November is National Native American Heritage Month, dedicated to celebrating the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. For more information on Native American Heritage Month and to view online exhibits from the Smithsonian, check out nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/.
At the Office of History and Culture, we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what we know about the Native Americans who were the original settlers of Denton County.
The Earliest Settlers
The open prairies and creeks of Denton County were once home to native tribes, and some of these settlements can be traced to the prehistoric period. Before even the Native Americans called Denton County home, it has been discovered that a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture of nomadic hunters, the Clovis people, lived in the area roughly 11,000 years ago.
The earliest evidence of the Clovis people in Denton County was discovered in Lewisville in the 1950s. To read more about those discoveries, check out one of our past blogs, Digging Deep: Lewisville’s Clovis History. The Clovis people lived all across North America, and likely are the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans.
Native Americans in Denton County
Up until the 1840’s, Native Americans were some of the only occupants of North Texas. While there were several Native American groups that spent time in Denton County, their population in this region was small, probably no more than a few hundred residents at one time. The key tribes that we know spent time here were the Wichita, Caddo, Comanche, and Cherokee.
For at least three hundred years prior to 1830, the Wichita Indians of Caddodochan background lived in North Texas. The area was a trade route for the Wichita and Caddo groups, who traveled between east and west Texas.
The Wichita were Plains Indians who originally lived by hunting, but by 1800 adapted to some of the agriculture in the creek bottoms and cross timbers. They were a peaceful group, and lived in grass huts similar to the Caddos. Unfortunately, the encroachment of white settlers eventually forced the Wichitas to leave the Denton County region.
The Caddo were an alliance of tribes that primarily farmed and planted crops in large clearings in the piney woods of East Texas. They lived in very large, cone-shaped grass huts, like the Wichita grass houses. The first main group of Caddo Indians were the Kadohadacho, who lived in large villages along the Red River.
The Caddo resided in Denton County from about 1830 until 1843, when more white settlers began to arrive in the area. After that, the Caddo never lived in Denton County, and only camped here on their way to trade with the Wichitas.
The Comanches Indians were fierce warriors and good traders who lived on the
Southern Plains and traveled through Denton County. They were primarily hunters and gathers, and lived in temporary homes commonly called “tee-pees.” When they moved to a new place, the Comanches would load their possessions onto wooden frames made of two poles, called a “travois.”
As white settlers began to arrive, conflicts arose, and in 1859, these Native Americans were moved to new reservations in Indian Territory.
The Cherokee Indians arrived in Texas in the early 1820’s, led by Chief Bowl. They originally settled on the Three Forks of the Trinity River, but pressure from prairie tribes forced them to move east towards Nacogdoches. In 1839 after the Cherokee War, the Cherokees were forced across the Red River into Indian Territory- though some did stay in North Texas.
The Denton County community of Aubrey, formerly known as Onega, was established as the Cherokee tribes were being forced from other parts of Texas. Onega prospered during the 1840’s and 50’s, establishing a trading center, a drug store, and more. As more white settlers came to the area and the town grew, Onega was renamed to Aubrey.
The Daugherty Family
The Daugherty’s were a prominent Denton County family with Cherokee roots. William O’Daugherty came to America from Ireland in 1760, was adopted into a Cherokee tribe, and married a Cherokee woman.
Their son, William, grew up and married a Cherokee woman named Sally Bunch. William and Sally became the parents of James Madison Daugherty. James married Eleanor McGehee, described as an energetic, intelligent and determined woman, and had seven children, pictured below. The family moved to Denton County and settled in Old Alton in 1851.
In 1894, Mary Daughtery fulfilled her father James’ longtime wish to return to the Cherokee nation by marrying David J. Eddleman and moving to Indian territory in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The couple was instrumental in organizing the First Christian Church of Muskogee. Eddleman ended up buying a three week old newspaper company, the Muskogee Morning Times. This became the first daily paper in the Indian Territory.
One of the other Daughtery children, Daniel Boone Daugherty, operated a successful pottery business in Denton. Read more about it in one of our past blogs, Pieces of the Past: A History of Pottery in Denton County.
Educating the Next Generation
This blog post has just contained a tiny portion of the history, culture, and significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of Denton County and the United States.
The Office of History and Culture has a Traveling Museum Program that visits schools in across Denton County, and one of the many topics that we cover is Native Americans in Denton County. The presentation gives students an opportunity to learn and see artifacts from different Native American tribes. If you are interested in the Traveling Museum visiting your school, check out our website for more information.
All information in this blog was pulled from the Office of History & Culture’s records and the articles on Bouncer Goin’s website.