Monday, March 28, 2016

A Cowboy named Ed Bell

I think this Internet thing might prove to be useful, especially to those of us who enjoy researching local history. While visiting the website of the Library of Congress (, I found quite a few items about Kerrville and Kerr County. There are several oral histories there, and I found one by Ed Bell to be quite entertaining and interesting.
Ed Bell was born in Redrock, Bastrop County, Texas on January 5, 1857. His father was a farmer and a ranchman.
Ed started out early as a cowboy. "I have been working stock since I could sit on a horse," he writes.
“I was born in a little two-room log house with a hall between, and I have been riding regular after cattle since I was seven. When I was nine years old, I was out helping my father with the cattle and we had a stampede. They run right by our house and almost scared my mother to death. I guess there was about a thousand head. My father finally got hold of a red flag and run in ahead of them and got them checked. However there were several head killed.
“I went up the trail when I was 18 years old with a herd of cattle for Jim Allison. We had a pretty nice trip this time. It took us about four and a-half months to make the trip. We had a few little runs but our trip was a pleasant one."
"I went to the trail again to the territory in '89 after I was married. With an outfit for [Captain Charles] Schreiner of about 3,000 head of two-year-old steers. We didn't have any trouble with runs but we had a hard trip, it was so dry and grass and water was scarce. One time we had to drive two days and nights without stopping and without water. Part of the boys would sleep a little in the wagon while the others were drifting with the herd. Some of the cattle died for the want of water. When we reached Pease River, we lost quite a few in the quicksand.
But we didn't lose as many as the herds ahead of us. One man lost three-hundred head in one place. He sent word back to us to let the fence down and go on the other side of this quicksand.
"Well, the owner of this pasture caught us pretty quick after we went over this fence into his pasture. That man was some mad when he caught us in his pasture with those cattle. He threatened to have us arrested. While he was raving and was so mad when he found us in his pasture, Old Man Hen Baker who was with our outfit wanted me to let him kill the [landowner] and throw him in the quicksand."
The Pease River is a tributary of the Red River, and since they were driving the cattle to the "territory," I'm guessing they were headed to Oklahoma. The incident above probably took place near Quanah, Texas, and Vernon, Texas.
I've seen photographs of the Pease River, and quicksand was very likely a problem for cattle herds being driven north.
Hen Baker, mentioned above, was quite a character. According to Haley's "Charles Schreiner, General Merchandise," Mr. Baker killed more than a few men, though he escaped the noose every time. He was finally sent to prison for killing his son-in-law, an unfortunate man named Dudley Laurie, who was killed in downtown Kerrville. I'm guessing, had Ed Bell consented, the landowner along the Pease River would have met with an unfortunate accident.
Ed Bell continues his story: "“When we got the cattle to water, we turned then a-loose. I guess it was our old Irish cook that saved the day. He was cooking for the outfit and he kept telling Irish stories till he got the [landowner] in a good humor and finally he got down off his horse and ate a little. I was foreman of the outfit and after he quieted down and got in a good humor I asked him how much we owed him. He said about fifty dollars so I wrote him out a check for seventy-five
dollars and we parted good friends.
“I remember on that trip we found watermelons growing right out on the sand hills in the pasture, in the woods. We ate all we wanted and so did the cattle."
There are many stories about our part of the world available on the Library of Congress website, and I hope you have as much fun reading them as I have.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who knows every trail in the Lone Star State (from riding the range in a Ford V-8). This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 26, 2016.

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