The Stubblefields go to Sunset
James Sterling Price Stubblefield (hereafter referred to as J.P.) grew up in Franklin County, Arkansas. He worked for man named Francis
Robinson. Francis was married to America Jackson and they had four children. Their youngest child was Sarah Alice Robinson, who would
later become James Price’s wife (and my great-grandmother).
The Stubblefield and Robinson families must have been pretty good friends because James W. Stubblefield and Francis Robinson decided
to move their families down to Texas together. It isn’t known why they decided to pull up stakes in Arkansas and head to Texas. It was
probably because Texas was viewed as a land of opportunity. Land was cheap and towns were growing because the railroads were
coming in. Settlers were heading there from all over, and the phrase “gone to Texas” was common in those days. So sometime between
1880 and 1884 both families loaded up their wagons and headed south.
Their route isn’t known for sure, but most likely they headed southwest from Franklin County, crossed into Indian Territory and took the
“Texas Road” down to Texas. The Texas Road was one of the first cattle trails for moving herds of longhorns to the Kansas railroads. It
was east of the famous Chisholm Trail and crossed the Red River at Colbert’s Ferry north of Dennison TX. (Colbert’s was a major entry
point for settlers pouring into Texas at that time.)
After ferrying their wagons across the Red River, they headed west-southwest through Texas and settled in the small farming community
of Sunset, Wise County. (Due to a border dispute it later became, and is now, part of Montague County.) Sunset is about 25 miles south of
the Red River and 70 miles northwest of Dallas.)
Think of the adventure of that trip! It was over two hundred miles, mostly through Indian Territory, and by wagon would have taken at least
two weeks. Unfortunately there are no family stories passed down about it at all, and we can only imagine. At least they didn’t have to fear
raids from Indians because the Indians in eastern Oklahoma at that time were mainly of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw,
Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) and were peaceful.
Now all this happened somewhere between 1880 and 1884. To put the times in perspective, just twenty years before they arrived the
Butterfield Overland Mail had a station near what would later become Sunset. The route followed the California Trail and was a
tremendous pioneer enterprise, connecting St. Louis and San Francisco (2,795 miles) with weekly stage and mail service.
And just ten years before they arrived, Sunset was on one of the Texas branches of the Chisholm Trail. Cowboys drove longhorns through
Sunset to Red River Station, where they crossed the Red River and were driven through Indian Territory to the railroads in Kansas. The
Texas cattle drives were the largest movement of animals under the control of man in the history of the world. Some nine million head of
Texas cattle were driven up the Western, Chisholm, and Texas trails.
Sunset at that time (1884-1885) was a thriving little farm community of about 1200. The Ft. Worth-Denver railroad ran through town and that
brought in businesses from surrounding communities. Sunset had a few brick buildings, a general store, a school, post office,
barbershop, grocery, saloon, and newspaper (Sunset Signal).
|Want to follow the Stubblefields on their journey? Then follow this link to Part II!
|Oklahoma Territory, Part I
by Dustin Ward
|Red River Historian reader Dustin Ward has written an extensive and very interesting account of his ancestor's journey to and life
on a homestead in Oklahoma Territory. nHe kindly permitted the Red River Historian to share this wonderful piece of history with
the rest of our readers!
|Sunset, Texas is a little hamlet located in Montague
County. In 1884, when the Stubblefields moved to the
village, it was still located in Wise County. Today,
there's not much left of Sunset. It lies on the old
California Gold Trail (Go West, Young Man!) and
served as a stop on the Butterfield stagecoach line.
|The author's grandmother Edna Maude Stubblefield and her little brother Hershel, both born in Sunset. (Photo from Dustin Ward).
Setting Up the Farm... after the Saloon, of course
It is assumed that James W. Stubblefield and Francis Robinson started farming in the area. What is known for sure is that two of their
children, James Price Stubblefield and Sarah Alice Robinson fell in love and got married in Sunset on January 22, 1885. J.P. was 22 and
Alice was 26. They are my great-grandparents.
Their first child, a daughter named Fara May, was born on October 22, 1885, exactly nine months from the day they got married. (October 22
is also the day my cousin Joe and I were born!) Little Fara didn’t live to be a year old and died on September 20, 1886. There is no record
of why she died. On Uncle Herk’s tape recording, Grandmother said her mother was out milking a cow when she had a “vision” of Fara’s
death. In the vision, a strange woman carried Fara off and never brought her back. Fara died shortly after that. On the tape Aunt Leta
commented that Granny (Alice) “believed a lot in dreams and visions.”
The second child born to J.P. and Alice was my wonderful Grandmother, Edna Maude Stubblefield, born on June 1, 1887. Then in 1890 her
brother Hershel was born The fourth child, another brother, was stillborn (1892). His name was Claude Francis. In Uncle Herk’s tape
Grandmother said, “That’s the first heartache that I can ever remember having, is when they buried that baby. And I was just a little tot but I
can remember that hurting in my heart as well as anything.” (Years later she named one of her own children after him, my uncle Jack.) The
last child born to the Stubblefields was her sister, Stella Belle, in 1895. She went by Belle.
