Revisiting Wayland Free School
Last week our tour of historical markers in Stephens County took us to the southeastern part of the county to FM Rd. 576 East, then to FM 1852 South and the Wayland Free School, which was established in 1883.
Wayland was part of a fertile valley between Necessity and the community of Wayland, where cotton was the major cash crop until the Boll Weevil struck in about 1910 and then farmers reverted to grains and corn.
Wayland was known for two famous train robberies, not railroad trains but wagon trains. In that era, banks had not been established and usually the local general store kept money, usually gold coins, not paper money, since all Confederate money was worthless. Real gold had to be transported by wagon trains, which were dispatched with kegs of gold coins, to pay frontier soldiers and others on the frontier. Nearby Ranger was a supply depot and one such wagon train was traveling from Ranger to Fort Griffin with kegs of gold coins to pay their soldiers posted at the fort. One such train was attacked east of Wayland as it was crossing the east Gunsolus Creek.
The wagons had to double up teams to cross the creek because the banks were steep and the creek narrow and muddy, at that point. When the Comanche attacked, some of the wagons had successfully crossed because the main battle was fought on the level ground west of the crossing, which would later be known as Hunt’s Field. The Comanche killed all of the soldiers accompanying the wagon train and successfully carried away all the guns, ammunition and horses. All that was left were the bodies and the broken wagons. However, the soldiers had successfully buried the kegs of gold they were carrying. It has been rumored that some of those wooden kegs of gold may have been found, due to a purchase of large tracts of land up in the panhandle, by a local rancher who didn’t appear to have other resources for such a purchase.
The second wagon train robbery was a wagon train from Fort Worth, at the Gunsight Pass. A Mr. Bagget was the wagon master on that trip. At this point, his wagon train passed through two long hills and the Comanche attacked from both hillsides. The hillsides were pretty barren at that time, before any Mesquite trees had appeared on the scene. The Comanches cut brush from around the area and hid on the hillsides behind the brush. No gold was ever recovered and may not have had any on this particular wagon train, mostly kegs of flour and other supplies. Again, all the horses, mules, guns and ammunition were carried off.
One of the first things a man did when arriving in this area was drill a well because this area was known for the artesian water, which was at about 98 percent pure with two percent lime. These wells were drilled to about 180 feet to the flow rock. Many just dug a big cistern like well down to a nearby stream and allowed the water to rise in it. Then use a bucket and a rope to get their water. The water was one of the big factors for settling in this area of the county.
According to historic records of Wayland Valley, the first house to be built was by a man by the name of Smith. He built a one room cabin with a rock chimney in 1860. Thirty years later, Bogan Cash purchased this piece of land and restored the original cabin and added a second floor to it and built the chimney higher. He added a lean-to for a kitchen and made the whole house much more liveable and warmer. He had married Lucretia Beidleman and all their children but the youngest were born in that cabin. Later, Clarence Greenlee built them a new frame plank house in 1904.
Rock masons were very rare but in the area of Wayland, there were two men who were quite good at their trade. A Mr. Dickerson and Mr. Rosenquest built most of the rock chimneys for people who settled in and around Wayland.
More to be told about Wayland next week and then on to another historical marker. If you find a remote marker I haven’t written about so far, contact Jean Hayworth at: email@example.com.