Robert Thomas Haile (1846-1931)
         The fifteen-year-old Tom Haile seems to have thought he lived in Kentucky.  Actually, his father's store lay just south of the obscure wilderness border in the mountains of Tennessee.  Some rebels may have been obtaining supplies there.  When Federal troops entered the Cumberland Valley they seized the storekeeper and sent him off to political detention in Ohio.  His son, perhaps with some adolescent hope of setting things straight, joined the  militia.  So Tom soon found himself in the new Confederate Army, under a Nashville journalist and sometime Tennessee congressman just recently appointed general, Felix Zollicoffer.

               Zollicoffer had grown up on bounty land received by his grandfather in the Revolutionary War.  He had attended the little college in nearby Columbia, but quit at age sixteen and was apprenticed to a printer.  He went on to become a journalist and eventually owner of a newspaper in Knoxville.  Prominent in Tennessee politics, Zollicoffer was eventually elected to Congress.

Aready while six southern states were following South Carolina in secession from the Union, a hundred or so delegates from across the nation were assembling in Washington  as a "Peace Conference."  For about three weeks in February, while Buchanan was still president, these statesmen were seeking some way to reconcile the Constitution's commitment to state sovereignty with the abolitionist demands which awaited Buchanan's successor.  As the Inauguration of a new president loomed, the Peace Conference looked anxiously to the border states, but above all to Virginia and Tennessee, in hopes of restoring the Union.   Felix Zollicoffer was prominent among the unionists.  The opening words of Lincoln's Inaugural Address strengthened their hopes:

I do but quote from one of [my] speeches when I declare that "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.  I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.  Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. --Lincoln on 4 March 1861

Zollicoffer, a loyal citizen both of the United States and of his home state, was still in the Tennessee State militia at that time.  Within just a few weeks, the burning of Fort Sumter in South Carolina precipitated a presidential Proclamation which threatened to divide just such allegiances as his:

Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said [secession], and to cause the laws to be duly executed. 

The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.  --Lincoln on 15 April 1861

 Like many fellow Tennesseans, Zollicoffer had strongly opposed secession.  He still entertained hope after Tennessee joined the Confederacy in June. The governor transferred his militia into Confederate service, and in July, Zollicoffer found himself in command of the District of East Tennessee.  On August 1 the general received the assignment to "preserve peace, protect the railroad, and repel invasion."  If  that was not sufficiently perplexing, East Tennessee was not a slaveholding area, and its population (like Zolly's own soldiers) were not particularly sympathetic to the Confederate cause. 
        In the fall, Zolly--as the young general was known among his troops--was stationed at the Cumberland Gap.  That winter he received orders to procede across the river to resist Union forces advancing into Kentucky.  This rash move precipitated the Battle of Mills Springs, the first major engagement of the War, and the first Southern defeat after Bull Run.  On a dark January day, in light rain, the woefully nearsighted Nashville news editor was slogging through a wooded area when he came upon a detachment firing upon his own men.  He rode up to the officers and sternly commanded them to desist.  Colonel Speed S. Fry of the Union Army shot the Confederate general dead.  This was not the only irony of the situation.

        Zolly's advance across the Cumberland River had been ordered by General George B. Crittenden.  Like Zollicoffer,
Crittenden was grandson of a Revolutionary veteran, but his bounty land lay in Kentucky.  Crittenden's father, John Jordan (1812-1863), was a protégé of Henry Clay, also distinguished by his life-long success at peaceful compromise.  Having studied at William and Mary (literature, mathematics and law) Crittenden had been elected to the Kentucky legislature, where he rose to Speaker.  He was appointed to the United States Senate in 1817, served three (non-consecutive) terms, all the while his country was breaking apart.  The party division of the previous nine presidential elections (Democrat vs. Whig) at last collapsed in 1860, with the election of a third party candidate, Abraham Lincoln.  When Lincoln professed a desire to reunite his country, Senator Crittenden was in full support of the Inaugural Address.  He was author of the Crittenden Resolution (25 July 1861) backing Lincoln's promise with Congressional authority.

