The following are "Museum Memories" from the archives of the the Clay County 1890 Jail Museum - Heritage Center, where a collection of stories, newspaper articles and memories are located. These articles have been published in the Clay County Leader and are there for copyrighted by the Clay County Leader & authors. All articles are reprinted with permission as well as the articles posted on this site. Please do not copy or redistribute any articles without the written permission of the Clay County Leader or authors.
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THE FIRST CHURCH SERVICE HELD IN HENRIETTA
(Copied by Don Burkman in 1961 from a book owned by Mrs. Theronne Thompson, most recently found among the papers donated to the museum by Mrs. Jo Ann Glassford.)
A Sketch from the Life of A. J. Holt
Mr. Holt was working for the Wichita Agency in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was also a Baptist minister; it was necessary for him to make a trip to Dallas, Texas, in the interest of the agency. He came by way of the new town of Henrietta, which was the county seat of Clay county, Texas, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles from Fort Sill.
The first night out he slept on the burned ground, as the entire country had been burned off. The next morning he was as black as the ground on which he had slept. He had little food and none for his horse. The second night he was surrounded by wild wolves. He was unarmed, so he lighted his lantern and placed it on his horse’s back. This frightened the wolves away.
The third night he slept on the bank of Red river. He and his horse had to swim the river.
He arrived in Henrietta, Texas, late that afternoon. He went to a barber shop and asked where he might buy clean clothes. He was directed to a tent store. The barber, learning he was from Wichita Agency, asked if he knew A. J. Holt. Upon learning the man seated in the chair was A. J. Holt, he fell on his neck and hugged him. Most of the frontier people in and around Henrietta vowed he had kept them from being raided by Comanche Indians. The barber’s name was E. R. Logan, who said to Mr. Holt, “You must preach for us tonight.” The service was arranged, which was to be on the street. There was not even a school house in this new town. Everyone for miles around came to the service that night. This was the first sermon preached in Henrietta, Texas. After the service, the people made up money to send him to Dallas by stage, which took two days.
In Dallas he met an uncle, who was the father of Dr. R. C. Buckner, the founder of Buckner’s Orphans Home. Mr. Holt was to stay in Dallas until he heard from Washington City. Dr. Buckner arranged a series of sermons for him to tell of his work among the Indians. Then word was received from Washington. Hr returned by way of Henrietta, where his horse had been left.
On arriving in Henrietta, he learned that Fort Sill and the Wichita Agency had been destroyed by fire. He set out at once for Fort Sill, fearing his family might be in grave danger.
He chose what he thought might be a shorter route to Fort Sill. It was cloudy and he lost his bearings. There was no road and he had no compass. He rode until about twelve o’clock that night. When he stopped to rest he found he had a chill. Next morning, burning with fever and thirst, in the distance he could see trees. Realizing there must be water, he headed his horse in that direction. He found a stream of water, and as he lay down to drink, he could ascertain the way the water was running, so he took off up stream.
He was hungry and weak from the fever, when he suddenly found himself surrounded by bands of Apache Indians. They took his watch, knife, Bible, and what few silver dollars he had. There was a bright ornament on his saddle; one Indian was going to cut it off. Mr. Holt said to him, “Don’t” in Indian language. They saw he could speak their language and they asked why they could not take the ornament.
He told them “The Great Father Above” did not want them to steal, and that he was watching them. They asked him how he knew it. He told them he had read it in the book they had taken and they gave it back and told him to read some more.
He read to them the commandments from Exodus 20. Then the young brave asked if this was not the Comanche father talking. He told them it was. On learning this, they crowded around him and asked for more from the Book. He read to them the third chapter of John. One by one they came and gave back to him the things they had taken from him, even the knife, an Indian’s most cherished possession.
A young brave offered to guide him to Fort Sill. When they reached Lawton, they could see Fort Sill in the distance. He released his guide and asked the man at the trading post in Lawton if he could furnish him with food for himself and for his horse. He gave corn for the horse and to Mr. Holt he gave sardines and crackers.
Then Mr. Holt asked the man if he might sleep in his hide barn. When told he could, he stretched himself out on a pile of buffalo hides and was soon fast asleep. On awakening, it was almost noon. With another feed of sardines and crackers and feed for his horse, he was on his way to Fort Sill. There he was greeted by his wife.
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