This serial story is an alternative view of actual Texas history. Created with fiction, this six-installment series will reveal an imagined view of the early days in East Texas and the grit and vision of Longview’s founding family, Margaret and O.H. Methvin.
Chapter ThreeApril 12, 1842
Ossie Methvin drove the wagon, avoiding the ruts, glinting into the light coloring James Earp’s cabin with orange hues. After discovering the tract of land he and Meggie would own, he was itching to build. A place bigger than Earp’s. Two stories if he could quarry some rocks.
“Something isn’t right.” Margaret stiffened.
The horses rigged to Earp’s fence bore marks of Mexican officials. “Probably folks come to socialize.” He pulled the reins. “Earps entertain at the drop of a hat.”
Margaret tugged the strings of her hat, donned to disguise her shorn hair. She hopped down and hurried to his side, providing a shoulder so he could brace for the climb to the ground. The doctor said it would be a month before he could lift anything heavy, but he was too proud to use a cane. He’d limp along, and use Meggie as often as she’d allow him to borrow her strength.
They eased toward Earp’s front porch. He would sign those land grant papers tonight, gaining the acres with a long view of the pines. A grin stretched across his face. It would be tough digging out the trees and turning the soil without slave labor, but he’d hire men he needed to turn timber into a cash crop.
Juan Garcia, the government agent assigned to these parts, opened the door. Ossie didn’t flinch. He’d met Garcia several times since being towed here by a blacksmith.
“Methvin,” the agent said sourly.
Ossie let his wife enter first. Four Mexican military men stood, interrogating the Earps, and not one bore an expression of hospitality.
“We should leave,” Margaret whispered.
“On the contrary,” Garcia replied. “You are the person we were seeking.”
Margaret backed up, stepping on O.H.’s boots. “Me?”
Garcia’s eyes turned to flint. “You are the woman who carried covert maps stolen from Camden, are you not?”
O.H. stepped around to defend his wife. “We are pioneers. You’ve seen our papers, Garcia. We came to these parts to make a new life, not get involved in your battle with the settlers.”
“Do not deny your involvement. I have a witness who will testify.” With a flick of his wrist, Garcia motioned the soldiers. “Arrest her.”
James Earp leapt to his feet. “You can’t capture a female, it’s not done.”
Garcia sneered. “I have orders from General Santa Anna to crush a rebellion.”
The soldiers pushed O.H. aside and latched onto Margaret’s arms.
“Take her away,” Garcia hissed.
Margaret kicked against their shins. “I’m innocent!”
“You can’t take my wife!”
The agent slapped O.H., and he crumpled to the floor, grasping his ribs. Shiny, black boots marched his beloved onto Earp’s porch.
Crawling to his knees, he barked, “She is not guilty; how can you even think a mother would put her family at risk?”
“Americans are fools to dismiss the voice of women. Mothers have rocked the cradles of our worst enemies.”
O.H. accepted James’ help in standing, but only in time to see Garcia follow the soldiers to their horses. “Give me your gun.”
“That won’t help, Ossie.” James stationed himself a barrier. “This is the moment for clear thinking.”
“My wife is being led off by soldiers.”
“She’ll hang if you interfere. We have to prove she’s not a spy and win her back.”
Ossie stared at the leader of this thriving East Texas community and wondered if everyone here had lost their minds. She was guilty. They all were. Every man, woman, and child in these parts was itching for revolution.
“I won’t stand for this, James.” Ossie leaned on a chair.
“You signed up for the ultimate cost the day you said yes to Stephen F. Austin.”
Mrs. Earp fetched Ossie a walking stick.
He limped to the window and watched Margaret fighting against the ropes they used to secure her to a horse. Bile rose in his throat.
“I will kill every one of those men.” He maneuvered around the chair and aimed for the door. “They can take me before they haul off my wife.”
James stopped him. “Garcia doesn’t want the ridicule that the only spy he could snag was female. He’ll keep this civil.”
“Civil?” Ossie glanced at Mrs. Earp. “If this was your wife, you wouldn’t stand here watching her go. You’d be aiming your .12 gauge at their heads.”
James scrubbed a hand across his beard. “I’d hope I’d be smart enough to not enrage the man holding my wife prisoner.” Glancing to the yard, he added, “Do not let her see you losing your head, too. She’ll need to know you’re going to hatch a plan to rescue her, not get you both killed.”
Quelling the fight in his throat, Ossie narrowed his gaze on Meggie; the bonnet ripped from her hair, showing the boyish cut that told the story of the knots she’d acquired in their flight from Camden.
“Margaret, I’ll get you the best damn lawyer in these parts,” he yelled. “We’ll fight this insanity, and I’ll make sure you have food and clothes before nightfall.”
“Don’t let the boys see me like this,” she called back, anger streaking her eyes. “And—” she hiccupped as the horse pulled her so fast she lost her footing, falling to knees. “If these men lay a hand on me, I will kill them. So, I would be guilty of that.”
James patted O.H.’s shoulder. “This will be the worst night of your life. Better come in and get something to eat before you take off.”
Stunned by the sight of his wife trailing behind a horse, his voice cracked. “I can’t eat.”
James closed the door. “You’re going to be riding all night, and with your injuries, you’ll need your strength. My wife and I will round up supplies to take to the jail and make sure Garcia treats Margaret according to the Constitution.”
Pain ricocheted through his bones, but nothing compared to the heartbreak under his ribs. “Where am I going?”
“You’ll ride into a Cherokee tribal meeting and demand an audience.”
O.H. knew more about dealing with alligators than he did Indians.
Mrs. Earp handed him a glass of water laced with whiskey.
“Won’t I be shot on sight?” O.H. wondered if the Indian scouts still practiced scalping. “If I could even find their meeting grounds.”
“You’ll find them, because I will give you directions.” James removed a piece of paper and quill pen from his desk. “I’ll provide you a letter of introduction, which should speed the process of getting in and out of there.”
“I thought these meetings were secret on account of the Indian Wars?”
“It’s true they hate everyone who is trying to chase them from their native lands, but there’s one white man who has earned their trust because he’s concocted a way we can all work peacefully together. He’s meeting with them tonight to secure their protection of the Texans who want to attack the Mexican Army. He’s also the one man who can get Margaret out of this mess and save the network from being discovered.”
Downing the beverage in one stinging gulp, O.H. wiped his lips with his sleeve. Glancing at the name on the envelope, he gasped. “You think I can persuade the great Sam Houston to ride to Earpville and intercede for Margaret?”
“You must.” James sealed the letter with a blot of hot wax. “When we win this revolution, we’re going to elect Houston to lead our republic. You and Margaret would be important allies for him in this area because you know people who can bring the U.S. trains to these parts.”
Trains? Right now, he needed to hang onto a horse long enough to break into a secret camp.
Margaret’s future depended on bringing Sam Houston home.