Organization of Eastland County, Texas
The Thirteenth Representative District in 1870 comprised Johnson, Hood, Parker, Palo Pinto and Jack Counties with the unorganized Counties of Stephens, Eastland, Throckmorton, Shackelford, Callahan, Taylor, Jones, Young and Haskell attached.
There came a time, however, when the citizens of Eastland began to want to do business at home. The odious State Police had been disbanded, and regularly appointed Bangers now guarded the rapidly moving frontier line. Hardy pioneers pushed westward and Eastland was no longer a frontier country. Many new settlers were coming into the County, land was being put into farms, substantial houses were going up, but for a time no man came forward to take the lead in the movement for organization.
The 12th Legislature, which met in 1872, had passed into history, but the prominent citizens of Eastland, all of whom devoutly wished for organization, had done nothing toward its accomplishment. This inactivity on the part of the older men nerved to action Silas C. Buck, a young lawyer living on the Davidson Ranch. He made his own plans, had himself appointed Deputy District Clerk of Palo Pinto County and went to work.
In Section 26 of Chapter 75 of the General Laws of the 7th Legislature, which met in 1858, an act creating Eastland and other counties, reads: "The County may be organized as follows: Whenever the bona fide, free, white male inhabitants thereof (including all such recognized as citizens by the Constitution of this State) over twenty-one years of age, to the number of at least seventy-five, may petition the Presiding Justice1 of an adjoining county, or the nearest organized county, asking such organization, and the person presenting the petition (being a creditable citizen of the county from which the petition emanates) shall testify upon oath and in writing before such Presiding Justice that the names subscribed to the petition are those of bona fide inhabitants of such county, possessing the qualifications aforesaid, and were affixed to said petition by each of said persons himself; then it shall be the duty of such Presiding Justice forthwith to order an election in said county for county officers, observing the provisions, as far as applicable, of the general election laws," etc., etc.
The first thing to do, according to the foregoing law, was to secure the signatures of seventy-five "bona fide, free, white, male citizens'' to a petition addressed to Presiding Justice J. H. Baker of Palo Pinto, asking for an election to be ordered. Armed with a six shooter and bowie knife, for in 1873 there was still danger from Indians, Mr. Buck rode over the County, hunting all the bona fide citizens.
One afternoon he stopped at a little doggery a couple of miles from W. H. Mansker's, where he found several free, white, male citizens exercising their liberties. The boisterous sounds within the ten by twelve log room indicated an excessive nearness to shoals which warned the young lawyer to linger on the outside of the open door. Two of the men (called Tom and Mike because their names could not be learned), became involved in an altercation, and presently Mike got the drop on Tom and covered him with a pistol. No sooner did he accomplish this feat, however, than he, in turn, was covered by another man, named Stewart. At this moment. Buck became interested, and fingered his guns and felt of his knife, as he watched and waited for a chance to help the ''under-dog. '' Fortunately for all concerned, some adjustment of the difficulty was effected. The soliciting petitioner went in and secured the signatures of the free, white males, and then turned in at Mr. Mansker's for the night.
When about sixty-five names had been secured, Buck, who did not know how the law read, exactly, carried the petition to Presiding Justice Baker, who ordered an election to be held on December 2, 1873, with the following result:
1st. McGough Springs, J. B. McGough, Justice of the Peace.
2nd. Flannagan's Ranch, Y. F. Hale, Justice of the Peace.
3rd. Allen's-Mill, John W. Gibson, Justice of the Peace.
4th. Hogtown, Watson, Justice of the Peace.
5th. Jewell, E. E. Head, Justice of the Peace.
H. Schmick, Sheriff
Clerk District Court. A. J. Stuart.
On February following, an election, which was held to locate the County Town resulted in Flannagan's Ranch being chosen and the name of Merriman was given to it. By some move, known, perhaps, only to astute politicians, although McGough Springs was designated as the First Precinct, and J. B. McGough elected from that locality, yet, W. F. Hale, of Flannagan's Ranch was made Presiding Justice, and Merriman became the First Precinct.
The citizens now felt secure in their organization and were ready for work. Mart Owens and Miss Townsend went to Justice Gibson to get married. The Justice refused to marry the couple, and said that he would resign his office before he would attempt such a thing. Mr. Owens, insisting, secured a form of ceremony from a friend, and after studying this all night, Mr. Gibson consented and married the couple.
Now came the startling news that that oracle of the law, Captain W. C. Veale, of Palo Pinto, had said that 'the organization of Eastland wouldn't hold water.' This statement sent young Buck to Austin. He interviewed Governor Coke, a personal friend, who sent him to his Secretary of State, Colonel DeBerry.
"Now, Colonel DeBerry," said Buck, "if you can't issue commissions to these officers who have been elected, I want this Legislature to pass laws that will legalize the organization so you can."
"Here, give me their names, I'll fix them alright," answered Colonel DeBerry, filling out the commissions and affixing his signature."
To make the organization doubly strong, Mr. Buck remained two or three weeks, and through Senators Jack Ball of Weatherford and Major Erath of Waco, succeeded in having all the necessary laws passed. With copies of these bills properly signed, in his pocket, together with the officers' commissions, the young lawyer made his way back to Eastland.
When it is remembered that there were few newspapers, and that the railroad still lingered among the protecting pines of Marshall, Texas, this lack of knowledge of procedure in such an undertaking as the organization of a county is not surprising and one is able to more thoroughly appreciate young Buck's grit and nerve.2
1. From 1869 to 1876 there were no County Judges In Texas.
2. Mr. Buck gave the above information in a personal interview,and it was corroborated by Judge Calhoun and others.
Source: History of Eastland County, Texas, by Mrs. George Langston, A. D. Aldridge & Company, Dallas, Texas, 1904.