Interesting Stories and Events In Honey Grove’s Early History
Honey Grove Signal-Citizen, December 16, 1937
Written by H. P. Allen
In our last letter we made mention of a lack of furniture. Emmigrants had been coming in more freely the past few years and building homes, but there were no furniture stores or factories; but some time during the middle fifties a man whose name was Benjamin Sloan, with his family- which consisted of his wife and two sons - came in. He had for his home a log cabin on or very near where Fletcher Black’s home now stands. Just east of his house he built a shop and began to make chairs. His turning lathe was run by foot power, and soon he was able to supply the demand for plain, substantial chairs, bottomed with rawhide put on in checkerboard fashion.
About 1858 or 1859 there came to Honey Grove a man whose name was Joe Aylshire, who was a fine cabinet worker. He built a home and a shop and was soon at work making as nice walnut furniture as the settlers desired.
Col. Green Smith, a man of considerable means, had put in a grist and saw mill on Wafors Creek, a few miles east of Dial, and could furnish the best of black walnut lumber.
Where there was a death in the community Mr. Aylshire could furnish as nice a coffin as anyone wished.
The year 1859 was the last prosperous times until several years after the Civil War. In 1860 we had the severest drought we have ever had since the country has been settled. It really began in the late summer of 1859, but crops had already been made in that year. In the then Indian Territory the crops were a failure, and by mid-winter agents were here buying flour from the millers and corn from farmers, to be shelled, sacked and delivered to the mills on hurry orders. The government agents said the few cattle the Indians owned and all wild game was too poor for human food, and that malnutrition was rapidly laying the foundation for diseases that would later end their lives, especially of children.
Texas farmers generally did not grow cotton and therefore did not have any great crops for export. The money that came in was brought in by emigrants. They would buy land and stock, most all kinds, and this was the principal source that new money came from.
We notice a paper read to the ladies of the Historical Society (by Miss Bettie Gilmer) in 1916 said that the principal exports from Honey Grove were hides, bois d’arc seed, and pecans.
We could not foresee what a blessing the government money paid out for food for the Indians in the early part of 1860 was to be. There were no emigrants that year of severe drouth, and, beside the drouth, war clouds were gathering.
We find we have been running over an interesting period in the early settlement of the country too fast, leaving out fashions, customs, and events that vitally concerned the settlers.
In mail facilities there had been a great advance. We had instead of a horseback carrier now and then, we had the big Concord coaches drawn by four of the best horses that could be obtained and driven at high speed from one station to the next, which was 12 or 14 miles usually, carrying from six to eight passengers, each allowed a stipulated amount of baggage, and if we remember rightly the fare was 10c per mile. There were no graded roads in the country, and sometimes excessive rains came and travel was so impeded that the stage coach was delayed until a late hour in the night. The driver would get his bugle when within a mile or two of the post-office and play an inspiring tune. The writer cannot reproduce it on paper, but has never forgotten it.
To say this country was the hunter’s paradise might be a mild exaggeration, but there was certainly a fine lot of deer, turkeys, and prairie chickens here until after the Civil War.
My father’s way to kill a deer was to keep a lookout for the milk cows coming home in the evening, and often there would be two or three deer grazing along with the cows. He would saddle his horse and get his Kentucky rifle and ride as near to them as was safe to go, then dismount, and observing the direction of the wind, to see that it was coming from the deer toward him, would walk the horse between the deer and himself until he was within shooting distance. He would stop the horse and would remain in shooting position for a few moments till the game had satisfied themselves there was no danger and go to grazing as the cows were doing. Then he would lay his gun across the saddle, take deliberate aim and fire, rarely failing to get the venison.
Turkeys were hunted differently and mostly at night, by going to the large timber about sunset and listen to them flying up in the trees to roost for the night. After locating the roost, and wait until night, when they had become settled, then quietly go under the tree with a shotgun, and by a little starlight a man could see well enough to shoot them.
Prairie chickens would fly into the fields in great droves in the fall about the time for gathering corn and sowing wheat, and were easy to kill. Mr. Erwin remembers his father killing eight at one shot and on another occasion killed two deer at one shot. The prairie chickens when fat in the fall season were very good eating.
Honey Grove became famous for its big Fourth of July celebrations during the 1850’s. We’ll tell more about them in our next.
There will be no historical sketch in next week’s issue, but will be resumed the following week.
Typed by Natalie Ferguson and Hailey Rader