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100 Years Ago: Adair Countians in the Wild West

When Adair Countians moved west to settle Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, and New Mexico, after getting Indiana squared away and stocked with sons and daughters of the Commonwealth, it often looked as though there were more of us there than here. This chapter deals with Adair Countians taking over Texas, especially Hill County, where one of our most famous sons, Melvin D. Traylor, got started in the banking business. The Royses in Texas raise another question: Is Royse City, Rockwall County, named for our Royses. Raising another question: If so, why did Jan and Mark Royse name their boy Tyler Royse, for Tyler, Texas, obviously named for its most famous son, Adair Countian Dr. Tyler Baker; instead of naming him Royse City Royse? Those questions will await another day, so much about Adair County is revealed below a discussion of that issue cannot be squeezed in today. -EW

By "Jim"

From about 1817 or 1818 until the early part of the 20th century, thousands of Adair Countians pulled up stakes and headed west. Many went to Illinois, Missouri, and Texas; a few hardy souls went on to Kansas, Iowa, Montana, and New Mexico and later, to the Indian Territory that became Oklahoma; and a few made it as far west as the Pacific shore.

Many years ago, Dr. George Schwitzer, in speaking of the early settlers of the Bluegrass State, quipped that at one time there were more Baptists in Kentucky than there were people. Along those same lines, there were times more people seemed to be egressing Adair County than there were inhabitants therein.

After having been in hot pursuit of Adair County's dearly (and a few not so dearly) departed for nigh onto three decades, I long ago accepted this outflow as fact but nothing had ever brought it so sharply into focus as did following letter.

This missive came from the pen of Adair County native Franklin Pierce Royse; he was born about 1853, the youngest of William and Mary (Stone) Royse's several children. The letter appeared in the March 8, 1911 Adair County News.

Guthrie, Oklahoma

As a copy of the Adair County News has fallen into my hands it makes me think of olden times and I like to read the letters. It has been twenty years [sic; other interior references in the letter fix the time span at closer to twenty-six years] since I left Kentucky. I stayed with my father until I was thirty-two years of age, and on Harrods Fork, probably some will remember me, Pierce Royse.

I have been at Guthrie only a few days; I am keeping house with my sister, Amanda English, for a short while. I have traveled around most of Texas, can give a true description of almost any county.

I will give some of the deaths that might interest some of the Adair county people. Charlie Carter and Jeff Creel were buried at Boise City; Owen Carter, a son of Charley Carter, was killed on a train, swept off a bridge as a brakeman.

I lived at Boise sixteen years, helped my brother build the first house that was ever there and broke up one hundred acres before the railroad came, and then he sold it out in town lots for what he could get, one hundred and eighty acres. Boise is a fine city now, is surrounded by fine country and is the best trading point in North Texas.

[The above reference to North Texas implies that Mr. Royse interchangeably used Boise and Boise City when referring to Boise, Texas, located in the far west-central part of the Texas Panhandle, not far removed from the New Mexico border. There is a Boise City in the panhandle of Oklahoma, about 120 miles (as the crow flies) northeast of Boise, Texas.]

I have lived in Hill County [Texas] for twelve years, the Adair County people are all doing well: Scott Walker, Tyler Chandler, the Pattersons, Englands, Blairs and Harveys are all doing well that came from Adair. [In 1900, Mr. Royse resided with the George D. Blair family in Hill Co.] Uncle Ike Janes is well to do. He found his lost boy, Muncey, who left home when a small boy and was gone 16 years. [Muncey] got married and his mother-in-law wrote to his parents and then they flew to see Muncey, in Young County [Texas] and found him doing well.

[James Muncie "Muncey" Janes was born in Adair County near the end of July, 1878. He apparently had left the familial roof when he was about sixteen.]

Keslay McClister was buried in Hill County, his widow and children are doing well, they live at Bynum, Hill County; the children are all married but one, Leslie, who lives with his mother; and three girls, and Finis are doing well. I have been to all of their homes. Finis is a gospel singer and his wife an organist. Harden Harvey was buried at Hillsboro three months ago.

Ruel Edrington was buried at Hillsboro last fall; he was educated at Columbia, Kentucky. He farmed and ranched in Hill County for several years when he went into the banking business. For a number of years he was President of the First Bank of Hillsboro when he died. His son takes his place. Tom Conover is another bank holder from Adair county, he being the son of Marion Conover.

[This letter was written two years or more after Hillsboro's most famous-to-be adopted son, Adair County native Melvin Alvah Traylor, had removed from Hillsboro to work in a bank in Ballinger, Runnels County, Texas. Melvin had departed Adair County, bound for Texas, just before Christmas Day, 1898, aged 20 years and two months. The online Handbook of Texas notes that while in Hillsboro, Traylor "ran the Malone Bank from 1905 to 1907" and that during that time, "he was banker, janitor, and night watchman; he slept in the bank."]

George Traylor is road commissioner and owns a good farm and is doing well, his brother Joe lives at Dallas and is a carpenter contractor and has made a fortune, The Curry boys live at Dallas; Ed is a boss carpenter, gets $5.00 per day. John B. Curry attends to the Fair Grounds and keeps boarders and is doing well. Jim runs a wood yard.

John Cook and Blair Roul [sic] live at Dallas.

Some correspondent was inquiring for Fee Turner. He was buried at Blair, Oklahoma. He raised a fine family and the girls married in Hill County and done well. I have visited all their homes. They all moved farther West.

Tom Turner lives at Ballinger, Texas. He did well and educated his children and they are married and doing well. Tom lost his wife and married a railroad widow.

The Wooten boys are doing well at Hillsboro. Tom is in the auto business, the others in the drug business. Ben Harvey is street sprinkler and has been for several years and is doing well.

The most sorrowful thought that is on my mind is the death of my nephew with whom I lived for ten years. Ed Patterson died the 26th, of February; he was sick only ten days with brain fever. He was the best friend I had in Hill County. He was of sterling character and a religious man. [Mr. Patterson appeared in the 1910 Hill County census along with his family; he was 40 years of age. Mr. Royse appeared in the household as a boarder.]

Well, I will lay aside my pen for the present as I know nothing about this town [Guthrie] only I see it is a large one and as red as barn paint. It has been very cold here for several days. I have two brothers living in this state about 100 miles from here at Washington. I haven't seen them since I left Kentucky, Sherrod and Bird. I saw Bird fifteen years ago. /s/ F.P. Royse.

-Compiled by "Jim"

This story was posted on 2011-03-06 09:27:40
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