Hico, TX: The Business Emporium

by Michael Leamons
(Page 2 of 6)

Pioneer Days

Old Hico Historical Marker
On south side of FM 1602 just west of Honey Creek.

Hico is situated in a region of mixed woodlands and prairies which, reportedly, when encountered by early explorers was "...covered with flowers nearly every season of the year" and was known to the Comanches as "Teha Lanna" or "Land of Beauty".[3] To those who followed, it was known as "the Grand Prairie" or, more specifically, as the "Lampasas Cut Plain" portion of that prairie.[4] The first white settlers arrived around 1854. By 1856, several families had established homesteads in the vicinity of Honey Creek [5] in the northeastern corner of what, two years later, would be formed into Hamilton County from portions of Comanche, Bosque and Lampasas Counties.[6] Those first settlers, the Fuller*, Malone, Anderson, Steen, Barbee, [5] Boykin, Medford, Norris and Self families[7], didn't receive much of a welcome---severe drought gripped the area in 1856 and 1858.[8]

The Medfords

Zachariah Hardin
Zachariah "Zack" Medford, came prior to 1854.

Among those contending with the drought was the Zachariah Medford family, which had settled in a log cabin on the north bank of the Bosque River, about a block west of the present-day Highway 281 Bridge. Pioneer families tended to be large; Zachariah's was exceptionally so. On the frontier, it was common when a spouse died, for the surviving spouse to remarry. Such was the case with Medford, who ended up having 3 wives, who bore him 23 children. The first child was born when Zachariah was 21, the last, when he was 61.[9] When the moon was bright, the Medfords would conceal their horses in the thicket where City Park is now located because, "The Indians would make their raids on moonlight nights, but were afraid to enter a thicket after dark."[7] The land where the cabin stood was originally patented by the Republic of Texas to James Hollingsworth, who assigned the claim to Shewbael (Shubal) Marsh on Feb. 6, 1846.[10] Shubal, one of the "Original 300" of Austin's Colony, had come to Texas from Maine in 1824.[11] In 1856, when Marsh's will was probated, a portion of the property was conveyed to his daughter, Annie. Still a minor, Annie leased the property to Medford and later sold it to his son, "Holl".[12] Medford may have been leasing the property from Shubal, as well, because a daughter, Mary Ellen, was born to the Medfords in the Hico vicinity on December 11, 1853.[13] Neither Shubal nor his daughter, Annie, ever lived in Hamilton County; however, another daughter, Abbie (Grubb), later settled on her portion of the Hollingsworth patent.

A Scene Too Dreadful

Ostensibly, one of the earliest eye-witness accounts of this period was preserved in this 1892 interview** with an unnamed, old-timer who had arrived in the area in early 1854:[14]

It was...in '54...when I had my first experience with the Indians. I had been here only a short time, and...lived in constant dread that a band of these roving Comanches would pay me a visit. But spring and summer had come and gone, and still I had been unmolested. It was along toward the end of September...about half an hour before sunset one evening I saw a horseman riding across the prairie toward my house, his horse on a dead run...Every once in a while he would turn in his saddle and look behind as if to see if he was still pursued... a band of Indians were rapidly following him. The one thought uppermost in my mind as I watched the swiftly approaching horseman was, 'How can I save my wife and little children? '

[The narrator, then, hid his family in a nearby creek bottom.] ...As I cautiously peered above the banks I heard a yell that made my blood run chill...it sounded...like the blood curdling cry of the panther...the lone horseman was just passing my house, and not a hundred yards behind were the savages, yelling and whooping like veritable fiends incarnate. There were apparently about twenty of the Indians, and I had nothing but an old-fashioned rifle. I knew it meant death to myself and family if I fired on them, but the temptation was almost irresistible. To see them murder that man and yet powerless to help him was almost unbearable. More than once I leveled my trusty rifle and took "bead" on the foremost of the pursuers. Then the thought of seeing my wife and little children murdered, when by remaining inactive they would probably be saved, caused me to hesitate...Besides, I knew it would not avert the impending doom of him whom I would aid.

