Tag Archives: Frontier

Red River Station

Long before it was the jumping off point of the Chisholm Trail, the area that became known as Red River Station had been well traveled for thousands of years.  Near the junction of Salt Creek and the Red River, the mighty Red makes a distinct bend to the north.  This natural detour pushes the current to the south bank creating a favorable crossing point.  This crossing was used for centuries by huge herds of buffalos, Native Americans and much later by hundreds of thousands of Texas Longhorns.

Map courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

In 1857, a few families tried to push the envelope of the frontier and settle in the area.  They were pushed back by raiding Indians.  But by 1860 they had managed to fend off the hostile attacks and put down roots and build a few structures.  Some these adventurous souls were the Grayson, Cardwell, Boren and Quillan families.

In July and August of 1861 the Texas authorities sent a company of State Troopers or Rangers under the command of Captain Brunson to help defend against the continuing advances of the disgruntled Indians.  The camp or station was first known as Camp Brunson.  By December of 1862, the company had undergone a reorganization placing Captain John Rowland in charge.  It is estimated that approximately fifty families sought refuge within the confines of the stockade.

Shortly before being reassigned to south Texas in 1864, Rowland compiled a roster of his company.  The following men were listed:

Captain John T Rowland; 1st Lt S J Chapman; 2nd Lts WD Hevard and JR Giddens; 1st Sgt TD Pollard; Sgts GW Campbell, JH Christal, TJ Gregory; 1st Corp Freeland Collins; Corps WH Burns and JB Heyner; Buglers WR Campbell and Solomon Collins; Farrier CA Wolldridge; Privates JO Alexander, David Argo, JF Barlow, AL Brunson, JN Branham, Miles Bond, JWH Bailey, BA Brown, Thomas Crawford, Josheph Campbell, Rolin Christal, JT Cates, WC Crow, William Colvin, Isaiah Cook, WR Chapman, TB Christal, John Campbell, R Davidson, JW Emerson, JA Edward, TB Emerson, William Fanning, EP Freeman, JM Gibson, L Grayson, Joseph Gregory, Wm Grundy, HW Houston, JM Hamilton, RP Hutson, JR Hudson, John Higgin, Wm Harper, Wm S Hutson, JM Hoard, Hugh Ivey, JJ Jones, EM Kelly, Wm Lackey, Henry Lackey, Wm Lewis, GW Lemons, Mr Marquis, SGS McGarroh, EW  McCampbell, TA Morgan, WB Martin, WT Martin, WH Merents, Jese Porter, RC Porter, Geo Westly Pearce, Geo Washington Pearce, JH Patterson, JT Peak, WM Priest, Wm Pearce, JW Redman, CT Riley, WR Strong, BN Strohan, Daniel Stennett, R Sullivant, Cyrus Strong, LI Varden, AH Wheeler, JM White, Felix Walker, David White, Johnson Wadil, ML Webster, AJ White, JM Witten, Wm Wilbern; Discharged JM Redman, HF Myers and William Harvey; Died GW Eakin

Not too long after Rowland’s exodus, the Chisholm Trail was in full swing.  The trail lead to Kansas from all points in Texas, herding longhorn cattle to market.  The feeder trails in Texas converged along the way creating a funnel effect by the time it reached the Red River in Montague County.  The first herds crossed at Red River Station in 1867.  By 1870, it was the prominent crossing.

It is difficult to imagine what the area must have been like during the heyday of the Chisholm Trails.  The dust, not to mention the odor, caused by thousands of milling cattle must have been intense at times.  The Red River has always been a temperamental beast, sometimes smooth as silk and a furious raging swell at others.

Mark Withers was a cowboy that traveled the Trail on more than one occasion.  In his later years, he wrote down some of his memories of the time.  He described one exceptional incident that occurred at Red River Station in 1871.

It had been raining for days  when “We came up west of Gainesville and had just  crossed into Montague County when we began to hear cattle bellering.  It was far off, but it never stopped.  It was like a wall of sound, two or three miles wide.  It continued through the night and grew louder as we drove on north the next day.  By landmarks I recognized, I knew that with conditions normal we were still two days from Red River Station.  In the afternoon, we saw cattle ahead of us, two or three big herds, and by the way they were spread out we knew they were being held.  We stopped where we were and I rode on alone to find out how bad the situation was. I knew it must be the river that was holding things up, but wasn’t prepared for what i saw and was told.  Some wild estimates put the number of cattle concentrated there at 75,000.  I believe 60,000 would be more accurate.”

He goes on to describe the scene when he reached the Red River.”The litter of heavy brush and broken trees sweeping by gave you the feeling that, for hundreds of miles, everything that grew or lay along both the North Fork and the Prairie Dog Town Fork had been plucked out by the roots and sent swirling and bobbing down river, leaving both branches of the Upper Red scoured clean.”

