Ex-Slave Becomes Community Leader

Born into slavery in Arkansas in 1845, Nelson Taylor Denson moved, at age eleven, to Falls County in East Texas with his master. Denson, who had been educated by his master, developed high regard for Sam Houston after hearing Houston speak when he visited Marlin in his campaign for governor. During the Civil War, Denson accompanied his master in the Confederate Army, serving as a saddle boy looking after the horses.

An account titled Slaves Narratives—Rural NW Louisiana African American Genealogy includes Denson’s account of the Civil War in which he praises Sam Houston for standing by his principles and refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, which resulted in Governor Houston being removed from office. Denson says he that at age sixteen he went to war as his master’s “bodyguard.” In his gripping account of the night before the Battle at Mansfield on the Sabine River, he describes the sound of whippoorwills calling and the low mummer of the men singing spirituals and listing for an attack from the Yankees camped just across the river.

Denson views the slaves who ran away and joined the Union forces as not properly caring for the women and children left behind on the plantations. He goes on to share his concern after the war for the change in the “old order,” and the decline in virtue and chivalry.

After the Civil War, Denson returned to Falls County as a free man and began working to fulfill his two dreams—to preach and to teach. Incorporating a deep understanding of human needs and rights, Denson became a circuit preacher in the Baptist denomination.

On November 8, 1868, the Reverend Denson, his wife, and eleven other blacks organized the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church, the first black congregation in Falls County. Denson believed that black citizens must have the basic rudiments of education, which led him to teach the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. He helped start a school sponsored by the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church, and others soon followed. By the mid-1880s Denson won election as county commissioner, becoming the first black official in the county. His good judgment and spirit of cooperation won the respect of both the black and the white communities, and he continued to be respected and called on for advice and counsel until his death in 1938 at the age of ninety-three.

The Rev. Nelson T. Denson and the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church historical marker is located at 507 Bennett at George Street in Marlin, Falls County.on

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Bose Ikard, Black Cowboy

More than a quarter of the cowboys in the 19th century were black and Bose Ikard became one of the most famous frontiersmen and trail drivers in Texas.  Born on a

Bose Ikard

Bose Ikard

Mississippi slave plantation in 1843, Bose Ikard moved to Texas when he was nine years old with his master Dr. Milton Ikard.  The family settled in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth, where Bose learned to farm, ranch, and fight the ever-present Indians.   Even after becoming a freedman at the end of the Civil War, Bose stayed with his master’s family until 1866 when Dr. Ikard wrote a letter of recommendation for Bose to work as a trail driver for Oliver Loving and his partner Charles Goodnight.  Bose joined the already famous Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail over which about eighteen men drove cattle more than 2,000 miles from Texas through New Mexico to Colorado.

After Loving’s death from injuries in an Indian fight in 1867, Bose continued to work for Goodnight and earned his employer’s respect and abiding friendship.

Goodnight is quoted as saying: “Bose surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina.  There was a dignity, cleanliness and reliability about him that was wonderful.  His behavior was very good in a fight and he was probably the most devoted man to me that I ever knew.  I have trusted him farther than any man.  He was my banker, my detective, and everything else in Colorado, New Mexico, and the other wild country.  The nearest and only bank was in Denver, and when we carried money, I gave it to Bose, for a thief would never think of robbing him.  Bose could be trusted farther than any living man I know.”

Larry McMurtry patterned his 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winnning western novel Lonesome Dove and the 1989- TV mini-series after the adventures of the Goodnight-Loving Trail, modeling the character Deets (played by Danny Glover) after Bose Ikard.

J. Evetts Haley in Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman relates Goodnight’s account of Bose Ikard’s rugged endurance, ability as a nightrider, and skill at turning a stampeding herd.

When Bose decided to leave the trail and marry in 1868 Charles Goodnight advised him to settle on a farm near Weatherford an area west of Fort Worth that continued to be plagued by Indian attacks. In 1869 Bose rode with his former master Dr. Milton Ikard in a running battle against Quanah Parker, leader of the aloof and warlike Quahada Comanches who for a decade had refused to move to a reservation.

Bose and his wife Angelina had six children and continued over the years welcoming Goodnight to their home. After Bose died on January 4, 1929, Charles Goodnight had a granite marker placed at his friend’s grave in Greenwood Cemetery.  imgresIt reads: “Bose Ikard served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches, splendid behavior.”

A Texas Historical marker also stands beside Bose Ikard’s gravesite.imgres-1