Very little is known of Grandmother’s years in Sunset. But there are snippets. When I tape-recorded her in 1976 I asked what her earliest
memory was. She said, “The first bed I ever tried to make up, I found a big border of lace that my mother took off one of these old wide
petticoats, and I made the bed up and took that pretty lace and folded it along the edge and trimmed the bedspread with it, just laid it on
Then I asked what her dad J.P. did for a living. She answered, “Well, before he went to farming for himself he ran a saloon. That’s what I
meant by saying I might tell you some things you don’t want to know. Mama would send me over there to take his lunch to him, and one day
one of the bartenders gave me a little glass of wine, about an inch. Just a good sip for a grown person but I thought I had a nice glass of
wine. They didn’t think anything about things like that then like they do now, a child in a saloon. They thought it was all right, I guess, or
Mama wouldn’t have sent me down there.”
At some point J.P. quit the saloon business and started farming on land a little northeast of Sunset. In Uncle Herk’s tape Grandmother said
her dad would “go off and work the harvest” to supplement the family’s income. It is my theory that he was up in Oklahoma Territory
working the harvest when he met the original settlers on the old Oak Creek farm. The story is that the original settlers had two daughters
that were used to having the nicer things in life and just couldn’t stand living as pioneers in unsettled territory. The family was looking for
a way back to “civilization” and J.P. saw an opportunity there. So, as Grandmother said in my tape, he traded his farm northeast of Sunset
“sight unseen” for the Oak Creek farm.
Going North - to Oklahoma Territory
At this point I need to back up a little and explain how the land was opened up for settlement in the first place, and how the original settlers
probably acquired it.
Present day Washita County was born out of lands originally set aside for the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Earlier I mentioned the Dawes
Severalty Act of 1887, which dissolved Indian tribes as legal entities and divided tribal lands among the tribe members. After the Cheyenne
and Arapaho Indians were settled on their 160-acre parcels of land, the remainder of the reservation, which included what would become
Washita County, was available for white settlement.
The area was settled by land run. Four pistol shots rang out during the noon hour on April 19, 1892, and some 5,000 settlers raced into
Washita County from four different locations to stake claims to homesteads. The largest run was made from Tacola (which was later
renamed Cloud Chief.) Another run was made from somewhere on Oak Creek. In the book “Red Buck” by Cordell resident Charles
Rainbolt, a participant in the run describes the scene:
"When the hand of my watch reached twelve, I laid steel to my horse and we all made a break for it after crossing Oak Creek, which was
about 50 steps from us. This was about as exciting a time as I ever experienced, horses falling on every side from stepping in gopher
holes, and dust so thick that a man could hardly see in front of him.”
|And they're off! This iconic scene documents the last instance of "free land" claiming in the lower 48. The claims made by settlers in Oklahoma
came with a hefty price tag, however: the loss of tribal territory for the Southern Plains Indians and the breaking of promises for those in Indian
I was excited to discover that Oak Creek, the creek that my cousins and I played in as kids, was one of the sites of the 1892 land run.
Incidentally, I found two other places where Oak Creek was mentioned. On the Kiowa Indian web page I read that the location of the last
Kiowa Sun Dance was held on Oak Creek in the summer of 1887 (the year of the Dawes Severalty Act, and the year Grandmother was born.)
I found another reference to Oak Creek in a book called “Homesteading in Oklahoma Territory” by Mary Henderson, where a settler
describes camping on Oak Creek and barely surviving a prairie fire.
So back to my theory: The original settler on the Ward family farm made the run of 1892 from Oak Creek and immediately staked his claim
after reaching the top of the hill (where the house and barns now stand). Of course there was nothing there then, so the original settler’s
first home was probably a dugout. Lumber was not readily available, so most settlers would construct a temporary shelter, usually a dugout
with a makeshift roof on it, until they could get enough material together to build a real house. (Of course there is no way to know whether
the original settler did any of that or not, but I like the theory so much that it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
Another thing that supports the theory is that a settler was required to live on claimed property for at least six months per year for five
consecutive years to earn clear title to it. The land run was in 1892. The original settler would not have had clear title until 1897, which is
the year the farm was traded to J.P.
Whatever the case, J.P. came home and prepared to take his family to Oklahoma Territory. In Uncle Herk’s tape Grandmother said that
“Uncle Dave” joined them on the journey. The only Dave she could have been referring to was David Redman, husband of Alice’s sister
Montoy. The two families apparently traveled together most, if not all, of the way.
So in the fall of 1897 little ten year-old pioneer Edna Maude Stubblefield headed north out of Sunset in a covered wagon with two cows and
her Pony “Bender” tied behind.