1837, but just for a short time, any man who had served honorably in the Texian
army in 1836 was entitled to a full league of land—over 4000 acres—but only if
he was married. There weren’t a great many unmarried girls and women in Texas
at the time, and they could pretty much pick and choose, providing their parents
agreed. At least one girl was married at the age of 12, which was not uncommon
at the time.|
The source gives only the names ‘Sam’ and ‘Lizzie’ for the
couple whose ‘courtship’ it describes. Sam was, as was typical of young frontiersmen
at the time, somewhat shy. However, he fixed his sights, first, on a widow somewhat
older than he. Shortly he spotted ‘Lizzie’ and changed his mind. He began what
was called, at the time, a ‘cowpen courtship.’ Most of the young men were too
shy to approach the girls at home, but if they could find them in the cowpen milking
the family cow, they knew the girl wouldn’t leave her chore until she was finished,
which gave the man time to present his case.
Sam began his cowpen courtship
of Lizzie, but she shut the gate on him, knowing he’d previously courted the widow.
He offered every inducement he could think of, including telling her about the
league of land they would get if she married him. She still had no apparent interest.
He finally admitted that there were only two unmarried women left. She was one
and the widow was the other. She asked why he didn’t take the widow.
replied that the widow was one-eyed, red headed, roman nosed, and smoked a pipe
that would hold half a plug of tobacco “…an’ I’ve always had a horror of getting
burnt.” Lizzie finally agreed to marry him, providing he didn’t gamble, drink
whiskey, or ride wild horses. Sam had no problem with the first two but he’d promised
a neighbor he’d help catch some buffalo calves come spring, “…an’ mighty nigh
all his horses’ll pitch.”
Lizzie discussed the matter with her parents,
who consented. The couple was to be married the following Thursday, because there
was to be a cheese-cutting and dance at her parents’ house that day and the guests
had already been invited.
The Robertson County Judge, Massilon Farley—Robertson
County’s first County Judge—agreed to perform the marriage, but he wanted $10
to do it and Sam didn’t have $10. Neither did Lizzie’s parents. Sam asked the
judge if he would take an order on a local general store. The judge agreed provided
Sam produced $10 worth of merchandise to make the order good.
agreed to accept deer and coon hides in quantity in lieu of cash. Sam and his
friends set out to kill enough deer and coons to add up to $10 worth of hides.
Since green hides, at the time, were worth about 5¢ apiece—but an ounce of gold
was worth $5—it took a lot of hides.
When Sam and his friends brought
in the hides they were one short of the agreed-on number. However, one of the
friends had also shot and skinned a possum. Possum hides weren’t part of the deal,
so it looked like Sam’s impending marriage would fall short of the necessary pay
for the judge. However, one of the boys was wearing a coonskin cap. He cut the
tail off his coonskin cap, sewed it on the possum hide, and turned it in as a
coonskin. Sam got his order for $10 and the marriage went off as scheduled.
Eckhardt's Texas" >
November 10, 2010 column
on Marriage Traditions in Texas