Crosson had true grit. |
Born and raised in New Orleans, she married George
Crosson at Brenham in 1866. The
couple moved to San Antonio, but
Crosson spent much of his time as a freighter hauling goods to Santa Fe, and across
Bend to Mexico along
the Chihuahua Trail. Crosson made a good living, but he had to keep his wife and
children in San Antonio.
had traveled a lot of miles across the Southwest and considered the Davis Mountains
the best country he’d seen. In 1878, realizing it wouldn’t be too many years before
the railroad came through West Texas
and put him out of business, he decided to settle in Presidio County and raise
He bought sixty bucks in Central Texas and hauled the sheep west
from San Antonio in three wagons.
Turning them out on his Musquiz Canyon land, he added 1,800 ewes purchased from
Bend rancher Milton Faver. Perhaps based on the number of children he had,
he registered his brand as “5.” Now he sent for his wife and family.
journey by wagon train from San Antonio
to Fort Davis would
be dangerous. While the Comanches had been defeated, the same could not be said
for the Apaches. The Mescaleros stubbornly clung to their land and their culture,
killing any whites they could.
The trek westward would take about a month
at twelve to fifteen miles a day. Lizzie, her children, and another young woman
were the only passengers among the freighters. When the train made camp each evening,
before turning the teams out to graze, the wagonmaster had the wagons arranged
in a semi-circle in case of Indian attack.
As her friend Bessie Jacobs
later wrote, Lizzie brought with her to West
Texas “the tradition of the East and the Old South, and…in a new country she
met every difficulty with her unfailing energy and adaptability, conquering hardships
hard to conceive of in this day.” Two more tangible items she took along were
the family piano and a shotgun. She knew how to use both.
her mettle early on when she heard that one of the teamsters had become too sick
to travel. Rather than delay their trip, the wagonmaster intended to leave the
man by the roadside with food and water. On the surface, that seemed humane, but
Lizzie understood the reality: If left behind, the man would die. Whether by charm
or threat, Lizzie prevailed on the wagonmaster to stop long enough for her to
nurse the man back to health.
the wagon train finally reached Fort
Davis, the community threw a dance to welcome the new arrivals. That would
have made Lizzie feel right at home, but unfortunately, she didn’t have one. Crosson
had not yet had time to build a house for his family. Fortunately, the curate
of the local Catholic church let the Crossons stay there until they could get
a house built.
Crosson had experienced some close calls with Indians along
the trail and they still caused him problems. As Carlyle Raht wrote in 1919 in
his “Romance of the Davis Mountains,”: “The Indians seemed to prefer sheep to
cattle, as they could be driven more easily…over mountain passes; and, when pressed
closely by irate citizens or soldiers, they Indian herders could secrete the sheep
in small bunches, where their tracks would pass unnoticed by the trailers.”
one of their sons didn’t show up at home when expected, the couple feared the
child had been captured by Apaches. Notified of the disappearance, General Edward
Ord, the ranking military officer in Texas, wired
Fort Davis’ commander
to deploy every soldier at the post to look for the missing youngster. Turned
out the boy had merely wandered off and was found unharmed.
Crossons stayed in the Fort
Davis area until 1884, when they moved to a ranch they had acquired on Calamity
Creek south of Alpine.
Only two years later, in 1886, Crosson died. Now with six children, Lizzie had
a family to raise and a ranch to run. When the sheep business went belly up because
of the so-called “Cleveland Tariff,” a measure which severely affected the wool
market, Lizzie and other ranchers in the area switched to cattle.
Lizzie filed the requisite paperwork with the federal government to seek restitution
for property losses incurred by Indian depredations from 1875 to 1880. The full
amount of the claim came to $19,625 – a fortune in those days. But the U.S. Court
of Claims ruled that the evidence did not support that large a financial loss.
In late 1901, the government finally awarded the widow $2,590, less attorney’s
“Mrs. Crosson met difficult situations in a matter of fact way,”
her friend later wrote. “Nothing seemed too large or too small for her to do.
To drive thirty miles and sleep in a box car on a siding, waiting to flag a train
to send her child to college was just part of a day’s work.”
died Nov. 17, 1924, survived by three sons, two daughters and a reputation for
having been one strong lady.
Cox - "Texas Tales"
June 30, 2011
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