A Texas Frontier Woman

Elizabeth Ann Carter Sprague FitzPatrick Clifton knew tragedy long before October 13, 1864, when 700 Kiowa and Comanche warriors tore through Young County in what became known as the Elm Creek Raid.

At the age of sixteen in 1842, Elizabeth married a free black man in Alabama. She moved with his family to Texas where they eventually settled on her father-in-law’s ranch near Fort Belknap, ninety miles west of Fort Worth. Elizabeth was illiterate and epileptic, but those drawbacks did not keep her from working on the ranch with her husband and father-in-law and operating a boarding house. Both men were mysteriously murdered, and the ranch was left to Elizabeth’s children––fourteen-year-old Susanna and young Joe. Elizabeth managed the ranch and boarding house for her children. Then Elizabeth and Susanna both married.

Eight months later, her second husband disappeared. Elizabeth continued to manage the ranch. The boarding house prospered, especially after the Butterfield Overland Mail Route made a stop at nearby Fort Belknap. In 1862 she married her third husband––one of her ranch hands––named FitzPatrick. He was murdered eighteen months later.

Then came the horror of the Elm Creek Indian Raid. The men had gone to Weatherford for supplies, leaving children in the care of Elizabeth, her widowed daughter Susanna and Mary, wife of Britt Johnson, a freed slave who worked for Elizabeth.

When they heard the shrieks of the approaching warriors, Susanna grabbed a gun, ran into the yard, and fought until she was overpowered, stripped and mutilated as Elizabeth watched.

T. R. Fehrenbach says in Lone Star that two braves quarreled over who had captured Britt Johnson’s oldest son; they settled the argument by killing him. They murdered Susanna’s baby boy and then discovered eighteen-month-old Millie crawling out from under a bed in the burning house. The Indians divided the survivors––Elizabeth, little Millie and her five-year-old sister Lottie, thirteen-year-old Joe, and Mary Johnson and her two children––and rode away in separate groups. Joe was sick, and when he could not keep up with the pace of his captors, they killed him.

Before the raid of Elm Creek Valley ended, eleven settlers had been killed, eleven homes damaged or destroyed, and seven women and children carried off.

Elizabeth was held for over a year in northwest Kansas. Although accounts differ over who actually won her freedom, Fehrenbach writes that Britt Johnson, who had spent all that year searching for his wife and two surviving children, found Elizabeth. She begged Johnson to help ransom all the captives and promised to pay from her considerable land and cattle holdings whatever it took to gain their freedom. Johnson made four trips into Comanchería, paying “two dollars and a half” to ransom his wife and eventually rescuing all the captives except little Millie.

After Elizabeth was freed, she spent ten months in a mission in Kansas where she nursed, fed, and cared for other released captives, all the time demanding better care for those in her charge and begging for more to be done to find all those still being held by the Indians.

When Elizabeth finally reached home in 1866, almost two years after her capture, she was reunited with her granddaughter Lottie whose Comanche captors had tattooed her arms and forehead.

Elizabeth married her fourth husband, Isiah Clifton a farmer who still had four small children. They moved with Lottie to the ranch her mother had inherited. Elizabeth never gave up her search for little Millie, contacting the Office of Indian Affairs only a few years before her death in 1882, asking them to investigate rumors that Millie was living with a Kiowa woman.

Fehrenbach writes that Millie was found after being raised by a Crow family and “her life was not an unhappy one.” Another account claims that in 1930 a Kiowa historian began seeking the white relatives of his mother-in-law, Saintohoodi Goombi, who knew she had been captured by Kiowas when she was eighteen months old. Several elderly men, including one who had been a young warrior on the raid, confirmed the story of the capture of a toddler.

Apparently, Elizabeth had described Millie to government officials as one-quarter African descent with dark skin, hair, and eyes. Mrs. Goombi had fair skin and blue eyes, which convinced many that she was not the missing Millie, but the child of another family who never knew their baby daughter was alive.

This account also says Mrs. Goombi had lived a happy life with no memory of her white childhood. She had nine children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She lived in Oklahoma with her daughter until her death in 1934 and apparently never met any of Elizabeth’s or Lottie’s descendants. Whatever the true story, Fehrenbach writes that when the Governor of Texas asked Mrs. Goombi “what the state might do for her, she answered, ‘Nothing.’”

 

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Post, Planned as a Utopia

C. W. Post was an inventor. His imagination ran the gamut—designing better farm implements, improving digestion with breakfast foods, creating a model town, and making rain by detonating dynamite—a genius who lived before folks talked about bipolar. They called him peculiar.

