Poorville and Witt's
Also Once on Dallas
By W. S. ADAIR
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.
- November 2, 1930,
The Dallas Morning News,
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."
Auto Section, p. 1; cont. on p. 3, col. 2.
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