Friday, December 15, 2006

Down Memory Lane

In my last post, I wrote about my great-great uncle A. G. Walker and mentioned his brother, my great-great grandfather Hiram Walker (no relation to the famed whiskey distiller, that I know of). As a follow-up I present the following piece written in 1931 by my great grandfather, Jeff Davis Walker, and published in a regular feature of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called "Down Memory Lane." It provides a fascinating glimpse at the Texas of my ancestors, a very different world ...

Memory Lane Editor:

I surely do enjoy the letters written in "Memory Lane," as I used to know nearly all of the writers. I never did live in Fort Worth but I was born 12 miles south of town on Deer Creek before the war.

I have been back in Fort Worth nearly every year since the war. My father moved just after the war to the Smithfield community, four miles east of Birdville, and settled on the A. G. Walker place at the edge of the cross timbers. I lived in the community until 1870 and then moved to Palo Pinto County, nine miles north of Mineral Wells, where I now live.

Just after the war my father told us boys that a man in Fort Worth was making hats out of rabbit fur "on the halves," so that evening one of my brothers and myself took a pack of hounds and caught enough rabbits to make us some nice hats, the first we ever had on our heads.

In 1866 my uncle, A. G. Walker, was elected county clerk. He moved into the old jail just east of the courthouse and my father moved over to take care of his place. As we passed through Fort Worth, 3,000 head of cattle were coming in. We got near the Cold Sprigs crossing and a man rode by us on a dead run, yelling to us to "get out of the road or you will all get killed." We were in a large ox wagon with two yoke of oxen hitched to it. My father grabbed a log chain, threw it around the front ox's head and around a large tree. By that time the cattle were on us, running in wild stampede. That log chain was all that saved our lives. The stampeding cattle ran headlong into the wagon and against the chain and piled up in a heap all around us.

About 1868 I went with one of my brothers to Fort Worth with a load of pork and lard for my uncle. When we got to the Cold Springs crossing [the] river was bank full so we went up the river to a place just north of where the jail stands now and were taken across on a flat boat. We stayed 10 days waiting for the river to go down, staking our horses out on as good grass as I ever saw, just west of the courthouse.

There was not much room in my uncle's living quarters in the jail building so we took our bunks and slept in the jail as there were no prisoners at that time. There was a big chain through the floor and we learned it had been used to keep a certain negro prisoner from escaping. I wonder who remembers the hanging of the negro, Sol Brag, in 1868? Brag walked out on the trap and made a fine talk, telling the story of his life and how he got started wrong. He and another negro had been arrested for killing a white man. Brag said he did not do the shooting but admitted he was in on it. If his partner was ever captured I never heard of it.

My father was born in Virginia in 1801 and came to Texas in 1841, settling in Tarrant County about one mile east of Birdville. He died in 1873 without ever seeing a railroad.

Mineral Wells