Born in 1854, Post grew up in Illinois, attended two years of college at the future University of Illinois, and at seventeen dropped out of school to work as a salesman and manufacturer of agricultural machines. He married at twenty, had a daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post,

Post and daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post

and during the next fifteen years, he secured patents on farm equipment such as cultivators, a sulky plow, a harrow, and a hay stacker. The periods of intense work, followed with bouts of depression, led in 1885 to Post suffering his first nervous breakdown.

Leaving his stressful manufacturing occupation, Post moved his family to Fort Worth in 1886 where he bought a 200-acre ranch, began a real estate development company that laid out streets, built homes, and constructed a woolen mill and a paper mill. A second breakdown came in 1891 followed by extensive travel in search of a cure. Post entered a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, run by John Harvey Kellogg, a medical doctor who used holistic treatments that focused on nutrition, enemas, and exercise. Dr. Kellogg, along with his brother, invented corn flakes as a breakfast cereal. Following Dr. Kellogg’s regime, Post soon recuperated, and because he decided that coffee was poison, he devised a breakfast cereal drink called Postum. In 1897 he created Grape Nuts cereal, and in 1904 he called his new corn flakes Elijah’s Manna until the religious community complained. The name soon became Post Toasties.

Post and his wife, after living apart for several years, divorced the same year that Post Toasties hit the market, and Post remarried before the year was out. His breakfast foods business was raking in millions. Advised by his doctor to move to a drier climate, Post bought 225,000 acres of ranchland in the Texas Panhandle that sprawled onto the Llano Estacado, which was known as the Caprock, one of the largest mesas on the North American Continent.

Birds Eye View of Post City

In 1907, he platted his vision of a model community at the foot of the Caprock. Calling his new town Post City, he threw himself into his new business. He charged the Double U Company (meaning double utopia) with fulfilling his grand plan—a place where ordinary families could purchase a home or a farm site at a reasonable price and finance the place with little money down and low monthly rates. Although Post hired a manager for the enterprise, he directed every minute detail of the new town from his homes in Michigan and later in California. For three years he raced back to Post to solve each problem, bouncing eighty miles from the nearest railhead over unpaved ruts in mule-drawn hacks to reach his flourishing village. The Santa Fe Railroad finally reached Post City in 1910. Meantime, the new town had to be built from scratch on the semi-arid plains. Post purchased two-dozen freight wagons and mules to haul the supplies for building the infrastructure and constructing every home and business. He provided plans for the houses, mostly bungalows, which he favored, and for the aesthetics, including shade trees planted thirty feet apart on each side of the highway for two miles leading in and out of town. He built a school, churches, and a department store. He took great pride in the hotel, insisting that Postum and Grape Nuts be served at every breakfast. He tried, unsuccessfully, to force the workmen whom he hired from the surrounding ranches to eat his special breakfast diet. He paid excellent wages, but he was demanding, expecting the same perfection from those who worked for him as he required of himself.

Parks sprouted over town, Bermuda grass covered the lawns, and orchards began producing fruit. Determined to keep out the bad element, Post hired someone to see that his model community did not serve alcohol in any establishment, and if a business did not follow the guidelines, it was shut down immediately. Brothels, of course, were not permitted.

Two big problems plagued the place—water and weather. Post had wells and reservoirs dug, hauled and piped water from the top of the Caprock, all without sufficient success to meet the needs of the growing community. Stories he had read of the rainstorms that occurred after major battles in the Napoleonic Wars and the tales that Civil War veterans told of rain following heavy cannon fire, led to his rainmaking experiments. In 1910 he tried attaching two pounds of dynamite to a kite and igniting it, then decided that was too dangerous. He placed four-pound dynamite charges along the rim of the Caprock and detonated one every four minutes for several hours. In 1912, Post exploded 24,000 pounds of dynamite and a little rain fell after that “battle,” the term Post used for each effort to force rain from the clouds. Success was intermittent—sometimes light rain fell, other times it did not. He had almost instant rain after he placed 3,000 pounds of dynamite in 1,500 sticks; however, critics said Post held his experiments during the time of the year when rain usually fell.

By 1914 Post was again suffering from overwork, exhaustion, and abdominal pains. He remained at his California home, claiming to wean his town from his constant attention. The public realized for the first time that Post was not well when he canceled a speech in New York that he was scheduled to deliver denouncing President Woodrow Wilson’s income tax law. In March, a private railroad car raced from California to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where Post had surgery for acute appendicitis. The surgery was called successful, but after Post returned to his California home, his health did not improve. Convinced he had stomach cancer, Post committed suicide on May 9, 1914, some accounts say from a gunshot wound.

Post bronze in front of the Garza Courthouse in Post.

Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress

Marjorie Merriweather Post, his twenty-seven-year-old daughter, inherited his businesses and his vast fortune—one of the largest of the early twentieth century. She used her business acumen, which she had learned at the side of her father, to expand his enterprises into the General Foods Corporation, becoming the wealthiest woman in America. She lived the lavish life of a socialite, an art collector, and an internationally recognized philanthropist.

Post Script to the story: Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband Edward F. Hutton, built Mar-A-Lago in 1924 to better accommodate their entertainment needs. Upon her death in 1973, she willed the 17-acre site to the National Park Service to be used as a presidential retreat. Businessman Donald J. Trump purchased the property in 1985.

Mar-a-Lago

 

A Mother to the Cowboys

She was called “Mary” by her husband Charles Goodnight, the best-known cattle rancher in Texas. Her distinguished Tennessee family referred to her as “Molly.” And she was known affectionately as “Mother of the Texas Panhandle” by the cowhands she doctored, fed, and counseled. Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight was loved and admired by all.

She was fourteen in 1854 when she moved with her parents to Fort Belknap on the western edge of Texas settlement. Soon, both parents died, and Mary began teaching school to support her three younger brothers. She met the young cattleman Charlie Goodnight at Fort Belknap in 1864 and their courtship continued through Goodnight’s service in the Civil War. By the time they married in 1870, Goodnight had a well-established reputation for driving cattle along the Goodnight-Loving Trail to New Mexico and eventually on to Wyoming before he built a thriving cattle ranch at Pueblo, Colorado.

When Charlie Goodnight and his bride arrived in Pueblo, Mary was shocked to discover two men hanging from a telegraph pole. Goodnight writes in his Recollections: “I hardly knew how to reply, but finally stammered out in a very abashed manner: ‘Well, I don’t think they hurt the telegraph pole.’ This seemed to irritate her very much and she said: ‘I used to think I knew you in Texas, but you have been out here among the Yankees and ruffians until I don’t know whether I know you or not, and I want you to take me back to Texas. I won’t live in such a country.’ I agreed to this but insisted that she must first have a rest, and during the next few days made it a point to acquaint her with all the good ladies of Pueblo, whom she found quite as human as herself, and the trip back to Texas was soon forgotten.”

The Goodnight-Dyer Cattle Company thrived in Pueblo until the financial panic of 1873 and a severe drought. Goodnight formed a partnership with John George Adair, an Irish financier, to establish the first ranch in the Texas Panhandle in the lush green pastureland of Palo Duro Canyon. Adair, who was interested in investing in the cattle business, put up the financial backing while Goodnight was charged with running the entire operation. Goodnight made the first of many land purchases—12,000 acres for twenty-five cents an acre—and trailed 1,600 head of cattle into the canyon in the spring of 1876. Adair and his wife, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair a highborn lady from New York, had fallen in love with the west on a buffalo hunt and viewed the investment and the trip to the canyon as a great adventure.

The two couples, one of Mary’s brothers, and several cowhands made the 400-mile journey from Colorado to Palo Duro Canyon the following spring. The entourage consisted of 100 head of the finest Durham bulls, four wagons loaded with six months’ supply of provisions, equipment, and horses to upgrade Goodnight’s Texas herd. Cornelia Adair rode the entire distance on a fine white horse while Mary Goodnight drove one of the wagons.

When the Goodnight/Adair outfit reached the rim of Palo Duro Canyon, a 1,500-foot deep gorge, ten miles wide, and almost 100 miles long, it was teaming with 1,000 to 1,500 buffalo. They gazed upon the new JA (for John Adair) Ranch, home of Charlie and Mary Goodnight for the next eleven years. It took several days to move all the stock and supplies along the trail that wound for four miles down to the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River at the base of the canyon. After a few days exploring the area, the Adairs left, and Mary Goodnight set about adjusting to life in a two-room log cabin at least seventy-five miles from the nearest white neighbor.

Goodnight, in his Recollections claims that Mary was frightened that first night by the loud noises echoing off the canyon walls made by the buffalo during that spring mating season. Some accounts claim he had to convince her that dried buffalo dung made excellent firewood for her cook stove.

Charlie Goodnight devoted his boundless energy to enlarging the ranch, improving the stock, and blazing the Palo Duro-Dodge City Cattle Trail. Mary acted as surrogate mother for the cowboys—patching their clothes, sewing on buttons, and listening to their troubles. According to Crawford and Ragsdale in Women in Texas, Mary’s doctoring consisted of “coal-oil for lice, prickly pear for wounds, salt and buffalo tallow for piles, mud for inflammation and fever, and buffalo meat made into a broth for a general tonic.”

Despite the constant wind and the loneliness from going six months to a year without seeing another white woman (Comanche squaws came into the canyon with Quanah Parker’s band.) Mary claimed that was the happiest time of her life. Charlie Goodnight made a peace treaty with the Comanches that both he and Quanah Parker honored: Goodnight would give two beeves every other day to Quanah Parker’s band until they could find the buffalo they were hunting as long as the Indians did not take cattle from the JA herd.

