The spring of 1833 found me travelling through the Choctaw nation, which, at that time, with the exception of the government posts, was a wilderness. Fort Towson, Duxborough, Jonesborough, Lost Prairie, Horse Prairie, Pecan Point, and several other places throughout this wild and newly settled country, were crowded with every kind and description of people from the states, from, the government agents and contractors to the wild and mysterious refugee—the latter being very numerous, and having settled upon the south side of Red river, to evade the pursuit of the United States’ officer of justice, that portion then being considered within the boundaries of Texas. The whole region was one of peculiar debasement in all respects. As might be suspected, seasoned as it was with such a population, drunkenness, debauchery, and murder walked abroad, hand in hand, day and night. Human life was valued no higher than the life of an ox or a hog, and the heart of the settlement was cold, and palsied to the most remote touch of feeling, and hardened to the recital of brutalities and crimes of the most indescribable enormity. Men talked of their evil doings, their deep, revolting guilt, with the most impudent freedom, and laughed and chuckled over them as though they were the best jokes in the world!
It was in one of the Texan settlements, in this rude, wicked tract of country, that an incident came to my knowledge, quite by accident, which I will relate. The settlement contained some seventy to eighty people, men, women, and children, white and black. I was taking a stroll with one of the settlers among the cabins and huts, he being familiar with the occupants of each, their habits and history. When we passed a spot worth notice, he gave me the character of the owner, his wealth, &c., and although all about the settlement wore an appearance of the most abject poverty, I was surprised to find the wealth which many of the inhabitants of so desolate, dreary, and forbidding a place possessed. We finally came to a small log cabin, at the extreme end of the settlement, apparently about twenty feet in length by eighteen deep, a story and a half high.
“Who lives here?” said I.
“The widow ——,” replied my guide, whose name was Edmonds—“the widow of ——, but—yes—the widow of Dr ——, who was killed a few days ago.”
I was struck with my companion’s pauses, and thought there was something singular in them, especially as his countenance at the time seemed to change slightly. I soon mustered resolution to ask him who were the murderers of Doctor ——, but his reply was simply that he did not know.
“I should like to see the widow,” said I; “will you introduce me?”
He declined, stating that he must then leave me, and go along some half a mile further, where some men were at work, chopping down a bee-tree.
“Very well,” said I; “I will step in and introduce myself. You have awakened some little curiosity in my mind to know more about the murder of this man.”