Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 18, No. 1
March, 1940


Page 12


The student who turns to his atlas to-day to ascertain the location of Miller County, Arkansas, finds it to be the extreme southwestern part of the state bitten out by the Great Bend of Red River. Not so readily apparent is the fact that the contemporary county is the third in a series of political units similarly named and that each of the trio has been situated in totally different geographic areas. The first Miller County was located in what is now southeastern Oklahoma but included within its boundaries the settlements of Pecan Point and Jonesborough on the south side of Red River; the second comprised the area which now lies in northeastern Texas north of the thirty-third parallel of latitude. The first (or "old") Miller County was extinguished as the result of a treaty with the Choctaw Indians and the second died by default when its inhabitants substituted for it the jurisdiction of Red River County in the Republic of Texas. It is the purpose of this paper to trace in some detail the history of the first and second counties, leaving out of the account the annals of the third and last Miller County (created in 1876) inasmuch as its existence does not fall chronologically within the scope of our inquiry.

The history of the first two Miller counties from 1820 until 1836 has remained one of the enigmas of the conquest of the Southwestern frontier. It has been almost forgotten and well-nigh neglected by students of the westward movement. Only one secondary work throws any light into the cul-de-sac. Grant Foreman's Indians and Pioneers furnishes some clues concerning the early beginnings in the region; but Foreman, be it said in justice to him, is not primarily interested in the story of Miller county but in the coming of the Choctaws. He does, however, devote some time to the "squatters" who preceded the Indians into the area east of the Kiamichi. Dr. Angie Debo in her Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic does not show evidence that she is aware of the dispossession of a very considerable white population from their lands north of Red River in favor of the immigrant Indians from Mississippi. Concerning the "second" Miller county (i. e., the one located south of Red River from 1828 until 1836) Dr. Foreman mentions the subject in a footnote:

In this part of what are now Bowie, Red River, and Lamar counties, Texas, the inhabitants who believed they were within the limits of Miller County, Arkansas, subsequently set up a sort of local government, and until 1837 paid taxes at a place called Jonesborough, on the south bank of fled River, opposite the mouth of Clear Creek: . . .1

Page 13

Yet, as we shall see, the "sort of local government" was a regularly constituted county of Arkansas Territory, with its full quota of legally elected officials pursuing with promptness and regularity the forms and established practices of local government, holding courts, enforcing civil and criminal law, collecting taxes and recording the proceedings of the jurisdiction in punctilious form. It is the purpose of this paper to supply the forgotten story of the Red River hinterland from the far-off day when first the southwestward advance of the American frontier came in contact with Spanish Texas until the time of the establishment of the Republic of Texas.



Until 1815 the area comprised in what is now southwestern Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas was one of the more remote sections of the North American continent. Not that it was completely unknown to men of the outside world. French settlers were living at Natchitoches who could recall the time when their fathers had a trading post at St. Louis de Cadodacho. Buried in the archives of the Department of War at Washington were John Sibley's reports on the upper Red River written in 1805 as well as the accounts of the Freeman-Custis expedition turned back by the Spanish at Spanish Bluffs in the summer of 1806. Nor was Punta Pecana—the general name applied by the Spaniards to the region along Red River—unknown to the authorities at Nacogdoches and San Antonio de Bexar; Francisco Viana and Bernardo D'Ortalan yet lived to boast over their cups of the invincibility of their arms which repulsed the Americans. But the land itself was entirely devoid of white inhabitants and few, if any, Indians resided in the area. The Caddos, who since the time when the memory of man ran not to the contrary had lived along the banks of Red River above the Great Raft, had deserted their ancient habitat two decades before to escape the vengeance of their inveterate enemies, the Osages, who (in 1795) had massacred the greater part of the inhabitants of the villages on Long Prairie. Consequently with the removal of their customers the French traders from Natchitoches ceased to visit the land for the purpose of barter. Thus the fertile valley of the Red was left open for the coming of the American frontiersmen bent upon finding suitable hunting and trapping grounds and farm lands.

Into the region of the Great Bend came the customary assortment of backwoodsmen. Hunters from Tennessee and Missouri, contemporaries of Crockett and the aging Boone, threaded the canebrakes along the river and its confluent streams in search of the ubiquitous beaver or pushed out on the adjacent prairies to hunt

Page 14

the buffalo or capture the wild mustang. Close behind followed traders—as William Mabbitt and George and Alex Wetmore—intent upon opening commerce with the plains Indians of farther west. More than six score years have passed since the coming of the first of the "long hunters" to the forest and cane-brakes of the upper Red. Their positive identity has been lost to history. Names there are that might be urged for the honor, but that they are—names. It was only when a party of hunters met with an unusual mishap that contemporary accounts take note of their activities. Their misfortune thus proves to be our good fortune. Otherwise their coming and going would have been submerged, as no doubt did the trips of many of their fellows, beneath the obscurity of personality and the forgetfulness of the years.

The oldest contemporary document which preserves the record of these illuminating episodes is a petition to the Secretary of State of the United States from sundry inhabitants of the portion of Missouri Territory situated between the Arkansas and Iced River, known then as the Little Missouri Township, Arkansas County, and dated August 4, 1817. The events related all occurred, with a possible single exception, in the area now lying in southeastern Oklahoma.

First, in point of time, was an attack made by the Osages on Jacob Barkman, Andrew Robinson and Abraham Anthony in October, 1815. The three had put out to visit a party of hunters who were encamped on the left bank of the Kiamichi and some forty miles above the mouth of the stream were set upon by the Indians. The party put spur to their horses in an effort to outride the marauders but Anthony was overtaken, killed and scalped. Later his skeleton was found; there could be no doubt of its identity since his hat was found hanging on a bush near-by.2 In the following June, a man by the name of John Smith Archils was killed and beheaded, while returning to the camp of his hunting companions, on the west bank of the Kiamichi some fifteen miles above its mouth. Another party of hunters rescued from anonymity by ill fortune was comprised of Henry Jones, Martin Varner and George Creason. They had encamped for a bleak December night, 1816, near the mouth of Choctaw Bayou on the left bank of Red River, i.e., the Texas side; at dawn they were assailed by a considerable band of

Page 15

Osages. Varner and Jones were seriously wounded but all managed to effect their escape although they lost all their camp gear and pelts.3

One other episode involving an Indian attack has preserved for us the records of what may well be the first actual settlement in the area afterward comprised in the boundaries of Miller County. In the summer of 1817 the families of William Scritchfield, Wyatt Anderson, Jonathan Anderson, Joshua Anderson and James Thompson were living in the Clear Creek settlement, near where the stream empties into Red River, some six miles below the mouth of the Kiamichi. June 28, the men above named, accompanied by a negro slave, set out along the Kiamichi in search of buffalo meat with which to feed their families. On the following day as they were returning home, they were ambushed by Osages; Scritchfield was killed and scalped; Wyatt Anderson's arm was broken by a musket ball but he succeeded in getting off alive.4

