Captain Ephraim M. Daggett (1810-1883) was born in Canada and moved to Fort Worth in 1854.
During the next two decades years he did so much for Fort Worth that when the city incorporated in 1873, the city council voted to have Daggett’s likeness placed on the city seal.
J. C. Terrell (see photo), another Fort Worth pioneer, recalled this anecdote about Daggett during the Civil War:
“Dr. Mansell Matthews [see photo] was a highly educated physician, of courtly presence, a Christian preacher without a superior in all our Southland. . . . Dr. Matthews . . . and Daggett belonged to the Masonic chapter here and were bosom friends. Matthews was a Union man, too outspoken for his personal safety.”
In 1864 Matthews said the wrong thing to the wrong person and was charged with treason to the Confederacy.
“The high vigilance committee court was held in Gainesville, Cooke County . . . The penalty [if convicted] was death, and few accused escaped.”
Daggett testified before the court, arguing that Matthews had not committed treason, that even if Matthews’s mind was with the North, his heart was with the South, and that if the court hanged Matthews, it must hang Daggett, too.
“Matthews was acquitted of the death penalty but was punished by imprisonment for three days. In addition, Matthews was not to be told of his acquittal during that time. Daggett was allowed to see Matthews but only in the presence of a guard and was strictly enjoined not to tell the prisoner of his acquittal. Daggett, however, was determined that Matthews should know that his life had been spared.”
So, while Matthews—and a guard—listened, Daggett began to talk. And he talked, and he talked some more. He talked for over two hours—about death, immortality, repentance, faith, predestination, baptism by immersion, salvation, etc.
Finally, as Daggett had hoped, the guard became “listless and inattentive when Daggett asked Matthews what verse in the Bible afforded him the greatest comfort . . ., and in turn Matthews asked Daggett the same question.”
“Fret not thy gizzard, and frizzle not thy whirligig; thou, soul, art saved.”
Matthews bowed his head in relief. He had deciphered the meat of the coded message: “thou, soul, art saved.”
Matthews slept soundly that night.
“Daggett remained in Gainesville three days and restored Matthews to his family.”
Heavenly footnote: Dr. Mansell Matthews lived to preach twenty-seven more years. He died in, and was buried in, Paradise, Texas.