The foremost Indians were now within twenty or thirty yards of the fleeing white, and already I could see the arrows flying thick around him...I saw the horse stagger, the rider plied his whip desperately, but in vain, and suddenly horse and rider went down in a heap. There went up then a wild whoop as the savages rushed on him. I turned my back for the scene was too dreadful to look upon. After they dispatched their victim the Indians looked around and were evidently debating whether they should raid my house, which was in plain view...After parleying for some minutes they apparently came to the conclusion that they had better press on...for they mounted their ponies and rode rapidly away...That is the most exciting Indian story that I know, and it is true as gospel.

Honey Creek Trading Post

Not long after the above encounter, a settlement known as the Honey Creek Trading Post arose on the banks of Honey Creek about 2 1/2 miles southeast of present-day Hico, just off FM 1602. In 1860, newlyweds J. R. and Martha Malone Alford moved into the community from Freestone County with a small stock of dry goods and opened a store. A weekly mail route passed near the trading post, as horseback deliveries were made from Meridian to Resly's Creek, Cora (the original county seat of Comanche County) and Brownwood[7]. Since it had no post office, the rider by-passed the trading post. To improve their situation, the settlers asked Alford to petition the appropriate authorities in Washington, D. C. for a post office. A name had to be submitted with the petition; postmaster-to-be Alford chose "Hico", the name of his hometown in Kentucky. The petition was granted, and the new post office opened for business on October 4, 1860. Together, the Hico and Hampton post offices[8] served the county's 489 residents.[15] Hampton, renamed "Hamilton" in 1874, was but a "small village of about 100 inhabitants" at the time its post office was opened.[16]

Dr. J. R. Alford
J. R. Alford, many years later.

According to Alford, wild game was plentiful in those early years: "Antelope, deer, turkey, bears and wolves were numerous, and some panthers were found."[16] Most of the early settlers made their living ranching, "...though some wheat, corn and tobacco were cultivated."[5] A few engaged in trade, freighting supplies in from Waco. "...these trips were made in large covered wagons with two, two-mule teams or horse teams. Ike Malone, Sr. [Martha Alford's father] was the most prominent 'freighter' and he made regular trips to Waco and back to Hico, Comanche and Brownwood. Besides beef and hides that he carried to Waco, there was some cotton to be carried...On his return trip he would bring sugar,coffee, flour, salt and other commodities."[7](Per J. J. "Mage" Smith, by wagon, the trip to Waco took 3 days.)[17]

The establishment of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 1861 suggests many of the early settlers were Baptists. Isaac Reed was the first pastor.[8] "Affectionately known as 'The Old Irishman,' Reed normally carried a six-gun for protection and road horseback to his various preaching appointments. Often during church his gun and Bible would be laid side-by-side." [18] (In 1838, Reed's paternal grandfather, namesake and predecessor in the ministry had been instrumental in organizing the Old North Baptist Church near Nacogdoches, purportedly the oldest continuously functioning Baptist Church in Texas.) [19]

Evidently, early-on, provisions were made for educating the community's youth. Patillo Fuller (head of one of the families listed on the Old Hico Historical Marker)* is documented as having taught school in 1860 in a one room log structure where, "The seats were made of split postoak logs, and the pupils worked at tables made of pine, with tallow candles used for lighting purposes on dark, early winter days."[20]

Oldest House in Hico

The settlers were faced with numerous hardships. In an 1861 letter-to-the-editor, one Hampton resident lamented, "Some of our citizens are doing without bread and have no money to buy it. The fact is there is no money in the county."[21] In addition to the privations of frontier life, the county's pioneers were confronted by the isolation created by a primitive transportation system, financial losses to cattle rustlers and the dangers posed by some of the indigenous peoples. The nearest Indian tribes, the Waco, Tawakoni and Tonkawa[6] were generally friendly. The same could not be said of the Comanche, whose homeland, the Comancheria, extended across some 240,000 square miles of prairie to the west and northwest of Hico. According to Alford, "A great many Indians were still in the county, and it was dangerous for people to travel alone, as those Indians would kill them at every opportunity. Besides the constant danger of losing their lives, the settlers had the risk of the Indians making raids, killing off their stock."[16]

Map of Comancheria

Frontier Militia Companies

In 1860, responding to reports of increasing Indian hostilities, Governor Sam Houston ordered local militias be formed in the frontier counties. Later, when the War Between the States broke out, to maintain those militias men on the frontier were exempted from service in the Confederate Army. There were two units in the area; Hico men served in both.[5]