3Henry Jones was born in Richmond, Virginia, March 15, 1789. The date when he first came west is unknown but as we see he was hunting on Red River in 1816. He married Nancy Stiles, daughter of William Stiles, Sr., in January, 1821. He went to South Texas in the early months of 1822 with his hunting companion, Martin Varner, and settled there two miles west of the present site of Independence. His son, William Stiles Jones, was born near the crossing on the Brazos and claimed the distinction of being the first child born in Austin's Colony. Henry Jones moved in 1823 to the present Fort Bend County, Texas, and located near Richmond, he cut the first road from East to West Columbia and set up the second gin and horse mill in Fort Bend County. He died June 8, 1861, on his farm, eight miles from Richmond. John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, 311. Martin Varner was of German descent (the family was originally named Werner). In all probability he was born in about 1787 a few miles north of the present site of Luray, Page County, Virginia. Tradition says that he moved to Missouri at an early date. W. D. and Lulu May Huddle, History of the Descendants of John Hottel (Strasburg, Virginia, 1930), 48-49. Varner was living in May, 1819, a few miles west of the Kiamichi. Thomas Nuttall, Travels in the Arkansas Territory in R. G. Thwaites (ed.), Early Western Travels XIII, 220. He moved with Jones to south Texas in 1822 and April 22, 1822, was living two miles west of Independence. He was a brother-in-law of Bailey Inglish, first sheriff of Miller County. Daniel Shipman, Frontier Life, 21.

4Among the signers of the petition to the Secretary of State was Bailey Anderson, doubtless a kinsman of the hunters of the same family name. In 1826 he was a resident of San Augustine County, Texas; served as alcalde in 1829. "Life of A. Horton and Early Settlement of San Augustine County" in Texas State Historical Quarterly, XIV, 306 and 310. Jonathan Anderson likewise moved to San Augustine County and participated in the Fredonian Rebellion. Annual Report of the American Historical Association 1919, II (Part 2), 1522. James Thompson was a son-in-law of Caleb Greenwood, one of the earliest hunters along Red River. He first camped there in 1817 or 1818 (Lamar Papers, III, 276) accompanied by his sons-in-law, Hugh Thornpson, James Thompson and Thomas Barron, (McCuiston, Loose Leaves of the History of Lamar County, photostat, University of Texas Library). In 1819 Caleb Greenwood's camp was attacked by Indians but he and his two companions got off with only the loss of their camp gear. (Arkansas Gazette, February 26, 1820.) Greenwood left the Red River section before July, 1825; at least he did not sign the Petition. . . Inhabitants. . . Miller County. . ", Bureau of Rolls, Office of the Secretary of State, although Joel and John Greenwood and Thomas Barron were signers. In 1844 Caleb Greenwood appeared at Sutter's Fort in California accompanied by two sons, John and Britton, reputed to be halfbreed offsprings of a Crow squaw; the three had guided Elisha Stevens' party of immigrants from Missouri to California; later they went to Fort Hall to induce settlers to come to Sutter's Fort. We last lose sight of Caleb Greenwood in 1846, when, in his eighty-third year, he was living in what is now Lake County, California. H. H. Bancroft, History of California, III, 766.

Page 16

Thus by the summer of 1817 the area lying between Red and Little rivers had attracted a small group of permanent settlers. But, as a matter of fact, they had not located on an entirely untenanted frontier. For the south bank of the main stream had a settlement at Pecan Point whose beginning dated from June, 1815. There a trading house had been set up by George and Alex Wetmore. Missourians by adoption, as were the unfortunate hunters and "squatters," they had come to the ancient land of the Caddos (Nanat-scho, the Caddos called Pecan Point) at the end of the Second War of Independence to trade with the Indians. There their tenure was indubitably illegal: if they were in Spanish Texas—and they were although they probably did not know it—they had no business there; if they were upon the public domain of the United States, their presence was forbidden by the terms of the Indian trade laws. In the year after their arrival5 they had been joined by a competitor or associate (the sources are not clear), William Mabbitt, a resident of Walnut Hills on the famous Long Prairie. Besides these traders, Pecan Point, by the fall of 1816, had attracted three families: those of Claiborne Wright, Walter Pool and Charles Burkham.6

East of Pecan Point the next center of population was the Mound Prairie settlement, located west of present day Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas. Thither in the autumn of 1816 had come the Reverend William Stevenson, a Methodist circuit rider, and a party of fellow Missourians. On the river south of the Great Bend, too, were such worthies as Robert B. Musick—"Old Bob," he was afterward called—who, having gone quite native, was content to bury a fine intellect in an Indian camp, solacing himself with whiskey and the embraces of a Delaware squaw; William Berry, of whom nothing good or bad has survived; and Morris May, who was represented by as reputable a person as Stephen F. Austin as being too closely connected with the traffic in stolen horses for his subsequent good name.

Save for Claiborne Wright, most, if not all, of the dramatis personae so far thrust upon the stage had been connected for a

Page 17

time at least with Missouri. Good men and bad men were coming southwestward along a trail that wound as tortuously through the forest of Arkansas and east Texas as does its story through the chronicles of those far-off days. "Trammel's Trace"—as it was called—took its name from Nicholas Trammel, who, with his brood of boisterous sons, contributed much to the lawlessness of the Arkansas frontier in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. When first they dip into the view of authenticated history in 1813 the Trammels were stealing horses from the semi-civilized Cherokees along White River and conveying them down Trammel's Trace to Nacogdoches.7 This ancient trail of theft crossed the Arkansas at the mouth of Cadron Creek and ran somewhat in a southwestward direction to the historic hot springs (which gave name to the present city) and thence almost southward to the site of Arkadelphia. It then crossed the highland between the Ouachita and Little Missouri rivers and reached the latter stream at Nacotoch Bluff; thence it ran southwestward, passing slightly north of Prairie d'Ane—upon which Prescott is located—and through, or near, the site now occupied by Washington to make its way to Red River at Fulton. From Fulton it continued southwestward to Sulphur Fork, swung thence to the old Cherokee village near present day Hughes Springs and then turned southeastward to cross Big Cypress two miles west of modern Jefferson. From that point it curved crescent-wise around the subsequent location of Marshall to come to the Sabine: thence it followed the Panola-Shelby county line of to-day to enter Nacogdoches from the north.8 The exact date when first the trace was notched through the pines of Arkansas and east Texas is lost to history; apparently it appears on Puelles' map of Spanish Texas made in 1807. But its delineation there does not argue that it was "Trammel's Trace" at so remote a time but rather that a trail had been opened by some forgotten Spanish trader or official on his way from St. Louis to Nacogdoches and later Nicholas Trammel found the road advantageous for his nefarious traffic. The American backwoodsmen naturally assumed the free-booter was the first person to use the trace and applied his name to it in the light of what appeared to them a logical conjecture.

