Texas was not settled solely by men. Their mothers, sisters, and wives were not just along for the ride. Many Texas pioneers who made huge contributions in civilizing the state were women.
Mary Crownover Rabb was such a women. She was born in 1805 in North Carolina, but her father moved the family to Arkansas Territory in 1820. There she met and married John Rabb, with whom she eventually had nine children.
In 1823 at age eighteen, Mary left Arkansas with her husband and infant to begin a new life in Stephen F. Austin's colony in Texas--The Old Three Hundred. They brought with them a few cattle and horses.
|I IMAGINE TORMENTOR LOOKED|
LIKE THIS GRAY HORSE.
One of the horses was a "large iron gray." Mary, in her own written account, said,
"This horse was very tall and his name was Tormentor, and that horse and I rode to Texas."
Mary and her baby rode the horse one hundred miles on their way to the Colorado River. Since she rode Tormentor, she said her feet didn't even get wet while others struggled across the river.
|THE COLORADO RIVER IN TEXAS|
In one place where they built a cabin, Indians roamed all around at night. Mary's husband had built a spinning wheel for her, and when the men had to leave to work away from the cabin, she bolted the door and ran her spinning wheel. The loud whirring it made covered the sounds the Indians made outside as they sought something to steal.
Since they'd steal axes and saws, along with all the horses, John Rabb put a chain around Tormentor's neck every night and padlocked him to corner of the cabin.
In another place they lived, her husband and another settler were clearing six acres. At the end of the week, they left their axes, malls, and iron wedges there, expecting the tools to be there on Monday morning when they returned to work. Later, they found the Indians had made a pen out of the rails the men put aside as they cleared the field, and had captured all of John Rabb's horses. The pen was still there, but all the horses were gone.
That left only Tormentor because he was chained to the corner of the cabin.
John's father gave him a horse named Nickety Poly. John told Mary he would not live in a place where the Indians were so bad, so he left home for a time, searching for a new place to build--about fifteen miles away.
While he was away for ten days, Mary continued chaining Tormentor to the house every night.
Soon, they moved to the new place, and once again, Mary rode Tormentor.
However, on the next move, Tormentor died.
John Rabb moved his growing family dozens of times over the next couple of decades, trying to escape Indians, gnats, sand flies, alligators, or mosquitoes.
One seemed as bad as the other.
They lived in Fayette County and up and down the Colorado and Brazos Rivers . Some of the moves were short distances. Other moves were farther away.
In Mary's memoirs and other writings about her, she never seemed to resent whatever her husband asked of her.
Mary was a small women with a brave heart. But she did have fears.
She feared --alligators that might eat her babies;
--the Indians who were a constant presence but never seemed to harm anyone;
--the gnats and mosquitoes and sand flies that could torment one to distraction;
--flood waters that filled their cabin to the bed before she noticed;
--and most of all the Mexican Army who forced them to join the Runaway Scrape, in which her infant son Lorenzo died.
Though all the years, Mary lived in small cabins, tents made of quilts and sheets, a lean-to shed during one winter, and a mere campsite under the shelter of trees.
She gave birth to eight children to add to the one she had before she arrived in Texas. And all during these times, she was never settled into a permanent home.
Their last home was on the banks of Barton Springs in Austin, Texas. John built a small cabin for them. They had amassed land in Fayette County, and wealth from cattle operations. With the wealth and prosperity they now enjoyed, they gave funds to start Rutersville College, the first college in Texas and a precursor of Southwestern University.
Her beloved John passed away around 1861.
In 1867, Mary built a two-story house of limestone near the old cabin by Barton Springs. Safe at last from floods, alligators, and Indians, she continued ranching operations to support the Methodist Church until she passed away on October 15, 1882.
I wonder if she often thought of Tormentor, the huge horse that brought her to Texas. The horse she loved.
The Handbook of Texas On-Line: Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)
Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine-Voices of Frontier Women-Texas A&M University Press
Wikipedia-Old Three Hundred; John Rabb; Mary Crownover Rabb
Romance...and a little bit of Texas