Emotions Run High on Secession

On February 23, 1861, Texas conducted an election on the question of secession. Statewide, the motion carried by a 3-to-1 majority. In Hamilton County, the vote was 86 "for" and 1 "against".[22] The author of the previously cited letter-to-the-editor was of the opinion, "There would have been no vote against seccession, if the voter had understood the matter."[21] A week prior to the vote, the citizens of Hamilton County had been called together for a "Mass Meeting" to consider a report that the Chief Justice (the office now referred to as County Judge) of Hamilton County, James A. McBarron, Esq., was an abolitionist. Reportedly, 2/3rds of the county's residents were present, and many wanted to hang the Chief Justice; though invited to the meeting, McBarron chose not to attend. A jury of 12 was appointed and, after hearing the evidence, concluded that McBarron was "an Abolitionist and a dangerous man" and required him "...to leave our county, in the space of five days or else abide the verdict of an indignant community". Fifty-five of those present signed the verdict, which was adopted "without a dissenting voice."[23] Demonstrating "discretion is the better part of valor", McBarron chose not to appeal the decision and departed for regions unknown. Perhaps having been born in Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants, McBarron was opposed to slavery; nevertheless, he proved loyal to Texas. As a member of the Texas 23rd Cavalry, he perished in 1864 in the Red River Campaign, leaving behind a widow and young son.[24]

The County's next Chief Justice, Dr. William B. Reed (not a trained physician---more an herbalist), was a member of the Hico community and the father of Pastor Isaac Reed. The Reeds had come to the area in 1860, originally settling in Bosque County. According to Reed's grandson, James, 10-years-old at the time, "...some cow hunters from Hamilton County came along: John Barbee, Sol Boykin, Ike Malone, John Anderson, and others. I do not recall their names. They told our folks that Hamilton County was a much better county and had plenty of timber. They dropped all work and Father went to investigate. He decided to move. The 4th day of September, 1860 they landed on Honey Creek [3 miles east of Carlton] where they decided to settle."[25] Accompanying Reed and his many kinfolk were 4 women slaves.[26] Since Dr. Reed was one of the few slaveholders in the county, voters didn't have to worry about him harboring "dangerous abolitionist" sentiments. While in office, Reed and his son, Pleasant (young James' father), volunteered for a 3 month stint in the Confederate Army and were stationed in Galveston. They were discharged, but then called back. While at home on leave in early 1863, apparently, both fell victim to a smallpox epidemic[25] which took a heavy toll as it swept through the county.[8]

A Different Kind of Indian Encounter

Many of the settlers' encounters with the Comanche ended in tragedy. One, in the fall of 1863, didn't. Patillo and Henry Fuller and some of the other men of the community had gone on a hog hunt. One evening while in search of their camp, young Ship Tabor, unexpectedly, rode into the midst of some Indians skinning a beef. Knowing how they loved horses, Ship sent his horse towards the Indians and shinnied up a tree. "The Indians then began riding around the tree, yelling like demons and using their bows in a manner indicating their intention to shoot him. He would present his gun, when they would laugh and jabber in great glee. He said it might have been fun for them but it was a serious thing for him." The Indians took his horse and left. By then, night had fallen. Afoot, Ship made his way through the darkness to the home of Dr. Reed's widow. When the men returned from their hog hunt, "Uncle Henry Fuller, who was a very religious man, said to him, 'Ship, did you think about praying?' Ship replied, 'Uncle Henry, I would have prayed, but I was afraid to shut my eyes, for fear the d----d things would catch me.'"[27]

Henry Fuller
"Uncle" Henry Fuller

The Battle of Dove Creek

Though the conflict occurred not far from present-day San Angelo, Postmaster Alford and other members of the area militias were called upon to respond to some Indian movements which culminated on January 8, 1865 in the Battle of Dove Creek , "one of the most controversial conflicts in the annals of Texas Indian warfare."[28] Unfortunately, the militia, along with a contingent of Confederate regulars, were led into battle by one, misguided and obstinate, Capt. Fossett of the Confederate Frontier Regiment,[29] against some 700 peaceful Kickapoo, including women, children and old people. To avoid trouble, the Kickapoo had been keeping well to the west of the settled areas of Texas as they travelled from their home in Southern Kansas to a new home in Mexico, where some of their fellow tribesmen had already settled.[30] The tribe had secured permission from landowner R. F. Tankersley to make camp on the banks of Dove Creek, in return for the favor, they retrieved some of Tankersley's horses that had gone missing.[29] In the early stages of the conflict, it was "...reported on good authority that an Indian 'went out from the encampment with two children to Captain Fosset...and unarmed with his hand raised' informed the captain that 'they were friendly Indians.' In reply Fossett told the Indian that he recognized no friendly Indians in Texas 'and thereupon ordered him shot.'"[28]

