Mason County News
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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 • Posted July 4, 2012

The ranging companies, under the command of John Coffee Hays, had a number of dedicated souls who provided service to the State of Texas from 1840 thru 1880 for which many of the new counties received their names as well as other memorials around the State, such as the Dawson Memorial located on Monument Hill southwest of La Grange, the San Jacinto Monument and the Alamo dedicated to those who were in the struggle for the Texas Independence.

Many counties in the Hill Country of Texas were named in honor of some of the Rangers who served to establish a great nation and later a State of our great Nation in the San Antonio and Seguin areas as the examples are Hays, Brown, Archer, Eastland, McCulloch, Tom Green, Taylor, Jones, Mitchell, Gillespie, Caldwell, Coleman, Walker, Fisher, Hamilton, Sutton and others throughout the State but these mentioned are familiar to us. The afore mentioned, may or may not have had the distinction of the honor but those names appeared on the Ranger roosters in the l840s.

Some who served as Rangers during the 1840’s have descendents in the area at the present time. I have been informed by Charlene Eckert Nash that her Great Uncle, Gustav Elley, a German immigrate, served with the Hays Rangers. His name appeared on the 1842 rooster at the battle of Salado Creek where he was taken prisoner by the Woll forces and taken to Mexico. He was released in 1843 and returned to the Hill Country where he settled in Gillespie County and in 1846, moved back to the New Braunfels area due to the un-settled conditions of the frontier life.

Mary Hemphill tells me the Jamie Hemphill family are direct descendents of the Cap’t. William Mosby Eastland, who was captured in the Meir Expedition and was one of 17 who drew the famous Black Bean and was executed by orders from Santa Anna. He was a member of the Hays Ranger group of San Antonio and Eastland County was named in his honor.

Kimble County became the home of Creed Taylor, who, with three of his brothers, were rangers through the 1840’s. Creed Taylor was injured in the battle of Salado Creek with General Woll in 1842 and never appeared on the roosters after that encounter. And William A. A. Wallace (Big Foot) called a halt to his ranger days in the 1870’s and retired to a 200 acre farm that he and his friend, Jackson, bought somewhere northwest of San Antonio. During his days as a ranger, he remembered the fine meals that the frontier families supplied on occasion, of fresh veggies and meat, so he settled down to the farm life, thinking that he would enjoy the same bill of fare. During the winter, they built a cabin of sorts and cleared about 15 acres for the spring crop and enclosed a meadow for their horses to graze in the tall grass. And they planted their spring crop of corn, watermelons and cantaloupes. One evening about dust, a lone rider came up on his horse and in the dusk, he could see a long, lean man sprawled out on a leaning tree, which was a part of the wall of their house and he asked “ I am on my way to San Antonio and am lost. Can you give me directions, kind sir? Big foot reared up from his perch and said “Author, is that you”? The rider was John C. Duvall, the surveyor whom Big Foot provided escort service for earlier, in part, the surveying of the Llano River. The Rangers nick named Duvall as “Author” because he was making notes all the time.

Since it was too late for Duvall to continue his trip, Big Foot invited him to stay the night so they got his horse with the herd and came in for a meal and talks. Duvall was interested in the recent past of Big Foot so he told him that he and Jackson bought this farm to raise something good to eat. They planted corn, melons and the cantaloupes turned out to be gourds and the corn dried up due to drought. He was off on a hunting trip before the corn was ready to eat fresh and as he was returning to the cabin, he was upwind and could smell the fried corn. When he got to the cabin, Jackson had fried and eaten the whole crop in one settin. So, the only thing they had was watermelon, so they made a meal of watermelon. Big Foot was never married but he told Author that there were a couple Widders down the Crek and the thought that he and Jackson would visit them later.

The farm life was then, as it is today, always in need of a rain. So, he left the farm life and took to ACTING. Big Foot began to tour the State and became a big attraction due to his stature and use of the English language. He appeared at the State Fair in the fall of 1898 as an attraction and in January of 1899, he passed away and was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin under the Big Oak Tree. Big Foot never became attached to the Widders down the Crek. He was born in Virginia in 1816 and only returned there briefly in his lifetime to settle the family estate.

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