A TALE OF TWO TRAINS
By John Limmer
As we discovered in the previous two chapters, James Bloodworth set up shop on Holloway Creek sometime around 1879. Five years earlier, in 1874, the Pentecost family made their first appearance in the Cross Cut area, but neither arrived in completely unsettled territory. Thanks to the arrival of two previous wagon trains -the first in 1859, and the second, circa 1866 -competition for Bloodworth' s Mercantile and helpful neighbors for the Pentecost clan were already well established along the bayou.
The first of those two trains left Stone County, Missouri in 1859. The man in charge was one James Harvey McPeeters. James' wife, Charity Lavada, and their son, Charles, had both died two years earlier. Adding to his grief was the obvious fact that civil war was just over the horizon and Missouri would most certainly be one of the first states drawn into it. Local fighting had in fact already broken out between opposing factions and James still had two living sons to worry about. So, like many before and many more after him, he loaded up and headed southwest, to Texas.
His charge on the long, hazardous trip included his two young boys, Harvey Taylor, age 11, and John L., age 14. You were introduced to John L. (Uncle Johnny) McPeeters in Chapter Two when he and his wife, Harriet Polly Byrd, (sister of Jesse Blackston Byrd Senior and Martin Shelby Byrd Senior) adopted and reared Hattie Clark Pentecost, and purchased the first Cross Cut "town lot". Following James' wagon was that of his daughter, Agnes, her husband, David Q. Anderson, and their two children, Buck and Josephine. Behind them was another daughter, Letha J., and her husband, Martin Shelby Byrd.
Martin and Letha settled on the Pecan Bayou and built Byrd's Indian Trading Post, approximately one-ha1f mile west of the present-day Byrd's Store. The following is taken directly from Jim Byrd's writing: "Some of the early directions stated that Byrd's Indian Trading Post was located on the south side of the Pecan Bayou above the mouth of Elm Creek where the Coleman and Comanche road crossed Pecan Bayou. Close to this location is a crossing on the Pecan Bayou named 'Letha's Crossing' after Martin's wife, Letha.
It stood to reason that Martin Shelby Byrd, Senior owned the land on which he built the Byrd's Trading Post. In checking the old land ownership maps of Brown County, it was found that (he) owned land about one-half mile west on the Pecan Bayou from the present-day Byrd's Store."
The next "emigrants" to arrive were another McPeeters daughter, Mary Elizabeth,and her husband, George Washington Lewis in the Spring of 1861. The harrowing trip by covered wagon through Oklahoma Indian territory was dangerous enough, but tame in comparison to the rigors of the job George accepted from Martin Byrd after his arrival. To sell and trade goods, one must have a constant supply of goods to sell and trade, and George became Martin’s freighter. His route included round trips between Byrds’s store and Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco and Comanche, all of which went through hostile Indian territory. At the end of a good trip, George rolled into the trading post yard with a full load and personally unscathed. On bad trips, his wagon was empty - its load stolen, but he was still personally intact. On terrible trips, Martin lamented the total loss of his merchandise, and Mary had to break out the bandages and patch up the holes in husband George's body.
At this point things get a little confusing, so the reader must pay attention. James Harvey McPeeters, Martin Shelby Byrd Senior, George Washington Lewis, and David Q. Anderson were solidly entrenched in Brown County, Texas. One would assume James and David were farming, we know Martin had a store to run, and George, when Mary wasn't pulling the occasional arrow out of his back, was hauling freight. They had found a new life, but each still had people in the Old South, and things were starting to get pretty nasty back home.
Before we set the scene as it was then, I would like to extend a grateful acknowledgment to Mr. James Neal Byrd Senior, supplier of the facts in this chapter, and apologize for any liberties I may take with his narrative. Most of the following is quoted directly from Mr. Byrd's excellent writing, "Exodus From Stone County, Missouri". Some, in the interest of continuity and flow, is paraphrased.
"Jayhawkers" from the Territory of Kansas were raiding in Missouri. Because of this, Union forces in the region had been reorganized, and the newly classified "District of the Border" had been placed under the command of a no nonsense officer by the name of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. General Ewing, brother-in-law to William Tecumseh Sherman, decided to strike at the Southern sympathizers where they were most vulnerable: through the families who gave the "bushwhackers" food and shelter. The General gave orders to round up the mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts of the most notorious "Bushwhackers" and have them placed in confinement. That "confinement" for twelve of these unfortunate women was on the second floor of a dilapidated building in Kansas City. The building collapsed, killing five and seriously injuring several more. Among those killed was Josephine Anderson, sister of "Bloody Bill Anderson", of Quantrill's Guerrillas. One of the injured was another of Bloody Bill's sisters.
