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Full text of "Captain John B. Denton, preacher, lawyer and soldier"

<S 



CAPTAIN 
JOHN B. DENTON 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/captainjohnbdentOOalle 



CAPTAIN 
JOHN B. DENTON 



PREACHER, LAWYER, 
AND SOLDIER 



HIS LIFE AND TIMES 

IN 

TENNESSEE, ARKANSAS, AND TEXAS 



BY 

WM. ALLEN 



1905 

R. R. DONNELLEY & SONS COMPANY 
CHICAGO 



TO OLD COMRADE PIONEERS OF DENTON COUNTY 

WHO FEEL NEAREST; 

AND TO ALL PIONEER SETTLERS OF TEXAS, 

THESE FOND MEMORIES 

ARE MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED 



?£=U=!S75-£ 



HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 

KOI 0SQ5 7flb0 



Cable of Contents! 

PAGE 

A Word to the Public - 9 

The Task of the Biographer - - ' "' - 1 2 

Search for the Lost Remains of 

Captain John B. Denton - 17 

Testimony of Robert G. Johnson- - 31 

Testimony of Robert H. Hopkins - -33 

Report of Hon. William Allen - - 36 

Report of Record and Chronicle - 45 

Rev. Allen's Speech - - 49 
Other Remarks, Music, and Third 

Burial of Captain Denton - - 63 

Boyhood of Denton - - 67 

Leaving his Cradle - - 73 

From Tennessee to Arkansas- - 77 

Leaving the W'ells Family - 80 

The Years of Silence - 85 
Conversion, Marriage, Ministerial 

Labors, and Oratory - - 87 

As a Preacher - 108 

As a Lawyer - - in 

As a Sacrifice for his Country - - 118 

Appendix - - - -129 

The Battle of San Jacinto - - 157 

7 



a auorti to t^e public 

The life of Captain John B. Denton as herein 
contained is a true picture of the man and his 
times. All fiction has been carefully avoided. 
It was a temptation, and it would have been 
both pleasing and easy to the author to have 
interwoven fascinating pictures of fiction, but 
this would not have been just and true to the 
pioneer settlers, who desire nothing but the 
truth. They want the simple truth told of an 
old companion who spent his life on the out- 
skirts of civilization. But even the truth spoken 
in its simple strain is sometimes stranger than 
fiction. 

Captain Denton is only one man in the list 
of many pioneers in Texas who wrought well 
for mankind. And while people are brought 
under obligations to such men, they must not 
suppose that these actors bore their tasks 
grievously. Very far from it ! It was their choice 
and pleasure. God had made them so, and 
tempered them with endurance and courage to 
meet frontier and dangerous conditions bravely. 



io Captain ^otyn 95. SDenton 

Touching the life and character of Denton, 
it must be stated that he was a wonderful man. 
No one, perhaps, has had better opportunity of 
conceiving him in his true character and value 
to humanity than his biographer. Seldom has 
a man acted before the public in whom so many 
good points met, or one of such varied qualifica- 
tion. Called by the conditions of the times to 
act different parts in the drama of his life, he 
failed in none, was equally strong in all. 

Although almost three-quarters of a century 
have passed since his death, he still stands 
before the Texas public as an unwithered tree, 
and still bears the fruits of his life. The 
biographer, though having to wade through 
some difficulties in order to a faithful and true 
delineation, humbly hopes that this fresh resusci- 
tation of fond memories will prove a blessing to 
mankind as well as helpful to Texas history. 



€^e €a06 of t^e TBtograp^er 

The task of writing the biography of John 
B. Denton was undertaken cheerfully notwith- 
standing the many difficulties embarrassing 
the happy pursuit. There is such a lack of 
freshness in the knowledge of things appertain- 
ing to the life and character of this notable man 
that, at this late day, he suggests himself to the 
mind more as a subject of romance than as an 
ideal character who was once a preacher, an 
attorney, and a soldier among the people. 
Now almost three-quarters of a century have 
gone since he was on the stage of action. 

When it is considered that in the age and in 
the country in which he lived, men were chiefly 
valuable as actors and for the services they 
rendered, there was little thought of preserving 
their biographies on written pages. Indeed, all 
those days were days of excitement and action, 
and there were no ready scribes. Hence there 
remains only a modicum of written data upon 
which to construct true biography; yet, on the 
other hand, quite an amount of recollections 



ii 



12 %xft an& €ime0 of 

held traditionally. Even in this the worthiness 
of the man is shown ; for it may be truthfully 
spoken that when a man, in the absence of 
written history, lives long and fondly in the 
memory of the people, he wrote himself, by his 
deeds, deeply in the thought and heart of his 
cotemporaries. In this way Captain Denton's 
name became a household word. Even little 
children, climbing on the father's knee, listen 
in silence to the tales of the father when he tells 
to them the story of some unwritten hero. 

Thus it may be spoken of John B. Denton; 
for there are immortalities among men. They 
will long live in the memory of the people 
despite the negligence of scribes. Yet there is 
danger in a too long neglected written history; 
for time gathers its fables and is disposed to 
weave them in the web of true history. How- 
ever much the seasons and conditions of country 
may force a period of written neglect of the 
immortalities among men, yet they will not 
fade from human memory. They are the 
usefully talented who adapt themselves to the 
conditions of their day and country, and meet 
all emergencies heroically, without looking too 
freely upon their own personal safety and profit. 



Captain ^ofjn g&« 2Denton 13 

They seem born unto a purpose, and that pur- 
pose is manifested in their lives of self-sacrifice, 
self-forgetfulness, and their labors of common 
defense and general welfare. 

A child of destiny is not like other people. 
He has marks of his own, like one tossed in his 
own tuitions and perceptions. Scarcely ever is 
he seen like one mathematically studying and 
weighing the points of advantage and disad- 
vantage in the common problem of a human 
life. He is more like one patiently waiting 
opportunity, his opportunity. If he never meets 
with his opportunity he passes out of life as any 
other common man, unsung and soon forgotten. 
If the times are propitious and his opportunity 
arrives, he sees it, embraces it, is overwhelmed 
with it, and pursues it until he has subjected it 
unto the common good. 

In looking over the career of Denton's life, 
brief as it was, the idea of destiny is hard to 
escape. In the very beginning the lots all 
seemed to be unfavorable. The common ob- 
server of the times, had he been allowed to 
exercise judgment on the boy while growing up 
and forming his character under the hardest con- 
ditions, would have said that nothing good can 



14 itife anti €ime£ of 

ever come from beneath those tangled locks. 
But the human judgment is no more perfect to- 
day than it was in the day that David was chosen 
King over Israel. Were it not for imperfection in 
human judgment, the unexpected would not so 
often happen. Beneath the tangled locks of 
Denton, in his boyhood, there was hidden an in- 
tellectual grandeur and probity of soul that qual- 
ified him for a high plain of action and useful- 
ness. Not restless, but contented, he waited 
patiently through the years of his youth for the 
days of his opportunity. 

All beautiful flowers have not been seen of 
men. And how often has no human hand dug 
away the weeds where struggling beauty was 
hidden. Monumental beauty lies hidden in 
the stone quarries of the mountain, and other 
things lovely in the entangled forest, just as 
often there lie things of beauty and utility be- 
neath the entangled locks of the struggling, 
climbing boy. All these need help, and when 
the helping hand is given, the things of beauty 
are awakened into life, and man beholds in ad- 
miration. Even without help, here and there 
things of beauty sometimes appear. 

The world's history has never in half part 



Captain %!ofyn 95. 2Denton 15 

been written, nor will the world ever know that 
which might have been. It will never know the 
beauty of many a flower that perished unblown 
for want of a helping hand. Much of the world's 
history that has been written had as well have 
been unsaid, when measured by the good that 
has come of it. There has been many a worthy 
biography, containing much that is good and 
worthy of remembrance, that has been crowded 
out to give room for things less valuable to God 
and country. 

The history of the worthy man who now 
stands out before us was threatened to suffer a 
similar fate. This would have been loss and 
unfortunate not only locally to Denton County, 
but to Arkansas and Texas. He is closelv asso- 
ciated with both these states in the days of their 
trials and struggles, but especially with Texas. 
He is a part of Texas history. It is easily per- 
ceived that the time might come when a stranger 
would ask why have you so much of the Denton 
name in Texas — Denton County, Denton Creek, 
Denton City, and Denton College — and an intel- 
ligent historical answer could not be given. 
Hence the importance of personal history, that 
the reading descendants of the acting sires may 



1 6 Captain S^ljn 25- 2Denton 

be able to give intelligent answers to the in- 
quiries of the traveling stranger. Hence, now, 
while it is not too late, the pioneers have resolved 
that something shall be written to perpetuate 
the memory of one of their chiefest and noblest 
compatriots, and at the same time preserve in 
history the life and times of that period. It is 
but just to humanity and the state of Texas. 

Captain John B. Denton and his compatriots 
lived in a day of action, and under circumstances 
when history was not written ; it is well illustrated 
by the Israelites in the day when they were 
acting and not writing their history : 

"And Joshua said, take you up every man of 
you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the 
number of the tribes of Israel : that this may be 
a sign among you, that when your children ask 
your fathers in time to come, saying, what mean 
you by these stones, then ye shall answer 
them that the waters of Jordan were cut off be- 
fore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, when 
it passed over Jordan; the waters of Jordan 
were cut off; and these stones shall be for a me- 
morial unto the children of Israel forever." 



^>eat^ for tlje Hojst IRemafng 
of Captain 9Io^n 13. Benton 



While the pioneer settlers of Denton County 
were assembled in their annual association in 
the month of August, A. D. 1900, their thought 
providentially turned to their county and 
county - seat, both bearing the same name, 
Denton. It bore their thoughts along the 
scenes of former pioneer days to things written 
in history; and also to things held in memory, 
but which by the condition of the times had never 
been written. They believed that inasmuch as 
Texas had made a great history, her history 
should be preserved for the happiness, comfort, 
and instruction of the coming generations. 

Feeling the pride natural with all men when 
their county and town are fair to look upon, and 
a good heritage to themselves, it was but natural 
that their thoughts should turn to the source of 
the name. Of course, they were all acquainted 
with the name of Captain John B. Denton, 
though none of them had ever seen him. The 

17 



1 8 %itt anD €ime£ of 

deeds of his life had made his name a house- 
hold word with them, and with the people vari- 
ously over Texas, and with many beyond. 
While there was not much written data he was, 
nevertheless, held in abundant memory through 
the teachings of the fathers to their children. 
Among the things that provoked deep interest 
in the pioneer session was the strong traditional 
evidence that the remains of Captain Denton 
lay buried somewhere in Denton County, and 
that there were living witnesses who could give 
testimony. 

It is not necessary here to further state the 
deliberations of the pioneers at this session, 
further than to say that they were unanimous 
in the opinion that something should be done; 
that certain neglected honors were due to Cap- 
tain Denton, and that they were without excuse 
for further neglecting these honors, unless some- 
thing should appear that would make it impos- 
sible. That under the circumstances, it was 
both honorable and right that they should go 
forward and find all that was possible to know. 

Hence William Allen, a member of the pioneer 
association, was appointed to gather all the data 
possible touching the place of Denton's burial, 



Captain ^Poljn 95. 2>enton 19 

together with all facts yet possible to be known 
of his character and the deeds of his life, and to 
report all discoveries to a future session of the 
pioneer settlers of Denton County. 

The resolution making this appointment 
was not on the ground that Captain Denton was 
or ever had been a citizen of Denton County, 
because that was impossible, for Denton County 
was not constituted until some years after he 
had been killed in battle with the Indians ; nor 
was it because Denton lay buried somewhere 
in the territory of Denton County; but because 
he was a lover of humanity, a patriot in the 
broad meaning of that word, intelligent, coura- 
geous, and a man of great probity; because he 
was so regarded in the wisdom of the state, 
which did him the honor of giving his name to 
a division of its territory; because in the days of 
trials, hardships, and sacrifice he had endured 
much, and done much in laying the foundation 
of this great state. 

Mr. Allen had quite a great but pleasant 
task imposed upon him by the resolution of the 
pioneer settlers, but he seemed to appreciate 
the obligations and importance of the whole 
matter, and turned to the task in full conscious- 



20 %iit and €ime£ of 

ness of a great duty. Yet it was like looking 
down into the hidden buds awaiting the weather 
of spring, and whispering down into their 
sleeping-places and telling them to awake and 
adorn the earth with their beauty and loveli- 
ness. So it was the task of awakening to life 
again hidden things of virtue and probity, that 
were illustrated in the life and character of 
Captain Denton. 

Without delay, notice was given through the 
newspapers of the will, desire, and action of the 
pioneers of Denton County; and through per- 
sonal correspondence with many, calling upon 
all to give such information as they could of the 
burial-place, life, and character of Captain 
Denton; and among other things to find and re- 
port whether there was a likeness of him in 
existence, or whether he ever sat to have his 
picture taken. 

The call provoked various interest over the 
state and elsewhere. It indicated, even at this 
late day, that while but little had ever been writ- 
ten, Captain Denton was largely known, and 
that his name and the deeds of his life were be- 
ing handed down by the fathers unto their 
children. 



Captain ^o$n 25* 2Denton 21 

In the way of personal correspondence and 
newspaper reports, quite an amount of matter 
soon accumulated in the hands of Mr. Allen, 
touching on the life and character of Captain 
Denton, descriptive of his physical contour, 
complexion, color of hair and eyes, height, and 
indeed so much bearing on his physical form 
and mien, that in the absence of a portrait, one 
could be made largely representative of the 
man. Much was gathered relating to his art 
as an orator, to his ministerial gift, to his ability 
as a lawyer, to his courage, and to his utility as 
a citizen in the days when men's hearts were 
tried, and as a soldier against the Indians. 

But the general public seemed to be struck 
deeper with a sense of Captain Denton's lost 
remains than with anything else. It is human 
nature to be more or less shocked with the 
thought of lost remains. However much we 
may be educated to believe that the material 
body is not the real man, nevertheless we will 
remember that it is the part that has been seen 
by us, that has been talked through, smiled 
through, loved through, and acted through; 
and with such acquaintance we are loath to 
hide it away, and are troubled when it is lost. 



22 Hife and €ime£ of 

On this account, whether for reason or against 
reason, we mourn the loss of the body of any 
dear one, and must have it in order to be satis- 
fied. Though we may not be able to preserve 
it and keep it in sight, yet we are not content 
unless we know the spot where it is put away; a 
spot where may be planted a rose, an evergreen, 
or something showing respectful memory; a 
spot to which we can go in dedication service and 
spread the flowers of our love. 

It was this holy human nature that wrought 
up such anxiety that the body of Captain Denton 
should be produced, if possible. In human 
sense there is a disposition for less hesitation 
when the body is present. There is a coldness 
in paying the obsequies due when the body is 
absent or cannot be found. It becomes a part 
of us. Though cold and motionless, we want 
its presence in our action, even as it was present 
in action when living. Without it, inspiration 
is, in part, lost. Hence, in the first instance, the 
people wanted to know where Captain Denton's 
body was. Could his grave be found? Could 
his remains be produced ? 

Hence, in this biographical record we deem it a 
duty in the first instance to satisfy the public sense 



Captain ^ofjn 25* SDcnton 23 

by placing Captain Denton as largely before 
the eyes as possible, by giving the evidence 
showing that the body or lost remains have been 
found, and that, after so long a time, he has re- 
ceived the honorable, civilized, and Christian 
burial that has been justly due him for all these 
years, but which has been forbidden by the 
times and the condition of the country. His 
remains now lie sleeping in a corner of the 
court-house yard in the city of Denton. 

But in looking over the evidence, we have 
been put to the necessity of studiously extracting 
the truth out of the half-way chaotic bundle of 
matter that came under the eye of the writer of 
this biography. Those who, as it seems, had 
an opportunity to be agreed were not, some con- 
tending that Captain Denton was first buried in 
the territory of what is now Tarrant County; 
others that he was buried in the territory of 
what is now Denton County. These differing 
reports came from the two or three who yet sur- 
vive of the Kechi battle, in which Denton was 
killed, and from others with whom the old 
pioneers had talked. These not being in har- 
mony, it became necessary to identify Captain 
Denton's body on another line of evidence. 



24 3tife anti €ime£ of 

It was agreed that at some former time one 
of his arms had been broken, that he had cer- 
tain teeth with gold fillings, and that, in his first 
burial, there was a certain arrangement of stones 
about his grave, and certain other significations 
which, when put together, form an incontes- 
table proof. Now, it matters not where the re- 
mains should be found, whether in Denton 
County or Tarrant County or elsewhere, the 
evidence would show that the body is Denton's. 

So far as is known there are but two men 
living now who were in the battle in which Cap- 
tain Denton was killed. One of these is Rev. 
Andrew Davis, of Waxahachie, who was a 
frontier boy at the time, and a soldier of 
about thirteen years of age. The other is 
Colonel Sam Sims, of Rich Hill, Missouri. 
Mr. Davis seemed very positive that he could 
find the lonesome spot where Denton was 
buried. Mr. Davis, being old, never went in 
search of the grave. In this connection it is 
proper to state that Captain Henry Stout in 
his lifetime, was equally sure, but, after search- 
ing in company with others, was unable to 
find it. 

It must be allowed that time works changes 



Captain Stoljn 25* 2Denton 25 

'in human memory which a witness cannot rec- 
ognize, and that advancing civilization itself 
puts such changes on the face of a country that 
all things appear new and strange. Experience 
teaches that, under the changes wrought by 
time and human art, instead of finding the lost 
things sought for, we rather lose ourselves in the 
midst of the confusion. 

Dr. J. N. Denton, in company with Colonel 
James Bourland, who was in the Kechi battle 
and helped to bury Denton, went in search of 
his father's grave in 1859. Bourland, like 
others, thought he could find it. This was only 
eighteen years after the Kechi battle and burial 
of Denton. Considering that Bourland was the 
expert frontiersman that he was, it did seem 
that his chance to find the grave was the best of 
all men, and especially so when it was only eigh- 
teen years after Denton's burial. Yet Dr. J. 
N. Denton in a published letter says: "Suffice 
to say the search was a failure, and Colonel 
Bourland, after two days' labor, in the endeavor 
to find the grave, confessed, to his chagrin and 
disappointment, his inability to find it." 

It may not be improper here to state that, in 
discovering the place of Denton's first inter- 



26 atife anti €tme£ of 

ment, it was more accidental than otherwise. 
Rev. John L. Lovejoy, who was with Denton 
when he was killed, who saw him laid to rest 
the day after the battle, who sold goods in Alton, 
the first county-seat of Denton County, and who 
afterwards lived in the town of Denton until the 
day of his death, though all this time not more 
than twenty miles away from the place where 
Denton's body rested, did not know the spot. 
It all looks strange. From it we all should be 
impressed, and learn the lesson taught in the 
fable of Irving's Rip Van Winkle. Men may 
not sleep, as Van Winkle is reported to have 
done, yet absenting themselves for twenty years 
or more, and then returning again, they see all 
things have changed, and show up in new de- 
sign and with new face. They are simply lost 
in the things of memory. 

Here we introduce the evidence showing the 
spots, and settling the question of Captain 
Denton's first, second, and third burials, and 
the evidence that led to the identity of his body. 
But it must also be stated that the accidental or 
providential is related to the discovery of his 
first grave. John S. Chisum was the first large 
cattleman of Denton County. He was raised 



Captain 3 f of)n 9& Denton 27 

in Clarksville, the home of his father and Cap- 
tain Denton. His father, Clabe Chisum, was 
with Denton in the Kechi battle. He saw 
Denton buried, and being his fellow-townsman 
and good friend, he was as close observer as any. 
He felt the responsibility of reporting to the un- 
fortunate widow the circumstances of her hus- 
band's burial and the manner in which he was 
put away; and, as is natural, prepared himself 
as a friend to accurately answer her many ques- 
tions. The death and lonesome burial of Den- 
ton was the town talk. The chief citizen was 
gone. Clarksville was his home, the circle of 
his intimate and dearest friends. John S. 
Chisum grew to manhood in the knowledge of 
all these things. 

