old community of Trickham
was the first community in Coleman
County to be settled, though today it might be hard for an outside
observer to understand why. The U.S. Army chose the patch of land
on Mukewater Creek as the site of Camp
Colorado in the 1850s but the camp lasted less than a year at
This can be rough country even today, but in the 1850s it was a
savage country. A 1936 history of Coleman
County quotes the son of an old settler named Dick Fiveash who
said his uncle Bill Williams was known as “Mukewater Bill” and he
owned a bridle made from the skin of a Comanche he had killed. At
least half a dozen early settlers, some of them known and some of
their identities lost to history, were killed by Indians around
Fiveash also recounted how smallpox hit the little community hard
in the 1870s and how he lost his father and mother to the disease:
“Dr. Edwards at Brownwood
was the only doctor we knew. He came and looked in at the door and
when he saw how terrible bad it was, he turned and went back home
without doing anything at all for us.” These were not people who
late in life longed for the good old days.
The town was founded by famed cowman John
Chisum, who set up a store on Mukewater Creek to serve cowboys
riding the trail from South Texas to northern markets in the 1860s.
This was part of the famed Western Trail, which became the main
road for Texas cattle
heading north. Chisum’s store was the frontier equivalent of a convenience
Bill Franks, who might have been called Bill Pranks or worse if
some of the stories we hear about him are true, was the proprietor.
We hear that he originally called the store Trick Em and Skin
Em; folks called it Trick Em for short. Franks tricked
em out of their money, it was said, and maybe he skinned them
in a manner of speaking – but not in the way that Fiveash’s uncle
skinned that Comanche back in the day.
One of the ways Franks supposedly tricked em was to sell the
cowboys watered down whiskey. By the time they figured out that
the whiskey was about two-thirds Mukewater Creek water and a third
rotgut whiskey, they were halfway up the trail and there was no
time to turn around for the purpose of settling matters with Franks,
who could be called Texas’s first convenience
There’s a possibility the story isn’t true and might have been made
up or embellished by Franks himself, but it’s one of those stories
that’s too good to verify.
Evidence that Franks ran a clean operation, at least for locals,
can be surmised by the fact that enough people settled near the
store to create a little community. Franks applied to the government
for a post office with the name of Trick Em but when humorless
postal officials rejected it he changed it to Trickham.
Chisum never lived at Trickham.
His ranch’s headquarters were on Home Creek a few miles away. He
sold the store in 1874 to L.L. Shield who added on to Chisum’s original
store and turned it into a true community store for a growing population.
By 1884, the town had 75 people, a hotel, two cotton gins, two churches,
a blacksmith and a school. Trickham
flourished as a thriving agricultural community in the early 20th
century as most of the farmers grew substantial amounts of cotton.
More than 60 students attended the two-story schoolhouse at one
time but the good times didn’t last for long. Railroads bypassed
the town and the town faded away. The store didn’t last but the
One of them was told to me by Bob Anderson, a grower and marketer
of fine Texas-grown garlic. With apologies for giving away the punch
line, it’s noted that the 1936 history of Coleman County shows a
family named Cheatham living in Trickham
in the early days. A visitor rode by one day and asked a local man
outside the store the name of the town.
“Trick Em,” the man said.
“And what is your name?”
“Giddyap!” the visitor said, and off he rode.
The thing is, it might have happened just that way.