The next day the rain stopped.  Several anxious cattlemen attempted to cross the swollen river.  At least two human lives were lost as were several dozen head of cattle.   So, the wait continued.

Mr Withers described the chaos that ensued, “Two nights later, with the weather continuing fine, a herd got up and started to run.  It carried another herd with it.  It was only the beginning.  In no time at all they were all running and milling.  It was after daylight before we got them held, and we had a tangle of cattle and brands on our hands that would be hard to describe. In my person experience, I never knew a man on the ground being ran over by a longhorn, but when a steer went down in a jam like that he seldom got up.  We all had losses that night, some of them pretty heavy.  The only way we could unsnarl that mass of cattle was to go to work as though we were on a roundup, everyone cutting out his own stuff and holding his cut at a safe distance.  It took us ten days to get them straightened out.  When it was our turn to cross the river, it was mill pond.”

1870 townsite map courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

As with any new enterprize, the law of supply and demand soon became apparent.  Several business were established to aid the influx of cattle men that traveled up the Chisholm Trail. Between 1870 and 1871 at least twelve blocks containing over 100 lots were sold.  A post office was established under the name of Salt Creek.  The first post master was LN Perkins.  Among the first registered voters were Montague county pioneers, Henry Heaton, Alexander Boren, Isaac Boren, J M Grayson, and Tom Cardwell.  The name was changed to Red River Station in 1884.About a half a mile west of town, Henry Heaton ran a chain ferry.  Heaton was described as “a veteran freighter without any previous knowledge of the river.  He was further handicapped by a wooden leg.  He was a cantankerous individual who ran his ferry to suit himself, the tolls he charged rising and falling with the various stages of the river.”  Others who were said to run the ferry after Heaton included Miles Yates, Rev WP Fitts and John Gilbreath.JS Love and his wife Mollie purchased lots 10 and 11 in block one of the new town.  They built a two-story hotel.  It is said that Mollie was known my every cowboy on the trail.  Her kindness was documented in several letters home.  She was known to feed the hungry regardless of their ability to pay.  She often nursed the sick back to health as well.Other businesses that were established included Tom Pollard’s Saloon and Trading Post, WS Thurston’s General Mercantile, several blacksmiths and leather repair shops.A school was formed in the basement of JM Grayson’s home.   Even after a building for the school was erected, it was always known as the Grayson School.  Circuit preachers traveled to Red River Station to spread the gospel, meeting in different homes in town.Red River Station’s demise can be attributed to three different, but equally devastating events.  First, the end of the Chisholm Trail.  As the railroads made further advances across the frontier, the need to drive them to market became obsolete.  The seasonal influx of cattlemen through Red River Station dwindled.  The second event was Mother Nature in full force.  In the early 1880’s the small town was severely damaged by a tornado.  It destroyed several of the businesses in town.  With the decline of patrons already in effect, several businesses chose not to rebuild.  The final event, that lead Red River Station to the ghost town category, was the decision by the rail road to bypass it as a stop, chosing Nocona instead.

Historical Marker placed by State of Texas in 1963. Photo courtesy of Tales N Trails Museum

Today there isn’t much left of old Red River Station.  The cemetery, which had been neglected for decades, has been reclaimed and cleaned up.  Over the years, two historical markers have been placed in vicinity Red River Station. One by the state of Texas the other by the Boy Scouts.  In 2010, a Chisholm  Trail marker was also placed, with the hope that the importance of Red River Station to Texas history will always be remembered.

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Frontiersman and Indian Fighter – Levi Perryman

From the day he was born, Levi Perryman’s life was never easy.  On March 29, 1839, Levi entered this world, on the same day his mother, Elizabeth Farmer Perryman,  left her earthly home.  Less than nine months later, his father, Alex G Perryman was called to heaven as well, leaving Levi an orphan before the age of one. 

Levi Perryman. Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission

His father’s brother, Jack Perryman, took Levi into his home and raised him as his own. Uncle Jack taught young Levi all the things a boy needed to know  to become a man on the Texas Frontier.   Levi attended school in Paris, Texas for a few short months, but the call of the wild west was too strong not to answer.  In 1859, he decided to head west where land was plentiful and fertile.   He chose Montague County as his home,  building a modest log cabin near Forestburg.

His Uncle Jack proposed a business venture, a cattle raising 50-50 partnership.  Jack followed Levi to Montague County with a hundred head of cattle. Under an oak tree, on the acreage Levi called home three miles west of Forestburg, his uncle presented him with “fifty head of cattle, a saddle horse equipped and a ten-dollar gold piece and said to him, “Now my son, root hog or die.””  The partnership worked well for both men until the War Between the States encroached on the business venture.

Levi joined the Confederate Army at Gainesville, Texas in Captain Gilbert’s company.  He also served in Marshall’s squadron and Company I, 31st Texas Dismounted Cavalry.  He participated in the Battles of Prairie Grove, Pleasant Hill and Mansfield.  According to B B Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co, 1906) Vol 1 pp 701-704, “In the spring of 1865, he was ordered to report at Galveston, but at Houston, he applied for and received a furlough home and before he reached his destination Lee had surrendered and the war was over.  During those three years of army life, no Yankee prison cell knew him and no federal bullet ever bruised his body.  No absence without leave and no hospital record were charged against him.  Mr Perryman was ever subject to duty’s call.”

Upon returning home after the war, he returned to his ranching endeavors with his uncle Jack.  In 1866, he married Mrs Josephine (Milam) Price, widow of Pleasant Price.  The new Mrs Perryman had a son, Pleas Milam, from her first marriage.  Together Levi and Josephine had eight children. These children were Napoleon, William J, Elbert, Kate, Lennie, Charley, Sarah and Bob.  Both Charley and Sarah died as infants and Napoleon died as a young child.  Josephine died in 1884, leaving Levi with a houseful of young mouths to feed.  He employed a gentleman named Pedro Videll to help tend to the children and home.

Levi Perryman seated, behind left to right are daughter Lennie Perryman Stallworth, stepson Pleas Price, son Elbert Perryman and daughter Kate Perryman Caddell. Photo courtesy of Montague County Historical Commission.

His cattle business was very successful.  He managed to acquire about twenty five hundred acres of land in Montague County.  Levi was well-respected in the Forestburg community and when the town was in need of a sheriff, Levi accepted the role.  He was sheriff from 1873-1878.  After his first term, he had no intention of running again.  The townspeople got together a petition urging his re-election.  He accepted, and served a second term in office.  During his tenure as sheriff, he had several run ins with the ever-present outlaws that disrupted the Texas Frontier.  He accompanied many criminals from the Montague County jail cells to their new home at the State Penitentiary in Huntsville.  The Paddock book states, “His heavy and avenging hand was laid on Wild Bill McPherson and it brought Bob Simmons back from Kansas and lodged him in prison and it reached out after Ike Stowe and made him suffer for his crimes.”

While widely known through north central Texas as a soldier, rancher and lawman, his greatest claim to fame was his prowess as an Indian fighter.  He was engaged in dozens of encounters with the raiding tribes that reeked havoc along the mighty Red River.  Later in his life he wrote his first hand recollections of these Indian fights.  In 1987, the Montague County Historical Commission received permission from Levi’s heirs to publish these accounts.  A copy can be obtained from the Montague County Historical Commission or at the Tales N Trails Museum.

First hand accounts of Indian Fighter Levi Perryman.

Levi purchased the cemetery that was used by the families in and around the Forestburg area in 1883.  He deeded the cemetery to the county.  The Perryman Cemetery  is located 1.5 miles from Forestburg on FM 455.  The Texas Historical Commission erected a marker that states, “The first marked grave in this burial ground is that of an infant who died in 1862. Other burials include those of a Mr Jones, a well-digger, killed by Indians in 1863 and Dory Booher and Ben Steadham former Confederate soldiers who had been captured at Lookout Mountain, Tenn. during the Civil War.  In 1883, the cemetery was purchased by Levi Perryman (1839-1921) and deeded to Montague County.  A Forestburg community leader, Perryman had been a Confederate soldier and Indian fighter and sheriff.  Still used, this cemetery serves as a reminder of the area’s pioneers.”  There are twenty-nine Perryman graves in the cemetery, all related in some fashion to Levi.

Perryman Cemetery. Photo courtesy of findagrave.com

Levi was involved in many community affairs.  He was a founding member of the Forestburg Methodist Church.  He was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Saint Jo and later a member of the Masonic Lodge in Forestburg and Gainesville.

Levi Perryman died 22 March 1921, just a few short days before his 82nd birthday.  He is buried in the cemetery that bears his name.  An area newspaper, The Bowie Blade, printed a very fitting obituary.

“Levi Perryman, aged 82, died at this home two miles west of Forestburg March 22, 1921 and was buried at the Old Perryman Cemetery at Forestburg Wednesday afternoon, March 23, the Masonic lodge of Forestburg, assisted by the Methodist pastor, conducting the services.  Mr Perryman was one of the rugged pioneers of the county who came here when the west was young and who blazed the way for civilization.  He was born in Lamar County, March 29, 1839 and was left an orphan when only a few months old, and was raised by an uncle, Jack Perryman.  In 1859, he moved to Montague County and settled on the place where he died.  In 1866, he was married to Mrs Josephine Price and of this union, three children are now living.  E W Perryman, ex-county sherrif, Mrs H Caldwell of Denton, and Mrs Ed Stallworth of Forestburg.  Mr Perryman was elected sheriff of Montague County in 1873 and served one term, in 1878 he was petitioned to run again for sheriff and was elected a second term.  It is stated he made an enviable record as an officer and run to earth many horse thieves, a class of criminals that he hated worse than any other.  He was an old Confederate veteran, and a life long member of the Methodist Church.”