Everything Matters

Everything Matters
Zim's Bottling of Strawn

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Gailey Ghost

The Gailey Ghost
By Jeff Clark

What is it about standing in a cemetery that invites talk of ghosts?
            So I meet this guy atop Thurber’s Graveyard Hill. A friend of a friend mentions that this man knows about some ghost nearby. Before you puff up into your “there ain’t no such things as ghosts”, let me remind you I’ve been to college, go there still from time to time. Don’t be too judgmental about the science of Otherworldly Spirits. If you’ve never felt the spirit of some unseen person, your life has been, well, different from mine. I’m just the reporter.
Ask the question.
Write down the answer.

This man tells me his story.
            The tale happened at a nearby home with a documented past. Who lived in the place is known. I figured that with enough clues, we could figure out who the ghost was (through deduction and creative license, not by “asking the ghost its name” like I saw on TV the other night).
I’m not up for talking to ghosts.
Though I’m not above listening.

            This house was the J.W. Gailey home when it was built in 1903. It survived that century and a little bit in family hands, then not. Eventually the house was lived in by ranch hands or by friends on the eve of deer hunts.

            So one night, a visiting prospective deer hunter is sleeping.
By himself.
In this house.
Today, as was true when this home was nailed and mortared together, the place sits off by itself.
Except for wild game (read: I hope you’re a good shot) and marauding Comanche warriors (read: I hope you’re a damn good shot), little has changed in this rough outpost over the last 200 years.
            During his sleep, something made the visitor wake up. He listened, hearing the soft cla-pomp, cla-pomp, cla-pomp of cowboy boots as they walked slowly across the wood plank breezeway outside his room. The boots sauntered through the center of the breezeway to the back side and stopped.
Looked out across the land.
            After a short time, the boots shuffled, turned, walked slowly the other way, this time stopping outside this visiting man’s door. Silence from outside. Silence from inside, ‘less you count the full-throttle heart beat thrumming inside our lonely visitor’s chest.
            The boots turned, descended the steps to the yard and walked off into the woods.  The man inside the cabin didn’t see anyone outside, looking through the window pane. He looked across the door yard toward the other vacant home. A light was on inside. Some of those lights were on timers, so he figured they’d come on by themselves.
            The deer hunter figured he was over-tired, that he imagined the whole thing and went back to sleep. This all happened round about midnight.
            Out of nowhere, the man sat up wide awake at 2 a.m. A feeling, a cold chill or that primeval knowing that grave danger has your name on it woke him, his instinct lit full voltage, delivering total alertness to our friend alone in those woods.
            This time he heard the boots come again up the steps, but they didn’t cross the breezeway. They walked up to the outside of his door and stopped. The visitor reached down, picked up his pistol and as we say in Texas, braced himself squarely into the firing position, his gun aimed at the unwelcome visitor on the other side of his door.

Hours later, the sun came up.
            The man questioned the ranch manager about overnight visitors when he showed up next morning. There had been none. The visitor mentioned the light that came on in the big house next door. The manager checked. The light he mentioned was off, unplugged in fact. Not connected to a timer.

            There were a series of other unexplainable occurrences down the hill from here, maybe 300 feet or so. Though I take ghost stories with ten grains of salt, I’m not prepared to defend their truth or falsity.
I’m only the writer.
I ask the questions.

I mentioned this all happened in the J.W. Gailey home. It had a cistern in the kitchen, cutting edge for its time, gutters around the house funneling rain water into its belly. There’s an open air breezeway separating one set of rooms on the left from others on the right, a dogtrot design. “The room on the left side was the boys’ room, then likely J. W.’s bedroom,” Shanon Hunt told me. This room was later used as a birthing room from which new Gaileys entered the world. Shanon is historian and keeper of Gailey tradition, long ago local communities and other magical tales up and down Tudor Road (spelled correctly “Tuder”).
When all this came up I asked Shanon about folks who might’ve met unquiet deaths out there. I watch TV. I know how this ghost thing works.
He solemnly slid the name J.W. Gailey across the table as a suspect.

John William Gailey was born in Aiken, Bell County, Texas in 1861 to Asahel "Asa" Lomax Gailey and Permelia Jane Tuder. His father served in the Civil War and did not "officially" return to Texas after being captured. J.W.'s mother Permelia moved with her parents and siblings from Bell County to Eastland County about 1872. J.W. had two full blood siblings, Jane Jemima Gailey Harding and Asa Nelson Gailey, one half sister Starrett Annie Smith Lee through his mother and two more half siblings Lola and Lester from his father, both born in Chicago.
J.W. married Mary Ann Ada Bigham in 1880 and together had nine children. Mary died in 1904. He married Leora Jones ten years later, fathering two more children, J.W. Jr. and Asa Lee Gailey (both boys).
“J.W. Gailey was known as a kind and respectable man,” Shanon told me. “He was primarily raised by his mother and Tuder uncles. His family relocated to Eastland County when he was around 12. His mother died when he was around 18. He married Mary Bigham soon after. In the years that followed, the two began having children every two or so years, beginning with Nora. He made his home on a part of the original Tuder land on the far eastern border of Eastland County.”
During these years, J.W. gained local prominence as a cattle man. He would eventually join a locally-famous partnership with Mr. Fulfer and Mr. Ivey. The men became known as the Three Bills. They supplied beef to Thurber and surrounding areas for many years. During this time, Gailey began accumulating a good deal of ranch land in northeastern Eastland County. By 1904 his property reached from the road south of Thurber to the road south of Strawn (about eight miles wide, east to west).
Around this time he and his family were constructing a new home south of Thurber. That’s this home we’re talking about. Before the house was completed his wife Mary died of pneumonia, leaving her husband with nine children (including one infant). The family would stick together and continue for another ten years, until J.W. married Leora Jones.
I ask about death. About the ghost.
“J.W. Gailey is the most logical candidate,” Shanon told me. Gailey’s son Loddy inherited that portion of the land in 1927. J.W.'s will stated that the land could not be divided until five years after his death. Loddy and his wife Cari lived out there until her death in the 1940s, when he decided to move into Strawn. Loddy was known to have a sixth sense and was known to some in the family for having remarkable cures for certain ailments. He was known to some as cantankerous, especially in his later Strawn years.
“J.W. Gailey was known as a very stern business-like man to his family,” Shanon wrote. “He was born into a fairly poor situation, with the family moving to Eastland County prior to county government being established. He never knew his father (who never returned from the Civil War), but lived and started a new life.”

J.W. was a man of deep faith. “His wife, children, brother and uncles were all very active in the family church,” Shanon shared. “However, there is no indication that J.W. was ever present at the church and he was certainly never a member. Being that it was a small church and very descriptive records were kept it strengthens the case that he did not attend. It’s hard for me to believe that he was a lost soul. His actions in life (business and family) were very much Christ-like.”

The Tragic Accident.
J.W. Gailey had a horse roll over on him in 1917 or 1918 out there on that place, ultimately causing his untimely death. It was very unsettling to the family. Unsettling to hear about now. He contracted tuberculosis or already had it, and the two-fisted health stomp on his system was just too much.
Mr. Gailey relocated to San Angelo, seeking drier climate. Death circled J.W. three more years, then declared his time was up. J.W. Gailey’s body died in San Angelo.

