Annals of Elder Horn   [back to issue]

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  • by Tom Keener  
     
    First in a five-part series on primary sources for researching Collin County history.  
     
    Annals of Elder Horn, Early Life in the Southwest, arranged by John Boyer and Claude Thurman, was first published in 1930 and republished in 1976 for the American bicentennial. The 1930 edition in the original dust jacket is extremely rare. This book offers a rare eye-witness account of pioneer days in Collin County and the role of some of Collin County’s units in the Civil War. Elder Horn kept a detailed diary, sharing many of his recollections. Beginning in the pioneer days and continuing through his days as a preacher in the 1870s, Elder Horn provides an opportunity to examine mid-nineteenth century lifestyles, challenges, amusements and religious life.  
     
    Robert Horn was born on April 26, 1844, to William and Martha Horn in Wilson County, Tennessee. Their farm was located near the Cumberland River. His father operated a ferry across the Cumberland River, charging 25 cents for wagons and ten cents for a passenger on horseback. On September 1, 1858, his family departed Tennessee to immigrate to Texas. Robert was sad to leave the beautiful country and his lifelong friends. The journey to Texas followed a route that continued through Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock and Laynesport on the Red River and then to Grayson County where Mrs. Horn’s brother lived. The journey took one month. After a four week rest with relatives, they arrived at their final destination, Collin County.  
     
    Robert observed quail, prairie chicken, wild turkeys, deer, wild cats (probably bobcats) wild hogs, bears, buffalo and wolves. Rattlesnakes were numerous. Robert declared, "A flint-lock gun and a few bullets or shot and powder and a short walk from the house enabled the early citizen to return with all the meat needed." He recalled how a black man named "Uncle Nat" did not own a gun but had a tremendous aim and throwing arm. "He knocked squirrels out of the tallest trees with rocks."  
     
    Colonel Bill Fitzhugh asked Robert to help trample the tall grass. In the Blackland Prairie, Collin County’s natural flora included tall grass. Lore from other sources describes how children got lost in the tall grass while playing hide and seek. Summing his thoughts on the landscape, Robert wrote, "All was in the rough just as God created it."  
     
    Families cooked in the fireplace since there were no stoves. Coffee had to be parched or roasted over the fire. Fire were kept burning year round. If the fire went out, settlers would walk miles to attain a burning log. Sleeping supplies consisted of bedsteads with rawhide strips or cords of rope serving for both slats and springs. Lighting was with grease lamps and later candles. Tableware consisted of tin plates and cups or stoneware.  
     
    Commercial transactions in frontier Collin County reflected a time when there was brotherly love and compassion for others. When families arrived into Collin County after a long journey that included fording rivers and creeks, they were usually out of food and supplies. Robert recalled, "The man would drive up in his covered wagon, in which he had his wife and children together with all of his earthly belongings and say to me, "We have pulled through from the old States and are needing supplies…I would then sell him, without question, all he had to have. Later, when he had made and sold his first crop, he would come in and pay me."  
     
    That tradition of care and compassion can still be seen today at the Allen Community Outreach, Allen Food Pantry and the Allen Public Library’s Food for Fines program.  
     
    In the next issue, Elder Horn discusses Collin County’s participation in the Civil War. If you know descendants of Elder Horn and have their contact information, please call me at 214.509.4911.

     
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