Kickapoo men circa 1867
Kickapoo Men circa 1867

Alford described the ensuing conflict: "After four days we came upon them camped in a thicket on Dove Creek...We found the Indians in their wigwams not suspecting any trouble until we began firing on them...After fighting about one hour and they getting the best of it and killing and wounding several of our men, we were ordered to fall back..."[31] Having lost most of their horses and leaving most of their possessions behind, the Kickapoo escaped into Mexico, suffering 15 fatalities, while their attackers suffered 25. "It was a battle that embittered the Kickapoo for many years to come as they made cross border raids from Mexico into Texas looking for retribution."[29]

The fatalities and defeat suffered during the battle were but the beginning of the militia's woes. Following their dismal encounter, with only 1 blanket each, the men faced a long, cold, wet and miserable night. The dead had been left on the battlefield, and the supply wagons were 30 miles away. About midnight, the rain turned to snow. One account reports snowfall of 12" to 14",[28] while another reports 2' to 3'. Looking back from 1927, one eyewitness claimed it was the "...worst snow storm that we have any history of in these parts."[27] That next morning, they tried to leave, but the snow was too deep. A number of horses were killed to stave off starvation. The second morning after the battle, the militia began the long trek home, using mules equipped with make-shift travois constructed of poles, rope and wet blankets for transporting the wounded. On the third day, they encountered the supply wagons. A week after the battle, they finally made it to the settlements on the Concho, stopping at the ranch of John Chisum** (the soon-to-be New Mexico cattle baron whose path would cross that of Billy the Kid) near the confluence of the Concho and Colorado Rivers (where Lake Ivie now is). The wounded who had died during the journey were buried at Chisum's before the men headed-out on the final leg of their journey home.[28]

John S. Chisum John Wayne's Chisum
John S. Chisum, Cattle Baron*****John Wayne's Portrayal of Chisum

Several factors contributed to the unexpected turn of events at Dove Creek, but one is quite surprising---the militia were out-gunned. In Kansas, the Kickapoo had assisted the Union Army with some engagements against Indian tribes friendly to the Confederacy and had been equipped with Enfield rifles[32], while, per one of the Confederate regulars, the "...flop-eared militia, as we called them, were armed with all kinds of firearms, shotguns, squirrel rifles, muskets and pistols."[28]

Enfield Rifle 1853
1853 Enfield Rifle carried by the Kickapoo.

Post-War Indian Troubles

Hamilton County experienced numerous Indian troubles during the first 16 months following the War: "...three people were killed, two wounded, and one child captured and then reclaimed. Four cattle and 215 horses were stolen." [33] The most notorious of these incidents occurred in July, 1867 when a band of Comanches led by a red-headed, white man attacked the school at Warlene Valley on the Leon River. (School was held during warm weather due to the difficulty in heating the primitive schoolhouse.) Shot through with numerous arrows, schoolmarm Ann Whitney died as she helped her students escape. One of them, Olivia Barbee*** of Hico, who had been boarding with a nearby family so she could attend school, was captured, but when her captor was distracted, slid off his horse and hid in some dense underbrush. [8]

"In 1869 [when Ike Malone and John Quincy Anderson were sent to represent Hico's Mt. Zion congregation at the organizational meeting of the Paluxy River Baptist Association] the danger of Indian attack made it necessary for all of the messengers to keep their pistols strapped to their waists and to post a guard on their horses. Following the Sunday evening service the Puluxy community was raided by Indians who stole horses. On Monday morning the visiting messengers assembled just long enough to adjourn before rushing home to protect their own families."[5] As the area became more settled, the frequency and intensity of the Indian raids diminished. The last raid in the Hico area occurred in 1875 when some horses were stolen at Martin's Gap (now known as Fairy).[17]

Is There A Doctor in the House?

