Interview with Blanche Toole,
Historian Sabine County
Summer of 1990
and Museum County Jail
By Ed Wetterman
Transcribed from cassette recorder.
Isaac Hickman died in the Civil War and he married Mary Ann Parker. When he died, and Elmore Harper got back—his wife had also died, he married Isaac Hickman’s wife. The kids were farmed out to this one and that one, and you will find Isaac Hickman’s sons in Isaac Wright Low’s household…. Little Ike married Melissa Travis. He had a sister, Amanda, who married a Conner, and Isaac Wright Low was his [Isaac’s] guardian. Mary Ann didn’t live too long. She had one child that was a Harper, but I don’t know too much about Mary Ann. I think she was a sister to Mathew Parker, who was an Assistant Chief Justice here [
]. I know a lot about your little Ike who lived down on Brushy. Sabine County, Texas
Well, I think he [Isaac Hickman] died with measles or something…in
in C.S.A. Marksville, Louisiana
Isaac Hickman Low had a daughter Amanda who married a Conner.
Elmer Harper was her [Mary Ann’s] son with Elmore Harper.
John Paul Hyden used to live down there. [Ike Low and his family] lived on Brushy creek, and John lived on down lower, and he had to pass Ike’s house to get to school, and Melissa’s mother [Saphronia White-Travis] would come and stay with them when she had a baby, and she [Saphronia] out-lived Cannon [Travis] many years..., but Saphronie smoked a pipe, and Ike was known for his stinginess, he was very tight with everything, so he wouldn’t buy her any tobacco, and she would run out of tobacco. When John Paul would come along going to school, she would ask him to get her tobacco, and she told him that when he got of age he could marry any of her daughters that he wanted, and he said he was just as scared of her as he could be. I have seen her picture. This county [Sabine] is full of Travis’, if you’re kin to the Whites’ and Travis’, you are kin to everybody.
I know where he lived [Ike]. It’s a country-dirt road, and it is very interesting, and you would go across what is called Brushy, which is sort of what you would call a sort of slew-creek, you know, it does not run too much, and you go up a steep hill and they lived right up on that hill, and the hill went down to a little stream in the back of the house. That was where Little Ike lived in the woods.
Little Ike married Melissa Travis. The Travis family was a big family and one of the daughters, they called her Aunt Dump, her name was Saphronie Paulina, I believe she married Fed Conner, and his father was Willis Conner. The Conner family got into a mess with the law. There were two guys murdered in Holly Bottom, and they were accused and convicted of it. They were put in jail and they broke out of jail and took to the woods. They lived out in the woods as outlaws. Well, the families were divided over it. You see there were Anthony’s married to Travis’, and Little Ike Low was married to one [Melissa Travis], and they were messed up with all the families in the whole area. It was a great big mess. Well, Little Ike was against them, his wife was a sister to Saphronie who was married to Fed [Conner], but never the less he was against them. .Well, eventually everybody in the whole county got to hunting them because they were afraid of them, and all of them [Conners] got killed gradually until it got down to the old man [Willis Conner], who was in the woods by himself....One morning his grandson, a little boy, carried him some breakfast, and they [the posse] found him that way, and there was a big shooting and the old man and the little boy wound up dead. In the books, Little Ike doesn't get too much credit for being very good to Saphronie Paulina, who as a widow [of Fed Conner]. They all had a hard time getting by....Of the two men who were murdered, one was Kit Smith, and the other was Eli Low, a grandson of Eli Low, and the son of Jackson Green Low.
...Eli Low, the one who was murdered, had married a Sarah Tatom. Kit Smith was killed with him, and he had married a Conner. The families dropped the whole business. They just wouldn't talk about it, because they were all so mixed up that in order to live they had no choice but to drop the whole thing. All the tales actually come from people who have researched it and dug it up. The Rangers wrote some books and they wrote it in their point-of-view, and Mr. Combs wrote it as a tale from one of the Harpers, who had married a Conner. So you get these slanted versions, and the whole fact of the mater was, regardless of who was guilty and not guilty, they were convicted and broke out of jail. The people that helped them escape went to the penitentiary, but they went into the woods as outlaws. Thereby, they created seven or eight years of complete havoc, and no telling how many were killed due to their going into the woods. Now that was a tragedy. He [Willis Conner] never did consider anybody but himself and his family. He had fought in the Civil War, he was a good citizen, and they even had schools....