“I don’t think he liked the idea of moving away from the great ranch he’d worked feverously to obtain,” Shanon said. “Not to mention how beautiful his ranch was compared to the barren flat lands of San Angelo. If he had a ghost, there’s no doubt in my mind it would be looming on that ranch and around that house.”
No other Gaileys died on the place, as far as Shanon knows. J.W.’s first wife Mary died in the area, but at the old house about a mile to the west.
Here’s what I think.
J.W. Gailey was awake that night not too long ago, the patriarch walking across the dogtrot breezeway, checking out who was asleep in his beloved home. We heard his cowboy boots. We know he stopped at the back of the house, looked out across his land, took in all that he had worked so hard for, took it all into his soul that quiet moonlit night. Whether he felt peace or sadness, or like most of us, a little of both is unknown. Land is a mystical force in Texas. We are but passing across its surface, always leaving something of ourselves behind.
Always leaving something behind.

See more information about J. W. Gailey and his family at http://www.gaileyhistory.com/jw.asp. Special thanks to Johnny Caudle, Shanon Hunt and J. W. Gailey, may he rest in peace.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Sometimes you search through the woods, then turning the last of many corners, pushing through dense limbs of oak or cedar, you walk onto the stage setting of a life that happened long ago.

Like you're suddenly in a darkened theater, waiting for the curtain to go up on whatever Shakespearean tragedy you've stumbled into. The longer ago the curtain rose, the fewer clues await you upon this stage. Stacked rock walls, rising upward past the knee, covering maybe a quarter acre, maybe stacked rock corrals like old man Milsaps over toward Oak Crossing's of the Brazos.

Not naturally occurring. We're sure of that. Then long nails, more than a few rounded heads, rusted once-molten hammered fingers that held rotting timbers no longer visible here, perhaps carried off by prairie fires. Rusted nails, laying in the too fine loam, brown with regret.

There's a rise just behind, a vantage point it would seem, off toward the towering mountain where a man could put a cabin, but I see no signs. Walking back, more pictures, I find colored glass, "W I" on its head, part of a word or a company name like Mason from back east. Two letters you might puzzle over, before we lose our light.

There's a break in the old fence line, depressions, treads, a path wagon-wide that leads out to a road, forced there by the pincers of the canyon, leading north toward the pass, south to cross Palo Pinto Creek.

A man lived here, I was told, two wives, one at a time, dying, both, don't know why, buried up there on that mountain, side by side, up there in those woods.

Life was harder then, or at least more to the point. Stacked rock walls, light fading to the west behind the tall ridge, growing dark.

More walking is needed.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Frank Sanchez and Calvin Vernor

Frank Sanches Comes Home
Then Leaves Again
            When I finally reached the Nueces River Valley, the man I was seeking was already dead. This valley is deeper than the Leon, up north. But the mysterious waters of the Nueces, carving shallow bends and then deep water holes strikes me as sister to the sometimes ferocious lion river snaking beneath Alameda Cemetery’s shadows.
Frank’s trail had gone cold, many months before, far to the north in that Eastland County echo. Blind luck even called me to this place…connected me with another mythic Alameda-like community.
Frank left behind a wife and five children.
My found friend’s humble earthen grave has been desecrated, on purpose – malice and aforethought. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, a sturdy house has landed atop my hero’s final resting place. He’s underneath that structure’s weight. Frank’s painstakingly-carved brown rock tombstone’s been stolen, used to prop open a door like some trash rock from the field, then taken into Travis County exile as some stranger’s trite souvenir.
Texas history isn’t supposed to end like this.
This Cheaney Community pioneer’s grave is unmarked.
If you don’t count the house.
Another man along my trail south told me, not even a week ago: “There are only two types of people in this world, those who build and those who destroy. It has always been like that. It will always BE like that.”
That man was right.
I talk to my deceased friend today, to the man buried beneath the house. Frank was and is the thick bottom trunk to a sprawling family tree stretching across America. “People that care are working on your behalf, Frank. Folks-up-in-Years can extract justice from the Destroyers.”
Graves never answer, in my experience.
I keep talking. “I need to know what happened here.”
Stories from within those graves can speak, however, if you listen long enough.
Frank Sanches somehow makes my seventy-two cent black writing pen begin to talk. What you’ll read below is a true story, told by a circle of people who have mostly never met. All Texans of good will, and all the folks with ties to the Leon River Valley connect to this Frank’s story.

