In April, 1901, J.A. Murchison, his wife, two boys and two girls arrived in Dickens County. They came from Buffalo Gap, but had stopped over in Stonewall County for two years, where he was engaged in farming and ranching. They made the trip to this county in a covered wagon and brought along a small herd of cattle and horses.
He bought a claim on a section of school land from Tead Davis. This land was located about twelve miles east from Dickens, later became known as the Wichita Community. He had two children ready for school and there was no school within reach of them; so he immediately started talking with neighbors and County officials, to get a school started. Neighbors donated the work and hauling the lumber from Quanah and by the next school term, they had the school ready. They also used it for Church services.
Pioneer life is full of hardships, but it was very interesting. When we came to Dickens County, there was plenty of hard work to do about improving a new place; conveniences were few and money scarce. When there was a big job to do where help was needed the neighbors swapped work.
Our first home here was a one room and a shed room with a dirt floor. I remember sweeping that floor, when it had worn down so it was deep in the middle and high all around. For the first two yeas our only home supply of water was from a gyp well. It started making us sick so a cistern was dug.
There was open range for the cattle, as very few fences had been built. At round-up time, in the spring, the people from all over the country would work through and while doing so, they could locate and brand their own cattle.
The Wichita Tank near us was a life-giving stream for both livestock and people. When cisterns went dry because of droughts, people would have their water for household and drinking from the tank. Cattle watered there and stood around in the water as a protection from heel-flies. Sometimes when the tank was low the cattle would bog down and if not found in time they would die then someone would pull them out. In summer the men and boys used the tank for their bath-tub; still people drank the water. Does this sound bad to some of you? Anyway there was less sickness then than now.
Our first school was taught by Miss Connie Newton, a young lady with little experience. Some of the larger boys gave her so much trouble. It was decided the next year to get a man to teach so a Mr. Works was employed. He handled the boys, but little girls like I, was afraid of him. The Wichita Tank was a great source of satisfaction to the school, as it was nearby. When there was no water in the cistern, some of the older pupils would carry drinking water in a bucket often having to dip it up out of cow tracks. In winter the tank furnished a lot of sport for us. When it was frozen over, we would go ice-skating at the noon hour. Sometimes a daring boy would break through the ice but no one was drowned and no bones were broken in falls.
In those days most of our supplies were freighted in from Quanah or from other far away places. The trip would take from seven to ten days. Several men would go together taking along food, bedding and horse feed. Travel was slow and towns far apart so they camped by the roadside. Hardships for the men, but worse for the women who had to stay at home and take care of the children, the home, and livestock. On one such occasion we had some real excitement at our house. The house caught fire on fire from an overturned kerosene lamp. With mother and small children in a one room, and flames going to the ceiling, I thought the sensible thing to do was to get out, so I ran for the door. Mama told one of the older children to catch me and told me to get on the bed, and stay there, while she was sweeping the flames down with a wet broom. With the older boy keeping her supplied with water, she succeeded in putting out the fire and saving the house.
As we lived near the road, it was a stopping place for travelers. People to stay all night, when the house was already full; to buy horse feed and often it was scarce, to get drinking water, when the cistern was dry. But my father's policy was to never turn anyone away in need.
Contrast our modern road machinery with what was used then. The road overseer called the men together to work the road and they had to do it or pay for it. The work was done with walking plows an scrapers and with hand tools such as picks, shovels and grubbing hoes. Lunches were taken from home.
Our school house was used as a community center; for elections, literary society, singing's, Sunday School, and church. Ministers of all faiths were welcomed. In those days nearly everyone went to Church. At times the house would be full. In summer a brush arbor was built for revivals, and such revivals we would have. People would really get happy. There would be preaching, praying, singing, shouting and sinners being saved. The old time gospel was preached with power. People learned to live it and obey.
In 1905 sorrow struck our home. Ethel died from a rattlesnake bite. Everything was done for her and after nine days of suffering she went to be with Jesus, whom she had learned to love and obey. Our doctor and neighbors did all they could to help and comfort us. She was buried in the Dickens
Services for Mrs. Martha Earl Murchison, 90, a Dickens County pioneer, were held at 10 a.m. Saturday, November 17, 1962, in Campbell´s Funeral Chapel.
The Rev. Victor Crabtree officiated, assisted by Rev. Genoa Goad, pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church in Dickens. Burial was in Dickens Cemetery.
She was a native of Mississippi and moved to this area in 1901. Survivors are a daughter, Mrs. Nettie Hyatt, Dickens; three sons, John Lee Murchison, Lubbock; Roland and Earl, both of Dickens, 10 grand children and 11 great grandchildren. Pallbearers were Ray Finchum, Earn Scott, T.J. Conaway, Jim Koonsman, Coy Drennon and Homer Jackson.
©The Texas Spur, November 22, 1962Transcribed by Kay Laster
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