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P.O. Box 118826
Carrollton, TX 75011-8826
Excerpts from G. W. Cox.
What was it like for the real pioneers?
The words of G.W. Cox. These are abstracts but they are unedited
G. W. Cox was born in Collin County, Texas, September 9, 1852, died
March 25, 1923, being buried in the Montague Cemetery. He was
married to Mary Ann Dodson of Denton County, she died March 21,
1926. Nine children were born into this family, but only four
survive; L. J. Cox, Fairbury, Nebraska; Mrs. Atley Hays, Montague,
Texas; Charles E. Cox, Bowie, Texas; and 0. A. Cox, Montague,
Texas. He was an ordained Baptist minister and served as County
Missionary several years, living in or near Montague, since a small
Having had the misfortune to get crippled some time ago and in
consequence being unemployed I thought to write an article for the
paper about the first settling of Montague town and county.
I cannot tell all of the happenings, for I have forgotten many
things; neither can I give a connected account in chronological
order. I will write occurences as I can think of them.
To get connection it will be necessary for me to give a little
Move to Montague County
I was born in Collin county, Texas, ten miles east of McKinney, on
Sept. 9, 1852. My father, J. H. Cox, moved to Montague county in
1858, first settling at Head of Elm, now known as Saint Jo. There
were two or three families there whose names I cannot now recall.
There was not much in this county at that time but Varmints, cattle,
a few buffalo, and Indians — mostly Kiowas and Comanches.
We did not stay at Head of Elm long, I don't remember just how long,
when we moved to the present cite of Montague and started the town.
I was the first white boy to make a track on the hill where the town
is now located. We pitched our tent between where the courthouse now
stands and where W. J. Ryan's house now is. My father brought a
stock of goods with him and built a rail pen, covered it with
clapboards, and put the goods in it. We moved in an ox wagon, in the
fall of the year. That winter, while we lived in a tent, a big snow
fell. So, as soon as possible father built a log house, two rooms
with partition sawed out, making a long house. This we used for a
store house. Our dwelling was built beside this building and was
weatherboarded with three-foot clap-boards, and all the buildings
were covered with the same material. The house was floored with
puncheons. This house was built on the northeast corner of public
square. Later father built just across the street on the ground now
owned by Sheriff Bralley.
There were a few settlers on Denton and Clear Creeks, and
occasionally they would come and buy goods of us. Father sold some
goods on time, but coffee was strictly cash.
Surveying the Town of Montague
When the town of Montague was laid out the surveyor set his jacob
staff in a big deer's track just where the court house now stand.
Description of Montague County - 1860's
Comparing conditions of today with those of the Sixties in this
country: There was then no undergrowth or runners - the wood was
open, and grass grew high. In the winter or early spring Indians, or
sometimes, whites, would set fire to the grass which was dangerous,
often requiring heroic fighting to save our houses; and there were
small farms in the valleys, usually ten to twenty acres, enclosed
with rail or "worm" fences, and we had some hard fights to keep the
fire from those fences. Stock often had a hard time saving
themselves from the raging flames.
The prairie was covered with mesquite grass, and stock kept fat all
winter. We never fed cattle, or horses that we did not work. When we
wanted a beef we just went out on the prairie or woods and drove up
one that suited us, killed it and called in the neighbors to get
what they wanted, without cost. We never thought of selling beef.
My father was a wood-workman. He could make anything out of wood
that he undertook. He had a lot of tools, turning lathe, etc .He
made and repaired wagons, and could make a fine rocking chair. We
use to get wagon timber on Allen McGrady's farm on Clear creek.
Father use to make coffins when one was needed. We did not need many
in those days. I use to help him, and have turned the lath until I
was oh, so tired! and it interfered with my play, and you know how
that hurts a boy.
