brother, the Rev. John Myers, was long a pastor at Carrollton.
When he first arrived, my father took a headright survey
of 320 acres, all of which, is now within the city limits of
Log Cabin Days
"Our home was near Carrollton,
where I was born in 1850. The town of Carrollton did not
come into existence, however, until the Dallas and Wichita Railroad
was built. The early settlers in this part of the country
were, as a rule, poor people, and drawn hither by the free lands.
A single man got 320 acres, and a married man got 640 acres.
They settled in as compact communities as the circumstances
would admit, in order that they might make as strong a defense
as possible against the Indians. They lived in log cabins,
with clap-board roofs. In default of nails, they used logs
to hold the boards on the houses. The doors swung on wooden
hinges, and were secured by a wooden latch, which was operated
from the outside by a string. When the string was pulled
in, the door was supposed to be locked. Hence, the saying
'the latch string is on the outside' became a figurative expression
for hospitality. Window glass was as scarce as hardware,
and the windows of the houses were simply little doors turning
on wooden hinges.
Poor Farming Country.
"The early settlers were under
the impression that corn and vegetables would not grow here,
and for a long time, their farming operations were confined to
wheat, which they grew in fields strongly fenced, in order to
keep the deer, the cattle and the wild hogs from eating it. John
Huffhines, living near Alpha, was the first, so far as I know,
to plant corn, about 1856. The result of his experiment
was such to explode the theory that corn could not be produced
in Texas, and to encourage others to try corn. Hamp Witt
ran a mill on the river at Trinity Mills, and Mr. Bird, a mill
on White Rock Creek, 10 miles north of Dallas. Bird's Mill,
I believe, was the first to grind corn.
"I saw Dallas for the first
time in 1856. My father brought me to town and gave me
a pair of red-top boots. Although the town was less than
a year old, it looked wonderfully big to me. The mare we
rode on this trip must have been a good one, for I remember that
my father refused an offer of $100 for the colt that followed
her. But, my boots constituted the outstanding feature
of the trip. I could hardly believe they were mine. When
I retired that night, I put them under the bed, and during the
night, I got up seven or eight times to ascertain if they were
course, heard much of buffaloes and Indians. I saw some
of the settlers who fled from Parker County when the Indians
raided that region. A number of them came as far as Dallas.
My father was in the campaign against the Indians on Village
Creek. The Dallas and Fort Worth Interurban railroad crosses
Village Creek a few miles west of Arlington, and the battle took
place, according to my understanding, not far from the crossing.
Indian villages were strewn along the banks of the creek,
and from that circumstance, the stream took its name.
Battle of Village Creek.
"The Indians, who were defeated
in the battle, fled in all directions, and, in order that as
few as possible might get away, Gen. Tarrant, who commanded the
militia, and who held that there were no good Indians, except
dead ones, divided his men into squads to pursue them. My
father, and nine others, were in a squad commanded by Capt. John
B. Denton, a famous orator and Methodist
minister, who had settled in the republic in 1836. This
squad followed the Indian trail as far as the Trinity River,
where they stopped to drink and to water their horses. Some
of the men who had no hope of overtaking the fugitives, were
in favor of going back and taking a more promising trail, but
Capt. Denton declared that he was going to continue the pursuit
till he ran the savages to earth. He had scarcely announced
this determination, when an arrow, shot from ambush, pierced
him. After a single discharge of arrows the Indians took
to their heels. Capt. Denton survived his wound but a few
minutes. One other man, whose name has escaped me, was
slightly wounded in the arm. The men wrapped the body of
their dead leader in a blanket and buried it. In 1860,
it was exhumed and given final burial on the Chisholm Ranch in
Denton County. Denton County, and the town of Denton, were
named for Capt. Denton.
"In 1862-3, I attended school
in Dallas. I boarded with Mrs. Keith, who had come from
one of the old Southern States to remain for the period of the
Civil War, which was then raging. My teacher was Prof.
Henry Bishop, who held forth in Odd Fellows' Hall near the old
Katy passenger station, on Pacific Avenue. Tom and Bev
Scott and W. H. and K. Hall were among the boys who shared floggings
with me in that pioneer institution of learning.
Begin in a Small Way.
"The first settlers had little besides
the land which was given to them. In fact, nothing but
poverty, coupled with the hope of bettering their condition,
could have induced them to venture to such a dreary wilderness.
Since farming was out of the question, as I have already
indicated, their only hope lay in cattle. But, for lack
of capital, they were slow in laying their foundations. Some
of them brought a cow or two with them, and after that, as fast
as they could do so, they imported additional cows from East
Texas and Arkansas. The original stock in this part of
the state at least did not consist of native cattle. Nor, were
all longhorn cattle in Texas descendants of the Spanish breed.
The horns of any breed of cattle will, from generation
to generation, increase in length in a hot climate, and, as
their horns increase, the bodies of them will diminish.
It has been
demonstrated that Texas steers matured on the coast will average
800 pounds in weight; matured in North Texas, they will average
1000 pounds, and in Montana, 1200 to 1400 pounds. Hence,
it paid to drive Texas yearlings north to mature them, whether
on grass or corn.
"There were few big herds
of cattle in Texas before the Civil War. But, during the war,
there was no market for cattle, and, it was to that circumstance
that John Chisholm of Denton County was one of the first big
cattle owners. His single-bar ear mark and fence rail brand
were known far and wide. Just afer the war, he moved his
cattle to Lincoln County, N. M. Beginning in 1869, I made
10 trips over the trail, selling my cattle at Baxter Springs
or Chetopa. It hardly paid to start over the trail with
less than 1,000 head. For that reason, most of the early
drovers were buyers, and not raisers. In those days, yearlings
were worth in Texas, $3; 2 year-olds, $5; cows and 3 year-old
steers, $8; and older steers, $10 and $12.
On the Trail.
"It required about 10 men
to handle a herd of 1,000 head. Every herd started up the
trail, developed in two or three days, a leader, usually a steer,
but sometimes a cow. And, right behind the leader, went
three or four others, as if in line for promotion for first place,
in case anything happened to the leader. It was the custom
to let the cattle graze two or three hours in the morning, and
then head the leaders in the desired direction and to keep them
moving until midday, when a stop was made for another grazing
period of two
or three hours. After that, the movement re-commenced and
continued till evening. Three men were kept on duty all
night to prevent the cattle from scattering. It was the
business of the men on the last watch in the morning to start
the cattle on the move. Breakfast over, the wagons passed the
cattle and, going ahead, went into camp for the noon stop, and
after dinner, they again went forward and found a camping place
for the night. The movement was ordinarily at a rate of
10 or 12 miles a day.
"There was not always sure
money in taking cattle over the trail. When the owner made good
time and lost no cattle, he usually came out ahead. When
the herd stampeded and scattered, and he lost heavily in both
time and cattle, the outcome was not so satisfactory.
- June 10, 1923, The
Dallas Morning News, part 3.
"The first settlers found the prairies
covered with sedge grass, which, so long as it was young and
tender, made excellent pasture, but, when it got old and dry,
seemed to have no more nutriment in it than the shavings from
under a carpenter's bench. But, it grew tall and thick
and kept the ground so warm, that cattle found young grass sprouting
under the hay all winter. But, in all places where the
sedge grass was closely grazed, mesquite grass sprang up, and,
gradually spreading, choked the sedge grass out and took possession
of the prairies. What the mesquite grass was doing when
it let the sedge grass have the country in the first place, seeing
that it is the stronger, is a question which I will leave to
those who have more time and better facilities than I have for
sifting such matters.
- o o o -