Frank Gholson, an Early Frontiersman
Frank Gholson, an Early Frontiersman
From J. Marvin Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine, March, 1952
J. Marvin Hunter, Sr.
Benjamin Franklin Gholson, who died at his home near Evant, Texas, in 1936 at the age of 94 years, was one of the Old Guard of the Lone Star Republic who witnessed many thrilling events during his long life. He had personal acquaintance with General Sam Houston, General Edward Burleson and Thomas Ross. This hardy old frontiersman and his good wife lived for sixty-seven years three miles south of Evant, near the corner of the counties of Hamilton, Coryell and Lampasas. There they reared their family of nine children, and known far and wide as outstanding examples of the Texas pioneers. It was my good fortune to meet this wonderful couple at the reunion of the Texas Ex-Rangers at Menard in July, 1927, but I had been in correspondence with Captain Gholson for ten or twelve years before I met him personally, and he had given me accounts of a number of battles with Indians and other historical data. He was a man of good, natural intellect and wonderful memory, and had stored in his mind much valuable history of early day events. Not only could he give exact dates of important events of his life, but he could usually give a detailed description of the weather on that date also.
Benjamin Franklin Gholson was born November 17, 1842, in the days of the Republic of Texas, in Robertson's Colony, now Falls county. He was the second son of Colonel Sam Gholson, who was a colonel in General Jackson's army and led a regiment of soldiers known as the Kentucky Riflemen in the Battle of New Orleans. This Samuel Gholson was born in Kentucky about 1772. Albert G. Gholson, father of the subject of this sketch, was also born in Kentucky, near Paducah, May 25, 1818. He moved with his parents to Madison county, Tennessee, in 1825, and from that place he and his father came to Texas with a train of immigrants, leaving Jackson, Tennessee, on April 3, 1832, and landing at San Felipe, Texas, about July 29 of that year. The immigrants were members of Robertson's Colony, then being settled under the government of Mexico. When the revolution broke out between Texas and Mexico, Albert G. Gholson enlisted in Captain Carey White's company of volunteers. He participated in several battles, and was with Old Ben Milam in San Antonio when that trepid commander was killed. He was also in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1839 he was married to Miss Elydia Anderson, also of Robertson's Colony. She died in 1843. In 1852 Albert G. Gholson moved to McLennan county, and settled twelve miles above Waco, at what is now Gholson, and what was first known as Gholson's Valley. In 1855 he moved with his family and a herd of cattle to what is now Mills county, to a place on Owl Creek.
Benjamin Franklin Gholson, and his brother, Samuel S. Gholson, left, the ranch in 1858 and went to San Saba and joined the Texas Rangers, under Captain John Williams. This company of Rangers did much valuable service. They did an unusual amount of scouting, and were engaged in a number of Indian fights. The company was disbanded in April 1859, and B. F. Gholson afterward enlisted as a Texas Ranger with a company organized by Captain J. M. Smith, early in March, 1860. L. S. Ross, later governor of Texas, was first lieutenant in this company. T. H. Calehaugh and A. F. Gault were elected second lieutenants of the company. Speaking of this service, Mr. Gholson said:
"This company had one First Lieutenant and two Second Lieutenants instead of first, second and third. When we had fully organized at Waco, the ladies of Waco made us a flag bearing the Texas star. On the morning of our departure Miss Ellen Earl presented us that flag with an address. The address was replied to by Lieut. Sul Ross. We marched directly to Fort Balknap. When we arrived there other companies of Texas Rangers were assembling. There were nine of these companies in all. Col. M. T. Johnson had authority to organize those companies into a regiment, which was done in the parade ground at Fort Belknap, near where Newcastle now stands. S. P. Ross, better known as Pete Ross, held a commission a s Captain. He was instructed by Sam Houston, then Governor of Texas, to go to Fort Cobb, then headquarters for the Indian Territory, enlist Plascedo, chief of the Tonkawas, to pick forty-five warriors from that reservation and join the regiment with them when we reached the Indian Territory, which he did. Col. Johnson was at the same time in command of the regiment.
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`We marched directly to the Wichita Mountains, then in Indian Territory—now Oklahoma. We established headquarters and supply camp at Otter Creek and bega n scouting from that point. The Comanches had received word through those reservation Indians that a strong force of Texas Rangers was coming in search of them. So in due time they started their women and children and all the stock property they had in the direction of Pike's Peak. The entire tribe went north except a sufficient number of warriors whom they left behind with instructions that when the tribe had gotten out of the way to divide into squads from the Red to the Arkansas Rivers. Special instructions were given them to fire the entire line on a certain day and then to pass over the ground and refire all the water courses passing through the territory so as to burn both sides of the Canadian, Washita and other streams across their line. (This we afterward learned through the reservation Indians just as the wild tribes had learned of our coming.) This being in June and it being very dry at the time, with the wind blowing from the south, they succeeded so completely burning the country that the rangers, being mounted and depending on grass for their mounts and pack animals, made almost a complete failure of this expedition against the Northern Comanches. We never did find the north and west end of it. They were attacked high up on the Canadian some 200 miles from headquarters at night and lost a great many of their hoses, leaving a good part of the men afoot. Those who had their horses divided time with those who did not, taking it turn about riding and walking and walking and riding until they got back, to headquarters.