If you stand under the late-1800’s wooden Tabernacle at Alameda Cemetery long enough, I believe that any man or woman who’s ever walked or galloped past, living or dead, will again ride up and start talking. Start telling stories. Crazy talk, I know.
But it keeps happening.
            I’m sitting at my desk working, checking emails. I receive a note from a lady who claims to be a long-lost descendent of Frank Sanches. He’s the man that folks in Eastland County hold out as the first permanent Anglo settler. Believe it or not, Frank Sanches/Sanchez was a fairly common name back in the mid-1800s. So this lady and I go back and forth with identifying questions.
I come to know it is our Frank Sanches.
            The one whose two lost log cabins sat alone and unguarded on the east side of Jim Neal Creek in northern Cheaney.
            Only a few hearthstone rocks remain today.
            Frank’s tangled story scattered like dust, thrown into a cold autumn wind, as the Tabernacle book left my hand. I knew he’d been there. I knew he’d left. I could walk to where the man’s log cabin once stood. Like so many calling to me from that distant fog, I surmised why he’d taken his family and abandoned ship (angry Comanches, lots and lots of angry Comanches sweeping down their inherited raiding trail along the Old Alameda Road. Not far outside Frank’s oaken front door).
As the book went to press, what happened next was a mystery.
            This is what I wrote about Frank in The Tabernacle:     
“Frank Sanches and Jim Neal are the first Anglo men known to have settled in Eastland County. Several explorers passed through first, but Frank and his step-son-in-law Jim Neal were the first that constructed cabins, settled in to earn a living and tried to make a go of it. They arrived in 1856. Their two log cabins and at least one large corral, were about a mile and a half up Jim Neal Creek from the Leon River.
The Sanches and Neal log cabins stood empty when the census taker rode by in 1860. After the Indians left that country in the 1870s, the Cheaney Community would spring to life just southeast of Frank Sanches’ first brave toehold.
Francisco (“Frank”) Sanches was a Creole from New Orleans, born between 1802-1808 in Louisiana, probably of Canary Islander/Spanish descent (he probably had coal black hair, a good thing in the Leon River Valley). His wife was named Jerusha Tidwell. He landed in Texas in 1835, the year before the Alamo fell, (entrance certificate No. 472), and lived in Nacogdoches County for a few years. Frank began to follow the ever-moving frontier west shortly thereafter.
By the late 1840’s, Frank Sanches was living in Navarro County. About 1849, Walker County’s John Stubblefield {related to the later Coffer/Stubblefields of the Leon River Valley?} employed Sanches to run cattle on the open range off Pecan Creek, near present Bynum in Hill County. Frank then moved to Parker County, pre-empting 160 acres on a creek above the Brazos, now known as Sanchez Creek. From this base, he ran cattle in Parker, Palo Pinto and Erath Counties, as was the practice back then.
            As the frontier pushed westward, Sanches saw an opportunity to relocate his cattle operation farther west into less crowded territory. He chose a site in the Leon River Valley, in present day Eastland County. His homeplace along the Jim Neal Creek was many miles from the next family of settlers, far to the east.
            Sanches scouted a cattle trail that came to be known as the Sanches Cattle Trail across Erath County, passing Davidson Springs at the Davidson Ranch near Tanner, then Rattlesnake Mountain, in present Eastland County. The Sanches Cattle Trail ran south to below Jameson Peak, northwest to Mansker Lake, north to Merriman, then west to McGough Springs. In Eastland County, it passed the old settlement of Central (northwest of modern-day Cisco), then headed to the end of the trail in Abilene, Texas. At this point, it connected to the much higher traffic Western Trail going north.
            The Stephenville - Fort Griffin Road largely followed this trail much later. The Sanches Trail was later used by immigrants and government freighting contractors who supplied the troops at Fort Griffin and other West Texas military posts. This trail is
believed to follow one of the original Indian Trails (based upon archeological findings along its path), and eventually became the Old Alameda Road.
 The Sanches cattle grazed far up and down the Colony Creek Valley, the Leon River Valley and out into the grasslands extending far beyond both. It is hard to imagine that Sanches didn’t have Indian trouble, being so isolated within their historic hunting grounds, and near one of their major transits. A brother of Frank is said to have spoken an Indian dialect, but if Frank shared that skill, that life-saving detail is lost to history.
By 1860, Frank Sanches and James Neal uprooted again to McLennan County. Not long after that, the family moved to Edwards County, settling near a spring (now known as Sanches Spring) near the Nueces River, in the area of modern Barksdale. In 1867, a man named Hill who was traveling in that country found Frank Sanches dead, an arrow still lodged through his lifeless body.
            Frank Sanches’ story while he lived in Eastland County is largely conjecture. Based upon circumstantial evidence, Sanches grazed his cattle in the wild over thousands of acres, much as Fuller Milsap did to the east in Palo Pinto County. The only recorded corroborating story of Sanches’ Eastland County exploits, by Kenny in “A Comprehensive History of Texas”, reports that in 1858 the Comanches came across a man named Peter Johnson and his eight-year-old son Ike, driving a wagon loaded with flour and meal in Bosque County.
The Indians killed the father and took the little boy captive. They left the settlements with a lot of stolen horses and cattle. When the Indians were fifty miles
away, they took the boy’s clothes and turned him loose in the wilderness, thinking he’d die of exposure/frostbite or be eaten by wolves. The account says that little Ike found some cows, staying with them for heat and sustenance until he was discovered.
            Mrs. Langston, in her History of Eastland County tells us:
Frank Sanches was out hunting stock and stood and watched numerous droves passing down to the Leon River for water, hoping to find some of his stray two-year-olds. Imagine his surprise as the last yearling was nearing him, and he was about to turn and retrace his steps homeward, to see a small boy’s head bobbing up just behind the calf. On the child’s approach, he found that it was a white boy who had been captured by the Indians. He had escaped and was following the stock, hoping to reach the settlements. Mr. Sanches cared for the little boy and returned him to his people.”
Other sources list parties other than Sanches as responsible for finding and repatriating Ike Johnson.
            Sanches and Neal left Eastland County no more than three years after their arrival. Given their homestead’s location near an ancient Indian highway, their isolation, and their large inventory of cattle, one has to believe that something bad happened out there in those woods, once, maybe several times, that made them want to leave. Whether or not lives were lost, whether children died of disease or worse, remains a mystery. Perhaps a silent dread that such tragedy was imminent drove them away.
Whether Sanches was still living along Jim Neal Creek in 1859 to meet Henry Mansker (settling to his south at Mansker Lake) or John Flanagan (to his north near present day Merriman in 1858), we will never know. If he did, his advice would have been interesting to hear. Frank Sanches and Jim Neal voted with their feet, and left this country, never to return.”
This is what Frank Sanches wanted us to know, after that book’s journey was finally closed. Frank was long gone when Uncle Henry Mansker and Mr. John Flanagan made it to our Leon River Valley. It’s unclear to me how so much of his Eastland County story survives, as only two empty log cabins and a broken down corral testified to his having ever been there.
The nice woman from the email puts me in touch with her daddy, Calvin Vernor of Camp Wood, Texas. Camp Wood is almost 250 miles to the south, near Leakey, not too far from Uvalde. Vernor is the great grandson of Frank. Calvin is thankfully also a historian. Living so far away, we’ve had to shake hands, and drink coffee over cell phones and thick envelopes through the mail.
Calvin Vernor is 79-years-old, and works hard every day. In addition to his normal projects, he’s on the “restore the old Spanish mission committee”. He knows the history of the Nueces River Canyon. Kind of a local historian storyteller. He’s a nice man. I enjoyed our visit.
Frank was the first Anglo settler living in the Upper Nueces country. The man had a knack for being first to a place, seems like. He arrived before the army got there to protect local settlers. He ended up living there about ten years before being murdered in cold blood. Their first homestead was above the Sanches Springs, in what is now Barksdale. Again, pulling out a map, you’ll be struck by the echo of his place, just above a major river/creek intersection, like say Jim Neal Creek two miles before hitting the Leon River.
The army got there in 1857 (this is a well-documented date), so Frank probably arrived in the Nueces country about 1856. The army reports his being there when they rode up. There were several beautiful springs there then, that he carved his initials into. There was a cave at Wallace Mountain, a cave near the top, where Frank created a beautiful carving into the hard stone containing his name, and a large, ornate Masonic emblem.
Another man explored out that way around 1921 and chiseled Frank’s work out of the wall to bring back to town. When he got the old carving free of the wall, it was too heavy to carry. He went back a couple of weeks later, he said, and Frank’s artistic mark on the earth was gone.
I think about all the carvings into the moss-covered stone up on Button Top, a prominent rock mountain pug nose above the Leon, where stray Alameda kids skipped school. The place is littered with old initials, carved into the stone. I remember something else and smile. One of Frank’s sons, living not a mile to the north of Button Top was nicknamed “Button”.
There are no photographs or drawings remaining of Frank or his wife Jerusha that Calvin knows of. Frank was a good man, a hard working man, Calvin tells me. He used his Bible often. There were no churches down there, back then.
If you look at photographs of the Nueces River Valley where Frank moved to after Cheaney, you’re quickly hit by its resemblance to the Leon River, over against the tall cliffs and hills rising from its seasonal waters, just to the west of Mansker Lake.
            You also find out in a hurry that their valley was also a favorite stomping ground for Native Americans of many Nations – Lipan Apaches, Comanches, et al. Flint points, shell beads, pottery and many other artifacts testify that Native peoples used the Water-Game-Protected Valley trifecta of the Nueces Valley as their Eden, just as our Leon River Valley Natives did around Mansker Lake and tributaries leading past it.
Franciscan friars built an unsuccessful Spanish Mission, San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz in 1762 at Camp Wood. It was abandoned. Later in 1857, the U.S. Army carved an army post near the old mission’s fallen ruins, using the friar’s original spring for drinking water. Today the small town of Camp Wood in Real County boasts about 800 folks, a five store strip mall, a drug store with a soda foundation (“serving great floats”, their website says) and a movie theater (with three movies a week).