The world knows that a boy of amiable size 
is the best listener to the tales of the fathers. 
Such was John S. Chisum. His father having 
been with Denton in battle and a participator 
in the lonely burial, the telling it to the family 
was, to the listening boy, like one of those en- 
chanting tales of which all boys are so fond. 
When tales of this kind are once told, it is a 
heart lesson, grounded and rooted in the mem- 
ory of the boy, never to be forgotten. And that 



28 Htife and €imeg of 

which makes it doubly impressive on the boy is 
that his father was a companion in it all. The 
lad loved the man his father loved, and when 
he became a man he was, perhaps, most inter- 
ested over the lost remains of his father's faith- 
ful friend. 

Such is the witness we here introduce. His 
herdsmen (cowboys) told him that they had 
found a grave, and described the plat of ground 
and the signs about it. The description was so 
representative of what he had heard his father 
relate, that he at once believed it to be the grave 
of his father's friend, the long-lost John B. 
Denton. 

In answer to inquiries of John W. Gober 
of Denton, who was an old pioneer of Denton 
County, John S. Chisum, from Roswell, New 
Mexico, wrote him a letter, containing the fol- 
lowing. The letter was dated July 4, 1880: 

"The remains of John B. Denton are buried 
at the Waide place, in a small box, six or eight 
feet from the house I lived in, rather at the 
southwest corner. From the description James 
Bourland, W. C. Young, and Henry Stout had 
given me of the place where he was buried, I 
knew that was his grave. And being a friend 



Captain ^ofjn g& SDenton 29 

of Denton's, I took up his remains and carried 
them home. From many circunistances I can 
say that I am positive that I am not mistaken 
of their being the remains of Captain Denton, 
but I know they are his, and no mistake." 



additional Ceistimon^ 

We now append additional testimony, as 
published in the Dallas News, together with the 
report of William Allen, who was appointed by 
the Pioneer Association of Denton County, to 
look up the history of Captain Denton and the 
place of his burial. 

Cegtimonp of Robert <&. goijwscn 

[Special to the News] 

Denton, Tex., Oct. 30. 
Robert G. Johnson of Bolivar, probably the 
only person now living who was with the late 
John S. Chisum when he disinterred the bones 
supposed to be those of Colonel John B. Denton, 
has prepared a statement of the facts of the dis- 
interment and the circumstances connected 
therewith. It is believed that his statement will 
be conclusive evidence, when brought before 
the committee of the Old Settlers' Association, 
which will take steps thereupon for exhuming 
the remains near Bolivar. The statement fol- 
lows : 

31 



32 Hife anti €ime£ of 

"I was working for John S. Chisum in i860. 
About August of that year (i860) Mr. Chisum, 
who knew the location of a grave on the north 
bank of Oliver Creek, some distance from the 
water, but still in the creek bottom, took with him 
James R. Bourland, who was at that time selling 
goods at Bourland's Bend, on Red River, and 
Felix McKittrick, and they identified the grave 
as that of John B. Denton, to the satisfaction of 
Mr. Chisum. Soon after this we were hunting 
cattle in the neighborhood of the grave, and at 
Mr. Chisum's order took up the bones. Our 
party at the time consisted of John S. Chisum, 
Christopher Fitzgerald, an old man whose pick 
was used while we raked the dirt away with our 
hands, Reese Hanna, Newt Anderson, Patrick 
O'Ferrell, and myself, and also two negroes, 
Phil and Jiles Chisum. We found the imprint 
of the blanket in which Denton was buried still 
showing in the soil below the remains. We 
found all the bones except the last bone of one 
finger. We found one tooth which was plugged 
with gold, which we thought further confirmed 
the identity of the remains. We also noticed 
that one of the bones of the arm had been broken 
and healed. So far as I know, no one of the 



Captain S^h 2& 2Denton 33 

party named ever had a reasonable doubt about 
the bones being those of John B. Denton. The 
bones were afterward reburied in a sperm- 
candle box in the yard at Mr. Chisum's home 
near where the town of Bolivar now stands. 
(Signed) "R. G. Johnson." 

The James R. Bourland mentioned by Mr. 
Johnson was one of the soldiers present when 
Colonel Denton was killed, and as the time of 
the killing was a time of recent date, it would 
seem that if any one could find the grave it 
would certainly be he. He identified both the 
grave and the remains as that of Denton, whom 
he had well known, and the opinion here seems 
to be that there is no doubt that the remains 
interred in the yard of the Waide place, near 
Bolivar, are those of Denton. 

Cesthncmp of 
<£aptain Mofcert %W. Jfcopfcnui, £>x. 

[Special to the News] 

Denton, Tex., Sept. 20. 
The controversy over the burial-place of 
Colonel John B. Denton, for whom this county 
was named, is attracting a good deal of attention 



34 3lxfe and €ime£ of 

not only here, but in other portions of the state, 
and a number of letters have been received anent 
the matter. Captain Robert H. Hopkins, Sr., 
of this city, gave his version of the affair, which 
he had from several survivors of the company of 
which Denton was captain, as follows, to the 
News correspondent to-day. 

"All accounts agree that Colonel Denton was 
killed on Village Creek, in Tarrant County, east 
of where is now Ft. Worth. Uncle Johnny 
Lovejoy, who was with Denton at the time he 
was killed, and who lived in this county up to 
his death, often has told me the entire story. 
Clabe Chisum, the father of John S. Chisum, 
was also with Denton when he was killed, and 
to his son John told, as near as he could, the 
exact location of the grave, which he thought 
was somewhere on Denton Creek, also named 
for Denton. John Chisum came to Denton 
County in 1854, not 1855, as Colonel John Peter 
Smith of Ft. Worth states, and after he had 
roamed all over Denton County with his herds, 
at last came upon the place which, from the 
description given him by his father, he believed 
to be the burial-place. An elm-tree near by 
had been marked, according to his father's 



€aptain 3 f of)n 2&, 2Denton 35 

statement, and such marks as described on an 
elm-tree he found on Oliver Creek, near its 
mouth on Denton Creek. John Lovejoy told 
him that if he found the body, he would find 
that certain teeth had been filled, and when he 
had dug open the grave the body was found just 
as his father had stated. The filled teeth were 
also found, as described by Uncle Johnny Love- 
joy, and to make the identification more com- 
plete, a blanket exactly like that in which he had 
been interred was discovered wrapped around 
the bones. A tin cup, trinkets, and other 
articles known to have been buried with him 
were also found in the grave, making the iden- 
tification certain. Chisum took up the remains 
and carried them in a box to his home, near 
Bolivar, on Clear Creek, northwest of this city. 
He kept them in this box for several years, and 
they were still there when he sold the place to 
Mr. Waide. The bones began to get musty 
and damp and in the way, however, and Waide 
took them out and buried them, still in the old 
box, in one corner of the yard. The Waides 
have lived on the old place ever since; Jim 
Waide, a son, is still there; and if the body has 
ever been disinterred and buried elsewhere, 



36 Hife anb €imt$ of 

none of them has ever known of it. In my 
mind there is no doubt that the remains are 
still where Waide buried them." 

Report of Won. Militant ^llen 

[Special to the News] 

Denton, Tex., Oct. 19. 

Anent the life and history of Colonel John B. 
Denton, about which there has been so much 
controversy lately, the following report of the 
Old Settlers' Committee, Rev. William Allen, ap- 
pointed to investigate the matter, will be of inter- 
est. At a considerable trouble, Rev. Mr. Allen 
has been able to secure a fairly complete history 
of Colonel Denton's life. The report follows: 

To the Executive Committee of Denton 
County Pioneers: When I, as your committee, 
advertised to know 1. The spot where John B. 
Denton lies buried; 2. Whether there is any- 
where a portrait of him; 3. His nativity, when 
born, color of hair and eyes, complexion, etc.; 4. 
Every scrap of history that can be gathered of 
his life and character — I soon saw that the ad- 
vertisement provoked not only large personal 
correspondence, but also much newspaper com- 
ment. Since so much has been published, it 



Captain ^ofyn 96. 2Denton 37 

may seem to some that it is hardly necessary 
that your committee should make a report. But 
since the public statements are not in full har- 
mony, it seems best to us to make a report in 
order to digest and systematize, as much as pos- 
sible, the whole matter, and to add to it such 
discoveries as we have made and which are yet 
unpublished. 

The press reports, and the most of that which 
has been published, appertain to the place of in- 
terment and the remains of the noted pioneer, 
whom we all propose to honor and keep in per- 
petual memory. But I, as your committee, 
considered it as much my duty to look after the 
life, history, character, citizenship, and impor- 
tance of John B. Denton to society, as to go in 
search of his grave and remains. Every aspect 
of the case seemed a duty to us, and whatever 
may be regarded as a failure on our part, we 
at least feel that we have been diligent in the 
search. Therefore, we shall endeavor to make 
a report as orderly as possible, and as follows: 

John B. Denton was born in Tennessee, in 
1807. Both his parents died when he was 
quite young. His mother died when he was an 
infant. He came to Arkansas at eight years of 



38 %ift anti €ime£ of 

age, as is probable, with a family named Wells. 
Because the family who had charge of him 
made his life unpleasant, he revolted at twelve 
years of age, left them, and set up for himself. 
Beginning life independently and in penury at 
this early age, it may be easily discerned that 
his chief facilities for education consisted in 
observation and experience. Especially may 
this be perceived when we note that seventeen 
years afterward Arkansas was admitted as a 
state into the Union with only seventy thousand 
population. Hence, in the wild territory of 
Arkansas, under disadvantages of unfavor- 
able environments, Denton grew to man- 
hood with little or no knowledge of books, but 
with the keenest wit that comes of observa- 
tion, privation, and experience. He was hap- 
pily married when not more than twenty 
years of age. Soon afterward he made a pro- 
fession of religion, and joined the Methodist 
Episcopal Church. He awoke then as from a 
deep sleep. He bent his great energy in the di- 
rection of knowledge. His wife gave him some 
of his first lessons in books. His deep genius ex- 
erted itself, and he rose up as if by magic to be 
fairly educated. In a very few years he be- 



Captain ^tfyn 2B>, 2Denton 39 

came perhaps the most noted orator of Arkansas 
and southern Missouri. He became a preacher 
not long after his conversion, and it was in this 
field of action that he first exhibited his genius 
and displayed his oratory. 

He came to Texas in 1837, and not long after- 
ward he was, professionally, a lawyer. Yet he 
continued to preach. He preached in the Dugan 
residence, in Grayson County, in 1839. He 
lived in Clarksville. He chose the law as a busi- 
ness measure to maintain his growing family, 
because in the wild western country ministers 
very seldom received a sufficiency for family 
support. Denton was successful as a lawyer. 
He stood in the front rank as a lawyer and among 
men, and as an orator was in demand on all 
occasions. His name was favorably mentioned 
for high office, and, had he lived, would doubt- 
less have been called to high duties in the re- 
public. 

John B. Denton was five feet ten inches high, 
very erect; had black, slightly curly hair, a 
broad, high forehead; weighed one hundred 
and sixty pounds, of impressive mien, and bore 
himself in a way that denoted great energy. 
There is no portrait of him in existence. He 



40 Utife anb €imeg of 

was an actor, not a caterer, and would, there- 
fore, have been hard to catch by an artist. It 
was also nearly as late as his death that Da- 
guerre discovered the first cheap mode of taking 
pictures, and the art, up to that time, had not 
been introduced in the West. Since no por- 
trait can be found, it precludes both the en- 
graved image or statue form on a monument. 
Yet it is no bar against building a monument to 
his memory. 

Denton was thirty-four years old when he was 
killed. He was killed in the pursuit of Indians 
just after their defeat at Kechi village, in Tar- 
rant County. He was shot in the breast. He 
fell on the twenty-second day of May, 1841. 
Colonel E. H. Tarrant was a military officer of 
the republic of Texas at that time, and was 
assigned to duty on the northern border. He 
was in the battle in which Denton was killed, 
and was, therefore, first in command; that is, he 
was the general in command of the battle. Yet 
Denton was in command of men. Just how, 
or what relation, is hard at this late day to 
know. He was the Marshal Ney of the occasion. 

Denton's body was carried northward into 
Denton County and buried. We say buried in 



Captain 2P0&tt 2& 2Denton 41 

Denton County — by this we mean he was buried 
in territory that was afterward named Denton 
County. There was no Denton County until 
1846, and no Tarrant County until 1849. No 
settlement was made in either of these counties 
until twelve or more years after the Kechi fight 
and death of Denton. The territory of both 
these counties was a vast wilderness and un- 
traversed except in pursuit of Indians. Denton's 
grave was, therefore, lost. 

The question now rises: Has the lost grave 
ever been found? We are inclined to believe 
that if it has never been found, that it never will 
be. It is not your committee's office to declare 
anything but evidence. It is claimed that the 
lost grave has been found, and that the mortal 
remains of John B. Denton now lie buried on 
the old John Chisum ranch in Denton County. 
The evidence in support of this claim is that 
Clabe Chisum, John's father, was one of the 
party that buried Denton, and had often de- 
scribed the character of the grave to his son 
John and others. The testimony is that the 
grave was found, as described,- together with 
certain things that were buried with the body. 
Since it was stated that the remains showed that 



42 Itife anfc €ime£ of 

an arm had been broken, I thought it right, as 
your committee to find out if John B. Denton 
ever had such an accident. Rev. J. F. Denton, 
the eldest son, and who was twelve years old at 
the time of his father's death, says that his 
father once had an arm broken by a fall from 
a horse. This seemed to me to be good corrob- 
orating evidence. That same son writes me 
that from all he has heard and from all the evi- 
dence gathered, he believes that the remains 
buried on the Chisum ranch are those of his 
father. 

I leave this matter to the judgment of the 
executive committee, and to all pioneers. There 
is other evidence supporting this identity of 
Denton's body. For this I refer the executive 
committee and others to John W. Gober, Judge 
I. D. Ferguson, and James Chisum, and others, 
and to all that has been published in support of 
this identity. It should all be duly considered. 

John B. Denton was the father of six chil- 
dren, four sons and two daughters. Only three 
sons are now living. These are: Rev. J. F. 
Denton of Weatherford, who was twelve years 
old at the time of his father's death; Dr. A. N. 
Denton of Austin, who was four years old; and 



Captain ^oljn 95. 2Denton 43 

Rev. John B. Denton, Jr., who was an infant 
at the time of his father's death. Quite a 
number of his descendants have been, or are, 
teachers of standing and influence. 

J. W. Wilbarger, in his book Indian Depre- 
dations in Texas, after speaking of Denton's 
coming to Texas, settlement in Clarksville, his 
sermon at the Dugan home, his law practice, 
his oratory, and his tragic death, says: "So per- 
ished one of Texas' brainiest and best pioneers. 
A fine orator, far above the average in intelli- 
gence, and, had he lived, would have proved a 
blessing to his country, and assisted materially 
in its advancement." 

Thrall's history of Texas, being a compen- 
dium rather than a general history, merely 
mentions Denton's name and death in connec- 
tion with the naming of Denton County. He 
also mentions his name in a brief sketch of Col. 
E. H. Tarrant, stating that he was in the battle 
in which Denton was killed. 

Dr. Thrall, in his history of Texas Methodism, 
speaks most commendably of Denton in every 
sense. 

In conclusion, I will say that the more I have 
looked into the life and character of this great 



44 3tife anti €ime£ of 

and good pioneer, the more I am impressed with 
the importance of his life, and therefore hold 
that it is both reasonable and right that a monu- 
ment should be constructed to his memory. 

There are two men living who were with 
Denton when he was killed, Rev. Andrew 
Davis of Waxahachie, and Colonel Sam Sims, 
now eighty-three years of age. Colonel Sims is 
living with his daughter, Mrs. W. H. Allen, at 
Rich Hill, Mo. My information concerning 
Colonel Sims is obtained by correspondence with 
Mrs. S. J. Wilson of Clarksville, Texas. She 
knew Denton in his Texas life. She was also a 
student in school with John Chisum in 1840, 
the school taught by Bernard Hill, who became 
a son-in-law of Denton's. Colonel Sims is 
Mrs. Wilson's uncle. 

I have made this report as brief as possible. 
It is a mere compendium of facts, all of which 
can be easily established by the testimony I 
have in hand. Very respectfully submitted, 

Wm. Allen, 

Your Committee. 

Much could be added to this testimony sup- 
porting the truth that the grave of Captain 



Captain ^ofjn 25. 2Denton 45 

Denton was found, and that his remains were 
taken up and preserved. Surely enough has 
been stated to remove all doubt, should any 
exist anywhere. The pioneer settlers are all 
convinced, agreed, and satisfied. They con- 
stituted the jury that sat in the case, and unani- 
mously have rendered their verdict that the 
remains buried on the Chisum ranch are all that 
is left to us, in a material way, of the noted 
pioneer, Captain John B. Denton. 

It only remained now that the remains be ex- 
humed, brought to Denton, and prepared for 
burial in the court-house yard. Unto this end 
the Pioneer Association appointed the following 
named members to do this work, viz., John W. 
Gober, R. H. Hopkins, C. C. Dougherty, and 
R. H. Bates. 

The committee did its work well. All that 
follows now, relating to the funeral and burial 
services, is taken from the published account in 
the Record and Chronicle of Denton. 

Meflort of Mecorti anti (ftijrom'cle 

The movement, begun more than a year ago 
by the Old Settlers' Association of Denton 
County, to locate the remains of Captain John 



46 %ih ant) €ime£ of 

B. Denton, pioneer and border hero, for whom 
this county and city were named, and, if found, 
to give them a public burial, culminated last 
Thursday afternoon, when his bones were given 
their last interment, publicly, and with befit- 
ting ceremonies. Captain Denton surrendered 
his life in a public cause, the defense of the border 
from the ravages of the Indians. And it was 
singularly appropriate that his new grave 
is in public soil, the southeast corner of the 
court-house yard. Another appropriate feature 
of the final ceremonies was the presence of the 
faculty and students of the John B. Denton 
College, an institution named in his memory, 
and an enduring monument to his bravery, 
courage, and high-mindedness. 

The lower floor and galleries of the district 
court-room were crowded when Rev. William 
Allen, the chairman, arose at i .-30 and announced 
in a few words the purpose for which they had 
gathered. Rev. Allen, himself a pioneer and 
an early minister of the Gospel when the days 
of Texas were young, occupied the chair, and 
on his left side sat Rev. J. W. Chalk, another 
old-time minister who vividly recalled the 
memories of another dav. In state in front of 



Captain S^ftn 2k SDenton 47 

the judge's bench lay in a handsome coffin the 
remaining bones of the man in whose honor 
the services were being held. In front of the 
bier sat three living descendants — two sons, 
Rev. J. F. Denton of Weather ford, and Rev. 
John B. Denton, Jr., of Clay County, and a 
grandson, Professor William Baker of Ellis 
County. 

After a few prefatory remarks by Rev. Allen, 
"America" was sung, led by President Thurman 
of the John B. Denton College. A prayer by 
Dr. Walter C. Lattimore of the First Baptist 
Church followed, and a quartette gave a rendi- 
tion of " It is Well, My Soul." 



