Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bull, Chisholm, and Goodnight

Bull, Chisholm, and Goodnight

While researching my family for “Finding Our Indian Blood”, I ran across John Chisum. Was he related to Jesse, the Cherokee mixed blood for whom the Chisholm trail was named? Now a lot of my research started with things dad or a relative told me, and I then sought cooberating evidence.

I remembered Dad talking about his great uncle, Tarlton Bull. He married great grandma's sister, Sarah Ann Brown. Now Dad said he was 'a great big man, nearly 7 feet tall.' I got a copy of his Civil War Pension plan, and and he was 5' 8”. Oh well. Now I am not here to say 'Dad was wrong' But rather to say often family stories can be wrong, but there is usually some truth and it gets flavored with a few spices over time, spices that can turn bland food into something a little more memorable. A little cayenne makes the blandest food much better. Dad painted Tarlton as bigger than life. To me as a child, he seemed wonderful, a story teller of the first rank. But were his stories true or like Dad's, a little spiced up? I don't know.

According to what was written about Tarlton, his family migrated to Denton County, Texas before the Civil War. A historian of the county said the Bull family was one of the first to settle in the Denton County area. In getting to Texas, they passed through Indian Territory. I found a record where his sister wrote a letter saying that his father died while passing through the Cherokee Nation. I found through his pension papers, he had joined a Texas Confederate Cavalry unit and it was written of Tarlton that in one battle near Horse Creek, Cherokee Nation, his horse stood on his father's grave. I looked it up and yes, there was a battle on/near Horse Creek. In fact I think there were several battles in that area. One author wrote a genealogical record of the family, and said of over 100 men in his unit at the beginning of the war, I think it was 17 that survived to its conclusion. It also said he ended the war with the same horse that he started it with 4 years earlier. He participated it said, in 38 engagements on what is now Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Now I saw why Dad said Tarlton was such a great story teller. Had he gone through all those things. He must have gone through a lot. A lingering doubt kept drifting through my mind. Did he like cayenne as much as I do? Did he add a little spice to his stories, intentionally or not?

There is one last story about him that made me think that even if he did add a few ingredients to his stew, there is were enough real spices to make it worthwhile.

In 1868 some Indians (tribal affiliation is not mentioned. I intend to continue to look into it) raided the vicinity of Denton County, Texas. It had to have been either the Comanche or Kiowa. The following account is from Sketches of Texas pioneers published in the magazine “Frontier Times” which was published monthly at Bandera, Texas by J. Marvin Hunter. December 1923, Vol. 1;

No. 3. About ten miles from town the scouts discovered two Indians on Hickory Creek driving about fifteen head of horses to the main herd. They raised a yell and charged them and recaptured the horses. Tarleton Bull was in the lead and fired first at close range, wounding an Indian in the spine. The Indian turned and fired at Bull but missed him. He then raised his bow to discharge an arrow but was fired on by the others of the party and hit with three more balls and fell from his horse dead, without shooting the arrow. Mr. Bull secured his horse and E. ALLEN got the gun and bow and the quiver of arrows. The other Indian escaped.

From historical records, written at the time (I'm paraphrasing),say the Indians were after horses. They rounded up many, going from farm to farm, ranch to ranch, gathering horses. They didn't go out of their way to harm anyone, and only shot at the Texans when the Texans shot at them. The article read on. One White man, Sevier Fortenberry, was killed. So each side lost one man. It went on for a while. A few Texans would stumble onto the Indians or a band of the Indians would stumble onto a few Texans. If one group outnumbered the other, they might charge at them. I am sure Tarlton's Civil War experiences helped him. Notice it says Tarlton Bull was in the lead, and shot and killed one of the Indians. Maybe he was as brave as the stories dad had heard about him. Maybe he just seemed to be 7 feet tall, to Dad. Dad was born in 1915 and Tarlton died in 1929. So dad only knew his as a child, and he only met him a few times.

Tarlton and Sarah (Brown) Bull didn't marry until 1879. Sarah was great grandma Josephine (Brown) Richey's sister. She was dad's great Aunt and Tarlton his great uncle by marriage. Tarlton had been married earlier and Sarah was his second wife. Per his Texas Confederate pension papers they were poor, and were barely getting by. Texas rejected his pension application, saying his illness and injuries were not war related and he wasn't old enough. But 20 years later they were living in Oklahoma, and he applied again, and the new state of Oklahoma approved his application.

Above is a photo of Tarlton Bull, with a cane in one hand and a Stetson in the other, as an old man. I believe this was taken in 1929 just before he died. He made one last trip down to Denton. He was living in Murray County, Oklahoma at the time. Maybe Tarlton wasn't a great big man nearly 7 feet tall, but perhaps his stories were.
Oh, one more thing about the Denton County Indian Raid of 1868. It mentioned they chased the Indians across the John Chisum Ranch! Now the Chisholm Cattle Trail from Texas to Kansas started very near Denton County. Was John Chisum related to Jesse Chisolm?

Well, I am always buying books about historical characters, and one of them is “Jesse Chisholm, Ambassador of the Plains” by Stan Hoig, (c) 1991 University of Oklahoma Press. Jesse was mixed-Cherokee. He knew many Indian languages of the Southern Plains – he spoke Comanche fluently. Texas President Sam Houston knew him well having lived with the Cherokee many years himself, and he used him when he wanted to contact the Comanches or other Southern Plains tribes. When the American government wanted to contact the Southern Plains Indians, they also used him. He was one of a handful of visitors whom the Comanche allowed to pass through their lands. The Indians knew that Jesse would treat them honestly, better than other traders. He knew the great chiefs, and as well as the commanders of the various forts in Indian Territory and Texas. Politicians relied on his opinion.

