Fannin County, Texas

Old Choc Articles on Early Times in Fannin/Grayson County

Rev. J. W. Connelly was a minister who wrote extensively under the name "Old Choc" for the Trenton News.

 After settling in Kentuckytown in Grayson County, in 1856 he taught in the Choctaw Nation.  In 1861 he entered the Confederate Army and was made captain of the Choctaw company.  In 1863 he was captured and sent to a prison at Johnson Island, where he remained in confinement as a prisoner of war for more than eighteen months before he was exchanged. He came back to Fannin county about the first of Jan’y, 1865. After the close of the war he remained in Fannin county and for some time was pastor of the Baptist church in Bonham, and also probably taught school for a while. He also purchased a tract of land near Trenton and resided there.


The following articles were obtained from a compilation titled "Scrap Book #2 "Old Choc".


Style of Living


The style and manner of living in early times in Texas were in strict conformity to the circumstances.  Our homes were made of logs, and the roofs and cracks were covered with clapboards.  They had puncheon floors, and clapboard doors fastened on the inside with wooden pin.  The chimneys were made of sticks and mud, adn the backs and sides of the fireplaces were made of prairie sod.  Our bedsteads consisted of rope post and two rails.  Two ends of the rails were fastened in the post and the other two in the walls of the house, and a rawhide was stretched across for the bed to rest upon.  When a man was not able or had not time to build a smokehouse, he salted his meat under the bed and then hung it to the rafters of the house. The Baptist church in Bonham was organized in an humble log cabin, with the Bible lying on a ham of bacon. The roof  was low, and while the Rev. J. R. Briscoe was preaching he struck the ham and it fell under his feet.  He picked it up, laid it on the table, spread his handkerchief over it, then placed his Bible on it and continued his discourse.


It is very difficult for persons who have always lived in houses of "many mansions' to imagine how a large family could live comfortably in a house of only one room.  But no painful inconvenience was felt by the early settlers of Texas.  I have spent the night with families where there were young ladies; they manifested no more embarrassment than young ladies now do, who have spacious parlors in which to entertain company and private rooms in which to retire when the hour of social intercourse has closed.


There were usually two beds in the house, and when there was company in winter the time was spent in pleasant conversation until the hour for retiring arrived.  Then the mother and daughters prepared the beds, made pallets on the floor, and left the room until the men retired.  Then they came in, blew out the light, and if there too much light in the fireplace they covered it and retired themselves.  In the morning the order was reversed: the women rose first, and before getting out of bed they doffed the habiliments of night, put on their dresses and left the room to give the men an opportunity to dress.


When a young man called on his girl in cold weather they took their seats at the back of the room, between the beds, and there, in a tone sufficiently low as not to be heard by the rest of the family, they unlocked to each other the secret treasures of their souls.  In warm weather he would call on a beautiful Sabbath evening; but the most delightful time to call was on a lovely moonlight night.  Then they would occupy a position on the south side of the house, where no eye but that which never sleeps saw them, and there, "bathed in Cynthia's silver light," they "breathed out the tender tale."  Mothers did not allow their daughters to keep date hours as they now do [text missing] were not as indulgent as one of whom I read.  She became much wearied with a young man's long calls, and their daughter was impatient at this slowness in coming to the point.  So one night after several long and weary hours had fled, the old woman said, "Mary, is that fellow there yet?"  "No, ma'am," said she, "but he is getting there."


If a mother had no timepiece, she was governed by the bells on the cattle, which lay down about 10 o'clock.  When the sound of the last bell died away on the still night air, if the youthful couple did not adjourn their meeting immediately,she would call out, "Jane,can you spell bedtime!"


There were no yard gates then to hang on while the last good-bye was given.  As soon as the mother's call was heard, if not before, the young man mounted his mustang pony, and the jingling of his bell spurs could be heard as he struck a bee line for home over the moonlit plane. Sometimes he would stay all night, and here I would remark that many houses were not then enclosed as it was considered of more important to have fields than yards, and, as ventilation is essential to good health, many cracks in the houses were left open during the summer months.  A young man called on his girl on Saturday evening and spent the night, intending to accompany her to church on the following Sunday.  When he retired that night he put his pants on a stool near a large crack, and next morning they were gone.  He remained in bed while the old man went in search of the missing pants.  He found them a short distance from the house, in the condition in which some of our Democratic congressmen once were unseated.  A cow had done it.


Locating A Home


The Texas pioneer usually selected a site in the timber near a perennial spring of good water.  They did this in order to be convenient to both, and because they would be in less danger from the Indians than they would have been had they settled on the prairie.  Indians would never attack a house unless they felt sure that they had the advantage, but would go to the spring and there lay in ambush and attack whoever might go there for water.  Hence, those who lived farthest from their springs were in the most eminent danger.  Late in the evening one day two little daughters of Dr. Hunter, who had settled eight miles east of Warren, and several miles from any neighboring settlement, went to the spring for water.  they filled their buckets and started back to the house, not thinking of danger, when a hideously painted savage sprang out of the brush near the path, and shot the younger girl with an arrow, killing her instantly.  Then other Indians then came out of the brush where they had been concealed, captured the other girl, went to the house and killed Mrs. Hunter, and a negro woman, the only members of the family then at home, then fled westward carrying the little girl with then.  Six months afterward she was sold to a friendly Choctaw who restored her to her friends.


After building a house the next work of the pioneer was to open a field.  This could be done in the timber with less labor than is required to clear land in the states, the timber not being so large nor thick here as it was in them.  But to make a farm on the prairie was far more different and expensive.  The prairie turf was so tenacious that it required a huge plow and six yokes of stout oxen to break it.  The beam of my plow was thirteen feet long and its breath and thickness in proportion.  The bar was four feet long and four inches broad.  The mould-board was make of wood and corresponded in size with the beam and bar.  There were two truck wheels near the end of the beam, and the depth of the furrow was regulated by a lever which extended from the end of the beam to the handles of the plow and worked between two upright pieces which were mortised in the axletree.  It required two hands to break prairie, one to drive the team and the other to work the lever.  The plow cut a furrow eighteen inches wide, turned the sod bottom upwards and laid it as smooth and even as a nicely laid plank floor.  It was left in that condition one year by which time the grass and roots had rotted and the soil was a light as an ash bank.  If the ground was fences it was planted in corn.