Bel), alien'* ^>peec^ 

Delivered before a large crowd in the district 
court-room. Rev. Allen's speech, in full, was as 
follows : 

We congratulate you, comrade pioneers and 
fellow - countrymen, for that which you have 
accomplished in seeking out the remains of Cap- 
tain John B. Denton, and giving him this day, 
after the lapse of sixty years, the pioneer and 
Christian burial which has been so long deserved. 
This tribute of our praise, these honors which 
we this day confer, and this public burial service 
of a noted Christian minister, lawyer, orator, and 
pioneer soldier who was a martyr to the civiliza- 
tion of Texas, had almost been forgotten and 
omitted for all time. But the name of your 
county and city bore the thought back on the 
tide of memory, and it freshly and impressively 
recurred to you that the name of your county and 
city perpetuates the name of an honorable man, 
who looked forward with great interest and 
sacrifice to the civilization of your state, and 
even yielded his life that you and your children 

49 



50 %tft an& €ime£ of 

might have a peaceful legacy. It is well that 
you have met in this delightful but solemn 
service to-day. It is well that you have dili- 
gently and industriously pursued the work of 
investigation and discovery that has culminated 
into this hour. It is not only a proof of your 
appreciation of the martyr to Texas civilization, 
but that you have it in your hearts to perpetuate 
that civilization through your generation and 
see that it is clothed as in an evergreen chaplet 
and adorned with white roses and the lily of the 
valley. This your children will do in fond 
imitation of honored sires as long as the sacred 
spot of interment is known and a monument 
to Captain Denton stands out on their vision. 

Captain Denton was born in the state of 
Tennessee on the twenty-eighth day of July, 
1806. His mother died while he was an infant, 
and his father not long afterward. He was thus 
left an orphan and in penury. At twelve years 
of age he went with a family by the name of 
Wells from Tennessee to the wild territory of 
Arkansas. Tennessee, at the time he left it, 
had a population, all told, of less than three 
hundred thousand, and the territory of Arkansas 
of less than ten thousand. When he came to 



Captain *$ofyn 25. {Denton 51 

Texas, in 1837, there were only thirty thousand 
white people, or about one to every nine 
square miles of territory. These figures show 
that Denton, all his life, was a frontiers- 
man. He is therefore to be regarded as an 
actor always hewing the way and opening 
the paths for civilization, with no time or op- 
portunity for that book-knowledge that has 
given so many people in youthful days great 
advantages. Orphanage, penury, and the wilds 
of Arkansas were all against the literary educa- 
tion of this youth. Hence he grew to eighteen 
years of age, so far as history shows, with- 
out ever having entered a school - room as a 
student; nor is it known that he ever did so 
afterward. 

But it must not be inferred that Denton was 
altogether an uneducated boy. Of course, he 
was not educated in the accepted literary sense. 
But it is not proper to always estimate a man by 
his literary attainment, as valuable and profitable 
as such knowledge is. If we were only to pro- 
claim that Denton was a scholar, and could 
show with it little that was valuable and profit- 
able in his life, the services of this day would be 
a farce and an imposition upon general credulity, 



52 Hife anD €ime£ of 

and had better been left undone. But there is a 
proper way of estimating a man, and a proper 
way of looking into the features and intricacy 
of that education which adapts him to the cir- 
cumstances and conditions of the life he is 
called to live, and which gives him the highest 
tone of utility to both society and his country. 
Sentiment is not always correct. It is half-way 
formed from habit and a way of fashionable 
thinking, and is, therefore, oftentimes indisposed 
to admit claims where merit and utility have 
planted a standard that should be recognized. 

We affirm that Denton in his youth was 
educated, and that in the vicissitudes of his boy 
life the foundation was laid for his future 
eminence. The ruggedness of his early life 
taught him self-reliance; his orphanage taught 
him patience, forbearance, and perseverance; 
his penury and self-denial taught him sympathy 
and compassion; his experience taught him hu- 
man nature and gave him large knowledge of 
his race; his hardships and exposure in a wild 
country taught him courage. Had he been 
college-bred and lacked these qualities he 
would have been unfitted for the territories in 
which he passed his life. These alone, in view 



Captain ^oftn 2&* SDenton 53 

of what the frontiersman in that day was called 
to face and meet, were a good passport. No 
booklore, with all its acknowledged benefits 
and advantages, could have been substituted 
for these qualities to the man who was opening 
the paths for civilization. 

Denton seems to have been born to be a 
leader, an actor, and not a scribe or secretary. 
Speaking suggestively, had he lived in the days 
of chivalry he would have won a silver spur; 
had he been an ancient Greek he would have 
won the laurel at Olympia; had he been a 
Frenchman in the days of Napoleon he would 
have been a field-marshal. The manner and 
conditions of his early life and his school of 
experience and hardship molded his character 
and thought in such a way that he needed only 
the polishing touches of literature to make him 
intellectually equal to what he was by natural 
endowment and experience — the peer of any 
man in all the West. 

Denton entered upon public life almost in 
his youth. At eighteen years of age he ap- 
peared before the public as a young man of great 
natural talent, a destined genius in any chosen 
profession. Being schooled under a method 



54 3tife anti Cinieg of 

of hardship and privation, he was self-reliant, 
and of large experience. United with these he 
had a keen knowledge of human nature, and a 
courage that would meet any emergency, and 
rise above all obstacles. These are necessary 
elements in the education and character of the 
public man. 

At this early age two events in his life should 
not be passed by unnoticed. He entered upon 
the marital relation, and assumed the responsi- 
bility of husband. Fortunately the lady to 
whom he was married was of fair literary at- 
tainment. In this way he was daily brought 
in contact with books, their utility, and the 
importance of literary culture. The faculties 
of his mind were in a high state of activity, 
and under the tutelege of the good woman of 
his choice, he took a grasp on books that quick- 
ly carried beyond the rudimentary and elemen- 
tary principles of education. Although he 
was a student for the remainder of his brief 
life, and although he never had the advantage 
of school-room instruction and culture, yet 
it may be truthfully stated that he was fairly 
educated by the time he reached his majority. 
This shows some of the habit, nature, diligence, 



Captain ^o&u 25* 2Denton 55 

and courage of the man whom we hold in 
memory to-day, and in honor of whom these 
services were appointed. 

The other event deserving notice at this 
early age of Denton, is that he sought help 
which comes to man as a blessing from above. 
He sought at the mercy seat and obtained 
from God that grace of heart and spirit by 
which his energies could be better used for 
the spiritual welfare and uplifting of humanity. 
From that hour he felt consecrated to all good 
purposes. Through his youthful life of trial 
and hardship, his great heart pulsated with 
sympathy and compassion for his fellow-man. 
The feeling now became greatly enlarged and 
intensified. He felt that it was his duty to do 
all in his power to raise the moral condition 
of man to a higher plane, and save his soul. 
He saw as Washington did when he wrote: 
"Let us with caution indulge the supposition 
that morality can be maintained without 
religion. Whatever may be conceded to the 
influence of refined education on minds of 
peculiar structure, reason and experience 
both forbid us to expect that national morality 
can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." 



56 %ih and €ime£ of 

Denton desired to be truly a moral man, 
and like Washington, he knew no better way 
than to found his moral integrity on the teach- 
ings of Jesus Christ. 

Soon after these two events in the history of 
Denton, and before he had reached his major- 
ity he became a minister of the gospel in the 
Methodist Episcopal Church. Having had 
an experience that awoke his deepest sympathy, 
he was perhaps among the happiest of men for 
the privilege and opportunity of publicly bear- 
ing the good news to his fellow-man. Viewed 
as a man just about to enter the manhood 
stage of life, of fair education for that day, of 
fine natural endowment, and of large experi- 
ence for one so young, he had a large vision 
of things upon which he could draw in illustra- 
tion of his theme. When there is added to 
this his symmetrical form, broad forehead, 
steady blue eyes, and large compass of his 
oratorical voice, he stood before his audience 
the picture of a commander. 

Dr. Homer S. Thrall, who wrote a history 
on Methodism, among many things eulogistic 
says: "When Denton addressed the multi- 
tudes that flocked to hear him preach upon 



Captain ^oljn 2&, 2Denton 57 

the sublime themes of the Gospel, his appeals 
were ail but irresistible." This is the kind 
of preacher he was in Arkansas, in southern 
Missouri, and in Texas. 

But mankind is too much disposed to place 
their hero on the plane of an art and hide him 
away in a bouquet of their own blandishment. 
But it is not our will to so treat the brave front- 
iersman whom we have met this day to honor. 

That Captain Denton was well skilled in 
the art of oratory is a truth that has passed 
into history. That he was scarcely less gifted 
than Patrick Henry is hardly to be doubted. 
But if Patrick Henry lives in history more for 
his patriotism, foresight, and ripe judgment 
than for skill as an orator, it would be base in 
us to confine him to the level of a public de- 
claimer. Admitting, then, that while oratory 
is excellence itself, we are far indisposed to 
confine the excellence of our hero to the plane 
of an orator. We prefer that this art shall 
appear in its own degree as a part of the man, 
and that along with it he possessed other and 
various excellences that shone in his life with 
even brighter effulgence. 

We should view him in all his parts, as 



58 %xft anti €imeg of 

patriot, opening up the paths for the march 
of civilization, as an humble Christian gentle- 
man, as an impressive minister of the gospel, 
as an honorable lawyer, as an orator, as a man 
of courage, fighting the battles of his country, 
as a martyr to civilization. 

These are all excellences of Denton's life 
and character; nor can his name be presented 
to us without these elements of his being. 
Dwelling in him they brought him into public 
notice, and have perpetuated his name. Their 
existence in his life and character renders his 
name memorable, and they are the voices 
which so audibly speak to us from his otherwise 
silent clay at this hour. 

It was the memory of these excellences in 
Captain Denton's life and character that pro- 
duced your diligence in restoring an almost 
forgotten history, and in gathering up his fast 
crumbling remains and giving them the place 
of first honor among those who sleep in Denton 
County's soil. 

Denton set his foot on Texas soil to be a 
citizen January 2, 1837. This was scarcely 
eight months after the battle of San Jacinto. 
Texas at that time was an independent nation- 



Captain ^otm 2k 2Denton 59 

ality, and Sam Houston was her president. With 
a small white population of about thirty thousand, 
Denton came to add his name to the heroic 
number. He came in Christian spirit and as 
a minister of the Gospel of Christ. He came 
in large experience for one so young and in 
the grace of eloquence; he came as a schooled 
frontiersman and with the courage of a war- 
rior; he came in love with Texas for the struggle 
she had made for independence; he came to 
preach peace, and when necessary, to beat 
back the foes of civilization; he came to be a 
Texan in the broad and technical meaning of 
that name in that day, when every man was 
expected to be a man of nerve, courage, and 
combat. 

It was no task for such a man to be a Texan. 
He had been schooled in hardship unto that 
end; was in young manhood, intellectual, elo- 
quent, courageous, and of undoubted moral 
integrity. He was of the right type as citizen 
and leader to do his part well in laying the 
foundations of that Christian civilization which 
is to-day a boast of our Lone Star State. Such 
a man at that time was a fine acquisition to 
the new nationality that had been purchased 



6o Jtife and €mie£ of 

by the blood of Goliad and the Alamo, and 
with the victory of San Jacinto. 

There are a few people living yet who knew 
Denton well, and they all speak of him in the 
highest praise. They give proof by their 
words that he was a Christian gentleman, a 
recognized leader of men, a public declaimer 
of the first order, and a captain of judgment 
and courage. History gives only a few ex- 
amples of such high recognition when bloom 
of youth had scarcely faded into strong man- 
hood. 

He became a lawyer after he came to Texas, 
but did not, however, quit the gospel ministry. 
Having settled in Clarksville, Red River 
County, he, as a lawyer, occasionally visited 
Old Warren to attend court. It is well authenti- 
cated that on these visits he preached at the 
residence of the Dugan family, with whom he 
had acquaintance in the wilds of Arkansas. 
He chose the law very much on the ground of 
necessity, for he had around him a wife and 
children, and was, therefore, put to the neces- 
sity of looking after his finances. 

In that day of frontier life and hardship, 
every man of sound limb was expected to care 



<£aptam ^ofjn 25* Denton 61 

for his own house, and in choosing the law it 
was only an act accepting the conditions of the 
country, and removed him and his family from 
dependence on the people. He realized that 
a man should "provide things honest in the 
sight of all men"; that he who would not pro- 
vide for his own house "is worse than an 
infidel"; and that the law, honorably pursued, 
is not incompatible with the Christian ministry. 
As a lawyer, because of his gentlemanly spirit, 
integrity, and skill, he was in great demand, 
and in that scarce day maintained his family 
well. 

But we have met here to give pioneer and 
Christian burial to this noble man. Around 
us to-day cluster many fond memories, together 
with that tragic scene when he so ruthlessly 
and bravely fell for frontier protection, and in 
the interest of Texas. He will sleep in an 
honored grave as do Fannin, Travis, Crockett 
and Bowie, and all that slumbering and molder- 
ing host who yielded their lives, shedding 
generously their patriotic blood for Texas. 
This is his third interment, and yet it is the 
first in which we have had the opportunity 
and pleasure to pay to him the honors that have 



62 %itt anti Cimeg of 

been so long deserving. How different these 
surroundings in the presence of this stately 
court-house at the center of this beautiful city, 
from that burial he received sixty years ago. 

That was the day after the battle of Village 
Creek, where he received his mortal wound 
by the hand of the savage Indian. 

There was no court-house and city there, 
no churches with steeples pointing with the 
finger of hope to the skies, and no bells to 
sound the funeral dirge. It was a wild waste, 
where wolves and panthers dwelt, and where 
the savage roamed and battled against ad- 
vancing civilization. There were present then 
only a few comrade soldiers to dig his grave 
while yet standing guard, wrap him in his 
blanket and let him down into his lonely grave. 
There they did their duty as best they could, 
left around marks and signs of memory, and 
then in solemn silence took up the line of march 
to the borders of the settlements. The territory 
of Denton County has held his remains since 
that day. His blood is in her soil and his 
crumbling body is a part of her dust. 

This day we do an honorable deed and hold 
services that have long been due. From this 



Captain ^ofjn 25, 2Denton 63 

day the character of the old pioneers will be 
better reflected on coming generations. When 
a suitable monument shall be erected at this 
place of interment, and as is to be hoped, the 
statue of a brave frontiersman erected upon 
it, it will provoke the coming people to consider 
the cost of the civilization to which they will 
be heirs; and if they prove themselves worthy 
of the legacy, they will still advance until 
Texas shall not only be noted for the vastness 
of its territory, but shall lead this union of 
states by the intelligence and the virtue of its 
people. 

Rev. Chalk was introduced and made an 
impromptu talk on Captain Denton. Him- 
self a pioneer, he interestingly discoursed on 
early days in Texas. "You are giving his 
remains the interment they deserve," he said. 
"Denton, had he lived, would have taken his 
place with Houston, Rusk, Hemphill, Bayler, 
and those others whose names have been 
handed down in Texas history. He was the 
equal, the peer, of any man living." After 
paying more tribute to Captain Denton's 
memory, Mr. Chalk continued: "In this day 



64 3tife anti €ime£ of 

and time, people have but hazy ideas of what 
living was in the early days. Some people 
the other day didn't know what "jerked" 
beef was. All you old timers know, don't 
you? [To which there was a chorus of "yes" 
from the old settlers.] That and corn bread, 
ground in steel .hand mills were what we had 
to eat." He went over the hardships and paid 
a warm tribute to the pioneer women as well 
as the men, without whom the men would 
have been poor indeed. 

Rev. Allen then introduced in turn the two 
sons and the grandson of Captain Denton, 
each of whom made a short but feeling talk of 
thanks and gratitude for the honor bestowed 
through their ancestor on them. 

The quartette was again called on and 
rendered "Some Sweet Dav, " and then 
"Rock of Ages," during the singing of which 
the pall-bearers — Messrs. E. B. Orr, L. Willis, 
J. M. Swisher, John W. Gober, J. H. Hawkins, 
and W. C. Wright — lifted the coffin and bore 
it to the grave in the court-house yard, followed 
first by the relatives present, and then the 
spectators. 

The grave for the last resting L place of the 



Captain SPofjn g&« 2Denton 65 

remains had been dug the day before, and 
herein the coffin was slowly dropped. Two 
songs were sung at the grave and a prayer 
rendered, and the body of John B. Denton, 
preacher, lawyer, Indian-fighter, pioneer, and 
hero, was in its last resting-place, the third 
time since his death, in 1841 — the first on the 
banks of Oliver Creek, the second when his 
friend John Chisum exhumed the remains 
from there and gave them burial at the Chisum 
ranch near Bolivar. 

Prior to the interment many saw the crum- 
bling bones in the coffin. Very few were intact; 
all showed the evidences of the disintegrations 
of time, were browned and discolored from 
their long rest beneath the soil. But about 
them in the mind's eye was a halo, a spirit of 
heroic fortitude, of unselfish courage, and loyal 
patriotism to the new country, for whose up- 
building and for whose later civilization he 
gladly gave up his life. 



%X)t litt of 9!o^n T& ©eutou 

The young mother looking down into the 
face of her baby boy always looks in the fondest 
hope. He is the darling offspring of her own 
body, and there is no other object on the earth 
half so lovely and interesting to her awaiting 
soul. He is her young bud that is to be a love- 
ly fragrant flower, her young scion that is to be 
a mighty oak. He is her dear baby boy, 
cooing in his cradle, with nothing but a beauti- 
ful outlook beaming in the mother's eye. 

Although man is the slowest growth of all 
earthly animal beings, and the days of his 
nursing by far the longest, it seems almost 
unfair, in view of a mother's delight and joy, 
that it should be as short as it is. A happy 
mother, having now grown old, and looking 
backward over her years, once said, "The 
happiest time of my life was when I had my 
little boys around my knees." It is, with all 
its cares, toils, and watchings, the blissful 
period in a mother's life. 

67 



68 Htfe anti €ime£ of 

Yet this happy season must have an end. 
There is hope held in expectation. There is 
always a whisper in the mother's heart as she 
counts the chances in the human life that, 
while something may befall, something may 
overtake, something may go wrong, something 
of evil may embrace, it will always be with 
some other mother's boy and not her own. 

In the wilds of Tennessee, on the morning 
of the 28th of July, 1806, a note rang out on 
the morning air, that the population of Ten- 
nessee had increased. That a child was born. 
It was John B. Denton. Being born amidst 
the tangled forests where the hand of the white 
man was just applied, and civilization was 
only beginning to dawn, it was not then known 
that the child's destiny was to stand all his 
days in the dawn of the coming light, and with 
willing self-sacrifices prepare the way for the 
comfort and happiness of those who should 
follow. 

The first calamity that fell upon Denton 
was the loss of his mother. She did not long 
look upon his smiling face until she was taken 
away. With scarcely anything else to leave, 
she left to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas 



Captain ^oJjn *&. Wmton 69 

the legacy of her son, John B., with her prayer 
m his behalf and her blessing upon his head. 

Some leave to the world the legacy of millions. 
They may be misdirected, wasted, and squan- 
dered. Jay Gould left to the world the legacy 
of a daughter who has proven herself more 
valuable to the world than all his millions. 
Some bequeath to the world the legacy of a 
child whose virtuous, self-sacrificing spirit and 
impressive character will be a great blessing to 
humanity. There is much mistaken notion 
about who leaves a good legacy to the world. 
People are too much trained to think of money, 
that builds only in a material way. Hence 
many great legacies have skipped the human 
thought. 

But here is left a legacy to the world, a mother- 
less baby boy in the tangled woods of a new 
country. He is without a mother's kiss and 
soothing voice. Perhaps no eye turned on 
him in hopeful look. As he lay helpless in his 
cradle some one may have said that it would 
have been better if he had never been born. 
But he was the infant gift of a loving mother 
to the world. It was all she had to give. She, 
like the poor woman that cast the two mites 



jo Hife anti €ime£ of 

into the treasury, gave all she had with her 
blessing on the infant's head. 

But we called the loss of the mother a calamity. 
Did we speak that word in the wisdom of 
knowledge, or did we not speak it after the 
ordinary mode of reasoning and thinking ? 
There is such mysteriousness about that which 
is best, and such application of unseen wisdom 
and force, that the data which would construct 
geometrical science is not like the data working 
in the problem of a human life that possesses 
both will and intelligence. 

