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

Forgotten Town
of Breckenridge
Near Richardson

_____

Poorville and Witt's Mill
Also Once on Dallas
County Map.

By W. S. ADAIR

     "My father, M. M. Thompson, moved from Georgia to Texas, in 1848, and settled near old Beckville, Panola County, and there I was born, July 10, 1855," said R. M. (Dick) Thompson, of Carrollton.  "My oldest brother, A. R. M. Thompson, came to Dallas before the war and worked in Joe McConnell's blacksmith shop, and after the war, he opened a shop of his own at Breckenridge, one mile west of the present town of Richardson, Dallas County, where I joined him in 1867.
     "Breckenridge, named for John C. Breckenridge, the Kentucky orator and statesman, was on the route traveled by freighters between this part of the country and Jefferson and Shreveport. Brother had all the work he could do, mending broken-down wagons, shoeing horses and mules, and pointing and sharpening the few plows that were in use in that locality.  Breckenridge was a live village.  Besides the blacksmith shop, it had a postoffice, a general store, and was the point where the stage drivers stopped and changed horses.  Mr. Martin, the merchant, handled many lines of goods, wet and dry; in fact, ran a sort of department store.  In those days, almost every grocer sold whisky by the pint, quart and gallon, and conducted a kind of Piggly Wiggly for those who cared for merely a drink or two.

Handy With the Six-Shooter.
     "Among the occasional visitors at Breckenridge were Bill and Joe Collins, who lived six miles northeast of Dallas, and Bill Pettitt of Dallas.  There were always a lot of empty sardine and oyster cans in the rear of the store.  These, I used to throw up for the Collins brothers and Pettitt to shoot at.  These pistol-experts seldom missed a can, and Bill Collins often shot two or three holes in a can before it came to the ground, knocking it every which way.  Mrs. Scantelon, wife of Jim Scantelon, who owned the race horse, often joined in these feats [of] marksmanship, and could easily beat them all, except Bill Collins.  She was also a good fiddler, and took time about with the boys in playing for the dances at Breckenridge and surrounding settlements.  She was always on hand at the Saturday races, ready to put up $5 to $10 on the horse she had a hunch would win.
     "Jim Blewitt, afterward, a well-known lawyer of Dallas; John Roland, Tom Peacock and Marion Johnson, were regularly engaged in the freighting business from Jefferson and Shreveport, and I made a number of trips with them.  They traveled several wagons together, so that if a wagon got stuck in the mud, they would have teams enough to pull it out.  The average time for the round-trip was six weeks.  Often, the streams were up, and it was necessary to wait for them to run down.  On one trip, we camped three weeks for East Fork to get low enough for us to ford it.  Red River sometimes had so little water in it, that steamboats could not get as high up as Shreveport, much less to Jefferson.  At such times, stocks of merchants at those places ran low, and the freighters had to wait until the boats could move once more.  On such occasions, the price of everything was marked up.  I remember that flour once rose to $18 a barrel.
     "Jefferson and Shreveport were flourishing towns in those days -- as wild, I suppose, as river towns ever got.  Blackjack Grove, now Cumby, on the upper road, was the highlight on the way.  In some unaccountable way, it got a bad name in after times, but when it was in its zenith, it never struck me as harboring any more depravity than any other frontier town of its size.  To be sure, it had dance halls, gambling houses, horse races, and the men consumed great quantities of red liquor, and had fallings-out and killed one another. But, in what one of these particulars did it differ from any other town in Texas?