It seems doubtful Quantrill's men needed further incentive, but General Ewing - apparently deciding confinement was not feasible, added fuel to the fire by issuing General Order No.10, ordering all wives and children of Bushwhackers to leave Missouri at once.
If the General was waiting for a response, he didn't have to wait long. Three days after the order was issued, Quantril led some 450 men into the town of Lawrence, Kansas with orders to kill every man big enough to carry a gun. Four hours later they left. Behind them were at least 150 male citizens lying dead in the streets of a burning town.
Four days after that bloody raid, General Ewing responded by issuing General Order No.11 One even more repressive than No.10. It required nearly all of the inhabitants of three Missouri counties and half of another to vacate their homes and remove all their belongings from the State within 15 days. Although Stone County was not one of those listed, who knew when General Order No.12 might be issued.
As if all of that were not enough to cause one to consider a rapid change of scenery, Nancy Hatfield Lewis, George's mother, received further inspiration at the hands of the Union Army itself. A unit of that army raided the Lewis farm, took what they could carry, burned the rest, and left Nancy to care for her five children alone and with no way to support them. Alone, because one of the things they took with them was Nancy's husband, David. He was conscripted to serve in the Union Army, the same army that had just destroyed his entire way of life. It goes without saying, David Wesley Lewis did not go willingly, and, to his credit as a husband and father, he managed to terminate his "enlistment" by escaping from the stockade and returning to Nancy and what was left of their burned out home a few weeks after his "recruitment". Not long thereafter, the Lewis' and Byrds' got their heads together and apparently decided Stone County, Missouri was a mighty good place to be from. They remembered the last little wagon train that fled to the safety of Texas, and they remembered the man who led it. Two possible scenarios come to mind: either McPeeters and Martin Byrd had simply had enough in '59, and left Missouri for the greener, and safer pastures of Texas, or they went ahead to scout the unknown land across the Red River and find a suitable home site for the rest of the family. In either case, James Harvey McPeeters got a letter .
Stone County, Missouri is situated in the southwestern portion of the state. Its southern county line is also the east/west state line between Missouri and Arkansas, and the Oklahoma (then, the Indian Nations) north/south border lies approximately 60 miles to the west. Izard County, Arkansas is approximately 80 miles east and 20 miles south of Stone County, Missouri. The distance, as the crow flies, from Byrd's Trading Post to or from either of the two points is something in excess of 450 miles. In today's world, driving such a distance on paved roads at seventy-plus miles an hour seems insignificant. In 1863 however, roads were few and far between, bridges were almost nonexistent, and the pace of travel was set by the walking speed of horses or mules pulling the wagon. But in this case, it wasn't so much a case of distance, as of route selection.
There were two ways to go: The first was across the state of Arkansas where they would be reentering a war zone they had so recently escaped, and risking encounters with both Union and Confederate troops; the other was through The Indian Nations where their concern would be Native Americans who were not particularly enamored at the time by the presence of uninvited white travelers across the land onto which they had been forced by an equally white government. Either way, it promised to be touch-and- go, on both legs of the journey.
Worries for their family and friends outweighed the possible dangers of the trip however, so James, Martin, Martin's wife (James' daughter) Letha, and their two young sons crawled back onto their wagon seats and headed back to Missouri. Who was left in charge of the trading post and in care of James' two boys is anyone's guess. Logic says it would have been George and Mary Lewis. One might assume those who stayed on expected to see the travelers return in a few short months. But then, as now, assumptions are dangerous things. It would be three long years before the travelers returned to the peace and tranquillity of the bayou.
Meanwhile, back in Stone County, Eliza (Liza) Jane Byrd, wife of Jesse Blackston Byrd Senior, and daughter of David Lewis (the one who was abducted by the Union Army) could see the handwriting on the wall and feared for the safety of her children. Luckily for Liza, she had friends who owned a farm in Izard County, Arkansas. Arkansas was on the outer fringes of the war, so-to-speak, and still pretty much under the control of the Confederacy at the time, so Liza Jane and her mother Nancy packed up the kids and took them to the Drake's farm to stay until the war was over, or they could retrieve them on their way out; whichever came first. It wasn't long thereafter that the Drake's hospitality would be taxed to the limit.
