reasons she apparently did not think necessary to explain in her
book, early in the second decade of the 20th century, Sarah Catherine
Shivers Lattimore began gathering information on the history of
She interviewed old-timers who remembered Erath County when it was
organized in 1856 by men “in love with the freedom of the prairies,
filled with enthusiasm over the possibilities for successful stock
raising and consequent wealth, lured by the cheapness of the unoccupied
land, were eager to avail themselves of such advantages.” In addition,
she paged through the musty pages of early newspapers.
Her endeavors culminated in “Incidents in the History of Dublin
Gathered from Participants and Eye-Witnesses,” a 65-page booklet
privately published in 1914. Anyone who didn’t know better would
think it dealt with the history of Ireland’s major city, but Mrs.
is in West
Central Texas, not the Emerald Isle.
Born in Marion, Alabama in 1841, Mrs. Lattimore came to Texas in
the 1870s. She settled at Dublin
with her husband and family in 1884. They had eight children, so
maybe she was motivated to record her town’s history for their later
enlightenment. Or maybe she just liked a good story, albeit one
told in a very gentle way, likely reflective of her education at
Alabama’s Judson Female Institute, where she graduated in 1857.
of the anecdotes she collected concerns a close call experienced
by one of the area’s first residents.
Walking behind his ox-drawn wagon on his way to a mill, one day
John Henson found himself “beset by Indians.” Following the conventional
wisdom of the day, hoping to avoid being surrounded on open ground,
he ran to the nearest stand of timber. Raising his muzzle loader
with its one shot, he leaned against a tree and “awaited events.”
Henson knew he had to hold his one shot for as long as he could,
likely figuring he might have to use it on himself rather than be
tortured by the Indians.
As Mrs. Lattimore wrote: “Standing thus, gazing steadily at them,
he received an arrow full in the eye, and all a-quiver with pain,
could do nothing but stoically watch them as they cut to pieces
the wheels of his wagon, tore open and destroyed his bags of corn,
and speared his oxen so cruelly that they were never of any more
Then, perhaps because they admired his bravery, the Indians rode
on without relieving Henson of his scalp.
“Satisfied with what they had done,” Mrs. Lattimore continued, “they
left him to hunt a friend and with the endurance born of necessity
to bear the pain of having the arrow pulled from his eye.”
Mrs. Lattimore offers no further details on Henson’s encounter,
but reading between the lines, it seems like he lived to tell the
her book has several other Indian stories, she also wrote of the
town’s first wedding and the development of its churches and schools.
In fact, much of the book is devoted to local houses of worship
and their preachers.
The early churches
were more architecturally impressive than the crude log cabins of
the settlers. “One room was usually sufficient for immediate needs,”
she wrote. “A door in front corresponded in location with the door
in the rear. There were no windows. When ventilation was needed,
it was secured by just ‘knocking out the daubin’.” (In cooler weather,
the cracks between the logs were filled with dried mud to keep the
Removing the mud in warmer weather, Mrs. Lattimore went on, “was
not without peculiar risks.”
She went on to tell the story of a young man who came to court the
beautiful daughter of one pioneer family.
Invited to spend the night in a modest addition to their cabin that
could be considered a guest room, the young man hung his “gala attire”
from a peg on the wall and “peacefully slumbered through the night,
insensible to sounds within or without.”
When he awoke early the next morning and reached for his clothes,
he discovered that they had vanished.
As Mrs. Lattimore explained, “He had forgotten to provide against
the appetite of the ubiquitous cow, and the opportunities afforded
her by her long tongue and the crevices between the poles of the
In other words, Old Bossy had eaten the young Romeo’s shirt and
Three years after her book came out, the 76-year-old Mrs. Lattimore
traveled to Waco
to from Dublin
to visit one of her daughters, Mrs. R.B. Spencer. While there, she
became ill and was taken to Providence Sanitarium (now Providence
Hospital), where she died on July 13, 1917.
Her book, now quite rare, is held by only a handful of Texas libraries
but the history she preserved more than a century ago is still there
for anyone interested in a time where neither personal safety or
clothing could be taken for granted.
© Mike Cox
- December 11, 2014 column
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