Old Snapshot of Dallas.
     "I visited Dallas for the first time in 1868.  The Crutchfield House, no doubt, the finest hotel in the northern half of the State, was the only frame building in the village.  The rest of the houses, including the courthouse, were made of logs.  But, a little later, in the same year, I think, two or three one-story brick buildings were erected, one of them, on ground now covered by the Court Records Building, and later occupied by W. M. C. Hill as a grocery, and another about the middle of the block, on the east side of the courthouse square.  The third was the Wagner Building, on the southeast corner of Main and Jefferson streets.  Louis Wagner occupied the building as a grocery as long as he lived, and then passed the business to his sons, who have continued it, to this day.
     "There was very little land in cultivation.  Few settlers had more than ten acres under fence.  There was no market for farm products, and, until the northern markets were opened, very little for cattle. There was not grass enough, from about Wills Point, east, to graze large herds of cattle, and that rendered Shreveport and Jefferson unavailable as markets for any great number of cattle.  Besides, the woods of East Texas were full of ticks and mosquitoes, which made prairie cattle, unused to such annoyance, crazy, and caused them to stampede in all directions.
     "In 1873, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, then building north out of Dallas, made a station at Richardson, and the postoffice, and everybody living or doing business at Breckenridge, a mile away, moved to Richardson.  My brother, however, moved to Pilot Grove, Grayson County, where he got work in the blacksmith shop of Major Stuart, who had been an officer in the Confederate Army.  And, brother John and I moved west, and bought a tract of land from R. C. Mounts, on the line of Wise and Jack Counties, in the upper cross timber, eighteen miles northwest of Decatur, paying him $1.50 an acre for it.  We were living there in 1874, when the Indians raided that locality, and what is known as the Lost Valley fight took place.

Lost Valley Indian Fight.
     The Comanches, to the number of seventy-five or eighty, put on their war paint and invaded Texas.  They had rounded up a considerable bunch of horses and were making for home with them, before the settlers were aware of their presence in the country.  The first settlers to assemble, about twenty in number, made an ill-advised attack on the invaders before the rest of us could reach them.  In the skirmish, Bill Glass and Bill Bailey, and five other settlers, were killed and several others wounded.  The settlers fell back in surprised disorder, until they met our contingent, hurrying to their aid. The Indians, who were well armed and good fighters, held us off until after dark, when they picked the best horses out of their stolen herd, and leaving their own, made for the reservation.  There is little doubt, that if our entire force of about seventy men had been there at first, the Indians would have got the better of us.  When old-timers tell you that Indians would not fight, they are bragging, do not know what they are talking about, or else, they mean that an Indian with nothing but bow and arrows, and tomahawk, did not foolishly step out in front of a white man with a good rifle.  Why should not Indians have been good fighters, seeing that they had, for some millions of years, made a specialty of fighting, of getting rid of fear, and of toying with death?
     "But, not liking the cross timber country, brother and I moved to Cooke County the year after the Indian fight, and from Cooke, drifted back to Dallas County, arriving here in time to get interested in, and to witness, the great turf event, on the Trinity race track at Trinity Mills.  Jim Scantelon, as I hinted a while ago, had what was locally considered, the fastest quarter horse in the world, a nag we were all ready to back against all comers with our bottom dollar, and whatever smaller change we had about our clothes.

Sam Bass' Sorrel Mare.
     Sam Bass, then unknown to fame, appeared in the community with his celebrated sorrel mare, which he had brought from Indiana, and gave out that he was looking for a race.  He and his friends happened to have money enough to cover all the bets the Scantelon crowd could put up.  People assembled from far and near to see the race, and, incidentally, to double what cash they could raise.  As it was only a quarter race, it was soon over.  The Indiana horse won by a length.  I got off light, as I had only five dollars to put up on the race.
     "After the race, Bass lingered about here, and the next year, took a bunch of Texas cattle over the trail, and after disposing of them, in Kansas, turned outlaw.
     "Trinity Mills was started by a pioneer named Witt, and was, at first, called Witt's Mill.  Long before the Civil War, Witt's Mill had a still and a general store, in connection with the mill, and Snyder Kennedy owned and operated a blacksmith shop there.  A settler named Poor got the postoffice named for him, so that Poorville and Witt's Mill meant the same thing.  Later, however, the name of the postoffice was changed to Trinity Mills.  But, in 1878, the Dallas and Wichita Railroad made a station a short distance from the settlement and called it Carrollton, and that was the last of Trinity Mills, except the name."

- November 2, 1930, The Dallas Morning News,
Auto Section, p. 1; cont. on p. 3, col. 2.
- o o o -