Tells of Trek
To Duck Creek
Near Present Town
E. B. Basye Gives
on Frontier Times
BY W. S. ADAIR
the roads were white with covered wagons headed west when we
left Jefferson City, Mo., to come to Texas, in 1871," said
E. B. Basye, 1418 Lindsley avenue. "Some of our relatives
who had preceded us, had settled on Duck Creek in Dallas County,
and had long been urging us to join them. At first, we
thought of making the trip by steamboat, down the Mississippi
and up Red River to Shreveport, and the rest of the way by wagon.
But, friends who had just returned from Texas, easily persuaded
us to come overland in the regulation way. We, accordingly,
set out in a four-horse wagon -- mother, Brother Will and I.
"Economically, things had
been at a standstill in Missouri, since the beginning of the
Civil War. The little towns were dead as so many doornails.
Nobody had patched a roof, painted a house, or whitewashed
a fence in ten years. It was, therefore, as uplifting as
sunrise to get out on [the] highway and fall in with the procession
of people, bound for what they hoped, was a better land, at least,
for a land that could not well be worse than the one they were
"We rolled along at an even
pace, day after day, camping by the roadside at night, and brought
into the field of vision as we went, one after another, a thousand
things to make a country boy stare in wonder. But, all
that we had previously seen, dwindled into insignificance when
Baxter Springs, Kan., came swelling on the view.
Typical Boom Town.
"Baxter Springs was on the
main stream of movers from points north of Mason and Dixon's
line to Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, and was the
trading point for buffalo hunters, and one of the markets for
cattle coming over the trail from Texas. There were not
houses enough to shelter one-tenth of the people, nor room enough
on the streets for them to get within the corporate limits.
"Wagons took their places
in long lines to await their turn at the supply houses, which,
with different shifts of men, worked day and night and kept company
during the black hours with the saloons, gambling houses and
dance halls. The long-haired medicine man, who performed
sleight-of-hand tricks to attract attention, held forth on one
corner, a wild-eyed preacher pleaded with the wayward aggregation
of emigrants, cowboys, Indians and Mexicans a block farther on,
and, what was known as a 'fakir,' stood on a box just across
the street and cried up a magic soap, guaranteed to remove, by
a mere touch, any grease spot from coat, vest or hat, while the
horse traders wrangled and disputed not far off and the fiddles
squeaked in the saloons.
"The bow-legged cowboy, under
white hat, was everywhere, getting about with mincing step, caused
by wearing boots that were too small. It seemed to me that
every man carried a pistol, hung on him in such a way that he
could get hold of it in one moment, and not a few of them carried
two pistols, or guns, as they called them, by way of emphasis.
Indians Were Harmless.
"People coming to Texas always
arranged at Baxter Springs for company on the journey through
Indian Territory. They had an idea that the Indians were
still on the warpath. We had thirteen wagons in our train.
We saw few Indians, however, and these were the most inoffensive
beings in the world. They sat motionless on the ground,
gazing into space.
"We came over what was called
the military road, which, I think, was known also as the Preston
trail, and met one herd of Texas cattle after another on the
way to Kansas. The trail movement of cattle was at its
height at that time. Thus animated, Indian Territory was
a beautiful country. The villages or settlements, at which
we touched, were Russellville, Stringtown, Boggy Depot and Little
Blue. At Russellville, we mailed our first letter home,
telling the folks where we were. We crossed Red River on
a barge, which had room for two wagons, and which was propelled
by all hands tugging at a rope stretched from bank to bank. Limited
as his facilities were, the ferryman must have been coining money,
for his boat ran day and night, and never caught up with business.
"Denison was not yet on the
map, but Sherman was on a boom almost equal to that enjoyed by
Baxter Springs. In fact, the items that went to make up
its activity were the same as those constituting the life of
the Kansas town. Both were frontier towns without railroads.