Mary Goodnight said in later years that a cowboy brought her three chickens in a sack, and they became something she could talk to. They ran to her when she called and tried to talk to her in their language, following her as she went about her chores. She wrote in her diary that during the day she could hear the gunshots of commercial buffalo hunters who swept the plains killing the bison for their hides, even if a calf was standing next to its mother. At night she could hear the orphans bawling, alone and starving among the rotting carcasses that were left behind. She insisted that Charlie bring the orphaned calves home and by nursing them with three gallons of milk a day she restored them to health and helped establish the Goodnight buffalo herd.

The Goodnights cross-bred some of the buffalo with range cattle, calling the new breed “Cattalo.” Mary established her own herd and commissioned artist J.C. Cowles to paint scenes of the ranch. In 2011, eighty descendants of the great southern plains bison that Mary Goodnight was instrumental in saving were released to roam on 700 acres of the Caprock Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle.

After John Adair died in 1885, Goodnight worked for a couple of years in partnership with Cornelia Adair before he and Mary left the JA Ranch taking as their share a 140,000-acre spread and 20,000 head of cattle to land that became known as Goodnight Station. As railroads, fencing, farmers, and townspeople moved into the Panhandle, Mary helped establish Goodnight College, a post-secondary school, in 1898. As a result of their generosity, churches, schools, and other organizations in the Panhandle were named for the ranching pioneers.

Mary died in 1926 and her headstone reads: “Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight: One who spent her whole life in the service of others.

Mary and Charles Goodnight, Courtesy Charles Goodnight Historical Center

El Paso Mission Trail

My long-range plans call for finding a book publisher interested in my Texas history blogs. With that goal in mind, I’m expanding my Texas coverage with a series of West Texas and Panhandle stories. This blog post was to be about the founding of the oldest Spanish mission in Texas and the first thanksgiving in the United States, both of which I thought had occurred near El Paso, a city on the far western edge of Texas. Immediately, I uncovered a wide range of stories that I have decided to share.

We often think of Spanish activity in Texas getting underway when the Frenchman René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle landed on the Texas coast in 1685. Concern that the French might have an eye on Texas prompted the government of New Spain to construct six missions in East Texas to Christianize the Indians and to serve as a buffer against encroachment from the French in neighboring Louisiana. In fact Spanish explorers started coming into Texas at present-day El Paso in the early 1580s, a century before the East Texas missions were built.

King Phillip II of Spain made Don Juan de Oñate the governor of New Mexico, before the territory

Don Juan de Onate

Don Juan de Onate

had been conquered. In search of riches, adventure, and political power Oñate personally financed an expedition, or entrada, meant to “pacify” the natives in New Mexico. He assembled 400 soldiers, 130 families and thousands of head of cattle, sheep, and other livestock. In early 1598 Oñate led his entourage on what he thought was a shortcut across the Chihuahuan Desert in Northern Mexico in search of a pass through the mountains into New Mexico. In late April, after four days of walking without food or water, the desperate travelers reached the Rio Grande where Oñate claimed all the surrounding land for King Phillip II of Spain. A few days later, they met native people who called themselves Manos, “peaceful one.” The friendly Indians led the Spanish to the place where the Rio Grande cut through the mountains forming El Paso del Rio del Norte—the pass of the north—the Spanish entryway to the West. The Mansos, who wore very little clothing, provided fresh fish for the Spanish and received clothing in return. Oñate invited the Mansos to be guests at a feast on January 26, 1598, celebrating the travelers’ amazing survival. The huge display of wild game and other food stuffs from the expeditions’ supplies created a feast of thanksgiving, which seems to be the second to be celebrated in the present United States. The first thanksgiving is claimed by St. Augustine, Florida, where on September 8, 1565, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez held a feast of thanksgiving with the Timucua.

The entrada moved on into New Mexico, but when scouting parties failed to find gold and silver,

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo

Oñate’s troops began demanding payments from the Pueblo population. The Acoma pueblo refused to comply and in 1599 the Acoma Wars ended with Oñate’s orders to kill 800 people, enslave another 500, and cut off the left foot of all men older than twenty-five. Numbers of amputees vary from twenty-four to eighty. The young women were sent into slavery. Oñate continued his exploratory travels as far as present Kansas, returned to found the town of Santa Fe, and was finally called back to Mexico City in 1606 to answer for his conduct. Although he was tried and convicted of cruelty to the Spanish colonists and to the natives, he was later cleared of all charges.

