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Dallas Man Tells
of Indian Fights


Henry C. Clark's Father Fought
With Captain John B. Denton


Came to Town in 1856

Early Farmers Around Dallas
Restricted Their Crops to Wheat


(Submitted by Don O.)

     "My 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 Dallas.

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.

Red-Top Boots.
     "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 still there.

     "I, of 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.

Old Schoolmates.
     "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.

Cattle Accumulate.
     "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.

Native Grasses.
    "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.

- June 10, 1923, The Dallas Morning News, part 3.
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