History: The Father of County Bois D'Arc
Bonham Daily Favorite, May 7, 1995
During the tumultuous times written by Dr. Rowlett in his report from Red River, those stalwart settlers in the Red River Valley addressed many of their fears of Indian reprisals by constructing a line of frontier forts as a defensive measure against such occurrences. The first of these. Fort Warren, was already in place when the first family settlers arrived. Built on Red River probably in late 1835, Fort Warren was originally destined as a trading post to house Abel Warren’s establishment for the lucrative Indian trade market.
Only after Warren had abandoned the site in a move some sixty miles up river did his former trading post become a haven for those settlers. The next structure constructed was Fort Inglish built on the banks of Bois d'Arc Creek by pioneer Bailey Inglish and a group of his neighbors.
Soon after the completion of Fort Inglish, Captain Mable Gilbert fortified his residential cabins into a fortified blockhouses although a stockade was never constructed around the buildings. Within a few more months a group of citizens in the southeast part of the area, probably led by very early pioneer Daniel Davis, constructed what was later called Fort Lyday.
From Rowlett's writings as well as other accounts and reports we known that the most vicious and inhumane of the Indian depredations during this period took place in the near vicinity of Fort Warren or just to the south of the area. Only one half hearted raid was staged on Fort Inglish, and one minor skirmish took place at Gilbert's blockhouse. No attacks on Fort Lyday were recorded.
Dr. Rowlett did record the only known attack in southeastern Fannin County which took place at the homestead of Captain John Yeary south of Honey Grove.
"The Indians often made attacks on people their fields at work. On one occasion Captain Yeary was at the plow and his whole force with him except one negro woman who had been left at the house with the children and Mrs. Yeary. The Indians made the attack on the houses. Mrs. Yeary succeeded in getting the doors closed raising the alarm, after she received a severe wound from an arrow.
The Captain and his boys with their hoes rushed on the Indians with such fury that not withstanding their superior numbers and the advantages they had in arms they were compelled to retreat after wounding severely Capt and all his force and having many severe wounds inflicted with the old man's hoes on their own party.
Many campaigns were performed against the Indians in the course of five years but with partial success; a party commanded by Capt John Hart, defeated one party of the Indians on the west fork (note: Trinity River) at one time, and, another party commanded by James Bourland fell in with and defeated a camp of Indians, a party commanded by John B Denton defeated another camp of Indians at another time at each of which times several Indians were slain, but the most severe defeat was inflicted by the command of Genrl E H Tarrant in May 1841, on the west fork of the Trinity.
All the cornfields on Trinity were broken up. The Indian bands driven to the Brazos and Red River and many of their principal warriers slain. John B Denton slain on the part of the whites and Mjr Stout wounded.
It would be impossible to recollect all the persons killed on the frontier in the course of five years of war, but among them was Washburn, Keithly, Kemp (note: probably a reference to Isaac Camp), Garner, Clubz, Moody, Mrs. Hunter and children together with them theretofore mentioned and many others not now recalled. Several negros have been killed by them and it is a strange fact that not one negro has ever attempted to escape from his master in order to join the indians."
Note: Doctor Rowlett's report attempted to describe in as much detail as possible the difficulties experienced by the settlers in the Red River Valley during those particularly violent five or so years. Even though he was unable to provide all the names of those slain in Indian raids, his recall was sufficient to provide the impetus for others to remember in greater detail specific incidents. Some authorities of the time estimated that better than 200 persons lost their lives in this war. Curiously the pioneer women seemed to have escaped the usual murder and kidnapping.
Of all the annals of Indian raids the only deaths mentioned among the women of Fannin County were those of Mrs. Minerva Hunter, her young daughter, and a female slave.
Dr. Rowlett concluded his report to Lamar with some general demographic information about Fannin County. Keep in mind that although the Fannin County of Dr. Rowlett's report extended some 385 miles to its western border, the settlements and populated areas were generally east of the area known as cross timbers, located today in Cooke County.
"At one time in the year 38 the population had dwindled by removals and death to not more than 100 men, less than half their number at a former date. But the population has now increased to some 6 or 700 men.
The county now produces cotton, wheat, tobacco, and Indian corn in great abundance. During the present winter up to January 15th more than 200 families have emigrated to the county of Fannin."
Information from Doctr Rowlett
on the Red River.
Although Dr. Rowlett was certainly not the first settler in the confines of present day Fannin County, those circumstances belonging to a group of single men who roamed in and out of the area from the early 1830's, his efforts at introducing the more stable immigrants certainly produced the impetus for a permanent status in the area. It was his efforts that allow us to designate him as the father of Fannin County.
Unfortunately his accomplishments are generally unknown today. Fannin County had several men who provided the necessary guidance during those founding years and all of them influenced what Fannin County is today, but Rowlett's mission needs to be preserved and recognized. There is absolutely nothing in the confines of this county that mark his passage here save for a small historical marker over his grave, Isn't it time that our county officials and others pay the proper tribute to this man?
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas