HISTORY OF EARLY SETTLEMENT IN COLLIN COUNTY
Part I Settlement and Indian Encounters
From the The McKinney Advocate, April 3, 1880 Vol. 4, No. 1, Whole No. 157 Quoted from The American Sketchbook
Note of the Publisher of The McKinney Advocate:
We have copied the early history of the county, from the American Sketch Book, and given the proper credit. The original manuscript was written by one of the earliest citizens of the county, and is now in our possession.
Collin County, before it was organized, formed a part of the territory of Fannin. In November of [unreadable] Dr. ROWLETT, Jabez FITZ[unreadable], Edmund DODD, Pleasant WILSON, Dr. William E. THROCKMORTON and others made a trip from the settlements on Red River, in the north part of Fannin county, to this section, with a view of locating lands for a settlement, which Dr. THROCKMORTON and others proposed to make on the waters of the east fork of Trinity river. A selection of lands was made on ROWLETT’s creek near the mouth of Spring creek. Doctor THROCKMORTON returned to the settlements for his family, and in company with M. C. CLEMENTS and his two married sons, Wesley and Binford CLEMENTS and their families, started to the proposed settlement.
On reaching the locality it was found that the party who were with the surveyor, Dr. ROWLETT, had taken up the lands that had been selected for the settlement. Pleasant WILSON who had been acting as a guide for the moving families, proposed that the party should return to the East Fork where he could show them fine bodies of timber and prairie lands, that had not been surveyed, or taken up and where their headrights could be located.. He piloted them back to a spring in the neighborhood of where Melissa now is, and soon a suitable location was found where Doctor THROCKMORTON settled on the creek that bears his name in the north with thickets and a small skirts of timber bordering on their banks, and wild flowers, of every hue and variety presented scenery unsurpassed in loveliness.
In November 1842, Joseph H. WILCOX, David HELMS and Joseph HARLAN commenced a settlement upon the F. T. DUFFAN survey on WILSON’s creek, a few miles from the present site of McKinney. Their settlement was broken up by the Indians, and shortly afterward they joined Col. Jack MCGARRAH in making his settlement at old Buckner, afterwards selected as the first county seat. David O’BRIEN now owns the land.
A few weeks before Col. McGARRAH began his settlement, Wesley CLEMENTS, Samuel YOUNG, and a Mr. WHISLER and their families moved to CLEMENTS’ headright survey on Honey creek and began to build cabins. A week or ten days before Christmas, Mr. YOUNG went back to the settlements below the Bailey ENGLISH settlements (where Bonham now is) for provisions.
On Christmas morning, CLEMENTS and WHISLER left their cabin and went into the bottom to cut house logs. They had not been absent but a short time when the women heard shooting, and in a few minutes, CLEMENTS, pursued by the Indians, reached within thirty or forty yards of the house, when he was met by two other Indians who had crept up and hid in the bushes. He had a hand to hand comflict with the two that interposed between him and the house. His wife seized a rifle gun and started to his aid, but before she reached him, the pursuing Indians ran up behind him and burried a tomahawk in his head.
When his wife saw this, she ran back to the house and Mrs. YOUNG shut the door after Mrs. CLEMENTS entered. As the Indians started to the house, Mrs. CLEMENTS presented the gun through a crack and this demonstration drove the Indians back, when they scalped CLEMENTS and disappeared.
Before the firing was heard, Mrs. WHISLER had gone to the branch. She heard the shooting and the screams of the women and children at the house, and at the same time heard the Indians pursuing WHISLER’s horse which had on a bell. By the sound she knew the Indians were rapidly approaching the spot where she was. The creek was high and the branch full of backwater. She sprang into the deep water and hid herself under driftwood, managing to get her head between two logs above water where she could breathe. While she was in this position, the Indians caught the horse on the bank immediately above her. Believing [unreadable] ...all had been killed. By now everything had become quiet, she went to the creek and where ever the water was shallow enough she waded down the stream, knowing that some miles below she would find the road that led back to the settlement.
Her object in going into the water was to keep the Indians from tracking her. She was used to a frontier life and knew the habits of the Indians. Her father and mother had been killed by them some years before on the Brazos. By pushing her way through the briars and brush, and wading in the creek when she could, she finally reached the road at the crossing on Honey creek. A mile further on, the road crossed the East Fork.
