Family History by Robert Monroe Fleming (Sr.)

Notes on Fanily History by Iva Causey Fleming
(Part 18)

Transcribed by Robert M. Fleming Jr.

The early and constant care of my parents for the first twenty years of their married life was to educate their children. In the Eastern and Western states the custom long obtained to organize a district school and board the teacher around in thefamilies of the patrons. In Texas the grants of land were made in such large surveys and the first settlements in Brazoria County were so sparse that a xchool house could not be located in the country districts that would have living accessible to it sufficient children to maintain a school. It was a necessity there fore that the school as well as the teacher should board around. Mr Thomas J Pilgrim was the first and best teacher who conducted such a school in that county. Before Columbia was founded Mr Josiah H Bell built a school house at a point about one mile West from where West Columbia now is. And Mr Pilgrim taught the children of that neighborhood in that house. The children from Gulf Prairie and other neighborhoods coming in and boarding around also attended there. In due time he passed on to Gulf Prairie and taught in that neighborhood. Mr Bell's children and others from his neighborhood goint to Gulf Prairie boarded around and attended the school. After a few years Mr Pilgrim gave up teaching for a time and was engaged in mechandising in Columbia. During this time another teacher, less distingquished than Mr Pilgrim (a Mr Noonan) taught for a while the Bell's neighborhood school which was then moved to Columbia. There was never a school established near enough to my Father's home for me to live at home and attend the school. When I was in my fifth year I was put to board at Mr Bell's, whose house was the same as home to me. And sent to Mr Noonan's school at Columbia. In the then due and customary course this school was closed after keeping open a few months. And Mr Noonan opened in a school house on Squire Mim's plantations. Twelve miles below us on the same side of the Bernard. I never had seen Squire Mim's or any member of his family. But they were good people and thither I was sent to board and pursue my studies under Mr Noonan. Two of Mr Sweeney's sons, Jordan and Sam, eight and ten years older than I. Whom I had known always, also went to Squire Mim's to board and doubly endeared themselves to my parents by the brotherly kindness and protection which they extended to me at that time. The next school opened at Mr Sweeney's plantation where I was again very much at home in feeling. And was nearer home in distance. Than at any school I every attended. The school soon closed here and I do not know wether it resumed at another point. I did not attend it further.

Mr Pilgrim having closed his merchandise pursuit married. He concluded to go West to Gonzales and open there a permanent school. He was to start out in the Spring as soon as the grass was good.For he would carry a considerable wagon train to be drawn by oxeteams.. Gonzales is one hundred and sixty miles distant from my childhood home. And then was on the border of the savage Indian's country. I was entering my eighth year. Mr Pilgrim was the best teacher in Texas and one of the best men. He was willing to take me to board in his own family. His wife was new to the county and a stranger to us all. It was arranged that I should go. My Mother wept sore at the thought of parting with her son. But promptly made ample provision of such thin s as it was her office to supply him. On the appointed day about the first of May he was ready and joined the caravan at Columbia. Mr and Mrs Pilgrim were to travel in a buggy. I rode a pony and there were four large wagons. Each drawn by four yokes of oxen driven by teamsters, furnished with a saddle horse to be ridden or led at the tail of the wagon, as accasion required or permitted. The animals subsisted by grazing and in daily stages were short a little more or a little less than twenty miles a day. As opportunity getting water determined. The teamsters always ate in camp and slept at night in or near their wagons. When our stop was near the residence of a family, Mr and Mrs Pilgrim and I ate and slept in the house. We passed the Colorado River at Columbia and had some delay and difficulty in getting the wagons over. The calculations had been to reach Gonzales by Saturday night of the week in which we crossed that river. But it was after dark on Saturday night when the teams got to McClure's on Peach Creek, nine miles from Gonzales. Mr and Mrs Pilgrim had driven ahead and reached the house an hour or two earlier. The dwelling was several hundred yeards from the point where the road crossed the Creek. And the teams drove on to that point to camp convenient to water. I stopped at the house. When I got to the door I saw in the room three Indians warriors. The first I had ever seen, squat near the chair on which Mr Pilgram sat. The Indians on the coast between Trinity and Colorado Rivers had been driven off or killed before I was born. But they had been cannibals or so reported to have been. And stories of Indian atrocities filled my mind. And the unexpected, sudden first sight of live Indians men in their savage attire produced a state of panic in me. Which it taxed Mr Pilgrims ability to over come. When I did succeed in mustering courage to enter the room I remained ill at ease until the savages left and until sleep restored tone to my nerves. Mr Pilgrim was puritan of the straightest sect. His shibboleth was "myhouse shall serve the Lord". We there fore remained at Mr McClure's house and the wagons at the Creek until Monday morning. Mr McClure had a son a few years older than I. Who had seen and enjoyed my pantic, Saturday night. He was a veteran Indian fighter. Almost equal to Captain [remainder of this bottom line angles too far below bottom of carbon paper and is illegible] tradition r an that being with his Father and the minute men in the fight with Indians when the boy was only nine years old, he used his rifle with as much coolness and skill and sheltered himself with as much care as the older Indaian fighters. And when a nimute man near him less discreet stepped out in the open to get a shot but received a ball that struck him the the ground, the boy cursed him and said with a bitter sneer, "I would not let the thieves see me fall". Sometime after breakfast Sunday morning the McClure boy and I started down to the creek to see the teamsters. The road was narrow and meandering with trees over hanging it. And under brush and briers higher than a man's head growing close up to the tracks.

