Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   
To Dallas County Archives main page
To list of published Wm. Adair columns, 1920-1925, 1926-1933
To list of transcribed Wm. Adair columns

Early Editor
Tells of Trek
To Duck Creek

______

Thriving Village Site
Near Present Town
of Garland.

______

Indians Harmless
______

E. B. Basye Gives Data
on Frontier Times
Around Dallas.

BY W. S. ADAIR

     "All 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 leaving.
     "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.

Early-Day Newspapers.
     "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 nest.
     "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."

- March 16, 1930, The Dallas Morning News,
Automobile Sec., p. 7, col. 1-4.
- o o o -