His treatment of the native peoples set the pattern of Spanish cruelty that continued until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the natives rebelled against their overlords. The Pueblos drove out the soldiers and the Spanish authorities, killed twenty-one Franciscan priests, and sacked mission churches. More than 400 Spanish colonists and 346 native people were killed, which sent hundreds of Indians and Spanish fleeing for their lives to the south. The Tigua (Tiwa) people were among the refugees who reached safety at the Paso del Norte. In order to serve the displaced population, Franciscan friars established the first mission and pueblo in Texas, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, in 1682 on the south bank of the Rio Grande. That same year Nuestra Señora de la

Ysleta Mission

Ysleta Mission

Concepción del Socorro was established for other native people who had fled from the Pueblo Revolt. Over the years, the Rio Grande flooded many times, changing course, and moving the communities that grew up around the missions to both sides of the river, even isolating them for a time on an island between two channels of the Rio Grande.

Socorro Mission

Socorro Mission

Despite the construction of the Spanish missions, the Indians from New Mexico brought their own way of life with them, and continued to control the political and economic activities of the new mission communities. The Franciscan friars were allowed authority only over the Indians’ spiritual life.

Into this mix of missions, native peoples, and Spanish settlers, San Elizario settlement was established, and the Presidio de San Elizario was built in 1789 to protect the area missions and the travelers on the Camino Real (Royal Highway) that ran from Mexico City through Paso del Norte to Santa Fe. While it was never a mission, the presidio boasted a chapel to serve the military personnel.

San Elizario Chapel

San Elizario Chapel

Today’s Ysleta church was completed in 1907 and the Isleta community was annexed into El Paso in 1955. The present Socorro Mission was completed in 1840, replacing the 17th-century structure destroyed by Rio Grande floods. The current church retains many of its original decorative elements, including the original beams, or vigas, which were salvaged from the old flooded church. Both missions and the San Elizario Chapel are on the El Paso Mission Trail.

El Paso Mission Trail

El Paso Mission Trail

From “Booger Town” to “All-American City”

A friend told me that in the 1920s her father’s job of hauling construction materials in the Texas Panhandle required that he drive through Borger.

Thomas Hart Benton's painting, "Boom Town," depicts Borger's Main Street.

Thomas Hart Benton’s painting, “Boom Town,” depicts Borger’s Main Street.

The place had such a bad reputation that her father carried a loaded .45 on the seat beside him. On one occasion a man jumped on the truck’s passenger-side running board. Her father, fearing for his life, grabbed his gun and fired out the window, past the man’s head. The fellow fell, and her father just kept driving.

That story prompted me to check out Borger, a town near the Canadian River, an hour drive northeast of Amarillo. When oil was discovered in the area in March 1925, A.P. (Ace) Borger, a man known in Oklahoma and Texas as a shrewd land promoter, went into partnership with John R. Miller, purchased 240 acres and laid out the town site—named Borger, of course. It only took ninety days of advertising the sensational discovery of “black gold” for the population to reach 45,000—mostly oilmen, roughnecks, panhandlers, bootleggers, and prostitutes—causing the new town to be known as “Booger Town.” The following October Borger was incorporated, and John Miller was elected mayor.

Early Downtown Borger

Early Downtown Borger

There was great progress—a railroad spur arrived; a school district opened; and the three-mile-long Main Street boasted a hamburger stand, a hotel, and a jail. Steam-generated electricity and telephones were available before the end of the year, and before water wells were dug, tank wagons delivered drinking water. However, Mayor Miller had an associate, “Two-Gun Dick” Herwig, who led an organized crime syndicate that opened brothels, dance halls, and gambling facilities along present Tenth Street. Robbery and murder became common practice. With the blessings of local authorities and the king of the Texas bootleggers, W.J. (Shine) Popejoy, illegal moonshine stills and home breweries flourished.

Traffic Jam, Main Street, Borger

Traffic Jam, Main Street, Borger

Governor Dan Moody, by the spring of 1927, had received enough complaints and requests for investigations that he sent a detachment of the Texas Rangers under captains Frank Hamer (famous in 1934 for tracking down and killing Bonnie and Clyde) and Thomas Hickman to clean up the town. Some of the rough crowd departed, but after the district attorney was assassinated in 1929, Governor Moody imposed martial law and sent in the Texas National Guard to restore order.

It was August 1934 before the violence finally came to an end. Town founder Ace Borger, had established himself as president of the Borger State Bank. When the bank failed, Borger was given a two-year prison term for taking deposits while the bank was insolvent. While his conviction was being appealed, Borger was at the post office when he was shot dead by the county treasurer, Arthur Huey. It seems that Huey, a long-time rival of Borger’s, was angry because Borger had not bailed him out of jail when he was arrested for embezzling county funds. Huey shot Borger five times with a Colt .45 pistol, and then took Borger’s gun from his pocket and shot him again before shooting another man who died a few days later. Ironically, Huey claimed self-defense and was acquitted. Three years later he was convicted of theft of county funds and sent to prison.