Whether Denton's loss of his mother was in 
truth a calamity upon him, so far as it concerned 
all the years that he lived, is too mysterious a 
question for human weakness to decide with 
satisfactory precision. A mother's importance 
and usefulness in a family, as a rule, no one 
would hardly deny. That the loss of a mother 
to many a child would work a calamity upon 
that child is very probable. The world has 
witnessed that things are continually both get- 
ting in the way and out of the way without 
cause so far as the human mind can trace. 
Of course, much of it is not human liking. 
Yet how often does history show that things 



Captain ^Polm 25, 2Denton 71 

which were not according to the human liking, 
proved themselves in the end for the best. 
Therefore, when we reach out exploring into the 
problem of a human life we become involved, 
if not entangled, with forces, both seen and 
unseen, which have something to do with human 
life and with human destiny. The problem of 
the world involves the idea of the progressive 
whole on the way to perfection. Associated 
with this is the complex idea of the units that 
constitute the whole, their uses, their places, 
and their education; not so much that educa- 
tion which comes of the school-room, but that 
which is provisional through the operation of 
unseen forces seasoned with observation and 
experience. 

Deprivation, certain things called hardships, 
or something that tries even a boy, will show in 
his character when he is grown up and takes 
his station among men. It is true that in this 
school all boys are not affected alike. It is 
true again that the old Spartan methods are 
avoided as much as possible. It would, per- 
haps, be better that most children should not 
be subjected to great privation. Yet it is 
maintained that privation and certain hardships 



72 Hife anti €ime$ of 

in youth have been useful factors in molding 
the character of many an illustrious life. It 
creates endurance, forbearance, compassion, 
courage, and contentment under conditions 
that would otherwise produce unrest and press 
hard against a man's courage. When Denton 
lost his mother he was subjected, by this depriva- 
tion, to a life of greater struggle and hardships 
than would have otherwise been his lot. But 
who is wise enough to know that it was not for 
the best? There are some things so deep and 
far-reaching that the intellectual man is but a 
child when he looks into them. The data of 
Denton's life is all that is left. It is satisfactory 
to Texas and to the world. To have changed 
the conditions of his childhood and youth might 
have led to changes in his character, and there 
might have been produced for the world a man 
of less utility. 

In view of human intellectual weakness; in 
view of the closed door that shuts out much of 
the light that would otherwise shine on the 
problem of a human life; in view of the fact 
that Denton became the man he was, and that 
he was useful and satisfactory to humanity ; and 
in view of the fact that we must forever remain 



Captain ^o&n 2S>, 2Denton 73 

ignorant of the changes that might have been 
wrought had his mother lived — we can never 
know, considering the way events have turned, 
whether Denton's loss of his mother in child- 
hood was a calamity or not. 

Ueabmfi f)te (tfratile 

But the day came when the baby boy un- 
wrapped his swaddling-clothes and crawled out 
of his cradle to meet the morning sun amid the 
primeval forests, to hear the twittering of the 
birds that sang from the tall oaks, and the 
sound of the woodman's axe, as stroke on 
stroke he opens up the way to civilization, com- 
fort, and happiness; to see the sun and the blue 
sky, and to look out upon the open world upon 
which fortune had cast his lot; and in his child- 
ish thought think upon the thousand things, 
all of which were new and strange to his child- 
hood gaze. 

He and his father were in poverty. While 
his father was stricken with a sense of the loss 
he had sustained, his little boy, John B., knew 
nothing of his mother, knew nothing of her 
beaming face and smiles, of her caresses, love, 
and hope. He simply had met a condition of 



74 3tife ant> €ime£ of 

things and knew not that there was anything 
better in all the world. Such was John B. 
Denton when the world began to introduce 
itself to him. 

He was now to make his start, first from a 
child in the cradle to the rambling boy, wonder- 
ing at the many things he saw, for a new world 
had opened on his vision. Then he must grow 
to a boy of larger size, able to do the smaller 
things, and to be of some service. He must 
begin to realize that life meant more than mere 
existence, that he had hands which should be 
employed and a mind which should think. 

The conditions were unfavorable, but he 
knew it not. And not knowing the world, and 
therefore being unable to hold things in con- 
trast, he was perhaps as contented and as 
happy as any boy who had the advantages of 
school and churches and all things concomitant 
with an improved civilization. The birds en- 
tertained him with their music, the forests and 
running brooks were his company, and nature 
was his study. Daily he saw things that gave 
him new inspiration. 

It is said that "man is the architect of his 
own fortune." But let it be remarked that 



Captain ^oJjn §&♦ 2)enton 75 

things are sometimes so beautifully said they 
pass for more than the truth they contain. 
This remark may well apply to the elegantly 
dressed saying just quoted. All men obtain 
their fortune or misfortune, but it cannot be 
truthfully maintained that any one, of himself, 
builds his life and character. 

Mankind are so seriously and intricately knit 
together that there is an interwoven web con- 
necting all, whether it is apprehended or not. 
There are, through these conditions, circum- 
stances of influence ab extra, that work through 
the meshes of life's woven web as though they 
were themselves living forces. Hence "no man 
lives to himself and no man dies to himself." 
Nor can it be positively maintained that a man 
is the architect of his own fortune. There are 
conditions, influences, and forces involved that 
largely help to make the man. 

Again, it is often remarked that "all men have 
an equal chance." This is most frequently 
applied to people getting sustenance or wealth; 
and is used as an apology or excuse for not 
lending a hand in feeding the hungry, clothing 
the naked, and doing many needful things. 
But this old saying, if any difference, is more 



76 3tife ant) €ime$ of 

untrue than the other. All men do not have 
an equal chance. And again, the human 
judgment is very much in fault as to what are 
the best chances for making a man of utility to 
the world. It must ever remain thus until 
selfishness has yielded to thoughts and purposes 
for the common good. Fathers sometimes, and 
perhaps often, use processes to make men of 
their sons, and yet in a way unknown to them- 
selves, they countermand the conditions that 
are for the best interests of their sons as men of 
utility to the world. 

It need hardly be remarked that too much 
labor bestowed to make the life of youth free 
from struggle, privation, and battle, may be 
pleasant enough for the youth, but will prove 
a curse to the man yet to be. Hence, how often 
do we see, where youth is in privation, in strug- 
gle, and battle, such men as John B. Denton 
developed. A class of men, while yet boys, 
inured to changing temperatures, schooled in 
the midst of difficulties that try the heart and 
produce courage, they finally come to the front, 
not as yielding spirits, but as men harnessed for 
battle. 

No, men do not all have an equal chance. 



Captain ^oJm 25, 2Denton 77 

But the world is largely ignorant of the methods 
that constitute the best chances. It is likely 
to remain so for a long time. The world has to 
be made to look into deeper recesses than culture 
in science and literature, even into those condi- 
tions which work their own processes on human 
nature and write largely in human character. 

Men have no more an equal chance than that 
they are born equal or have equal physical 
strength. There are conditions that will im- 
prove the strength of the body, and there are 
conditions that lead to knowledge, and there 
are other conditions that bear upon human 
nature and mold the character, but these 
cannot produce equally in physical strength, 
knowledge, and character. Inequality must 
remain, and likewise the unequal chances of 
men. Yet happy is he who meets with the con- 
ditions that make him the best thing of utility 
that is possible. 

,-fFrom ^Tennessee to Hrfcamsag 

The boy had now grown to eight years of age. 
We lose sight of his father. He had also died. 
Hence John B. was left at early age without 
father or mother. His father, so far as is 



7% flifc anti Cimeg of 

known, was a clever, good-hearted man, but 
always struggling in poverty. The active, well- 
formed, blue-eyed frontier boy is now with a 
family named ' Wells. Whether the Wells 
family were relations of the Dentons is unknown, 
but the evidence indicates that they were not. 

Mr. Wells turned his eyes upon the young 
territory of Arkansas, having a population at 
the time of only ten thousand. It was a woody, 
wild country, where bear and other game were 
abundant. A country well suited to try a man 
or a boy in self-denial, in self-possession, in 
courage, and in self-reliance. It was a country 
where schools and churches were almost un- 
known. The settlers were too scattering as yet 
to build school-houses, churches, and meet in 
congregations.- It was a wild condition of 
primeval forests, v/ith the sound of the wood- 
man's axe ringing out daily upon the air. Yet 
it was a territory whither many good and brave 
men and women had gone, and had carried 
with them the respectability of moral character, 
and many of a pious, Christian life. 

It was to this territory that the Wells family 
and young Denton emigrated. Tennessee in 
that day, and especially the part they left, was 



Captain ^ofyn 2$, SDenton 79 

very much unchanged from nature's arrange- 
ment, but now young Denton looked into the 
deeper entanglements and saw how nature had 
applied her hand, and what the whole earth 
would be without man upon it. The whole 
scene, to the eyes of the boy, was beautiful to 
look upon, and brought to his young mind a 
vast field for contemplation. 

In this natural scenery, these creatures of the 
forest, this silence that thrills the soul, o'er- 
spread by the silent blue sky, and at night with 
the stars that speak their voices to the tenting 
sleeper, can any doubt but that the boy with 
the Wells family was a companion with nature, 
holding that communion which was preparing 
him for the issues lying out before him but 
hidden as yet from his view? 

But, adapting himself to these conditions, he 
applied his young hands in helping the Wells 
family build their first cabins in the forest, open 
a garden spot and a field, and with his rifle 
furnished their table with turkey and deer. 



80 ftife anti €ime£ of 

Ueabing tt)e WLtlte dFamity 

Life grew monotonous, probably too much 
so for a boy of young Denton's temperament 
and inclination. There was likely to be revolu- 
tion in the Wells family under justifiable cause, 
but not otherwise. There is sometimes in a 
boy something that parents themselves do not 
understand. Yet it is so grounded in the boy 
and so manifest to himself that to treat him 
contrariwise is but to sow the seed of revolu- 
tion. It may be further stated that a boy of 
destiny sometimes acts a part for which he is 
denounced as disobedient and refractory. This 
may be because he has glimpses of himself not 
at all understood by other people. Yet all the 
while he says little or nothing about such things. 
He is simply waiting for his hour to come; and 
should such conditions ever arise, he is fitted to 
fill his place, and will then show to humanity 
what kind of man he is, and will meet every 
emergency. 

But the evidence seems to be that young 
Denton was not treated well in the Wells family. 
They looked upon him as a sort of alien, and 
that as an alien he was not worthy of certain 



Captain ^ofyn 3k 2Denton 81 

rights and privileges in common with the other 
members of the family. He was given greater 
and harder tasks; was spoken to complainingly; 
his name was called too often on lines of busi- 
ness. These and a multitude of corresponding 
things provoked in the boy a spirit of revolution. 
If they could not be amended the case was made 
out; that is, he would resort to the extreme 
alternative, which is the common right of the 
oppressed. 

This kind of reproach has been saddled on 
the world long enough. It is high time mankind 
were getting rid of every vestige of it. If all 
men sprang of one blood, of which there is the 
highest proof, then humanity is a brotherhood. 
This truth will stand, regardless of the errors 
and practical ways of humanity. Apologies in 
the way of pseudo-beliefs, licensing wrongs, 
should be condemned in every quarter. Had 
the genealogical tables of the world all been 
kept, all could see the "kith and kin" relation- 
ship that circulates in the blood of all. Then 
all might be brought to see the common rights 
of all, and sing the song with Robert Burns, 
"A man is a man for a' that and a' that." 

But this relation with the Wells family was 



82 jttife attti €ime£ of 

not without its use. The school of experience 
is where judgment is rendered of right and 
wrong, where the heart is touched and made 
tender. It is the school that turns the heart 
in sympathy toward all who are wronged and 
are made to suffer. The Divine One himself, 
through a material experience as a man, learned, 
if possible, more sympathy and compassion for 
man. In that experience he not only saw, but 
felt. He endured the trials, buffetings, hatred, 
scorn, and death of a man, and with this experi- 
ence connected with His divine essence He will 
be forever the highest advocate of man's cause. 
Interceding, forgiving, teaching, helping, and 
forever with his body thrust between, marked 
with the scars of human existence, he will 
appeal to the highest source that man may be 
helped out of all his distresses. 

Jorui B. Denton, at the early age of twelve 
years, had an experience impressive and which 
he could never forget. Having been treated 
as an alien in the family, he ever afterward 
took interest in oppressed and suffering hu- 
manity as his special brothers. Being hated, 
he learned to love; being overtasked, he learned 
to lift burdens; being robbed of common rights 



Captain ^otyn 25- 3Denton 83 

and privileges, he sought the common rights of 
all; being reduced to servile labor, he resolved 
that, in so far as he was able, all should be free. 
His young heart was rilled with compassion for 
all who were wronged. 

Though it was in the wild woodlands of 
Arkansas, where nightly the lonesome howling 
of the wolf was heard, and every echo of the 
woodman's axe was answered by the shriek of 
the panther or the growl of some other wild 
beast that stood opposing in the pathway of 
civilization, it made no difference with young 
Denton at that serious hour. His mind was 
made up. His purpose could not be shaken. 
His young heart had been changed through a 
rough school of experience. He felt its bap- 
tismal fires burning, and while he was not in- 
flamed, he was, nevertheless, resolved. 

Not able to be free as a boy should be free, 
he bade the Wells family farewell, and stepped 
out of their cabin door. In frontier dress not of 
the best, with bullet pouch, powder-horn, and 
flint-lock rifle on his shoulder, he walked away to 
make or to meet his fortune, whatever it might 
be. Anyway, he was free of the Wells family 
and could breathe the free air. Having been a 



84 atife anti €imc£ of 

pupil in a hard school he went to do battle for 
himself, resigned to any difficulties that might 
attend his pathway. Once gone forward, he 
had no thought of retracing. 

The common outcry of humanity would be, 
There goes a boy in whom there is no hope. 
And, indeed, to any one who could not read the 
thought of that- boy's heart such judgment 
would be largely correct. But this boy had 
been in a hard school. His departure was more 
the action of a revolutionary spirit against 
intolerable evils than of self-will. He was 
affected because what he regarded as his com- 
mon rights had been taken away. He felt that 
he had come to the court of last resort, where 
the parting of the ways was his only alternative. 
He was resolved to be better than those who 
had given him his tasks. He was resolved to 
be a friend to all boys and to sympathize with 
them and help them in the day their common 
rights might be taken away. Thus, growing 
to manhood, he sympathized with all people in 
their distresses. 



Captain S f o()» 25* Denton 85 
<Ktyz Years of £tlenrc 

From this period there are a few years of com- 
parative silence. There is but little said or 
known of Denton for about six years. There 
is evidence, however, that he maintained a 
sturdy character and was of stout heart. But 
with whom he lived and how he fared is not 
known with sufficient precision for narration. 

One thing is well known, that he passed these 
six years without education, even as he had 
passed his preceding years. The embarrass- 
ments shutting out education can only be sur- 
mised. It is probable there were no schools in 
the country where he dwelt. And it is equally 
probable that no one gave him encouragement 
to get an education. The open book of nature 
was all he had to feast his mind. When this is 
well looked upon it is wonderfully improving. 
From it many books are copied. Hence young 
Denton's culture consisted of large and varied 
experience and the things he learned through 
nature's voice. Fortunately for all, nature is 
an open book, and to a boy that opens his heart 
to receive instruction she pours in a flood of 
light and knowledge. 



86 atife anti €ime£ of 

Young Denton in a thousand ways could see 
nature's ways and hear her vocie. Hence in 
after life, when he became a public man, he had 
this great source continually before him, on 
which he could draw to make his illustrations 
and speak his parables. When, as a boy, 
climbing the hills amidst the forests, he saw 
the struggling vines oppressed by larger growth 
that took no thought, his mind was brought to 
think of himself, of his own captivity and 
oppression. When he heard the voice of thun- 
der he was reminded of the unseen forces that 
can shake the universe. When he saw the 
lightning flash and the stateliest oak riven into 
shreds in a twinkling of time, he thought how 
foolish it is for man to boast and exalt himself, 
seeing how quickly he may be laid low. 

The youthful Denton had been reading na- 
ture in a thousand ways and was intelligent. 
He had been walking in these fields of experi- 
ence from whence school-room text-books are 
made, until he could dictate chapters for the 
enjoyment and culture of other youth. But in 
the midst of all this he was without the art of 
reading. 

It can hardly be said that it was his choice to 



Captain ^Qfyn 2&, 2Denton 87 

neglect books, nor of those with whom he lived. 
For Arkansas Territory, even at this date, had 
less than thirty thousand inhabitants. With 
this scattering population, and with the anxiety 
and rustle to get materially comfortable, even 
the old log-cabin school-house was put to great 
disadvantage, if not entirely omitted. 

(£ embers to n — jftlarriage — IPupil of i)is 
Mtfe— jftftmfetenal Uafcots anb €ka= 
torj) 

We have now approached the period when 
John B. Denton was to be no longer regarded 
as a boy, but was to take his place in the list of 
men. Yet he was only eighteen years of age. 
But counting his large experience, and that in 
frontier life he had for some time largely borne 
the responsibilities of a man, and though not 
fully bearded, the school of his life had built in 
him such sobriety of thought and manly deport- 
ment, he was easily recognized as a man among 
his fellows. 

But there is connected with his life at this 
period an event of vast importance, to himself in 
particular, and to others in general. It was 
the event that laid the foundation of his future 



88 Hife and €ime£ of 

career and usefulness. The pioneer preachers 
of Methodism had now begun to spread the 
tidings of salvation all over the sparsely settled 
territory of Arkansas. Among these were a 
number of strong men. But they all preached 
the Gospel after the apostolic mode, in the glow 
and fervency of the intensest earnestness. 

The territory was now passing over the con- 
ditions that had forced neglect. The oppor- 
tunity was now given the fathers and mothers, 
who under forced circumstances had fallen 
from grace, to renew themselves again in Chris- 
tian experience, Gospel truth, and knowledge. 
It likewise gave the great opportunity to their 
sons and daughters. 

This Gospel proclamation was the beginning 
of a better day; for it is the handmaid of all 
true civilization in all Christian countries. It 
imparts new thought, turning a man inward in 
thoughts upon himself, and outward in thoughts 
upon his neighbors and his country. It gives 
a new inspiration for schools, an improved 
intelligence, and an advanced civilization. It 
produces dissatisfaction with the old regime of 
society, and begins a new catalogue of manners. 
It brings a man to a halt in many ways, impresses 



Captain 3 f oftn 2k SDenton Sg 

him over and over again that he is an immor- 
tality, and that, therefore, he should be a man 
approved both in the eyes of other men and of 
heaven. 

This was largely like something new to Den- 
ton. He woke up as from a dream. He placed 
himself at the mercy seat and sought the peace 
of his soul by becoming reconciled to God. 
He obtained his new birth and felt the thrill of 
it in his own spirit. Not the mere assent of 
the mind to a truth and confession, but the deep 
conviction that " God's love was shed abroad in 
his heart." Though he was unacquainted with 
the technical phrases of theology, he had a new 
experience that had burned away his sins, and 
had left the warmth of the fire still burning in 
his spirit. He realized what John the Baptist 
said: "He that cometh after me shall baptize 
you with the Holy Ghost and fire." 

Considering the kind of young man Denton 
had been made by former experiences and 
observation of nature, he had now received in 
his heart a qualification for largely more ex- 
tended usefulness. Without something of this 
kind of experience a man's life is less positive, 
and in his negative nature he is proportionally 



go %iic anti €tmc£ of 

less impressive on society. A man living and 
acting among his fellows needs something 
within him that glows, until the very heat of it 
shall fall upon his neighbors. 

Conjointly with Denton's conversion there 
was born in him a great desire for usefulness 
and helpfulness towards his fellow-men. While 
he would have no boy galled with much of his 
former experience, he felt great anxiety that all 
young men should be qualified with an experi- 
ence of soul similar to his own. 