The Camp Wood army post was tasked to protect the vital San AntonioEl Paso Road from Indian attacks. Camp Wood was abandoned by the army for a time in 1857, then brought back to life until 1860 by John Bell Hood, of Hood’s Texas Brigade fame. Union troops later fled the place en masse trying to make a break back to the North in the spring of 1861. Confederate forces moved into their abandoned digs and set up shop.
After the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) concluded, army soldiers and Texas Rangers periodically used the camp, it was said.
            Bill Badger, writing for the American Military University about Camp Wood (“Camp Wood, Texas – A Military History, 1857 – 1861”) tells us that Frank and Jerusha moved up the Nueces River Canyon to be closer to the army.
The army reports that the Frank Sanches Family were the first permanent settlers in the Upper Nueces Canyon…being there when the army arrived. Frank raised maybe 200-300 head of cattle. Their original place was three miles upstream from the army camp.
Calvin knows of no visible remains of their first homestead.
Frank built his family a cedar picket house (straight cedars, sharp arrow-like points in the air, driven vertically into the ground). I wonder if his Cheaney home was a picket house too, much like the oak picket Blair’s Fort, built a few years later to his southeast in Desdemona. Calvin tells me that Sanches Springs in Barksdale, Texas still runs, but not full-out like it used to. There’s a swale under the farm-to-market road, running east to west from Hamilton Hollar toward Frank’s homestead that always made me believe a non-vanished spring fed its erosion, before the time of wells, runaway mesquite trees and stock tanks.
Frank originally moved to Nacogdoches from a village outside New Orleans. His parents got off ship at New Orleans after arriving from the Canary Islands about 1790. Frank was born in a settlement near New Orleans about 1814. On July 22, 1835, he entered the Republic of Texas with his friend Andrew Rojas. His entry certificate says he was a citizen, a man of very good moral habits, industrious, a lover of the constitution and the laws of that country (Texas), a Christian, and unmarried without a family.
Frank married Jerusha Tidwell on Feb 13, 1844 (a widow with two children). Jerusha is a Hebrew name, meaning “wife”. Their marriage license was also issued by the Republic of Texas (I have copy) in Nacogdoches.
The 1850 census shows Frank and his wife Jerusha having two children together, and that they lived next to Frank’s friend Andrew Rojas in Navarro County. Son Joel Mack (nicknamed “Button”) was born in 1851. Also in 1851, Frank had a cattle ranch on Pecan Creek in Hill County, north of the present town of Bynum. A daughter they named Winnie was born there. Winnie later married W. R. Webb. That’s how Calvin ties to Frank and Jerusha.
Frank then ran cattle on the open range farther north and was taxed for a 160 acre place in Parker County (southwest of Weatherford) on a creek named Sanchez (spelled with a “z”). I pass a green TxDot sign taunting “Sanchez Creek Estates” every time I go west down Weatherford’s Ranger Highway toward Alameda, Cheaney and beauty.
Calvin tells me that Frank’s bride Jerusha (pronounced Ja-roo-sa) was a doctor for the army. A soldier’s diary from the camp backs him up. Calvin doesn’t know how she got her medical training, but she was definitely considered a healing frontier doctor for that country. Perhaps her Cherokee mother or her French father taught her the medical skills she possessed. She is known to have used native plants in her practice, giving credence to Native training by her Cherokee Nation mom. The Army hired her officially as their doctor at the camp. Calvin told me that she removed lots of arrowheads from local settlers during their time down there.
I copied this from the “1491 Days in the Confederate Army”, by W.W. Heartsill:
”June 10th (1861): At 4 o’clk this morning F. M. Marshall was violently attacked with an Apoletic (sic) Fit, and in thirty minutes in spite of medical aid he expired. This last unexpected death of one of our number, in addition to the one we heard of yesterday and the victim to day is (unreadable)…messengers of the other’s death, has cast a gloom over our Camp such as was never witnessed before; so soon, in less than two months, two of our number are ushered into Eternity. At 6 o’clk Marshall is buried with Military honors, beneath the wide spread boughs of a large live oak, not far distant from Camp.”
Remember that oak tree.
Calvin tells me, “When the North and South got to fighting, the army left and suggested that the Sanches’s leave too. But they didn’t. The Army left in 1861. Calvin is said to have told his departing Army neighbors, ‘I’m staying, y’all come back soon’.
Calvin shares that Frank and Jerusha got along great with the Lipan Apaches coming up the canyons from Mexico, though the Indians stole horses and cattle from other area settlers. Perhaps Jerusha provided medical help to the Lipan, he wonders. Perhaps the family’s black hair kept them safe, I wonder, remembering blond-haired savagery closer to home. The Lipan Apaches and the Comanche Nation were then sworn Plains enemies.
The Comanches frequently attacked Frank while he was out working his stock. He always managed to get away into the trees where arrows are less effective, and escape to home and safety. Frank lived six more years after the Army left before the law of averages caught up with him.
Calvin speaks to me through a static-filled cell phone, more quietly this time, that when Frank didn’t come in from working cattle that night, Mrs. Sanches got some men and went looking for him. They found him fallen over dead with several arrows in him, just above where the town of Vance is now, twelve miles above Camp Wood. That was September 1867.
“At the time Frank was killed by the Indians, there was hardly anybody here at all except him, his wife and five kids and maybe a few other settlers,” Vernor said.
I think about the long now-secret trails Frank and Jerusha traveled during their love together, sad that their longing to live together until old age reward never came to pass.
They took Frank’s body home, traveling in fear of another sweeping Comanche attack, I’m sure. They rode down the lonely Upper Nueces Valley, passing beneath the shadows of Bullhead Mountain, Hog Pen Mountain, Turkey Peak and Meridian Mountain to their home.
Frank was buried under that same sprawling oak tree in the Camp Wood Army Post Cemetery with a good stone marker Frank had carved himself, with a beautiful chiseled border. He was real good with a hammer. Mrs. Sanchez had his name cut into the stone after he died. Frank was a 32nd level Mason, another echo back to the Mansker Lake Community. The Masonic emblem is said to be visible yet on Frank’s tombstone-in-exile, in some house in Austin, Texas.
There came a time much later when the area around the town of Camp Wood started developing: about half the new folks were good people, about half were said to be outlaws.
Another echo.
Some guy wanted to build his new house in 1927 on the Camp Wood Army Post Cemetery spot where Frank and Army soldiers and I’m sure other pioneers are buried, so he did. That construction desecrated between 12 and 25 graves, it is thought. The house is still standing, lived in I am told by a Church of Christ minister.
Unlike the heroes and heroines of Alameda, Cook, Gregg and so many other Leon River Valley cemeteries, Frank was not able to rest in peace. The headstone that marked Frank’s grave in the Camp Wood Army Post Cemetery for over 140 years vanished.
Frank left blank a space for the specifics of his demise, to be inserted later. I have a photo of the stone. It would take your breath away, as it is a moss-covered brother to the brown rocks that litter Alameda’s lonely hillside. It shows that Masonic emblem, carved by Frank’s industrious hand.
            Frank’s tombstone was used as a back door stop from 1927 to when the property was sold in 1945, when it was moved to the front of the house until 2005, then ended up in Austin as a souvenir.
The F. M. Marshall I told you about was the first burial at that cemetery. The cemetery has been there since 1861 (a twin to Alameda, as there could be unmarked Alameda graves dating back as early as 1859, based upon our settlement timeline, or Natives likely before that.)
The Camp Wood Army Post Cemetery graves were interred farther apart than cemeteries of modern times, he told me. A Captain Cunningham was one of those buried there. “I know the location of the Captain’s grave as was told to myself when I was young and an old timer was old,” Calvin told a reported once.
The house sitting astride those fallen Texans was recently remodeled and added on to. This is some long-ago heresy against our past.
In October 1867, Frank’s widowed wife Jerusha filed to have his estate administered (I have a copy). The Letters of Administration list 16 cattle brands as his (like the multiple cattle brands of Schmick and Mansker stock at Alameda).
Frank was Jerusha’s third husband. Jerusha means wife. All three of her men had been killed by Indians.
I ask Calvin about Jim Neal, Frank’s step-son-in-law for whom one of our creeks is named. He recognized the Neal surname. Thought Jim Neal was a prior son to Jerusha, before she married Frank. The Neals grew up in that Upper Nueces Canyon, also, he told me. Jim Neal’s son was murdered, but I didn’t get the details. The Neals have descendants in Arizona today.
Frank left behind a loving wife and family – three boys and two girls who were industrious like their parents. Jerusha was still a medical doctor who walked for miles to deliver a baby or treat the sick. She passed away in 1884 from “cancer of the face”, at 75 years of age, buried with a marked tombstone in the Vance Cemetery as its earliest resident. Her cancer is thought to have been brought on by all those years in the sun, walking to cure her neighbors’ ills.
The State of Texas has erected a historical marker to her at Barksdale.
The three Sanches sons continued to ranch and did some irrigated farming (Frank never farmed). After a time, the only remaining child in the canyon was the youngest daughter, Winnie, who married W.R. Webb.
There are thought to be more than 1,000 descendents of Frank Sanches walking in this world. The majority are in West Texas and Arizona. “The children changed their name from Sanches to Little before 1900,” Vernor said. “Other descendents are Webb, Hicks, Handley, Vernor and some others.” Little means the same as Sanches in Spanish, I was told, but it also seems to come from the Latin “santus”…holy.
I wish you could see Mr. Vernor’s notes to me, scrawled on photocopies from newspapers and books, on index cards, on stray pieces of paper – not pretty, but the message was passed and received…a treasure chest about a great man named Frank Sanches, who in my mind, is today at last closer to home.
His hand-carved tombstone still needs to come home, however.
And the house atop his hallowed remains needs to be carefully removed.
This afternoon it will soar to near 100 degrees, at the lonely Alameda Cemetery Tabernacle. This part of one man’s tale is over, for now. Frank Sanches rides away…
This story was roughed out to get the facts down, not for publication (at least until Frank’s final resting place plot line has been completed, and until proper citation can be undertaken). Based upon the Army records, it will now be possible to more accurately reconcile the dates of Frank’s life, which are currently all over the map. Many thanks to Trisha Mayes; Mr. Calvin Vernor; the Uvalde Leader News; “The Images”, a book by Wanda Handley; the Real County historical website; www.campwood.com/history.htm; the County of Nacgodoches, Texas; Bill Badger, writing for the American Military University about Camp Wood (“Camp Wood, Texas – A Military History, 1857 – 1861”); “1491 Days in the Confederate Army,” by W.W. Heartsill; Allen Stovall, “Headwaters of Neuces River”, a book; and the City of Camp Wood.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Angel Named Nellie