But as we have seen, resentments hardened during the early months of the new presidency, so that by December a rump Congress repealed the Crittenden Resolution.  Its backers assembled a new package of bills called The Crittenden Compromise, seeking to appease the South by means of Constitutional assurances, but it, too, was rejected (its effect might have been something similar to the Missouri Compromise).   Already in February an editorial in the Charleston [Missouri] Courier had summed up the mood in the crucial border states:

Men at Washington think there is no chance for peace, and indeed we can see but little, everything looks gloomy. The Crittenden resolutions have been voted down again and again. Is there any other proposition which will win, that the South can accept? If not—there comes war—and woe to the wives and daughters of our land; beauty will be but an incentive to crime, and plunder but pay for John Brown raids.  Let our citizens be prepared for the worst, it may come.

John Jordan Crittenden, 1787-1863

The statesman's lifetime of disappointment was ironically reflected in the accomplishments of his sons.

The younger, Thomas Leonidas, a Major General in the Kentucky State Guard, was commissioned Brigadier in 1861, and called upon to put down the Rebels who had taken up arms in Louisville.  In the subsequent year he participated in the Union victory at Stone's River, then in the Union defeat at Chickamauga.*  His older brother, also a career soldier, was the above mentioned Confederate General George B. Crittenden under whose command Zolly died.  He had fought under Sam Houston in the Army of the Republic of Texas.  After the Battle of Perryville, George B. had accompanied Bragg's thousand-mile circuit down into Mississippi and back up to Murphreesboro, Tennessee.  In the cold, rainy days between Christmas 1862 and New Years, at the bloody but inconclusive Battle of Stone's River, a "Corporal Thomas Hail" was reported missing (from Company D, 4th Tennessee).  The boy was imprisoned at Camp Douglas, near Chicago, where he celebrated his sixteenth birthday in April.  Perhaps he was lucky enough to be exchanged: his daughter reports that he was made a prisoner of war three more times, and wounded once.

        By the time the young prisoner was
finally released at the end of April 1865, he had got word that his father was still imprisoned in Ohio.  He reported to my mother that he had made it to Camp Chase and had carved the family name on his father's coffin.  The dying father's "last words" were passed on to me by his son's own grandson, then an old man in a Texas nursing home.   Rudolph spoke them in the low rasp of confidentiality typical of the Haile menfolk.  "Always tell the truth Tom, to a hair's breadth."  That long remembered admonition must be pronounced with the dark, almost diphthongal "Towm," and the very open "hair's brayudth." 
*Thomas Leonidas's son, John Jordan Crittenden III, died with Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

                Tom was nineteen when he finally got back home to Flynns Lick.  He is said to have been the one who cared for his older brother Lafayette, incapacitated by "shell shock." I have no further report of the young man in Tennessee.   A half dozen years later, the Comanche Chief out in Texas reports the arrival of one R. T. Haile:

In the early spring of 1873, J.F. CHILDRESS, John FALLS, Joe MORGAN, M.A.
DRY, R.T. HAILE, S.A. BRIANT and Gus RODGERS arrived from Arkansas while
Jessie HILL, Emanuel DUNN, Wm. DUNN and J.W. DUNN left the eastern part of
the county, where they had been living several years and joined forces with
the young Sipe Springs settlement.

Two years later it records his acceptance into the Masonic Lodge.

       It was also Rudolph who believed
that his grandfather had come to Texas on account of "sayrious trouble" (also in a seriously confidential tone).  In his "for your ears only" whisper, Rudolph suggested to me that there had been a killing.  Such a story might accord with the peopling of Texas, for so went the song:

Oh, what was your name in the States?
Was it Johnson or Thompson or Gates?
Did you murder your wife and run for your life?

Oh, what was your name in the States?

But the Hailes appear to have come to Texas the same way they came out of Virginia to Tennessee, as an extended family.  At least three of Amon's sons came to Texas after the War, and three of his daughters were brought there by marriage--these were R. T.'s aunts and uncles.  Of his own generation, two brothers and three sisters came.
  During the earlier migration to Tennessee, families had tended to bunch together, intermarrying only among their own people (including cousins), but the remnants straggling into Texas after the War scattered like dust over the Cross Timbers plains.

