Edited By James D. Morrison
Slave runaways who escaped to the Indian country did not necessarily gain their freedom, for the Indian nations had no desire to become hangouts for all types of renegades and passed laws—which were hard to enforce, of course—designed to allow cooperation of Indian officials with those of the United States in keeping the Indian country clear of undesirables.55 As early as 1836 the Choctaw Nation enacted a law providing that stolen property from outside the Nation should be delivered to the District Chiefs who in turn should hand it over to the United States Agent.56 It then became the responsibility of the latter official to discover the rightful owners of such property. A notice published in the spring of 1848 by the Chickasaw agent,57 A. M. M. Upshaw, gives one example of how a United States agent attempted to return a slave fugitive found in the Indian country:
Chickasaw Agency, Feby. 24, 1848.58
The inference in the latter part of Upshaw's notice, that runaway or stolen slaves from the Indian nations sometimes found their way to Texas, was borne out by an advertisement of Robert M. Jones during the first months of 1847:59
57It should be remembered that the Chickasaws were a part of the Choctaw Nation and subject to Choctaw laws until 1855. E. E. Dale and J.L. Rader, Readings in Oklahoma History (Evanston, Illinois, 1930), 215 and 258.
59Jones was another friend of De Morse, if the latter's obituary notice on receiving news of Jones's death be any criterion. The editor wrote in 1873: "Col. R. M. Jones, a prominent citizen of the Choctaw Nation, and a gentleman of superior mind, educated at the R. M. Johnson College, in Kentucky, died a few days since. He was a nice gentleman, of large means and systematic business habits, who lived in good style, and dispensed a generous hospitality at his home at Rose Hill. He cultivated several plantations, and was a successful cotton planter, both in the days of slave labor, before the war, and free labor, since. We have known him for thirty years, and have always held him in high estimation." March 1, 1873. De Morse's paper dropped the Northern from its title when the Civil War came on, being known in its latter days simply as The Standard. The editor was an ardent secessionist and served as a colonel in the Confederate army, being wounded in service. Claude V. Hall, "Early Days in Red River County," Bulletin of the Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College (No. 38, January, 1932), 70n.
The said Boy's thighs, are marked by scratches done with needles or pins.
A reward of twenty five dollars will be given for apprehension of the thief, or one hundred dollars for both, delivered to Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation.
William C. Wible.
The fact that this slave spoke only the Shawnee language is significant, for it indicates that he had been reared with that tribe of uncivilized Indians. The real enemies of both Texan and Choctaw planters as far as the loss of slaves by theft was concerned were the wild tribes, especially the Plains Indians to their west.61
Stolen horses also crossed the Red in both directions, the Choctaw planters to the north of the River suffering particularly from depredations by horse thieves. Jones ran a large advertisement during the spring and summer of 1843 seeking to recover two mares; he was evidently in something of a bitter mood, for he offered twice the reward for the rustlers that he did for the horses. His notice was:
THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD
One of the mares is a beautiful iron grey, some 16 hands high, in good order, and has been run in Fannin County, against a horse owned by one of the Harts. The other Mare is a red sorrel, about fifteen and a half hands high, and has also been used as a running animal. No brands recollected, except perhaps a saddle mark or two, and halter marks. Both Mares were seven years old this spring.
The rogues were white men, and were seen loitering about Mr. Bush's ferry the day previous to the theft, and stated they were in my employ. The night they committed the theft, they crossed the horses at the same ferry, threw off the oars, and sent the boat adrift. They were seen passing one Mr. Wallers near said ferry, about two hours before day, and went in the direction of the upper settlements on Sulphur.
61A recent account of the kidnapping activities of the Plains Indians is that of Carl Coke Rister, Border Captives (Norman, Oklahoma, 1940). Rister's account is chiefly concerned with white captives of the southern plains tribes, but it gives a very readable discussion of the thieving proclivities of the uncivilized Indians.
I will give the above reward for the rogues and horses, if delivered at Fort Towson, or at the Depot; or I will give Fifty
Dollars each, for the Mares, and Two Hundred for the thieves.
