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Chapter 32: a frontier town.

From Caddo to Red River is a bee-line of thirty miles. A clearing in the jungle has been made near the river-bank, and the name of Red River City has been printed on local maps; but not a single shanty, not even a ticket-office, or landing stage, or a drinking crib, has yet been built. The city consists of a rock cutting and a trussle bridge. Red River city is not even a ghost of a city, with imaginary squares and roads, like those unborn paradises on the Bay of San Francisco, which are waiting for “ the good time.” As yet the Chickasaws and Choctaws lie too near. In time a town may look across Red River into the Chickasaw country, but the time will not arrive until the Redskins shall have ceased to live in tribes, to hold their lands in common, and obey the orders of despotic chiefs.

Yet, as a town was needed on the frontier, not [319] for local traffic only, but for the security and supply of a long chain of Indian posts, including Fort Sill, Fort Griffin, and Fort Richardson, a town was ordered to be built, and has accordingly been built.

The story of Denison City is as curious, in its way, as the story of Salinas City; for Denison in Texas, like Salinas in California, is built by English enterprise, with English gold.

Five miles from the bridge over Red River, Colonel Stevens, engineer of the Texas and Kansas railways, found a safer and better site. The Colonel (in whose company we have the great advantage of seeing these countries) is a man of vast experience in the ways of savage life. No one in the service knows the Redskins better, or the land on which they live so well. A town was needed on the frontier, and he chose the site, instead of leaving the locality to chance. A rolling prairie, with a grove of ancient oaks, arrested his attention, and on finding the plateau drained by a pretty runnel, fed by many living springs, he paused, and looked about. At points, the rock cropped out, and here and there, outside the grove of oaks, lay strips of open country, dotted with single trees. Around the plateau rolled a rich and level country, [320] with a soil adapted for the growth of cotton, rice, and maize.

A sheet of paper was produced; streets, squares, roads and lines were marked. The grove was set apart for public use. A school was marked, and the young city being named Denison, a day was fixed when corner lots were to be sold. Stevens assured the first bidders that a railway dep6t would be built. Denison was to be the magazine of Fort Richardson, Fort Griffin, and Fort Sill. A line of telegraphs was to connect these posts. Ice-houses, slaughtering-yards, and cotton-compressors were to follow. Such were the promises held out to speculators in main streets and corner lots, and as the railways are owned in England, and the promises were made on English good faith, the Jews who came up from Dallas and Shreveport to look on, were satisfied that the town would prosper. Sheds began to rise. But logs for building purposes were scarce. Oak is too hard for use; the yellowpine country lies a hundred miles off; yet lumberteams soon began to hail in Main Street. Finding a market opening for planks, three firms in St. Louis sent down several loads of white pine. These planks and boards had to come nearly six [321] hundred miles by train. A good market seldom fails to find supplies, and when the lumberers heard that pines were wanted in Denison, they sent in teams, though Denison was a place unknown to maps and charts. Work went merrily on. The Nelson House was roofed, the Adams House begun. Shanties here and there sprang up. Negroes from Caddo and Vinita, Jews from Dallas, Shreveport, and Galveston, rowdies and gamblers from every quarter of the compass, flocked into the town. A bar, an auction mart, a dancing room, were opened. In six months Denison had a thousand citizens of various colours and persuasions, and was famed from Dallas to Galveston as “ the livest town in all Texas.”

Twenty-eight months have hardly passed since Colonel Stevens drew his plan on that sheet of paper, and Denison is now a town of four thousand five hundred souls. The railway depot occupies a quarter of the town and near this depot stand the slaughtering-yards, two vast ice-houses, the cottoncompressor, four churches, five taverns, and an unknown number of faro-banks.

Denison cal already boast of a mayor, eight aldermen, “ all honest democrats;” a recorder, who [322] is “ a terror to evildoers,” and a Board of Trade. In strolling about the town, we notice a Masonic lodge, a Good Templar lodge, and a Base Ball Club. But the chief glory of Denison is the school-house, a red brick edifice, in the American Tudor style, so common in the Southern States. This pile cost fortyfive thousand dollars, every cent of which was raised on loans in Capel Court. What singular corners of the earth are fertilized by English gold!

If Denison prospers, the money-lenders may receive their own again, and feel that they have helped in a good cause. Rough, noisy, profligate, Denison is a very “live place.” Much drink is put away in little time. The day is Sunday, yet bars are open and billiard-balls click at every turn. Gay women flaunt about the streets, and hucksters quarrel in their cups on every kerbstone. Yet how near the pastoral nature seems to lie! Trees grow in Main street, and stumps of trees choke up the avenues right and left of Main street. Antelopes are tethered in yards. Cows wander up and down, und hang familiarly about the gates. Girls fetch in water from the creeks, and mustangs, still unbroken to the collar, tear across trackless leas of grass. 32-2 [323]

Judging from the streets, the Negroes must be half the population of this frontier town. Not a single Chickasaw or Choctaw can be seen. No Redskin lives at Denison; yet Denison is something more than a dep6t for Fort Sill and a refuge for emancipated slaves. It is a camp of enemies to the Red man.

Before we had been ten days in America, a gentleman in a Potomac steamer, seeing me mark some passages in a morning paper, with a view to future use, came up and said to me:

“ Guess you're a correspondent of the New York press?”

“No, sir; I am a visitor from the old country.”

“ Ha! an Englishman! You know Ulysses S. Grant?”

“I have that privilege.”

“Guess you can tell me what he is going to do with the Indians? I'm Texas-born, and represent the Spread Eagle; guess you've heard of the Spread Eagle? No! That's strange. Well, I've come out East to learn what the President means to do with the Indian territory. If he is going to open up the country, we are ready at the gates. All Denison [324] will move across Red River. Caddo is nearer to Fort Sill than Denison, and would suit the Government better as a magazine of arms and stores. Two words along the wires, just ” Go ahead, “ would bring ten thousand men to Denison, Caddo, and Limestone Gap in less than a week. That country, Sir, is the garden of America. If Ulysses S. Grant will only give the sign, I guess our Texan horse will soon be picketed on the Arkansas.”

I fear that editor is right. Five years after the Indian countries are opened up to capital and labour, as every part of a republic must be opened to the citizens of that republic, the Creeks and Cherokees will own no more soil in Oklahoma than they own in Massachusetts and New York.

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