Borger’s struggles did not end with the violence. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl brought new challenges. The economic crash caused the price of oil and gas to drop, which ended the boom years. Carbon black produced during the oil heyday left a residue of soot that was blown by winds of the Dust Bowl, covering the town in dark-colored grime. The population shifted as Okies, farmers from Oklahoma who lost their land as a result of the Dust Bowl and the Depression, arrived looking for work in the local oil refineries and plants.

Despite the economic problems that came with the Depression, the young men employed during the New Deal by the Works Project Administration (WPA) laid new red brick streets and replaced the boomtown shacks with permanent buildings. World War II introduced a second boom as local oil refineries worked to meet the demand for synthetic rubber and other petroleum products.

By the 1960s the area around Borger was one of the largest producers of oil, carbon black, and petrochemicals in Texas, but automation in the plants meant the loss of jobs, which resulted in a mass exodus. Faced with another decline, the citizens began a citywide renewal—cleanup of the old federal housing and the empty storefronts—proving that “Booger Town” had finally grown up. Borger’s brand new reputation won the 1969 National Civic League designation as an “All-American City.”

Today Borger is a thriving industrial community that serves as an important shipping center for agricultural and petroleum products. The revitalization of the downtown, including the update of building facades and the opening of the Hutchinson County Historical Museum, better known as Boomtown Revisited, followed the restoration of the Morley Theater. Borger has come a long way.

Hutchinson County Historical Museum, known as Boomtown Revisited

Hutchinson County Historical Museum, known as Boomtown Revisited

Judge Roy Bean: Law West of the Pecos

Pecos River

Pecos River

As the railroad spread westward across Texas it was often said, “West of the Pecos there is no law; west of El Paso there is no God.” The Texas Rangers were called in to quell the criminal element that followed the railroad crews through the desolate Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas.  The rangers had been hauling prisoners to the county seat at Fort Stockton—a 400-mile round trip—and they needed a local justice of the peace in Vinegarroon, a town just west of the Pecos River.  It was August 1882 and Roy Bean,

Judge Roy Bean

Judge Roy Bean

who had left his wife and four children in San Antonio earlier that year, won the appointment.  He kept the job with only two off years, when he lost elections, until 1902.

Bean’s training in the law consisted of a talent for avoiding it.  He was in his early twenties when he made a quick exit from the law in Chihuahua, Mexico.  He made a jail break in San Diego and avoided being hanged in San Gabriel, California.  He prospered for a time in the saloon business in Mesilla, New Mexico, with his older brother.  After the Civil War he settled in a part of San Antonio that became known as Beanville.  He married in 1866 and spent several years in various jobs—a firewood business until he was caught cutting his neighbor’s timber; a dairy business until he began watering down the milk; and a butcher shop that sold meat from cattle rustled from nearby ranches. When he began operating a saloon, a rival saloonkeeper was so eager to see him out of the business, that she bought out his entire operation for $900, all the money he needed to head west and set up his own tent saloon along the new railroad construction in Vinegarroon.

Postcard--Jersey Lilly Saloon

Postcard–Jersey Lilly Saloon

With his new position as justice of the peace, Bean acquired an 1879 edition of the Revised Statues of Texas and undertook his first action—he shot up the saloon shack of a Jewish competitor.  His tent saloon served as a part-time courtroom where his jurors were selected from an array of his best bar customers.  When an Irishman named O’Rourke killed a Chinese railroad laborer, a mob of O’Rourke supporters surrounded Bean’s court and threatened to lynch him if he didn’t free O’Rourke.  After looking through his law book Bean said homicide was killing of a human being; however he could find no law against killing a Chinaman.  He dismissed the case.

As railroad construction moved westward, Bean followed the line to a town that became known as Langtry, which Bean claimed he named for the English actress Emilie Charlotte (Lillie) Langtry whom he fell in love with after seeing her picture in a newspaper.  In truth, the town, sitting on a bluff above the Rio Grande, was named for George Langtry an engineer and foreman who supervised the Chinese immigrants who constructed the railroad.

Apparently Bean’s reputation preceded him because the landowner sold to the railroad on the condition that no part of the land could be sold or leased to Bean.  O’Rourke, the gentlemen Bean acquitted, suggested Bean establish his saloon on the railroad right-of-way because that land was not covered in the railroad contract.

Bean built his saloon, which he named The Jersey Lilly in honor of Lillie Langtry who was born on Jersey, one of the islands in the English Channel.  He claimed to know Miss Lillie and wrote to her several times inviting her to visit his town.  When his saloon burned, he built a new home and called it an opera house where he insisted Miss Lillie would come to perform.

