AUCTION 23

 
 

Rare Texas County History with Much on Ranching

 
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137. EWELL, Thomas T. A History of Hood County Texas, from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present, Together with Biographical Sketches of Many Leading Men and Women among the Early Settlers, as Well as Many Incidents in the Adjoining Territory. Also a Sketch of the History of Somervell County. Written by Thos. T. Ewell. Granbury: Published by the Granbury News, 1895. [4], [1] 2-<161>, [7] pp., 6 leaves of inserted ads on pink paper plus ads on pastedowns. 8vo (22.3 x 16.3 cm), original black cloth spine over black pebble cloth with gilt lettering on upper cover: History of Hood County by Thos. T. Ewell. Frank Gaston, Publisher, Granbury, Tex. Slight shelf wear (corners lightly bumped), front hinge cracked but firm, lower hinge reinforced, title page with small tear at upper left corner (no loss), text lightly browned as usual due to being printed on newsprint. A very good, complete copy of one of the rarest Texas county histories. Some copies lack the history of Somervell County at the end (present here).

     First edition. Adams, Herd 779: “Rare.” CBC 2475. Dykes, Collecting Range Life Literature, p. 18. Eberstadt, Texas 162:289: “Page 113 is misnumbered 115” [not the case in the present copy]. Graff 1279. Howes E239. Vandale 62.

     In the early years of the 1850s Anglo stock raisers and farmers began to settle in Hood County on the north central plains of Texas, and in 1866 the county was established. Because the county was ranching country, there is scarcely a page in this quaintly printed, marvelous county history that does not in some way touch on ranching history, with a great deal on early ranchers, cowboys, trail drives, Comanche and Kiowa rustlers, women, and other social history in the cattle country. Our favorite passage is the following account of an 1870s trail drive that is almost Joycean in flow (original spelling and absence of paragraph breaks retained):

W.H. Kingsbury...often collected up considerable herds of marketable cattle, which he drove to the markets beyond the Indian territory. These long drives to markets having become things of the past, a short description of one with its difficulties and perils will scarcely be deemed out of place here. For several weeks beforehand the numerous cattlemen are negotiated with to deliver certain grades of steers—usually 2 to 4 years old—to Kingsbury, who announces that he will start with a herd on a given date. At the appointed time often one to two thousand head of such steers, sleek and fat from the range are put into the herd, driven by some ten or fifteen cowboys, with three or more ponies to each, following the herd for reliefs and pack horses. An experienced man is employed as “boss” and under this direction they proceed; Kingsbury accompanies the herd with his wife, who desires to make a trip to the cities. There are no wire fences or other incidents of civilization to obstruct their way, and the grass being abundant they drive from twelve to fifteen miles daily, only having to take care that water is duly reached at proper intervals. Finally on a hot, sultry evening they draw near the bottoms of the Red river. The experienced eye detects signs of a stormy night and every precaution is taken, the cattle are carefully “rounded-up,” the guards are placed at advantageous stations, and instructed to keep the herd soothed if possible, by song and refrain. Kingsbury takes his wife to a remote grove and they go into camp. After they have retired to rest the storm approaches, the thunder rolls and the lightnings play through the heavy timber of the bottom the uneasy herd have been lowing for some time and the cowboys have grown hoarse with keeping up their constant refrain as they ride about the outskirts of the herd; the night is dark and nothing seen save when the glare of the livid lightning is thrown upon the scene. Kingsbury is on the watch, his own horse is saddled and several of his men with him. Presently an ominous silence prevails in the great herd, instantly followed by the dreadful tramping of thousands of hoofs and loud clashing of horns; they have stampeded, in what direction nobody knows, till the lightnings reveal their course, then every man in his saddle urges his pony through the darkness to gain their front, and finally a few fearless cowboys have placed themselves in the lead of the onward moving herd, and in the darkness and storm lead them in the circling movement. Presently it is discovered by Kingsbury that the herd is now heading toward the station where he is guarding his family. No time is lost; with a few of his men they make to the head of the angry, surging column, which no human power could check in its irresistible career, and succeed by their soothing voices to lead them in a circling line from their direction; so that by the time the camp is reached, the dashing mass pass it but a few feet to one side, then to avoid further danger, the herd is led on far away to the prairies, where after they have been severed into several bodies, and have finally exhausted themselves, they are left till the morning light enables the cowboys to again gather them up for the trail, which is resumed and accomplished without further serious adventure. But through the wild uninhabitable plains, meeting here and there parties of half civilized Indians, and the many adventures and diverting scenes passed on the long overland trail, made by short daily rides, possessed no doubt much to fascinate the spirited and brave little woman who had chosen to accompany her husband on this trip, yet it is not likely she again ventured to share the perils from which, by the cowmen’s skill, she had such a narrow escape. But though such stampedes were common, the cowboy’s experience and skill were usually sufficient for his own protection, however burdensome and fatiguing the task of night-herding on stormy nights. When he reached Kansas City or Chicago, he, with his broad-brimmed sombrero, mounted upon his bronco, with elaborate trappings dangling from his saddle, and quirt in hand, was an object of sufficient attraction to insure him a good time; thus accoutered, and hailing from Texas, he possessed immunity from interference by the “cops” enjoyed by few other classes. And most of the cowboys relished these trips kept up till railroads and wire fences destroyed their trade.

     Despite a large emphasis on ranching and cattle, practically nothing great or small on other subjects escapes Ewell’s attention. One important threshold in any Texas settlement was ridding the countryside of hostile Native Americans. Ewell dutifully and grippingly describes “The Last Indian Raid to Hood County--The Point of Timbers Fight” (pp. 102-107), wherein is described a running fight with a small group of natives who end up all being killed. Although Ewell describes other, smaller incidents, this battle was the last significant engagement on any scale in the county. Ironically, later troubles and alarms were generally attributed to “white men in the disguise of Indians” (p. 107). The book closes with the anonymous poem, “An Ode to the Brazos.”

($400-800)

Sold. Hammer: $3,000.00; Price Realized: $3,675.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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