Dr. H. A. J. Snellings Capt. "Rube" Segrist
Dr. H. A. J. Snellings & Bro-in-law Capt. "Rube" Segrest

For all practical purposes, prior to 1870 the answer would have been, "No." Shortly thereafter, Dr. Henry Andrew Jackson (H.A.J.) Snellings, the first professionally trained physician, showed-up in Hico, where he practiced medicine until his death in 1890.[34] He had attended Southern Botanico-Medical College in Macon, Georgia.[35] (Accompanying Snellings on the move to Hico were his sister and brother-in-law, Captain "Rube" and Mattie Snellings Segrest, whose family still possesses their original homestead.) Although this next physician didn't arrive in Hico proper until 1895, Dr. James Hopkins Wysong, who had studied medicine at Tulane, began his medical career in 1873 in neighboring Bosque County.[36] In June of 1875, Wysong, J. A. Alford and 20 others went before the examining board of physicians in Meridian. Alford obtained his license, practiced medicine for the next 40 years[37] and operated pharmacies in both Hico and De Leon. [38]

The Alford Safe
1850's safe in City Hall vault bought from Alford for $100 in 1903.

"Old Hico" Cemetery

The "Old Hico" Cemetery began when "Rube" Segrest granted permission for burials to be conducted on a portion of his homestead. The earliest known graves date from the mid 1870's. The cemetery, now virtually lost among live oak trees, weeds and brush, contains over 150 graves with 98 of them being unmarked.[39] It is located northwest of where FM 1602 crosses Honey Creek and can be visited by appointment with one of "Rube's" heirs.

Hico in 1870

From 1860 to 1870, the county's population had increased by only 244, to 733.[15] The previously mentioned small pox epidemic hadn't helped. Tom Stinnett provides this glimpse of Hico as it appeared when his family arrived in 1870: "In those days there were no roads to speak of, we just traveled in the general direction of Hamilton until we got to Clifton, and from there a road led to Old Hico...There were two small stores at Old Hico when we arrived there, which carried a few supplies. Uncle Ike Malone and Faggard and Day owned the stores. A man named Clemens owned a saloon, and 'Rocky' Martin kept a hotel. This hotel consisted of one big log room, with a shed room across the back, and a cabin in the back yard for a dining room and kitchen. Many were the travelers who stopped at this pioneer inn, for it was on the main trail leading to West Texas, and at this time there were many people from the East going West."[40]

Tom Stinnett family
Tom Stinnet Family courtesy of Great Grandaughter Pat Ross.

Outlaws and Frontier Justice

Stinnet went on to reveal worries over hostile Indians were being replaced with worries over outlaws, "...at times things got rather rough. Several men were killed while we were living there. Father [Capt. Rufus Stinnet] served as justice of the peace from 1872 until he died in 1894. W. H. Fuller [Patillo's son] was the first deputy sheriff appointed at Old Hico and he and my father were 'the law' for a good many years."[40] According to local historian, Oran Jo Pool, "In the early seventies, the lawless element [in Hamilton County] became so bold that the district judge had to be escorted in and out of Hamilton with armed deputies."[41]

The following account, as well as a later one describing freighter Ike Malone's encounters with outlaws, can be found in "Ike Malone, Westerner" : "Once several desperados hijacked Ike's freight wagon near Iredell at Johnson's Peak. They stole his team of horses, his money, and his boots. Ike walked barefoot more than ten miles back to town, rounded up a posse, and chased down the bandits near Gatesville. The posse took the men back to Hico and hanged them, then wrapped the bodies in a wagon sheet and buried them in a single grave [in the "Old Hico" Cemetery] some fifty feet from 'respectable people.' Ironically, the bandits have the best grave marker in the cemetery; it prominently bears the names of the owners of the wagon sheet and of those who paid for the marker."[33]

Horse Thieves Tombstone Old Hico Cemetery
Tombstone in Old Hico Cemetery

J. J. "Mage" Smith, whose family moved to Hico from Arkansas in 1874, spoke of another hanging on Gilmore's Creek just west of Carlton involving 3 alleged horse thieves. Per Smith, the 3 were hung on the same limb, and their combined weight caused the limb to sag enough to where the toes of the end man touched the ground. He "...quit kicking, then cut himself free after the crowd left."[17] The survivor later described the harrowing incident in a sworn affidavit: "After the men left I cut one of the men down, he was dead. I wish I had cut the other poor fellow down as he might have lived, but I was scared."[42]