  Still, Rudolph's story may help us with the discrepancy in R. T.'s name.  R. T.'s daughter Pearl, having married into Texas oil money, entered her father into the Biographies of Texas--under the name Randolph Thomas.  Some of her information on her father may be valid, but she is sometimes wrong, sometimes absurd.  Pearl's oldest son, the grandson closest to R.T., made a special trip back to the old man's home in Flynns Lick and left copious, if not always quite accurate notes.  He recalls his grandfather's name as Robert Thomas.  The name on the death certificate I examined in Eastland County is R.T. Haile, that is the name his sons knew him by, and it is the name inscribed on his handsome tombstone at Oakland Cemetery not far from Duster, Texas, a few miles south of old Sipe Springs.  Incidentally, the death certificate gives R.T.'s birthplace as "Kentucky," a palpable mistake but one which probably reflected R.T.'s own, still unrevised family lore.  Back when the family had left Virginia in the eighteenth century, "Kentucky" designated the great wilderness to the  southwest.  Boundaries through the Cumberland Mountains remained long obscure.

        It is also possible that both "Randolph" and "Robert" are just conjectures.  The name "R.T." does not appear at all in Tennessee, where everyone knew the boy simply as Tom.  The 1860 Tennessee census enters the 14-year-old as Thomas.  It is "Thomas Hail" who is reported missing after the Battle of Stone's River in 1863.  As a cattle man on the range west of the Brazos, he was known to hands as "old Tom Haile."   The first attestation I find for "R.T." is that in the Comanche Chief of September 21st, 1873.  Tom Haile may actually be one of the many men who took a new name in a new territory--or perhaps just a new initial.

         By the time his own grandfather, Amon, died in 1867, Tom was long gone from Flynns Lick.  Tom's route probably took him down the Cumberland to the Ohio, across the Mississippi, then down the Southwest Trail into the foothills of the Oachitas, where Virginians had settled before the War.   Once upon a time, having grown thirsty in the barrens, Tom came upon a huge fallen tree and found plenty of water in the crater beneath its roots.  He climbed down and drank his fill.  When clambering back up on the other side he discovered the carcass of a cow lying in the same puddle. "Sweetest water I ever drunk,” was Tom's judgment.   I do not think R.T. had the benefit of a classical education, but I find this same tale told about Darius the Great (ca. 500 BC).  Here a footnote admonishes us that it was first reported about Cyrus, his father. Well, many a traveler has been athirst, and many a tree has fallen, over the millennia. Where better for man or beast to quench his thirst?

        Tom may have spent months or years in Arkansas, home of
the tall and handsome Amanda Richards.  When he finally moved on, perhaps with help from her people, his new wife came along.  Bound for the promised land, they followed the meandering, sandy bed of the Red River on past the lush plantations and up into Grayson and Fannin Counties.  Tom raised cotton "on the shares," but the free range beyond the Brazos soon lured them south.  When R. T.'s name turns up in the Comanche newspaper, the twenty-seven-year-old was already a father:  Henry five, Mary three, and the infant Elvis Lafayette, just one year old in 1873.

       How the family fared during these next years may be the most exciting part of my story, but I have been able to glean only the scantiest details.  It was still the "Wild West" in the decades after the War.  This was the era of the so called Cattle Wars, a vicious cultural conflict between hopeful small farmers and landless cattle drovers.  R.T. and his sons managed to undertake both pursuits.  They continued their hardscrabble farming, trying to raise subsistance crops while at the same time growing dryland cotton for money.  But they also dwelt on the cattle trails which Jesse Chisolm and Charlie Goodnight had established after the War to drive the feral longhorn out of the Rio Grande valley and across Indian territory to the railroad lines in Kansas.   R.T. himself set out to collect, grow, and graze cattle for sending to market.   By the turn of the century he had become a wealthy man.  In addition to farms and financial interests, he acquired enough stock in the Amicable Life Company at Waco that his grandchildren thought he owned it.   Sadly, I lacked the interest during the time of my own life, and theirs, when I might have extracted details from those acquainted with young R.T.'s career.  He died the year I was born, and the Hailes are not a story-telling family. 

       Indian attacks had begun to subside about the time R.T. was settling down.  Railroads were being projected across the area called
West Texas. The state extended on for hundreds of miles farther westward, but R.T. and Amanda had ventured about as far as one might care to go.*   These dry hills beyond the Brazos are called the Comancherěa after the tribe who had long held sway from southern Kansas all the way to the Pecos.  Just at the time R.T. and Amanda were underway, this desperate, stone-age people was being systematically scourged by decimation of their buffalo herds.  But the Comanche, accomplished horsemen, put up a stiff resistance to the steady advance of cattlemen, of rowcrops, and railroads.   They had acquired the white man's arms, and were enthusiastic horse thieves.  One of R.T.'s sisters, Aletha, told how she surprised two of them just as they were slipping away with her saddle ponies.  Aletha shot them both dead.  That act is not itself so shocking as is the young woman's coarse, unsympathetic way of telling about it.
*The journalist A. C. Greene defends the designation"West Texas'" in his remembrances of A Personal Country (New York, 1969).  