When about half way from the house to the creek as we turned a point one side of the road we came in sight of a single Indian warrior meeting us. In all his holiday best of paint, beads, feathers, bow and arrows. He was one of the three who had seen me the night before. As soon as he saw that I saw him he"treed". That is he jumped through the under brush and covered his person by the body of the nearest tree. Young McClure also "treed". And the two played on my inexperience painfully. Monday we got to Gonzales. Mr Pilgrim had bought a house there. Near the home of Col Eli Mitchell. We went to this neighbors' house to stay until Mr Pilgim's furnishings could be taken from the wagons and his house made ready, for habitation. This Col Eli Michell was the brother of Col Asa Michell, who, ten or more years after this time,as the chairman of a vigilance committee, caused to be hung and other wise scouraged out of San Antonio the gang who had sought to make that town a den of thieves. In honor of these two brothers, Mitchell County in Texas was named. After Mr Pilgrim commenced living in his own house, but before he received any other pupils or was ready to open his school, Mrs Pilgrim was taken sick. And I went back to Mr Mitchell's to stay until Mrs Pilgrim recovered, While I was at Col Mitchell's home the Comanche Indians made the boldest raid that ever started in Texas. They passed down from their villages on the upper Colorado in great force, marching like an army, on a line only a few miles East of Gonzales, straight forward to the coast. Killing men and capturing women and children. Plundered and then burnt the town of Linnville. And swept back again to Plum Creek before the minute men could get together in sufficient force to give them battle. Mrs Pilgrim did not recover. And Mr Pilgrim was so broken up at her loss and the country so disturbed by alarms of Indians on the war path, that he concluded to defer for a time the opening of his school. He however, adhered to his purpose to settle permanently in Gonzales. And I stayed, studied on alone under his instruction. Waiting for the first opportunity to get me back to my Father's house. The opportunity came soon after theComanche raid. Mr Charles D Sayre, a man prominent from earliest times, a member of the Committee of Safety and Correspondence in 1835, who then owned and with his family resided on the plantation now known by the name of " Willow Glen", just above Columbia on the opposite bank of the Brazos River from that town. Had a milling business of somekind near Gonzales. In the last days of August he was returning from a visit of inspection of that property to his residence in Brazoria county and it was arranged that I should return with him. He was traveling on horse back with his camping outfit, gun and him on one large fine hourse. I with my pack was mounted on a good pony. The weather was warm but other wise good. The mosquitoes troubles one at night to persons sleeping without a net. But we had one. And in day time during certain hours and in certain localities the horse flies were unbearable. To avoid the flies and the heat we rode into the night each night until I became too sleepy to keep to my horse safely. When we would camp near the edge of a prairie or in some matt of timber in a prairie or in open post oak woods. Where we soulc stake our horses to graze. We carried water for ourselves in bottle gourds and watered the horses well at the last watering place we passed each day. We got along nicely until we got East of the Colorado. We left the Colorado timber at Alley's where Alleytown is now. Our Trace led across the large Prairie extending from that point to the thin skirt of timber on the upper San Bernard. I do not now remember or know the distance, but it is a long ride. We left Alley's a little after sun down. Mr Sayre wanted to reach the Bernard before camping. He was doubtful about my being able to keep awak so long. But I thought I could. And in earnest good faith promised to do it. Our horses traveled well and by our united efforts I and my pony was not fogged I kept well up. But when the pony got leg weary and his rider dull, almost dead with sleep, the rear file would not close up. Mr Sayre tried putting me in front but the pony would not keep the