When she reached this stream, she found it a drift and crossed over, and again found the road and hurried on. It was a cold raw day and a norther blowing. By the time she had reached the prairie, her clothing had been almost entirely stripped from her by the briars and brush, and she was streaming with blood from many torn and lacerated wounds. Sometime after getting on the prairie, she saw two men with a wagon. To avoid them she left the road and shied some distance from them. The men called to her to know what was the matter. She answered them by saying that the Indians had killed her husband, Mr. CLEMENTS and his wife and Mrs. YOUNG and the children.
They offered her assistance and started toward her when she ran and they fearing to pursue, thinking perhaps she was crazed, continued their way to the creek, where they camped, finding it impassable. They had not long been in camp, when Mrs. CLEMENTS, Mrs. YOUNG and the children arrived on the opposite bank of the creek. The men whose names at this distant time are forgotten, cut down a tree and crossed the women and children over.
The long run of six or seven miles, with several helpless children, together with the terrible fright to which they had been subjected, had completely exhausted the poor affrighted women. When they saw friendly faces and willing hands ready to protect and assist them, their fortitude, which had hitherto sustained them, almost gave way. The kindhearted men provided for their wants and made them as comfortable as circumstances would admit, and then drove rapidly back to the settlement. Mrs. WHISLER in the most deplorable condition, had reached there and had been cared for by sympathizing and kind hearts.
The next day, a party of nine or ten men went after the murdered men. WHISLER was found near where the Indians had made the first attack, shot through the back and heart. He had run but a short distance. The Indians, at that early day, were poorly armed and had but little ammunition. They had evidently missed their victim at the first fire. They had doubtless made their arrangements to murder the women and children as soon as the men were killed and CLEMENTS’ escape to near to the house and his wife’s present [sic] of mind, after his fall, alone saved them from torture or a lingering captivity, worse than death. This horrid tragedy occurred on Christmas day.
Dol. McGARRAH joined by J. H. WILCOX, HELMS, [several phrases unreadable] were engaged in building in February following. Just before this, a settlement had been started at Cedar Springs four miles above where the city of Dallas is now situated.
One morning about sunrise, in February, a Doctor CALDER, of the Cedar Springs settlement, rode up to Col. McGARRAH’s. He had previously sent word that he would be there the night before. When he rode up he was invited to get down and get breakfast, but he declined, stating it would be a hard day’s ride to reach the settlement of Bailey ENGLISH. He enquired if there were any Indians in the country. The parties assured him that they had been out the day previous in various directions and had see no sign of any.
CALDER had a double barreled shot gun and a led horse. He had not left the house a great while, when one of the men going outside discovered CALDER on foot, running behind his horses, in the road leading from the house, and two Indians in pursuit, some three or four hundred yards from the house. WILCOX and one of the others seized their rifles and [ran] to his relief. Very soon after they started, CALDER disappeared in a grove of timber. WILCOX and his comrade had run down the road about two hundred yards, when they saw the two Indians who had been pursuing CALDER, returning with his scalp.
At this moment, about sixty Indians rose up out of the grass, a hundred yards or more west of the road, and commenced firing on the rescuing party. Fortunately they were uninjured and made good their retreat to the house, where preparations had been begun for a determined resistance. The house was built of logs and no door, but puncheons were fastened to close the door space and split up to chink the house. The Indians raised the war whoop and charged upon the house. The inmates presented guns through the cracks but wisely withheld their fire, intending to waste no ammunition. Most of the guns were unloaded.
The Indians delivered a volley and fell back. Their chiefs rallied them and beat them over the shoulders with their bows and urged a charge. Again they started, tired, and fell back. In the meantime, bullets were being run and powder dished out, the house chinked and every preparation made for a vigorous defence. In the meanwhile, bullets were being showered by the Indians into the house and every effort made to draw the fire of the whites. If they could have done this at long range, they would have charged and made the attempt to to finish the bloody work before the whites could have reloaded their guns. .....[unreadable].
The chiefs made repeated efforts but could not force their warriors to the final and desperate charge. About one o’clock in the afternoon, the Indians withdrew to an eminence in full view of the house, and held a consultation. They had secured Doctor CALDER’s two horses, also the horses and mules of the parties in the house. The Indians clustered around one of their number who was stretched on the ground. From this is was supposed that Calder had shot one of them. His saddle and gun were afterwards found on the spot. The gun being a precision lock and the Indians having no caps, could not use it. The saddle was stripped of its leather and one barrel of the gun had been discharged.