This brings the thought to that wonderful 
doctrine, a call to the Christian ministry. It 
appertains to the life of John B. Denton and 
it would be next to criminal to pass it without 
notice. He could never have been a legal min- 
ister of the Gospel in the Methodist Episcopal 
Church without confessing to a divine call to 
be a preacher. It is the judgment and belief 
of this church that her ministers are called of 
God; peculiarly called to that high office. 
They do not base this judgment and belief on 
human reason alone, but on the teachings of 
the holy word. And when is added to that 
word an impression on the soul that will not 
forego or be repressed, it is a sign to that man 



Captain 3 f ol)n 2&. Qoenton 91 

that he has a divine call to preach the tidings of 
salvation unto men. 

Denton, now acting the part of a man, al- 
though he had not reached his majority, con- 
fessed a call to the Christian ministry. He 
was uneducated, so far as related to book-lore, 
and the art of using books. He certainly must 
have been largely ignorant of Bible readings 
and Bible doctrine. But he was a converted 
sinner and walked and communed with God in 
the kingdom of heaven. He therefore had a 
message for his fellow-man. 

Though he was unable to speak on general 
points of doctrine with the wisdom of the 
schooled theologian, yet he could speak upon 
the points of greatest concern to all men, that 
men should believe the Gospel, repent, and be 
saved. To this he could add his own personal 
experience of salvation. 

But the thought is called to another very im- 
portant event at this period. Denton got mar- 
ried. The girl of his choice was named Mary 
Greenlee Stewart. As is reported she was of 
the state of Louisiana. She was of amiable 
disposition, and what made her exceedingly 
important, she was fairly well educated. 



92 Itife anti 3Ttme£ of 

It is impossible for imagination to picture 
the joys and happiness of that young twain 
made one flesh, as they dwelt in the humble log 
cabin on the outskirts of the settlements in 
Arkansas. The scene seems to be better suited 
for the brush of the artist rather than the pen of 
the biographer. 

On the one side was young Denton, eighteen 
or perhaps nineteen years of age, almost six feet 
in stature, very erect, chivalrous, with black and 
slightly curling hair, blue eyed, of large experi- 
ence and observation for one so young, and a 
heart but recently made pure through the work 
of regeneration wrought upon his soul. On the 
other side the young wife, nigh to his own age, 
of most agreeable temper, fairly well educated, 
industrious, satisfied, Christian, resigned, and 
willing to endure with her young husband all 
that life should be made to meet. 

Now that other scene, on which angels look 
with joy when the evening hour has come. In 
those days family altars burned with spiritual 
life more than now. In the hush of birds and 
repose of nature, the pine-knot fire was kindled 
to fresh glow. The young wife reads a lesson 
that came down from the skies; they kneel in 



Captain ^oJjn 25, SDenton qs 

recognition of the God of nature, and their God; 
and young Denton leads in prayer and suppli- 
cation. Happy scene, O holy hour! Let him 
who says there is no God, now assent that the 
forces in which he believes, should make them- 
selves a God that hears the suppliant voice. 

The Pupil of his Wife. Young Denton 
was now determined to be a minister of the 
Gospel, but was not yet, so far as any record 
shows, authorized by the church to exercise 
himself in this high office. Called of God, he 
was like a man elected to office, but awaiting 
the day of qualification. Like a wise man under 
high calling he was thinking of the worldly 
wisdom that should be united with heavenly 
enduement to make him efficient in leading 
souls to Christ. He fully realized that a divine 
call to the ministry included the adjunct call to 
get ready. Hence he, in his ignorance of books, 
became the pupil of his wife. 

It was a school of tw r o in the log cabin, a 
teacher and one pupil, the young wife and her 
young husband. The wife was not superior to 
the husband when taken altogether, but she 
had the advantage of art. She knew some 
things he did not know, while he knew many 



94 ftife and Cime$ of 

things she did not know. The things which 
he did not know and which his wife could teach 
him were very important and absolutely neces- 
sary in the ministerial office. Denton was a dili- 
gent pupil, and the young wife was a faithful, 
loving teacher. 

The world shall never know all that was in 
that school taught on the frontier settlements 
of Arkansas in the year 1826. The imagination 
might picture an unseemly lonesomeness. But 
the contrary is the true picture. These children 
of the frontier were so accustomed to this way 
and that way of getting along, that they saw 
nothing unusual or strange about their school 
in the log cabin. And again there was too much 
love, hope, and ambition in front of the daubed, 
stick-built chimney for lonesomeness or any 
other evil spirit to ever creep in at their door. 

Along with this school must be associated the 
struggle for sustenance. The garden and the 
field were to be prepared and tilled, old clothing 
renovated, and new stocks provided as purse 
would allow. Not an hour was to be lost. 
When not engaged in useful outdoor employ- 
ment, Denton was at his books, learning to read 
those elementary principles upon which a mind 



Captain ^otjn 25. 2Denton 95 

already active could build a knowledge of gen- 
eral science and literature. 

Scarcely a year had gone when the young 
wife began to think that her husband was ready 
for a higher school. Having a suggestive and 
originating mind, he began to read between the 
lines and to apprehend that which was about 
to be said if the author was a legitimate reasoner. 
The school naturally broke itself up into social 
converse and reading. Of nights, they still 
burned the pine-knots, but Denton both read 
the divine word and offered the evening prayer. 
He never went to school elsewhere. 

To say that in after life John B. Denton never 
became scholarly in fair degree is to say that 
which is largely untrue. Yet many a man, 
under such conditions, would never have escaped 
his ignorance. It shows what is in the range 
of possibility, and should awake dormant thou- 
sands to new ideas of courage and perseverance. 
Denton, as a subject, is an object lesson to the 
world. His wife is a beautiful illustration of the 
place woman can fill when around the hearth- 
stone; the delightfulness of her helpful ways 
when toned down in the prudence of woman's 
love. 



96 %ift ant) €imcg of 

It is a great blessing to humanity that under 
hard circumstances at least a few men appear 
whom neither time nor conditions can suppress. 
In this list may be placed those whose minds 
have been stirred and put in a high state of 
activity. This is the foundation that produces 
thirst for knowledge. Hence the prime office 
of instructors, in the first place, is to see that 
the minds of their pupils are put in good working 
order. It is probable that many a boy has fin- 
ished his college course whose mind has never 
been properly awakened and trained. Hence 
many, apparently brilliant, are soon lost sight 
of, and others go on and reach higher attain- 
ments than was public expectation. This is 
likely to remain thus until special care is taken 
to wake the faculties. 

John B. Denton a Minister of the Gospel. 
When skepticism and indifferent thinking is 
put out of the mind, men are forced to acknowl- 
edge that the Christian ministry, called of God, 
is the most exalted height of man on earth. 
Concede the first part of this statement and the 
second holds true. Men, of course, have their 
opinions, and many are those who are indifferent 
whether the Christian ministry is degraded or 



Captain ^PoJjn 25. SDenton 97 

upheld. There is one thing no one can escape; 
that whosoever is called of God to preach the 
Gospel has a high office before men. 

John B. Denton found himself on this pin- 
nacle in 1826, when he was just nineteen years 
of age. This was the work, not of human hands, 
but the work and call of God. Human minds 
can indorse and human hands can confirm the 
call from on high that is spoken into the human 
understanding, but it is God who calls and 
pours the anointing oil. 

To affirm that God does not call men to the 
ministry of his word is to affirm too largely 
his absence from his church, for which he gave 
the blood of his Son. It is to place God's 
church on a parity with the ethical philosophy 
of the world as established among men. It is 
like leaving a man, unassisted by grace, to lead 
the people to Christ. Indeed, it is to be skep- 
tical of things of God, of the divine presence in 
his word and in his church. There is no half- 
way ground between faith and skepticism. 
God is over all and in all, or else he is of no 
value to man, a mere myth of superstition, and 
no more to be regarded than the gods of the 
heathen. 



98 3tife anti €ime£ of 

Hence, when we find Denton exalted to the 
Christian ministry, we must look upon him in a 
Bible sense, called of God to minister as a man 
in the spiritual affairs of this world. Not that 
he was made thereby into the impossible, as 
many of the foolish of this world vainly imagine 
and falsely reason; for he was still a man of the 
earth, a brother to all, subject to disease, old 
age, and death; and having the weakness and 
passions of a man, was subject to mistaken 
judgment and shortcomings. He was called 
of God in the weakness, infirmity, and imper- 
fection of a man, to preach the Gospel and min- 
ister to those that are likewise weak. 

From 1826 to 1836 John B. Denton was a 
faithful minister of the gospel in Arkansas and 
southern Missouri. The story of his preaching 
is largely without written record. It was no 
doubt fairly written, so far as relates to con- 
ference records and notices of his eloquence 
and power as a pulpit orator as published in 
the few journals in the territory of his ministerial 
operation. But it was in a day and in a field 
where the conditions were not favorable for 
preserving the records. Nearly all have been 
lost, both of church records and press notices. 



Captain ^otyn 2& 2Denton 99 

The tide of immigration that flowed in so im- 
pressed the people with an ever-changing con- 
dition and so occupied them with pressing en- 
gagements that they took little thought of 
recording or preserving history, either of them- 
selves generally, or of any one man in particular. 

This is the condition into which the biographer 
is called to look when attempting to give the 
story of Denton's ministerial career in Arkansas 
and southern Missouri. Much might be said in 
refrain touching on the legendary tales of his 
life; but inasmuch as the task is to write true 
biography, and not a tale of mixed truth and 
fiction, these must be omitted. More than 
three-quarters of a century have passed since 
Denton began his ministry in Arkansas, and 
almost three-quarters since he left that state 
and immigrated to Texas. 

There remain only a few living witnesses, and, 
of course, they were very young. They are now 
old men and women. Wherever they are found 
the name of Denton is fondly cherished. They 
love his name, and their faces light up and their 
eyes sparkle as they turn to the old memories 
of what they saw and the things their fathers told 
them of Denton's pulpit power, grace, and 



ioo itife anti €ime£ of 

eloquence. There is to be found nowhere a 
dissenting voice, but the utmost agreement that 
Denton was a power in his day, even in his 
youthful ministry. 

With that which is known, the matter cannot 
be meditated upon or looked into, without feeling 
a creeping sense of the loss humanity has sus- 
tained for lack of fuller records of this notable 
man. He was certainly one of those ideal and 
teaching characters now and then furnished the 
world as a subject of study. They are of great 
service to mankind. Held in memory they are 
enlightening mileposts in life's journey. They 
are guide-boards telling the way. They are 
open books of instruction, creating courage, 
hope, and giving new inspiration to life's weary 
traveler. They are pictures upon which the 
tired man can look with pleasure and encourage- 
ment when he sits down to rest. They are indis- 
pensable to youth; for they awake in them new 
aspiration to be something of utility to the world. 

Enough remains to give a good lesson of 
instruction. The youth of the land, in the 
critical period of forming their characters, 
should find time to turn their eyes on such a 
character as John B. Denton. They should 



Captain 3^n 25* Denton 101 

consider the possibilities that lie out before the 
honest, industrious boy who labors through 
difficulties; that it is possible to reach the goal, 
though it be through bramble or over a moun- 
tain. With the object lesson continually before 
them, they should see that their duty is to march 
unceasingly, and not lose time by sitting down 
and counting the costs. If embarrassments 
arise and hardships overtake, that it is none the 
worse in the fulfillment of life; that life is a 
school, and that it does not always prove for the 
best when it goes easy with the lad. 

§n STexas 

The new immigrant into Texas at this period 
was the joy of all the people. It was now fall 
of the year, but the same year in which the 
battle of San Jacinto had been fought and won. 
With the overthrow of Mexican authority and 
the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican presi- 
dent, the liberty of Texas was regarded as 
secured. Texas had previously declared her 
independence of Mexico, but now through un- 
exampled chivalry, victory had proven her title 
to that which she had previously declared before 
the eyes of all people. 



102 atife an& €tmc0 of 

Texas was now breathing the air and taking 
the action of an unfettered and independent 
national individuality. She was a new star in 
the galaxy of nations, and was beginning to be 
so recognized. She needed immigrants and fam- 
ilies to add to her meager population. A vast 
territory, and with as yet scarcely more than 
thirty thousand, she had broken the yoke of her 
oppressor and thrown off the burden of authority 
that could never lead her as a state into the en- 
joyments and liberty of an advanced civilization. 

In view of her vast and rich territory, granted 
in parcels free to all, only upon their coming and 
asking; in view that population is necessary to 
make a great country, it would have been next 
to criminal not to have invited immigration and 
offered inducements. Had the world seen then, 
as the world sees now, the population of Texas 
would have been largely more than it is, and 
thousands who were in want would have had 
better opportunities. It was lack of knowledge 
and heroic undertaking in those days that con- 
tinued many in poverty and held in restraint the 
progress of Texas. 

Denton crossed Red River in the fall of the 
year 1836, in company with Lyttleton Fowler, 



Captain ^ofm {©♦ SDenton 103 

who was a Methodist preacher of fine character 
and power. Denton came a young man in the 
harness of a Gospel minister to do missionary 
work among the scattering settlements of Texas. 
He was about thirty years of age. Physically 
strong, of adaptable temper, and inured to 
privation, he came to stay. He was a Texan 
from the hour he crossed Red River in company 
with Lyttleton Fowler. He was in love with 
Texas before he came. The struggle Texas had 
made and was still making was of such kinship 
to his own nature, that he was anxious to be a 
participant in her struggles, growth, and civiliza- 
tion. He loved to assist her struggling souls 
into salvation, and the same sympathetic chord 
of love made him anxious to help Texas unto 
her new birth of freedom, civilization, and happi- 
ness. He needed no culture in the ways of 
Texas people. He had to put little restraint on 
himself, for he already had a similar experience 
to Texans on the frontier settlements of Arkan- 
sas. 

He was a Texan in love with Texas, and the 
people received him as a brother. He came to 
be a Texan, to live and labor with the Texas 
people, and when he finished his labors and liv- 



104 Jtife anti €ime£ of 

ing, to finally rest in a Texas grave. And surely 
if a man ever went in quest of a Texas grave, 
he found it in all the grace of one who spends 
his life in his country's cause to make a better 
day for those who should follow. 

But when Denton came to Texas his magic 
life checkmated much evil that afflicts a new 
country that settles up slowly. The human 
nature is too prone, under monotonous condi- 
tions, to grow into indifference about things 
that could be made better. These things creep 
insidiously upon a man, until in manners and 
some of the decencies of life, he grows negligent, 
and almost forgets the manner of man he once 
was. And even the good wife may lose cir- 
cumspection. They both alike decline into 
indifference until the order of home gets to be 
what it should not be. This always gives a 
culture that digressively affects their children. 
Thus, sometimes, more is lost than they have 
gained in their herds of cattle. 

Though John B. Denton was himself always 
a frontiersman, yet such a life of decency and 
respectability as his infused itself into the man- 
ners of the people and into the order of their 
families. This helped them to keep up the 



Captain ^ntyn 2k 2Denton 105 

olden culture and to preserve incorrupt the 
better taste of society. The very Gospel he 
preached contained all that is herein said. It 
cultivated his own life and manners, and through 
him the life and manners of many others. To 
have such a man to dwell with the people on a 
frontier settlement, and especially one that slowly 
settled, is always of incalculable benefit. 

Denton was of service in maintaining the 
decency and respectability of society not only 
in the sense of one who mingles, but he was also 
a means of assembling the people, for he gave 
to them a preaching day. Not as an election 
day or political gathering, but a day for the 
assembling of both the sexes, a test day for best 
appearance in dress and manners to hear the 
Gospel preached. This was a saving salt among 
the people of the frontier settlements, even as 
it is in all places. Of course, what is herein 
stated is like speaking in an unknown tongue 
to people who never hear the Gospel preached, 
and who take no thought of the good that 
flows out of it. 

While Denton was a brave man and fought 
back the foes of civilization in carnal warfare, 
he should not be forgotten in other respects, 



to6 %ite and €ime£ of 

nor misjudged of his utility in other fields of 
his labor. There are many foes to fight on 
frontier settlements besides Indians. Unless 
they are fought from the settlements and from 
the very hearthstones the so-called civilization 
will not prove worth the cost. It would be 
wicked for the white man to supplant the 
Indian to place another with only finer art. 
He must place in the Indian's stead the white 
race with the white man's respectability. 
Cruelty is never justifiable unless something 
good grows out of it. 

The utility of Denton on the frontier settle- 
ments is reflected in the lives of a few old people 
who knew him and who yet survive. Under 
his ministry their eyes were opened and their 
hearts were touched until they became ashamed 
of the thing they were, and sought at the mercy 
seat that renovating birth that sets a man on 
new ways of thinking and conduct. 

In this way Denton was of great service to 
the people upon the frontier settlements. It 
was often remarked by the people who came to 
stay in those days, and by many who came and 
went back, that Texas society was far in advance 
of all they had expected to find. The gentility, 



Captain ^Pofjtt 25* 2Denton 107 

۩urtesy, and honor of the people was in strange 
contrast with the primeval face of all things 
else. Even the people of Texas to-day esteem 
and hold in fond memory the forces that kept 
and preserved the good of society in the early 
days. It was this at the foundation that, more 
than anything else, has made Texas great to-day. 

After one way of looking it seems almost 
criminal that a man of Denton's talents and 
force of character should waste his life on the 
outskirts of civilization. When a man lives for 
himself alone this is true, but it by no means 
shows up the ideal man that the world needs. 
The selfish man is hurt by the things and con- 
ditions that turn against him personally, the 
man of generosity by the things that affect 
society. Denton belonged to this latter class 
of men, and was, therefore, a sacrifice on the 
altar of his country and society. 

Now that his course on earth has long been 
finished, there is remaining something beautiful 
in the introspection of his day and the manner 
of life he lived. The rose is more beautiful and 
fragrant upon the desert wild, where few come 
and go and taste, than in the city full, where 
often bearfty and fragrance waste. Beautiful 



108 llife and €imeg of 

is the flower that dwells and blooms on the 
desert range, where all passersby make note of 
its charming presence. Happy the thought that 
planted it there, tokening beforehand the coming 
beauty that would spread the desert o'er. 

lEs a ^reacfjer 

Having seen the deep impression Denton 
made upon the society of the early settlers, his 
helpful ways in saving them from decline in 
manners and conduct, it would be ungrateful 
not to speak of him directly and particularly in 
his ministerial character and ability. The im- 
portance of a minister of the gospel to society 
makes this demand. It is the high office that 
continually calls upon men to be honorable and 
upright in all their business and intercourse 
with their fellows, and as a keynote in human 
relations, exhorting them to observe the Christ- 
rule to man: "All things whatsoever ye would 
that men should do to you, do ye even so to 
them." And even further, it is the office that 
calls for faith, repentance, and the soul's prepara- 
tion for the judgment day; that while man's 
body is mortal, his soul or spirit will live in con- 
sciousness in the hereafter; and that his tran- 



Captain ^ofjtt 25. 2Denton 109 

scendental life will be morally affected by his 
conduct in material existence. 

With such themes before him, being strong 
in faith and flushed with deep sympathy for 
human weakness and all the oppressed, Denton 
always appeared at his best. Spiritually minded, 
in close discernment of the eternal realities, of 
manly form, bewitching eyes, musical voice, 
and his soul burning with the substance of his 
subject, he was in the pulpit the unsymbolized 
orator of his day. 

This man, therefore, presented the Gospel not 
only in the profundity of its truth, but also in 
the attractiveness of an orator and the rich 
splendor of language; melting the people into 
tears, and compelling men and women into 
repentance through the operation of the Holy 
Spirit. If converts were limited it was largely 
because congregations on the frontiers of Texas 
were likewise limited. Does any one say that 
this ornateness should not be in the Gospel of 
Christ ? Then let it be said that God has made 
us all, and has given even to his ministers a 
feather as various in plumage as the birds of the 
air. It all works together for the best in the 
salvation of men. Paul and Barnabas accom- 



no 3life anti €ime$ of 

plished each what the other was unable to do; 
and one was called Jupiter and the other Mer- 
curius. 

