De Leon Free Press

DeLeon, Comanche County, Texas, Friday, February 19, 1926

Rev. J.M. Strickland Tells Story Of Early Hardships and of Finding Sister Recently Sixty Years Lost

            A story not without its …pathos, and keen human interest is that by Rev. J. M. STRICKLAND of this city.  The occasion for the incident being related at this time is in the fact that only recently Rev. STRICKLAND found his sister, Mrs. Mary E. FORSYTH, 2251 L Street, San Diego, whom he had not seen nor heard of for a period of sixty years.  He supposed that she was long since dead.  Rev. Strickland is planning to make the long journey out to San Diego in May, where the writer fancies one of ……….the flowers and trees of Southern California and an old lady, aged 76, waiting anxiously for the promised visit of her brother, aged 73, with whom she knew such hardships in their childhood days.

            But let us begin at the beginning.

            It was in those turbulent days of the early sixties when a band of bushwhackers, under cover of darkness, took the father of a family of ten children from their home near Cane Hill, Ark., and killed him at Fort Smith.  The mother languished in illness for about a month after the death of the husband and father, then passed out into the Great Beyond.  One child died before the children, driven by want, were forced to leave their home.  They went to the home of their uncle, Wm LAND, or rather the home of his wife, for he was away in the war and soon died in a hospital at Ft. Smith.  He left his wife and two children.  The widow bravely faced the world with eleven mouths to feed.  But production was at a standstill in the south.  Only a few old men, women and a multitude of children were left.  Hunger stalked abroad in the land.  With hunger came disease and death.

Buried His Brother

            At this time Rev. STRICKLAND was about nine years of age.  He recalled an incident of that period that the writer considers unparalleled for its pathos and tragedy.  One of his brothers, aged 13, contracted pneumonia from exposure by reason of being under nourished and scantily clad.  The brother died.  Women fashioned a crude pine box and placed the body therein.  They placed the improvised coffin on a home-made slide and hitched a pony to it and our own J. M. STRICKLAND, doubtless sobbing for his lost elder brother, rode the pony as it pulled his brother to the grave.  It does not require a vivid imagination to picture the tragedy and the heartache of these little children as they followed the strange funeral procession across the bleak hills of Arkansas on a cold winter day, all of them perhaps suffering from being too scantily clad.  The women and older children lowered the body into the grave and heaped up the mound.

            The children remained with Mrs. Wm. LAND in Scott county for about two and a half years.  They were finally reduced to a state of starvation, as were many others near the close of the war.  Northern Arkansas was more or less neutral territory, lying between the opposing armies.  The government established orphanages or refugee homes.  One of these was at Fort Smith.  A northern preacher named SPRINGER, was placed in charge of the home and the government fed the inmates.  It was in this sanctuary that five women and twenty-one children made their way in 1865, and in the party was Mrs. Wm. LAND and her two children and the remaining ones of the ten STRICKLAND orphans.

Walked 46 Miles to Orphanage

            The party started out with a small yoke of oxen driven to an old wagon.  Most of them walked.  The distance was 46 miles. They had no food and but little money.  Hogs were plentiful in the hills of Arkansas and during the six days required to make the journey they killed three hogs which were eaten without bread or salt.  Rev. STRICKLAND said they cut the meat in strips and roasted it over camp fires, each one roasting his own meat on the end of a sharpened stick and they ate with a relish too, he said.

            Before reaching Ft. SMITH the yoke of steers gave out and they discarded the wagon, driving the animals on before them into the town.

            The military orphanage over which Rev. SPRINGER presided was a large old residence, the Latham House, the owner being absent.  Mrs. LAND and the children stayed there for about a year, working at whatever came to hand for their sustenance.  Rev. STRICKLAND, now perhaps eleven years of age, working in the commissary, issuing out the food.  Three of the STRICKLAND children died of measles during an epidemic.  At the end of the year, the war being over, the government attempted to send the refugees north.  Many of them rebelled, among them all the children of the STRICKLAND and LAND families.  They left the orphanage and made their way as best they could, there being only four of the ten who survived the war period, three boys and a girl.

