The Brady Standard, 1936
Six trips along the Chisholm Trail, from South Texas to Wichita, Kans.
with one's attention divided between a herd of Longhorn steers and a tribe
of depredating Indians, brought thrilling and hair-raising experiences
in the early days, recollects J. P. Waddill, pioneer McCulloch county citizen
who recently was named the oldest cowboy in this county. Mr. Waddill
is 85 years of age, and has spent more than three-quarters of a century
in the saddle, having begun riding when about five years old.
Mr. Waddill lives in the Rochelle community, where 52 years ago he homesteaded 160 acres of land and where he and Mrs. Waddill, who died 11 years ago, reared a fine family of children, and sought peace and comfort in "the finest country in Texas." Mr. Waddill first came to McCulloch in 1878, he and a partner, J.W. Lyons, bringing 500 head of cattle, but Mr. Waddill soon sold out his interests and returned to Fayette County to remain six years before returning to McCulloch.
Born on December 28, 1850 in Austin County, Mr. Waddill settled on the head of Deep Creek, six miles northeast of Rochelle upon his second trip here. It was there that their seven children were born and reared, and where Mr. Waddill lived for more than 40 years. The living children are: Paschal Waddill, Placid; Otis Waddill, Brady; Vernon Waddill, Rochelle; Vanoy Waddill, Teague; Mrs. Mamie Wicker, Clovis, N.Mex.; Mrs. Pearl Rodgers, Rochelle, and Mrs. Lela Hardin, Austin.
Mr. Waddill remembers many experiences of interest during his career as a trail driver. He recalls the time of meeting up with a notorious Mexican bandit, who "was after the man carrying the payoff for 500 head of steers". The pay-off man was Mr. Waddill, who as a youth in 1871, bore $5,000 in gold for a steamship company as he worked up the Nueces River paying for cattle that had been purchased a few days before.
"My two predecessors," recounted Mr. Waddill, "had been robbed a time or two when they wee paying off, and I was, of course, to guard against this. A Mexican bandit named Cortinez, was supposed to have been dealing misery to cattlemen through the Indianola, Goliad, Beeville and Oakville sections, and being able to speak Spanish quite fluently, and being tanned and resembling a Mexican, I was instructed by my superiors to speak only in Spanish and not to 'savy English' when and if I met up with any Mexicans. I went to the Weaver ranch, operated by Steve Walker, 40 miles above Oakville, and spent the night with the $5,000 in gold in my money belt and I dare say I scarcely closed an eye all night. It was there that I was told Cortinez was looking for the pay-off man, and the next day, with San Jose ranch as my destination, I met up with the Mexican bandit and three henchmen. Cortinez was a fine looking Mexican, dressed in a natty uniform with gold buttons. He asked me a half dozen questions in English, and I shook my head and answered 'Me no sage' to each query. I fooled them so badly that they turned their horses and rode away."
And that was the end of Mr. Waddill’s experiences as a pay-off man. Upon reaching his destination, he pulled off his money belt and told the steamship company he was through, that the work was too dangerous. It was a few weeks later that he started riding the trail to Wichita, Kansas. It required two full months to drive a herd from this section to Kansas, provided there were no stampedes or the Indians didn’t open warfare, and the salary was $40 per month, horses furnished or $60, with the cowboy furnishing the horses. Mr. Waddill furnished his own horses, and said he carried three on each trip.
An interesting story was told by Mr. Waddill of his leading 1400 head of steers across flooded Red River. All the other cowboys refused to ride across the swollen river, and rode down to a ferry to cross, but Mr. Waddill led the herd across without so much as losing a single steer.
Mr. Waddill said the "trail" was a strip of territory, three miles wide, and designated by a furrow on each side, and that the riders had to keep the herds within the confines of the furrows. While actually on the trail or three mile strip, the United States government was responsible for Indian attacks, but outside the trail, the ranchmen became responsible, and many were the fine steers that fell before hard riding Indians.
Mob and gang-rule reigned for many months in San Saba County, Mr. Waddill remembers, and he recalls the time his brother-in-law, Yank Criswell, was slain on Deep Creek as he was taking a load of cane to the mill there. Mr. Waddill believes Criswell was killed because he knew too much of the mob and gangsters in the San Saba country.
"Shortly after that, I suffered a case of the mumps, and to this day, I believe it was one of the luckiest sick spells I have had," reminiscenced Mr. Waddill. "I was ready to haul my third and final load of cane to the mill at Deep Creek, when I awoke one morning with the mumps. J. H. Leeman of New York, a rich man's son, looking for adventure, had been living with us, and I asked him if he wanted to take the cane to the mill, and he replied that he did. a few miles from home, two men raised up from ambush, saw that John Waddill was not in the wagon, headed out through the brush and then turned around and approached Leeman, asking where Waddill was, and then saying how sorry they were he was laid up with the mumps. Those fellows wanted my scalp too, I am convinced, because they, too, thought I knew too much," Mr. Waddill stated.
Mr. Waddill didn't tell this story, but his friends did. He hauled water on his place for 40 years and in the early days, lengthy trips had to be made for barrels of water. One day as he was returning home with two or three barrels of water, he was about half way home when a terrific downpour fell, filling creeks, tanks, and the roadbed, and water running everyplace. The load was straining on the team, there was no use taking the water any farther because there was plenty of it at home how after the rain, so he turned the barrels over and continued for home. When he got there, to his amazement he found that only a light shower had fallen, and not one bucket of water had been caught.
William Vanoy Criswell, whose body was disinterred in Fayette County, and moved to San Jacinto cemetery at Austin on Aug 2, was the father-in-law of Mr. Waddill. Mr. Criswell fought in the battle of San Jacinto.