That Denton should be provided to labor 
all his ministerial days among a frontier and 
thinly scattered people is a problem to which 
human thought has hardly advanced. It must 
be allowed that if he had been sent from some 
educational center he would have been wanting 
in certain adaptability. With all his ornate- 
ness, he was a brother frontiersman. His 
school was theirs, and his privations. God has 
not ceased to raise up men for His own purposes. 
The history of Arkansas and Texas show that 
Denton was needed; and as a spoke in the 
wheel of God's moral evolution, he filled his 
place well, and both these territories were made 
better by his life. 

At this late day it is impossible to realize the 
importance of such a man to the people of his 
day. Nor can be fully traced the lines of moral 
effect beginning with him and still existing. 
We can only know that which was made by his . 
life, but can never know the conditions that 
would have been had he never lived. There 
are secret chambers in the archives of a human 



Captain Stafpt 9& SDenton 



1 1 1 



life that cannot be entered, and knowledge there 
that no man can learn. They belong to that 
sphere of vision and knowledge that is called 
supernal. 

&g a liatoper 

The change that came over Denton in turn- 
ing to be a lawyer in the third year of this Texas 
life is not the change that many would reason- 
ably suspect. Ordinarily one would suppose 
that he had quit the Christian ministry, as has 
occurred in the history of some preachers. 
But this is not true in Denton's case except in 
an excusable part. He was called to a high 
office from on high. His decision was to 
occupy this office unto the end and to allow no 
entanglements to give him trouble in that court. 

Yet the whole human race are largely the 
creatures of circumstances. When these stand 
around a man in a menacing and threatening 
manner there are often great moral battles to be 
fought as well as duties to perform. But in the 
midst of all a wise and honest man can discern 
the proper course and will pursue it. No man 
can know what he will be only as he is called to 
meet the events. The conditions of to-day may 



ii2 %ift anb €ime£ of 

not be the conditions of to-morrow. But no con- 
ditions should brook the man called of God 
from preaching the Gospel. 

To-day the sporting boy may be seen chasing 
the butterfly. To-morrow butterflies may. be 
gone and he must look around for other sports 
which another day had furnished. But in the 
midst of all the dutiful boy is always subject to 
the call of his mother. A change of conditions 
did not stop Denton from preaching. He lived 
a preacher; and when he fell from his saddle 
at the Keechi battle, he fell not only as a soldier 
but as a Methodist preacher. 

The circumstances under which he became a 
lawyer are easily told. He was poor, and had 
around him a growing family that must be cared 
for, and deserved his fatherly protection. Not 
that he loved the souls of men and his country 
less, but because these had been given him as 
a special charge. The time had been when he 
could forego demands, for scarcely more than 
himself would have been in the sacrifice. But 
when an honorable man has a wife and a grow- 
ing family of innocents around him, he feels 
responsibility and looks upon them in a spirit 
of graciousness more than upon his own body. 



Captain ^oljn 95. SDenton 113 

Under these conditions Denton only asked 
for a location in the ministry of the Gospel 
according to the law and usage of the church 
to which he belonged. That is, he would not 
withdraw from the ministry, but would with- 
draw from the traveling connection. This is 
the official relation he ever afterwards sustained 
to the Methodist Episcopal Church until his 
death. 

The circumstances which led him to assume 
this relation have already been told in part. It 
was a question of salary or income that would 
maintain the respectability of his family. To 
have no other office but that of traveling and 
preaching is among the most enjoyable things. 
The young and unembarrassed preacher, in the 
fervor and glow of his spirit, can do this and 
enjoy it in the midst of conditions that would put 
to the test the temper of another, and still go on, 
for there would be no one financially to be cared 
for except himself. 

But when the day of burden and care comes, 
when he is oppressed with his load until the 
additional weight of the grasshopper is felt, 
other thoughts creep over him, and the duties 
he owes to his own household will not be over- 



1 1 4 %ifc and €ime£ of 

looked. This is right; indeed, it is a part of 
that Gospel which the man preaches. Denton 
beheld the conditions. He saw that he could 
not maintain his family in exclusive ministry 
among a people who were generally poor. He 
therefore turned his attention to the law as his 
best opportunity for support. Paul was both a 
preacher and tent-maker. 

Mr. John B. Craig, being somewhat old, did 
the home office work. Denton was largely in 
the saddle, often traveling long distances, and 
did the work over the large field of their prac- 
tice. We said Denton was in the saddle, be- 
cause that was the usual way of traveling in 
those days. It was the usual way except when 
families were moved, and then it was in wagons 
or other strong wheel conveyances. Appear- 
ances of traveling were all very much the same. 

Moreover, men traveling between towns went 
armed, not knowing at what point or at what 
hour they would meet with the savage foe. 
Therefore they had no desire to be embarrassed 
with vehicles. Again, every frontiersman had 
to be a "minute-man." His safety and the 
safety of the settlements depended on his readi- 
ness for marching and battle. The preacher 



Captain ^ofjn 25* 2Denton 115 

the lawyer, as well as others, were likely to be 
overtaken by a runner at any hour and informed 
of an Indian raid and that he was needed. 

These conditions are noted, showing the em- 
barrassments that oft intruded upon the path- 
way of both the preacher and the lawyer in 
those days. Yet composure and resignation 
were indwelling qualities of the early settlers. 
They did not even think their lot was hard. 
That was the thought of others. They were 
accustomed to changes, alarms, and battles. 
They were surprised at few things. Want of 
valor in any was a thing most surprising of all. 
When they started anywhere they were not 
certain they would gain their destination without 
some kind of check producing delay. For this 
reason the Gospel was made irregular and 
courts could not be held with precision of days. 
While they calculated on the uncertainty of 
things, they did not nervously bother about 
them. They thought less about them and said 
less about them than other people. They sim- 
ply met the difficulties and made the most of 
them, leaving their memory to other people 
who loved to talk about them. 

On these outskirts of civilization many a man, 



1 16 %itt and €ime£ of 

unconscious of being a hero, in the twilight of 
the evening entered his cabin door and smoked 
his pipe of peace. With his gun and pouch in 
readiness he lay down upon his couch and slept 
in the sound slumbers of a child. He was 
listless to all the world except certain signs of 
his foes with which all frontiersmen were well 
acquainted. The restlessness and unusual 
neighing of a horse, the peculiar barking of a 
dog, or the hooting of an owl always awoke him, 
however sound his slumbers. These and 
similar signs were the alarm clocks of the 
pioneers. There might be other sounds greater, 
but they never disturbed their slumbers; but 
these always crept into their ears, and to them 
they were never listless. 

The reputation of Denton as a preacher had 
always gone ahead of him in his law practice. 
He was frequently called on for a sermon, and 
his Sundays were occupied in this way. In 
illustration of his preaching along with his 
law practice we give the following quotation : 

"The next step taken by the pioneers of 
Grayson County towards civilization was to 
have preaching whenever they could find a 
Gospel dispenser straying that way. The first 



Captain 2M)n 95, SDenton 117 

sermon they had, and the last for several years, 
was delivered by a Methodist preacher by the 
name of John B. Denton. He hailed from 
Arkansas, where he was well known by the 
Dugan family. After his arrival in Texas he 
located in Clarksville, occasionally visiting 
Warren to attend court. 

"It was during one of these visits that Mother 
Dugan heard of his presence and sent him a 
request to preach while there. He cheerfully 
complied, and made an appointment for the 
following Sunday at the school-house at Warren. 
An event of such importance must have filled 
the little log school-house to overflowing. What 
an attractive congregation he must have had, 
as they listened to the word of God for the first 
time in the wilderness, and awoke the echoes of 
the silent forest with their songs of Zion. Would 
it were my pleasant task to record a long life 
of usefulness for this good man. But such is 
not to be. A sacrifice to Indian treachery, his 
death fully serves as an illustration of their 
appreciation of a peaceful policy." — Indian 
Depredations in Texas, by Wilbarger. 

This sermon at Warren was preached in 1838, 
according to the best information received. 



1 18 Hife and €ime£ of 

There are many stories relating to Denton's 
career as a preacher, a lawyer, and an orator 
which must be omitted. The object in writing 
this biography is a faithful and truthful por- 
trayal of this noted and good man. Things 
that are at all doubtful, or that test the credulity, 
are not regarded as worthy. Future generations, 
through this treatise, should know the man in 
his true character, and they should not be left 
to guess at what is true and what is fiction. 

Enough of truth remains testifying to Den- 
ton's attractiveness of person, his manliness, his 
art as an orator, his power and grace as a 
preacher, his success as a lawyer, his self- 
sacrifice as a Christian, his endurance and 
courage as a frontiersman, and the deep im- 
pression he made on society. 

& Sacrifice foe ijts (tfountn,) 

In building a new country and extending 
civilization where foes are met, it is the history 
of the world that sacrifices have been offered. 
In this the innocent have been made to suffer. 
The world seems not to have been made to 
dwell and be content in barbarous savagery. 
The very creation of the "man of reason" as 



Captain ^oljn 9& Denton hq 

the topmost stroke of the creative act, whatever 
may have been his lapses and shortcomings, 
meant no less than that the earth should be 
made the best within the range of possibility. 
If there is a law within him above any other, it 
is the law of his own development. In the 
earliest stage of his existence, that whisper in 
his ear flowing from the divine judgment, 
telling him to have dominion and subdue the 
earth, or else it confirmed him in the right to 
subdue it. He has, therefore, this nature as 
certainly as that breathing into his nostrils the 
"breath of life, gave him a living, that is never 
dying, immortal soul of responsibility." 

Hence, it is the nature of man to always sub- 
due the earth and bring everything into cap- 
tivity and use. To be content with nothing short 
of carrying the earth forward into the splendor 
of its destination, to the day of beauty, peace, 
plenty, and happiness; to the day when the do- 
minion has culminated and the earth lies sub- 
dued at the foot of man. 

Then will be the beautiful age, when the 
thought will turn upon the olden history of 
struggle, battles, carnage, and sacrifice that lay 
along the pathway, all of which was necessary 



i2o ftife ant) €imeg of 

to bring the earth into full subjection. In that 
day the honored dead, who fell for the right, 
will be named in the anthems of praise sung by 
those who live in the fruition of halcyon days. 

When one looks backward through the historic 
windows of the present day and scans the his- 
tory of America, from the landing of the May- 
flower unto the present time, he sees, scattered 
all along, the mounds built over the remains of 
heroes who fell as sacrifices in the cause of civ- 
ilization — noble men and women who gave 
their lives in the cause of subduing the earth 
and maintaining it on its way toward ultimate 
peace and happiness. 

And then, in more local view, when the eye 
is turned backward through the historic win- 
dows of Texas, from the first rude settlements 
about old Nacogdoches and along the banks 
of Sabine River unto the present time, there 
are seen the names of many a human sac- 
rifice who laid down their lives on the altar 
of their country that Texas might maintain her- 
self on the road to a higher civilization. All of 
this seemed necessary, because the foes of pro- 
gress would not easily give way. 

Progress and achievement have always been 



Captain 3 f o|)n 2k SDenton 121 

costly. But with a nature in man to advance, 
there has always been, in his heart, the concom- 
itant virtue of sacrifice and martyrdom to every 
good cause. Every milestone of his progress 
has received the baptism of human blood. In 
the blood is the life, and the shedding of it is 
revolting to the finer sense of man; yet, when is 
taken into the account that which is accom- 
plished by it, there is something beautiful in 
contemplating the blood stains of the earth, 
even as there is something beautiful in the lives 
of those who freely shed their blood for human- 
ity's sake. 

Blood and sacrifice, as with the force of a 
law, seem to be associated in all things apper- 
taining to man's progress. Whether are con- 
sidered the things of the earth, or, in higher 
sense, the things of heaven as related to man, 
everything of nobility has had its costs to pay 
in blood. To raise man in moral stature and 
spiritual development, it was necessary that he 
should draw upon the blood of heaven. In look- 
ing on that blood, man is taught a great lesson 
of costs. In it he reads the lines of his moral 
condition, and sees that he has no way of escap- 
ing the wreck of his calamity except through 



i22 Itife and €ime£ of 

that blood. It was given for him to open the 
way for higher achievement. In higher sense 
than the blood of his fellows he should never 
forget it. It belongs to man's history. It was 
given for his progress and development. The 
stained spot at Calvary is the most remarkable 
on the line of human civilization. 

It seems to be a law of the universe that with- 
out the shedding of blood there can be not only 
no remission, but also no uplifting of humanity 
and no advantages gained. Man should never 
be forgetful of the blood that has been shed for 
his progress, whether of Heaven's Son or those 
of his fellows. They all alike appeal to him 
and appertain to his history. They all alike 
were martyrs for his welfare. 

Here become visible the two ways that have 
marked the history and welfare of the human 
race. They both lie at the foundation of human 
development. Captain John B. Denton was a 
traveler on both these ways. On one of these 
he crucified himself on the cross of human love 
that mankind might be made better, purer in 
heart and motive. On this way he labored 
and strove and shed tears, and did more than 
shedding his blood for the uplifting of man and 



Captain 3 f o^n 2B>, 2Dcnton 123 

making him a creature on the earth qualified 
and worthy for exercising his dominion. On 
the other hand, in carnal warfare, he gave him- 
self a sacrifice to his country. As a traveler on 
both these ways, he saw the stains of blood on 
both. He saw that both these ways belong to 
the history of man, and that the blood stains on 
both appertain to man's higher civilization and 
improvement. 

There is warfare against man wherever he 
undertakes to exercise his dominion over the 
earth and subdue it. He finds that the work 
of bringing the earth into full subjection is a 
great task. Labor, sweat, blood, and sacri- 
fice are involved in destroying the earth's face 
of thorns and thistles and its outer ruggedness, 
and of planting on its clean face the things of 
utility and beauty. Even in this righteous 
work of civilization, the milestones of progress 
are bespattered with human sweat and blood. 

But on the march of civilization the improved 
man, now and then, meets with the wild chil- 
dren of the desert and the tribes who are con- 
tent to dwell among thorns and thistles. These 
hedge the way of progress, and dispute the right 
to subdue the earth that it may have the beau- 



124 ttif* an& Cime$ of 

tiful face of art, improvement, and utility. This 
leaves but two ways of action for the improved 
man. Either he must retreat before the diffi- 
culties and relapse into barbarism, or else he 
-nust go forward and subdue the imperfect 
man, or make him give room for the beauty and 
comeliness that art gives the earth. But it all 
means more blood, if the civilized man goes 
forward. The battle begins, and every mile of 
advance shows the cost in its red stains. 

When man had gone astray to a point, when, 
if left alone, he would have forever been con- 
tent with a cave and dens and the entangled 
forest retreats, or with a forever disordered civil- 
ization, the earth was purchased with blood. 
It was blood through which all tribes and kin- 
dreds might reap advantages. John B. Denton 
understood this. The very thought of it was 
contained in the Gospel he preached. This, 
and things like it, bore him up on the tide of his 
eloquence. It was the sign of blood in the 
earth's redemption that subdued his own spirit 
and that made him a calm listener to the words 
that fell from the skies. 

Seeing that Heaven's blood is joined with 
human history and belongs to it; seeing that 



Captain ^efpt 2& 2Denton 125 

such royal blood as this flowed in behalf of man; 
and feeling in his own human soul his heirship 
unto a better day through the power of that 
blood, Denton saw through it the value even of 
human blood. Almost bewildered with the 
thought, and drinking deeply the philosophy of 
the skies, he saw that his blood was worth more 
to other people than to himself. He saw what 
has since been proven true, that if his blood 
should stain the plains of Texas in the cause of 
right, it would be gain to humanity and not loss. 

Since blood is considered the most sacred and 
valuable of all things, man needs the stained 
spots of the earth to which he can refer, show- 
ing to his eyes the costs along the pathway that 
led to his liberty, high privileges, and enjoy- 
ments. They instill their own sentiments of 
patriotism, and make a man feel otherwise than 
he would feel for his country. 

Looking into the life, character, and death 
of Denton, the human thought and heart natu- 
rally turn to the channels of tragedy. The cross 
is the central object in the Christian religion. 
The cold, blood-stained body of Caesar, stretched 
out in the Roman Forum while Anthony spoke 
the funeral note, has never been forgotten; 



126 itife an& €ime£ of 

The pierced Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley 
will live as three tragedies in American history. 
The tragic fall of Captain Denton on the plains 
of Texas, in battle for his country, is most talked 
of and most remembered among the things of his 
life. It was the culminating tragedy in his illus- 
trious history with its blood stains. People did 
not forget it, cannot forget it, because of the 
blood. 

They yet see him, as a youthful general, in his 
saddle, in his erect, commanding form. They 
see him when the bullet has struck. They see 
the blood spot on his coat, and on the grass 
where he fell and lay. They see the sacrifice 
for humanity, as he lay cold in death on the 
plains of Texas. They see him thus, stretched 
out, with his gun by his side, wrapped in the 
dress of a battling frontiersman. This was the 
tragical end of this most noble man. It was in 
the noon of the day, May 22, 1841. 

How often man thinks of that which might 
have been. He sees the peeping bud of a beau- 
tiful flower. He thinks of that which will be. 
But a bug of destruction or the frost of a night 
destroys it forever. Then he thinks of that 
which might have been. Denton was young, 



Captain ^ofjn 25* 2Denton 127 

thirty-four years old, seemingly not of age to be 
fully blown in character and utility, yet he had 
been a shining light in society for fourteen years. 
Yet man will speculate on that which might 
have been. 

Not much advanced beyond thy youth 

Thou art fallen. Noble man! 

Art thou silent now? No. In truth 

Thy blood stains speak again. 

Texas will not forget, will still speak of thee; 

For thou, her son, didst fall to make her free. 

How thou didst love all Texas soil; 

And made her people thine; 
Thine in love, and thine for defense; 
Always thine, in cloud or shine! 
But thou didst meet her foes, nor didst thou wince. 
Alas! thou wast struck hard, and hast gone hence. 

It is enough; for Texas knows 
Her sons, and what they did. 
On scattered mounds her rose still blows 
And lights where they are hid. 
Quiescat pace. Ye were heroes all, 
And in the evil dav were Lone Star's wall. 



In writing this brief biography of a most noble 
Texan, we have had to deal largely with legend- 
ary stories and the memory of people. Many 
things very sacred and important in the life of 
Captain Denton were never written and pub- 
lished, for causes already noticed in other chap- 
ters. A much more abundant history could 
have been written if the times of his life had been 
more favorable for keeping the full records of 
events. Human memory, through the lapse of 
almost three-quarters of a century, will natu- 
rally grow a little inconsistent in certain details. 
In many things of recent date, the testimony of 
eye-witnesses is oftentimes not in full accord. 
But it must be stated that, touching the main 
points of Denton's life, there is harmony among 
all who have spoken. 

In summing up the whole matter, overhauling 
the many letters we have received, and address- 
ing ourselves to the numerous newspaper clip- 
pings we have in hand, we have endeavored to 
delineate the true life of Captain Denton faith- 

129 



130 Hife anti €imeg of 

fully, to place him and his times before the pub- 
lic as they really were. Yet we have thought it 
best to reserve certain matters for this appendix, 
not that they are of less importance, but because 
they better serve the arrangement. 