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

Her visit actually came ten months after Bean’s death.

Bean’s creative court decisions in The Jersey Lilly included the time he fined a corpse $40 for carrying a concealed weapon.  It just so happened that in addition to his gun, the dead man had $40 in his pocket, which paid for his burial and court costs.  Bean was known as “the hanging judge,” despite never hanging anybody.  Whereas horse thieves were hanged in other jurisdictions, in Bean’s court, they were let go if the horses were returned to their owners.  Since there was no jail, all cases ended with fines, which Bean kept, refusing to send the money to the state. Usually the fine consisted of the amount of money found in the prisoner’s pockets.  Although a justice of the peace was not authorized to grant divorces, Bean did it anyway, charging $10 for the service.  He charged $5 for performing a wedding and ended each ceremony with “and may God have mercy on your souls.”  Bean was noted for his colorful language such as, “It is the judgment of this court that you are hereby tried and convicted of illegally and unlawfully committing certain grave offenses against the peace and dignity of the State of Texas, particularly in my bailiwick,” and then he added, “I fine you two dollars; then get the hell out of here and never show yourself in this court again.  That’s my rulin’.”  But he also maintained tight control of the language used in his courtroom, even threatened a lawyer with hanging for using “profane language” when the lawyer referred to the “habeas corpus” of his client.

When Bean heard that Jay Gould was on a train heading toward Langtry, Bean used a danger signal to flag down the train.  Thinking the bridge over the Pecos River was out, the train stopped and Bean entertained Gould and his daughter at The Jersey Lilly during a two-hour visit.  The delay sent tremors through the New York Stock Exchange when reports circulated that Gould had been killed in a train wreck.

While the trains stopped to take on water, passengers poured into The Jersey Lilly where Bean served them quickly and then became very slow giving them their change.  When the warning whistle blew announcing the train’s departure, the rush was on with passengers demanding their money and Bean eventually fining them the amount they were owed.  His reputation grew as the passengers ran cursing back to the waiting train and future travelers could not resist stopping to visit the ramshackle saloon and its famous proprietor.

Prizefighting became illegal in most of the Southwest and in Mexico, which prompted Bean to open a side business promoting fights on a sandbar in the middle of the Rio Grande.  In 1898 when promoters could not find a place to hold the world championship title prizefight between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher, Bean welcomed the event to Langtry.  An excursion train arrived with 200 spectators on February 22 and Bean entertained them for a time in The Jersey Lilly before leading them to a bridge he had constructed to reach the makeshift ring.  The Texas Rangers watched helplessly from a bluff on the Texas side of the river while Fitzsimmons beat Maher in 95 seconds.  The fans and sportswriters enjoyed a few more drinks at The Jersey Lilly before the train carried them to El Paso to spread the news throughout the United States.

Books, movies, TV shows, and Roy Bean himself spread the legend of Judge Roy Bean, “the law west of the Pecos,” with tales true and tainted.  Despite failing health, Bean he went on a drinking binge in Del Rio in March 1903 and died in his bed the following morning. The Texas Department of Public Transportation has restored The Jersey Lilly Saloon in Langtry and created a Visitors Center just south of US Hwy. 90

Jersey Lilly Visitors Center

Jersey Lilly Visitors Center

First Lady of the Texas Panhandle

Called “Mary” by her husband Charles Goodnight, the best known cattle rancher in Texas; referred to as “Molly” by her distinguished Tennessee family; and known affectionately as “Mother of

Mary Goodnight

Mary Goodnight

the Texas Panhandle” by the cowhands she doctored, fed, and counseled, Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight was loved and admired by all.

She was fourteen in 1854 when she moved with her parents to Fort Belknap on the western edge of Texas settlement.  Soon, both parents died and Mary began teaching school to support her three younger brothers.  She met the young cattleman Charlie Goodnight at Fort Belknap in 1864 and their courtship continued through Goodnight’s service in the Civil War.  By the time they married in 1870 Goodnight had a well-established reputation for driving cattle along the Goodnight-Loving Trail to New Mexico and eventually to Wyoming before he built a thriving cattle ranch at Pueblo, Colorado.

When Charlie Goodnight and his bride arrived in Pueblo, Mary was shocked to discover two men hanging from a telegraph pole.  Goodnight writes in his Recollections: “I hardly knew how to reply, but finally stammered out in a very abashed manner: ‘Well, I don’t think they hurt the telegraph pole.’  This seemed to irritate her very much and she said: ‘I used to think I knew you in Texas, but you have been out here among the Yankees and ruffians until I don’t know whether I know you or not, and I want you to take me back to Texas.  I won’t live in such a country.’ I agreed to this but insisted that she must first have a rest, and during the next few days made it a point to acquaint her with all the good ladies of Pueblo, whom she found quite as human as herself, and the trip back to Texas was soon forgotten.”