Page 18

The prospective settler en route to the mouth of Clear Creek probably diverged from Trammel's Trace at the northwest corner of Prairie d'Ane and journeyed more or less westwardly to William Stevenson's place on Mound Prairie and thence by the subsequent site of Lockesburg to the north side of Little River where it now cuts the Arkansas-Oklahoma boundary.9 Thence the traveler moved up the right bank of Little River to a point nearly north of present day Idabel; there he crossed over and followed the old road to the Clear Creek settlement. A variant route to Pecan Point was offered by the road which ran from Mabbitt's Salt Works (now Cerro Gordo) down to Red River.10

As we peer into the gray dawn of our history in search of some tangible person to assign the honor of being the first American to locate permanently on the upper Red River we must be content with something less than exactness. For these men lived and died with primitive scarcity of record. Even their physical evidences have vanished; their houses have been destroyed by fire or time's slow decay---- their unmarked graves have been levelled with the plow or have furnished the mold from which nature has fashioned forest a-new. The documentary sources are widely scattered and when found are meager and fragmentary but in a study involving so many obscure persons not previously treated it is needful to incorporate every scrap of datum that explains their connection with each other and the land in which they settled. It is better to confuse trees with the forest than not to see the forest at all. With one other word of caution, namely, that it is difficult to determine definitely in all cases whether an early settler located north or south of Red River (which is really a matter of little moment since Arkansas exercised governmental jurisdiction over both banks until 1836), let us proceed to our analysis of the forerunners.

Adam Lawrence may well be given the accolade of priority. Even concerning this noted pioneer we can not speak with certainty although his name is associated by tradition with the earliest settlement on Red River and appears in many and disconnected sources. Such evidence as we have develops these facts about his life. His place of birth is unknown but it probably was North Carolina; cer-

Page 19

tainly he married in that state. His wife, by legend, was a bearer of dispatches at the Battle of the Cowpens and was wounded there. When and by what route he drifted across the Mississippi must remain problematic—probably through Tennessee and thence into Arkansas as did so many others. Beyond question he was a resident of Lawrence County, Missouri Territory (later Arkansas), in 1815. This we know from the list of tag delinquents for 1816 on which he is cited along with Levi Davis, Taylor Polk, and Edward, Isaiah and Abram Wiley, all of whom were afterward associated with early hunters and trappers on Red River. Apparently Lawrence and his neighbors left the White River area late in 1815 or early in 1816 but whether they went directly to the mouth of the Kiamichi must remain another enigma. A slender thread of evidence suggests rather than indicates that Lawrence lived for a year or two—say from 1816 until late in 1817—at the mouth of Mulberry Creek on the Arkansas. For it is known definitely that one of his daughters, Nancy, married William Stiles, Junior, there. Another scrap of information, however, leads to the more logical conjecture that Lawrence himself, if not his family, left Arkansas for Red River in 1815. For in Milam's Registro, James Walters (a later settler) stated that he "settled his land at the place known as Adam Lawrence's in 1815." In an old bill of sale, however, made by James J. Ward, junior, to Samuel Worthington it is set forth "that a certain improvement situated on the south bank of Red River above a point opposite the mouth of the Kiamichi known by the name of Mound Prairie which improvement was made by Adam Lawrence in the year of our Lord 1818 and sold by him to Jesse Shelton" was the land in question. Conceivably two separate parcels of land are mentioned in the variant sources. This much may be concluded from the documents: Lawrence was living at the mouth of the Kiamichi in 1818; he may have built a camp there as early as 1815. Further proof of Lawrence's presence and peril on Red River is furnished by an extract from a letter published in the Arkansas Gazette, February 26, 1820:

In the year 1818, a band of Osages came to the house of Mr. Adam Lawrence, near the mouth of the Kiamisha, and robbed it of the clothing and many other things, and left a respectable family in a deplorable condition, in a wilderness and frontier country.

Among the other early settlers opposite the mouth of the Kiamichi were Caleb Greenwood and Philip Henson. Thomas Ragsdale, who with his father, William Ragsdale (the Ragsdales arrived in 1818), was one of the first settlers in the Kiamichi sector recalled in later years that Greenwood and his sons located at Jonesborough(used in a general sense for the area opposite the mouth of Clear Creek) in 1817 or 1818. The unidentified writer of a "Visit through Texas in 1817" says: "In 1818 I visited what was then known as Jonesboro . . . and there was also a settlement of four or five families, old man Greenwood and his sons and sons-in-law, Law-

Page 20

rence and Henson." In addition to the Lawrences and Greenwoods should be listed Mansel Mason and sons, William Hensley, William Rabb and sons, William ("Cow") Cooper and Ambrose Hudgens who arrived in the Kiamichi region by the summer of 1818. John Chumley seems able also to lay claim to be counted in this group. Concerning the elder Mason we know nothing, but Mansel Mason, junior, was a brother-in-law of Adam Lawrence, junior, Andrew Rabb and John Roberts, each marrying a daughter of William Ragsdale. William Hensley and Philip Henson are frequently confused because of the similarity of their names; a confusion further confounded by their penchants for getting themselves involved in petty litigations with their neighbors; an expensive eccentricity, it would seem, in the light of the fact that they were obliged to carry suits to the county site of Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory, for trial. Each remained in the county for a number of years; both affixed their names to the Miller County petition of 1825. William Rabb, of Pennsylvania Dutch extraction, moved to the Red River area in 1818 and moved across to Jonesborough in 1820. He was accompanied to Clear Creek by his daughter, Rachel, already married to Joseph Newman; and by his sons: Andrew, who married a daughter of William Ragsdale after his arrival on the river; John, who married Mary Crownover, daughter of John Crownover, in 1820; and Thomas, unmarried. The Rabbs, the Crownovers and Joseph Newman immigrated to south Texas before October, 1823. William Cooper was a noted Indian fighter and mustang hunter, whose exploits in these two fields of endeavor became legendary, both in north and south Texas.

While these "squatters" were establishing themselves opposite the mouth of the Kiamichi, the Clear Creek settlement was set up by recent arrivals from Missouri. Here we are upon precarious ground so far as the sources are concerned. The subsequent extermination of Miller County by an Indian treaty rendered invalid the land claims of the settlers and the loss of the county records in a fire destroyed any possibility of accurately fixing the identity of the pioneers and the date of their arrival. Such information as we have must be partially suspect based as it is upon conjecture rather than documents. As we have seen, among the early settlers at the mouth of Clear Creek were William Scritchfield, Wyatt Anderson, Jonathan Anderson, Joshua Anderson and James Thompson, who were living there in June, 1817. We are safe in assuming that the signers of the petition giving the account of the Indian attack on this group were likewise residents of the same locality. Thus we can extend our list to include the names of Bailey Anderson, Walter Pool, William G. Buckles (is this not an error of transcription for Charles Burkham ?), Thomas Williams, George and Alex Wetmore, and Christopher Anthony. Burkham, it is certain, had settled on the river in July, 1816, but rather nearer Pecan

