think a stream with a name like Bad Luck Creek would be unique,
but all of us endure a run of bad luck every once in a while. And
that can happen anywhere.
Turns out that at least five other states also have their share
of Bad Luck creeks – Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho (it has two such streams),
Montana and Virginia.
For a waterway to end up with such an ominous name, obviously something
unfortunate must have occurred along its banks. That’s definitely
the case with Texas’s Bad Luck Creek, which flows about 15 miles
from Hardin to Polk County.
While the Bad Luck Creeks elsewhere in the nation doubtless have
their stories, the cypress-lined stream that cuts through part of
the Big Thicket at least has a chance of redemption name-wise. In
fact, it could become a singularly lucky creek for someone. But
first it’s best to explain how it got to be Bad Luck Creek. Actually,
local legend holds that three different strokes of bad luck happened
on this stream.
Thicket old-timer “Aunt” Cordella Sutton, who came to Hardin
County with her family in 1856, later claimed that early day settler
Warren Hunter Collins gave the waterway its name because he never
managed to shoot even one squirrel anywhere along its banks. (Of
course, as far as some of the local fauna were concerned, that made
it Good Luck Creek.)
The second bit of bad luck happened during a Civil War incident
called the Battle of Bad Luck Creek – a shootout between Jayhawkers
(Northern partisans) and Confederates who mightily resented the
Jayhawker’s reluctance to fight for the South – when an innocent
Polk County resident known only as Old Man Lilly got killed by inadvertently
running into the line of fire.
The third instance of bad luck on Bad Luck Creek supposedly happened
after the war.
Around 1868, Eli Hall, a Louisiana native who had married a Georgia
girl in Newton County
in 1849 before coming to Hardin County, found a tract of land he
liked and made an offer to buy it. The landowner took him up on
the deal and Hall – carrying $500 in gold coins to complete the
transaction – started walking toward the community of White Oak
Texas) from wherever he lived at the time.
On the way, following a creek with many turns through a thick forest,
Hall got lost. Seriously lost. The more he tried to find his way
out, the more turned around he became. He was on Bad Luck Creek.
Soon, being lost became only his secondary problem. Hall didn’t
have anything to eat and must have been unarmed, because the only
meat he acquired was a large crane he managed to sneak up on and
kill with his bare hands. (We already know the creek bottom was
bereft of squirrels.)
While definitely not a bird likely to be on anyone’s table, the
hapless crane and water from the creek kept Hall alive. Still, after
eight days in the Big Thicket, the lost would-be landowner figured
he’d be dead soon. If he had any chance at all of making it out
alive, he knew he couldn’t keep toting around all that gold. He
just didn’t have the strength any longer. With what energy he did
have left, Hall dug a hole on the creek bank beneath a large gallberry
holly tree and buried his gold.
On the ninth day of his ordeal, someone found him. Of course, when
he returned to find his hidden stash, he couldn’t locate it. That’s
not as unlucky as dying, but even back then, $500 in gold was a
lot of money. Factoring inflation, the buying power of $500 would
be $8,333-plus today. Assuming Hall carried 50 $10 gold pieces,
or 25 $20 gold pieces, at $1,174 an ounce, that amount of gold would
be worth more than $33,000 today. The collector’s value of those
coins would be even higher.
Unlike many treasure tales, this one seems to involve a real person.
At least someone named Eli Hall lies buried in the Hall Family Cemetery
at Thicket. Born
two days after Christmas in 1830, he moved from Newton
to Hardin County around 1852 and stayed there until his death on
May 13, 1886.
Assuming the Eli Hall buried in Hardin County is the same Eli Hall
who figured in the naming of Bad Luck Creek, he at least was luckier
in love. He and his wife Cynthia Davis (1831-1888) raised 12 children.
If anyone ever finds the Bad Luck Creek treasure, an argument could
be made that it might be time to rename the stream Good Luck Creek.
© Mike Cox
- June 18, 2015 Column