An Angel Named Nellie,
The Joe Delgado Story
By Jeff Clark

            Everyone knew the Mount Marion Mine was over 400 feet deep. Miners brought tons of coal out of that forbidding shaft over many decades. By 1935 it had been abandoned. The tipple, the machines and most nearby buildings had been removed. What remained was a big open hole in the ground.
        Strawn was suffering through the Great Depression. Margarita Delgado was a section leader for the Texas & Pacific Railroad, lifting his hand-powered push cart on and off the rails with his six-man Mexican crew, just west of the Bankhead Hotel each day. Those men traveled the rails, making repairs, replacing cross ties. Mexicans were tolerated, but not equal in Strawn back then.
        Wife Carmilla Delgado was an orphan, might’ve had Indian blood. She and Margarita had nine daughters and five sons. Carmilla rose before the rest of her family and was often the last to go to sleep. Her kids showed up to school in clean clothes every day, formal bleached white shirts starched and pressed. “You could eat off her floors, they were so clean,” a neighbor remembered.

        The Delgados lived off what is now Mesquite Street in a two room shack. Their cellar and a renovated chicken coop added to meager living space. “We were dirt poor,” Phillip Delgado shared. But they were never hungry, his sister told me. They grew beans, potatoes and many other vegetables. They had eggs and milk. The Mount Marion Mine sat 200 yards from the Delgado home.
        Strawn Merchandise supplied many residents’ needs. They offered “cradle to grave” service – food, clothing, tools and when the time came, a funeral parlor out back. Once a week, trash and discards were hauled from the Merchandise to the Mount Marion Mine. Backed up, and dumped down the hole.
        I should add that many of the families in that southwestern part of town were immigrants – Mexican mostly, one black family. When the Merchandise truck would finish dumping its garbage into the mine’s hole, kids would search the ground around the opening for wood, food, for something they might use to make life better. One boy found a wrist watch, a pair of nylon stockings.
        Brothers Frank and Joe Delgado walked toward the Mount Marion Mine that Saturday. Frank was a big, outgoing 12-year-old boy. Joe was 14, though not nearly as tall. This day they were hunting wood, fuel for heat and cooking. The Merchandise had built a three wire fence around the hole. Corrugated tin on the ground covered gullies where erosion had caved off the sides.
        The brothers looked down the black hole. It was dark. Bottomless, in their imaginations. Before they knew what was happening, the piece of tin little Joe was standing on gave way, arms flailing, screaming in terror, he vanished into the yawning earth-hungry abyss.
        His brother Frank too quickly heard stone cold silence. The Mount Marion Mine would become his older brother’s tomb, unless someone saved him.
        No one was around. Frank took off running to get his mom. He got halfway home, got scared about what his daddy would do when he found out. Frank turned around and ran back to the mine. Then he ran back toward the house. Then back toward the mine.
        Finally, Frank made it home, telling his mother Carmilla. She flew to the cellar, grabbed a coil of bull rope, then the pair rushed back to the mine. By this time, a large crowd had gathered. No one could see Joe in the dark hole below.

Joe could be 20 feet down. He could have fallen 400 feet to the floor of the mine. Folks knew that black damp gases waited to snuff life from the unwary in the bottom of these old coal mines. No one volunteered to climb down after the little Mexican boy.
        Joe’s 15-year-old sister Nellie showed up. Looking around at the crowd, she sensed all was lost. Nellie looped the bull rope around her, then was lowered into the forlorn black dark mine shaft. Reaching the end of the 40 foot rope, she still hadn’t seen Joe in the darkness. The men pulled her back to the surface.
        Robb Hicks ran home, the only black man in town, retrieving a longer rope and a horse. He returned to the mine. Nellie again tied the rope around her and was lowered, this time finding Joe at 60 feet, his body resting precariously on trash atop the roof of an elevator “cage”. The cage was suspended by one rusting cable, swaying under Nellie’s weight. If the cage fell, Nellie and Joe would never be seen again.
        The crowd grew silent. They couldn’t see Joe. They couldn’t see Nellie.
After many painful minutes she cried out, “I found him! He’s alive!” Nellie slipped the rope around her silent brother. He could be dying, she knew hurrying, the only light on his dirty face coming from the opening far above.
        Hicks, Joe Cole, Joe Poydock and maybe others pulled the rope holding Joe slowly upward to safety. Moments later Nellie joined her brother at the surface. He lay as if dead, unconscious from the impact.
        An ambulance rushed Joe to the Strawn Hospital. Dr. Pedigo treated the boy, a cut on his right cheek, a broken arm. He lay unconscious for 48 hours.