Page 21

Point than Clear Creek. Cornelius Martin, tradition alleges, was an associate of Burkham at Pecan Point, and Walter Pool, it is known, was living there as earlv as September, 1816. George W. Wright's harsh chirography has Jonathan "Coachman" as a settler at Pecan Point when his father, Claiborne Wright, arrived there in 1816; it well may be that the weird hieroglyphics should be interpreted Jonathan Anderson. An addition to the Clear Creek settlement in 1818 was Joseph Inglish; at any rate he was a victim of Indian robbery in 1818—conceivably he may have located on Clear Creek the previous year.11

No other settlement made on Red River prior to 1820 bulks larger in contemporary sources than Pecan Point. George and Alex Wetmore, as we have seen, selected the place as an advantageous site for a trading house in June, 1815. Later they were joined by William Mabbitt, another Indian trader (the date of his arrival is uncertain although it was before September, 1816), and by Charles Burkham, who first settled there in the summer of 1816. The most noted of the early pioneers to locate at Pecan Point, however, was Claiborne Wright. Fortunately we have more than the usual amount of information concerning this eminent fore-runner. For, of Wright, we can speak with assurance.

March 5, 1816, he, his wife, three sons, two daughters and a slave girl embarked upon the keel-boat, Pioneer, at the mouth of the Clear Fork of the Cumberland in Smith County, Tennessee. Six months to a day elapsed before he terminated his long journey at Pecan Point. The story of the long voyage by the way of the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi and Red Rivers, too lengthy to be detailed here, is a thrilling episode in the conquest of the frontier. September 5, after much toil, sickness and loss of cargo by Indian robbery, he brought the Pioneer to anchor at the mouth of Pecan Bayou. Not too soon, for a few days later his boat sank, carrying to the bottom of the river a part of the cargo saved from the Indians. But fortunately Wright was not alone in the wilderness; he found before him the Wetmores, Mabbitt, Burkham, Pool and Jonathan Anderson. In the spring of 1817, he was joined by two nephews, John H. and Willey Fowler, who had ridden across Arkansas, accompanied by Wright's eldest son, Travis.

The story of those early days has been so well told by George Wright (who as a boy of six accompanied his father to Pecan Point) that one can not forbear quotations:

Buffalo was plenty all along the River in all the praries . . . there was no settlement that (I) can Recollect untill we reached Pecan Point

Page 22

where there was an Indian trader and some: two or three white families Just arived in the contry but had Raised no corn no meat only wild meat. . . I think I have seen as many as five fine deer shot down and slain in the yard in one morning . . . if a buffalo was wanted it could always be kiled and delivered at the camp or house the same day and if we wanted fat meat all that we had to do was to (call) Capt Burkhams dogs and could kill a fine bear at any thime to season the lean meats with the skins off the game that gave meat furnished an abundant supply of Coffee and we could go to the woods and find and cut a bea tree and get enough honey to answer for sweetening for the family12

The years 1817 and 1818 witnessed accessions to each of the three settlements on Red River. A good authority makes the statement that fifty families had reached the valley by the fall of 1818.13 While it is not possible to make a complete list of these avant-couriers, a comparison of the names of land applicants to be found in Registro de las Familias introducidas par et Cuidadcvna Benjamin R. Milam and in the Record of the Board of Laud Commissioners (Transcribed), Red River County, Texas, with other fragmentary data, will furnish as definitive a roster as is now available. The list is submitted here with the hope that in time others of the pioneers can be identified and their names added.


1. William D. Steward (Stuart), arrived May 15, 1815, from Kentucky. Registro. He was a "free man of color" and continued to reside in the area until 1840. Bason, Adm'x vs. Hughart, Texas Reports, II, 476-481.
2. George C. Wetmore, arrived June 7, 1815, from Arkansas. Registro. He was an Indian trader. Wright Papers.
3. Alex O. Wetmore, presumably came with his brother, George in 1815; his presence on the river in 1816 is confirmed by the Wright Papers.
4. Jacob Barkman, Andrew Robinson and Abraham Anthony were hunting west of the Kiamichi in October, 1815. "Petition . . . to Secretary of State," AGO, ORD, WDF, August 4, 1817. Confirmed by letter in Arkansas Gazette, Feb. 26, 1820. These men were presumably hunters from farther east; Anthony was killed; Barkman afterward resided near Little Rock; Andrew Robinson, in the fall of 1819, was hunting in the Cross Timbers of Texas with Gabriel Martin and John Hampton. W. B. Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler in Texas, 16. Robinson was one of the first settlers in Austin's colony on the Brazos. Austin Papers, passim.


5. William Slingland, arrived Jan. 18, 1816, a native of New Jersey. Registro. Crossed river in 1820 to Jonesborough. Record of the Board of Land Commissioners (Transcribed), Red River County, Texas (hereafter designated as RBLC). Operated a ferry there after October, 1822. Arkansas Gazette, March 2, 1824.

Page 23

6. Charles Burkhaun, his wife; Nancy (nee Abbott), son, James, and daughter, Cynthiana, arrived July 4, 1816, from Indiana. Registro. Crossed river to reside at the mouth of Mill Creek, Bowie County, Texas, March, 1820. RBLC.
7. George Kermam (Kernall), arrived August 15, 1816, a native of Pennsylvania. Registro.
8. Walter Poole, wife and four children (one of the sons was named Jonathan) were living at Pecan Point when the Wrights arrived in 1816. Wright Papers. "Had just arrived in the country," so George Wright said; probably came with Burkham in July.
9. Claiborne Wright, wife, two daughters and three sons (George, William and Adams) arrived September 5, 1816, from Tennessee. Wright Papers.
10. Jonathan "Coachman" (Anderson), wife and one son were living at Pecan Point when the Wrights arrived. "The Wright Family, Early Settlers of Red River County, Texas" in Mrs. J. J. Arthur, Annals of the Fowler Family, 323.
11. William Mabbitt had set up a trading house at Pecan Point as early as September, 1816. Wright Papers. It is to be doubted that he was actively in charge of the establishment. His residence was at Walnut Hills in what is now Lafayette County, Arkansas. He froze to death near Arkansas Post early in 1820. Ark. Gaz.
12. Martin Varner, George Creason and Henry Jones were hunting on the upper river, December, 1816. "Petition . . . to Secretary of State," AGO, ORD, WDF. Varner and Jones left the Red River area late in 1821. Lamar Papers, IV (Part II), 14. George Wright remembered that Varner, Jones, Creason, John Graffon, Charles Campbell and William Inglish were hunters on the river as early as 1818. Arthur, Annals of the Fowler Family, 323. None were married in 1818. although Varner and Jones married before they emigrated to Austin's colony.
13. Cornelius Martin was traditionally an early settler with Burkham. Lamar Papers, VI, 14.