"Lieut. Gault and I received word of the necessity of our return home, so we were honorably discharged on Otter Creek Aug. 11, 1860.
"It was a dangerous attempt for two men. We were given valuable instructions by the officers and men as to how to travel, also by Plascedo and his old warriors. Plascedo said to us in broken English, "All time ride at night. No much time ride in daytime. In daytime one eye open. Meybe so Comanch' no get you." So we bid all the boys and Tonkawas good-bye and started. The boys said to us "We never expect to see you again." We traveled all that day and a good part of the night. After that we traveled at night only, unless absence of water on the way forced us to go until we came to water. The third night out, not more than twenty miles from Red River, the Texas line, at about midnight, we saw some lights kindled up to the west. They continued to kindle up until we could count thirty-two dim lights. The dimness of the lights was due to the 'fact that nothing except buffalo chips was available for fuel. We traveled on and discovered a large herd. Thinking it might be buffalo, we rode carefully up close enough to hear horses snort as they were grazing. We at once decided that this was a herd that belonged to the lights just west of us. We turned around to the east, leaving the herd to the west until we got past them. We did not see any Indians or herders. We traveled on some twelve or fourteen miles and went down off a tableland into a broad prairie.
"We halted at the foot of this tableland to sleep until morning. Our rule was not to unsaddle our horses until the last thing was done. We had two horses apiece, riding one and leading one for a pack horse. When we had unpacked and had staked our horses (we carried stake pins), before we had unsaddled the ones we were riding they began looking back in the direction we were riding from and showing signs of fright. We had halters prepared to keep them from making any noise when in danger. We at once applied our smother halters and stopped them from making any noise. By this time a band of Indians was off of a bench or tableland about 400 yards to the northeast from us. We hugged close to the foot of th e hill. We could hear the roar of the herds. Behind the Indians was a bunch of horses driven by more Indians and behind those Indians were more horses driven in a similar way. Several bunches of Indians and the horses divided in that manner went off of the high ground, traveling to the southeast. We could hear the rattle of wigwam poles, owing to the manner in which they were carried. Occasionally we could hear the Indians talk among themselves, and could hear them hit the pack as they would strike at the pack horses with whips or ropes. At the rear we could hear the jabber of the squaws and children. When they were gone we remained where we were until daylight and then traveled on a few miles. Seeing a smoke nearly in front of us, we hesitated for a while as to what to do. We decided that the Indians had gone on or we would see that big herd of horses somewhere. We ventured down and found the fires burning and the water muddy, but all were gone. So we remained there all that day. We learned that a band of Indians had separated from the main band at that place. This small band had gone in our direction and the larger one ha d borne to the east. When night came, we took up our line of march again, trying to obey Plascedo's instruction s We did not make a long ride that day because when we struck the old road running from Fort Belknap to Fort Cobb on the Washita, we stopped and waited until daylight. When daylight came, we saw moccasin tracks thick but the Indians had gone. We looked around a little and found that a fire had been built on the south bank of the Little Washita and had gone out immediately. This indicated that it had not been used. Nearby lay a dirty hickory shirt, commonly worn by frontiersmen and Mexicans. The shirt indicated that whoever wore it had been shot through the body with a big bullet, as it had a hole in each side of it around which were blood stains. We failed to find the man. There was a large hole of water in the creek near the fire and the shirt. From this place on we had a road which we knew and so decided to ride in the daytime. Starting at about 11 o'clock in the forenoon, we rode until after sundown and came to Dave Peaveler's stock ranch. There we spoke to the first white people we had seen since leaving the ranger camp. Mr. Peaveler was an old man and had some grown sons who were working his ranch. This was the most northern ranch at that time. The Indians had been there the night before and carried off a lot of the ranch horses. Two of the young Peavelers, John and Lewis, had gone in pursuit of the Indians. The younger son, a lad, remained at the ranch with his father and mother and other occupants of the place. He was known as Capt. France Peaveler. We remembered each other when we met at one of our ranger reunions.
"Nothing else of interest occurred during the rest of this trip. When we got to my father's farm, Lieut. Gault stayed, all night and then went on to Waco. He told me he would be in Waco several days. About the fourth day afterwards, I went to Waco, but he had gone to Virginia, his native state. I never met him again. I learned that he was made a Lieutenant Colonel on the staff of one of our Confederate Generals, but it has slipped my mind which one it was. He became a prominent lawyer in Washington, D. C., after the Civil War, and remained there until his death some years ago. He was an uncle of the Gault whose widow married President Wilson. This last information I obtained from a Mr. Nicholson of Dallas. He was a Government field agent and said he had heard Col. Gault tell of this trip of his and mine. The company of rangers came in about three weeks later than we did and were disbanded at Waco. "
(Editor's Note—In a future issue we will give Captain Gholson's account of the battle of Pease river, and the capture of Cynthia Ann Parker. He was a participant in that battle).
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