In the evening the Indians disappeared and went back to watch the fords of Honey creek and East Fork where they remained all night. After the Indians disappeared, the men went out and brought in CALDER’s body. During the attack by the Indians, the dogs of the whites ran down and charged them, and all were killed but one, a noble mastiff in defence of their masters. In the night about nine o’clock, the men left the house, but being experienced frontiersmen they wisely left the road and took a contrary direction to the one the Indians expected. A little after daylight they reached the THROCKMORTON settlement which they feared had been attacked, but found it safe.
A party of eleven men was all that could be spared to go after the body of CALDER, as a few men had to be left to guard the women and children at the stockade. When the party reached the East Fork and Honey Creek, they found the water still muddy, and when the prairie was reached, the Indians were setting it on fire, not more than a half a mile distant from the road. CALDER’s remains were buried on the old THROCKMORTON place beside the graves of CLEMENTS and WHISLER.
No other settlements were attempted during the summer, except WILCOX began a settlement in the northern part of the county, and Co. McGARRAH continued on his place, and that winter his sons in law, Jones and George HERNDON, and Tola DUNN with George McGARRAH, moved out and settled near his place.
During the year 1844, quite a number of families moved out. Among them were Jacob BACCUS and sons, Godfrey, and Peter, and their families; John FITZHUGH and his sons, Robert and William; Leonard SEARCY and his sons, Gallatin, Laughdon, Thrashly and Thomas; Wm. RICE; Thomas RATTEN, John KAUFFMAN; Collin McKINNEY and his sons, William and Scott, with his widowed daughters who had families, Wm. CREOGER, and perhaps others who settled in Grayson and Collin counties. Among others, were the COLDWELLS who settled on Honey Creek. Before this, however, John HODGE the then representative in the Congress of the Republic, also made a settlement on Honey Creek.
In the fall of 1844, a Mr. MUNCEY with his family and an old man, by the name of JAMISON, had moved out on ROWLETT’s creek and began to build. Shortly after that settlement was begun, Wm. RICE and Mr. Leonard SEARCY and their two sons, went out to camp and have a hunt on the creek. In the morning, one of the old gentlemen went into the timber to find MUNCEY’s camp. Suddenly he came upon it, and a most terrible and heart rending sight met his startled vision. It was a board camp. He found MUNCEY and the old man JAMISON lying on their faces, having been shot and their bodies presenting no appearance of having been disturbed after receiving their death wounds. The youngest child, two or three years old, seemed to have had its head dashed against the wall, and mashed into a shapeless mass. ....[unreadable]....blood from her person and from the bodies of her murderers, had splashed on the walls of the board camp in many places. Her breasts were cut off and her body mutilated in a most shocking manner; indeed too terrible to mention. Two sons, one about twelve and the other about seventeen years of age, were missing. One son about fifteen years of age was absent, having gone to the THROCKMORTON settlement for provisions. The camp had been robbed of whatever the Indians wanted. The feather beds had been riped open in the yard and the feathers left on the ground. In great affright Mr. SEARCY left the bloody scene and hastened to hunt his comrades.
All the evidences of the catastrophe showed that it had been perpetrated but a short while, not exceeding a few hours, most likely after the family had arisen from their nights slumbers and while Mrs. MUNCEY was preparing the morning meal. The two men had fallen from their chairs where they were sitting near the fire. Mrs SEARCY very soon found old man RICE and told him the horrible story. The two old men then started in quick pursuit of their two sons. They had not gone very far when they came upon the ghastly and mutilated corpse of Mr. RICE’s son. The dead body was taken on a horse by the two old men, who pursued their way to their homes on WILSON’s creek, some ten miles distant.
When they reached there they found young SEARCEY had made his escape, and was getting assistance to go back and hunt the old men. Young SEARCEY’s story was that he and young RICE, while riding together on the prairie, were suddenly surprised by seeing quite a body of Indians in full view about one hundred yards distant. The Indians had a white flag up and motioned the young men to come to them. Several Indians advanced, after laying down their guns, two of them preceding some distance in advance of the others.
The two Indians advanced to the young men. SEARCY cautioned his companion not to let the Indians get to him, but when near to RICE one of the Indians seized his horse by the bridle, the other one tried to seize SEARCY, but he put spurs to his horse and made his escape. RICE was shot perhaps by the distant Indians, his bridle reins cut, and he was dragged from his horse and scalped.
