“All the roads were white with covered wagons headed west when we left Jefferson City, Mo., to come to Texas, in 1871,” said E. B. Basye, 1418 Lindsley avenue. “Some of our relatives who had preceded us, had settled on Duck Creek (now Garland) in Dallas County, and had long been urging us to join them. At first, we thought of making the trip by steamboat, down the Mississippi and up Red River to Shreveport, and the rest of the way by wagon. But, friends who had just returned from Texas, easily persuaded us to come overland in the regulation way. We, accordingly, set out in a four-horse wagon — mother, Brother Will and I.
“Economically, things had been at a standstill in Missouri, since the beginning of the Civil War. The little towns were dead as so many doornails. Nobody had patched a roof, painted a house, or whitewashed a fence in ten years. It was, therefore, as uplifting as sunrise to get out on the highway and fall in with the procession of wagons, bound for what they hoped, was a better land, at least, for a land that could not well be worse than the one they were headed to Duck Creek.
“We rolled along at an even pace, day after day, camping by the roadside at night, and brought into the field of vision as we went, one after another, a thousand things to make a country boy stare in wonder. But, all that we had previously seen, dwindled into insignificance when Baxter Springs, Kan., came swelling on the view.
Typical Boom Town.
“Baxter Springs was on the main stream of movers from points north of Mason and Dixon’s line to Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, and was the trading point for buffalo hunters, and one of the markets for cattle coming over the trail from Texas. There were not houses enough to shelter one-tenth of the people, nor room enough on the streets for them to get within the corporate limits.
“Wagons took their places in long lines to await their turn at the supply houses, which, with different shifts of men, worked day and night and kept company during the black hours with the saloons, gambling houses and dance halls. The long-haired medicine man, who performed sleight-of-hand tricks to attract attention, held forth on one corner, a wild-eyed preacher pleaded with the wayward aggregation of emigrants, cowboys, Indians and Mexicans a block farther on, and, what was known as a ‘fakir,’ stood on a box just across the street and cried up a magic soap, guaranteed to remove, by a mere touch, any grease spot from coat, vest or hat, while the horse traders wrangled and disputed not far off and the fiddles squeaked in the saloons.
“We came over what was called the military road, which, I think, was known also as the Preston trail, and met one herd of Texas cattle after another on the way to Kansas. The trail movement of cattle was at its height at that time. Thus animated, Indian Territory was a beautiful country. The villages or settlements, at which we touched, were Russellville, Stringtown, Boggy Depot and Little Blue. At Russellville, we mailed our first letter home, telling the folks where we were. We crossed Red River on a barge, which had room for two wagons, and which was propelled by all hands tugging at a rope stretched from bank to bank. Limited as his facilities were, the ferryman must have been coining money, for his boat ran day and night, and never caught up with business
First Trip to Dallas.
“We reached our destination on Duck Creek, Nov. 23, 1871. One building constituted the village of Duck Creek. The lower floor of it was occupied as a general store, and the upper, as a schoolhouse and church, which several denominations used [on] Sunday. The village was two miles from the present site of Garland. We had as neighbors, the pioneer families of the Joneses, the Keens, the Straits, the Davises, the Smiths, the Jacksons, the Nashes and the Strothers. We, at once, made arrangements to grow a crop the following year.
“I made my first trip to Dallas, just before Christmas, 1871, and, believe me, everything I had seen at Baxter Springs and Sherman was here in exaggerated form. The village had few buildings, but, what it lacked in buildings, it more than made up in tents. There was a whole town of tents on the west side of the river, where people [coming] to trade had gone into camp. The streets were so jammed with wagons and pedestrians, that there was no getting about, and the wagon yards, numerous and extensive as they were, every day, turned away long trains of applicants for space. Grain and cotton were coming in from all directions; and, long trains of wagons lashed two or three together, and drawn each by six mules or horses or a dozen yoke of oxen, brought buffalo hides and meat from the west.
“After making one crop on Duck Creek, we moved to Dallas. My brother Will, and I, started a job printing office, and one of our enterprises was to print a newspaper for Eagle Ford, the Eaglet. We got it out in our office in Dallas, and delivered it by carriers at Eagle Ford. But, it never grew to be a full-fledged Eagle. Something happened to it when it was still in the nest.
“The newspapers in Dallas were the Weekly Herald, owned and edited by John W. Swindells, and the Weekly News, owned by Gen. John G. Walker, my uncle. The News, however, died in infancy. General Walker gave it up to become immigration agent of the Texas & Pacific Railroad, and never could make ‘the ghost walk,’ except in the most limping manner. He was a polished and prolific writer, but seemed to be lacking in business shrewdness. The News out of the way, Mr. Swindells turned the Weekly Herald into a daily publication, which was the leading morning newspaper of North Texas, until it was absorbed by The Dallas News, in 1885, a short time after The News was established.
“Dallas was the liveliest town in the Southwest until the Texas & Pacific Railroad was extended from Eagle Ford to Fort Worth, in 1876. The trade of the entire West and Northwest was immediately transferred to the new terminus, and Dallas began to languish. Some of the leading business concerns, and fully half the floating population, followed the railroad. Nor, did conditions show much improvement until the middle ’80s, when The Dallas News started, and the State Fair was opened.”
By William S. Adair, Dallas Morning News – March 16, 1930
Photo: Typical Early Day Wagon Train, not wagon train to Duck Creek..