        When father Margarita Delgado returned to town from work, he saw a huge crowd gathered around his house, many white faces among the group. Times were different for Mexican families back then. Margarita was a Mexican national, subject to deportation or skip-due-process legal judgment. He waited in some bushes until he could figure out what had happened.

        I talked to Joe Delgado Tuesday. He’ll be 90 in August. “The Good Lord took care of me that day,” he told me in his home, a different address than his parents but still mere blocks from the Mount Marion Mine. A lady from Strawn Merchandise is said to have sent Joe’s story off to “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” back then. The Strawn newspaper ran a one paragraph article, not mentioning Nellie or Robb Hicks.
        Joe returned to school the day he came to. He worked every Saturday to fully repay his hospital bill. Joe ended up graduating Strawn High School, serving his country during WWII and becoming a skilled furniture maker and welder.
        Nellie Delgado was not celebrated for her bravery that day, or ever, far as I know. Had she been Anglo, perhaps it might’ve been different. She graduated Strawn High School in 1939. Her family couldn’t afford to send her to college. She married a soldier, Mr. Purcell, had a baby and moved to El Paso, where she waited tables. They divorced. She remarried another soldier, Jack L. McGough, had two more children and lived out her quiet life knowing her little brother Joe was safe.
        Joe Delgado was born in 1921. His mind is sharp. His life has been full. Nellie died in 1986. She’s buried with husband Jack in the east end of Mount Marion Cemetery, her six-month-old son Charles Purcell interred beside her. Her parents are buried in this cemetery also, noble Americans who served the town of Strawn, and through their children, served their country.

        Mount Marion was named long ago for another sweet girl, this one taken from her parents by the croup at too young an age. Her parents never recovered from her loss. Did little Marion intercede for Joe Delgado that day in the mine that bears her name? His survival is unquestionably a miracle. His sister Nellie unquestionably his angel.
        Many heroic acts and historic episodes are recorded around this part of Texas. Nellie Veda Delgado McGough’s unsung saving act needs to be added to that proud parade of granite. Her brother is safe. Her story is told. The angel Nellie Delgado lives in heaven.
Special thanks to Butter Bridier, Paul Delgado, Phillip Delgado and the Delgado Family.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Peoples