14. David Clapp, wife, Elizabeth (nee Lawrence), and infant son, William, arrived Jan. 6, 1817, from Tennessee. Registro. Crossed to south bank of river in March, 1820. RBLC. If, as I suspect, Clapp was a son-in-law of Adam or George Lawrence, this is a documentary clue to the actual date of the arrival of the Lawrences on the river.
15. Jesse Morin, a boy of fifteen, arrived Feb. 9, 1817, from Tennessee. Registro. Possibly his father was named Samuel Morin; at least a person by that name signed the "Petition . . . to the President of the United States," Bureau of Rolls, Office of the Secretary of State, July, 1825.
16. Henry Stout and wife, Polly (nee Talbert), arrived May 15, 1817, a native of Illinois. Registro. Stout located on the subsequent site of Clarksville, Texas. He was a mighty hunter, whose connection with the Red River area lasted for nearly seventy years.
17. Joseph Watkins, wife, Polly (nee Miller) and son, John, arrived August 11, 1817; a native of North Carolina. Registro. Located in the vicinity of Pecan Point.
18. Daniel Cornelius, wife, Polly (nee Hathorn) and daughter, Elizabeth (age four), arrived November 11, 1817, from Illinois. He was accompanied by Jacob Stallings, a twelve year old boy. Registro. Cornelius crossed to the south side of the river in 1820. RBLC.
19. William Scritchfield (Scrutchfield), actual date of arrival unknown, but was living with family at mouth of Clear Creek, in June, 1817. He was killed by Osages, June 29, 1817, near the Kiamichi.

Page 24

20. Wyatt Anderson, Clear Creek, June, 1817.
21. Jonathan Anderson, Clear Creek, June, 1817. See Item No. 10.
22. Joshua Anderson, Clear Creek, June, 1817.
23. James Thompson, Clear Creek, June, 1817.
24. Thomas Williams signed the petition concerning the attack on the men mentioned in items 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. "Old Tom" Williams, as he was known emigrated from Red River to the Brazos in December, 1821; he was the father of a large family, none of whom were born in a house but in a hunting camp; he was the father-in-law of Robert Kuykendall. Lamar Papers, IV (Part 1), 216. Robert Kuykendall was probably never a resident of the Red River area; he was associated with the Cadron settlement on the Arkansas, and was trading at the mouth of the Verdigris in October, 1812, with William Inglish and others. Grant Foreman, Pioneer Days in the Old Southwest, 74. Robert, Abner and Joseph Kuykendall along with Andrew Robinson were the first settlers in Austin's colony in October, 1821. Lamar Papers, IV (Part 2), 13.
25. Caleb Greenwood, his sons and sons-in-law were living opposite the mouth of Clear Creek in 1817 or 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. The sons were John, Henry B., Joel and Franklin (all signed the Miller County petition of 1825); the sons-in-law were Hugh Thompson, James Thompson and Thomas Barron. McCuiston, Loose Leaves of the History of Lamar County. As James Thompson was certainly a resident of the Clear Creek settlement in June, 1817, it is a logical inference that the Greenwoods arrived on the river in 1817.


26. William Ragsdale came to the Red River area in May, 1818. Registro. He settled in the Jonesborough section. He was accompanied by a large family, among whom were his sons: James, William Junior, Robert, John, Thomas, Martin H., and Charles; and four daughters, whose given names are unknown but who married: John Roberts, Mansel Mason, junior, Adam Lawrence, junior and Andrew Rabb. William Ragsdale came to Texas from Maury County, Tennessee. History of the Constantine Lodge; No. 13, A, F. and A. M., Bonham, Texas. See also MCuiston, Loose Leaves of the History of Lamar County.
27. Samuel French "took his land at the place known as the Talbott improvement at Pine Bluffs." He came to the upper Red River in June, 1818, from Louisiana. Registro. Apparently he was accompanied by a number of sons. At any rate, Joseph, Levi, Thomas, and Samuel S. (whom we know was 21 years of age in 1818) signed the Miller County petition of 1825.
28. Nathaniel Robins joined the Pecan Point settlement in July, 1818. He was accompanied to Red River by four sons: William, George, John and Joshua; and by four daughters. Registro and Loose Leaves. John Robins probably proceeded the family in search of a suitable location, as he is credited by the Registro with having come to Red River in August, 1817. He later married Cynthia Humphreys. Biographical Souvenir of Texas, 177.
29. John Humphreys and family emigrated to Pecan Point in company with the Robins family. One daughter married John Robins. There was a son, David, but little else is known about the family. John Humphreys died before January, 1821, for in that month Nathaniel Robins applied for letter of administration on his estate from the Court of Common Pleas, Hempstead County, Ark. Gaz., Feb. 3, 1821.
30. Adam Lawrence was living on the Jonesborough prairie in 1818. As we have seen, there is plausible evidence to show that he came to the Red River area

Page 25

in 1815 but for lack of positive data we have placed him among the settlers of 1817 or 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. The noted Indian fighter and mustang catcher was the father of a large family but beyond the fact that his son, John, was killed with his father by the Osages, April 17, 1826, and that a daughter, Nancy, married William Stiles, junior, we have no further information as to their names. The elder Lawrence had a brother, George, who either caste to Red River with him or immigrated there prior to 1825. George Lawrence was the father of Henry and Adam Lawrence, junior. Henry Lawrence was killed by the Indians at the same time as his uncle. Ark. Gaz., May 28, 1826. Two others of the Lawrence family were James and David but their relationship to the men named above is unknown. Miller County Petition.
31. Philip Henson was living at Jonesborough in 1818. Wright Papers. Credited by Ragsdale with having settled there in 1817 or 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. Contemporary documentary evidence places Henson on the river quite early. Record of the Court of Common Pleas (Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory), AA, 97. In December, 1820, he was involved in a suit before the court under the style of Philip Henson vs. Andrew Shaw.
32. William Rabb, his wife, Mary (nee Smalley), three sons, Andrew, John and Thomas (all unmarried at the time), and daughter, Rachel, married to Joseph Newman, came to the Clear Creek Settlement in 1818. Lamar Papers, IV (Part 1), 215. They crossed the river to Jonesborough in 1820. While on Red River, Andrew Rabb married a daughter of William Ragsdale and John Rabb married Mary Crownover. William Rabb and wife went to Austin's colony in the winter of 1821-22. The other members of the family including the son-in-law, Joseph Newman, emigrated there in October, 1823.
33. ------------- Mason and sons were also settlers at Jonesborough by 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. Very little is known about this family. One of the younger Masons, Mansel, married a daughter of William Ragsdale. Loose Leaves . . .
34. William "Cow" Cooper was a hunter on the upper river by 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. He afterward went to south Texas; there in November, 1830, his son, William, junior, was killed by a party of Wacos. Texas Historical Association Quarterly, VI, 317. Young Cooper was said to have been born on Red River (Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas, 209) and was probably thirteen or fourteen years old at his death.
35. John Chumley seems able to claim an early residence on Red River. Clarksville Northern Standard, August 25, 1882. He was probably associated with the Andersons; he went with them to Sam Augustine County, Texas, in 1825. Texas State Historical Quarterly, XIV, 306.
36. Nathaniel Moore belonged to the resident group of 1818. Lamar Papers, III, 276. William Stevenson preached the first sermon on Red River in his home in the winter of 1818-1819. Thrall, History of Methodism in Texas, 13.
37. James Levins, senior, located in the vicinity of Pecan Point in 1818; he was accompanied by several sons, among whom were James, junior, and Joseph; one son, John, was born on Red River in 1818. RBLC, 15, 16, 24 and 55. A daughter, Mary Ann, married George Wetmore. Registro.
38. Joseph Inglish was living at the mouth of Clear Creek in 1818. His father, Charles Inglish, had established Inglish's Station near the famous Crab Orchard in Kentucky; it was one of the "seventeen pioneer stations." Inglish was accompanied by his family, including a son, Bailey Inglish (born in Kentucky, March 4, 1794), who served as sheriff of Miller County, 1821-1823; another son, William Inglish, who married Annie Shelton. A daughter married Martin Varner before his exodus to south Texas. Ark. Gaz., Feb. 26, 1820.

