Front Street 1890





  Stories and Tales
  Pioneer Recipes
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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 personal history.

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 left them.

Wild Game

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.

A Patricide

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 acquitted.

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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