Texas History - Life on the Frontier

A Frontier Life

The more I read about lives of old time Texans, the more I am struck by how much living they packed into their years.

What you are about to read is the story of John James Haynes (1843-1925) and it all takes place before his twenty-eighth birthday.

What he leaves out of the story is that he was also a POW for a time.

"I was born in the Republic of Texas , August 6, 1843, where Gonzales is now located.

My father, Charles Haynes, who arrived in Texas some ten years previous, risked his life in helping Texas to gain her independence from Mexico. I was raised in Llano County, then on the frontier.

When I was quite small I was taught to ride, shoot, hunt and run wild cattle, and all the other things necessary to withstand the requirements of those strenuous times.

At a very early age my father presented each of his three sons with a gun, and as he was a mechanic and smith by trade, he made for each of us a long Bowie knife, and gave instructions how to use it.

The rule in those days was to use the Bowie knife and save powder and shot. I have been in many close quarters when that knife came in mighty handy, for in my time I have killed every kind of wild animal that roamed in this wild country.

Besides the wild animals we had worse foes to contend with - the savage Indians, who often made raids upon the settlements.

When I was eighteen years old I joined the Confederate Army and was sent out of the state. I served the entire four years of that desperate struggle, and came home with a crippled arm.

When we were discharged we were given transportation home, as far as the train went, and it didn’t go far into Texas in those days.

We came by water to Galveston, and while our “high up” officers were having a “peace treaty” somewhere in town, we “high up privates of the rear ranks” decided we had been away from home long enough, and as we us there, we concluded to leave the “peace subject” with the officers, so we captured a waiting train and ordered the engineer to “charge,” which order was promptly obeyed.

When any of the boys reached a point anywhere near a bee-line to his home, he would pull the bell-cord and drop off.

I fell off at Brenham, which was the end of the road at that time. From Brenham I went by stage to Austin and from Austin I took the “ankle express” for my home in Llano County, seventy-five miles away.

After a tramp, tramp, tramp with the boys in gray for four long years, I was alone now, but the thoughts of getting home spurred me on, and I did not mind the fatigue as I covered the distance.

One night I stopped at what was known as “Dead Man’s Water Hole,” so-called from the fact that the body of an unidentified man was once found there. I used a soft log that night for my pillow, and slept to the tunes of the hoot owls and the coyote wolves.

When I reached home I found my neighborhood was still being raided by hostile Indians. I was soon rigged out with a new saddle, horse and gun, and ready to defend my home against the red men.

But I realized that I must seek a livelihood, so, in company with my younger brother, Charlie Haynes, and Harve Putman, we decided to go out and round up mavericks and drive them up the trail.

Each of us having secured two ponies and a pack horse and other equipment for a long camping trip, we started out, establishing our camp in the forks of the North and South Llano Rivers where Junction City now stands. At that time there were no fences and very few ranches in that region.

Harve Putman and my brother , Charlie, decided to sell their undivided interest in our herd, and John Putnam and myself bought them for $2.50 per head, on credit, to be paid for on our return from the Kansas market.

We drove the herd by way of Fort Worth and crossed the Texas line at Red River Station. We put a bell on an old cow for a leader, and when a yearling got lost from the herd, and came within hearing of that bell it generally came back to the herd.

We reached Abilene, Kansas, with our yearlings in good shape, and we sold them for eight dollars per head. We found ourselves in possession of $8,000, and had started out without a dollar.

But any old trail driver who found himself rich in Abilene, Kansas, in 1871, knows the rest."

Texas Quote

“True courage is completing the things you say, while cowardice is saying the things you wish to complete.”

- William Barret Travis

1 Like

Interesting historical account. The story line would make for a good movie.