Page 26

39. Stephen Wiley and four sons, three of whom were Indian traders, were living at Pecan Point in 1818. Arthur, Annals of Fowler Family, 323. Two men by the name of Wiley signed the Miller County petition of 1825, Stephen, junior, and Thomas; they were almost certainly sons of Stephen Wiley, senior.
40. Ambrose Hudgins settled on the Jonesborough prairie quite early. Lamar Papers, III, 276. He was a son-in-law of Patrick Kernall, himself reputed to have settled on Red River in 1818. Loose Leaves . . Hudgins was a brother-in-law of a McKelvey (whether it was Hugh, Ezra or James, all of whom were living in Miller County in 1825), is not certain. George Kernall, it will be noted in Item No. 7 above, came to Red River in 1816; Patrick, J. H., and Archibald Kernall signed the Miller County petition.
41. Daniel Davis came to Red River in the spring of 1818. He, when quite young married Matilda Tidwell on Duck River in Tennessee and immediately thereafter moved to Missouri. There Matilda Davis died; soon after he married Nancy McKelvey, Jan. 20, 1818, and moved in that spring to Red River. "Autobigraphy of Andrew Davis" in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XLIII (October, 1939), 162. Amos Tidwell was class leader of the first Methodist church organized on Red River late in 1818 or early in 1819. William Stevenson and James Lowry were appointed to the Mount Prairie and Pecan Point Circuit of the Missouri Conference, September 5, 1818. Jewell, History of Methodism in Arkansas, 47, so the church was probably organized late in 1818. See also Thrall, History of Methodism in Texas, 13-14, and Phelan, Hisory of Early Methodism in Texas, 13. Amos, Hiram and J. E. Tidwell signed the Miller County petition. The presence of Davie brothers-in-law, Ezra, Hugh and James McKelvey, on Red River is discussed in Item, No. 40 above. The McKelveys, however, probably did not come to Texas until 1824; at least, Hugh McKelvey assigned that year as the date of his arrival. RBLC. They were former residents of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. "Autobiography of Andrew Davis," 164. Davis, in May, 1819, was living on the north side of the river, contiguous to Gates Creek. Early Western Travels, XIII, 217.
42. Samuel and Amos Gates were quite probably hunting in the Red River area in 1818. Nuttall mentions Gates Creek as bearing that name in May, 1819. Early Western Travels, XIII, 217. In 1820 Samuel Gates acted as the administrator of William Mabbitt's estate. Book AA, Court of Common Pleas, Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory, 99. Both men later went to south Texas. Austin Papers, passim.

Conjecture and analogy can supply much that has been forgotten about these early pioneers. They came from Kentucky and Tennessee by the way of Missouri and Arkansas. Their fathers had followed Boone and Harrod over the Wilderness Road to Harrodsburg and Bryant's Station or pioneered with Sevier along the waters of the Holston or Franch Broad. Tall tales of adventure, of Indian warfare and torture they had heard about the hearths of cabins while the winter winds howled outside. Some had known the courtly John Sevier; others had fought at Tippecanoe or charged over the stockade at Tohopeka.

They were not schooled in books. A cross ofttimes testified their signature, Painfully, at the best, they could sign a land claim or a petition for the creation of a new county. Their religion was the stern Calvinism of the frontier released often in the pathological emotionalism of the camp meeting. Lorenzo Dow and Peter

Page 27

Cartwright were their major prophets and Cane Ridge the Mount Zion to which they turned for spiritual succor. The physical needs of these men were few. An age served for carpentry and cabinet making; a skillet and iron pot sufficed for the backwoods cuisine. The hunting shirt, the fringed leggings, and the moccasin fashioned from buck-skin met the demands of comfort and decency in the haberdashery of the hinterland. For them, the sun told the hours of the day and the seasons calendared the passing of the year.

The women who came westward with these pioneers (and many of them were men of families) challenge our admiration and our pity, though heaven knows they themselves were free from self pity. If life was hard for the men, what must it have been for their wives? Loneliness for others of their sex added to the actual perils of living far from every comfort save the most primitive sort, conspired to make their lot an unenviable one. Their children were born without the benefit of physician and of times even of midwivery except that of the husband. Sickness was prevalent among the children and time and time again one small tot was dead before the birth of the next. Nevertheless the physical danger was not in all probability as grinding as the psychological deprivation surely the mere immobility resultant upon staying alone for weeks was more wearing than the mobility of the "long hunt." Indian warfare weighed more heavily on the woman; men were killed by the savages but the lot of the woman was captivity and violation at the hands of the aborigines.

George and Alex Wetmore, brothers, and William Mabbitt were of the fraternity of traders who swarmed westward after the collapse of their business as sutlers to the United States army during the War of 1812. To save at least a part of their investment in goods they sought a place where they could dispose of their wares in barter with the Indians of the forest and prairie margin. Unlicensed, theirs was a precarious and risky business. The War Department of the United States, under whose direction Indian affairs were then committed, looked askance at men whose temerity led them to attempt trade without the sanction of a governmental permit. Only their remoteness from the army posts stood between them and immediate eviction from their illicit traffic. Nor did distance prove to be more than a temporary barrier. For within a year after the arrival of the Wetmores and Mabbitt at Pecan Point, a Caddo chief complained concerning their presence there to John tyamison, Indian agent at Natchitoches, alleging that they had occupied the ancient buffalo crossing and thus deprived the Caddos of the advantages of the strategic hunting place. In response to the protest, Jamison sent Major Riddle in April, 1817, with orders to remove the "squatters" across the river to the north bank. A dozen families were evicted and several traders arrested and their