Returning from Eureka Monday morning, where I had preached Sunday in
the school house standing on the ground where in boyhood days I
rode, when at the approach of man the coyote loped over the hills,
the deer and antelope scampered away, cattle fed on the free grass,
and the Indian roamed at will. I had just left the home of my old
friend, Q. P. Hill who I have known for Thirty-odd years, and whom
to know is to love. My thoughts ran back to the days when we use to
ride upon the hills where we get a view of the beautiful vales and
see a bunch of cattle contentedly browsing, how they would hoist
their heads and make away for the hills and neighboring vales. We
had to put spurs to our Spanish steeds and bound away after them,
often running them two or three miles before we could round them up,
when we would look at the brands to see if we had any in the bunch;
and if any were unmarked we roped them and while one held the rope
another would jump off and lay hold of the yearling's tail, throw
it, pass the tail under the upper leg, put our knees against his
back, when the man holding the rope would come with his sharp knife
and work on its ears. As we would have no branding irons with us,
and no time to build fires, we would cut or pick the brand with our
knives, and turn them loose and make for our horses, the yearlings
after us, Our horses, being so trained, would usually stand where we
In the fall of the year the grass here was from knee high to as high
as a man's head. When we saw a deer we saw him only as he jumped
above the grass. I have seen as many as twenty to twenty-five deer
in one drove. Antelope were plentiful on the prairies. Turkeys were
as plentiful as quail are now. We use to go turkey hunting at night
and shoot them off the roost. In the spring, in gobling time, my
father would go out a mile or two before day and sit down and wait
for them. When they began to fly down from the trees he would call
them up with a quill he blew, or some times he used a small paper
box which he rubbed on the barrel of his gun to imitate the "cowking"
of the turkey hens, and as the goblers drew near he shot them. Being
a great "papa boy" I usually went with him wherever he went, and oh,
how I would sweat and tug trying to carry those big turkeys.
When I recall my boyhood days and the way I followed in the
footsteps of my father, I think how careful parents should walk
before their children who are following in their footsteps.
My father and a man by the name of Furr were out cow hunting not far
from where Nocona now is, and became separated. As father rode along
a bunch of deer ran by him and he shot at them scaring a turkey hen
from her nest. Being fond of raw eggs he got off his horse and was
feasting on the turkey eggs when he heard the clatter of horses'
feet coming towards him. He expected a fight and got behind a tree
for shelter, but it proved to be some cow boys, and one of them knew
him and said, "now we've got you," just as father was about to
shoot; recognizing the voice, father replied, "I surrender," much
gratified to meet his friends. Since writing last, I remember four
more old settlers in this county:
A Camp Hunt
On one occasion Dr. Gordon, a man by the name of Rate, two Taylor
boys and I went down on Crooked branch, between Montague and where
Nocona now is, on a camp hunt. We struck camp and the next morning
started in search of game. We didn't carry much meat with us,
expecting to kill our meat as turkey and deer were plentiful; but
our first day or two we did not kill anything and got without meat,
so we had to subsist on bread and coffee. It was very unusual for
Dr. Gordon to come back without game. We determined to try our luck
again, so Bill Taylor and I, both boys, went together and jumped a
big buck deer. We had a time but finally got him; imagine our
chagrin when we found him so poor that nothing would eat him! We all
came into camp at night and reported our day's work, and they all
laughed at Taylor and I about our venison, but Dr. Gordon had killed
some turkeys, and Rate had killed a fine young deer but could not
bring it in. After supper Rate told me he wanted me to go with him
after his deer. It was dark, but the sky was clear and the stars
gave some light. I asked him how he expected to find it in the
darkness and it two or three miles away,. in the wild woods and no
roads. He said "That's all right, you get your horse." So we saddled
up and started. He said "do you see that star," pointing one, "my
deer is right under that star." So we kept in the direction of the
star until he pointed to a white object (he had fastened his
handkerchief to a bush to keep 'the wolves away from his deer') and
found the game. We got it on one of the horses and started for camp.
I was uncertain about finding our camp, but Rate showed me another
star to guide us, and we got back all right, and had plenty of meat
- turkey and deer.
We had no Court house or jail. We held court in any empty house that
could be had. When we had a prisoner, he had to be guarded. Dr. J.