            Shortly after their leaving the orphanage the only sister, Mary Elizabeth STRICKLAND, then 16 years of age, married and moved with her husband to Kansas.  Her brothers heard from her for about two months, then they became scattered and lost from each other and never heard again.  Sixty years passed.  Now the remaining members of the scattered family are about to be reunited.

Found Sister After 60 Years

            It was by the merest chance that Rev. STRICKLAND heard of his sister’s whereabouts.  His son, Rev. W.A. STRICKLAND, was pastor of the Baptist church at  Balko,  Okla.  Rev. J.A. LAND was pastor at the neighboring town, Forgan, Okla.  Rev. J.A. LAND’s father died at Ft. Beard, N. Mex.  He went to attend the funeral and met the daughter of Rev. STRICKLAND’s sister, who lived at Ft. Beard.  LAND knew something of the history of the STRICKLAND family.  The Ft. Beard woman, of course, knew that of her mother.  She wrote to Rev. STRICKLAND and they confirmed the relationship.

            Rev. STRICKLAND said his sister is mother of eleven children and has twenty grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  She was born in 1850 and he in 1853.  The other and only remaining brother is G.W. STRICKLAND of Gravitt, Ark., who formerly lived three miles southeast of De Leon for a number of years.  The third brother died somewhere in Texas about 15 years ago.

            Rev. STRICKLAND is among the staunch old pioneers of Comanche county.  He came to Texas when 22 years of age, making the journey with horse and wagon.  He married before leaving Arkansas and brought his young wife and one child across the prairies to make their home in what was virtually a wilderness.  Eighteen days were required to make the trip.  He settled on the SCOTT farm on Copperas creek, about eight miles from De Leon, although there was no De Leon for some years after he came.  Comanche was a mere village in 1875, when he landed here.  There was no railroad west of Ft. Worth.  There was a store at Hazel Dell and a couple at Sipe Springs in ’75, he stated, and the only churches in the county were at Van Dyke and South Leon.  The last Indian raid in the county was made in 1873, he stated, the redskins killing a man named LEITLE(?) between De Leon and Comanche.  De Leon was begun about 1878.  The railroad was built to De Leon about 1880.

            Rev. STRICKLAND has been a student and minister for many years.  His pioneer ministry doubtless contributed in a large measure to the molding of ideals of good citizenship, and of laying broad and deep the structure of religious faith which characterizes those of his denomination throughout this section.  It is said that a man’s religion should begin at home.  This must be true in the case as two of his seven sons have followed his worthy example and are active in the Baptist ministry and one is an evangelistic singer.


Wheeler Child Died

            The little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. WHEELER died at their home at Gorman Sunday at about 11:00 o’clock.  The little one was ill of membranous croup.  Mr. and Mrs. WHEELER lived in De Leon until about three months ago, he being in charge of the Holden Garage.  The child was the youngest of their two children.


North Ward Honor Roll

First Grade

Opal Mae TATE, Vance ROACH, Kathrene DONOHOE, C.J. TATE, Woodrow Wilson DAVIS.

Second Grade

Chrystelle HOLLEMAN, Oleta SMITH, Oneta POPE, Ada WISDOM.

Third Grade

Henry Grady PEEVY, Taylor MORRIS, W.M. WALKER, Jno. SMITH, Jamie HILL, Willie DILLARD, Ida McCURDY.

Fourth Grade

Ada DUKE, Errie Roy BARNARD, Arthur McCURDY.

Fifth Grade


Sixth Grade

Christine NORRY, Ruby WIDEMAN.

Seventh Grade

Ruth HOWE, Geneva COLEY, C.G. TATE, Nina Beth TERRELL, Thomas PITTMAN, Weldon WARE, Naoma WOODARD, Opal Mae FRANK, Lilian PITTMAN.



