REMARKABLE ACCOUNT OF PIONEER LIFE IN TEXAS - J. T. Hazelwood
From J. Marvin Hunter's Frontier Times Magazine, May, 1947
The following story was given us some twenty-five years ago by J. T. Hazelwood, who was then living at San Angelo. In this sketch Mr. Hazelwood tells of the real pioneer life in early Texas:
Came to Texas in 1852
In 1852 my father, George W. Hazelwood, emigrated with his family from Mississippi to the plains of Western Texas. There being no railroads or other means of transportation at that time, he came by the mule mode of conveyance. The country as sparsely settled after reaching the Texas line, and the trip was a long tedious one. The family would travel for days' without meeting a human being, only coming in contact with vast herds of wild buffalo and numerous tribes of still wilder Indians. The journey occupied several months, and my father with his family eventually located in Panola county, Texas. The county being wholly an open range, and the pioneers who blazed the way into this new western civilization being extremely few and far between, the early settlers apparently did not remain very long in any one place, but moved from location to location seeking better range, more ample water and greater safety from marauding Indians. Fort Worth, in Tarrant county, was the nearest trading point, and all provisions and supplies of every character and description was brought into the Western country by freighters, sometimes accompanied by United States troops, but more frequently they traveled in little bands for better protection against Indian raids.
From Panola county my father moved into Palo Pinto county, settling on Eagle Creek, west of Palo Pinto, at that time a small trading point. Here he went into the ranching business, driving his cattle from one location to another, but due to Indian raids he remained in Palo Pinto county about four years, and then was compelled to move to a location of greater security. The Indians, who were very numerous at this period, were making raids over the entire country on all "light nights," stealing horses and mules, driving off cattle, and murdering the settlers. The soldiers stationed at the various points in Texas were few in number and insufficient to offer adequate protection to the scattering settlements of white people: and while I was yet quite a small boy during these periods of stress, I can remember very distinctly the conditions and circumstances under which early settlers were compelled to live and fight for their lives, for the preservation of their herds, and for the protection of their families. It was no uncommon thing for the Indians on their raids to steal the entire working outfit of the early settlers, including their horses and mules, and driving away their livestock: in fact, it was almost impossible to keep horses or mules, and it was for that reason the settlers abandoned using them for farming purposes and adopted the ox team instead. It would be impossible to enumerate the number of Indian encounters which took place during the early years of the settling of West Texas between these settlers and these roving tribes. I remember on one occasion, when a German by the name of Fred Cola, an employe of my father, was out after cattle on the open range when the Indians made an attack upon him and after running him for several miles finally killed him with an arrow from an Indian bow.
It was in 1860 when my father moved with his family to Stephens county, near the line of Shackelford, settling on Sandy Creek, but the Indian depredations continuing, he again moved to a safer place, as he thought, over on Battle Creek. The ranges were covered with countless herds of buffalo, deer, antelope, bear and other wild game. We lived in a picket house, covered with sod and dirt, and the flooring with buffalo hides — nothing to compare with the comfortable homes which the people of this country enjoy at the present time, but, nevertheless, the conditions for that day and age were ideal, and we lived in comfort,except that we lived in constant fear of Indian raids.
My father killed many deer and dressed their hides, and my mother made clothing of them for the boys, and I remember very distinctly the "coonskin" caps and the "home-made" shoes which were made for the children of our family, and which we were glad to get and took great pride in wearing, regardless of the fact that they would not be considered up to date now by the present young man about town or the present young society lady preparing for a modern ball. I do not remember very much about fashions in those days, and I am quite sure if I should dress today in the garb which I wore sixty years ago, or if my sisters should dress in the garb they wore some sixty years ago, and walk down the streets of San Angelo, we would cause no little comment and, perhaps, some of the modern up-to-date fashions would be cast into the shade by the old time apparel worn by the early pioneers. I also remember that we did not regard clothes so much in those days as they are regarded now, and such things as ribbons and bows, and lace and silk hose, silk hats and canes for the young men, and a poodle dog with a string around his neck for the young women, would have been considered a s much out of place in the early days as perhaps our "coonskin" caps and "home-made" shoes and our "deerskin britches, "our buffalo coats," and "buffalo shirts" would appear at the present day. Times change, customs change, conditions change, but human nature changes but very little, and even when I compare the boys and girls of the present day, in the last analysis of their human make-up, with the boys and girls of seventy years ago, I find that they have the same warm hearts, the same happy, cheerful smile, the same creative youthful ambition, and the same desire to succeed, regardless of the fact that we are living in a day and age of automobiles, that we are free from Indian depredations and raids, that we no longer see the buffalo roam the plains, and that where the buffalo once roamed and where the Indians perpetrated their raids, beautiful homes and every modern convenience now can be found, and agricultural conditions are changed likewise with modern improvements, yet the heart and mind of the pioneers of the western range are still found to permeate the posterity of those early settlers to a very large extent.
