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Trouble at Red River

A True Story

October 15th and December 3, 1899 are two dates I can never forget. On October 15th my grandmother (Sarah Cureton West-Reeder), sister Maud, an aunt (Nancy Caroline West-Reeder) and myself started on a six hundred mile journey in a covered wagon. Some four and one-half years before this my Father (Francis Henry Moss) and family had moved from Coleman County, Texas to the Indian Territory, spending two years near Chickasha, then moving to what was known as Cheyenne Country and homesteading 160 acres of land.

Father's brother (Lewis Nelson Moss) still lived in Texas at Cottonwood in Callahan County some 40 miles north of our old home. After we had lived on the homestead some two years, Father and Uncle wanted me to take my team and go help my Uncle move. By the time I was ready to start I had so many passengers I didn't know how I expected to be much help, but by the corresponding back and forth we got our dates fixed and just a few days before time to start one of my horses took a spell of colic, laid down and died. Now, what to do! We solved the problem this way. One of my neighbors had a very good horse that was a real outlaw. He offered to sell him to me for $40.00 if I could work him. We hitched my gentle horse (Old Dan) and the outlaw (Smokey) to the wagon and he didn't act too bad. The next morning, October 15, 1899, the three ladies and myself made a start.

I had a $5.00 bill in my pocket, some groceries and feed for the team in the wagon. Our starting place was 32 miles northwest of Cloud Chief, the county seat of Washita County, Indian Territory, now State of Oklahoma. We made our first camp that night within two miles of Cloud Chief. When I hitched the team up next morning old Smokey was so tender footed from prancing and acting the fool the day before he could hardly get going. There was nothing to do but get the team shod before proceeding any further. After that was paid there was not much left. I don't remember just how much, but it was only two hundred and eighty mile to where Uncle Lewis Moss was expecting us and he would have some money.

Dan and Smokey felt so much better walking on new shoes they behaved much better. We passed Mountain View at about noon and here we came to the edge of the settled part of the country and entered what was known as the Kiowa country. No more settlements 'til we reached Red River except for Fort Sill and the old Red Store where the U.S. Government maintained a few soldiers at the Fort and supplies for the Indians. The distance from Mountain View to Red River was about eighty miles of Kiowa Country to near Fort Sill and Comanche Country to Red River.

The evening of the fourth day just at sundown, we arrived at the Ferry (at Red River), only I didn't know it was the Ferry. The Ferryman, thinking the day was over had moved his boat upriver from the landing. There seemed to be a road entering the water on my side of the river and leading up the bank on the other side. I had forded the river here before and the water was muddy but not more than hub deep. Today it was clear and I could see bottom a good part of the way across. I let the team drink what they wanted and started across. About two-thirds across all at once the team slid off a sandbar in water deep enough to swim them. Of course I couldn't turn them in the deep water, but they seemed to know what to do anyway, heading straight for the road on the far bank. The women folks became somewhat excited but there was nothing they could do but sit still. I was very busy praying the wagon box would not float off before we reached the bank.

Just before I started on the trip I had a cousin of mine help me put a new bottom in the wagon box. Ed Reeder, the cousin (grandson of Albert Green Reeder and Nancy Caroline West-Reeder), said when we had finished, "Why that thing would hold water", and it fit real tight between the standards, so for the distance of some 100 feet the body made a makeshift boat and the standards of the wagon bolster held the running gear together until the team reached bank which was so straight up and down and being sand that caved badly, they could hardly scramble to dry land. While this was going on the wagon floated around sidewise to the bank and began to come apart. The team got out with the front wheels and the rest of the wagon started to float down river but was close enough to the bank that all jumped to shore and could hold it from floating away. The Ferryman who lived about one hundred yards away, hearing the commotion, came to our assistance bringing his helper with him. It was quite a job to get the wagon unloaded and taking the wagon apart and using a team to drag it up the bank one piece at a time. We were finally landed in Texas, a very wet and bedraggled crowd of travelers.

