The Dallas Journal, Volume 46, 2000 Page: 6
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Autobiography of Charles V. Compton by Don Raney
The nearest railway station was reached by roads that were rough, rocky and hilly. Many of us made the trip by
horseback. Arrangements were made for us to stay at a house near the depot, the night before leaving. Mother, Arizona,
and Billie left our home on horse back early in the morning, while father and I followed later. We rode a dappled grey
horse and stopped a short time to tell Grandma Compton goodbye. She and my father embraced and sobbed aloud. She
kissed me and said "I will never see you again," and with her hands over her face, she left us. I never saw her again.
Uncle Tom and his family also left early and were at the little house near the depot when we arrived. Everyone was
excited; we ate a basket supper and then bunked in improvised beds. We woke up early in the morning, had a quick
breakfast and then came the thrill of our lives. We heard the whistle of the old iron horse, the bell ringing, the puffing
and popping off steam and the great clouds of smoke from the big smokestack. Then linked to this great monster was a
train of cars that we had to get on and get in. We were all scared, young and old alike. Some of them couldn't stand the
pressure and ran behind the depot and peeped around the corners. Others, more brave would start for the coaches and
have heart failure and run back. Finally, with the assistance of the train crew, we were rounded up and half led, half
carried up the steps one at a time. That was our GOODBYE TO KENTUCKY!
Many of our friends were with us until the train left the station. Hand shakes, hugs, kisses and streams of tears were
mingled together. An excited delegation heard the conductor announce "all aboard," heard the bell ring, the engine puff
and heave and the train started vibrating. This was indeed an exciting moment - our first train ride. We were starting a
great adventure. Aunt Saline said "'We are now on our way to Texas." Several minutes passed before we recovered
from our fright and not until we had a few minutes delay at a railway station did we begin to review our experiences just
before leaving the station. All marveled at the tremendous rate of speed we were traveling. One of the trainmen told us
that we had been making 20 miles an hour. Father and Uncle Tom would tell us the old iron horse was taking us to our
new home in Texas and that getting us on the train was a bigger job than they had figured on.
As the days and nights wore on, the novelty wore off. The smoke and coal dust began to worry us. Clean clothes soon
became soiled and even our basket of food was covered with dust. No change to bed clothes at night made us
uncomfortable and we youngsters wished for our trundle beds, while our seniors would say,"Wouldn't it be fine if we
could have a big clean feather bed?"
Then would come the question "Do they have geese in Texas?" Cousin Jake said "No, that they made beds out of
cotton." Then Cousin Mattie asked if we had failed to bring soap and if we could get ashes to fill a hopper and make lye
Then at the stops we would get together and sing "Old Kentucky Home," "Old Dan Tucky," "That Old Time Religion"
and other familiar songs. The novelty of travel had also worn off. We passed through Tennessee and were in Arkansas.
Mother said "I am getting awfully tired of this smoke and dust." A day later, we heard the Porter call "Popular Bluff'
and someone asked if we were getting near Palestine. Uncle Tom shook his head and asked the girls if they had not
enjoyed the mountains of Tennessee and Arkansas. They all agreed that the scenery was beautiful but they were getting
too tired to appreciate scenery. The days and nights seemed to grow longer, the smoke and dust became thicker and
though we all tried to be brave, we were nearing exhaustion. At last, father came through the coach smiling and said
"We are pulling into Palestine."
This came like cold water to thirsty souls. Soon we were being aided by the station agent in getting our effects unloaded
and moved into a building near the depot, known as the emigrants home. A stove for cooking was provided, along with
tables and benches. There was plenty of water and we were like ducks in a lake and were soon partly clean. Poor mother
had suffered terribly from inhaling smoke, but was cheerful and helped to give us our first big meal in several days. We
had an ardent blessing, almost a prayer of Thanksgiving, for our safe arrival. Uncle Tom said the trip was not as bad as
he had expected.
Father, generally congenial, was very quiet but snapped out of the dumps and told us his sad story. It seemed that the
"nice man" who had boarded our train in Arkansas, had visited with him until father fell asleep. He then changed his
mind about coming to Texas with us and had gotten off the train, taking father's purse and about eighty dollars. Mother,
though blue, said "If you had done what I told you, it would not have happened" and she pointed to her padded belt that
she had sewed to her dress after concealing her own deposits. Father, however, felt that there was no use of crying over
spilt milk and so the sad episode was forgotten. It was surprising how food disappeared and how broken spirits were
We were counseled by Railway Agents to rest and take life easy. That farm owners would be in from day to day seeking
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Dallas Genealogical Society. The Dallas Journal, Volume 46, 2000, periodical, June 2000; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth186859/m1/12/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Genealogical Society.