First Peoples
The Tabernacle
            Ken Falls grew up in the Lone Cedar – Merriman area. His family has solid Eastland County roots going back to the 1800s. More importantly (at least to me), Ken worked for many years as a pumper for oil companies. His laser-like interest in the study of American Indian cultures and artifacts, combined with a job that took him onto private property all over the region, destined Ken to be the Alameda – Cheaney area’s greatest expert on Native societies. Ken’s lifetime of field work lays a solid foundation for the future study of prehistoric Alameda and Cheaney.
            When the whole Indian thing came up, Ken counseled that I should keep an open mind. He knew I’d run across white settler stories detailing long years of Indian – Anglo conflict. He also knew more than one flavor of Indian had lived in the Leon River Valley.
            Ken has a twisted sense of humor, once you get to know him. Most of Ken’s best stories I can’t include, knowing mom will read this someday. During his decades as a pumper, stomping around the pastures and creek beds of rural Eastland County, Ken
discovered artifacts. He was able to construct an important map detailing twenty-five Native American camps within the county, based upon these discoveries. Ken catalogued what he found through the years, creating a rich historical Native American tapestry fueling this chapter.
            To protect the integrity of those sites, many of which are still relatively undisturbed, their locations are only described in general terms. They all fall with the “Alameda – Cheaney Box” detailed on Map I, however. Rather than recite a long list of amateur finds by Ken and others, I include only those which document certain time periods and cultures.
            Sparse archeological study in Eastland County flows from little invasive land development and a suspicion by local landowners that control of their hard-won real estate holdings might pass from their hands. Except for some sporadic surface collection by deer hunters or pre-WWII school kids, whatever the Indians left out there, still awaits collection and interpretation.
            Alameda – Cheaney Native peoples date to Clovis era man, 13,000 years ago. He walked the Leon River Valley in fairly large numbers. Though rough country, these hillsides supplied water, game and because of the thickness (then) of the Texas Cross Timbers, offered refuge from other tribes.
The dense Cross Timbers barrier was quite striking for westbound Anglo explorers who had just crossed a wide open Blackland Prairie, covered with chest-high
native grasses. Most of these travelers recorded this radical change, giving us first hand accounts of what this country looked like. Randolph Marcy traveled this country extensively when, saying, “At six different points where I have passed through [the Cross Timbers], I have found it characterized by the same peculiarities; the trees, consisting principally of post-oak and black-jack, standing at such intervals that wagons
can’t without difficulty pass between them in any direction. The soil is thin, sandy, and poorly watered.”
George Wilkins Kendall with the Texan Santa Fe Expedition of 1841, called the Cross Timbers "almost impenetrable" and "full of deep and almost impassable gullies. The ground was covered with a heavy undergrowth of briers and thorn-bushes, impenetrable even by mules, and these, with the black jacks and post oaks which thickly studded the broken surface, had to be cut away, their removal only showing, in bolder relief, the rough and jagged surface of the soil which had given them existence and nourishment.”
Josiah Gregg (1844) ascribed the forest’s density to fires, natural or started intentionally by Indians. “Most of the timber appears to be kept small by the continual inroads of the 'burning prairies for, being killed almost annually, it is constantly replaced by scions of undergrowth; so that it becomes more and more dense every reproduction. In some places, however, the oaks are of considerable size, and able to withstand the conflagrations. The underwood is so matted in many places with grape-vines, green-briars, etc., as to form almost impenetrable 'roughs'.”
If a band of Native peoples were looking for a place in which to disappear, Eastland County’s Leon River Valley would have been hard to beat. The northern end of the Leon River and its Colony Creek tributary cuts through rougher terrain, more cut up with low mountains, rock outcroppings, hollows, winding creeks and streams. As you move south down the Leon, getting closer to the mid-point of the Alameda – Cheaney Box, the valley widens to a smooth, gentle swale. Cliffs resurface on the western side of this valley (Reid Ridge), just above Alameda Cemetery, continuing south to Nash Creek.           Below the Alameda Cemetery hill, Mansker Lake and the Leon River are within sight of each other on a broad, flat delta studded by giant pecan trees.
The Leon River is punctuated by several deep, rock bottomed “holes” where water would have stood for months after rains ceased. Numerous springs (Duvall Springs, Young Springs, Winsett Springs, Ellison Springs, McGough Springs, Nash Springs, Blackwell Springs, and others) offered passing Native travelers cool, clear water during arid months. Indians could hunt game that wandered up for a drink. 
Many think of Central Texas as a land with plentiful lakes, reservoirs and stock tanks. The vast majority of these are man-made, and those pretty recently (1950s on). Before the impulse to impound runoff water for future use began, large bodies of water like Mansker Lake were rare.
Bill McGough refers to Mansker’s waters as “the lake” from a distance of ten miles away as late as the late mid-1800s. These peaceful waters were known to ancient
people, and were returned to often. Its shorelines may have even been fought over, with the fallen dead buried in the east-facing cliffs nearby (this Native gravesite long since desecrated).
Native peoples visited Mansker Lake in waves. People capable of recording Native presence (French or Spanish explorers, Republic of Texas soldiers, early ranching settlers) didn’t hit this broad area of Texas until the mid-1700s. There are no known eyewitness sightings of Native Americans in our specific Eastland County area recorded until Big Foot Wallace explored just to our east in 1837. From that date until 1874 when the Indians disappeared to reservations or were killed (or driven underground in at least one Cheaney case), few written accounts fail to mention Native Americans, usually Comanches.
The natural food basket that Natives sought was found in this stretch of the Leon River Valley. The valley is filled with giant pecan trees (“protein that won’t run away,” my new friend and Comanche ethnologist Linda Pelon reminds). The presence of deer, large panthers and bears are recorded by early settlers (McGough and Mrs. Jim Hart). Corn would have grown in these fertile bottoms without the need of soil preparation. Older interviewees report a greater presence of walnut trees than is found today.
Bison would have been hard pressed to get into this rough-terrain valley in large numbers, though McGough reports them seven miles to the west. Big Foot Wallace also reports bison near present day Victor, ten miles to the southeast. Either site is well within the known range of Indian hunting parties. Theoretically, the McGough Springs
bison to the west of Alameda could have been herded to the Reid Ridge cliff on the western side of Alameda, and driven over its edge into the fast moving waters below (like Natives did at the Bonfire Shelter in Val Verde County…a similar, seventy foot high cliff). The writer was unable to access the Reid Ridge land, to explore this theory, though the topography, archeology and the nearby presence of bison fit.
            If Mansker Lake’s human clock started 13,000 years ago, more than 600 succeeding generations of people could have lived here during that period of time. Hunters and gatherers looking for food and water, would have found a sure supply, unlike other inland Texas areas. We cannot know for sure “who these Indians were”. We cannot give those peoples definite names, like we later can the Comanches, at least not yet. Additional investigation could fill those voids.
All these “could have” theories would have remained conjecture. That’s where Ken Falls and others came to Alameda’s rescue. Ken and I built a ladder of civilizations together, driven only by the nature of artifacts found. Those artifacts become markers for amazing periods of civilization in what is now sparsely settled farmland. Additional hard work by citizens of the City of DeLeon corroborated our story.
DeLeon is a bustling town of 2,424 people, located 16 miles south of Alameda. Amateur and professional archeologists made tremendous progress putting their Indian puzzle together. The preponderance of DeLeon’s Indians are thought to be Wichita, divided into the Waco and the Tawakoni. Their culture was a mix of Caddo to the east,
and Great Plains Indians to the west. They farmed a little, but made frequent hunting trips to the plains.
            Indians would have been on foot until the later arrival of the horse-borne Kiowa and Comanche. The Leon River bottom, cleared of underbrush by seasonal flooding, would have been a clear thoroughfare to camps above and below Alameda and DeLeon. The water would have drawn game, just as it drew human life.
If Natives preceding the Comanches also used smoke signals, smaller hilltop smoke sites along its course could have reached the major Jameson Peak and Ranger Hill regional smoke sites easily (a hilltop above Jim Neal Creek, the Schmick Ridge below Alameda and the Staff (“Round”) Mountain sites all fit subsidiary smoke signaling location profiles. Physical evidence was found at two of these sites.
            Linda told me to look for Indian footprints along paths of least resistance, when we first met. She said that many settler roads (even a few highways) follow prehistoric paths created by Native peoples. Plotting Mr. Falls findings, then cross-referencing his work with the earliest known detailed road maps of Eastland County (1888 and 1917), yielded a surprising breakthrough.
A north-south roadway recorded on a 1917 U.S. Soil Conservation Map implies an ancient roadway connecting several Indian campsites, dating from the Archaic Era, 8,000 years ago. That same route was widely used as a public road until late 1878 by settlers and travelers, when a new county road was built to its east, on higher ground. This Old Alameda Road forms the spine of much of this region’s early history, though it is now largely invisible.
Bill McGough (1859) places the intersection of the two overland Comanche War Trails a mile and a half east of Desdemona, beneath the most important Native regional mountain landmark, Jameson Peak. This seems to be roughly corroborated by the 1839 “Map of Texas Compiled from Surveys on record in the General Land Office of the Republic”, by Richard S. Hunt and Jesse F Randel. The 1839 map shows a Y intersection that the Alameda – Cheaney Box lies completely within. It is likely the Comanches were not the first to travel this well-defined migration path, as earlier peoples were also always on the move. This intersection is eight miles from Mansker Lake, if McGough is correct. The 1839 map plots it farther west.
The writer will only identify the more stirring marker artifacts found, mostly arrowheads, spear points and mano/metates, that suggest the timelines of the peoples who left them behind. This discussion is informed by the extensive archeological study undertaken around DeLeon.
The Clovis Culture of Paleo-Indian presence begins with two Clovis points, found inside the Alameda – Cheaney Box. Nearby Native fire pits have not been carbon dated. Alameda’s Clovis Man lived for around 800 years, beginning 13,000 years ago. These Clovis points were found near the Rock Ledge Shelter Camp.
Clovis points were used on spears, lances and darts – weapons used to “stab” their prey, not be thrown or shot. These first Paleo-American Stage Indians hunted the now-extinct camel, the prehistoric horse, four-horned antelope, mastodon and the

mammoth, though the mastodon is the only ancient megafauna whose remains have been found in this valley (to this writer’s knowledge).
These early Paleo-Indians are not thought to have been shelter builders. They might have lived in the open, in trees, or beneath rock outcroppings. These outcroppings are an easy walk from the Rock Ledge Shelter Camp site. Earlier shelter outcroppings could have been softened or eroded away through the years by the seasonally-flooding Leon River and other man-made alterations to this river’s nature. Caves lie at the western edge of this site in two locations.
            The Folsom Culture (9,000 – 8,000 B. C.) hunted now-extinct ancient bison, much taller than the animals alive today. These later Paleo-Indians were slightly more sophisticated in their tool making than the Clovis peoples. Folsom tips were found in the same area as the Clovis tips, suggesting the site’s ongoing desirability, or perhaps even a linking thread between the two people. When I later talked to Comanche Nation representatives, they told me that their people believe that all Native peoples share an eternal core linkage. Though it sounded like mystical allegory to me, a part of their cosmic belief system, the Comanches’ spiritual legacy might also literally explain the evolution of Native peoples at one location through time.
            The Plano Culture is represented by Plainview points, found at the Upper Leon Fulcrum Camp. This culture’s population lived from 10,000 - 8,000 years ago. The sheer number of these people is thought to be greater, as many more artifacts have been found. Metates show up as early as this culture, but were used constantly until early