But we had saved our entire belongings with the exception of the girls' new hats. They each had a new hat hanging from the top of the wagon bows in some paper bags and they completely disappeared. Quite a blow for the girls since they had bought them for the trip and had never worn them.

We spent the rest of the night drying our bedding and clothes by a fire. There was plenty of driftwood and an old Elm tree that the Ferryman said I could chop down and use the driftwood for fuel, so borrowing an axe from him, I soon had a fire going and by hanging everything as best we could on brush by the break of day we were feeling better. We had kept our chuck box and groceries fairly dry but the horse feed and some baled hay that I had brought along from home was rather badly soaked and had been thrown around in sand until the team didn't appreciate it very much.

After assembling our wagon and getting loaded up at noon we headed south and spent the night at the north edge of Henrietta, Texas. Now we were in settlements again the roads were better and most of the streams bridged. We were making good time for that kind of traveling. Went from Henrietta to Blue Grove to Antelope where the roads forked, one going southeast to Jacksborough, one southwest to Graham. We turned southwest and went through some of the most beautiful country it has ever been my privilege to see. Camped Saturday night at a windmill in a large pasture. Next day, being Sunday, we didn't travel. The team needed rest and people just didn't travel on Sundays then as they do now. Monday morning we arrived at Graham. Here Old Dan and Smokey went on a hunger strike and wouldn't eat the wet corn and hay I had salvaged at Red River. So I had to spend some more of my $5.00 for feed. Fortunately for my pocket book, it was very cheap. In case someone thinks I am stretching that $5.00 quite a ways, I will quote you a few prices: Hay, 20 cents a bale, Corn, 20 cents a bushel, Horseshoes, 25 cents, nailed on.

I wasn't broke yet and was getting closer to that Uncle of mine who I hoped would have some money. A few miles south of Graham we crossed the Brazos River. This is the only place I ever saw one side of the river muddy, the other side clear. Here the Salt Fork and the Clear Fork of the Brazos run together, the north side is very muddy and the south side where the water was hub deep to the wagon you could see the bottom very clearly. Everything was moving along fine now and we were making about thirty miles per day. The next town, Breckinridge, then west to Albany, then southeast to Moran, then south to Putnam, and the next stop Cottonwood where Uncle Lewis was waiting for us, but as is usually the case, was not ready to start back for a week more. He had some business to attend to and we decided to go on to Coleman (County) and visit a host of Aunts, Uncles and cousins who lived at Glen Cove, 15 miles west of Coleman City. Left Uncle's next day and got as far as Jim Ned Creek to spend the night when the first cold spell of the season caught us. Grandmother and the two girls slept in the wagon. I had a tarpaulin and a bed roll and always slept on the ground near the horses that were always tied to the rear wheels of the wagon. Next morning the frost was as white as a small snow and I began to wonder if it was going to be so much fun sleeping on the ground until we got back home.

Arrived at Coleman City about 10:00 A.M. next day and my women folk insisted that I get a haircut and shave before we went on to Aunt Nanny Duncan's where we intended to stop. So that is what became of the last of my $5.00. Arrived at Aunt's just after dark, the fourteenth day of the trip. Grandmother Sarah had not seen her daughter (actually niece/step-daughter) for some eight years and sister Maud and I had not seen them for four or five years, so we had quite a reunion. Spent a very enjoyable week going to parties and meeting old friends.

The first thing after our arrival some of the folks began talking about making the return trip with us, and finally one of the cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Willis, decided to go. Then began the hurry and rush to get them ready for the trip. It was coming cold weather and I wanted to get started back as soon as possible. Finally on a Friday morning we made a start. Now we had two wagons and ten people. Some of the folks accompanied us to our first camp just north of Coleman City. They returned home next morning and we were on the way again. Arrived at Uncle Lewis Moss's Saturday afternoon and spent the day Sunday bidding his neighbors and friends goodbye. Monday morning, bright and early, we made a real start on the return journey. Now we had four wagons and nineteen people. My sister and Aunt taking charge or one of Uncle Lewis' wagons, driving it all the way back home. They claimed that was what they made the trip for. Woman-like, they would have the last word.