Choctaw Nation, 15th April, 184362
A case of Indians stealing horses in north Texas and fleeing northward toward Red River was mentioned in a reprint from the Bonham, Texas, Sentinel in the spring of 1847:
Indians—Eight horses were stolen some few miles from the County site of Grayson [Sherman, Texas], on the night of the 7th inst. Next morning pursuit was made by Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Clark, and another gentleman—all of whom had just emigrated to the country, and had been settled there but a few days. They overtook the thieves before they reached Red river, who proved to be Indians, making their way to the Nation. They fired upon them, killing two of them instantly, and crippling a third. They pursued the wounded Indian—whose blood marked the ground as he fled—coming to a thicket, he jumped from his horse, and mad[e] his escape. The horses were recovered and brought back. It is not known what tribe the Indians belonged to.....63
There is little evidence in the Standard that residents of the Clarksville area were annoyed by natives of the Choctaw Nation operating as horse thieves, Indians engaged in such activities generally being Plains Indians. Editor De Morse made only one or two inferences that north Texans lost property by theft to Choctaw marauders and these were in the first years of his residence at Clarksville before he became acquainted widely on the north side of the River. One of these statements was:
Notwithstanding the late treaty with the wild Indians, we understand that a number of depredations have recently been perpetrated, by them or our friends [sic] and neighbors on the north side of Red River, the Chickasaws and Choctaws, upon the frontiers of Fannin county. The citizens have been enabled to send but one of the thieving rascals 'to his final account.'64
Practically the last of such innuendoes was printed in the winter of 1842-1843, the item stating:
There have been several horses stolen lately in Fannin County; supposed to be by Choctaws, leagued with some white rascals.65
One of the chief sports of Texas and Choctaw planters along Red River was horse racing, as it was in slave society over the South generally. The pages of the Standard were filled with advertisements, notices, challenges, and accounts of races already run or to be held at some future time. Much space was rented by owners of horses at stud, the notices apparently listing each complete pedigree in full. At times Texas and Choctaw horses appeared in the same races, some being held in the Nation as well as south of the River. The advertisement of Robert M. Jones, already quoted, concerning the theft of two mares, stated definitely that one of them had run in Texas and that the other was a "run-
ning animal."66 The only direct mention of a race meet being actually held within the limits of the Choctaw Nation appeared in the summer of 1844:
We received, some two weeks since, a communication from Doaksville, annunciative [sic] and descriptive of the races over the St. Leger Course, near Major Pitman Colbert's; and intended to publish it, but it has so happened we could not get it in, in time.67
This item is tantalizing by its inference that there were other races and other race courses, perhaps, in the Choctaw country; but if so, none were ever considered of enough importance for accounts to find their way into the columns of the Standard. There is direct evidence of the participation of Robert M. Jones in races in Lamar County, Texas, however, during 1846 and 1847.
An advertisement addressed "TO THE SPORTING WORLD" ran during the winter and spring of those years announcing a sweepstake race to be run at Paris, Texas, during the spring term of the district court in 1847. The race was to be in mile heats, "free for any Mare, Horse or Gelding in the world," and carried an entry fee of five hundred dollars. The notice further stated:
There are now two entries, to wit. John Loring of Fannin enters one; and Col. Robert M. Jones. of Lake West, Choctaw Nation, enters another, and it is confidently believed Billy K. Revere, will come in, as well as divers other gentlemen, who have horses they brag on.68
The files of The Northern Standard fail to reveal any information as to the outcome of this thoroughly advertised contest; but one result of the sweepstake race might have been a matched race over the Paris course between a mare belonging to Jones and one owned by a J. J. Musgrove, in which the animal from the Choctaw country went down to ignominious defeat.
The latter race was announced by the following notice:
MATCH RACE FOR $600,00 [sic]
A MATCH RACE for $600,00 between J. J. Musgrove's brown mare Purity, and Col. R. M. Jones' sorrel mare Choctaw Filly, will be run over the Paris Course on the 3d of July next.—Mile heats.
