Frontier Reporter Dirt asks... Sallie Reynolds, on horseback with Quartermaster Sergeant Stackhouse

Question by Frontier Reporter, Fall 1868:

Hey there, Sergeant. I'd like a word with your passenger, please. Is that little Miss Sallie Reynolds? What's a nice young girl like you doing here at Fort Griffin?

Sallie Reynolds, age 7, answers:

"I go to school here at the fort. This is my teacher, Sergeant Stackhouse. He's carrying me home to my ranch—up on the Clear Fork. This morning, I rode to school with my brother. We passed through the parade ground when the soldiers were drilling—my favorite time of day! I just love to see the men in their fancy dress uniforms. I sit a little taller in the saddle just seeing them in their blue coats, bayonets and brass buttons shining like gold in the sunlight. They step along in time as the bugler blows the notes. Do you know what? I can tell you what every single bugle call means. photo of brass Army buttons found at Ft. Griffin

I feel so much safer since the Army came to Ft. Griffin. So does my family. Three months before the soldiers arrived, some Indians stole our horses. My brother, George, took off after them and they shot him in the stomach. George didn't die—belt buckle found at Ft. Griffinbut he could have. His United States Army belt buckle saved him. It kept that arrow from going straight through his body. So we're glad the Army's near. But not every rancher is happy to see Northerners in Texas. Some of the locals hate anyone who wears the blue—even though the War's been over almost three years now.

photo of dollsYou should see my school. Sergeant Stackhouse opened it in the south end of the fort commissary, which is a warehouse for storing corn and flour and other things the soldiers need. But to make it look more like a school, my teacher went to a lot of trouble. photo of slateThanks to him, we pupils sit on benches with seats and backs, with layers of clean white sacks that make them softer. My teacher is a very nice man. He must love teaching. Mother can't believe it. Here he is teaching almost forty children, all different ages at the same time, and not charging any of us a" red cent."

map of the Stone RanchI love living here on the frontier. We live on a big ranch, in a solid stone house. Even the corrals are made of stone. I can see the hills beyond, and the valley is covered in wildflowers in the spring. When we first moved there, I was afraid. The house was in a shambles, with broken glass from the windows lying on the floor. And there were tooth marks on the front door, where some wild animal—perhaps a wolf or a panther—had gnawed on it. Now I love to watch the animals here. There are deer and antelope, and some days, great herds of buffalo—those big shaggy beasts—pass of the Stone Ranch

During the War between the States, when the soldiers left, painting of the flag raising ceremonyour family had to move to a ranch further down the river called Fort Davis, for protection from the Indians. There were about a hundred of us there, living in houses surrounded by a wall. The men would sit on the wall to watch for Indians. Being there with the other families made us feel safer, and we had some happy times. I'll never forget the day we had the flag raising. I was chosen to carry the flag in our parade. We marched around the fort as band music played. Then the men fired three shots and raised the flag. Later, there was barbecue and dancing all through the night.

School on the Texas Frontier
During the Civil War, many Texas settlers moved to the protection of family forts. Sallie Reynolds's family was one of those "forted-up" photo of the cover of "Websters 'Blue Back' Speller"at the family fort called Fort Davis. While there was not a school at Ft. Davis, children met in a neighbor's home for Sunday school. There they read and discussed the Bible and had a lesson from "Webster's 'Blue Back' Speller."

After the war ended, Sallie's family moved to the Ft. Griffin area. With about forty children from the post and neighborhood, photo of Ginn & Co.'s A PrimerSallie attended a real school on the army post. The teacher, a quartermaster sergeant, opened the day with songs and a prayer. Singing songs to teach reading was a popular method of teaching. Music was "simply a device to hold a child's attention to his page and help to impress its words," according to Ginn & Co.'s 1885 A Primer. As for religion, Sallie read the Bible regularly from the time she was seven.

Sallie's first teacher at Ft. Griffin turned out to be anything but a "nice man." After teaching school two sessions, Sergeant Stackhouse disappeared into the night—with $25,000 of government money. In his flight east, he stopped briefly at the Shaw home in Picketville to send this message back to the fort: "A swift team, a good buggy with wheels well greased; catch me if you can." Sergeant Stackhouse was never seen again.

photo of Sallie Reynolds and John Matthews

Credits: Character dialogue by Lisa Waller Rogers; top painting by Charles Shaw; brass Army buttons from the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory collections; photos of Tonkawa dolls and wedding ring by Watt Matthews Casey, Jr., courtesy of the Old Jail Art Center, Albany; photo of Stone Ranch by Watt Matthews Casey, Jr.; painting of Flag Ceremony, and photo of Sallie Reynolds Matthews and Judge J. A. Matthews, courtesy of the Old Jail Art Center; map of Civil War-era forts adapted from map by Donald Frazier.

Married Life
photo of Sallie's wedding ringLike other pioneer girls, Sallie Reynolds married young. At fifteen, she became the bride of John Alexander Matthews, an old family friend and neighboring rancher. Sallie and "Bud" planned to set up housekeeping at the California Ranch in nearby Haskell County. After much preparation, the time finally came for Sallie to leave her family home to begin a new life with her husband. In her memoirs, she recalled that day:

…[W]e packed into a wagon our few belongings consisting of my little organ, a Singer sewing machine, a bedstead with bedding and household linens which were given to us by the two mothers, two or three trunks, and a pair of pigs. We had a boy to drive the wagon and we started out in our buggy, following the wagon. The day was bright and balmy, but my heart was sad and heavy at leaving home for good. Up to now I had not realized what it meant to tear loose from Mother and Father and make a separate home. I had been very light-hearted while we were running back and forth between the two homes, but this, this was different, and I could not keep the tears from flowing.

From Interwoven, A Pioneer Chronicle, by Sallie Reynolds Matthews, Texas A & M Press, College Station, Texas, 1936, pp. 123-124

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