To avoid further confusion (if that is possible), we will jump ahead to September of 1863. The scene is the Byrd place in Stone County, Missouri. The wagons are loaded and the teams hitched and waiting patiently in the yard. Filing from the porch are those who will make the journey, the first leg of which is a relatively short (80-plus miles) but highly risky trip to Izard County, Arkansas to retrieve Liza's children.
There are no records of the arrangement of the wagons in the train, but again for purposes of simple introduction, we will assign an order ourselves. The lead wagon of Jesse Blackston Byrd Senior, age 43, and his young wife of only two years, Liza Jane, 28, carried only household goods and 'necessities". Their children, his and hers by previous marriages, were being cared for by the Drake's in Arkansas. Neither Jesse nor Liza drove their own wagon as both mounted horses for the journey. As the only one of the group, outside her mother, to have made the trip to lzard County, this scrappy little 5'2" Pennsylvania Dutch lass was chosen to scout for and guide the train. But she did not ride the dusty back-roads alone; a scary enough prospect in and of itself. She was, at the time, five months pregnant with Jesse Junior, who would greet the troubled world on January 28, 1864, on the Drake farm.
Next in line was the wagon of Martin Shelby Byrd Senior, 29. His precious cargo included his wife Letha, also 29, and their two sons William J., and James Harvey. All had made the return trip from the bayou to assist their family. Letha, like Liza Jane, was pregnant with a son, but not quite so far along as Liza. Martin Shelby Junior would be born on March 18. The joy of his arrival would be short lived however, as Letha and Martin would lose little Martin's brother William some two months later, on May 30.
Behind Martin's was the wagon of Jams Jackson Byrd, 36, his wife Mary McClain,also 36, and their children: Sara E., 10; Pleasant Smith, 8; Charles M., 6; and Jim, only 3 years old.
William Byrd, 32, helped his wife Rachel Amanda Perry, also 32, and their daughter, Mary E. aboard wagon number 4.
Wagon 5 carried the Lewis family. David Lewis, one time farmer, then conscripted Union soldier, now classified as a deserter, boosted his wife Nancy, and their children, Amanda, twin boys Peter and Joseph, Franklin, Elzada, and grandchild Lafayette (Fate) Harrell into place.
Bringing up the rear was the wagon of James Harvey McPeeters, then 49. The good-hearted James was probably wondering what he had gotten himself into as he and the other men mounted their own horses.
One can imagine Jesse surveying the group to see that everyone was ready and motioning to Liza to lead off. At that point in history, the Byrd family odyssey began. To the casual bystander, the action which followed must have looked rather odd. The women popped the reins and started their wagons up the lane in single file. The men, all on horseback drifted off into the woods beside the road and quickly disappeared from sight.
It must have been hard for these proud young men to swallow. For the first time in their
lives, their mere presence was a detriment to their families, and a threat to the success of the long trip ahead. To understand why, we have only to look back to the experience suffered by David and Nancy Lewis.
The union army was pushing south, destroying everything in its path and punishing those who had raised weapons against it. The Confederacy was struggling to avoid the inevitable, but it desperately needed two things: guns and men to shoot them. It was not a time to be seen on the roads wearing anything save blue or gray. So, the men stayed out of sight, unquestionably within rifle range should trouble arise, and the women proceeded
as though alone and fleeing with their children.
As to the danger to the women and children, let me remind the reader these were
far different times than now. This was still the Old South where women were respected as
such and children were held inviolate. Even the butchers in Quantrill's raiders were told
not to harm the women in Lawrence, Kansas during their infamous raid.
And so they made their way out of Missouri and into Arkansas; the women driving
the wagons and the men staying out of sight during the day and coming into camp at night at a signal from Nancy Lewis. Nancy’s vice was the corn cob pipe. If it’s glow could be detected within the camp, it was safe for the men to enter. If it remained unlighted, they slept where they were. The train arrived safely at the Drake farm in the fall of 1863. On January 28, four months after their arrival, Liza Jane gave birth to Jesse Blackston Byrd Junior. That same youngster would grow to become a prominent merchant in Cross Cut, Texas, owning and operating three grocery stores, and a respected farmer in the Northwest Brown County.
The details of the Byrd's extended stay at the Drakes', and the completion of their journey to Pecan Bayou, while intriguing, are not germane to our tale of Cross Cut. We have met Jesse Junior, and we have seen the family stock from which he sprang. It is easy to see where he got his ambition, and the strength and tenacity to pursue his goals. Suffice it to say the Byrds, Lewis', and McPeeters arrived back on the bayou in 1866.
