Sheep herding along the Frio

I found a ghost writer, a real one.  While I was picking at threads of family history at, I ran across an interview done with our great uncle by marriage, Jack Patterson.  He was the brother in law of the original Georgie Elizabeth, married to her older sister Maude.  His only son, Clark Patterson, was our dad’s mentor; he helped him adjust to college life at Schreiner College in Kerrville.

That must have been quite a chore since our dad was raised 30 miles north of Uvalde in Montell, schooled at home and in the little Montell school until he could be boarded at school in Uvalde.  Daddy’s first semester at Schreiner was similar to many college students, marked with partying and bad grades.  After reviewing his grades, our grand-dad suggested that if he couldn’t do better, he might need to come back and herd sheep along the Nueces.  He returned to Kerrville and graduated, continuing on to graduate school and a career as a high school principal.

Clark was a college professor and one of our favorite visitors at Montell during the month we spent each summer with our aunt and cousin.  He told stories that I wish I had listened to more and talked politics.  As a kid I liked him best for his collie, Watchee, who could climb the leaning pecan tree in Clark’s backyard.

Clark’s dad had died long before we girls were born so I never knew him, but his interview tells a great story about life along the Frio and Nueces in the 19th century.  I’ve abridged the interview and am grateful to Alan Whitehead who originally posted it at   Although not politically correct, it represents the Texas justice and thinking of that time period.

Here’s Jack Patterson:

Map of Texas highlighting Uvalde County

Map of Texas highlighting Uvalde County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uvalde, Texas.

“I was pretty young when the Indians were in this county but I remember when I was standing around wishing I could go on one of those Indian scouts. Then when night come and they sent me to lock the stable door I would be scared to death, afraid an Indian was going to grab me every step. We used to keep the stable door locked to keep the Indians from steeling the horses.

“I was born in 1862 but I can surely remember when my grandfather’s slaves left after the war. There was one girl named Margaret they persuaded to leave with them, but she got away from them after they started and come running back. She stayed with my grandfather and grandmother from then on. Margaret washed for me and my wife after we were married…

“Grandfather Patterson settled Patterson the settlement. The whole family came there. Uncle John, Newman and George. Grandfather’s name was George W. and in 1844, he came to Texas from Alabama and settled in St. Augustine County, then he went to Smith County. In 1851 he moved to Uvalde County, settling seven miles south of the present town of Sabinal where Chunky Shane now lives. He pre-empted a homestead, and later added to his tract by purchase. He assisted in organizing the county and helping locate the county seat.

“Farming was just an experiment out here, then. Indians raided the settlement often. My grandfather had his place raided on several occasions. He continued to develop his place till the outbreak of the war. When the war was over his slaves were freed…

“We moved to the Frio at the Leakey settlement where my father run the saw mill for Uncle Newman and Uncle Tom Leakey. They were Partners in it when it first started up. My father’s sister married Tom Leakey. We moved from Leakey to the Patterson settlement again, then to Rio Frio. What little schooling I had was on the Frio. The only teacher was Judge McCormick. I remember Old Judge McCormick. He had snow white hair and the forefinger on his right hand was stiff. He was strict enough in school, all right. From the Frio we moved to the Leona.

“The first job I ever had was down an the old Adams ranch working for Jim Dalrymple. He was a son-in law of John Patterson’s, my uncle. Dalrymple was a cattleman and owned several sections of land down there. There was a pole fence around the place. Barb wire hadn’t been heard of then. All I had to do was ride and bring up the cows with young calves. There wasn’t much required, although there were several hundred cattle on the place. Every time he came out to the place we would run foot races and horseback races.

“He was ready to run with me and he’d beat me every time. We’d bet 50¢ or so on a race but he always beat and won the money. He would laugh at me and have a big time. Once I thought I had a good scheme worked up but he saw through it and wouldn’t go in for it. I said, ‘You won’t do anything unless you have a sure thing of it.’ He said, ‘Nobody but a d— fool would!’ He was always in a good humor and it showed what kind of man he was for I was only about 15 years old and he was a grown man with a family. He seemed to know that a kid liked to play. We didn’t mope around when he came out there…

“After I went back home and worked for my father, he gave Sam and I an interest to take his sheep and run them for him. We went down on the Chaperosa with about 6,500 head. That was below the “Murlo” where the Fenley settlement was. We had two Mexican herders. Down in that brushy country we lost less sheep than out in the open country. The sheep seemed to know they could get lost and stayed together better. We run those sheep down there about three or four years. I think we had started to the divide when we got into a shooting scrape with a Mexican.

