Moody As It Was in the Beginning

By Hazel Potter

The Perry Hills which are located about two miles north of Moody was the stopping place in 1851 for a group of hard pioneers from Tennessee. Among that group was Joseph Naler who became one of the leading settlers in the Moody area. They were greeted by war-whoops of the Comanche Indians, rifle fire, great herds of wild buffalo, and many professional cattle thieves. Life was hard in those days and loneliness was one of the greatest tests of that the women, especially, had to endure.

It must have been a source of great joy to those settlers when they were joined a year later by a wagon train of people from Illinois led by William and Joel Hancock who had scanned the Brazos for several days and finally chose to make their home in the same location. There was new hope that these people were bringing news from loved ones in Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. By standing on the Perry Hills and looking westward they could look into Coryell County and smell the scent of burning cedar as other settlers prepared their evening meals.

These two groups joined forces and prepared to build a settlement and name it Perry after the county in Illinois from which they had come. There is also suggestion that they wanted to honor their attorney, Albert G. Perry, who had been in Texas since 1831. For a few weeks the families lived out of their prairie schooners while the men scouted the land for the best claims. While spreading out toward the west, they were more than surprised when the hills dropped abruptly into a wide valley covered with a lush grass high enough to hide the smaller animals. Beyond, they could see a line of dark green indicating that there was a river some six miles farther west giving them the assurance that everything they needed to build their village would be available.

Wild horses roamed the wide expanse of tall grass while herds of buffalo made way for the white man. The cattle thieves caused the settlers as much or more sorrow and trouble than the Indians. The nearest place for supplies was Waco, a small settlement on the Brazos River several miles to the north. However, most of the big hauling was done from the gulf coast region.

The pleasant surroundings of the little settlement continued to attract travelers, and the population grew rapidly during the next few years. By the time the 1860 census was taken in June there were 233 person enumerated. Added to the names of Naler and Hancock were Goucher, Ogden, Wood, Myers, Fifer, Shanklin, Knowles, Leach, Cook, white, Hartgrave, McClain, Skinner, Nailor, Blair, Nailer, Minch, Clement, Jones, Stubblefield, McCartney, Carter, Britton, Fosher, Rose, Taylor, Master, Long, Carpenter, Cooper, and following laborers and stock drivers; Ellington, Hodge, Hensley, McCorkle, Temple, Conrad, Bevans, Rogers, Hamilton, Horner, and Dodson. By this time the village had grown until it had a general store, a school, a church, a cemetery, and probably a grist mill. All of them were surrounded by log and box-board houses.

The cemetery still occupies a prominent place where once stood a thriving community and is supported by those people who have loved ones buried there and by those who want to see it preserved. In 1854, Miss Jane Leach agreed to teach the new school if some of the men who usually sat around Dan McClain's General Store would promise to be available when she needed help with the discipline of the older boys. She died of pneumonia at the close of her first year and was the first one buried in the cemetery. Her burial plot was marked by a rock cairns to protect it from marauding wolves and other preying animals. No permanent marker was ever placed at her grave site.

During these years neighbors watched out for neighbors especially to warn them of Comanche raids. They had to make plans and decide what action they would take in case of a raid. Most of the time they chose to remain in their own settlement because the nearest refuge was Neil McLennan's fortified cabin on the Bosque. Fort Gates in Coryell County was 21 miles away. The women kept their guns loaded and easily available, sometimes leaning against a wheel of their wagon or tucked away under the bedding. They were all taught to use them in an emergency. Since ammunition was scarce, they were very discriminate it its use. Many times their pewter plates were melted down and the metal poured into molds for bullets. every crack of a limb or snap of dried leaves was a signal to be on guard during the night; and the sound of horses hooves in the early morning hours brought the family members to their feet. Many times it would have been more comforting for the women had they lived near Fort Gates.

In 1873 the Perry Community was hit by a destructive storm. Most of the homes and businesses were destroyed so the settlement relocated two miles east and called it New Perry. When the Santa Fe rail lines were completed in 1881 the settlement moved closer to the railroad and formed what is now Moody.