years ago, I received a complimentary copy of a new book, Raw Frontier
(Volume Two), written by Keith Guthrie. His book is sort of an
assortment of historical facts about the area that made up Green DeWitt's
Colony during the birth of Texas.
Guthrie's Raw Frontier is a 16-county area in south central
and the coastal bend region of Texas. He traveled extensively in this
portion of the state and visited with various descendants of pioneer
families who settled there.
One portion of the book that I found to be especially interesting
was his observations about the early pioneers who settled in Hallettsville
and Lavaca County.
Information in the Raw Frontier explains that one of the first
settlers in the area was John Hallet. He had received a land grant
F. Austin in 1831.
Hallet died in 1836 and his wife, Margaret, donated the land for the
town site. In 1842, old La Vaca County was formed and Hallettsville
was chosen as the county seat. However, historical records indicate
that the county was later abolished. When Texas became a state in
1846, Lavaca County
was created once again.
According to the Handbook of Texas, two cities were competing
for the county seat. Hallettsville
were evidently at great odds with one another over who should be awarded
the seat of county government. An election was held on June 14, 1852,
receiving the majority of votes.
hotly contested the election claiming that there was election fraud
and other illegal things going on. After years of legal maneuvering
and some armed confrontations, the courts finally determined in 1860
would indeed be the county seat. The
unique old courthouse that is the hub of the downtown square was
built in 1897. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
in Lavaca County
experienced some exciting times as did most people living on the frontier
in early Texas. Included in Guthrie's book, is an account of life
in 1845. It was written by Mrs. Ellen McKinney Arnold and tells of
her life as a child in the John McKinney family. Her recollections
have been passed down through the family for generations.
excerpts of her observations of old Hallettsville:
"There were only three houses there, one was a blacksmith shop run
by Ira McDaniel and the other was a store run by Callart Ballard.
He sold powder, lead, flint rifles and groceries.... The first barrel
of flour that I saw, father gave him [Ballard] $35 worth of deer
hides for it.
"We wore out our shoes the first year and never had any more for
years. Father tanned hides and made us moccasins, which I think
are better than shoes.... The prairie was covered with mustang ponies
and wild cattle; game of all kinds was plentiful. Father could stand
in the door of his tent and shoot dear and wild turkey...there were
lots of bear. Father's favorite sport was hunting Mexican lions.
He killed enough to cover the tent floor."
Mrs. Ellen McKinney Arnold was 87 years old when she recorded her
memories and this information can be found in the public library
What a place Texas must have been in those days! One thing is certain;
folks should have never starved to death back then. There were worse
ways to die - the Indians saw to that, and Lavaca
County had its share of problems with the hostiles.
In one account from the Raw Frontier, the Indians were attacking
and killing the settlers during what has become known as the "Runaway
Scrape." After the fall
of the Alamo, the Texas Army was at Gonzales
and Gen. Sam Houston
ordered the town (Gonzales)
to be destroyed by fire. The army retreated toward the coast and
passed through an area that would later become part of Lavaca
Families from all around the area were also on the run in fear of
the advancing Mexican army. The Indians took advantage of the turmoil
and made their move as the following excerpt from the Raw Frontier
indicates: "The families of O'Dougherty and Douglass, on Clark Creek,
were getting ready to join the exodus fleeing the Mexicans when
Indians killed all of them, except Augustine and Thadeus Douglass,
ages 15 and 12, who had been sent into the timber to find and bring
the oxen to draw sleds.
"As they were returning, they saw that their cabins were on fire
and could hear the war whoops and the screams of their kin and neighbors.
The boys watched powerless from hiding places. At night they approached
their home site and found the scalped bodies of their father, mother,
sister, and little brother, and of the O'Doughertys, his son and
two daughters lying naked in the yard."
It is a tribute to the resilience of those settlers of early Texas
that they would endure such horrible events and still return to
carve out a home in the wilderness. All Texans should be very proud
of their heritage.
Many immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Germany settled Hallettsville,
Texas, in the late nineteenth century. It has a rich legacy
and reputation for productive farms and friendly people.