Verbatim: Father and Son (Part 2): From Saddles to Sales

John J. Woody, son of pioneer Sam Woody (see Part 1), was interviewed by the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938. He recalled his father’s role in the 1856 election in which Fort Worth took the county seatdom from Birdville:

“Dad had always been interested in Fort Worth, and when the big chance came, he was really interested. He came down to Fort Worth just before the election, and when it looked to him like Birdville was going to win, he went back to Wise County and got thirteen of his neighbors to come down. He made them stay sober ’til after they’d voted and the count was made, then they all celebrated. Fort Worth won by seven votes!”

(Clip is from the December 6, 1856, Cherokee Sentinel, published in Rusk.)

John J. Woody then recalled growing up in the saddle: “I guess I was riding herd when I was six. . . . Of course, we had plenty of stampedes and all, but that was just as much a part of the work as riding the horses was. . . . The reason there were so many stampedes was because anything, any slight noise that’s unusual, will put a herd to running almost before you could say ‘Jack Robinson!’ The herd could be bedded down, with every head bowed, and a wolf could howl close by, one or two of them would snort, more would snort, and they’d be off like a train as fast as they could run. It’d take us maybe two or three days to regather the herd, and it’d be skittish even then, and ready for another stomp. We’d have to keep riding around the herd, singing cowboy songs, and be careful about making any more noise.”

Woody also recalled the slaughter of the buffalo herds: “. . . the government decided to kill out all the buffalo to keep the Indians satisfied on the reservations. You see, the Indians were put on their reservations to stay all right, but as long as there was buffalo on the plains, they’d leave. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but they’d have to steal horses to ride, and maybe somebody’d be killed in the stealing. Then they’d steal beef to eat while hunting the buffalo, and all in all, they were quite a bit of trouble.

“The government hired every buffalo hunter it could find, and they killed buffalo anywhere they found them. Not for the meat but just to kill them. All the hunters’d do would be to skin the buffalo and bring the skins to some center, where the hides would be shipped back east.”

(Ads are from the 1877 Fort Worth city directory.)

“You talk about your scrap iron piles nowadays. Theses piles are nothing to the piles of bones brought in the next year after the buffalo were killed out. There would be piles of bones and horns along the railroad tracks for miles, and there’d be buyers like there are today for scrap iron.”

(Photo of buffalo skulls from the 1870s is from Wikipedia.)

By 1880 Woody was ready to trade the saddle for the sales counter: “My first trip of any consequence was to Albany [Texas] in 1880 to help one of my older brothers operate a dry goods store he opened up there. . . . After [a] roundup was over, all the men’d come into town to spend their wages. That was when we’d really sell the goods, but it was also a time of worrying because these fellows would drink a lot of whiskey and do a lot of shooting. The shootings were usually at night, after we’d gone to bed. I already had my bed on the ground, and when those bullets began to flying around, you can bet I was sure laying close to that ground.

“At the last of ’82, I decided to go to Fort Worth to make a future for myself. I first went to work for Malone Waller, a big dry goods store, then went to work for B. C. Evans for a number of years. . . .”

(Ad is from 1883.)

Lower left corner of this 1890 ad lists Woody as a salesman in the silks and velvets department of B. C. Evans.

Woody continued: “Several years later the [Evans] store went bankrupt, and I went to work for Stripling’s. I’ve now been with Stripling’s for thirty-three years. Since I went to work here, I’ve bought out all my brothers’ and sisters’ interest in the old home ranch . . . Of course, I go out to the ranch every weekend . . . I ride horses, tend to my cattle and sheep, have men repair my fences, and so on.”

By 1905, as this city directory listing shows, father Sam Woody, then seventy-nine years old, lived on Samuels Avenue with his son, who is listed as a floorwalker at Stripling’s. When Sam Woody died in 1920 at age ninety-four, he was Tarrant County’s oldest resident. John J. Woody died in 1940, two years after his Federal Writers’ Project interview. Father and son are buried in Deep Creek Cemetery near their “old home ranch.” Sam Woody’s 1854 log cabin lives on: It has been moved to the Wise County Heritage Museum in Decatur.

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