Historic times. The Fulcrum Camp peoples widely roamed this valley as flint scraping tools, several manos and metates and stone cleavers have all been found as far south as the Alameda Cemetery vicinity. An additional cleaver was found on the Hamilton Place near Jim Neal Creek, ironically, near the site of the valley’s first Anglo settler foothold. Paths of least resistance.
            Plano artifacts tend to concentrate at Fulcrum Camp, but scatter liberally at multiple sites along Jim Neal Creek, Colony Creek and the Leon River. These people’s population grew through time. The end of this Paleo period is thought to be the Altithermal Period. Average temperatures rose markedly. Rainfall decreased 6,500-7,500 years ago, producing punishing droughts. Large game like bison would have suffered.
            A large year-round inland lake like Mansker Lake would have been necessary for survival, attracting refugees from the Great Plains. The Antithermal may have made West Texas uninhabitable, scientists believe. If the Antithermal caused bison to disappear, Indians would be forced to retool, to hunt smaller game along wooded river bottoms, like rabbit, turtle and deer. This Leon River Valley’s native pecan, walnut and several seed-bearing plants surely added to Alameda-Cheany’s allure. Its desirability probably produced conflict.
            The Archaic Stage began about 6000 B.C. – 200 B. C. A Bulverde Point from the Early Archaic Period (3,000 – 2500 B. C.) was found at the Alameda Cemetery many years ago. A Trinity Tip was also found farther north at the cornerstone Fulcrum Camp. More paths of least resistance.
            The Native’s weapons transitioned to airborne delivery (arrows are shot, not jabbed). Black-scarred middens begin to appear. There is no evidence of farming at this stage, or constructed shelters, but again, cliffs and caves are convenient to both sites.
The Middle Archaic Period (8,000 – 1,000 B. C.) announced cooler temperatures and more rainfall. Bison returned to the recovering grasslands to the west. Pedernales points were found just north of Alameda Cemetery.
The Late Archaic Period brought a marked growth of population and intense interaction. These folks gathered berries, roots, nuts, pecan and the lemon size bur-oak acorns. They hunted deer, small game, and bison. Refuse mounds filled with discarded bones, shells, and broken hearth stones formed the “rock middens” of Central Texas, found in two places within the Alameda – Cheaney Box. The dart was their primary weapon. They developed a wooden device called an atlatl to increase the power of their throwing arm.
            Pottery began to be made during this time, as well as organized agriculture. The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl. The arrow points were much thinner, smaller and lighter. Though Ruth Terry Denney mentions pottery in her well-written 1941 A Short History of Ranger, the writer did not interview anyone who found Native pottery within the Alameda – Cheaney Box. Anecdotal stories reported pottery finds on the upper Jim Neal Creek and also southwest of Alameda Cemetery. Neither were confirmed.
            The Late Prehistoric Period (A. D. 600 – A. D. 1600) fully embraced the bow and arrow, and pottery. Caddo and Plains Indian cultural influences meld in this period, just prior to the first Spanish and French ventures into this part of Texas. Perdiz points found at Fulcrum Camp could point to a wide time frame, from the 1800 Historic Period as far back as the Late Prehistoric Period. Alba Points found at Fulcrum seem to better anchor the Late Prehistoric I Period (1250-750 BP).
            Fresno points confirm man a short distance to the northeast, at the large Colony Rock Mountain Camp. There are Washita Points from this same site, and also farther south along the Jim Neal.
HISTORIC PERIOD (AD 1600 – Present). The Wacos seem to be in abundance in DeLeon, driven out later by Lipan Apaches. The points found in the Alameda – Cheaney Box support DeLeon’s discovery of a sizable Waco civilization. Any Wacos left behind were surely eliminated by the Comanches, beginning around 1740.
Indian campsites around DeLeon seem to be of two types – the first contained flint arrow points. The second contained large spearheads, hand axes, points with corner tangs, and grinding manos or “squaw rocks”.
Where the Leon and Sabanna merge south of DeLeon (eighteen miles south of Alameda) a large “war camp” was found. “It was in blow sand that was originally about two and one half feet deep but has since exposed eleven small fire place mounds about two feet in height and three feet in diameter at its base.”
“The major site of the second type was located east of De Leon on the west bank of the Leon. It covered an acre of ground and was a small hill so littered with mussel shells as to resemble one of the shell heaps common on the coast. This site produced a great many drills, mortars and manos, arrowpoints, large spearpoints, hand axes and flint scrapers.”
Two professional digs near DeLeon found “Central Texas Aspect” Clifton, Scallorn, Granbury and Perdiz points. A second division of the Neo-American Stage called the Henrietta Focus found Harrell, Fresno and Young Points. The Edwards Plateau aspect of the Archaic Stage found Pedernales, Martindale and Darl points. In rough terms, DeLeon’s prehistoric history seems to mirror Alameda’s, a short distance to its north.
Ruth Terry Denny believes that various flavors of Caddo were pushed into this area from East Texas during this period by early Anglo settlers. Earthen berms visually consistent with Caddo mounds were observed at two sites in the Leon River Valley, both on land the writer could not access.
Denny tells us “the Indians inhabiting the central part of the State when (the) white man was moving West were, for the most part, these speaking dialects of the Caddo language. They were the Caddos, Wacos, Wichitas, Keechies, Andarkos, Tejas, Ionies, Adaes, Bedias, Ayish, Towash, Tawakanas, and the Nachodoches. These tribes were builders of permanent homes, and cultivated corn, melons, and vegetables for their
own use. Those inhabiting the North Central part of Texas were the Caddos, Wacos, Keechies, Witchitas, and Towash tribes”.
Denny offers fascinating clues. “The meal bowls, pestles, stone-hoos, and most of the flint artifacts found in Eastland County were left by the Caddos and kindred tribes. The meal bowls vary a great deal. Some were made of thin rock which required experienced and skilled hands in shaping them. Perhaps these were the ones taken with them when they moved camp. Others have been found which were too heavy to have been moved any considerable distance. Some times round holes about the size of post holes were found in large sand rocks or in limestone boulders which seem to indicate the site of a permanent camp. Some camp sites have been found where it seems that those bowls were purposely broken. This is thought to have been done to prevent their falling into the hands of their enemies. Arrowheads have been found in many sizes and types. Tomahawks vary so much that hardly any two are very much alike.”
When French, Spanish and Anglo explorers hit this land, Native fortunes declined rapidly, on several fronts. Though scattered battles killed both Indians and European explorers, the disease the fair-complected men brought with them turned out to be their most effective weapon.
The introduction of the horse by the Spaniards near Taos and the rifle by the French and Spanish helped the Apache and Comanche grow to dominate the region’s more peaceful Caddo. Comanche hegemony continued to grow to the south, eventually beyond the Rio Grande into Mexico.
The Comanches probably beat Anglo covered wagons to the Leon River Valley by no more than 120 years (1740 versus 1859). The Comanches are thought to have swooped down from the north (Native roads tend to run north to south, unlike Anglo east to west paths). Some Native historians believe conversely that earlier peoples were mixed into the Comanche population. Either way, the Comanches (and Kiowas) were operating full bore in Eastland County when the first Anglo settlers arrived at Mansker Lake and Blair’s Fort to its east.
First hand, written reports from this fated meeting punctuate the beginning of Alameda’s recorded history. Though written in heroic language, and clearly from the Anglo writers’ sole perspectives, they offer a look at this valley that is hard to imagine today.
Pre-Comanche First Peoples arrived at Mansker Lake and the Leon River Valley in hundreds of waves through the years. They stayed for a while, got what they needed, then history’s tide forced them to pack up and leave (or be killed trying). The Native folks who stayed behind are buried here, in cemeteries off in the woods, victims of disease or other tribes or old age or each other.
The parade of the Natives described in this chapter got the wakeup call of their lives when “who came next” arrived. One morning many moons ago, these mostly peaceful people heard the sound of mustang hoof beats in the distance. Perhaps blood-curdling war cries filled the stilled air. Within the space of a few years, the Comanche had displaced all who came before. And the Comanche dug in, preparing for what came next.