The attendance of friends of the Turf is invited.69
This announcement was carried in the paper until the day of the race. And this time the editor found space to carry the results, the defeat of the Choctaw entry being described by one who had attended the race:
Clarksville, July 6th 1847
side however, both bets and race. Purity got the track and kept it for two heats, under about as hard a pull, as Perry, her rider, could well stand up to.
By the above you can see we had little sport. Our mare was too popular to benefit our pockets much.
Whether the poor showing of "Choctaw Filly" or "Maid" discouraged Colonel Jones from further indulgence in the sport of kings is not certain, but his name did cease to appear in the racing notices hereafter.
Another common interest which tied north Texans to residents in the Choctaw country was navigation of the Red River, for steamboats carried the bulk of imported supplies for both areas. Practically every river boat which brought supplies to Fort Towson also stopped at Texas landings to unload inbound cargo and to load cotton and other articles for export.71 The navigation of the River was seasonal and untrustworthy, for there were two hindrances to the traffic which made vital problems for the inhabitants of the section. The first problem was low water especially during the summer and fall; the second was the Great Raft. Men could do nothing about the first except pray for rain; the second could be removed by hard and expensive labor. Citizens of the upper Red River valley never seem to have gathered to pray for rain so that the River might have water, but they did meet on at least one occasion to do something about the Raft. This obstruction had begun to be cleared from the River channel as early as 1833, but its nature was such that constant effort had to be expended in order to maintain a channel for steamboats.72 Conditions had become so bad by 1847 that Clarksville was the scene of a Raft Convention, whose purpose was to petition Congress for appropriations to keep the River channel unobstructed.
Delegates from the Choctaw Nation were in attendance on this Convention as well as from Texas and Arkansas; two Doaksville citizens in particular, Joseph R. Berthelet and Vincent B.
71Mention of steamboat traffic on Red River will be found in most issues of The Northern Standard during the period, which emphasizes its importance to the area. Many items are quoted by Muriel H. Wright in "Early Navigation and Commerce along the Arkansas and Red Rivers in Oklahoma," Chronicles of Oklahoma, VIII, No. 1, pp. 85 ff.
72A very good description of the Raft is given by Miss Wright, op. cit., 75n. For an account of the first work toward opening Red River to steamboat traffic, see U. S. Senate, Executive Documents, 24th Congress, second session, 280 ff.
Tims, took a prominent part in the proceedings of the gathering.73 The remarks of De Morse in connection with this meeting indicate the seriousness of the situation to the inhabitants of the section:
Let the Raft continue uninterruptedly to accumulate, but a few years longer, and it will have passed in its upward progress, the high lands on each side of the river; thereby closing up every outlet which is now used, though with great hazard and difficulty, as temporary or periodical navigation. The available means of our country not being deemed sufficient to resort to rail-road facilities, then, the whole Red river country must, and inevitably will become an inland waste.....
Again, we are credibly informed, that the commissioners on the part of the United States; did, in making and concluding the treaty with the Choctaw Indians, promise them free navigation to their new homes in the West.....74
The latter paragraph of the above quotation explains partially why the Texas citizens had invited delegates from the Choctaw country to take part in the Convention. Another argument advanced by the petitioners which used the Choctaw removal treaties for a basis was that the Indians had been promised protection in their new homes, that Forts Towson and Washita had been constructed to furnish this protection, and that unobstructed and free navigation of Red River for the transportation of troops and supplies was therefore a pledged obligation of the Federal government.75
One curious worry of the inhabitants of the upper Red River section during the following year was that water might be diverted from their River to the Trinity in order to make the latter stream navigable up into the heart of Texas. The suggestion was made in 1848 for the benefit of Galveston, located on the bay into which the Trinity emptied its waters. De Morse felt, perhaps, that the idea should be squelched in its infancy, for he called the attention of the upper Red River valley to the proposal in this paragraph:
Canal from Red River into Trinity.
The News [Galveston] recommends that a canal be cut from Red River to the head of the Trinity, and the volume of water in Red River, west of the head of the Trinity, be turned into that river.76
The editor's comment on this possibility was:
The people contiguous to Red River, below the egress of the Canal, would be very apt to inquire by what right, a body of water, insufficient at best for permanent navigation, would be turned out of its natural channel to feed another stream, and benefit people who had sought the convenience of another natural highway.77
Fears that such a canal will be built still persist, the idea having some part in the current controversy over the construction of the Denison Dam on the Red.