The following appeared in the Dallas News 
of October 6, 1900. It is the account rendered 
by Rev. Andrew Davis. He was only thirteen 
years of age at the time, but was a member of 
those in the Keechi battle. 

i^torj) of tf)e dFifiijt anb SBenton's IBeatt) 

[Special to the News] 

Waxahachie, Tex., Oct. 6. 
Rev. Andrew Davis, of this city, was a mem- 
ber of the company commanded by General 
Tarrant at the fight with the Indians in which 
Captain John B. Denton was killed, and an 
eye-witness of his death and burial. He was, 
at the time, but thirteen years of age, and in all 
probability is the only survivor of that heroic 
band of pioneers. Since the discussion anent 
the death and burial of Captain Denton, Mr. 
Davis has received a great many letters urging 
him to write a full history of the fight and the 
circumstances connected with the killing and 



Captain SWjn 25. 2Denton 131 

burial of Captain Denton for publication, and in 
compliance with those letters he to-day handed 
the News correspondent the following article: 

In the spring of 1841 the campaign was made 
in which John B. Denton was killed. The com- 
pany was made up by General Tarrant, a lawyer, 
who, at that time, lived in Bowie County. He 
finally moved to Ellis County, where he died. 
There were many of the most prominent men of 
north Texas in this company, some of whom were 
Colonel Coffee, James Bourland, William Bour- 
land, Mac Bourland, Colonel Porter, Henry 
Stout, Dick Hopkins, John B. Denton, Clabe 
Chisum, J. L. Lovejoy, Colonel Bill Young, 
Captain Yeary. These are sufficient. Many 
of their names have faded out of my memory. 

It would not be proper for me to attempt a 
history of the whole campaign, but to fix atten- 
tion directly upon the occasion of the killing of 
J. B. Denton and the circumstances connected 
with it. 

Denton was killed (as I might say) on our 
return home. On the day before the taking of 
the village, a lone Indian was discovered. Gen- 
eral Tarrant divided the company, and ordered 
them to cut him off from timber and to capture 



132 %xk anti €imeg of 

him. This was nicely and quickly done. The 
capture of the Indian occurred on the high 
prairie some ten miles west of the village, at a 
point not far from where Ft. Worth is located. 
Tarrant left the prairie and went into a secluded 
place on the river. There we remained all 
night. About sunset every preparation was 
made to kill our prisoner. He was placed upon 
an elevated spot a few paces from the company. 
He was then placed with his back against an 
elm-tree, his hands were drawn around the tree 
and made secure, and his feet were then tied 
together and secured to the tree. Then twelve 
men, with their guns, were ordered to take their 
position before the Indian. The scene was an 
awful one in its solemnity, to me and to all. The 
men were ordered to present arms. At this 
moment the alarmed and terror-stricken Indian 
became greatly excited, and in great agony of 
spirit he cried aloud, "Oh, man! Oh, man!" 
While he did not utter the above words with dis- 
tinctness, yet it was more like these words than 
any other. General Tarrant sent Captain 
Yeary with an interpreter to the prisoner to see 
if he would reveal anything, for prior to this he 
had been sullen, and would not say a word. He 



Captain ^ofjn 2£>, SDenton 133 

was made to understand that if he would tell 
where the village was, and how to find it, he 
should not be hurt, and he made a full revela- 
tion of the whole matter, and closed by saying, 
"We be friends." He was untied, but kept 
under guard all night. After dark Tarrant sent 
ten men under Henry Stout, who was ordered 
to go to the village, reconnoitre the same, and 
select the point of attack, and report by four 
o'clock in the morning. This was done, and 
by daylight all were in motion, under the guid- 
ance of our trusty pilot, for the village, which 
was reached about nine o'clock in the morning. 

General Catrant ?ieti tf)e attack anti ti)e 
Jntitarrg toete 3ftoutet> 

From our position we could see the Indians 
passing about in every direction. We were 
ordered to deposit our baggage and free our- 
selves of every incumbrance, and be ready for 
the charge in five minutes. When the time was 
out, General Tarrant said, "Are you all ready?" 
The response was in the affirmative. Then 
Tarrant, in a low, yet a clear, distinct voice, said: 
"Now, my brave men, we will never all meet on 
earth again; there is great confusion and death 



134 life anD €ime£ of 

ahead. I shall expect every man to fill his 
place and do his duty." 

The command to charge was given. A level 
prairie, about three hundred yards wide, lay 
between the command and the first huts. 
This distance was measured off in less than half 
the time I am in telling it. In a moment the 
sound of firearms, with a voice of thunder, rang 
out over the alarmed and terror-stricken in- 
habitants of that rude city of the wilderness. 
Tarrant and James Bourland, with Denton, led 
the charge, while every other man followed with 
the best speed his horse could make. I was 
riding a mule, furnished me by Aunt Gordon. 
(God bless her memory!) She was my friend 
in orphanage and helplessness — well, pardon 
the digression. That mule was a mule, and, 
just like its kind, it was slow, and made me 
among the last to reach the enemy. As I 
passed the first huts, I saw to my right a number 
of Indians. I fired into the crowd with the 
best aim my excited nerves would allow. In a 
moment our men came upon them from a differ- 
ent direction, and for a short time the work of 
death was fearful. It was here that my mule 
was shot from under me. I felt like I had lost 



Captain S^ftn 2k 2Denton 135 

my best friend. The air was full of bullets, and 
I took a tree. In a moment, however, I saw 
a number of our men on foot, some of them from 
choice, and others, like myself, because they 
could not help it. I left my tree and joined 
them. In less than an hour the village was 
cleared of Indians, and it seemed like the work 
of death was done. 

Covered with dust and dirt and wet with 
sweat and almost famished, both for food and 
water, Tarrant called the company together at 
a little spring. On roll-call it was found that 
not a man had been killed; a dozen, perhaps, 
had been unhorsed. Quite a number were hat- 
less. As many as eight or ten were slightly 
wounded, but none in a painful manner. Many 
had made narrow escapes from death, as their 
rent clothes abundantly testified. Tarrant com- 
mended the men for their good behavior, and 
* said, "Thank God, we are all here. You 
have had water, repair to the nearest huts and 
get your hands full of dried buffalo meat, and in 
fifteen minutes be ready for further advance." 
My, my! how the buffalo meat was used up 
by those hungry men! At the expiration of the 
fifteen minutes, Tarrant called the men together 



136 %ift anti €ime£ of 

and ordered John B. Denton and Henry Stout 
each to take a squad of twenty men and pursue 
the retreating Indians, as a great number of 
them had fled north into the Trinity bottom 
by two paths leading out of the village. 

It so happened that I fell into the squad of 
men commanded by Captain Henry Stout, who 
took the trail which led from the northeastern 
portion of the village. John B. Denton, with 
his men, took the trail which led from the north- 
western part of the village. Within about sixty 
yards of the river the trails came together. 
When Captain Stout came to this point he 
halted, and addressed his men: "Here the trail 
from the west unites with ours; a great many 
Indians have gone out on both trails. From the 
large cottonwoods in view, we are near the 
river. I think it is imprudent for a little squad 
of men to enter into such a trap, for if the Indians 
make a stand at all, it will be at the river." 

Just at this time some one said, "I hear the 
sound of horses' feet." 

Captain Stout said, "That is Denton. We 
will wait till he comes, and we will consult." 

When Captain Denton came up he said, 
"Captain, why have you stopped?" 



Captain ^oftn 2& 2Denton 137 

Stout repeated to Captain Denton what he 
had just said to his men, but he added, "I am 
willing to go as far as any other man." 

Instantly, and without a word, Captain Den- 
ton spurred his horse on in the path. Captain 
Stout followed, and their men dropped into line, 
and the little company, in death-like silence, 
moved on toward the river. We found no pre- 
pared ford, but merely a well-worn buffalo 
trail, which led down into the river, and went 
out some eighty yards below. The north bank 
of the river was high, and covered with a closely 
set undergrowth of brush. Here the Indians 
had secreted themselves. When the company 
reached the point opposite and under the 
Indians, they opened a deadly fire upon us, it 
being mainly directed on our men in the front. 
Captain Denton was instantly killed, and Cap- 
tain Stout had his arm broken. In this condi- 
tion of affairs no word of command was given. 
The scene of death and the moment of suspense 
was awful to endure. Captain Yeary halloed 
at the top of his voice, "Why in the h — 1 don't 
you move your men out to where we can see 
the enemy? We will all be killed here." 

The men began at once a kind of irregular 



138 %iit anti €ime£ of 

retreat, and Captain Stout had so far recovered 
from his shock as to be able to say: "Men, do 
the best you can for yourselves. I am wounded 
and powerless." 

About this time some one exclaimed, "Cap- 
tain Denton is killed." The shot was so 
deadly that there was no death struggle. He 
had balanced himself in his saddle, raised his 
gun, and closed one eye, intending to deal death 
upon the enemy, when the death shock struck 
him. When his death was discovered, his 
muscles were gradually relaxing, and his gun, 
yet in his hand, was inclining to the ground. 
The men nearest to him took him from his 
horse and laid him on the ground, and then we 
returned to the command at the village. We 
feared that after we left the Indians would scalp 
Captain Denton and otherwise mutilate his 
body, but this was not done. A squad of men 
were sent back to the river to bring Denton's 
body, which was done. I am glad to this day 
that I am one of the number to volunteer to go 
back, and, if need be, to brave death to recover 
the body of Captain Denton. 

About 4 or 4:30 p. m., the body of Captain 
Denton was securely tied upon a gentle horse, 



Captain ^Poljn 25. SDenton 139 

and the command moved out from the village, 
with some eighty head of horses and fifteen or 
twenty head of cattle taken from the village. 
We moved up the river to a point not far from 
Ft. Worth, and there spent the night. Early 
next morning we crossed the river at a place 
where the timber was narrow. After crossing 
the river, we traveled in the direction of Bird's 
Station, aiming for Bonham, as our objective 
point. At about 1 1 a.m. we halted on a prairie 
on the south side of a creek, with a high bank 
on the north. On one of these elevations Cap- 
tain Denton was buried. I have never, for a 
moment, doubted but that I could find the 
identical spot. The tools with which his grave 
was dug were brought from the village, and they 
were ample for the purpose. If, therefore, any 
person has found a shallow grave, and is of the 
impression that it is the grave of Captain Den- 
ton, he is mistaken. His grave was dug a good 
depth. A thin rock was cut so as to fit in the 
bottom of the grave, similar rocks were placed 
at the sides, and also at the head and foot. 
Another rock was placed over the body, and the 
grave filled up. 

Thus was buried one of God's noble men. 



140 Stife anti €ime£ of 

We here give the following quotation, com- 
paring which with well authenticated data in 
hand, it must be inaccurate in several points: 

"When the Indians again commenced their 
depredations, Denton was among the foremost 
to go wherever the call for help was heard, and 
to assist in any movement for the benefit of the 
settlers. A raid had been made and a number 
of horses driven off by the Indians, and Denton, 
with a party of men, started on their trail to 
try and recover the stock. When near the cross- 
ing of a creek, in what is now called Denton 
County, he called a halt, and pointing to the 
bushes and brush near the crossing ahead of 
them, remarked that he did not think it safe to 
ride through there, as the Indians might be 
lying in ambush to surprise them, and advised 
turning back a short distance and scouting 
around. Some of the men in the party were of 
the same opinion, and thought that the safest 
plan; but one objected, didn't see any danger, 
and intimated that Denton was afraid, and 
wanted to turn back. Not fancying this un- 
merited attack upon his bravery, Denton said 
that he would go as far as any man, and started 
on ahead, the others following. 



Captain ^ofm gk 2Denton 141 

"When they had approached the crossing, 
and were all opposite the bushes, the Indians 
raised from where they had been crouching, 
and, watching every movement, fired upon 
them, singling out Denton as their leader. The 
whole party turned and retreated in great haste, 
to find, when they halted at a safe distance, 
that Denton's riderless horse was with them. 
Unknown to his companions, he had been mor- 
tally wounded, and had fallen off his horse in 
the retreat. The man who told of the affair 
afterwards said: 'When Denton wheeled his 
horse around to retreat, he looked at me with a 
smile on his face, and an expression which 
seemed to say, What did I tell you? Hardly 
realizing that he was shot, as he turned with 
them, they returned to rescue him if it were pos- 
sible that he had been thrown. 

"They found his dead body where it had fallen 
off in the brush by the side of the trail, and not 
far from where he had been shot. Strange to 
relate, the Indians had not disturbed him, 
probably not knowing that they had killed any 
one. His friends carried him to a secluded 
spot away from the trail, wrapped him in a 
blanket, and buried him. His grave they dug 



142 Hife anfci €ime£ of 

with their hatchets and knives, and lined with 
slabs of slate rock; then they laid him tenderly 
in, covering him with another slab, and filled 
up the grave, carefully smoothing it level, and 
scattering leaves over it, that the Indians might 
not find and disturb his last resting-place. 

"So perished one of Texas' bravest and best 
pioneers. A fine orator, far above the average 
in intelligence, and, had he lived, would have 
proved a blessing to his country and assisted ma- 
terially in its advancement." 

"The pioneer was laid to rest, 
The red man set him free, 
Disturb him not, but let him sleep 
Beneath the old oak-tree." 
— Indian Depredations in Texas — J . W . Wilbarger. 

Rev. J. F. Denton, the oldest son, now living 
in Weatherford, Texas, among other things in 
answer to the author's inquiries, says: 

"If you will pardon what might look like 
egotism, I will say that my father was a man of 
immense, almost tireless, energy. While he 
had no educational advantages in his early life, 
he was considered by his friends as fairly well 
educated. He had the finest library in the 
town of Clarksville at the time of his death. 
He was familiar with the English authors — 



Captain ^ofm 96* 2Denton 143 

Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Pollock, and a 
number of others. This is my information 
from reliable sources. 

"Rev. John B. Craig, his old law partner, told 
me that when my father studied a case he usu- 
ally exhausted it, so far as his side was con- 
cerned, before it was taken before a jury. 
Hon. Thos. J. Rusk said of him: 'That as a 
natural orator of that day, John B. Denton was 
fully the equal of any man he had ever heard.' " 

Rev. John B. Denton, Jr., wrote the author 
from Shannon, Texas, October 8, 1900, among 
other things, the following: 

"I know but little of my father's life and 
history except what I have been told by older 
brothers and sisters, and by the friends of my 
father. Having had a desire to know something 
of my father, with these I talked much in my 
boyhood. I was told that he, with an older 
brother, was bound to a man by the name of 
Wells, who was a Methodist local preacher and 
a blacksmith; that, owing to the unbearable 
scolding of Wells's wife my father ran away, and 
that he worked on a flatboat on the Arkansas 
River. He was married and converted in his 
eighteenth year, I think. He was licensed to 



144 Stife and €ime£ of 

preach, and admitted on trial in the Missouri 
conference not many months afterward. My 
mother taught him to read after they were mar- 
ried. But he soon became distinguished as a 
preacher of almost superhuman eloquence. I 
have known a number of able and highly edu- 
cated men who told me that they regarded him 
as the greatest orator they had ever heard. 

"He came to Texas in 1836, in the month of 
December, and crossed Red River in company 
with Lyttleton Fowler, who came, like himself, 
as a missionary to the almost wilderness. He 
traveled two years as a missionary, and then 
felt compelled to locate, because of inadequate 
support for his family. He began the study 
of law, and in six months was licensed to prac- 
tice. He entered into partnership with John 
B. Craig, who was another Methodist preacher. 
He soon took front rank as one of the most 
eloquent lawyers in the Republic. 

"He was commissioned by the government as 
captain, and served under Colonel William 
Young. I do not know the date of his commis- 
sion. He was killed on Village Creek, in 
what is known as Tarrant County, about 
six miles east of Ft. Worth. I was then 



Captain ^ofjn 2k 2Denton 145 

just fourteen months and four days old. I am 
the youngest son. I feel the deepest gratitude 
to the Old Settlers of Denton County for 
the interest they are taking and the efforts they 
are making to honor my father's memory." 

William C. Baker married the oldest daughter 
of Captain John B. Denton. In answer to inqui- 
ries he wrote the author the following from 
Durant, I. T., in the year 1900: 

His father moved to Clark County, Arkansas, 
when John B. was quite a small boy. Soon 
thereafter losing his wife, he bound his two sons, 
William and John, to a Colonel Wells, who was 
a blacksmith, to learn the trade. William, who 
was several years the oldest, went to work and 
learned the trade. John B., being too young 
to put at the forge, was taken charge of by Mrs. 
Wells, and put at all sorts of menial labor, such 
as carding, spinning, milking the cows, and 
doing housework generally. 

At quite an early age he showed a strong 
desire to learn his letters, which he learned at 
odd spells, as he could catch time between his 
jobs of housework. He was anxious to learn 
to read, but was denied the use of a tallow 
candle to study by. He resorted to pine knots 



1 46 Hife anD €ime£ of 

as a substitute to study by, of which there was 
no scarcity. 

At about twelve years of age he discovered his 
miserable condition, and left his oppressor and 
wrought for himself. 

At the age of eighteen years he married a 
Miss Mary Greenlee Stewart of Louisiana. 
She was sixteen years of age. She taught him 
to write his name. They became members of 
the M. E. Church, and not long afterwards he 
was licensed to preach. He became a traveling 
preacher in the Little Rock Conference. In a 
short time he distinguished himself as an orator 
of the highest type. 

The author received the following from Mrs. 
S. J. Wilson, of Clarksville, Texas. The letter 
was dated September 16, 1900: 

I knew John B. Denton as an intelligent min- 
ister, and I know of his death and burial through 
two uncles of mine who were with him when he 
was killed, Colonel Sam Sims, who now lives 
with his daughter, Mrs. W. H. Allen, at Rich 
Hill, Missouri, now eighty-three years old, and 
Mr. John Griffin, now dead. 

I will now relate to you the sad story, as I 
well remember it being told by my uncles, his 



Captain ^oftn 35. 2Denton 147 

companions, when killed. About an hour after 
the battle of Keechi Village, Captain Henry 
Stout, John B. Denton, and John F. Griffin 
mounted to explore a ravine near by. Captain 
Stout, in the advance, was shot through the 
arm; John B. Denton was shot through the 
breast and instantly killed; and John Griffin 
was shot through the right cheek. 

They placed the body of Denton on a horse, 
left the village, and came until they crossed 
Denton Creek, and there they buried him, on 
the east side. They cut his name on a tree at 
the head of his grave. They placed two large 
stones on the grave with the hope of concealing 
it from the Indians. 

Doctor Homer S. Thrall, in his Brief His- 
tory of Methodism in Texas, on page twenty- 
one, says: 

"John B. Denton was a man of extraordinary 
ability. Left an orphan in his childhood, he 
had comparatively no advantages of early edu- 
cation, nor did he exhibit his extraordinary 
genius until after his conversion. His earliest 
efforts at exhorting and preaching elicited the 
wonder and admiration of his hearers, and vast 
multitudes flocked to his appointments. 



148 %ift and €tme£ of 

"He entered the Missouri Conference in 1836, 
but a meager support for his growing family 
compelled him to resort to other means of ob- 
taining a livelihood, and he studied law. Hav- 
ing been prosperous and successful in this pro- 
fession, he again entered the itinerancy, and 
was sent to Texas. On his way to his new field 
of labor, he fell in company with Rev. Lyttleton 
Fowler, just appointed to the Texas Mission, 
and the two crossed Red River together. Mr. 
Fowler preached his first sermon in Texas at 
the house of Rev. William Duke. 

"Mr. Denton was killed by the Indians in 
1839. Denton County perpetuates his name. 
Two of his sons became itinerant preachers — 
J. F. and John B. Denton, now of the West 
Texas Conference. Another son, Dr. A. N. 
Denton, was, in 1883, appointed superintend- 
ent of the lunatic asylum, and now resides at 
Austin."— Brief History of Methodism in Texas. 

Mr. Thrall must be in error in a few points. 
Mr. Denton was certainly a traveling preacher 
before 1836. It appears from certain other evi- 
dence that 1826 is nearer the time of fixing the 
beginning of his itinerancy. In those early days 
of frontier work records were not well kept, and 



Captain ^Poljn 25* SDenton 149 

much of that which was once written has been 
lost. It is very evident that Mr. Thrall is mis- 
taken when he says that Denton was killed in 
1839. But we will let him correct himself. In 
Methodism in Texas, on page seventy-four, 
he says : 

"In 1 84 1 a party of Texans, under General 
Tarrant, destroyed an Indian village on Trinity 
River, above where Dallas now stands. John 
B. Denton, in command of one of his compa- 
nies, was killed, and buried on a creek which 
bears his name." 