“I was taking the sheep up on the divide and had got to the Frio when we stopped our flock to let them rest up. Someone had come into camp and said the Mexicans had killed Allen Blackman. We had gone to school with Allen and we were stirred up about it. They took us to where Allen had been killed and there he was laying in the road and they had shot him in the head…

“The herder came in the night sometime, however, and we told him that we had learned that he knew where the Mexican who did the killing was hiding and we were going to kill him if he didn’t tell us where he or they were. I think Tuck Van Pelt, Reading Black, Buck Burditt, Butch Patterson and several others were in the party. The Mexican said he would locate him and when he came back, he said he had him. We got on our horses and divided our forces. We were to surround the place.

“The other force got there first and we heard some shooting so I said, ‘Let’s hurry for it will all be over before we get there!’ As we got to the place where the shooting was taking place, we saw a Mexican come running toward us and dart into a thicket. We were up, overlooking this plumb thicket, sitting on our horses and watched these other boys make the fight. That old canyon was just full of smoke. But that Mexican kept them fought off and got away. They came back and said the fellow was gone. I told them there was one in that thicket, but they didn’t think so.

“They told the Mexican herder of Benny’s (who had come to us when he heard the shooting) to go into the thicket and tell the Mexican if he would come out he wouldn’t let the man kill him. So the herder went and told him and the Mexican give himself up and come out. Butch Patterson and another man were taking him to Rio Frio where there was a justice of the peace to give him a preliminary trial but some men met them on the trail before they got to Rio Frio and killed the Mexican. He never got the preliminary hearing. It probably would have ended that way anyhow.

Church of the Ascension, Montell, TX

“I took the sheep up around Yellow Banks on the Frio and then over to Chalk Bluff on the Nueces. It was while I was it Chalk Bluff that I met a girl down at old Captain Benson’s. I happened to ride down at Benson’s that day horseback. She was George Clark’s daughter, Maude. They had settled up at Montell and had come from New York. The girls had gone to school at Brooklyn, and after they moved out here, Maude went back and finished her schooling, which took her about two years. She taught school about three years after we met and we married in 1890.

“It seems funny that her father’s and mother’s names were the same as my father’s and mother’s. Both our parents were named George and Elizabeth. Another funny coincident: My youngest sister is named George Washington and she married George Washington Van Pelt.

“We had a very quiet wedding. No one was there but just the family. We came to Uvalde in a buggy and went on to San Antonio for a few days and bought our furniture. Then me moved out to the ranch at Yellow Banks. I had separated my sheep from my father’s and had gone out in business for myself. But along about then, a terrible drought hit this country and burned things up. It was during Cleveland’s administration. He took the tariff off of wool and ruined the sheep man. What the drought hadn’t accomplished, the free trade did, an there was no sale for domestic wool. We lost over half of our sheep from the drought alone.

“About 1895, we went into the grocery business at Montell. We just started up a small store but went into general merchandising later on. We had to scratch sometimes to get by but we brought up all our children there and gave them an education so we feel that we have a lot to be grateful for. When the depression hit, it gave us a bad time but we came through. On account of our health, I sold the store an and left Montell but I had to sell at a sacrifice. In 1920, I had traded for some bees and had kept them as a side line. They had thrived until now I make my living off of the bees.

“We have three children: Marjorie, who married Dr. Wells and lives in Edna; Bess who married Alfred Egg of Edna and Clark who is unmarried and teaching in a University in Missouri.”

About texasgaga

I am a mom, a grandmom (Gaga to my 2nd oldest grand-child), a sister, a friend, a construction estimator, a homeowner, an active member of a 12 step recovery group, an artist, a reader, a survivor, a do it yourself wannabe, a laugher
This entry was posted in Family, Hunting and fishing, nostalgia, Texas and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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