Because of the twin difficulties of Red River navigation, insufficient water and the Great Raft, the inhabitants of the area were greatly interested in the possibility of railroad construction as a solution of the transportation problem. The resources of the area were not enough to provide for the financing of a railroad locally nor to attract foreign capital to such a project. But as early as 1848 there was projected a Galveston and Red River Railway to connect the upper valley of the Red, if not with Galveston itself, at least with a "boatable point on Trinity."78 The plan was to be financed, in order to overcome the lack of ready cash, by the only wealth which most citizens of north Texas could boast in those days—land. Under the scheme advanced, individuals were to make donations of land to which the railroad company would take "title . . . only in the event of the construction of the road."79 Some promotion work was done, but no actual construction ever seems to have been undertaken. By November, 1848, news of the discovery of gold in California had reached the area and the Galveston and Red River Railway was forgotten in the midst of a scramble to get on the main line of a Pacific-bound rail route.80
De Morse's first comments concerning a Pacific railroad were inspired by resolutions of the Arkansas legislature advocating a route from Memphis through Little Rock, Fort Smith, and westward, essentially the route taken to Santa Fe in 1849 by Captain R. B. Marcy.81 The Standard's editor took issue with the gentlemen of the Arkansas body as to their choice of routes. His natural desire was for this most important artery of traffic to run as close to Clarksville as possible and his first thought was of Fort Towson:
.....the starting point from the Mississippi, should be at Napoleon at the mouth of the Arkansas, or at Columbia in Chicot county, or at some point thereabout. Thence taking the road to Fort Towson....it would have a clearer and better route, less expensive to construct....Thence on to San Diego, or El Passo, the route would be as good as from Fort Smith, or better, and have more directness, Fort Towson and San Diego being in the same latitude, and El Passo; still further South.82
North Texas subscribers soon must have caused the editor to see his error in running the railroad through Fort Towson, for the second week in March of 1849 found him advocating that the proposed rail line cross the Red at Fulton, Arkansas, and proceed
80News of the California gold discovery first appeared in The Northern Standard for November 4, 1848. First mention of the possibility of a Pacific railroad passing through the area was in the issue of February 17, 1849.
81The full account of Marcy's journey, with voluminous notes, may be found in Grant Foreman's Marcy and the Gold Seekers (Norman, Oklahoma, 1939).
parallel to the south bank through Clarksville, Paris, and Bonham.83 In spite of this early activity no railroad was built into the section until after the Civil War, wagons and river boats continuing to be the chief means of transportation until the decade following the great internecine struggle.84
The crude wagon roads of the section were in constant use, especially after 1844 when it became increasingly certain that Texas would become the twenty-eighth state in the Union. The Standard commented many times in 1844 and 1845 on the increasing volume of immigrant wagons heading into north Texas, with "Polk, Dallas, Texas, and Oregon" the motto often inscribed on the wagon sheet.85 Much of this immigration came down the military road from Fort Smith to Fort Towson, crossing into Texas at the mouth of the Kiamichi. One item from the Standard will serve to illustrate this point:
Immigration.—Two gentlemen from Missouri, who have just arrived, for the purpose of selecting a location to move to, state, that they counted all the emigrant wagons as they passed, between Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Doaksville, some coming, and some returning from the Trinity country. There were 225 wagons coming, and 75 returning. As they met on the road, the faint-hearted, who were going back, would tell their difficulties, which were all embraced in the want of provisions, arising from the want of means to get them, with the addition that those who turn back from a good work always make, namely, that every body that started with them was doing, or about to do likewise.....86
After some remarks on the high price of corn at the Forks of the Trinity, some two dollars a bushel, Editor De Morse concluded the above with this note:
Even now, as we write, four wagons are passing the office, from Green County, Illinois, with 'Polk, Dallas, Oregon and Texas' painted on the covers. These intend going direct to the forks of the Trinity.87
This flood of immigration brought much new business not only to north Texas merchants along the route of travel, but also to traders in the Choctaw country. The activities of merchants at Doaksville were mirrored somewhat in the columns of the Standard; those of George C. Gooding have already been mentioned. The
83March 10, 1849. Charles De Morse was one of three delegates chosen to attend a railroad convention at Memphis, Tennessee, and advocate the route through his home area. May 5, 1849. The Memphis meeting was originally scheduled for July 5 but did not begin until October 23. A similar meeting was held in St. Louis to advocate a northern route. Foreman, op. cit., 121.
