The Annals of Elder Horn   [back to issue]

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  • by Tom Keener  
     
    Due to the enormous response regarding Elder Horn, this series on primary sources for Collin County history has been extended.  
     
    Elder Horns’ written recollections are invaluable for at least four reasons—sketches of pioneer life, details of Collin County’s participa-tion in the Civil War, early education, and recalling "stories". He preserved the "stories" in pioneer Texas dialect.  
     
    On Oct. 9, 1871, Elder Horn opened a school near Hackberry Grove that was part of the "Public School System". He indicated that Watson’s Reader was used as a textbook. This reader was part of a National Series, which stressed elocution, expression, declamation, prose, verse and dialogue. Horn’s diary indicates that he cared for each and every student and considered all students precious. To help students learn, he debated with another Collin County pioneer, J. W. Wilmeth.  
     
    In the evenings, debate was a popular forum. In one debate, women’s suffrage is mentioned but sadly, no details are given. It would take a half-century before women secured the right to vote, but his notes suggest that it was being considered as early as 1871.  
     
    In another debate, the question was: Resolved, that fire is more dangerous than water. Even though a Mr. Sanders defended the affirmative with cogent arguments, through the use of humor, an Irish-American named Mulligan won the debate. "Ladies and gentlemen, fellow citizens, and most honorable judges: my most honorable and worthy opponent played on your reason; he played on your feelings; he played on your prejudices; he played on your heartstrings; and finally, he played out". The vote was—Negative, 3; Affirmative, 0.  
     
    One of the first mottos of a storyteller is not to permit truth to stand in the way of a good story. Thus, stories that he recalls are not necessarily truthful but they are good stories. Horn is to be commended for recording them in a written record.  
     
    While walking home one evening from a debate, he heard geese honking as they were progressing south for the winter. Sounds of geese helped him recall a story from Old Brother Fuller.  
     
    When Fuller first came from the old states, he settled in East Texas near a big lake. A "blue norther" froze the lake. On the following evening, thousands of wild geese lost their way and settled on the frozen lake. After dark, it began raining over the frozen lake and at midnight, another "blue norther" rolled in and froze the rain around the feet of the geese. They were wiggling, flapping and squawking.  
     
    At dawn, Fuller observed twenty acres of geese frozen to the lake. Fuller spread the news. Later, merchants, farmers, preachers, teachers and trappers came from long distances to pick the geese. Enough feathers were picked from the unfortunate geese that day to make feather-beds for all of the families of East Texas.  
     
    Fuller also had plenty of snake stories. During the 1840s, "me en ‘nother feller wus agoin down Honey Crik (Honey Creek), ‘en all uv a sudden-like he jumped ter un side liken he’d been shot et er somethin’. I looked up a little hill-like place, and what did I see but’n a hoop-snake a comin’ a rollin’ right by me, glazin’ my hind leg like, and it struck that ‘air stinger thing in a oak tree and couldn’ yank it out agen, an’, by hokey, inside er twenty minutes that ‘air tree and hoop-snake both wus as dead as a door-nail."  
     
    In another story, Fuller recalled, "I wus a strollin’ ‘long down through a pa’tuer like, when all to onct I seed a little green-like snake a baskin’ in the sun lazy-like. I picked up a staike and poked it, an’ whut de think it done to itself? Wal, it jest up an flew all to pieces! I set down an’ set right still fer a spell, and fust thing I knowed that dern reptile begin to put itself together agin. I seed its head start lookin’ fer the piece what went nex’ to it, an’ no sooner had it jined that piece to itself than it started a lookin’ fer another piece, an’ so on an’ on til it jined ever’ piece to itself an’ made a full snake, an’ I was fazzlegasted that I jest set thar an’ watched it sneek off in the weeds an’ grass and get plum away before I could move a peg, by hokey."  
     
    We are thankful that Elder Horn kept a diary that is a valuable source for regional history. The Horn family gave the original documents to Texas Christian University. Elnora Geer of Anna, granddaughter of Elder Horn, reports "the published book, The Annals of Elder Horn, is only a small portion of the diaries and documents that Granddad wrote". She also indicated that Elder Horn’s father, William Horn, also served in the Civil War and was stationed at the mouth of the Brazos River.  
     
    Please tell me your story at 214.509.4911. Many thanks to Elnora Geer and Sarah Hatcher of the North Texas History Center for their valuable contributions to this series.  
     
    Tom Keener is the cultural arts coordinator with the Allen Public Library.

     
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