Monday, May 2, 2011

Did You Know?

      Several months ago, before I fell and messed up my well-organized plans, I started writing about the history of Parker County. I found much more information than I expected and what I found made me realize afresh that history is much more than the dates and happenings we once worked so hard to memorize for the next day’s history test.
     History is the lives of people, whether cave men (and women) or astronauts: People who were once children, who loved and married and people who died in developing our country. Pioneers took on a new meaning as I read about those adventurous people who left the shelter and safety of Fort Worth (the army fort, not yet a town) and with their wagons loaded with all their possessions and provisions for months to come, headed west into Indian territory.
     Their lives and those of their families depended upon luck and their skill with their weapons against the extremely cruel Comanche and Kiowa Indians who claimed the unsettled area that was to become Parker County.
      After all these years, dates and names differ according to the various records, but generally 1850 is considered the beginning of this county’s settlement with one of the first settlements being established in the northern part of the county on a stage line known as the Old Fort Belknap Road.
     William G. Veal opened a general store at that location which was originally referred to as Creamland or Cream Hill. Several years later, Veal and fellow settlers John Lantz and G.W. Coleman constructed a large building that served as a Masonic meeting hall and a school. A huge bronze bell above the building was used to warn settlers of  Indian attacks. Soon after the building was finished Veal moved his general store near the school, and gradually the place came to be known as Veal's Station.
     Until the Indians were driven out the little settlement’s growth was slow but developed rapidly once that huge bell no longer rang announcing an impending attack.  The settlement grew to over 100 residents who along with surrounding farmers, were served by Veal’s original store, three churches, a school and two cotton gins.
     These were the days before our public school system and schooling had to be paid for by the parents of those attending. The Veal Station school became known as Parsons College after its director, Sam W. Parsons, and grew to an enrollment estimated at 500. This was an extremely high enrollment for the times and was made possible by an energetic agent who promoted the school throughout the developing state. Anything of value was accepted as payment for tuition and board. When Parsons resigned in 1899, he received as his last year's salary 100 cow ponies, sixty of which he traded for a store at Veal's Station.
     The routes chosen by the railroads decided the fate of many settlements across our nation and when Veal Station was bypassed it gradually declined.
     Unless there has been a revival in the last few years, a historical marker is all that now marks the site where Indians were fought and lives were lost.
    Some old timers called the area Dark Hollow and it was a bit spooky with deep valleys and streams.  My father used to take a bottle of water and hike that part of Parker County hunting for Indian artifacts. He found many in the Veal Station area indicating that it had once been the site of a major encampment. He was able to bring home many arrowheads and knives and even occasionally a grinding stone but most of these he had to leave.
      As a rock hound he also picked up interesting rocks and once brought a small chunk he identified as only a piece of Fools Gold or iron pyrite. I chose to disbelieve him. It was much more fun to let my imagination run wild. After all, this part of Texas has a history of Mexican mule trains carrying gold ore back to Mexico.  Ah-h history! There so much we don’t know; so much is lost!
Yet we can be thankful that interested people such as those listed below have saved so much.

Bibliography: Parker County Historical Markers and Joe Harper, The History of Education in Parker County, Texas (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State Teachers College, 1951). Gustavus Adolphus Holland, History of Parker County and the Double Log Cabin (Weatherford, Texas: Herald, 1931; rpt. 1937). Henry Smythe, Historical Sketch of Parker County and Weatherford (St. Louis: Lavat, 1877; rpt., Waco: Morrison, 1973). Weatherford Democrat, August 1