The Goodnight-Dyer Cattle Company thrived in Pueblo until the depression caused by the financial panic of 1873 and a severe drought led to Goodnight forming a partnership with John George Adair, an Irish financier, to establish the first ranch in the Texas Panhandle in the lush green pastureland of Palo Duro Canyon.  Adair, who was interested in investing in the cattle business, put up the financial backing while Goodnight was charged with running the entire operation.  Goodnight made the first of many land purchases—12,000 acres for twenty-five cents an acre—and trailed 1,600 head of cattle into the canyon in the spring of 1876.  Adair and his wife, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair a highborn lady from New York, had fallen in love with the west on a buffalo hunt and viewed the investment and the trip to see the canyon as a great adventure.

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

The two couples, one of Mary’s brothers, and several cowhands made the 400-mile journey from Colorado to Palo Duro Canyon the following spring.  The entourage consisted of 100 head of the finest Durham bulls, four wagons loaded with six months’ supply of provisions, equipment, and horses to upgrade Goodnight’s Texas herd.  Cornelia Adair rode the entire distance on a fine white horse while Mary Goodnight drove the team to one of the wagons.

As the Goodnight/Adair outfit reached the rim of Palo Duro Canyon, they gazed into the new JA (for John Adair) Ranch—a 1,500-foot deep gorge, ten miles wide, and almost 100 miles long teaming with 1,000 to 1,500 buffalo—home of Charlie and Mary Goodnight for the next eleven years.  It took several days to move all the stock and supplies along the trail that wound for four miles to the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River at the base of the canyon. After a few days exploring the area, the Adairs left and Mary Goodnight set about adjusting to life in a two-room log cabin at least seventy-five miles from the nearest white neighbor.  Goodnight, in his Recollections claims that Mary was frightened that first night by the loud noises echoing off the canyon walls made by the buffalo during that spring mating season.  Some accounts claim he had to convince her that dried buffalo dung made excellent firewood for her cook stove.

While Charlie Goodnight devoted his boundless energy to enlarging the ranch, improving the stock and blazing the Palo Duro-Dodge

JA Ranch Cattle Brand

JA Ranch Cattle Brand

City Cattle Trail, Mary acted as surrogate mother for the cowboys—patching their clothes, sewing on buttons, and listening to their troubles.  According to Crawford and Ragsdale in Women in Texas, Mary’s doctoring consisted of “coal-oil for lice, prickly pear for wounds, salt and buffalo tallow for piles, mud for inflammation and fever and buffalo meat broth for a general tonic.”

Despite the constant wind and the loneliness from going six months to a year without seeing another white woman (Comanche squaws came into the canyon with Quanah Parker’s band) Mary claimed that was the happiest time of her life.  Charlie Goodnight made a peace treaty with the Comanches that both he and Quanah Parker honored:  Goodnight would give two beeves every other day to Quanah Parker’s band until they could find the buffalo they were hunting as long as the Indians did not take cattle from the JA herd.

Mary Goodnight said in later years that a cowboy brought her three chickens in a sack and they became something she could talk to.  They ran to her when she called and tried to talk to her in their language, following her as she went about her chores.  She wrote in her diary that during the day she could hear the gunshots of commercial buffalo hunters who swept the plains killing the bison for their hides, even if a calf was standing next to its mother.  At night she could hear the orphans bawling, alone and starving among the

Buffalo

Buffalo

rotting carcasses that were left behind.  She insisted that Charlie bring the orphaned calves home and by nursing them with three gallons of milk a day she restored them to health and helped establish the Goodnight buffalo herd.

The Goodnights crossbred some of the buffalo with range cattle, calling the new breed “Cattalo.” Mary established her own herd and commissioned artist J.C. Cowles to paint scenes of the ranch.  In 2011, eighty descendants of the great southern plains bison that Mary Goodnight was instrumental in saving were released to roam on 700 acres of the Caprock Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle.

After John Adair died in 1885, Goodnight worked for a couple of years in partnership with Cornelia Adair before he and Mary left the JA Ranch taking as their share a 140,000-acre spread and 20,000 head of cattle near land that became known as Goodnight Station. As railroads, fencing, farmers, and townspeople moved into the Panhandle, Mary helped establish Goodnight College, a post-secondary school, in 1898.  As a result of their generosity, churches, schools, and other organizations in the Panhandle were named for the ranching pioneers.

Mary died in 1926 and her headstone reads:  “Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight: One who spent her whole life in the service of others.”