milk cow has four teats. Well, most of them do.
That factoid of bovine anatomy is necessary to fully appreciate
a transaction between erstwhile friends that got “udderly” out of
hand. It happened sometime before the Civil War at Snow Hill, now
a ghost town on the Morris and Titus county line in North Texas.
State Highway 49 follows what used to be town’s main street, once
lined with businesses and homes. Like many early Texas towns, Snow
Hill melted into obscurity when the railroad bypassed it in the
Founded in the 1840s along a well-traveled trail to the Red River
variously known as the Caddo Trace, the Choctaw Trail, or the Clarksville
Road, Snow Hill by 1852 had a Baptist church serving a wide area.
The church’s congregation included the families of Charles Coley
and Hill Davis, two God-fearing men considered pillars of their
community and church.
As the nation verged on insurrection over slavery and state’s rights
issues, Brother Coley had a much more minor problem: He needed a
good milk cow to provide for his family’s nutritional requirements.
Hearing of Brother Coley’s interest, Brother Davis informed him
that he happened to have a fine milk cow available for purchase.
She could let down as much as one gallon of milk from one teat,
good enough to Brother Coley, who bought the bovine sight unseen.
After all, the seller sat not far from him at church every Sunday.
Money changed hands and the cow soon grazed in Brother Coley’s pasture.
But when Brother Coley got around to taking a closer look at Old
Bossy, he discovered much to his surprise that she had only one
teat, not the usual quad set. Finding it hard to believe a one-teated
cow could produce as much milk as Brother Davis had claimed, Brother
Coley called on his fellow congregant with the deformed cow in tow.
Had he milked the cow yet, Brother Davis inquired?
No, Brother Coley replied, why bother to milk an obviously-deficient
Well, Brother Davis responded, milk her and see what happens.
milked the cow and sure enough, she gave down a gallon of sweet-tasting
milk. Even so, Brother Cooley did not care for a milk supply with
only one dispenser and asked for his money back.
pointing out that the cow he had sold did indeed produce one gallon
per teat, refused to take Old Bossy back.
At that point,
Brother Coley had several options. He could file a civil suit, he
could fetch his shotgun and adjudicate matters himself or he could
instigate proceedings to “church” Brother Davis. He chose the latter,
bringing up Brother Davis in church on a charge of having lied to
a fellow Baptist.
The church deacons met and heard evidence in the case. Though divining
the truth seemed as simple as counting to one, members took no immediate
action in the matter. But Brother Davis could see the writing on
the wall, and it wasn’t a list of the hymns that would be sung the
next Sunday. Reading body language and recalling things both said
and not said, he knew he would be expelled from the church if he
did not give Brother Coley his money back along with an apology
for misrepresenting his merchandise through clever word play.
having been “churched” made almost as black a mark against a man’s
name as jail time. Rather than return the money and rather than
being kicked out, Brother Davis opted to resign his membership in
the Snow Hill Baptist Church.
his friends left with him. Soon they organized their own church,
the Hickory Hill Baptist. For years after that, knowledgeable locals
jokingly called the Hickory Hill congregants the “one-teaters” while
those who went to Snow Hill church came to be known as “four-teaters.”
in the Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune on June 13, 1971 in A.L. Burford’s
“Fuss over a Cow at Snow Hill,” the tale seems too unusual to be
an udder fabrication. But the passage of time may have led to confusion
over who left the church and who stayed.
Online cemetery listings show one C.C. Coley, who died Jan. 5, 1906
at 71, as having been buried in the Hickory Hill cemetery, not at
Snow Hill. No one named Hill Davis is buried in either cemetery,
but a W.T. Davis, who died at 98 on March 5, 1917, reposes in the
Snow Hill cemetery. (As does a Linnie A. Davis, who died on Aug.
No matter where the participants in the ante bellum cow controversy
ended up, the cemetery records tend to “clabberate” the unusual
© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
3, 2008 column
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