A. Gordon was guarding one in father's store one night, and the
prisoner pretended to be very sick. The Doctor who was called helped
him out and dosed him with wheat dough pills. The fellow made excuse
to step out, and Gorden who was a fiddler was furnishing us music.
Thinking the fellow was very sick he followed him with the violin in
his hand, and when at the rear of the house, at a hole made to get
clay to daub the house, the prisoner jumped the hole, bade the guard
good night, and escaped in the darkness.
Another prisoner held in custody here had his horse larieted out,
and persuaded the guard to go with him to water the horse. On the
way to the well, which was in the valley just east of town the
prisoner, who was leading the horse, saw an opportunity, jumped on
the horse and made away on express train time, and escaped.
Some Scared Boys
Sam Mains, Sidney Darnell and I went out to Barrel Springs creek
fishing intending to drive in some cows to milk on our return. (It
was the custom to drive up any cow that was giving milk.) We
struck camp near where Belcher now is, on the bank of the creek,
killed some birds to bait our hooks, larietted our horses and went
to fishing. We caught several small fish and had fried one pan full
and eaten them, and was frying another batch, when our horses
snorted and ran the full length of their ropes.
The horse I was riding had been stolen by Indians once, and kept for
some time before he was recovered. A horse that has been kept by
Indians recognize the scent of one and always snorts when he smells
them. We grabbed our guns and pistols, for we carried them all the
time, and sat down with our guns. We had a fire and it gave
considerable light, so I said "boys we must not sit here, we are
giving the Indians all the advantage." We jumped down under the bank
of the creek. One of the boys suggested getting our horses, the
others that we ride, so we brought them up, and saddled them, rolled
our fish up in some paper and put them in our saddle bags, and rode
four or five miles to an old cow ranch belonging to J. J. Jones.
There was a little patch fenced. We tied our horses to the fence,
ate our fish, and lay down and slept 'till morning. Next morning we
started on our cow hunt, not knowing whether the Indians were in the
country or not. We rounded up some cows, cut out those we wanted and
drove them in to Montague, our home, and found our parents almost on
their heads about us, for Indians were in the country, and had done
some depridations, I don't remember what it was.
Father was called upon to make a coffin for one Taylor who was
killed by his son at a little log house which stood where the wagon
yard now is in Montague. Taylor lived in a house that use to stand
in the field now owned by Paul Veretto, on the Nocona road. The old
man would get drunk. He went home drunk one night and asked for his
son Bill, saying that he would whip him. Bill was in an adjoining
room and heard what his father said. He put a pistol in his pocket
and came to his brother-in-law's Ben Cribs. The old man followed,
went to Cribs and called for Bill. Cribs' wife, knowing her father's
disposition, told him Bill was not there, but Taylor refused to
believe her and pushed open the door. There being only one door in
the house Bill had no opening for escape. He was lying on the floor
with some children. When his father started to enter he shot him
down. As he ran out by his dying father the old man said, "See what
you have done." Bill replied "I can't help it." He ran off and lay
out in the woods for a long time, was finally captured and placed in
chains by Federal soldiers who were stationed at Jacksboro. Dick
Burdough of Gainesville defended him in the court ,and he was
Dr. Gordon and John Wayborn use to keep a lot of fox hounds. I use
to go with them in the chase There was no undergrowth or fences in
the way at that time. Wire was unknown, and the few fences we had
were crooked rail fences. When our dogs jumped a fox we gave rein to
our horses and followed them.
Sometimes we would run a red fox all night and then not tree it.
Sometimes when we rode up to where the dogs had treed a gray fox he
would jump out over the dogs, and we would have a race. Sometimes
the dogs would run a deer, and Dr. Gordon could tell when they were
after one, and would blow his horn and call them off and whip them.
He would catch them, put their fore legs around a small tree and
have some of us boys to hold their feet while he laid on the lash.
They would not run a deer for a long time after being whiped for it.