        The free range west of the Brazos had attracted settlers before the War.  The famous Charlie Goodnight's family had come from Illinois to Palo Pinto County while he was still a small boy.  As a young man
Charlie had begun to collect a herd of his own.  When President Lincoln withdrew the Federal troops from Texas to subdue the deep South, the Comanche Indians quickly drove most settlers back past the Brazos.  Goodnight himself had  gone east to defend the Confederacy.  Upon his return after the War he found a now desolate landscape.  He "made the gather" of his own stock and whatever other cattle now grazed twixt scrub oak and prairie.  He became partner with Oliver Loving, an older business man who  had supplied federal troops with beef by means of cattle drives into Louisiana.   Loving and Goodnight  together instituted profitable drives out of West Texas north to the new railheads in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.  Just ten years younger than Goodnight, R.T. seized similar opportunity in adjacent Erath, and in Comanche County.
                                                          Charles Goodnight (1836-1929)                               At Loving's grave in Weatherford

         Goodnight would eventually become a close friend of the last of the undefeated Indian chieftains,
Quanah Parker.  Quanah, about the same age as R.T., was on the war path.  The year of R.T.'s arrival in Comanche, 1873, saw the last savage rampages, scalpings and burnings on the frontier.  In retaliation, the Paleface cruelly banished their Indian neighbors to reservations in Oklahoma.  Such conditions help explain why Texas land was cheap. Actually, the range itself was free graze, and so were, sometimes, the cattle on it.  R.T. maintained herds around the Sabana River. He was able to establish the first bank in Comanche County, of which I have taken pictures. It was recently removed from near Duster and is today on display at Sipe Springs.  He is said to have acquired a great deal of land, and to have given each of his seven children 500 acres. When nearby Desdemona became an oil boom town in 1918 , he opened a bank there, too. I know of no oil interests held by R.T. himself.  His house still stands today, not far from old Duster.

Amanda and R. T.

        Evlis Lafayette
Haile(1872-1931), called "Fate" (the French hero's name was
accented on the middle syllable  in Tennessee and Texas), died in December of the same year of his father's death in August, just four days after the author of these pages was born. I do not know how to date the picture of Fate as a young man (left), but since the picture on the right must show Fate and Laura Ann in their mid twenties and their eldest son, born in 1894, is still of an age (four to seven years) to wear a long dress, it may go back to the 1890s.

   Laura appears so prim and ladylike.  When she told her grandson that she had shot a panther off her front porch, that was hard for him to imagine, but a claim like that stuck in a small boy's memory.  In his mind's eye he had to imagine the panther snarling on his grandmother's familiar, large porch, perhaps near its
wide, comfortable swing. Only years later did I realize that the panther had not been on any porch at all, and that Laura had  shot from her porch, at the door of a house I had never beheld.

  Still, it was enlightening for me to try to envisage my gentle grandmother confronting such a beast, even at a hundred yards.  I knew Laura Ann as a proper lady with the late nineteenth-century virtues of modesty, reticence, humility.  True, she had a set to her jaw when she insisted on "the right thing to do," and she was an astute domino player.  I think she did not play cards, but she found a subtle rascality in calling them "the devil's picture book."  I was impressed by the regimens in her life, how she had arranged her daily Bible readings so as to complete both Testaments once each year.  I loved to watch her at night.  Before going to bed she took down her tresses to brush them before the big mirror of her dressing table.  They fell well below her waist and were still a rich brown, streaked only a little with white.

       The little boy on the porch above has outgrown his long Victorian dress, but his mother has adorned his neck with Victorian lace.  He also has a new little sister, Rena Mae (b. 1897).  The elegant attire of the family contrasts more starkly with the simple home than may appear at first glance.  The one-bedroom structure not merely lacks a window screen, but also plumbing  That means that the slender lady of the house drew her family's water from a dug well.   Heat was from a Franklin stove which served mainly for cooking.  The photographer has found an angle to conceal its flue, as well as the  cauldron for doing laundry out back--and the privy, of course.  The above picture was exposed right at the turn of the century and the one below, some twenty years later.   While Fate had built the earlier one himself, he laid down all specifications for the other, too: a "double floor," heavy timbers, etc.   The windmill and tank visible behind the house testify to running water In addition to a large bathroom, there was also quite literally a "water closet" set off a hallway of its own.  Electricity had to await Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act, a lustrum after Fate's death, but he had long since piped the walls for gas, the ubiquitous hissing of the sconces at doorways gently audible.