84"Until 1873 Red River was the entire reliance for importation and exportation during a part of each year, from the several landings.....at other times as in 1842, 3, & 4 when unusually low water prevailed by hauling to and from Fulton, which is 90 miles distant from Clarksville, and after that from Shreveport which is 150 miles distant; and subsequently after the building up of Jefferson, from that place, which is 100 miles by wagon road." August 25, 1882.
85May 29, June 12, 26, October 30, November 6, 27, December 19, 1844; January 16, 23, 1845, et seq. Large numbers of these immigrants were headed for the Forks of the Trinity and became the first settlers in the area surrounding Dallas, Texas.
largest trading establishments in the Nation at this time were those of Berthelet, Heald and Company, which had stores at Doaksville, Skullyville, Boggy Depot, and other strategic locations for attracting the trade of the Indians and pioneers. The "Company" in this firm was Robert M. Jones, some of whose activities as planter and horse fancier have been cited.88 The second man in the partnership was John Hobart Heald, a native of New England, who had come to Skullyville as early as 1838 to engage in business.89 Heald was rarely mentioned as an individual by the Standard, which would seem to confirm the supposition that he was in charge of the Skullyville store of the company during the time of his partnership.90 The only direct comment concerning this gentleman appeared in the summer of 1848 when Heald had severed his partnership with Berthelet and Jones to engage in the cotton business in New Orleans. De Morse made some highly complimentary remarks about Heald in an editorial:
We call attention to the card of Moses Greenwood & Co., in our advertising columns. Mr. Heald who has lately associated himself with the firm, is the former partner in the firm of Berthelet Heald & Co., lately existing at Doaksville and Fort Smith. We need not say a word in respect to the mercantile capacity, integrity and accommodating spirit of this gentleman, to any one who ever had business with him, when living in this section of the country; but to those who never had; we will take the responsibility of recommending the House, as one of the best in New Orleans, with which our planters or Merchants could make business arrangements.91
The other partner in this pioneer Oklahoma business firm has already been mentioned for his part in the Clarksville convention in the winter of 1847 to petition Congress concerning removal of
88Muriel H. Wright, "John Hobart Heald," Chronicles of Oklahoma, II, No. 3, p. 315; Foreman, Advancing the Frontier, 167; W. B. Morrison, Military Posts and Camps in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, 1936), 57n; Personal Letter, Mrs. Mary Thebo Jennings, Lynchburg, Virginia, July 6, 1939. Mrs. Jennings states in part: "The partnership between Robert Jones and Joseph Berthelet started in 1836....the contract for affiliation is a long, imposing document, signed at Skullyville before William Armstrong, Choctaw Agent...There were two stores at this date, one at Skullyville: R. M. Jones & Co. and one at Doaksville: J. R. Berthelet & Co. Berthelet ran the Doaksville store and lived there with his wife, Eliza, in a 'cottage' built 'by help of the soldiers at Fort Towson, as promised' by their commandant, Colonel Vose. The Colonel and other officers also witnessed Joseph's will, in 1836. In 1847 Joseph was appointed postmaster of Doaksville. I have not been able to find the exact date of Heald's joining the business, but it was sometime before 1843 as Joseph mentions him in a letter of that year. Joseph left the Nation in 1851, and in '53 sent his nephew, Charles Thebo, to Doaksville to look after the Berthelet interest left there: Berthelet and Jones of 'No. 5 Commercial Row.",
90Heald was in Doaksville for at least a short while in the summer of 1846, for Miss Wright quotes from his diary written during a stay at that place. Wright, op. cit., 315 ff.