Ben Bennett, father-in- law of our blacksmith John Greer, use to
live on Salt creek two miles north of town on the farm now owned by
I. L. Shults. The Indians got so bad he had to move to town. One
night he asked me to go with him to catch his chickens and bring
them up. He had three or four hounds and we took them for a hunt on
the creek, now in the field owned by Paul Veretto. The dogs treed
something in a large post oak, and it being a very dark night we
made a fire under the tree so we could see what we had treed. The
light reflected from the animal's eyes located it for us, away up in
the forks of the tree and Bennett shot it with a shotgun. It was the
biggest cat-a-mount I ever saw. I was riding a big chestnut sorrel
horse of Bennett's that would carry anything one put on him, so we
put the cat up in front of me in the saddle. I use to go with
Bennett a great deal. He had a brother, Levi Bennett, who was a
great Indian fighter.
The Spring Round Up
In the early cow boy days, in the Spring when grass came up, the cow
men prepared for hunting up and branding their cattle, round up
their ponies and get their men ready. Montague, Denton, Cook, Wise,
Jack and Clay counties was their cow range. Wherever they found
cattle they drove and gathered them as they went. If two or more
outfits were together all cattle not marked or branded were divided
equally, everything found without mark or brand was marked and
branded with the mark and brand of the outfit. At night they camped,
hobbled their ponies, threw their saddles and blankets on the
ground, build a little fire and made coffee, eat their supper of
cold bread, meat (beef mostly) and black coffee, lay down on their
blankets with their saddles for pillows.
They had general round-ups when men from all over the country would
come. The men held the cattle in a bunch while some rode in and cut
out the cattle belonging to certain individuals. The round-up was
hard on horses.
Woman On The Frontier
I have heard a story of a woman whose husband moved to the frontier.
In writing back to her people about the country she said, "This is a
pretty country and a good country, but h-l on women and horses and
heaven for men and dogs."
The women suffered a great deal of uneasiness when the men went away
on the round-ups.
The Beginning of Civil War
I now come to the breaking out of the Civil War, or the war between
the North and South. It commenced in the spring of 1861. I was nine
years old. Living on the fronties, as we did, we had a pretty hard
time with the Indians, but I expect we saw a better time than the
people did where the war was going on. Times would get pretty tight
with us some times; it got so we could not get coffee, as we have
now. We called the coffee we have now Lincoln coffee. As I have
already stated, my father sold goods, and when the war came up my
mother put away some Lincoln coffee and occasionally she would make
some Lincoln coffee. We used for coffee parched wheat or rye, some
times bran and okra seed. My father had to make our own shoes, he
tanned his own leather. I will tell you how he did it. Father would
take his ax and go to the woods and peel blackjack bark and make me
pick it up. Oh; how tired I would get carrying the bark home. And he
had a large trough that he made he would find a hollow or dota tree
and cut it and make his trough. He put the bark in and fill up with
water, let it soak, take out the bark put in his cow hide. I do not
remember how long the hide had to stay before it came out leather.
Now I will tell you what kind of tacks he had; he would get red raw
wood saw it into blocks as long as he wanted his pegs, then split
them the thickness he wanted his pegs, trim one side sharp then
split those the size he wanted his pegs; made his lasts out of wood;
then he would make our shoes. Oh! how proud we children would be
when pap (as I called him) would begin to make us some shoes. We
would say, pap, make them screak, so he would get some goose quills
and put them between the soles. How proud we would be when we got
our new shoes. How we would walk and make them screak. Reader, I
have went barefooted until Christmas many a time. I remember the
first pair of boots I ever had. I will tell you how I got them. I
attended to old uncle John Morris' horse for him and he gave me
twenty five cents a day. I would go and get his horse and water it
for him. He was the father of W. A. Morris. So I got money enough
and bought my boots. I thought I was almost a man when I got my
boots on. Uncle John Morris ran a saloon where the printing office
now is. He lived in a little log house just across the street south
east of the saloon. One evening I was in the crib shucking corn I
heard a gun fire and a man hollow. Old man Morris shot uncle Dora
Booher through one of his shoulders. Booher got well. During the war
there used to live a man by the name of Brumley he lived on the
place part now owned by Paul Viretto one mile north of Montague in a