Paris, Texas, was also a flourishing trading point of the
same class. McKinney, a quiet old county seat, was the
only town between Sherman and Dallas. At Plano, there was
a store and a blacksmith shop. All the way from Baxter
Springs to Dallas, we, every day, saw the stage going each way.
First Trip to Dallas.
"We reached our destination
on Duck Creek, Nov. 23, 1871. One building constituted
the village of Duck Creek. The lower floor of it was occupied
as a general store, and the upper, as a schoolhouse and church,
which several denominations used [on] Sunday. The village
was two miles from the present site of Garland. We had
as neighbors, the pioneer families of the Joneses, the Keens,
the Straits, the Davises, the Smiths, the Jacksons, the Nashes
and the Strothers. We, at once, made arrangements to grow a crop
the following year.
"I made my first trip to Dallas,
just before Christmas, 1871, and, believe me, everything I had
seen at Baxter Springs and Sherman was here in exaggerated form.
The village had few buildings, but, what it lacked in buildings,
it more than made up in tents. There was a whole town of
tents on the west side of the river, where people [coming] to
trade had gone into camp. The streets were so jammed with
wagons and pedestrians, that there was no getting about, and
the wagon yards, numerous and extensive as they were, every day,
turned away long trains of applicants for space. Grain
and cotton were coming in from all directions; and, long trains
of wagons lashed two or three together, and drawn each by six
mules or horses or a dozen yoke of oxen, brought buffalo hides
and meat from the west.
"The cheapest item of food
on the market was dried buffalo meat. The teamsters occasionally
brought along a live buffalo calf to show the people what a buffalo,
in the small, was like. The ferryman at Dallas seemed to
have one of the best things in town.
"The extraordinary stir at
Dallas was due to the fact that two railroads were headed this
way. The Houston & Texas Central was completed to Corsicana,
and the Texas & Pacific, to some point west of Longview;
and, Dallas was already virtually the terminus of each. Some
of the merchants who had come north with the construction of
the Houston & Texas Central had already moved to Dallas,
and others came when the road got here in July, 1872. The
people, for fifty miles, came to see the first train run into
Dallas, and they all went home telling of the wonders they had
beheld -- and, incidentally, advertising the rising town. The
Texas & Pacific was completed to Dallas about a year later.
Here, construction was halted by the financial panic of
that year, but the West offered cattle in so great numbers, that
they could not be handled at Dallas. The road solved the
difficulty by running tracks out to Eagle Ford, where cattle
could be held indefinitely on the open range. Eagle Ford
took on a boom, and soon developed into a typical frontier town.
- March 16, 1930, The
Dallas Morning News,
"After making one crop on
Duck Creek, we moved to Dallas. My brother Will, and I,
started a job printing office, and one of our enterprises was
to print a newspaper for Eagle Ford, the Eaglet. We got
it out in our office in Dallas, and delivered it by carriers
at Eagle Ford. But, it never grew to be a full-fledged
Eagle. Something happened to it when it was still in the
"The newspapers in Dallas
were the Weekly Herald, owned and edited by John W. Swindells,
and the Weekly News, owned by Gen. John G. Walker, my uncle.
The News, however, died in infancy. General Walker gave
it up to become immigration agent of the Texas & Pacific
Railroad, and never could make 'the ghost walk,' except in the
most limping manner. He was a polished and prolific writer,
but seemed to be lacking in business shrewdness. The News
out of the way, Mr. Swindells turned the Weekly Herald into a
daily publication, which was the leading morning newspaper of
North Texas, until it was absorbed by The Dallas News, in 1885,
a short time after The News was established.
"Dallas was the livest [liveliest]
town in the Southwest until the Texas & Pacific Railroad
was extended from Eagle Ford to Fort Worth, in 1876. The
trade of the entire West and Northwest was immediately transferred
to the new terminus, and Dallas began to languish. Some
of the leading business concerns, and fully half the floating
population, followed the railroad. Nor, did conditions
show much improvement until the middle '80s, when The Dallas
News started, and the State Fair was opened."
Automobile Sec., p. 7, col. 1-4.
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