I do not know who composed these two family history stories, or when they were written down. The first was written in this form, at least, by 1975. One depends on the other, to some extent, or they both drew from a common source. I share them as part of the family treasure.
When Riley left Devil's River he went to New Mexico and lived there several years. Alva was born while the family lived there. His wife died in New Mexico. They had four children: Allie, Nora, Alva, and Marion.
Riley remarried and he and this wife had five children: Sina, Amber, Owen, Oran, and Riley.
When Alva was about thirteen years of age they moved to El Paso where Riley was chief of police for five or six years. Then he took a job guarding a mine in Mexico. He moved all his family with him except Allie and Nora who were married.
In 1908 Riley was murdered. His wife was shot in the arm and she and the children had to walk about twenty miles to the nearest station where they boarded a train and came to El Paso where Allie and her family lived.
In 1909 Alva came to Devil's River and worked for Dave for awhile. Then he went to work for George and soon bought an interest in George's sheep. They were partners until 1916 when he leased land about three miles below Baker's Crossing.
In 1913, Alva met Pearl Cooper when she and her mother came from Oklahoma to visit her brother, Will Cooper, who was leasing land from George near Juno.
Alva and Pearl were married November 25, 1915 in San Antonio. They had two children, A. O. and Norvel. Then in 1921 two nieces and a nephew came to live with them after their mother's death. They were Irene, Geraldine, and Anuel Dillon. Anuel only lived with them about one year, but her girls continued to make their home with them.
In 1923 Alva gave up his lease on Devil's River and bought the ranch where Pearl now lives. He built the lovely rock house that you see from Highway 163 about five miles out of Comstock in 1928.
Alva served on the Comstock School Board for a number of years and was active in the Comstock Baptist Church. He died in 1961.
On December 23, 1869, he was married to Elizabeth Catherine Long at Running Brushy, near his old home. Elizabeth Catherine was a daughter of Joseph and Emmaline McCoy Long. Joseph was a red-headed Baptist preacher who farmed to feed his family and preached because he felt the urge. He never accepted anything for preaching. He was raised and married in Tennessee to Emmaline McCoy, who was a member of the McCoy Clan, made famous by their bloody feud with the Hatfields. The Longs moved first to Louisiana, then to Caldwell County, Texas and finally to a farm near Roundrock that was not too far from the Baker farm.
Dave and Lizzie farmed for two or three years in the neighborhood of Running Brushy. They had some horses, cattle, and hogs, and were depending mostly on the stock for a living. They tried several more places during the next three or four years; each move being westward. By 1872 (?), they settled on the Nueces River near a post office called Bullhead, now Vance.
They had at least one baby by then, named Sina Emmaline. Nine more were to come. They were: Joseph Sheppard, James Riley, George Wesley, William Thomas, David Alonzo, and Louis King, twins who died as infants, Francis Eliza, Frank, who also died as a baby, and Walter Henry.
Ten years in one place seemed enough for the restless Dave. He and a cousin, Joe Jarrell made a trip to Devil's River in search of new range. They were entertained in the home of a man named Woodrow who was literally living off the land. Though elderly and minus one leg, this man was raising or securing by hunting and fishing all the food needed by his young wife and children. He produced his own tobacco, and built a water driven mill to grind his corn. His wife made their clothes on a spinning wheel and loom made by Mr. Woodrow. He made furniture from native wood and used the tin from lard cans, perforated with a nail in artistic designs in lieu of screen wire.
Dave found what he was looking for at the spot soon to be known as Baker's Crossing. There a man named John A. Beckett was living on a 107 acre land grant. (Beckett was the man who found the massacred dead at Dead Mans Pass, half way to Comstock, a year or two earlier. He rode all night to make his report at Ft. Clark.)
There was good grass and water on Yellow Banks at the time. Yellow Banks is the big canyon running into Castle canyon some fifteen miles north of Del Rio on the old government road. There Dave brought his cattle and horses. Lizzie's nephew, Baker Jeffries was working for him, and they spent the winter of '82 and '83 in camp, loose herding the cattle and horses. Then they moved up on the river, just above Camp Hudson. About September of that year the family made the move to the new camp. The next year Dave bought the Beckett place. The terms were $1000; $250 down and three yearly notes for the same amount.
At that time Comstock did not exist, nor Juno, Ozona, San Angelo, or Sonora. The river was lined with squatters, who usually had a few cattle and horses. They were living mostly on game, fish, wild honey, berries and pecans. Nearly all these people drifted on west before long. Possibly half a dozen families stayed on to become permanent residents.
Game, except for deer, was very plentiful. There were turkeys, blue quail, crazy quail, ducks, doves, squirrels, and some deer. On the divide west of the river were a few antelope and a small herd of buffalo. The big predators such as lobos, panthers, grey wolves, coyotes, wild-cat and black bear were very plentiful. Bear meat and oil were staples in those times.
By the time the family was established here, the three oldest boys could be lots of help with the stock and Dave spent more and more time hunting. Eventually he did little else. He raised hounds and often had fifteen or more in his pack. They often put a bear or a panther into a cave where Dave did not hesitate to follow. Evidently he had learned the technique from old hunters on the Nueces. He used to say you couldn't miss a cornered bear, as he would take your proffered gun in his paws and poke it into his own mouth, then just pull the trigger.
On one occasion, he went up to Live Oak Creek, west of Ozona, to thin out the panthers for Sam Perry, his son-in-law. In ten days of hunting they killed twelve panthers and brought in two cubs. These he raised to maturity in a cage.
As the country settled up, the Baker place was ideally situated as a stopping place for travelers. There were all kinds: friends, neighbors, strangers seeking shelter, hordes of relatives, an occasional outlaw as well as many officers on patrol. More than once the officers had a prisoner in tow.
The little house had the only wooden floor in the whole neighborhood, so a dance there attracted young people a long way. Some walked barefoot for twenty miles to keep precious shoes nice for dancing.
During the late eighties a huge school district was organized and a little school established two miles down river from the crossing. Later it was moved up to the Baker ranch. Then a store and post office was started to help the teacher and his wife get by. The post office was called Norris and Lizzie Baker was postmistress. Eventually Comstock and Juno were thriving communities. There was a mail route from Comstock to Ozona. So the school and post office were no longer needed at Baker's Crossing. Both were shut down about 1893.
And so it went until about 1909. The Dave Baker ranch was one of the larger outfits on Devil's River then. The kids were grown and all but one was married. Dave was restless again and Lizzie's health was failing. He sold out to his sons and had a tidy fortune in cash. It took him less than four years to waste it. He was here, there and yonder, in Cuba, Mexico, El Paso, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Too proud to call on his children when his money was gone, he worked as a policeman, then a detective in El Paso. Later he did the same in San Antonio. By 1915 he was working on an ice route there. There his boys persuaded him to come home. He became a professional hunter for Keyes Fawcett, his son-in-law. His wife, Lizzie Baker, died on December 13, 1912.
During the next ten years, he nearly cleaned out the large predators on the Fawcett ranch, which consisted of more than one hundred sections. With that job done and his strength failing, because of age, his children built a nice little home for him one mile down-river from where he had originally settled. They also provided enough goats to give him an independent income for life.
He spent a reasonably happy time there with his assorted pets and dogs until the spring of 1937. Then diabetic gangrene suddenly showed up in one of his toes. He was moved to the old home and nursed there until his death on June 11, 1937.
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