double log house that stood down in the valley on the west side of
the creek. This man Brumley had six sons; two of them lived in old
Head of Elm or St. Jo and sold goods. There were the following
names, to wit: Jeff Davis, Doctor Armstrong, Joe Boilston; Jack
Paton, Bill Music, Dave Cooley, and some others I cannot now recall;
these men and the Brumleys had a falling out, so one morning just at
day-break old man Brumley got up as usualy and lit his pipe and
walked out on the galery between the houses, bang went a gun; his
wife and daughter had not got up as they had negroes to do their
work; they heard the gun fire but thought the old man had shot at
something. When they got up there lay the old man dead. In two or
three days I think it was it is said that these above named men went
to Head of Elm and killed Bill and Dan Brumley. The Brumleys got
behand a tree for refuge in the fight, but they were killed. I was
there in a few days after the killing and saw their blood by that
tree. My father was a friend to the Brumleys, that is they thought a
great deal of my father, and by saying this I do not mean he was not
a friend to these other men. My father used to be post-master and
was at this time. One day these men who had killed the Brumleys rode
up got down and came into fathers office, talked with him awhile,
went out, consulted with each other, came back in the house, talked
again with father went out again but got on their horses and rode
off. They were well armed as every body went those days. Father said
he thought by their actions they came in to kill him, but by some
cause they did not. Some one may say what did they do with those
men; the law did nothing because it was war times and they did not
try men those days; the difference between then and now, then they
were not bothered with a trial; now they just go through a trial.
Some of the Brumley boys were in the war, one or two of them came
back with some of their company; they hunted for these men who had
done the killing of their father and brothers, they got Cooley. They
camped in the woods at the north west corner of the tract of land
now owned by H. C. Masterson. The same 160 acres joining the town
tract. That night they shot and killed Cooley; he was found the next
day and brought to town; he was shot with a shot gun, with buck
shot. I saw him, he was shot up pretty bad. I remember very
distinctly seeing him, he was laid out in a house on the south side
of the square, where Ulbig now is.
Deputy Livestock Inspector
Worked as deputy inspector on the cow trail in the spring of
1879. Old man Adam man was elected inspector; myself G. W.
Campbell and John Bellows were deputies.
We camped in a little old log cabbin in Broad- use's pasture, about
two miles northeast of where Nocona now is. Southern Texas cow men
drove cattle through to Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. They would
come in droves from one thousand to 3500 in a drove. John Bellows
and myself inspected a bunch of 800 horses one morning. We would
take stock in part pay for inspecting. We got three cents per head
for inspecting, so we got a considerable little bunch of our own.
Then I took for my job herding our cattle. Jeff Jameson had not been
in Texas long he was just a boy we hired to help me herd the cattle.
I then boarded at old man Jessie's. The water dried up where we was
herding so away down on Panther creek towards the river Bill
Yarbrough, son of old man Burrell Yarbrough, had a cow ranch and
there was plenty of water there and he told us we could move down
there with our cattle. So one Sunday morning I told Jeff we had to
move our cattle to Bill Yarbrough's ranch for water so we started
with our cattle. Jeff had a little black pony mare and there was one
red heifer that was hard to keep in the bunch so we was driving
along and that heifer started running off. I said Jeff bring her
back. It was a dry year and the prairie was hard so Jeff put spurs
to his pony and off he went after her. He did not go far until his
pony began to pitch with him. Jeff had been sick and was not stout
and the pony threw him off. He struck the ground all in a double you
could of heard Jeff grunted a good peace; I ran to him and said Jeff
are you hurt. His reply was no catch her, d-m her. We got down to
Yarbrough's ranch all right, Jeff not being in Texas long, did not
understand the rough cow boy ways. We slept out on the ground every
night, and when we would spread our blankets and put for our heading
what ever we had, those other cowboys would slip before we lay down
and steal our heading. Jeff did not know how to take that; it was a
funny way of doing to Jeff. When we would get away Jeff would say to
me them is the G-d-m s fellows I ever saw. Jeff's pony would try to
pitch with him every once and awhile. I would tell him to hold her
up and put the quirt to her good and stout.
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