            Miss Marjorie SWAGERTY was hostess to the N.U.T. Club Thursday evening.  The home was beautifully decorated with Valentine suggestions.  Rook and “42” were played.  Several contests were played and prizes were won by Misses Bonnie COONER and Willie Mae JETTON.

            Refreshments consisting of sandwiches, olives, potato chips, hot chocolate with dainty plate favors were passed to Misses Bonnie COONER, Willia JETTON, Adelaide JOHNSTON, Maurine UPSHAW, Lettie LESTER, Hazel HUDDLESTON, Lucy Mae MERRITT, Clara Bell FUNDERBURGH and the hostess.


Local News

Mrs. C.E. GEORGE and children arrived from near Abilene Friday and the family are busy getting settled in the WEAVER cottage in east De Leon.  Mrs. C.B. WOOD, a sister of Mrs. GEORGE, drove over with them, returning to her home near Landers Sunday afternoon.


Miss Lelia JENKINS, who is teaching at Morgans Mill, was home for the past week-end with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. JENKINS.


Miss JOHNSON, daughter of Huley JOHNSON, was operated on for appendicitis at Gorman last Monday afternoon.  The operation was successful and the patient is recovering.  This is the fourth operation in this family in recent months.


Mrs. Henry Moore EVANS and Ralph PITTMAN, both of Wichita Falls, arrived Tuesday for a visit with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. B.J. PITTMAN.  Ralph has returned and Mrs. Evans is remaining for a longer visit.  B.J. PITTMAN, Jr. will be down from Dallas for the coming week-end.


W.W. NANCE, De Leon’s progressive wholesale dealer, attended the state produce men’s convention in session at Dallas during the week.


D. TOMLIN, De Leon druggist, got his name in the papers at Waco this week when he went there to replenish his stock.


John SWAGERTY, proprietor of the SWAGERTY Filling Station and Garage, was on business in Fort Worth during the week.


Allen BIBBY, Variety Store man, was buying merchandise in Fort Worth and Dallas during the week.


Ambrose MORGAN was home from Tarleton College the past week-end.


William WOZENCRAFT returned to De Leon from Merkel the last of the week and will reside here.


Prof. and Mrs. E.C. JOHNSON are the proud parents of a baby girl, born into their home on St. Valentine Day.  Mother and babe reported doing nicely.  Mrs. JOHNSON’s mother, Mrs. A. LORD of Navisota, is a guest in the home.


Duster News

Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey HODGES of De Leon spent Sunday in the home of E.M. SPENCER.


The party at the home of Mr. BYERS was immensely enjoyed by a large crowd Saturday.


Mr. Luther WILLIAMS of Comanche was in this community Friday night.


Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher CARWILE of near Gorman spent Sunday in the home of G.W. HADAWAY.


New Hope News

Mr. G.L. LEE lost a nice milk cow and it is believed that she had hydrophobia.  They noticed that something was wrong with the cow on Wednesday night and she died the next night.  She had not been bitten that they knew of although they think now she must have been bitten at some time.  Mr. LEE also had a dog that he did not think had been bit and had kept him tied ever since the mad dog scare.  Sunday morning he turned him loose and thought he would watch and see if he acted wrong in any way.  The dog ran and got hot and began having fits.  The dog was killed at once before biting anyone.  Also a pup that had only been there a few days was killed.


The box supper at New Hope Friday night was a success.  The boxes brought a nice sum of money.  The prettiest girl got a cake.  Miss Myrtle MORGAN received the most votes for the prettiest girl and that also brought a nice sum of money.


©2004,2005 Judith Michaels.  This transcription is the generous work of Judy Michaels taken from microfilm held by the Newspaper Collection of the University of Texas at Austin with a microfilm copy at Comanche Public Library.  The information may be used for personal research only and not for commercial purposes without specific permission.