path. And the rider could not keep himself or be kept sufficiently awake to use the bridle. He tried dismounting and leading both of the horses himself. And have that boy walk ahead to see if that would not dispel his drowsiness. But it did not. And to persist in it would have been as useless as inhuman. It was yet five or six miles to the Bernard. We had to camp. When I waked the next morning I was alone with the baggage. At first I did not see Mr Sayre or the horses. But presently caught sight of them some distance from the camp. The horses had been staked as best as Mr Sayre could in that situation. As near our pallet as was safe for us. And their nipping and chomping the grass could be distinctly heard. They were hungry and grazed pretty steadily and within hearing until morning. And Mr Sayre did not suspect that they were loose until the day dawned and he saw they were further away than he had placed them. He walked out to where they and picked up the rope his own horse was dragging, quietly did it up into a coil, held this coil in one hand and leading that horse approached the other, picked up his rope. And was beginning to do it up in the same way when the pony startled, broke quickly away and jerked the loose rope hotly through Mr Sayer's hand. Blistering it's palm and fingers badly. The horse ran only a few lengths of rop and stopped. Mr Sayre followed him up, got on the rope again and picked it up. But as he did so the horse again broke away. This was done or attempted several times until the loose horse got so "skittish" that he would not let Mr Sayre get near enough on foot to pick up the rope. Mr Sayre then, still leading his own horse returned to camp to look after me, get breakfast and get his saddle. The loose horse followed at a distance but kept his distance. When we had eaten Mr Sayre saddled his horse and mounting him endeavored to get nearer the other horse on horseback. He had not the art and skill of the Mexican ranchero or of the later American cowboy, to throw the lasso or run up on the horse, loose animal, at full speed, pick up the rope drag and whiff it around the horn of this saddle. Even if the pony were not as he probably was a quicker, fleeter, quarter nag, than the heavier roadster. He pursued the quiet, persistent process on horse back that he had done on foot with like tantalizing experience and want of success. Until the loose horse got tired of it, as Mr Sayre knew he would. But instead of going Mr Sayre's way, giving up, as was expected he broke into a sustained lope on our back trail, giving up, showing that he had made up his mind to part company. And return to Gonzales. There was then no reasonable hope of capturing him short of Alley's. To go to which place and return would consume the day. Even if it succeeded in regaining possession of the fugitive. It was not safe and would be cruel to leave so young a boy so long alone in the desert. Mr Sayre there fore retuned to where I was put all the baggage on his horse and we proceeded on foot leading the pack horse, towards the Bernard. When we got to the timber Mr Sayre was in a state of high fever and had to lie down in the shade until the fever left him. Or cooled which it did late in the day. We then rsumed our tramp down the road on the West side of the river to meet our good Samaritan whom we knew was at the home of Major Andrew Worthington. Who lived at some distance below on or near the river. We trudged on from point to point across the bends of the stream until Mr Sayre began to be much disappointed that the lights from the cottage did not come into view was we turned the points. And at last when he could walk no further we again camped and slept. Knowing we must be near Major Worthington's but not knowing how near Mr Sayre rose early in the morning and we started on again. In a few minutes as soon as we had fully turned the point of timber in which we had camped we came in sight of Major Worthington's house not a mile ahead. We got to the dwelling house just as the family was sitting down to breakfast, hardly sunup. We had seen no person since leaving Alley's the evening of the second day before.

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©2009 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last revised on 12 October 2009.