nation was barely a year away from the beginning of its cataclysmic Civil War,
but in the spring of 1860, folks along Texas’ frontier
had a more immediate problem on their minds – incursions by hostile Indians.
Two weeks out of each month, 23-year-old Isaac Gann volunteered his time to serve
with a home-grown ranging company in Hamilton County. The other two weeks, he
tended to his farming and stock raising. While not on the state payroll as a regular
Texas Ranger, Gann and his comrades-in-arms were rangers in function. In a way,
they had a better incentive than money to scout the countryside, protecting their
families as neighbors.
Gann, having heard that Hamilton County had good
grazing, had driven his cattle there from his home in Angelina County in 1858.
He planned to have his family join him as soon as he felt it safe. But two years
after he moved there from East Texas,
Hamilton County was not safe. Indian raids were common, settlers losing livestock
at a minimum, their lives at worst.
March 5, 1860, somewhere in Hamilton County, Gann had time to sit down and write
his wife “a few lines to let you know that I am yet in the land of the living
and I hope that you are in better health than I am.” He continued: “I have been
out Rangering an taken the flux and it jerked me down mightily.” (Flux was the
19th century way of saying “diarrhea.”)
that was enough about health issues.
“I want you to get someone to attend
to my mares in the spring if you can,” he went on, obviously just putting things
down on paper as he thought of them.
matter of his horses off his mind, Gann got as sentimental as he would get by
noting he would “like to see you and the children mighty well.” Until then, “you
must write me as often as you can.” After adding that his father Solomon, who
also rode with his company, was doing well, Gann returned to his wife’s honey-do
take care of what corn she’s got for I don’t expect to make much here [at the
Hamilton County place] and well if anybody is attending to the place [in Angelina
County], let them work the oxens and if they ain’t I want you to turn the oxens
out. I want them to be as fat as they can agin we move. Send me a pair of pantaloons
and a shirt as quick as you can.”
And the list went on. Gann wanted to
know where his brother and nephew were as well as his brother-in-law. He wanted
his mother to write him “what the times is there.”
“Times is very hard
here,” he pointed out. “Corn
is from 10 to 11 dollars [a bushel.]”
Finally, he wrote, he didn’t know
when he would be home. “So I must come to a close by remaining your husband until
death,” he concluded.
Somber as that sounded, that death lay a long way
off. Gann survived his “Rangering” and also made it through Confederate military
service. By the time he died on March 4, 1906, he and his wife had raised seven
children (five of them living until adulthood). On top of that, the Ganns took
in three of their grandchildren when one of their daughters died in childbirth.
oldest of those children was Vernie March Walker. She was 10 when her mother died
and she and a younger brother and sister went to live with the Ganns in 1902.
Eight years later she got married and would have five children. Fortunately for
posterity, she acquired the letter her grandfather had written as a young home
guard ranger in 1860 and later made it available for inclusion in a sketch of
her family published in a history of Hamilton County.
By 1924, when Frontier
Times magazine ran a story on a birthday celebration for Mrs. Gann that included
some of her recollections of early days in Hamilton County, she had 50 grandchildren,
7 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren. She lived on another eight
years, joining her husband in death on March 3, 1932.
Cox - October
6 , 2011 column