the Great Raft.92 That Joseph R. Berthelet was a public-spirited and philanthropic citizen is evidenced by a notice in the spring of 1847:
Relief for the Irish—A meeting of the citizens of Doaksville, Choctaw Nation, was held a few days since, and one hundred and fifty-three dollars, immediately subscribed for the benefit of the starving Irish—Jas. [sic] R Berthelet Esq, President.93
De Morse followed this notice with some remarks that the members of the Doaksville Irish Relief Association, or whatever the organization called itself, may have found a bit too patronizing:
Considering how far in the wilderness Doaksville is situated; its small population, and the fact that nothing but unprompted sympathy for distress, and at a very great distance from the scene of it and from all active efforts in its behalf induced.....the subscription; we consider it very creditable to the citizens of that little place.94
On at least one occasion Editor De Morse did business with Berthelet, Heald and Company, their wagons being used to haul same much needed supplies to the office of the Standard in Clarksville:
The enterprise of this pioneer partnership which received the most publicity in the Texas newspaper was the establishment of a townsite on the Texas side of Red River about fifteen miles above Fort Towson. The new town was laid out in 1845 in the northwest corner of Red River County, the evident purpose being to profit from the wave of settlement sweeping into north Texas at the
92Joseph R. Berthelet was of Canadian birth and had entered the Choctaw Nation as early as 1836 to engage in business, his partnership agreement with Robert M. Jones being, dated in that year. Personal Letter, Mrs. Mary Thebo Jennings, July 6, 1939. Tragic evidence of the fact that Berthelet's original home was in Canada or near the Canadian border might be deduced from the obituary column of The Northern Standard for August 22, 1846: "DIED . . . . At Detroit, Mich., July 18th, William, son of Jos. R. Berthelet, of Fort Towson, aged four years and eight months."
94Ibid. This action of the citizens of Doaksville also furnishes a commentary for the modern reader on the prosperity of that locality during this period.
time.96 The first mention of Pine Hills, as the new townsite was named, came in December, 1845, when a large advertisement began running in the Standard.97 The attention of "merchants and emigrants" was requested, for Pine Hills, according to the advertisers, was "destined to become the depot for import and export of supplies, for a large extent of fertile country.... fast settling and filling up with an enterprising population."98 The local manager of the project was evidently an R. B. Seward, for his name appeared at the bottom of the notice in conjunction with the firm name.
In January of 1846 the editor called the attention of his readers to the advertisement for Pine Hills, stating that a number of lots had already been sold to prospective merchants who planned to establish themselves at the new location.99 He praised the commercial possibilities of the new townsite, remarking that the quantity of cotton shipped from the place had increased from twelve to twelve hundred bales in one year and that if "there is any thing like deserving success, its liberal and gentlemanly proprietors will certainly have it."100 De Morse visited Pine Hills in the early fall and made the following report to his subscribers:
Pine Hills—We were at this town, a few days since, for the first time.
The site is far above reach of overflow from the river, and is accessible at all seasons of the year, by good roads. As such, it is a most desirable point for the shipment of produce from the counties above.
There are now three stores in the place, and preparations are in progress for building a fourth, which is to be a large establishment, and to be opened in two or three months.101
The new town was apparently in full development by the next summer. One merchant, Isaiah W. Wells, had begun to advertise heavily in the Clarksville paper, six different ones being printed
96A government map of 1857 shows "Pine Hill" at the mouth of Boggy on the Texas side with the note, "River navigable for light draft boats as far as Pine Hill." Atlas to Accompany the Official 'Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1891) , Part XI, Plate LIV, No. 1, "Texas and Parts of Louisiana and New Mexico." Since Berthelet, Heald and Company claimed that "Pine Hills" was the head of Red River navigation, this may have been the same town, although the 1857 location is too far up the Red; the Boggy enters the Red almost directly north of Paris, Texas, in Lamar County, while Pine Hills was in the corner of Red River County, Texas.
97December 17, 1845, et seq. This advertisement appeared for a full year, the last being in the issue for December 24, 1846. A similar notice is quoted by Grant Foreman from The Arkansas Intelligencer for September 26, 1846, in Advancing the Frontier, footnote 6, p. 240.
