WICHITA DAILY TIMES
SUNDAY, JANUARY 12,1934
Clay County Resident
Recalls Days When Settlers
Worked in Groups as Protection Against Roving Indians
By Ed F. Bulls Times
NEWPORT, Texas, Jan 11 Uncle Joe Welch, a resident of this
section for more than 60 years talks interestingly of pioneer
days when the first settlers had to work together in armed
squads, while building their first small shacks, ready to fight
back the attacks made by the roving bands of Indians back in
above picture of Uncle Joe was taken at his home three miles
north of Newport, as he talked of the early days of Newport and
surrounding country. The picture shows him examining a top of
his cream separator on his back porch, before the aged pioneer
realized he was being photographed.
Mr. Welch came to this country In the early 70's with his uncle,
Dr. W. C. Welch, and they were among the first settlers. Dr.
Welch was one of the first settlers of Newport and put in the
first stock of drugs in the community.
Prior to the establishment of the town of Newport, a few
settlers had obtained a post office five miles east of where the
present town of Newport stands. This was in 1874, and the post
office was named "Bear Hill." The first postmaster was
a Mr. J. H. Hardy. The post office got its name after a large
bear had been killed on the hill one day after Hardy, L.
Hancock, Mr. Marlett and a few others had returned to the place
from chasing a band of Indians who had made an unsuccessful
attack upon their settlement. This post office got mail once a
week from Gainesville; it was carried on the back of a mule. But
in 1879 after the town of Newport was organized, a petition was
drawn up and sent to the postoffice department requesting that
the office be moved to Newport and that a Mr. Rivers be
appointed postmaster. The requests were granted.
Town Gets Name
After the town of Newport was laid off there was some discussion
as to what the name of the new town should be. A Mr. Norman
wanted to name it after his pretty daughter, Mandy, and others
wanted to name it after their daughters. They finally agreed to
compromise and take the first letter of the names of the seven
builders of the town, and let those seven letters be the name of
the town. Commencing with "N" for Norman,
"E" for Ezell, "W" for Welch, "P"
for Pruitt, "0" for Owsley, "R" for Reiger,
and "T" for Taylor.
The first buildings of the town were of lumber sawed from native
oaks and commonly called "rawhide" lumber. A little
saw mill in the valley north of Newport on the Shipp place
furnished material for the first shacks erected in the
community. Much of the old material can be found in barns and
out houses all over this section.
The first school in the settlement was in 1878 In a one-room log
cabin about a half mile south of Newport and about 300 yards
north of the Newport cemetery. G. W. Ford was the teacher.
Mr. Welch recalled that his uncle, Dr. W. C. Welch, bought the
first mowing machine ever run in Clay county in 1878, and they
did quite a lot of mowing with the machine, and sometimes went
as far west as the Archer county line. He says the grass then
was almost as high as his head and was heavy set. After frost in
the fall the grass would topple over and underneath would be
green grass all during the winter protected by the heavy grass
overhead. Stock would thrive all during the winter months
without feed, Mr. Welch said.
In 1881, John Eubanks, Billie Ireland and Ed Pickett bought
the first threshing machine in this section, and he says the
machine was of the Nicholas & Shepherd make. During the fall
they operated a gin with the engine. The gin was a one 60-saw
stand. The thresher was hauled around by a six-ox team. H. B.
Garrett, one of the first settlers, put up the first mill two
miles north of town at his farm. Mr. Welch says he has seen
wheat cut in the morning, threshed and carried to the mills,
ground, brought back and baked for the threshing hands for
dinner the same evening.
Shortly after the town of Newport was organized and the post
office obtained, a new mail route was secured from Fort Worth to
Decatur, Crafton, Newport and on to Archer City. The mail was
received once a week and carried on horse back.
Mr. Welch tells about the slaughtering of the large number of
buffaloes in 1876 & 1877, and says that Ten Mile prairie
west of Newport was literally strewn with the carcasses. They
were slaughtered for their hides which brought $1 apiece at Fort
Worth, Dallas and Weatherford. He says that there were no flies
here then, and that they first came in 1880 with the moving of
the large herds of cattle by Dan Waggoner who would drive them
through in herds from 3,000 to 6,000 every week. These drives,
in 1879 & 1880, were of cattle being taken to ranches in
Wichita, Archer and other counties.
J. M. Stillwell was the first justice of the peace this country
ever had, and "Fat" Hardy was the first peace officer.
He states that they held court quite often in those days and
that the town was "wild" with as many as four saloons
and one ten pin alley running all the time.
Mr. Welch names the first settlers of 1872 as follows: L.
Hancock, Mr. Hardy, John Mccracken, J. L. Barnes, John Gilbreath,
Mr. Marlett, Dick Sandifur, Dave Turner, and others whose names
he cannot recall. Soon after the post office was obtained in
1879 they got their first newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution.
Mrs Bell Miller secured the first club for the paper with five
He says that old Fort Jacksboro was the nearest place for the
protection from the Indians. The last Indian fight was on a hill
two miles west of Newport in 1878, Mr Welch said. Some time
prior to this there was an old fort at Buffalo Srings, northwest
of the present town. This fort was used for the protection of
the surveyors who were sent out to survey the various land
grants. The old stone walls of this fort are still standing and
the old spring is still in use. Later there was a store on the
east bank of the creek and grist mill on the west bank. At this
old grist mill in later years, Cooper Wright, who was sheriff of
Clay county, was shooting it out with desperate character when
Col. J. B. Young, another pioneer of the community, joined
Wright in the battle and possibly saved his life. Colonel Young
was shot in the foot by the bandit and limped the rest of his
life. Cooper Wright was sheriff of Clay county continuously for
18 years and will be remembered by all the old-timers of this
Mrs. Bell Miller, mentioned as securing the first club for the
Atlanta Constitution, was well know over Clay County and died
about two years ago. L. Hancock, mentioned as one of the first
settlers of 1872, was the father of J. M. and R. L. Hancock now
living at Newport.
Mrs Welch has been serving the Newport community for many years
as justice of the peace, and besides he operates a small broom
factory at his home. He makes brooms from straw grown in south
Clay county. He is 78 years old and is hale & hearty and
expects to live many years yet.
©Times Record News
This article reprinted here with permission
of the Wichita Falls Times Record News.