The Vernon Daily Record issue of June 1, 1929 carried the headline “Death Claims C. F. Doan, One of the First Settlers in County.” Doan was one of the first people of European descent to make his residence in Wilbarger County in North Texas and is usually credited (sometimes with his uncle) for being the founder of the old trading post at the nearby Red River crossing into Oklahoma that became known as Doan’s Crossing. Doan had taken a fall a few days earlier and suffered a fractured left hip bone and passed away on the previous Friday, May 31. Funeral services for the Texas pioneer were slated for the following Sunday, June 2, at the First Methodist Church of Vernon with interment to follow at Eastview Memorial Park, a few miles out of town.
If you have seen the television series “1883” you may recall the Doan family name being mentioned in connection with locations called Doan’s Crossing and Doan’s Trading Post. Both were just south of the Red River. The crossing was a place where millions of head of cattle and horses were once driven across the river to northern markets over number of years. Before and after this period, Doan’s Trading Post and Store was a popular stop, located very close to a southerly bend in the river and the old crossing was located some distance north and west of the settlement.
Corwin Doan’s parents were Azariah Wall Doan (1824 – 1911) and Amanda M. Strattan Doan (1827 – 1854). Corwin was the eldest of their children. His father was an attorney in Ohio at the outset of the Civil War and help to raise a company of infantry in his county. Azariah entered the Union Army as a 1st Lieutenant and served throughout the war, receiving promotions as the war progressed. His final rank was Brevet Brigadier General. After the war, he returned to his law practice in Ohio. He also served as a judge and served one term in the state senate.
Azariah had three siblings who lived to be adults, Jonathan, Calvin and David. David remained in Ohio while Jonathan and Calvin headed south, eventually coming to reside in North Texas. Corwin Doan had come to Texas by way of Kansas, following the buffalo herds that once were plentiful in the area. He was married, but left his family to accompany his uncle Jonathan. Jonathan had decided to continue further south into what became Oklahoma. Once there, Jonathan obtained permission at Fort Sill to establish a trading post on the Texas side of the river.
At first they did not have a permanent location but later built a stockade. Their main business was trading buffalo and other pelts and hides. There were almost no settlers at that time in North Texas. They traded with the hunters and also with the local Kiowa and Comanche and are said to have developed a favorable relationship with them.
Jonathan’s wife Naomi Ruth Harlan Doan had died back in Ohio in 1874. With no immediate family to care for, Jonathan left the stockade. For several years Jonathan is said to have traded in West Texas and the Panhandle area out of his wagon before returning to the small trading post on the Red River. Jonathan’s departure and the risk of tribal uprising led Corwin to return to Ohio for a short time while Jonathan remained. Possibly influenced by Jonathan’s later favorable accounts of his experiences in the area, Corwin Doan’s family came back with him in 1878 when he was about thirty years old. He had been married to Eliza Ellen “Lide” Whinery Doan since 1871 and at the time, they had one child, a daughter named Bertha Amanda Doan, born in 1877. In addition, his uncle Calvin Doan, Jonathan’s brother who was a Civil War veteran, and two of Jonathan’s daughters came along. They had ridden the train to Sherman and made the remainder of the trip by wagon.
When they arrived at the site of the trading post, they did not find the situation nearly as Jonathan had described. There were no structures other than what was described as a crudely constructed picket house largely without any supplies. Corwin had almost no money, so he set about to harvest game for food and use whatever materials he could find to improve the structure since it had a grass covered roof and no permanent doors or interior walls. He sold pelts to earn money to buy supplies with which to stock the trading post as he continued to improve the structures, adding basic necessities such as a fireplace.
Jonathan eventually rejoined the family and the trading post gradually began to take hold. Their customers continued to be friendly tribe members and buffalo hunters and slowly began to include cowboys from area ranches. There are few stories of fears concerning hostilities between tribe members and the Doans, but the daughter Bertha related an incident that occurred when Corwin and the other men were away on a freight trip. Lide had sent Bertha with the young girls to gather cowchips and wood scraps when she spotted the heads and horses of some intruders. Lide had no way to escape, since all the horses were with the men, but she gathered the women and children and returned to the house.
Lide and Corwin had been made aware of a report that a number of Kiowa had fled the reservation, so the women remained in the house until Corwin returned later in the day, riding the only horse available. It was not practical to consider trying to go to a more safe location, so Corwin went about his routine chores outside, making sure that he could be seen by anyone looking on from a distance. That night, the five Doans withdrew to a grove of trees and kept watch on the house. No hostilities occurred, but Lide later found that she was wise to have been cautious. The following day, a scouting party of soldiers came by to tell them that the escapees had been captured. Several days earlier, two brothers had come by the post, heading north on their own. The soldiers related that the boys had been attacked after they left the post. One brother had been killed. The other survived, but had been scalped. When the escapees were questioned, they said that they had not attacked the Doan trading post because they had suspected that there were buffalo hunters at the post, after seeing only Corwin.
Image credit: Amarillo Sunday News Globe, 14 Aug 1938
In the years that followed, the store and trading post continued to prosper, even after the end of the cattle drives. There were once several structures, but currently only one remains, the adobe house built by Corwin Doan around 1880.
After Bertha, Corwin and Lide had two more children: Mabel Mary and Leo Stratton. Leo died when he was about five years old but both daughters had long lives and went on to have families of their own. Corwin, Lide and over a dozen other Doan family members, including Jonathan, are buried in Eastview Memorial Park outside Vernon.
Sources: Newspaper articles, genealogy sources and “Between Sun and Sod, An Informal History of the Texas Panhandle” by Willie Newbury Lewis.
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