Page 28

merchandise confiscated.14 Despite the efforts of the national government to prevent settlements on upper Red River, the region continued to attract new-comers during the autumn of 1817 and the spring of 1818. In August of the latter year Jedediah Morse, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, was apprised that twelve families and five Indian traders were located at Pecan Point and twenty families and three traders were established at the mouth of the Kiamichi.15 Further growth of population was maintained throughout the winter of 1818-19 ; so much so, that Thomas Nuttall, the botanist, found the Clear Creek prairie almost completely occupied in May, 1819, mainly by dispossessed immigrants from the region of the Arkansas.16 In the summer of 1819 corn was raised as far up the river as Horse Prairie (on the north bank west of the mouth of the Kiamichi) and Sassafras Bluff (on the south bank in present day Lamar County, Texas).17

Apparently the settlers had good reasons to believe the federal government would confirm them in the possession of their improvements, especially after William Rector, surveyor-general of the district of Illinois and Missouri territories, caused nine townships to be surveyed between Little River and Red River in the winter of 1818-19.18 But in this hope they were destined to disappointment; true enough the land was offered for sale in 1820 but because of delay in the arrival of the necessary forms the sales were deferred until the cession of the area to the Choctaws obviated any future possibility of white pre-emption. Meanwhile, however, in May, 1819, Major William Bradford of Fort Smith, in pursuance of an order from Andrew Jackson, commanding officer of the Southern Division of the United States Army, removed all of the settlers

Page 29

west of the Kiamichi. The "squatters" east of the stream were granted an extension of time to gather their crops; even this humanitarian concession was not given by Captain Coombs from Natchitoches, who executed his orders for the eviction of the settlers near Red River with dictatorial severity, burning homes and destroying crops.19 Many families now crossed Red River and joined their fellow nationals at Pecan Point and Jonesborough.20

The unstable and chaotic conditions on Red River were further complicated in August, 1819, by the appearance there of Major Hamlin Cook, who represented himself as being commissioned by the soi-disant President James Long of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Texas, set up at Nacogdtoches, June 23, 1819. It was his purpose, Cook announced, to establish order on the frontier and to promote the settlements already begun in the section offering land bounties to soldiers and headrights to actual settlers.21 Cook returned to Nacogdoches and was placed in command of the small American force there; his cowardly retreat at the approach of Ignacio Perez, October 28, 1819, shows clearly that he was a shoddy hero for the establishment of a republic.22 The Red River men probably were not materially taken in by his flamboyant representations. However, on November 2, 1819, while Perez was still at Nacogdoches two Americans and an Indian incautiously entered the town and fell into the hands of the Spaniards. Upon "being questioned they said they were from Pecan Point where three settlements, which could furnish about fifteen soldiers, had been established without the knowledge or consent of the government of the United States. They represented, furthermore, that although Cook had recently visited Pecan Point and enlisted a company, the settlers had no intention of engaging in an armed expedition against Spain but were interested only in looking out for their families.23 The Americans were afterward released from their imprisonment by Perez at the request of the American commandant at Fort Jessup (Natchitoches); the Indian was shot.24

Page 30

Governmentally the Red River region was a part of the Little Missouri Township, Arkansas County, Missouri Territory, until 1818. On December 17, 1818, the General Assembly of Missouri divided the area now comprised in the western half of the state of Arkansas into three great counties—Pulaski, Clark and Hempstead. At the first session of the Court of Common Pleas, held at the home of John English near present day Blevins, June 28-30, 1819, Hempstead County was divided into six townships, two of which—Clay and Pecan—comprised within their limits the settlements on Red River. The boundaries of these sub-divisions were set forth as follows:

Clay Township: Beginning at Red River at Mabbit's Place (i. e., Pecan Point) thence with road leading from Mabbit's Place to Mabbit's Salt Works on Little River thence north with waters of said river to head waters thereof thence on a due north line to Clark County line thence east with said line to the Kossitot thence with Saline Township line to the mouth of the Kositot thence with said line to the red river opposite Spanish Bluff thence up Red River to the Beginning.

Pecan Township: Beginning on red river at Mabbit's Place thence with Clay Township line to Mabbit's Salt Works on little river thence with said township line up little river to the head waters thereof and thence due north to Clark County. Thence west with the Clark County line to the Indian Country. Thence south with said boundary to red river. Thence down said river to Beginning.25

For the next twenty-five months until July, 1821, the inhabitants of the two Red River townships transacted their governmental business in the courts of Hempstead County held in the cabin of John English. Names familiarly associated with earlier settlement of the frontier run through the ragged pages of Book AA, Court of Common Pleas and the Order Book of the Court of Common Pleas, A, now preserved at Washington, Arkansas. At the first session of the court Joseph Newman was indicted for assault and battery and at the August term, 1820, Walter Pool was charged with the same offense.26 Litigations frequently involved others of the settlers; the December session of 1820 disposed of cases in which such wellknown pioneers as Adam Lawrence, Thomas Williams, Willis McCann, John Scrutchfield, Philip Henson, were parties.27 Joseph Inglish brought suit against Walter Pool for slander, a cause afterward transferred to Miller County along with a similar suit styled William Hensley vs. Walter pool.28 Again, at the first session, June, 1819, Jacob Black secured judgment for debt and damages, totalling $969.33, against Mabbitt and Petty, traders;29 at the December session, 1820, Black was continuing the action against Samuel Gates, administrator of William Mabbitt's estate.30 During the

Page 31

period civil matters of little moment were decided before local justices of peace and one document has been preserved bearing testimony to Claiborne Wright's activity as a magistrate.31

Two travellers have left their impressions of the character of the men who inhabited the Red River area in the first five years of their tenure. One of these commentators, Thomas Nuttall, spent only two or three weeks in the Clear Creek settlement; the other, William B. Dewees, lived and hunted in the section for two years before he immigrated to south Texas. Each account, except in minor details, confirms the other. Both Nuttall and Dewees agree that the settlers were too largely desperate adventurers, fugitives from justice and dissolute renegades. On the other hand, however, each records that he discovered the backwoodsmen to be hospitable, courageous and gifted. in the arts of wringing a subsistence from the wilderness.

Nuttall accompanied Major Bradford from Ft. Smith to the mouth of the Kiamichi when he was sent there in May, 1819, to remove the settlers from the unsurveyed public lands. As they rode southward through the Arbuckle Mountains they noted the marks of a wagon train leading in the same general direction. Eventually, having effected their passage through the highlands, they emerged on the rich prairie near the present site of Doaksville and came upon the camp of William Styles. Styles proved to be the emigrant whose trail Bradford and Nuttall had seen in the mountains; with him was his family, women and children, including his mother-in-law, "blind and 90 years of age."32

