RICHARD C. FREEMAN. The month of September, 1857, marks the advent to Montague county of a family whose head became one of the conspicuous figures in its industrial development, one of the patriarchs among the pioneers and whose posterity have widened and extended the circle of usefulness which his personality established. This man was William Freeman, the father of the subject of this review. He came hither from Dallas county, Texas, with his little family and other relatives in search of a wider field of opportunity for the conduct of the cattle industry which he was ambitious to found. On Denton creek, near the southeast corner of the county, he chose his future home, and from this point much prosperity and also much adversity was crowded into his after life.
William Freeman was born in Wayne county, Indiana, October 27, 1834, a son of Joshua and Mary (Warwick) Freeman and a grandson of Nathan Freeman. The birthplaces of both his father and his grandfather are unknown, but the latter had two children, Joshua and Betsy. Joshua Freeman passed away in Missouri, whither the family migrated from their Indiana home, and about 1846 it came on to Texas and established itself at Basin Springs, Grayson county. William Freeman was the oldest of the children of Joshua and Mary Freeman and then followed Richard, Nathan, Mary J. and Sarah E., widow of Moses Johnson, of Bowie, Texas. After the death of Joshua Freeman his widow married David Vance and they lived together a few years without issue. Mr. Vance died in the Chickasaw Nation and on the 24th of July, 1864, his widow passed away at her home at Newharp, where she had settled seven years before.
July 31, 1855, William Freeman married Emily J. Grimes, who died in 1883, and in 1894 her husband followed and both are buried in the family plot near where they reared their family and where their useful lives were spent. Their children were: Richard C., our subject; William Robert, a leading citizen of Newharp community; Mollie, deceased wife of Buck Lovelace; Frank, a farmer of the Freeman valley; T. Madison, successful among the farmers of Denton creek; Thomas L., whose record is that of a successful business man and farmer of the favorite neighborhood, and Alice, wife of William Reeves.
His frontier environment in early life caused William Freeman to grow up without an education. He was barely able to write his name as he passed through life, yet he successfully conducted a business running up into the thousands of dollars annually for more than a quarter of a century, contesting every point of the journey with all corners and bringing himself out on the “profit side” of the ledger every time. He embarked in the stock business with about as little bluster as a man without capital could reasonably make and in time he could count as his own two cows to Dan Waggoner’s one. His herds were marketed in Kansas and elsewhere, as was the custom in the early time, and he was numbered, in the early eighties, among the wealthy men of his county. As the range began to contract by reason of the encroachment of settlers he saw the doom of his business approaching and he decided to close out his stock and engage in farming. He sold his herd to William McDonald, receiving two thousand of the fifteen thousand purchase price, arid, having already disposed of the stock, the balance of thirteen thousand McDonald neglected and refused to pay.
The financial loss incident to his sale of cattle was an embarrassment which Mr. Freeman never fully recovered from. He accumulated considerable real estate on the creek and made some money at farming, but his working capital had been stolen from him and it served somewhat as a brake upon what might otherwise have been a brilliant industrial career. He had suffered previous losses by having his horses driven off by the Indians, but he knew the treachery of the Indian and took such losses as a matter of course, but the perfidy of the white man was a revelation to him and the beginning of a new era of things where common honesty was at stake. The business in hand alone claimed his time and attention. He had no ambition beyond success in his ventures and eschewed politics entirely. He was a man of strong determination and when he felt a certain thing ought to be done, wherein he was interested, it was done. When he learned that his little son whom the Indians had carried away was still alive he decided to stake his life on the rescue of his child, and his efforts were successful. He had many encounters with the red man and on one occasion the artery of his left arm was severed by an arrow and rendered him somewhat of a cripple for life. He served in the Confederate army during the war and did what he could toward maintaining the supremacy of the southern cause. He was a believer in Holy Writ and served the Master after the fashion of the “good old times of long ago.”