Having neither railroads nor streetcar lines, nor electric lines, nor electric lights, nor automobiles, nor hard-surfaced roads, nor good bridges across streams, traveling in those days was indeed slow, and the method of communication was even slower. As we had no telegraph office, nor telephone system, nor radio stations for wireless communication, the only method of communication and carrying the news was what one neighbor could take to another—and when these neighbors lived some fifty to one hundred miles apart, they did not see each other very frequently and they did not have the opportunity to gossip. The truth of the matter is, as I remember it now, the conditions sixty years ago, while very primitive, were at the same time, from the standpoint of rearing a good and happy family, very substantial, and though we lived for apart, the very fact of this great distance between neighbors only added to the interest which we took in each other, and it was a great pleasure indeed when one family would have the opportunity to spend the night and day with a neighbor fifty or one hundred mile s off, and it was a greater pleasure for a traveler from some of the more thickly populated settlements to wander, through our neighborhood and sit up the entire night and repeat the news to those most interested, in his purely personal way. The latchstring always hung on the outside of the door to everyone but Indians, and a neighbor or a stranger always met with a hearty welcome. We were glad to see them come, and sorry to see them go. Our fare may have been homely, and the menu we set before them might not have consisted of twelve or fifteen courses, but such as it was, it was very wholesome and appetizing, and it was a pleasure to sit around the table in those days.
My father did a great deal of trading from Fort Worth, in the first instance, and afterwards from Weatherford, with ox teams, for the reasons I have heretofore stated - that horses and mules could not be kept on account of Indian raids.
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In the spring of 1868, my father, with a number of other ranchmen, went out on a round-up, gathering and branding a large number of calves which they had failed to find during the fall round-up. One day they gathered a bunch of these calves and put them in a corral on the Jim Walker ranch, located on Sandy Creek. They always had to camp out because there were no pastures for these round-ups. The horses were hobbled at night. The next morning, on this occasion, my father told the men to continue with the branding of the calves, and he would go out and bring in the horses. Finding only a few of them, he returned to camp, then went back to locate the others. During his absence a man coming from another ranch observed a bunch of Indians and he hurried to the camp and gave the alarm, while the men in camp saddled their horses and went to the point where the Indians were last seen. They rode up on a high elevation, looking down into a canyon, where they discovered the Indians, and the Indians at the same time discovered the men. There being a large party of these Indians, and only a few white men, a running fight took place as the men started back to camp, the Indians shooting with bows and arrows, while the men used their guns and pistols. After the Indians had retreated, search was made for my father, and he was found about a mile and a half from the camp, lying in a branch, where he had been killed by the Indians. He had fought them single-handed for some time, and several pools of blood were found near the battle ground. The Indians were in the canyon preparing to carry off their wounded when the settlers came upon them. After killing my father they did not disturb him except to take his gun, pistol, horse and saddle. The men went back to the camp, procured a wagon, and brought father's body to the ranch the next day. The soldiers came and took the trail of the Indians to the westward, and followed them for several days. The Indians attacked the Ledbetter salt work, and then continued their flight westward until overtaken by some cattlemen out near the plains. They were still carrying their wounded, some three or four Indians and a negro. Seeing that they could not retreat further with their wounded they abandoned them in order to make their own escape, and the pursuing settlers coming upon them, killed the wounded themselves. Among these wounded was the Indian who slew my father. A close examination being made of him, it was found that two of his fingers on the left hand, where he had held the bow, were injured by a bullet wound corresponding to the hole in the bow; the bullet passed through the bow into the Indian's breast, ranging around his side and coming out at his back. This was conclusive evidence, after the finding of the bow and bloodstains thereon and comparing the wounds found upon the Indian, that he was the same one who slew my father. This bow was afterwards turned over to the government, and is now in the museum of the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D. C.
The description of the death of my father on this Indian raid is almost identical in manner and form with hundreds of others who were killed in the early days while West Texas was being settled, and while the account may differ in some few respects, their method was always the same, their character of fighting was the same, and what has been said of the death of my father would only be a repetition if I should describe the death of a number of other pioneers who were killed during Indian raids, and I am merely giving these facts to show the uncertainties under which the early pioneers lived, the great danger which they constantly faced, and the trials which they had to pass in order that they might build up the ground work of a greater civilization in this western country.
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