The one who convicted them was old man Dr. Cooper, who had married a widow with three daughters. One of his daughters married Charlie Conner, one of them married Kit Smith, and one married Alex McDaniel, and they were all mixed up in this thing. Alex was there when they viewed the bodies, and they all made testimony and so forth. Dr. Cooper's daughter by this second wife, she was a Harper, named Octavine, and she was a teacher and she boarded in the Conner household to teach school to these people, as well as Nancy Conner, who was the baby girl, and she had married a Harper, and she had some material on her loom to make ...[Octavine] a dress. Of course, Octavine noticed the material, and she noticed the dress that
made, and when they pulled the padding off the dead bodies in Holly Bottom, they had the material in the padding [the wading used in the guns when shooting]. She testified that she had seen the cloth on the loom in the Willis Conner household, so Octavine was really the one that stuck 'em [convicted them]. Nancy
...[Ike] was the third Isaac really....Isaac Wright Low was the one that raised them [Little Ike and his siblings]. Mrs. Nancy told me that her daddy took them [the children of Isaac Hickman Low and Mary Ann Parker] into his home and kept them. She said her mother always had said that he would take anybody in.
...Cannon [Travis] was a character...he first settled out here on what deed records called Sugar Creek, and they lived there until the man who owned all the land on the other side of Housen Bayou, on 87 South, died and Cannon bought that estate and as his children got married he would give them land and they all lived around him, and just down that bayou is where the Conner thing happened you see, and one of them was killed there in a crib [barn] on his field or maybe a little over towards where Little Ike lived.
...Cannon liked to drink and he helped organize this Church [First Baptist Church of Hemphill]. I'm sure he was a very wealthy man because he owned all that land and he was probably as wealthy as anybody in that church. He would get drunk and they would kick him out, and he would come back and apologize and they would forgive him, and give him a job to do in the church, and he would do it again, and he would come back and apologize. That was the way they actually entertained themselves in the church.
...Old Cannon [it was Dan] Low married a Smith. They were later divorced, and he remarried and they are buried in a cemetery just down here off 87 in
. Newton County
...You heard the name Scrappin' Valley? ...He [Dan Low] and his sweetheart, this Smith girl, were in this church and they got into a fight and she whipped him all they way out of the church, and so people named it Scrappin' Valley, and then they were married. They later divorced and he remarried and is buried in the
on 87. Mayflower Cemetery
...If you want to get confused just look up Cannon [Travis] on the 1880 census. It's not right. Somebody made it up. He has got a different wife- her name is
. Saphronia outlived him and they did not divorce or anything....I figured out the census taker for some reason didn't want to go to Cannon's house, so he made it up. He name was Saphronia Lee, not Saphronia Elizabeth, and see some of the children are listed and are right, but that is a mess. Elizabeth
...John Wesley Hardin came through here one time. He got into a scrape at the Courthouse and had to leave, he shot an officer in the hand. He was staying out here at Dr. Cooper's. You know he married a Harper, and her brother's were there, and John Wesley was working with her brothers stealing cows, horses, or whatever. Anyway, when he got in the scrape- he had walked up here and had left his horse out here where the Dr. lived. So when he had this scrape, he jumped on somebody else's horse and got home right ahead of the law. They were coming up behind him, and his horse was named Cody, it was black, and he couldn't get the gate open. John Harper was there-Dr. Cooper's wife's brother- and he [John Wesley Hardin] had to jump the gate with Cody to get away, and Cody got a bullet in his hip. Anyway, he just went through the woods and ended up at Cannon Travis' house and spent the night. The next morning he got his clothes and took off. Well, Elmer Harper was Sheriff [Mrs. Cooper's daddy]. Well, they didn't look for him too hard- they didn't care. During the shooting Mrs. Cooper yelled, "Don't shoot Pa, you'll hit John!" Gracie Berenthia [Mrs. Cooper's] name.