A party of men were raised and followed the Indians. They were easily trailed by the floating feathers that fell from the bed flicks. They traveled with great rapidity and were not overtaken. The two boys were never heard of. Some years afterwards two sculls [sic] found in the flats on the trail, or near it, where the Indians had gone out, which the early settlers believe to be the remains of the missing boys. Only one member of the family escaped. About this time the house of Thos. J. McDONALD was burned by Indians. The family escaped by being absent from home.
These were the last depredations of consequence committed by Indians.
The county rapidly improved in population after this and was organized in April, 1845.
Jonathan ALLEN was elected chief justice, King CUSTER sheriff; Tola DUNN, county clerk; Thos. RATTEN, Jao., KAUFMAN, Peter LUCAS, and John FITZHUGH were the first county commissioners, and Leonard SEARCY assessor and collector.
About the time, or shortly after the organization, Maj. Sam BOGART, the then representative from Fannin county moved to Collin county, and was among the prominent and leading men in the county until his death in 1861. Among the settlers of 1841 and 1845 were B. R. WILMITH, J. M. McREYNOLDS, Joel H. STEWART, and Jordon O. STRAUGHAN, all of whom afterwards held prominent positions as county officers in the new county. During the years 1844, 1845, 1846, and 1847 many true and noble men became resident citizens of the county and contributed largely by their intelligence and energy to its rapid development.
Among these were Capt. John YEARY, his son, Walter, and the Rev. Mr. JONES, and others who made the first settlement in the eastern part of the county near where the village of Farmersville is now situated. Capt. YEARY and a negro man were out at work in the field in sight of the house. Hearing a noise, they looked in the direction of the house and saw it surrounded by Indians who were attempting to break down the door. The captain and negro man, with no other weapons than their hoes, ran to the house and commenced a hand to hand combat with the Indians, a number of whom were soon laid sprawling.....
One Indian had a gun and sat in the fence corner, snapping it rapidly, but the gun failed to fire. At first no attention was given him as other more dangerous foes required more immediate attention, but presently as Captain YEARY said, “When I had somewhat cleaned the tanyard out I gave him a lick that sent him yelling to the thicket near by.” The women inmates of the house.... unbarred the door and ran out with guns to the assistence of the dauntless men. The savages were driven off with severe loss in killed and wounded, but the number at this distant day is not remembered. The captain and negro, though wounded in many places, by arrows, tomahawks and knives, were not severely injured.
Pleasant WILSON was the main spirit and cause of the first settlement. He remained constantly on duty among the first settlers until the county was prosperous and peaceable. He and young J. W. THROCKMORTON were the hunters and the scouters for the first settlement. In 1842 and 1843 Captain Jesse STIFF commanding a ranging company in the service of the Republic, and sixteen men of the settlement under young THROCKMORTON as a sergeant, composed a part of it. Captain STIFF and his party rendered important service on the frontier of Fannin and ten years afterwards when the young sergeant was a member of the legislature, he procured an appropriation for the pay of the old company to which he had belonged. Captain STIFF moved to Collin county in 1854, and lived to a ripe old age, having died but a few years since. He was a remarkable character, a Virginian, and for courage, hospitality and kindness of heart, he had no superior...
Collin County is conceded to have the richest and best land in the State. Area, eight hundred and thirty-seven square miles, population about thirty thousand. The soil is good and easy to cultivate. It is of a black waxy nature. Its principal products and yield are Cotton, three-fourths of a bale to the acre; wheat, twenty bushels per acre; corn, twenty-five bushels per acre; oats, sixty bushels per acre; fruits of all kind in great profusion. It has over 300,000 acres under cultivation, 80,000 of which are in wheat.
Schools and churches of all denominations are well conducted. Improved lands will average about sixteen dollars per acre. Three-fourths of this land is rolling prairie, the balance being timber of fine quality and growth.
McKinney is the county seat of Collin county, named in honor of Collin McKinney, who settled a few miles north of here in 1841 and died in 1858. The population is between three and four thousand. ....Like all other old settled points in the State, the business portion of McKinney is built around the court-house square, many of the buildings being of brick, of good design and commodious in extent. Here too are magnificent fairgrounds, costing $5,500.
This public spirited little town boasts of two papers: The McKinney Advocate, and the Enquirer. The Advocate was established in March 1877, came a fixture of Collin County.
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