Captain J. C. Huchingson, who also came to Hico in 1874, claimed during those early days there were "...many cattle thieves..." and "...there was more booze drunk then than now and there were more drunk men. Rough men would sometimes ride in and 'shoot up the town.' At different times they entered his store and shot up through the ceiling. At that time they knew nothing of the 'parole system.' There was a 'business committee' to take men out and hang them or shoot them if they had committed crime."[7]

First Round in the Alcohol Tug-of-War

Perhaps the rowdiness described by Huchingson explains why, in 1875, citizens of Hamilton and Lampasas counties, respectively, petitioned the Texas Constitutional Convention for a "local option" to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Their request was granted. It was the beginning of a protracted tug-of-war between "pro" and "anti" alcohol forces within the community, which continues to this day.[43]

In February, 1877, the Granbury Vidette published this humorous account concerning Hico and local option: "The little burg of Hico has acquired a valuable population recently---seventeen doctors and a jackass. The doctors came under a misapprehension that the Local Option law had carried, but no opinion is expressed as to the mission of the jackass."[44]

Trading Post Days Left Behind

The population of Hamilton County, including Hico, surged during the 1870's as residents of the Deep South, like the Huchingsons and Smiths, sought to escape the economic and political hardships of Reconstruction. The new settlers brought many more acres into production. During the decade, the population increased almost nine-fold, from 733 to 6,365, and the acreage under production experienced a similar increase.[6]

The Cattle Drives

This period gave rise to the cattle drives so often portrayed in "Westerns," as Texas cattle were driven to railheads in Kansas and, then, shipped to markets in the East. Cattle from Hico were driven over a branch of the Chisholm Trail which exited the county just west of Carlton.[41] According to Stinnet, "That was a cowman's paradise in those days. Grass was knee-high to a man anywhere on the prairie and curly mesquite grass covered the valleys. Great herds of cattle were driven out every year. The young men of the settlement went up the trail every spring and got back home by fall."[40] No official reports of those early drives have been discovered, but one was found in the Galveston Daily News concerning some large ones in the Hico area in 1882:[45]

Hico, April, 26.--- Bishop H. Read leaves to-day with 45,000 head of cattle for Coleman City. They will leave there for Kansas next week with 150,000 head. Wright & Wilson, of Comanche, have also gathered 2500 head in this neighborhood. Wm Hudson, of Bosquet, has started 4500 head for Kansas, and will shortly start 45,000 more. Cattle are pretty well cleaned out about here.

Hico in 1877

Adding to the pioneers' many other troubles, in 1877 the county was hit by a freakish weather pattern, "...frosts occurred every month with the exception of July and August. The frost on 10 June, 1877, killed all of the corn crops."[8] Nevertheless, life went on, and growth in the county brought the same to Hico, where, by 1879: "There were three stores of general merchandise operated by Capt. J. C. Hutchingson, W. A. Barkley, and Ike Malone. Barkley operated a drug store in connection with his mercantile establishment; Tom Spafford ran a blacksmith shop; and there was a saloon."[5] John Barbee , Olivia's father, operated a corn mill/cotton gin and Huchingson operated a cotton gin as well.[46] There were "a score or more of neat residences."[47] And, "There was a school building in which church services also were held, and a Masonic lodge was organized [in 1877]." [5] (Early records of the Masonic Lodge testify to the alcohol problem in Hico previously alluded to by Capt. Huchingson: "The early years of the Lodge were marred by frequent trials due to the excessive use of liquor." )[48]

Eclipse July 29, 1878
Pastel drawing by E.L. Trouvelot, Meudon Collection.
Hico in Prime Viewing Corridor for the Great Eclipse of 1878 [49]

School in Old Hico

The school was described by "Mage" Smith as being a simple 28' long, rectangular log building with no windows, a dirt floor and a clapboard door on the west end. There was no fireplace; when a fire was needed, it was built on the floor. There weren't any desks; hewn log benches were provided. George Holland "Holl" Medford hired a teacher for $30 to $40 per month and allowed area children to attend for $1 per month; orphans attended free. Classes usually ran for about three months during the summer. Twenty-five to thirty students within an 8-to-10 mile radius came to Medford's school.[17] Like the Smiths and Huchingsons, Rev. Samuel Rodgers and his sons J. C. and J. P. came to Hico in 1874. Though Presbyterians, since there wasn't a Presbyterian church in Hico at the time, the Rodgers united with the Baptists. The father preached on Sundays and taught school during the week. When his health failed, J. P. was elected teacher.[41] On July 29, 1878, quite a stir was created during afternoon recess when everything went dark due to a total eclipse . Rodgers, "...thought world coming to end..." and dismissed the students.[17]

