Peek into Panola (July 2013)
- by Vina Lee
Have you ever wondered who lived just down the road from you, or who was just passing through way back in the 1800's when roads were barely wide enough for a wagon to pass and many of them were just horse trails?
I started first grade in Quinton, Oklahoma in the Kiamichi Mountains where my dad was the preacher at the Christian Church, editor of the newspaper and owner of a grocery store. Growing up near Robber's Cave on Carlton Lake, there were many legends and much folklore about the gangs who rode the trails. Now, a resident on Lake Murvaul in Panola County, Texas some of those trails seem to cross...from way back there some time in history.
It seems that the James and Younger brothers and Belle Starr were among the rustlers, bank robbers, horse thieves and cattle barons making up part of our Civil war history riding into East Texas along the Canadian River to the Red River, caves and canyons providing hide outs and shelter.
"For a short time after their marriage, Sam and Belle Starr lived near present Porum. Then Sam took an allotment of forest and bottom land in the extreme southwest corner of the Cherokee Nation on the North side of the Canadian River nestled between low-lying inaccessible hills sixteen miles below Eufaula, six miles west of Briartown, and Tom Starr's place. To the north rose Hi-Early Mountain, where the Jameses and Youngers rendezvoused during the war. They were almost surrounded by members of the Starr clan, either direct descendants of James Starr or people who married into the family.
Belle did not associate much with her neighbors. It was her intention, she wrote years later in a short biographical sketch to John F. Weafer of the "Fort Smith Elevator," to live a quiet life. She wrote:
"On the Canadian River...far from society, I hoped to pass the remainder of my life in peace...So long had I been estranged from the society of women (whom I thoroughly detest) that I thought I would find it irksome to live in their midst. I lived happily in the society of my little girl and husband...but it soon became noised around that I was a woman of some notoriety from Texas, and from that time on my home and actions have been severely criticized. Notwithstanding some of the best people in the country were friends of mine. I have considerable ignorance to cope with, consequently my troubles originate mostly in that quarter, I am the constant theme of their slanderous tongues... My home became famous as an outlaw's ranch long before I was visited by any of the boys who were friends of mine.Jesse James first came in and remained several weeks. He was unknown to my husband, and he never knew till long afterwards that our home had been honored by James' presence. I introduced Jesse as one Mr. Williams from Texas."