99January 21, 1846. Berthelet, Heald and Company stated in their advertisement that they proposed "opening, during the ensuing season..a house for doing a general Commission, receiving, storage and forwarding business. " and to "make liberal advances upon cotton;" they further stated that they proposed to carry "an ample supply of Merchandise of all kinds (save liquors) adapted to the country, for sale on favorable terms."
in the last issue for August, 1847,102 advising readers that they could obtain salt, clothing, coffee, tobacco, whiskey, quinine and other necessities at his establishment on Red River. By the spring of 1848 plans for instituting a post office were under way; but the name of the community had to be changed to Pine Bluffs, since there was already a "Pine Hills" post office in Texas.103 The post office was an accomplished fact by the fall of the year; De Morse called it to the attention of his subscribers with this item:
We have been requested to notice, for the information of all interested, than [sic] an office has been for some time in operation at Pine Hills in this county.104
Beginning with the issue for October 21 lists of letters remaining in the "post office at Pine Bluffs" began to appear in the Standard, signed by "Isaiah W. Wells, P. M. "105 Pine Hills, or Pine Bluffs as it should now be called, seemed on the way to a permanence which it never achieved; before it is passed over, however, its connection with another activity, the California gold rush, should be mentioned.
First news of the discovery of gold on the Pacific coast reached the columns of The Northern Standard in November, 1848;106 there was slight mention of California gold in succeeding issues until the first issue in February of the next year, which devoted more than half the front page to articles carrying such headlines as: "California Gold Specimens;" "Ho! for California!"; "First Discovery of the California Gold Mines"; "California—Its Commercial Advantages;" and "Bay of San Francisco."107 In the last issue for the same month the editor apologetically confessed that he had given much space to the subject since it was:
....the prevailing topic of the day, burying all such considerations as Southern Rights, Wilmot Proviso, and the Veto power, out of thought.108
The first news that citizens of the area were planning to leave for California occurred in March, with Pine Bluffs advertised as the place of rendezvous for a large company bound for the gold fields.109 A group had organized at the Red River settlement on March 15 as "The California Agricultural Mining Company," with L. M. Schraek as president.110 A constitution and by-laws had been adopted, a committee of five appointed "to make all necessary
103March 18, 1848. A letter from Congressman D. S. Kaufman was quoted urging citizens of Pine Hills to send him petitions for a post office and asking them to select another name.
110Ibid. The head of this expedition was doubtless the Lewis M. Schrack who was brother to E. G. Schrack of the firm of Schrack and Nail, Doaksville. Lewis M. Schrack operated a store at Fort Washita in the 1840's. Foreman, op. cit., 104n.
purchases for the safety and comfort of members" of the expedition, the route of travel to California tentatively planned, and regular meetings announced for each Thursday until April 15, the date set for departure.111 The purpose of the advertising was, of course, to attract and inform possible recruits for the company. Actual start of the adventure was delayed until June, the departure of the Pine Hills organization not being noted until the middle of that month.112 The Standard mentioned other California enterprises, but the California Agricultural Mining Company was the only one whose leadership and origin can be definitely connected with the Choctaw Nation.113
One local development of the gold rush furnished De Morse with some amusement. In May of 1849 news leaked out that gold had been found in the Wichita Mountains of present southwest Oklahoma; so strong was the rumor that some left organized companies headed for California in order to try their luck closer to home. The editor of the Standard reported this development in a long editorial under the heading, "Gold in Texas."114 Apparently the citizens of Clarksville and vicinity were only vaguely aware of the location of the Wichitas, for De Morse overestimated the distance of this rumored Ophir from Clarksville by some one hundred miles and placed it within the boundaries of Texas.115 He was somewhat piqued by the secrecy employed by certain individuals of Clarksville in preparing for their departure for the supposed discovery in search of "gold, pure and in considerable pieces" such as had been reported "lately brought in from the
113A typical item concerning departure of citizens of the area for the gold fields was a quotation from the Bonham Advertiser in the Standard for April 7, 1849: "The first waves of the golden crusade are now rippling past our doors. Trains of wagons for Fort Smith, intended to swell the caravan from thence [see Foreman, Marcy and the Gold Seekers], and parties of horsemen to join the express expedition from Grayson county, have gone on, and more are reported below." An item on April 28, 1849, mentioned still other expeditions: "The main company which rendezvoused at Paris, organized after reaching the Cross Timbers. Capt. Griffin of Lamar county, was elected commander; Capt. Edward Hunter of this county (Captain of Arkansas troops at Buena Vista,) 1st Lieut.; Mr. Stewart of Hempstead county, Arkansas, 2nd Lieut.; and Wm. H. Winlock of this county, 3d Lieut. They numbered in all 104 men, and had seven families and 40 wagons with them.
