The following is an excerpt from my book, Get Along, Little Dogies: The Chisholm Trail Diary of Hallie Lou Wells. Although it is fiction, the book is historically authentic, and the event it recounts really did happen in August, 1844, outside Austin, Texas, near Pecan Springs. The narrator is a young woman named Hallie Wells who is traveling up the Chisholm Trail on a cattle drive with some cowboys:
Sunday, May 12, 1878
Northeast of Austin at Wilbarger Creek
Late at night
This was a golden day. I want to write about it before the memory fades. The lamplight already grows dim.
Today we didn’t travel. It was a true Sabbath, a day of rest – except for Mrs. Bubbies, our bell cow. She gave birth to two heifers this morning. When we resume travel, Joe One-Wing will toss the calves into the supply wagon with the other calves born on the trail. He’ll put loose sacks on them so that their scents won’t get mixed with the other calves as they jostle along the trail. In that way, Mrs. Bubbies will recognize her young and give them milk every evening when we break for camp.
We’re starting to feel like a family. Tonight, after dinner, the off-duty cowboys hung their saddles in the low live oak branches and spread bedding for us to sit on. We sat around the campfire. Cookie even got in the mood and passed around tin plates of “bread and lick” (molasses). John R. read a Bible passage aloud. Will and Henry serenaded us with banjo and a fife. Jeb played “Get Along, Little Dogies” on his harmonica. Will took my hand and we danced a slow waltz. The cows loved the music. They made a soft lowing sound. It was like a big city symphony! We wanted to laugh but that would have made those crazy cows stampede for sure.Joe One-Wing told a scary story. We’re camped beside Wilbarger Creek, named for a brave pioneer named Josiah Wilbarger. Just a few miles from here, Josiah was attacked by Comanches and scalped. The Indians left him for dead.
The Indians were mistaken. Josiah was not dead. He managed to drag himself to some springs, drink, and bath his aching head. With his fingernails, he dug until he found some snails to eat. Then he crawled over to a live oak and collapsed.
Around midnight, he heard a voice softly calling his name. He awoke to see his dear sister, Margaret, walking toward him. “Josiah,” she said, pointing to the southeast. “Help will come from that direction.” Then she vanished into thin air.
At that same moment, six miles to the southeast, Sarah Hornsby, was having a strange dream. In the dream, she saw her neighbor, Josiah Wilbarger, leaning against a an oak tree, soaked in blood and dying. She awakened her husband, Reuben, and told him her incredible vision. Reuben immediately organized a search party.
The men found Josiah exactly where Sarah had said. He was taken home and nursed back to health. Slowly, Josiah began to recover from his many injuries. Three months passed. One day, a letter arrived for him from Missouri. The letter told him that his sister, Margaret, had died. The mail had been very slow. Margaret had died three months before. She had died the very night she had appeared to Josiah at midnight. It had been her spirit that gave Sarah Hornsby the marvelous dream that saved her brother.
Josiah’s wound never really healed. His wife made him little caps to cover the hole in his head. However, he lived another eleven years until one day he bumped his head on the door frame. Wilbarger County, Texas, was established in 1858 to honor Josiah and his brother Mathias. The bodies of Josiah Wilbarger and his wife are buried in the State Cemetery at Austin.