  Here he stands with his younger sons Rudolph and Ardys (the two older boys were no longer living at home).  The little girl is his first grandchild, Betty Joe.  She was beautiful.  Fate spoiled her (as a little boy I marveled at the side saddle and the carved croquet set he had given her).  She was a fine pianist.  She declared at an early age that she intended to "marry a millionaire,"  and she did.  That was something in those days.
Well, Fate was a hard worker. You have to say that for him.  His main business was cattle, but with his boys he raised cotton and grain, too.  I myself  have gathered nuts from his 80-acre "pecan bottom" on the Sabana, I have picked peaches in the orchard, and grapes from the arbor behind the house. Fate was remembered as a hard man, hard on his boys, hard on the land he worked together with them, and very obviously one of that generation who promoted the erosion which eventuated in the Dust Bowl. He raised cotton on soil so thin today that grass must struggle to grow. Laura Ann has told me she had to throw her own body down over her sons to "stop Fate from whipping them." He is quoted as having said of his daughter Gladys, who died of  a ruptured appendix, he would have "no sawbones cutting" on a child of his.   I feel I know Fate from a story my father told. As a very young fellow Frank had been entrusted with "making a trade," one of the most treasured capabilities of that place and time, inherited no doubt from Virginia and Tennessee. Fate had sent him off to trade for some horses for the remuda, and Frank came riding home very proud of his negotiation and of the animals he was leading behind him.  When his father rode out to meet Frank, to inspect the newly acquired horses, the first question was of course addressed to what kind of trade his boy had made. Frank told him, looking for praise.  On the contrary: "'y God ye've ruined me," Fate said.  I take the story not only as limning Fate's personality.  It reveals also something of the economics in which my own father grew up.  Fate died at a young fifty-nine.  Here he is toward the end of an apple.

     Fate's sons liked to recall him as fast with a six-shooter. They say he would let them toss a quarter into the air, unholster his pistol and shoot the coin out of sight while it was still overhead.  I would guess that the example may have been set by Fate's own father, the one who had indeed encountered Texas as the "wild west".  Like such a fellow or not, this is probably the character which struck the polite Englishman Francis Baily when he observed that

 spirit of servility to those above them so prevalent in European manners, is wholly unknown to [Americans]; and they pass their lives without any regard to the smiles or the frowns of men in power.

 That American personality may have crested here in Fate's generation.  He was a contemporary of the Comanche warrior / statesman Quanah Parker.  A cousin was Gaston Boykin, the sheriff who captured Billy the Kid.  But during Fate's lifetime America was fast becoming more urban than rural, and the economy of the late 19th century was already industrialized.

            His was still an agrarian way of life, or as I earlier called it "grebe-capitalism." Except that now the men folk did have cash money at their disposal. Fate bought a new car every year, he sent his younger sons to college. Rudolph was a star football player, suffered the rest of his life from injuries received on the playing field and in several air crashes.  He operated an airport in Austin, was a "barnstormer," also gave flying lessons. The youngest, Ardys, spent his life in the peacetime U.S. Army.  The two older boys, on the other hand, thought themselves too savvy to go to college.  Erin / Aaron was shrewd. They called him "the Dealer."  Perhaps that was because he was good at cards, or maybe because his Ford dealership in town burned during the Depression.

          As I "backward cast my e'e,"
Fate and R.T. are the first of our fathers who come upon my horizon, and they tempt me to form a judgment about their line, as it disappears into prior centuries. Shall we assume that Fate and R.T. were following a tradition handed down from Amon and Joshua, from the Nicholases who raised tobacco in Virginia, even from the Englishmen demanding habeas corpus in the 17th, magna charta in the 13th century? Or  do we see in such men merely the temper of their own times?  Here before us are those fellows called upon to make the transition from agrarian life, which had prevailed for a quarter millennium on American shores alone.  Theirs was a world now dominated by business and industry, its social integration farther and farther removed from the easy ways which so struck Francis Baily.


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