Robert Mayfield Reminiscences
Originally published Waxahachie Enterprise May 31, 1889
Contributed by Myrl Ross
In 1841-42, W. S. Peters obtained a grant for a large tract of land, mostly in the present county of Dallas, but the southern portion being about 1/3 of [present] Ellis County. Mercer's grant lay in the southern portion. Quoting Mr. Mayfield: "....the buffalo were the great wonder of the prairies. They came and went like a mighty torrent....as far as the eye could reach....one of their favorite haunts was the Lower Mustang Creek country. They watered in the strong running water on the land later owned by W. H. Getzendaner..... Just north of the Getzendaner plantation were several good sized elm trees. Petty Apperson and I climbed those trees to get a good view - extending almost from Ennis to Waxahachie and from Waxahachie Creek to Grove Creek. As far as the eye could reach in every direction, the whole prairie was covered with buffalo.....several tribes of friendly Indians often hunted our prairies but the early settlers suffered no more harm from them than an occasional theft. I have had many long hunts with them. Perch and other fish were very plentiful - especially around the Gentzendaner plantation. Wild bees furnished the settlers with great abundance of honey - about the only sweetening at that time accessible to the people. Men and boys wore buckskin pants and hunting shorts, coonskin caps and moccasins made of buffalo skins. Women's clothes were made of plaincloth, bought at trading stations, 25, 50 or 100 miles away.
The Mayfield family moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1838. They had a "league of land" at "some fine springs" [Reagor Springs] in Ellis County where they moved in February, 1844.There a cabin was built, ground cleared and a crop planted. Their corn was ground in a hand-mill, while neighbors on Red Oak beat theirs with a pestle and mortar.
At the time of the Mayfields' arrival at what is now known as Reagor Springs, a settlement known as "Howe's" was located on Chambers Creek. Families living there included those of William R. Howe, Thomas I. Smith, Archibald Greathouse, the Moores, Bakers, and Youngs. Unmarried men were Marshall Bartlett, W. J. Stokes, C. N. Patrick, J. P. McConley, a Mr. Milbanks, Mr. Beasley and [given name unknown] Waddell, who drowned in the Creek in 1844. Again quoting Mr. Mayfield, "These people and my father's family constituted the entire population of the area now known as Ellis County." In the spring of 1844, a settlement was made on Red Oak, near the present site of Ovilla. Settlers living there were Jonathan, Samuel and William Billingsley, James Sterrett, widow McCormick and one McNamara. Sterrett married the daughter of the widow during the same year. In order to claim his bride, he had to go to Franklin, in Robertson County, to procure a license and a Justice of the Peace to perform the ceremony. About a month after Sterrett's trip to Franklin, some of the people there formed a company of prospectors to visit [Ellis County]. One of them was Emory W. Rogers. Also during the same year, Col. James E. Patton, his sons, James, Thomas and John, and nephew Irvin, settled on Red Oak below the Billingsley settlement. In 1845 James Petty Apperson and John F. Flaherty pitched their camp on the prairie near the Peter Stout place on Grove Creek and made a crop. Since there were no fences, the fields had to be watched to keep buffalo and wild horses away. Toward the end of that year a contingent of emigrants from Arkansas arrived and settled around the Howe Community on Chambers Creek. These were the families of Sidney Pruitt, Daniel Weaver, Robert Parks, P. P. Smith, G. L. Hickey and D. R. Stephenson, the latter unmarried. C. M. Winkler was another emigrant who boarded with Thomas I. Smith, and after his death, married the widow Smith. A man named Cowning settled on Grove Creek, and a Methodist preacher named Welch, along with his family settled near [present Sardis] on Waxahachie Creek. Coleman and A. S. Jenkins settled on Waxahachie Creek, three miles from Midlothian; John Stover on the south side of the creek, opposite Jenkins. In addition to the above named, during 1845, Jake Wycoff, Charles Phipps and a Mr. Kennison arrived. In 1846 Hans Smith settled his family on the south side of Red Oak Creek and opened a small store. With him were three sons, Robert, Sidney and William, and a daughter who married S. B. Farrar. General E. H. Tarrant settled at Tarrant's Springs on Chambers Creek; James Kelley lived near the Jenkins family, and Sanford, Wallace Sevier and Benjamin Pryor settled near Smith's Station.
In 1846 the first District Court for Navarro County was held at the Howe Settlement, with Judge [R. E. B.] Baylor presiding. Before Texas acquired her independence, there were three grants made from the Mexican government for services rendered either in the army or in some civil capacity. The first, to Thomas J. Chambers, was eight leagues along the Trinity River, in the southeastern portion of [now] Ellis County, which was recorded in September 1834. Eleven leagues went to Rafael Pena Oct. 22, 1834, located in the northeastern portion of the [now] county, and three leagues to Alejandro de la Garza, on the Trinity River and made at the same time as Pena's.
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