Away back in the dead and distant past when there was nothing old in Texas but her tradition and her soil and when the armed minions of the government enfortressed on the frontier stood in defiance of the public enemy and shed their baleful influence over the few palefaces who had the courage to sow the seed of civilization where naught but nature held sway, there came to the grassy award and ancient hills of the upper Brazos country a little company of young men bent on mission of agriculture adjacent to and under the walls of Fort Belknap. Attracted by the opportunity to raise forage for Uncle Sam’s body guard at a good profit they laid their lives on the altar of fate while striking the blows which dedicated Young county to pastoral pursuits and demonstrated the adaptability of its soil to agricultural purposes.
Archibald B. Medlan of this review was one of this little guard of frontiersmen and the distinction of being the oldest settler now residing in Young county belongs to him. As heard from his own lips, the story of this first settlement begins in Navarro county, where Mr. Medlan, P. S. and H. B. George and L. L. Williams united interests to try their fortunes in the wilderness of the west. At Fort Belknap they were joined by Jesse Sutton and William Marlin and two hired men and the eight comprised the first determined band to introduce the civilized agency of farm labor into a country now furrowed by the plow for perforated by the foot of the bovine kind.
The little masculine settlement congregated about three miles south at Fort Belknap and on a farm now owned by S. R. Crawford Mr. Medlan struck his maiden licks on a west Texas farm. He was without equipment and had little funds with which to support him while making and marketing the first crop, but P. S. George furnished him team and the plow irons and he did the rest himself. He had a Texas-cast plow, which he stocked and handled from the timber at hand, a wooden-tooth harrow and a “bull-tongue” plow to cultivate with, which he bolted to a stock and fastened the handles on with cut nails. He made two crops on the halves, pocketed his five hundred dollars profit and dropped down the river three miles and, with H. B. George as a companion, pre-empted the one hundred and sixty acres of land which constituted the nucleus of his present estate. Mr. George likewise took a claim and they built a cabin astride the common boundary and thus held both tracts with a single house. George sold out and Medlan and Bowers continued together a few years and farmed jointly until their dissolution of partnership.
Farming on the frontier soon ceased to be an experiment with our pioneers and seemed to prove a profitable undertaking from the first. Having acquired ample equipment of his own, Mr. Medlan applied himself with diligence and wise economy and early in their history he and his partner made about four thousand dollars a year at an expense of about one hundred dollars, all indicating that the seasons were not lacking and that the industry to win a victory on a new farm was ever at hand.
With the lapse of years and the gradual accumulation of wealth, Mr. Medlan stocked his accessible open range and grew into the cattle business. His brand of “AM” was not sufficient, however, after a time, to protect his herd form the “cow thief” and he added “44” on the hip so that the dishonest maverick could not add another letter to the “AM” and claim the property with the audacity of a pirate and the boldness of a counterfeiter.
After the war Young county received much immigration from the young men of the east, and this influx opened the eyes of the old settler to the fact that it was time to take on more land. At this juncture our subject began buying real estate and with each successful business conquest he added tract until his holdings now embrace more than five thousand acres and his ranch and farm is one of the large ones of his county. His two-story brick residence crowns the summit of an incline commanding much of his farm and the valley of the Brazos to the westward and was erected in 1875 from brick made on the farm. His home is a welcome retreat to neighbor and stranger and the hospitality of the olden time abounds therein. His friends are limited only by the extent of his acquaintance and the regard in which he is held is most fittingly indicated by the affectionate “Uncle Archie” with which everybody greets him. In the early time when Indian raids were frequent he added his presence, occasionally, to the Ranger service, yet while he lived in the county during twenty years of spasmodic Indian occupation and depredation he never got sight of a hostile brave and seldom felt the pressure of his heavy and thieving hand. With the troops at Fort Belknap he became somewhat familiar and with its commander, George H. Thomas, he had an acquaintance which endured to the abandonment of the post.
In February, 1853, Archibald B. Medlan came to Young county, and in 1855 he located upon his present farm. His advent to the state dates from 1851, when he came hither from Morgan county, Alabama, working his way out with friends, crossing the Mississippi river at Vicksburg and making his first stop in Cherokee county. In Navarro county he made his first crop and from that point the interesting chapter of his history begins. He was born in Morgan county, Alabama, January 8, 1825, of poor parents whose ancestry figured simply but industriously in the settlement of the southern states. His father was Isaac Medlan of Scotch lineage while his mother was Susan, a daughter of Edward Frost, of English stock and of Virginia ancestors. The father was born in North Carolina and died at about twenty-six years of age—during the infancy of our subject—while the mother was born in Tennessee and died in Parker county, Texas, as Mrs. James Brogdon, in 1867. Of the Medlan children, Eliza, who died in Young county as Mrs. William Duck, was the oldest; and Archibald B., the younger. There were three Brogdon children, viz: Dow, who died in Parker county; James, who passed away in Young county in 1865, and P. H., who left a family here at his death in 1893. Their father died in North Alabama before the family journey to Texas.
Mr. Medlan came to maturity with little knowledge of school books, but he has met and mastered conditions with the success of a trained mind and his life can be denominated a success. He was married in Young county in 1866 to Ellen Timmons, a daughter of Alexander Timmons and a sister of J. Worth Timmons mentioned in this work. Mrs. Medlan died without issue in 1878, and in 1879 Mr. Medlan took in marriage the hand of Mrs. Bettle Willis, widow of George Willis a daughter of George Rogers, of Jackson county, Alabama.
Young county has been twice organized and at each organization A. B. Medlan was made its treasurer. He has been a county commissioner also, and the county has profited by his advice as both official and private citizen. The Primitive Baptist church, of which he is a member has been the recipient of great favors at his hand and the power of the organization in his community is due largely to his influence and support. The erection of their stone church building, the founding of a parsonage and its endowment with two hundred acres of land, one-half of which is in cultivation, were all the gift of his liberal and Christian nature, and are an enduring monument to a practical and useful life.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 143-145.