Where Mr. Thrall here says "above where 
Dallas now stands," should be "six miles east 
of where Ft. Worth now stands." For that is 
Village Creek, where the Indian village was, and 
the natural scene of the'Keechi battle. 



Conclusion 

The author of this biographical tribute to 
Captain John B. Denton has, himself, had no 
small experience in frontier life. This more 
than anything else qualified him for this service. 
Through this experience he could better see how 
to read between the lines and perceive the facts 
where things had been, in some degree, for- 
gotten. In his boyhood he had read of Goliad, 
the Alamo, and San Jacinto; of Fannin, Travis, 
and Houston; of numerous men, and some 
women, who were famous in the early history 
of Texas, and through whose labors and sacri- 
fices the foundations of a great country had been 
laid. He was in love with Texas for the honor 
and heroism of her pioneer settlers, and for the 
victory of her small but heroic army. 

It was the fascinating charm that Texas 
wrought in his youth that induced him to leave 
the most pleasant surroundings of a Kentucky 
home, and go West. It was Texas above every 
other place. With boyish thought, he wanted 
to be a Texan; he wanted to set his foot on the 



i52 Hifc ant) €inic# of 

land of heroism, and in whatever way he could, 
be a participator in further civilization. 

Hence, he became a Texan, and has been a 
Texan for fifty years. He knows something of 
frontier life, of Indian raids, of privation, of 
that fortitude and courage necessary to remain 
and battle as a frontiersman. Now that it is 
past, and the face of all things have changed, 
he is glad that he has so long been a Texan. 
Yet it looks like the work of magic. Coming to 
Texas when there was a population scarcely 
exceeding two hundred thousand, and now be- 
tween three and four millions ; when the vote for 
governor was scarcely fifty thousand, and now 
more than half a million; when there were no 
railroads, and now more than eleven thousand 
miles; when the head of water navigation was 
Buffalo Bayou in southern Texas and Shreveport 
on Red River, Louisiana, and now canalizing 
Trinity River to Dallas. 

It is a pleasant reflection now to have be- 
come a Texan as early as nineteen years after 
the battle of San Jacinto and fourteen years 
after Captain Denton was killed, whose biog- 
raphy is herein contained. Few things are 
more delightful than for one who has been in 



Captain S^ftn 2&* Benton 153 

the midst of it to contemplate the material evo- 
lution of Texas for the last fifty years. When 
is added to this the battle that has been made 
for education, morality, and religion, in all of 
which Captain Denton, in earlier day, was 
an earnest participator, things are seen in purer 
light, and the contemplation grows more de- 
lightful by the very loveliness of things. 

There is something beautiful in the race for 
material development, although those most ear- 
nestly engaged in the task seem to take little time 
to think of other things just as important to make 
Texas truly great. Then comes in that other 
beautiful thing. It is the thought and struggle 
of keeping intelligence, morality, and spiritual 
culture of the people on a parity, and, if possible, 
in advance of material development. A manly 
battle has been made in this way. In earlier 
day Captain Denton and his associates in the 
Christian ministry, and since their day others of 
like calling, have kept their arms of love around 
useful but forgetful men. This ointment has 
unceasingly been poured on the race-course of 
progression, and is a mighty factor in main- 
taining the true greatness of Texas. 

Honor is due to every man, in his proper place, 



i54 ttife anti Cime£ of 

who has from the earliest day till now labored 
for the material and moral welfare and greatness 
of Texas. But too much cannot be said in 
praise of those pioneer men and women of the 
earlier days. May such men as Captain John 
B. Denton be multiplied in Texas and all the 
earth. While we know not what would have 
been had he not been killed in young manhood, 
of one thing we are well assured, that both the 
time he did live and his tragic death made a deep 
impression on Texas society. 

Who knows the best? Only one, that is God; 
He knows best when to give, and when to take. 

He knows it all. 
He places all beneath His chastening rod, 
He watches men, and marks the time and place, 

Where'er they fall. 

Who knows the best? Can others speak and say? 
Knows any one a new or better way 

That satisfies? 
Then why speculate, or make search to find 
Other thought or proof among all mankind 

Than from the skies? 

Denton fought, bled, and died while he was young. 
Garlands of fame around him still have clung, 

And still will cling.. 
He is an anthem on the lips and heart, 
A song engraved, and which will never part 

From souls that sing. 



Captain S^&n 2k BDtnton 155 

Names of some of the men who were with 
Denton in the Keechi battle: E. J. Tarrant, 
Sam Sims, Daniel Montague, James Bourland, 
Andrew Davis, John L. Lovejoy, Clabe Chisum, 
John Griffin, Henry Stout, Colonel Coffee, 
William Bourland, Mac Bourland, Colonel 
Porter, Dick Hopkins, Colonel William C. 
Young, Captain Yeary. 



Clje ^Battle of &an Jacinto 

Since many besides Captain John B. Denton 
have fallen in the cause of Texas, and since the 
battle of San Jacinto was historically decisive, 
that is, the turning event that ultimately se- 
cured for Texas her national independence, it is 
thought that it will be a fitting close to this little 
volume to give a description of this battle, to- 
gether with a narration of certain conditions of 
Texas and her army at the time. 

"The enemy are laughing you to scorn. You 
must fight them. You must retreat no further. 
The salvation of the country depends on your 
doing so." General Houston received these 
laconic orders from David G. Burnet, president 
of Texas, only a few days before the battle. 
They were issued from Harrisburg, which was 
near by San Jacinto battle-field, and were borne 
to General Houston by General Thomas J. 
Rusk, secretary of war. 

Things were done sharply in this extreme 
hour of Texas, even as those curtly expressed 
orders do suggest. They uncover a chapter of 

137 



158 %ifc anti €ime£ of 

conditions, and give an insight of danger, show- 
ing that something must be done, and be done 
quickly. Whatever may have been the choice 
of General Houston up to this hour, whatever 
may have been his former hesitation, he now 
resolved to give battle, whatever the conse- 
quences. The orders were imperative. 

To say that this was not a serious hour in 
Texas is to speak the contrary of all truth in the 
matter. But, with Houston's little army, it 
was more a feeling of responsibility than of seri- 
ousness. They were largely a class of cultured 
men, of purest patriotism, and were, therefore, 
capable of being deeply touched with feelings 
of individual responsibility. They well knew 
that they occupied the contesting battling 
ground between Texas independence and Mexi- 
can domination. They knew that all eyes were 
turned toward them for safety and future happi- 
ness. They knew that if they were successful 
the seriousness and shadows would be removed 
from the country. But if they failed, dark 
shadows would cover the land, and that serious- 
ness would be so intensified that the very foun- 
dation of hope itself would be shaken. It was 
fortunate, in this perilous hour, that the men 



Captain ^ofjn 25. SDenton 159 

composing the Texas army were so cultured 
that they could individually feel the responsi- 
bility which was due to Texas in such extreme 
conditions. 

It is proper to state here that Texas only a 
month ago had declared her independence, and 
only a month ago had elected her first president. 
At that hour it was not known but that all was 
going well at the Alamo, and that Colonel 
Fannin and his men were in unembarrassed 
safety. But even before the day of the Declara- 
tion of Independence had gone, a courier brought 
the sad news of the fall of the Alamo. Nothing 
good came. It was one tale of disaster following 
another which, it seemed, never would end; 
and in the midst, which almost broke the hearts 
of men and women, the news came of the battle 
of Colita, the surrender of Colonel Fannin and 
his men, and their massacre at Goliad. Texas 
independence seemed to be making a bad start. 
In almost every aspect it appeared as flimsy as 
the sheet of parchment on which it was written. 

The people, for some weeks, had been fleeing 
before the victorious and treacherous Mexicans. 
The country between San Antonio and the 
vicinity of San Jacinto had been laid waste by 



160 Hife anti Cime£ of 

the Mexican army. Not only was the provender 
of the country taken, but the towns were burned. 
Even President Burnet, in the short month of 
his presidency, had changed the seat of govern- 
ment several times for safety. Even now, in 
addition to the care of government, he was seek- 
ing the safety of his own family. 

There was much confusion, and anxiety 
burned like a consuming fire in every soul. 
The government itself, so to speak, was in the 
saddle, and was threatened with absolute disso- 
lution through fading hope. It was the crisis 
hour, and in it was beginning the crucial pain 
that precedes the death. Further retreat would 
lead to uncontrollable demoralization. It would 
be a shock worse than a lost battle. President 
Burnet knew this when he wrote his orders for 
battle and sent them to General Houston. 
Houston himself must have known it. Texas 
independence, as if suspended by a hair, was 
hanging in the balance. Declared scarcely a 
month ago, it was like a babe in the cradle 
struggling to loose itself from its swaddling. 

Perhaps few -such crises have occurred in the 
world's history. Prepared or unprepared, to 
fight a battle at this hour was necessary. It 



Captain S^fjn 25. 2Denton 161 

was to make battle only in hope with the odds 
against. Calculating advantages and disad- 
vantages could not enter in as a consideration. 
To fight and lose the battle would not delay 
Texas independence should such ever be the 
march of events. To fight and get the victory 
would send the Mexican army back to the Rio 
Grande. Confidence would be restored. A 
new spirit would seize the people. Santa Anna 
would never be allowed to gain another such 
advantage over Texas. President Burnet saw 
all this. General Houston must have seen it. 
All Texas seemed to perceive it. 

It seems that it was necessary that Houston 
should have been chided by the president and 
urged to battle. He did not chafe under the 
orders, but acted as though the orders were but 
a statement of the very thing he was about to do. 
However the matter of his own mind stood, he 
was left without choice. Yet the die for battle 
was cast not simply by the president's orders, 
but also by one of those mysterious and inex- 
plicable pulses of nature that pervades all and 
molds all into one common thought and judg- 
ment. Houston knew that Texas was about 
exhausted of men who could bear arms, and 



162 %itt anti €ime$ of 

that he could not ever hope to have a more 
efficient army. Pervaded with the idea of 
immediate battle, he sought no excuse. He 
had no desire to make excuse, to parley, or to 
delay, but immediately began arrangements 
and preparation to meet the enemy. The secre- 
tary of war who bore to him the president's 
orders remained in camp and was of service in 
the field. 

Yet in the midst of all these things the com- 
mander of the Texas army was far from believ- 
ing that he was leading a forlorn hope. There 
were conditions that gave him encouragement. 
He knew that through the over-confidence of 
Santa Anna and his accordant carelessness he 
had caught the Mexican army in detail, and 
that the Mexican general was in nowise ex- 
pecting a stubborn resistance in an open field. 
He knew that Santa Anna was of opinion that 
the revolution was already crushed except in a 
few small details, and that he was thinking of 
going home and leaving the work to be finished 
by his generals. Houston also knew the spirit 
of revenge that rankled in the hearts of his own 
little army; that they remembered their friends 
and kinsmen that had been murdered at Goliad; 



Captain ^otjn 95. 2Denton 163 

that they remembered the black flag of the 
Alamo. He knew that his men would fight 
like demons, and, under the conditions, had 
rather die than lose the victory. He knew that 
numbers do not count like the spirits of men in 
battle, and that when the spirit of his army 
should be revealed to the enemy it would pro- 
duce demoralization in their ranks. 

Santa Anna, on the other hand, had invaded 
Texas with an army, or armies, equal to almost 
one-fourth of the population. He held stren- 
uously that Texas was a province of Mexico 
and that his cause was just before God and in 
the eyes of all the Roman Catholic world. He 
was fresh from the Alamo and its slaughter, 
fresh from the victory of Colita and the murder 
of Colonel Fannin and his men at Goliad. He 
was on his eastward march to Nacogdoches in 
three divisions of his army, to put down every 
vestige of revolution. He marched both as a 
general and autocrat whose word was the only 
authority. Having long been accustomed to 
scenes of blood, he had grown cold and indiffer- 
ent in his feeling. As anomalously as it may 
be expressed, he was a man conscientious but 
without a conscience. His ambition had driven 



1 64 3tife anfci €ime£ of 

a nail through his soul that paralyzed his better 
nature. 

The Mexican general was certainly in a fair 
way to put down all traces of armed revolution. 
Everything was going easy his way; so much so, 
that his march from San Antonio to the vicinity 
of San Jacinto, a road of two hundred miles, 
was without resistance. It was not until he had 
arrived in this vicinity that he discovered a show 
of resistance against his authority. But he was 
very confident; so much so, that about this time 
he sent a negro messenger to General Houston, 
saying: "I know where you are, and when I 
clear the thieves from around Harrisburg I am 
coming to smoke you out." The words 
" thieves" and " smoke" symbolized his mode 
of treating the revolution. It was to murder 
and burn. President Burnet had just been 
driven from Harrisburg, which was in the 
vicinity of San Jacinto battle-field. 

It is called the battle of San Jacinto. But 
the ground selected for the battle, or rather that 
on which the opposing armies met, was a plat 
of ground near the head and bordering on San 
Jacinto Bay, and on the right or westward 
bank; a point near where San Jacinto River 



Captain ^fJK 2& SDenton 165 

and Buffalo Bayou join together to form the 
bay. Lynchburg was near to it, but across the 
bay. The plat of ground on which Houston 
City has since been located and built is near 
by and northwestward. 

Here the two armies encamped facing each 
other at least an evening and a morning. It 
was an even country with only two or three mots 
of trees intervening. Being thus only partially 
screened, it was an easy matter to watch each 
other's movements and to make estimate of 
numbers. Thus they rested, waited, and 
watched each other for an evening and a morn- 
ing before the battle was joined. It was a delay 
in which either was free to take the initiative. 
Santa Anna showed no disposition to advance, 
but b'egan to fortify his left wing. He was await- 
ing reinforcements. By the day of the battle 
he did receive five hundred under General Cos. 

By three o'clock on the evening of the 21st 
of April General Houston had made all his 
arrangements for battle. The enemy num- 
bered above fifteen hundred, his own army 
seven hundred and eighty-three men. Colonel 
Sidney Sherman was assigned to the left wing 
and Colonel Ed Burleson to the center. The 



1 66 Itife anli €ime£ of 

two six-pounders, in charge of Colonel George 
W. Hockley, were on the right wing, supported 
by four companies of infantry commanded by 
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Millard. The sixty- 
one cavalry, under Colonel Mirabeau B. Lamar, 
were placed on the right wing. 

It all looks small, very small; but small as it 
was, an empire state hung in the balance. 
Victory would bring joy and laughter to the 
Texans, and mourning for those who should 
fall would be swallowed up in thoughts of valor 
and heroism. A Spartan spirit had seized the 
men, women, and children of the land. Small 
as everything seemed, it was a gathered tempest 
that had hesitated an evening and a morning, 
but was now making its first motions to swoop 
down on Santa Anna and his army. The 
revenge of the Alamo and Goliad was in it. 
The spirits of Fannin, Travis, Crockett, and 
Bowie gave it strength. But Santa Anna, as 
president of Mexico, stands guard over his 
empire of states and provinces. He is on the 
ground, a general of no mean ability, and is 
determined to withstand the approaching tem- 
pest and save the integrity of his empire. He 
is unwilling that seven hundred and eighty- 



Captain 3^&n 25* SDenton 167 

three men should snatch out of his empire such 
a jewel as Texas. He speaks words of encour- 
agement to his soldiers. He tells them to 
defeat this handful of Texans and the revolution 
will be ended. 

But it is now too late for ceremony of any 
kind, almost too late for giving and hearing 
orders. The battle is on. Already Sherman 
has struck the Mexican right wing, which was 
projected furthest to the front. In quick suc- 
cession Burleson is at the center. Hockley has 
charged within two hundred yards of the left 
wing and is pouring a stream of grape and can- 
nister into the wavering lines of the enemy. 
The whole line of the Texan army continually 
advances, and above the din of battle the 
Mexicans hear the wild battle cry of revenge 
from every Texan throat: "Remember the 
Alamo! Remember Goliad!" In less time 
than it is told confusion reigned throughout 
the Mexican army, and they fled, every man for 
himself, throwing away their arms, in the panic 
of broken organization never to be rallied again. 

The pursuit continued to the end of physical 
endurance. But on account of the speed of 
battle physical endurance was more limited.* 



1 68 %xft and €xme£ of 

It was a day of revenge. Not much quarter 
was shown until the Texans began to feel that 
they had fully avenged the blood of their 
brethren who fell at the Alamo and at Goliad. 
They felt that they were entitled to the revenge 
of an hour. Then the better spirit of civiliza- 
tion took hold of them, and with sympathy and 
tenderness they administered to their wounded 
and suffering foes. The battle was a dreadful 
charge into the Mexican line of battle in all its 
parts. It came upon them so unexpectedly, in 
such a demon outcry, and in such an avalanche 
style, that, instead of fighting and contending 
for the inches of ground in retreat, they fell down 
and begged for mercy. The resounding cry of 
the Texans, "Remember the Alamo and 
Goliad" chilled their blood and paralyzed their 
hands. They were ignorant and largely inno- 
cent. The bloody deeds they had formerly 
committed on the Texans was chargeable to 
Santa Anna and his officers. 

Even down to this day no pen has ever been 
able to describe the battle of San Jacinto in its 
accurate fullness. Those who were there have 
ever been unequal to the task. They were all 



Captain S^ljn 2&. 2Denton 169 

actors, each one busy for himself, and therefore 
they were all unqualified to give a description 
except in a small part. General Houston him- 
self made a report of the battle. It was satis- 
factory as a report, but it was not a description. 
Every man on the ground was an actor. The 
time yet awaits some unborn Dante whose mind 
had been trained to look into the romance of the 
dreadful and terrible to tell what this battle was. 
Such a one might weave a satisfying descriptive 
web of the burning thought, the stubborn will, 
the unconquerable determination, the revenge- 
ful heart, and the love of Texas that pervaded 
Houston's little army. And then he might add 
descriptions of scenes that correspond in the 
battle to conquer or die. 

There is a vast difference between an army 
of men who run to meet the enemy as a trained 
soldiery, and that other class of army whose 
hearts burn with revenge, and who run to meet 
the foe to die or have the victory. This latter 
class of army represents the charge that was 
made at the battle of San Jacinto. Whoever 
shall first gain a right conception of such an 
army and such a charge as they made, may write 



170 %itt anti €ime£ of 

a satisfying description of the battle of San 
Jacinto, but till then the world must remain 
awaiting. 

Very few of the Mexicans escaped. It almost 
looks strange that so few got away. It can be 
attributed largely to the dreadful fear that 
seized them under the demon-like war-cry and 
charge made by the Texan army. In their fear 
and confusion the Mexicans sought hiding- 
places more than means of escape. Hence for 
two days after the battle they were brought into 
Houston's camp out of their hiding-places. On 
the day after the battle Santa Anna was found, 
disguised as a common soldier, hidden in the 
tall grass. A cavalryman took him up behind 
him and brought him into camp not knowing 
the royalty of his prisoner. All were astonished 
when the Mexican prisoners cried out, "El 
Presidente." It was Santa Anna. 

In this battle the Texans lost in killed and 
mortally wounded, 8; in wounded otherwise, 
17. The enemy lost 630 killed; wounded, 
208; prisoners, 730. As an evidence that the 
Mexican officers tried to do their duty, there 
were killed, one general officer, four colonels, 



Captain ^& n 25* SDenton 171 

two lieutenant colonels, five captains, and 
twelve lieutenants, and about as many wounded. 
Six hundred muskets, 300 sabers, and 200 pistols 
were taken. Many were never found. Mules, 
horses, and wagons were taken, and twelve 
thousand dollars in specie. 



PRINTED BY R. R. DONNELLEY 
AND SONS COMPANY, AT THE 
LAKESIDE PRESS, CHICAGO, ILL. 



rqi oaoa 76^0