The pack mule company, which started from Preston in Grayson county, had some 70 members.
Another considerable company, at last advices, was said to be collecting at Bonham. They were from various points below. Some from New Orleans."
115Ibid. To quote De Morse: "It has been for years, reputed, that gold was plentiful in the range of mountains known as the Wichita chain, lying some three hundred and fifty miles from here, and partially or wholly (we are not certain, having no accurate map) within the limits of Texas...."
Wichita [s] by some Indian or Indians."116 He was able to get his revenge by poking fun at the adventurers when they returned from their trip empty handed.
Besides the group from Clarksville at least two others were mentioned as heading for the Indian country in search of gold: one was part of the expedition headed by Captain Griffin, a number of whom were reported to have left the main body bound for California in order to find riches closer to home;117 the other was a party from Cass County, Texas, concerning which an item from the Bonham Advertiser was quoted:
A few hours earlier in the day, a party of horsemen from Cass county passed on their way to the Wichita Hills. They had with them a man who could show them 'the sign,' and, of course, they will see 'the elephant,' if not the gold.118
The Clarksville searchers after the wealth of the Wichitas had returned home by the middle of June, at which time De Morse took his full revenge upon them for leaving him out of the secret originally in a sarcastic article entitled, "The Gold Hunters:"
The enterprising company who with so much mystery and preparation, left our midst . . . . . some four weeks since, to seek for lumps as big as hen's eggs in the Wichita mountains, and to fish up the twenty-seven mule loads (nothing shorter) dropped in the mouth of the little Wichita close by a large rock, have returned to our midst.119
He continued by remarking that the returned wanderers informed no one of their success or failure and disclosed that the party had included a "clairvoyant subject...to reveal while under the influence of transcendental magnetism, the treasures, which were
116Ibid. The Wichita gold seekers who left Clarksville carried with them Texas land certificates, expecting "to get a deputation to survey, and locate all the mining region for their exclusive use." De Morse remarked that this "would be a very pretty speculation if it could be successfully carried out, but possibly a certain old law of Mexico, still preserved by our statutes from the general repeal of Mexican laws, will interfere to prevent the accomplishment of a very auriferous looking scheme."
118June 16, 1849. "Seeing the elephant" was one of the commonest slang expressions heard among the California emigrants and evidently referred to the adventurous spirit of the Forty-niners—if they didn't find gold, at least they would encounter adventure and see the sights. One California emigrant "thought the expression might have arisen from the inquiry of a person who had gone to a circus: 'Did you see the elephant?"' Foreman, Marcy and the Gold Seekers, footnote 55, p. 32.
119Ibid. Nothing in the paper ever clarified the above statement about the "twenty-seven mule loads," but the reader can use his own imagination about hidden Spanish or Mexican gold.
The golden mountains were found to be within the Indian Territory of the Union, and not locatable as anticipated.120
These notes are here concluded with the hope that they will have afforded something of a picture of the socio-economic interests by which the citizens of north Texas were united with those of the Choctaw Nation along Red River in the fifth decade of the nineteenth century. The Red River, it is true, served as a political boundary, but it was also an economic and social bond which made for a sort of unity among dwellers in its upper valley regardless of whether they were ruled by the Choctaw or the Texas government. Inhabitants on both the north and south banks were forced by the contiguity of their geographical situations to be concerned with many of the same problems, to follow many of the same pursuits and interests; this fact these notes were designed to illustrate.