JESSE BLACKSTON BYRD, JUNIOR (January 28, 1864 -February I, 1944)
married MISS ELIZA REBECCA (WILSON) GREENWOOD (January 7, 1868 -
August 16, 1923). Mrs. Greenwood had one child by a former marriage.
TOM D. GREENWOOD (January 29, 1889 -July 17, 1915). Tom married
Nona Williams. They had two children: Carl A., and Stancel.
Children of Jesse and Eliza are:
EVA MAE. (August 22, 1891 -July 11, 1951) Eva married Luceous (Luke) Q. ~
Clark (September 15, 1889- Apri126, 1970) on October II, 1908. Eva and Luke had
two children: Alton Cleo Clark, (October 5, 1909- August 31, 1982), and Walton Tye
Clark, (August 20, 1912- July 6, 1979).
Alton married Athalee Russell, (November 3, 1915. 1995). Tye married Lavada
McKinney (August 12, 1916).
Following Eva Mae's death, Luke married Correll Oline (March 6, 1889 -June I,
WILLIAM ERNEST BYRD. (January 5, 1893- Apri13, 1970). Ernest married
Maude DeBusk (January 7, 1895 -September 7, 1989). Ernest and Maude had six
children: Lawrence (October 13, 1913), Leta V. (December 18, 1914- April 16, 1961),
Margaret (1919- 1997), Jake Leroy ( ), J.T., and Lillian LaJean (April 11,
Leta V. married Thomas Raymond Creamer (1911 -1963), Jake married twice.
First to Dorothy. Jake's second wife was Julia Dicey Hounshell. J. T. married Polly;
Margaret married William E. (Ed) McCaroll (1918- 1985) ; and Lillian LaJean married
a gentleman named Wilson.
JESSE LEROY BYRD. (January 24, 1895 -March 19, 1984). Leroy married
twice. His first marriage was to Miss Lee Ola Parks of Rising Star (1896- 1962). They
had two children: Adolphus Ozell Byrd (July 3, 1913 -November 26, 1993), and
William Woodrow Byrd (January 13, 1915- April 16, 1972). Jesse Leroy's second marriage was to Atha Hyllas Mason (February 26, 1903 - September 19, 1979). Atchie gave Leroy five more children: Gladys Oneta (September 12, 1922), Leon Dwight (February 23, 1926 -1936), Norma Jean (May 28, 1930), Ellowayne (Apri129, 1933), and Glenda Delores (October 8, 1941).
MADIE BELLE. (October 23, 1898- January 30, 1992). Madie Belle married
Thomas Spencer Chambers (February 24, 1897 -May 28, 1984). Belle and Tom had
six sons: Clifton Harold (May 24, 1917- February 1, 1988), Clyde Milton (January 6,
1921 -October, 1997), Carl Clayton (October 9, 1922- Apri12, 1993), Thomas Junior
(Apri15, 1925 -September 15, 1994), Kenneth Hugh (December 11, 1928 -December
19, 1990), and Harshel Rex (March 16, 1932). Cliff married Mary Lou Dibrell (January 30, 1919); Clyde married Ruby Jewel Ragland (December 17, 1923); Carl married Peggy Joyce Stark (October 21, 1928); Junior married Billie Jo Baucom (March 4, 1927); Kenneth married three times, the first was Nancy Merritt (August 9, 1932 -January 30, 1979), second wife (unknown), and Children of Jesse and Eliza are:
EVA MAE. (August 22, 1891 -July 11, 1951) Eva married Luceous (Luke) Q. Clark (September 15, 1889- Apri126, 1970) on October II, 1908. Eva and Luke had two children: Alton Cleo Clark, (October 5, 1909- August 31, 1982), and Walton Tye Clark, (August 20, 1912- July 6, 1979).
Alton married Athalee Russell, (November 3, 1915. 1995). Tye married Lavada McKinney (August 12, 1916).
Following Eva Mae's death, Luke married Correll Oline (March 6, 1889 -June I,
WILLIAM ERNEST BYRD. (January 5, 1893- Apri13, 1970). Ernest married Maude DeBusk (January 7, 1895 -September 7, 1989). Ernest and Maude had six children: Lawrence (October 13, 1913), Leta V. (December 18, 1914- April 16, 1961), Margaret (1919- 1997), Jake Leroy ( ), J.T., and Lillian LaJean (April 11,
Leta V. married Thomas Raymond Creamer (1911 -1963), Jake married twice. First to Dorothy. Jake's second wife was Julia Dicey Hounshell. J. T. married Polly; Margaret married William E. (Ed) McCaroll (1918- 1985) ; and Lillian LaJean married a gentleman named Wilson.