Richard C. Freeman, our subject, was born in Dallas county, Texas, August 29, 1856, and was thirteen months old when his parents brought him to Montague county. His earliest home was in a rude log but just back of where the store at Newharp now stands and about its portals his boyish years were passed. There was no such institution as a public school and only as a self-proclaimed teacher would come into the community and gather up a few scholars for a few months was there any semblance to a school. Any sort of a building that was unused served as a schoolhouse, and reading, writing and a little figuring constituted the sum total of an education among the pioneers.
When he learned to ride a pony young Richard was placed with the cattle to watch the herd. He became an expert with a horse and was as reliable and useful as a man in caring for his father’s interests. In 1867, in company with John Bailey, an orphan boy a little older than himself, whom the family was bringing up, they were holding the cattle on a small opening in the timber just east of their home when a bunch of six Indians cut them off, gagged the boys, tied them on behind two Comanches and carried them off, passing within sight of their home. The finding of a saddle by the family convinced them that the boys had been murdered and they were given up as dead. After nearly a year some citizens of Montague county happened into the vicinity of the Comanche camp up in the Territory and discovered and recognized young Bailey and bought him from his captors and brought him home. His entrance to the Freeman home was the sudden announcement to the family that he and “Dick” were yet alive. Against the pleadings of his wife and many of his friends the father decided to recover his boy and arming himself heavily, mounting his finest horse and taking a neighbor of known bravery with him, he rode to the Indian camp on the head of the Washita river and found the boy. To all appearance he was an Indian. Painted face, bracelets on and with rings in his ears and master of the Comanche tongue, yet Dick recognized his father on sight and was anxious to go with him. The tribesmen had formed such an attachment for the boy that they were at first unwilling to give him up but they were finally persuaded to part with him for the fine horse and all the money the father carried with him ($500), and with the demonstrated threat that if they ever caught him out in after years they would kill and scalp him (the father), passing their knives about his head in illustration of the manner of his possible future death. There was not only joy in the Freeman household when Dick returned, but for weeks the neighbors and people from afar came in to see the lost boy and to hear his Comanche tongue and see his Indian pranks and antics. Suddenly he became conscious of the great wrong that had been done him by the tribe and he threw off all their habits and dropped the language itself and discouraged any attempt to draw him out on the subject of his captivity.
In the conduct of his father’s extensive cattle business Richard Freeman was a prominent factor. He accompanied the herds to market often and on one occasion he drove a bunch to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where it was sold to meat dealers of the south. When he married he set up for himself on his father’s place and the prosperity which came to him for years was gradual and permanent. He maintained his residence in the valley until 1901, when he bought a site on Nelson mountain and erected a commodious and attractive residence on its point, above the surrounding community and an ideal place for a southern home. He owns five hundred acres in the valley of Denton creek, one of the finest tracts of land anywhere, practically all under cultivation, and its operation is producing him substantial results. He owns the stores—two of them—at Newharp, and under the management of his oldest son the mercantile interests of “Harptown” have come to be considerable and important. Mr. Freeman was married in the month of November, 1875, to Miss Curley Valentine, a daughter of William Valentine, who came to Texas in an early day from Missouri. January I; 1889, Mrs. Freeman passed away leaving James F., Newharp’s merchant and a young man of energy and integrity; Maggie, deceased wife of William Wheeler; Myrtle, wife of Archibald Cox, of Newharp, with a child, Effel; Miss Jessie, yet with the paternal home, and Durlin. December 19, 1890, Mr. Freeman married Miss Ruth Bryan, a daughter of Fad Bryan and a niece of Sheriff Bryan of Montague county. Mrs. Freeman was born in the town of Montague in 1879 and is the mother of: Barney, Arthur, David and Flint. Richard C. Freeman has manifested little more interest in politics than did his worthy father, devoting himself strictly to his private business. He is regarded among the successful and influential citizens of his favorite valley and when any reference is made to the men who do things about Uz or Newharp the knowing and familiar ones say without hesitation “Dick Freeman is the man.” He is an Odd Fellow, a Woodman and a Democrat.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 329-331.