The Dallas Journal, Volume 46, 2000 Page: 7
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Autobiography of Charles V. Compton by Don Raney
tenants. About the third day, an old man came in and boasted about his large farm, nice tenant houses and pleasant
surroundings. Both father and Uncle Tom were skeptical about the man but reluctantly rented his farm, located about 60
miles south of Palestine, near Huntsville, adjoining a unit of the State Penitentiary in Walker County. The plan of
tenancy was entirely new to us. It was that they were to furnish farm implements and horses. We were to give one half
of all products grown on the farm to the owner. We were conveyed to our new temporary homes, two tenant houses. It
was there, in the spring of 1879, that we started our life in Texas.
As I look back to our location on that sandy-land farm, the unpromising outlook, the hardships of six days and nights
(on the train) without any comforts, I think of the sacrifices and hardships experienced by our parents, their self
effacement, and the responsibilities that they were assuming. I think of the homes that they left, free from debt,
surrounded by their friends and kindred. Now they must start again without chart or compass to guide them across this
sea of adventure, and I know that God alone was guiding and directing their every step. Events since that time have
confirmed my belief.
We were starting a new life in a new country. After two long days drive in wagons, we with our few effects for the
house, were unloaded at our new abodes. There were two typical tenant houses near the edge of a forest of small trees
on one side and fields on the other. But there was not a shadow of complaint. We expected little and received merely
shelters and an abundance of fresh air. Soon a few boxes were opened and materials were spread down for our sleeping.
The water supply was far from our houses, but we were told that if we did not like it we could dig a well. This was done
at our own expense, with a promise to reimburse us, that was not kept.
The first day at our adopted farm was spent by the older group in planning and arranging for immediate breaking of the
land and by the younger group, which was in the majority, in reconnoitering. We were visited by two friendly dogs that
accompanied us to a branch and through the woods and to our delight, jumped a cotton tailed rabbit and chased it to a
hollow tree. Charlie reached up and pulled down a plump little rabbit and we made a record running home. We had a
taste of rabbit for dinner and were delighted when a young Darkey told us that the woods were full of rabbits.
The good news is that from day to day we almost furnished our family with the finest quality of "forest meat" and had
the time of our lives in doing it. I recall the catching of a swamp rabbit which was as big as a coon. We were so excited
that four of us held the legs of the rabbit as we ran home, yelling like wild Indians, "Mule ear, mule ear." We had heard
of, but never had seen a "mule ear" rabbit.
The third morning after we had arrived, we heard a pack of dogs barking, or rather raving and saw a man in stripes,
about two hundred yards in advance, making his way to a tree. Behind him were two men on horses, carrying guns. He
hastily climbed the tree while the dogs circled, splitting their throats barking. The guards, on horses, ordered the man to
jump down. He would start, then look at the vicious dogs and stop. Again the order was given. The guards leveled their
guns and said, "Jump or we will shoot you out." He jumped and had hardly reached the ground when the whole pack of
blood-hounds were on him and, it seemed, were tearing him to bits. Finally, they were called off and the man in stripes
emerged lacerated and profusely bleeding. People in the neighborhood had gathered to see an unusual show.
When I was seen crying, someone said, "Don't cry, it was just the penitentiary guards training their dogs." The
impression of that episode lingers with me until this good day. I will here make the observation that blood hounds were
trained in the similar manner until this good day. The following week, we visited the old dilapidated prison. The place
was so badly overcrowded that sanitation, hygiene and even the decencies of life were impossible and to this was added
the sickening odors from over crowded filthy cells. That was nearly 75 years ago, but the impression
never left me, and to myself, I made a vow to correct this outrageous condition and I now each day renew that vow and
that objective draws nearer and nearer.
Charley, Billie, George and myself were given an abundance of time to hunt rabbits and explore the streams and
marshes. We heard stories of cattle and horses being submerged in quicksand and many people, unacquainted with this
treacherous sand, barely escaping with their lives. These stories had been told to us from the day of our arrival. We
ventured into the edge of this sand until we sank down to our knees and were convinced of its danger. The four of us
were strolling along a little creek or branch, on a bank of nearly ten feet above the stream at a point of an abrupt bend.
We were leaving a goodly space of wet sand between the bank and the stream when suddenly Charley excitedly cried
out, "I see a golden bottle!"
In a jiffy, all of us had our eyes glued on the beautiful gold bottle. Then the question was, how could we get hold of it?
We all believed that should we get into the mire of quicksand, we might never get out, but to leave that beautiful, golden
The Dallas Journal 7
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Dallas Genealogical Society. The Dallas Journal, Volume 46, 2000, periodical, June 2000; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth186859/m1/13/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Genealogical Society.