Ike Malone G. H. Medford
Deacon Isaac "Ike" Malone*******George Holland Medford

Shameful Vigilantism

The following report about a robbery in Hico was published in the December 29, 1878 edition of the Galveston Daily:

Waco EXAMINER, Dec. 27: On the night of the 23d inst., two men entered the house of Mr. Isaac Malone, near Hico, Hamilton county, and while one held a pistol on the inmates, Mr. Malone and family and Mr. Wm Fulcher, the other proceeded to rob it of thirty dollars cash and some jewelry [a gold ring]. After robbing the house the two men mounted their horses and rode away in the direction of this city. Fulcher mounted his horse soon afterwards, and following them arrived in Waco yesterday morning. Justice Davis issued a warrant for the arrest of Ike Parker and George Barker, who had been identified as the robbers, and constable John Williams and marshal Moore executed it, arresting the parties in a saloon in East Waco. Parker and Barker are a pair of scalawags, who have been hanging around Waco, playing sharp games and swindling people for several weeks past. They are now safe in jail, and will be sent to Hamilton county to be tried for robbery.[50]

Hamilton County Constable Barron escorted the prisoners from Waco to Hico.[51] What happened next was described in the January 10, 1879 edition of the the Brenham Weekly Banner:

---A terrible tragidy [tragedy] has been committed by a mob at the town of Hico in Hamilton county. Constable Barron had in charge two men, Ike Parker and Geo Barker, charged with robbery. The constable placed the prisoners under guard to await trial. During the night seventy-five men came upon the guard placing them under arrest marched them off while others shot the prisoners to death as they lay in bed. The mob then went away as quietly as they came.[52]

"Hico citizens placed the bodies on display for several days so people who came from miles around could 'view the end of a life of crime.'"[33] The following, rather bizarre account of Meford's shed and it's ghosts was published in 1882 in the Hico Times, the town's first newspaper:[53]

A Haunted House In Hamilton County
Where Several Men Had Been Killed

In Old Hico is a house in which, at different times within the past 30 years, some six or seven men have been killed for divers offenses. The house, which is known as "The Slaughter pen," is situated on the farm of Mr. G. H. Medford, and occasionally some renter moves into it, and also moves out in haste, and the house is rarely occupied it is said the place is frequented by the restless and disembodied spirits of the man whose material existence was so suddenly terminated there, and the result is edifying only at a distance and in broad daylight. The parties whose mortal coils were shuffled off forgot, on the spur of the moment, to remove their boots, and they therefore, make a great deal of unnecessary noise in their midnight peregrinations, and are anything but seemly and fastidious ghosts. They also seem to be on unfriendly terms with each other, and their bickerings are so open that the neighbors have noticed it and deprecate the lack of secresy that the skeleton in the closet observes. The last addition to this select circle of ghost were two gentlemen who about two years ago, stole some money from old Mr. Isaac Malone. They were found in a barbershop in Waco and brought back and placed in this house. During the night, while chained together near the fireplace, their spirits escaped to another world. Since then these two ghosts have seemed rather "stuck up" to the other ghosts, probably because they were clean- shaved and wander off to themselves, clanking the chain to irritate the other low-down ghosts. We've noticed that fresh shaved ghost always act this way. The old ghosts retaliate by driving these two away, as, having branded the wrong yearlings only, they cannot associate with ghosts who steal. Because of these quarrels it is very disagreeable to remain in the house at night. The last occupant moved out two weeks ago, because, as he told Hol Medford, a barrel of pistols had been thrown into the house and all fired off at once; he didn't mind the ghost, but he said the pistols were really dangerous. He was an Englishman and hadn't got the hang of Texas ghosts.

(Based on his research on Ike and Old Hico, descendant Steven Malone has published a historical novel, Sideshow at Honey Creek, as an e-book .)

Barbee's Flour Mill

In March of 1879, John Barbee contracted with J. E. Terry of Hamilton for the construction of a flour mill.[54] His timing wasn't the best. Probably due to the town's relocation, the mill was never completed.