32William Stiles (so the name is usually spelled) was born in North Carolina; married in South Carolina and moved to Barron County Kentucky before 1800. About 1816-1818 he was living at the mouth of Mulberry Creek on the Arkansas River but was obliged to leave that vicinity when the section was ceded to the Cherokees. He moved in the winter of 1818-19 and settled near present-day Fort Towson. Tradition says he left Red River in 1821 and moved to the Brazos accompanied by three of his children. (Lone Star State: Central Texas, 546) William Stiles, senior, was the father of six children: Richard, John, William, Junior, Nancy, Elizabeth and Hetty. (1) Richard Stiles settled in Shelby County, Texas, sometime after 1825. (2) John Stiles, born in Barron County, Kentucky, in March, 1797, accompanied the family on its westward hegira, and located after his marriage to Sarah Reed (daughter of Joseph Reed, a pioneer Methodist preacher) within four miles of Fort Towson. After the break-up of Miller County in 1828 he moved across Red River and located north of Clarksville. He was the father of a numerous family whose descendants still live in Red River County. He died in August, 1854. (Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas, 794). (3) William Stiles, junior, was born Feb. 3, 1799, presumably in Barron County, Kentucky. He married Nancy Lawrence (born October 25, 1803), daughter of Adam Lawrence, tradition says while the families were living at the mouth of Mulberry Creek but more probably after the Stileses reached Red River. William Stiles, junior accompanied his father to the Brazos in 1821-22 but returned to Miller County. He was living in Miller County in 1825 but later moved to Louisiana and thence to Johnson County, Texas, where he died in 1875. (Lone Star State; Central Texas, 546) (4) Nancy Stiles married Henry Jones in January, 1821. She accompanied her husband and father to south Texas in the winter of 1821-22, and her son, William Stiles Jones, born at the crossing on the Brazos early in 1822 had the distinction of being the first child born in Austin's colony. She died August 5, 1851. John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, 311. (5) There is no information concerning Elizabeth Stiles. (6) Hetty Stiles is said to have married another Jones in south Texas but when or where is unknown.

Page 32

From Stiles' camp Major Bradford went west of the Kiamichi to warn the settlers of the government's intention to move them east of the stream. The "squatters" received the orders with ill grace; well they might, for, no doubt, it seemed to them there was no place where they could escape the long arm of the federal authority intent upon providing lands for the immigrant Indians. The Arkansas had proven untentable; now the Red offered no more security of possession.

Just west of the Kiamichi, near Red River, Nuttall, who had accompanied Bradford, stopped for breakfast at the cabin of Martin Varner. Varner regaled his visitor with long stories of the hunting to be encountered farther up the river, and showed him as an evidence of his prowess as a nimrod the head of a Mexican hog (Sus tujassa). Some days later the botanist, while loitering in quest of specimens of the regional flora, became separated from his party. He attempted to join them on the trail but only succeeded in be coming more confused. His failure to meet up with his associates enjoined upon the scientist the necessity of asking the hospitality of Stiles and other settlers until a party could be made up to go to Ft. Smith. The delay he spent in observing. the settlements on Red River. He writes:

On the 8th June I went down to the Red River settlement, to inquire concerning some company, which I had heard of, on my returning route to the Arkansa; and, on conferring together, we concluded to take our departure on Sunday next, a day generally chosen by these hunters and voyagers on which to commence their journeys. In our way to this settlement Gates's and Lemon's creek and another small brook. The width of the prairie to Red River might be about five miles, and the contracted alluvial lands, which by the crops of corn and cotton appeared to be exceedingly fertile, were nearly inhabited to their full extent. The wheat planted here produced about 80 bushels to the acre, for which some of the inhabitants had now the conscience to ask three dollars and a half per bushel, in consequence of the scarcity of last season. . .

These people, as well as the generality of those who, till lately, inhabited the banks of the Arkansa, bear the worst moral character imaginable, being many of them renegadoes from justice, and as such have forfeited the esteem of civilized society. When a further flight from justice became necessary, they passed over into the Spanish territory, toward San Antonio, where it appears that encouragement was given to all sorts of refugees. From these people we frequently heard disrespectful murmurs against the government of the United States. There is indeed an univer-

Page 33

sal complaint against showing unnecessary and ill-timed favors to the Indians. It is true that the Osages and Cherokees have been permitted, almost without molestation, to rob the people on this river, not only of their horses and cattle, but even occasionally of their household furniture.33

This account of a cursory observer needs to be supplemented and contrasted with the recollections of an actual resident, William B. Dewees, who came to the upper Red from the vicinity of Shelbyville on Duck River, Tennessee, in the spring of 1819, in company with a party of ten families of kinsmen and neighbors.34 The immigrants made use of a keel-boat to convey themselves and their household goods from Tennessee to Pecan Point. Young Dewees did not complete the voyage but left his fellow travellers at Long Prairie, from whence he wrote a long letter portraying graphically the hardships endured in the passage of the Raft.35 At the time he was looking eagerly forward to an extended hunting trip on the upper river. From Long Prairie he went to Mound Prairie, where he fell sick and lay idle for six months. As soon as he was able to ride he joined a hunting party of thirty men, among whom were Gabriel Martin, Andrew Robinson and John Hampton, for an expedition to the Cross Timbers. Smaller numbers dared not venture out because of the hostile Osages. Dewees and his companions suffered no losses on this particular trip, although, he, Robinson, Martin, and Hampton became lost from the main body. By following the river, they succeeded in reaching Jonesborough without any untoward incident.

There Dewees remained for some time. (It should be noted that Jesse Burnam and Samuel Burnam moved from Pecan Point to the Clear Creek settlement late in 1819.) February 13, 1820, he wrote in part to a relative in Kentucky:

But a few words now for the society that inhabits this new country. We are a motley crew, emigrants from all parts of the world, and of course have all kinds of people, good and bad! but the bad seems to predominate.

He goes on to describe a camp meeting he had attended a few days previously at the mouth of Clear Creek across the river from Jonesborough. Three ministers had been in attendance and a very

Page 34

considerable congregation.36 Not all of those in the vicinity were intent upon salvation, however; quite close to the camp was located a spring around which a crew of drunken rowdies gathered to mock the prayers, sermons and shoutings of the religiously inclined. Upon being rebuked by one of the ministers, these sons of Belial scattered the congregation and cut down the rude pulpit. But frontier preachers trained in the school of Lorenzo Dow and Peter Cartwright were not to be outdone; they rallied the searchers after grace and drove away the scoffers; rebuilt their altar, and, as Dewees notes, "had a very successful meeting."37

A third letter written from Pecan Point, June 10, 1821, relates the happenings of a recent trip to Nacogdoches. Dewees and two companions had endeavored to visit the Spanish village by the way of Trammel's Trace but unused to the landmarks they missed it entirely and were obliged to mark out a new trail. The further details of the journey reveal no unusual occurrences. Dewees, upon his return to Pecan Point, began preparations to join Austin's colony; actually he did not depart for south Texas until January 1, 1822. This trip he made in conjunction with Jesse Burnam. Indeed the winter of 1821-22 saw a rather considerable migration from Red River to the Brazos: a migration symptomatic of the continued flux of the frontier.

Meanwhile the story of the founding of the first American settlements on upper Red River had ended its first phase, April 1, 1820. For on that date Governor James Miller of the Arkansas Territory had approved the act of the Assembly creating Miller County. Henceforth for the next sixteen years the story of Miller County is the story of southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas.38

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site