Biography of James D. Clifton
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James D. Clifton, an old pioneer citizen, a plain, unassuming farmer, came with his parents into the state of-Texas in the year 1837. He was a boy at that time eight years of age. He lived in Titus County for a while and afterward came over into Hopkins County. When he came across Red River all the country lying south of Cypress Bayou was known as Nacogdoches District. Texas was at this time a republic, and the country wild and rough. At the age of twenty-seven years he met Miss Eliza Hudson of Hopkins County, with whom he fell deeply in love. They afterwards married. Four children have been born to them. They are all living in Hopkins County; Miss Mattie married Monroe Dawson, a gentleman of splendid ancestry and one that no lady would be ashamed to bear his name, a prominent merchant and an all round business man. J. H. married Miss Mattie Gregg; Turner married Miss Kate McCoy, daughter of a worthy old pioneer citizen. David is yet single and lives with his aged parents and has control of his father’s plantation and his business affairs.
Mr. Clifton has been a great hunter, and has killed every kind of animal and beast that was common to this country, except a mustang horse. He has killed buffalo, panther, catamount, bear, wild cat, deer, otters, rattlesnakes and pole cats. It would require page after page to give an account of the wild, hazardous, hair-breadth escapes he has experienced in these hunts, but the reader must know, if only from imagination, that buffalo, bear and panther hunting is both exciting and dangerous. The hides or skins of these animals are all-profitable and considered quite valuable. There has been a demand in the eastern and northern markets for the skin of such animals, and when it was possible for the people in that day to market these skins, they brought to them considerable revenue. Mr. Clifton relates an interesting but a sad and grievous incident of the massacre of the Ripley family about seven miles below where Mount Vernon in Franklin County is now located. Mr. Ripley had moved from the Old States and settled with his family on this place. He had erected a small log cabin almost insufficient to afford comfort for his large family, which consisted of ten in number. On this occasion he had business of importance to look after in Red River County and was absent from his home and family when this deplorable affair occurred. About two o’clock in the afternoon his two oldest daughters were in the cabin and heard an unusual noise, the crack of a gun which fell upon their ears like the crack of doom. They both with one accord sprang to the opening in the cabin. To their horror and distress they saw a band of wild Indians advancing at a rapid pace toward their cabin. With a maniacal scream they jumped from the opening in the cabin, and with lightning speed, horrified and distressed, hid themselves in the dense wild woods near by. The Indians, with a demoniacal war whoop, rushed upon the cabin in the woods and massacred every one of the family, eight in number. The mother, who was sick in bed with an infant child, fourteen days old, was instantly killed by the savages. A sister, who had taken the child from its mother’s breast an attempted to shield and protect the little infant, was killed and the child was taken by the Indians and its head was thrown against a tree just outside of the yard and its brains were scattered in all directions. This tree was standing a few years ago when Mr. Clifton last saw it. Henry Stout and John Denton the following spring gathered a small company of men, getting some from the state of Arkansas, and followed the Indian trail. They came upon the Indians about half-way between Dallas and where Fort North is located at present. They had a small village. The men burnt the village and shot and killed a few of the Indians. While the village was on fire they pursued the Indians. The Indians ambushed the company of white men and killed John Denton and wounded Henry Stout. Henry Stout is the father of that grand old patriot, champion bear hunter and trailer of thieves, Sealin Stout. John Cullom was engaged in this Indian fight. John Cullom is now dead. He was an old pioneer of Hopkins County. The two Ripley girls who had such a close call, who so narrowly escaped assassination by this mob of murderous Indians, were hunted up the next day, and when found they were demented, having partially lost their reason during the time that had intervened between the massacre of the family and their departure from the cabin in the woods. During the long black night that they wandered in the lonely thicket, they had become separated, and were alone when found. They well remembered the wild shrieks and screams, the prayers and appeals for mercy that filled the atmosphere of the entire woods for many feet around. They well knew that these frantic screams and cries for mercy came from those whom they loved so much, and that they had, perhaps every one, been slaughtered by those brutal and cruel savages. One of the girls was discovered the next morning about nine o’clock, the other was not found till late the following evening. Denton Creek, that divides Denton County from other counties, was named in honor of John Denton., who fell a victim to the Indians while defending with his life this unfortunate family. A monument should be erected over his grave by the state of Texas, and his last resting place should be marked with honors to his memory for his gallantry and bravery on that occasion. Away back in an early day a man and his family had come to Texas and were traveling in a wagon, and he was cutting his road as he went. He used a compass as a guide. Somewhere, not far from where Mount Pleasant is now located, they camped for the night, spread their buffalo rugs and retired. Indians attacked them during the night and shot nine arrows into the body of the man, and-strange to relate-he was the only member of the family that was injured by the Indians. Mr. Clifton’s father had this wounded man taken to his house, the arrows extracted and medical aid given him. He recovered, though it required about twelve months time for him to recover. Mr. Clifton is esteemed as an upright and conscientious man, and possesses the respect and warm regards of a wide circle of acquaintances. He has been a useful citizen in the county. Now, when he looks back over his past. life he has nothing to regret.