Old Hico Gin
Last remnants of Old Hico, the Barbee Mill. In 1938-1939, the stones were used by the WPA to build a gym for Hico ISD.[41]

An Archeaological Find

This clipping from an area newspaper documents the discovery of artifacts in Old Hico during the summer of 1879: "Mr. J. C. Huchingson, of Hico, informs us that parties employed in digging a well in his yard recently discovered at a depth of thirty-two feet from the surface, imbedded twenty-eight feet deep in solid rock, a petrified ear of corn and a bone resembling the collar-bone of a human being, both of which looked perfectly natural and in a perfect state of preservation. ---Bosque Co. Blade."[55]

Young John Gaston Barbee

Old Hico Ends in One More Tale of Violence

The last tale of Old Hico began with a quarrel between John Barbee and his son, Jim. One account claims Jim pulled a butcher knife on his father. In any event, young Jim left home and ended up working in the Panhandle for the Jingle Bob Cattle Company (the name of Chisum's operation after it moved to New Mexico). He and another young cowboy, Jim Harkey, shared a cabin. Both came in early on New Year's Day of 1880 and were loafing around the cabin. Upon learning of the episode with the knife, Harkey began "chiding" young Jim. Perhaps that gave rise to what followed. "Jim [Harkey] started to fix something to eat, and he was singing 'Yankee Doodle'. Barbee told him that anybody who would sing a song like that was a d----d fool. Jim thought Barbee was joking, so he said, 'You're a liar, that's a d--n good song.'" Barbee responded by shooting Harkey. Returning fire, Harkey killed Barbee. Two freighters, who had just arrived, witnessed part of the altercation. After telling them about the shooting and what to do with his possessions, Harkey died. The freighters cut a wagon sheet in half and buried both men. Upon learning of his son's death, John retrieved the body for burial in the Barbee family cemetery.[56]

*The "Old Hico" historical marker lists the names or initials of the male heads of households except in the case of M.A. Fuller . Evidently, those involved in placing the marker didn't realize M.A. were the initials for Mary Ann. Her husband, Patillo Fuller, had passed away sometime shortly after 1867, resulting in her initials being used in numerous legal documents and census records.[57]

**John Simpson Chisum, the Texas-New Mexico cattle baron. His path crossed that of Hico on several occasions. First, through the assistance provided at his ranch on the Concho River to those returning from the Battle of Dove Creek; second, in the employment of Jim Barbee on his Jinglebob Ranch in the Texas panhandle; third, in his Lincoln County, New Mexico connections with Hico's Billy the Kid Legend; and, finally, through his place in this author's family.

***The interview was conducted by Dewey Langford, an attorney who came to Hico in 1892. Previously he had been a professor in Kentucky, as well as the editor of the Kansas Chronicle and Barton County [Kansas] Democrat. Ultimately, they weren't successful, but in 1906 while in Hico, he and his partner took the case, Cox vs. Texas all the way to the Supreme Court.[8]

****As if her escape from the Indian's hadn't provided enough drama, Miss Barbee filed the following, rather unusual, affidavit, dated April 28, 1872, with the Hamilton County Clerk's Office: "Dear Father & Mother & to all hoom it may concern. That I do this day pledge my sacred word & honor that I Olivia Amanda Barbee will never run away or mary one Wm Day of said county without my Father's consent & if I relinquish all of my right & title to all of My Father & Mother's property to them & further more I forsake my Father & Mother & all of the family for life & never will I expect to be allowed to come to my Fathers House any more while life last him as he so much opposed to my marrying a boy who has never thought the first time of what it takes to take care of a wife. I do sign this with my own consent & free will. Olivia Amanda Barbee." And, yes, she married Mr. Day.[58]

Continued on Page 3

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3



About this Website

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, September 24
Coffee at the Activity Center

Wednesday, October 01
Coffee at the Activity Center

Wednesday, October 01
Civic Club Luncheon

Monday, October 06
Domino Tournament

Tuesday, October 07
Monthly EDC meeting

Wednesday, October 08
Coffee at the Activity Center

Saturday, October 11
Trade Days

Monday, October 13
Lions Club

Monday, October 13
Regular City Council Meeting

Monday, October 13
Hico VFD

See full calendar