Everything went along well the first four days. The teams were fresh and roads good. We moved right along until Friday noon, then the bottom fell out of everything. Started to rain a slow drizzle and just kept getting harder and harder. Just at nightfall we drove into Blue Grove in a real downpour and trying to find a wagon yard to spend the night, we found there was none. I met a man who seemed to be Town Marshall or something of the kind. I don't know if he was or not, but he suggested that we spend the night in the schoolhouse. Under his directions, we moved in. next day, being Saturday and still raining, we spent another day. Monday, more rain, but of course we had to get out so school could go on. We cleaned the house and got on the road early. No one ever asked what we were doing there or why we should live in the schoolhouse two days and three nights. But we really did appreciate it.

That night we found a vacant house just north of Little Wichita River (which was about a mile wide), crossed on one of those low bridges that you will still find to this day in that level land with shallow streams. Camped here and learned that night that Red River was at flood stage and the Ferry out of commission. But we drove on to the River and found a small canvas town. People trying to get across. We had no tents, just our wagon covers. Inquiring about a place to stay we found a man who said he had a basement under his house that was dry but not very big and located about two miles back from the River. We made arrangements to move in. Everyone found room to make down a bed but myself. I took my bedroll to a partly empty grainary and we were prepared to wait out the flood. The next seven or eight days were spent in going to the River every morning to beg the Ferryman to take us across or just waiting and we thought this monotonous. But finally one morning when we arrived at the river, even I could tell there was a big difference in it. The waves were not nearly so high and had quit falling backward on themselves. but the man said it was still not safe to go across. But there were some campers on the far side that had been there since the river had been on a rampage, and if some of the men would go along and help manage the boat he would attempt to get them over where they could get something to eat.

Four of us, one on each corner of the boat with a long pole to ward off driftwood, trees, wire fences and what have you, we made a successful trip. Found four wagons and I don't remember how many people that had been marooned there for ten days and they were really in dire need of something to eat and their teams were so starved they could hardly pull the wagons onto the boat. I was surely glad that we had been on the south side and glad the Ferryman knew enough to make us wait to attempt a crossing until it was safer.

Next day the sun was shining, the weather fine. We loaded our wagons and moved camp to the river so as to be on hand when our turn to cross came. The water was much better than the day before. The Ferryman began to haul the crowd across, four wagons and the people that belonged to them at a trip. Our turn came just at noon. We made noon-day camp on the north side of the river and I began to feel like I was going to get my caravan home before long. Just about 100 miles to go but I didn't realize what a hard time we were going to have with muddy roads and small streams, every one running from half to bank full. By the time we arrived at Cache Creek at the old Red Store the water had fallen to about half-bank full, but was very swift and traffic was tied up again. After a delay of several hours, we decided to tie our wagon boxes down and attempt a crossing. We took one team across without a wagon, then a team and wagon would stop at water's edge, the man on the far bank with the team and a long rope to help hold the wagon from washing downstream we made a successful crossing. This was a procedure we followed at several small streams the next four days. When we arrived back at Mountain View at the line of the Kiowa and Cheyenne country we had better roads and some bridges over the small streams.

The last night of the trip we stopped at Cloud Chief and I delivered a very fine horse to the Deputy Sheriff, Mr. Tom Galloway, that I had lead behind my wagon all the way from Glen Cove, Texas, which was Mr. Galloway's old home. When he heard that I was on the trip he had written his father to have me bring the horse back for him.

The last day we got an early start and I was in the lead so I was making good time until we were within four or five miles of home. Uncle Lewis called a halt and said for us to unhitch and feed our teams. When I wanted to know why, he told me that he was not going to take a crowd to his Brother's house until we were cleaned up. So for the next two or three hours we were very busy, the men shaving and the women and children getting clean clothes on.

So we were not too bad looking a crowd when on this December 3, 1899, my 19th birthday, we arrived at home.

Pass this on to someone else, if you'd like. There is NO LUCK attached.
If you delete this, it's okay: God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail.
Author: Ezra Webster Moss - 1956
Submitted by: B. Stelmah, 10 October 2004

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