In about 1833 the First Dragoons left Fort Gibson for Devils Canyon, on the border of Kiowa, Jackson and Greer Counties in southwestern Oklahoma, where they made the first contact with the tribes of the Southern Plains. There was a Wichita Indian Village at that place, between the mountain and the North Fork of Red River. There were 8 Cherokee scouts along – I know of three of them. Captain Dutch, said to have been Sequoyah's brother; David Melton, whose family had lived at Melton's Bluff on the Tennessee River in Northern Alabama; and the third, Jesse Chisholm, who was Grandson of John Chisholm, who had been on that same Tennessee River (although he lived to the north of it), downstream from the Melton's home. He was a business partner of Doublehead's, who was Sequoyah's great uncle.

The caption says this is the only photo known to exist of Jesse Chisholm, for whom the Chisholm Cattle Trail was named, courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society. As always, click on the photos and they will expand

But also on that same trip there exists a list of the commanders and officers, and one of those officers was “Jesse Bean”. Jesse Bean was commander of Bean's Rangers, and two members of that unit were James and Jarrett Wayland. They were first cousins to each other, and they were also first cousins to one of my great-great-grandmas, Sarah Ann Wayland. It was written that many of these 'rangers' were mixed-Indian. A Melton Welborn was also a member of Bean's Rangers. I do not know if he was related to David Melton or not.

So who was John Chisum, Denton County, Texas rancher? Jesse's grandpa was named John Chisholm. Was Jesse a kindsman of the Texas Rancher and cattleman named John Chisum?

In what was originally an unrelated story, I also remembered my mother talking about another Texas Rancher, Charles Goodnight. Every once in a while my job takes me to Oklahoma City, and when I am near Oklahoma Historic Society, I go by their bookstore and get a book or two. I don't remember what my mother said about him but some how she knew of him. There is a mural in Chattanooga, of Charles Goodnight. Chattanooga is a small town in Eastern Tillman County, Oklahoma. My mother's Kinder relations were big ranchers (and they still are) in Eastern Tillman County. I was wondering if it was through the Kinder's that they knew Charles Goodnight. Well, the last time I was in Oklahoma City and I was searching the book store at Oklahoma Historic Society, I saw “Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman” by J. Evetts Haley, (c) 1935 University of Oklahoma Press. It occurred to me that I remembered mother mentioning his name. Her family came from jack County, Texas, and I wondered if the book mentioned Jack County, or if it mentioned the Kinder's.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, it lets me tie one of mother's stories with dad's. How does it do that? Here goes.

I haven't read the book about Charles Goodnight yet, but it's next on my list. Once Im through with a book on the Creek Red Stick War (which I'm reading now) I'll start on the biography of Goodnight. But I did thumb through the index at the back of the book. I was hoping to see the Kinder surname, but it wasn't there. However, I did see John Chisum. I was wondering if this was the John Chisum of Denton County, Texas. Tarlton Bull, dad's great uncle by marriage, had been involved with an Indian fight that passed through John Chisum's Ranch in Denton County, Texas. Was the John Chisum mentioned in the Charles Goodnight biography the same John Chisum from Denton County? Was he related to Jesse Chisholm, for whom the Chisholm trail was named? Well I had to sneak a peak.

From page 267: In 1867 John Chisum came out from Texas and located on the Pecos at Bosque Grande, occupying the range that Goodnight abandoned. For years he remained the first friend on the trail west of the Texas settlements. . . He was an intimate friend of the young trail-blazer [speaking of Charles Goodnight] for years. It goes on to say Chisum was born in Madison County, Tennessee in 1824. At the age of 13 they moved to Paris, Texas. Later in the same paragraph, still talking of Texas rancher and cattleman John Chisum, but now as an adult – here it is – “He left the office of county clerk to engage in the cow business near Denton”. So – the John Chisum over whose land some Indians and Tarlton Bull had chased one another, was the same John Chisum known by Charles Goodnight! In about 1837 John Chisum's family moved from Madison County, Tennessee to Northeast Texas. He later moved to Denton County.

Above is a drawing of Charles Goodnigh6 by Harold Bugbee. After skimming the biography of Charles Goodnight, I suspect if my mother's family knew him it may have been in Texas. They lived in Jack County, Texas ad he had lands further south, but not much further. I do need to go to Chattanooga (the small town in Eastern Tillman County, Oklahoma), and find out why they have a mural of him painted on a local building. Maybe that will shed more light on the topic.

Whether this John Chisum known to Charles Goodnight is related to Jesse Chisholm, mixed blood Cherokee, I don't know. Both came from Tennessee, but that doesn't mean they were or were NOT related. Oh well, it is an interesting bit of nineteenth century Oklahoma/Texas history.


  1. As the great grandson of Oscar T. Richey, Grandson of Leora Richey Rusmisel. I remember coming across a Kiowa County history book that claimed of Oscar being the DIRECT descendant of Sequoyah. So I always assumed that was the case.

  2. howdy -- I'd love to have a look at that book! Do you know the name of it? I descend from Oscar's sister, Lona/Loney. I am at Would love to hear from you. Vance Hawkins