JESSE LEROY BYRD. (January 24, 1895 -March 19, 1984). Leroy married twice. His first marriage was to Miss Lee Ola Parks of Rising Star (1896- 1962). They had two children: Adolphus Ozell Byrd (July 3, 1913 -November 26, 1993), and William Woodrow Byrd (January 13, 1915- April 16, 1972). Jesse Leroy's second marriage was to Atha Hyllas Mason (February 26, 1903 - September 19, 1979). Atchie gave Leroy five more children: Gladys Oneta (September 12, 1922), Leon Dwight (February 23, 1926 -1936), Norma Jean (May 28, 1930),
Ellowayne (Apri129, 1933), and Glenda Delores (October 8, 1941).
MADIE BELLE. (October 23, 1898- January 30, 1992). Madie Belle married Thomas Spencer Chambers (February 24, 1897 -May 28, 1984). Belle and Tom had six sons: Clifton Harold (May 24, 1917- February 1, 1988), Clyde Milton (January 6, 1921 -October, 1997), Carl Clayton (October 9, 1922- Apri12, 1993), Thomas Junior
(Apri15, 1925 -September 15, 1994), Kenneth Hugh (December 11, 1928 –December 19, 1990), and Harshel Rex (March 16, 1932). Cliff married Mary Lou Dibrell (January 30, 1919); Clyde married Ruby Jewel Ragland (December 17, 1923); Carl married Peggy Joyce Stark (October 21, 1928); Junior married Billie Jo Baucom (March 4, 1927); Kenneth married three times, the first was Nancy Merritt (August 9, 1932 -January 30, 1979), second wife (unknown), and third, Bobbie Nell Kinder (November 21, 1933); and Rex married Jorene Baker (September 5, 1937).
WALTER LESLIE. (February 10, 1901 -October 12, 1980). Les married Opal Eugenia Chambers (February 17,1904 -January 1,1992) and they had one child: Hoyt Grigsby (November 4, 1923).
Opal and Tom Chambers (who married Les' sister, Madie Belle) were cousins.
EARL JACKSON. (May 12, 1903 - October 26, 1990). Earl married Betty 01a Martin (June 28, 1903 M December 17, 1988). They had no children.
ADDlE MYRTLE. (October 8,1905 M November 1,1990). Add married George Monroe (Roe) Martin (March 25, 1899 M April 15, 1994). Roe was the brother of Betty Ola Martin who married Earl Jackson Byrd, Add's brother. Roe and Add had six children: Connie Mae, Raymond, Horace, Jerry , Jeanette, and Fontaine.
After Eliza's death, Jesse married CHARLOTTE ELLEN (PEARL) STOCKTON and that marriage produced one child:
COURTNEY DALE (July 13, 1929 M April 4, 1992). Courtney married Charlotte Passow (March 22, 1934)
DAVID (DAVE) V. BYRD, brother of Jesse Blackston Byrd, Jr. (May 7,1873 - February 23, 1932) married PHOEBE IDA AYNES (April 8, 1875- May 27, 1949) on July 12, 1896. The marriage produced six children, but only one of those children is directly connected to Cross Cut.
ELVIE CLARENCE BYRD, (September 22, 1897 M June 18, 1963) married Elsie May Edington (September 16, 1900- March 23, 1995). Elvie and Elsie had one child, 0. B. Byrd (February 13, 1921). 0. B. married Blanche Howe (January 6, 1928)of Healdton, Oklahoma, and their marriage produced one child: O.B.(Sonny)Byrd,Jr.(October 13, 1950- February 8, 1994).
The list of descendants of these early Cross Cut Byrds would fill several more pages, but, as mentioned earlier, we are restricting this record to forebearers and descendants who actually have direct ties to the town during its existence. This chapter, as much as any other in the book, should give the reader a touch of the flavor of an early pioneering family's struggles and victories, and clearly illustrate the commingling of bloodlines which gave Cross Cut its unique feeling of unity and solidarity. That same feeling, established over a century ago on the banks of the Pecan Bayou, still Warns the hearts
of those who were fortunate enough to have lived the Cross Cut experience.
The lady to the far left in the photograph above, bible in hand, is the matriarch of the Cross Cut branch of the Byrd clan, Eliza (Liza) Jane (Lewis) Byrd. Next to her is Jesse Blackston Byrd, Jr. And his wife, Eliza Rebecca (Greenwood) Byrd. To their left is their daughter, Madie Belle.
The photograph was taken circa 1904.