Following his death in March 1910, an article illustrating Robert Andrew Ferguson’s life appeared in the Gaston Gazette. Some of the dates and timeline are incorrect, I believe, if you compare them to other documents we have. Over all it is an amazing tribute fitting for an amazing life.
Published in the Gaston Gazette, Gaston, NC on Tuesday, April 12, 1910
NOT A COMMON MAN.
Late R.A. Ferguson, Gaston County Man Who Recently Died in Texas, Was a Hero from His Youth – Caught Monkeys in South America and Mined Gold in California- Sketch of an Interesting Career.
Some weeks ago the Gazette published an account of the death on March 6th at Brandon, Texas, of Mr. R.A. Ferguson, a native of Gaston county. The following interesting sketch of his career, from the Hillsboro Mirror, published at Hillsboro, Texas, issue of March 23, will be read with interest by many Gaston countians:
On Sunday morning, the 6th of March, at 1 o’clock, at this home in Brandon, Texas, R.A. Ferguson, known to all in this part of the state and Western Texas and New Mexico as “Uncle Bob the C-5 Horse and Cattle Man,” passed away.
He was born in North Carolina, January 26th, 1826, and at the time of his death was 84 years, 2 months, and 8 days old. The cause of his death was old age. He was a hero of the stalwart class – worn out. For five months he had been confined to his bed, perfectly helpless, and his life was no doubt prolonged a few months on account of the devotion of his children, seven in number, who with his truly devoted life companion, were at his bedside almost day and night during his last illness, administering everything needed for their dear father and husband that hands and sympathy could, but the end came, and this old hero passed away quietly and peacefully.
Uncle Bob was not a common man. He was a hero from youth – an explorer – and therefore left his parental roof while in his teens to go on a voyage to South America, arriving in that country, where no one, except his companion who went with him, could speak the English language. He often told his grandchildren of his employment while in South America – the sport of capturing young monkeys, which he followed about four months in order to get funds to go to San Francisco, California, and a ticket on the boat cost $400. It was amusing to hear him tell of that voyage, which took about four months.
He took on board with him three monkeys which he had not sold. On account of so long a trip, fresh water gave out, so he was compelled to give his monkeys salt water, which killed two of them. He traded the other one for an umbrella to protect him from the sun, as he felt himself getting weak; but, short of the necessaries of life on reaching California, he at once traded the umbrella for a square meal, which he said satisfied him for a short time. He reached California about 1848, engaging in the mining business for several years, and was a prominent character in the mining camps. He served as sheriff of the mining district where he lived, and it was very entertaining to hear him tell how their administered the law, and how honest everyone was in that day and time. He was one of the largest stockholders in the company that damned the Sacramento river to turn the channel 800 yards, in order that the channel might be searched for channel gold. This proved a financial failure and broke every man in the company, all but two leaving that state for their eastern homes. Uncle Bob and his companion remained, and after two years’ hard work he was successful in finding rich beds of old ore, and when he left California had enough pure gold to have done one man a lifetime. Having sold his claim, he returned to his old home in North Carolina to see his parents. After staying there a short time, his mind turned back to the West. He left Gastonia, North Carolina, for California, about the year 1855, traveling on horseback. While he was traveling through this country he engaged with other men to go to Mexico to buy horses and drive them to Missouri. This was his beginning in the horse business, the business he was actively engaged in the remainder of his active life – running the same brand of horses for nearly half a century. He sold out his last ranch in New Mexico about seven years ago on account of his declining health, and being unable to live a camp life. Mr. Ferguson with his associates went to Mexico in 1855, bought about 300 head of Spanish horses and started to Missouri. Winter overtook them in Hill county, and they struck camp about seven miles east of Hillsboro, at what is known as the Old Mullin Grove, on Grove Creek. Mr. Ferguson sold his interest in the stock to his associates and was to wait until spring to collect his money. He went to New Orleans and spent the winter, and returned to the ranch in Hill county to collect his money so he could go on his way to California. He found on his return that the party to whom he had sold out had died, and an administrator had been appointed, and was at that time not in a position to pay. Mr. Ferguson made a trade with him for the remainder of the horses, expecting to drive them to Missouri and sell them, as soon as the grass would sustain them in their travels – but, as Uncle Bob used to put it, he went often to the post office to hear from the Missouri horse market, and the postmistress was Miss Bell Wood, who had just come to Hill county with her father and mother, from Scotland. He said she was more attractive to him than gold or silver, and he got so he stayed at the post office most of the time until he induced this charming lady to become his wife, and settled down on the same tract of land whereon he died, and there lived with his beautiful companion for nearly half a century.
She survives him, being nearly 75 years of age, and is in fair health. Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson have been great benefactors in building up old Hill county. Mr. Ferguson helped to organize the county, and helped to build the first courthouse out of logs that were hauled from Peoria. He was known all over this country as his stock ranged for 100 miles around. There were but few settlers when he first came here. His home was known to all stockmen, and his lovable companion was known for her hospitality, never turning a stranger away at night, nor charging anything for their lodging. She was loved by all the stockmen, and the few old men living who knew her in her younger days, says she was the best, truest and most beautiful woman they ever met. She was never heard to say a hard word against anyone, and all speak of her personal worth as a true, Christian woman, devoted to her family, her neighbors and her Church.
Shortly after their marriage the civil war broke out, and Uncle Bob enlisted on the side of the Southland. His comrades say there was never a braver or truer soldier enlisted in the Southern army. At the close of the war, he returned to his home in Brandon, where he lent his aid to help and protect the good people and improve society. He was a terror to lawless people – robbers and thieves – they all knew Uncle Bob was as true as steel and brave as a lion, and stood for right against wrong, and this reputation helped him in protecting the good people, and keeping the lawless class so plentiful in the early days of Texas, away from this section. He again followed stock raising, and farming some, but did not take much interest in farming, devoting most of his time to raising horses and cattle, and at one time he owned several thousand head of horses and cattle which ranged in this county. After Hill county became a farming county, he moved his stock further west, to Callahan, Jones and other counties, finally moving them to a ranch in New Mexico, where he sold his remaining horses and came home, remaining there for the last seven or eight years of his life.
He had not given up – but wore out. While Mr. Ferguson was not a financier, at one time he was very wealthy, owning large tracts of land, and many thousands of horses. In his later years he had reverses – causing him to lose the biggest part of his fortune. He did not crave riches – loved his horses and refused to sell them to anybody, and although for several years they cost him money, yet he continued to care for them until his health forced him to turn them over to someone else; however, his courageous, brave life did not prove a failure for his loved ones in a financial way. About two years ago he wound up his estate, dividing it equally among his four sons and three daughters. The property he gave them free from all debt, consisted of some of the best land in Hill county, amounting to about $200,000, but best of all, he left a name that will go down in local history as the soul of honor. His word was his bond – it mattered not what it cost, he made his word good. At one time this cost him $40,000, although his attorney told him it was injustice for him to pay, and proposed to get him out for $5,000. His reply was that he had pledged his word, and however unjust the claim might me he would make his word good even if it cost him $100,000. Mr. Ferguson was a peculiar character, in some ways. In conducting his business, he never asked for advice, and never gave any to anyone; he strictly attended to his own affairs and let others do the same.
Mr. Ferguson did not belong to any Church, although his family were Baptists. In his last years he stated to his wife’s pastor that he realized his mistake by not becoming a member of a Church in days past, and doing more for the cause of his Lord; but he believed strongly in God, and in Christ as his Savior – making a profession in his early days, and we hope he is now in Heaven, awaiting the coming of his dear wife, who, at the best, will not be long in following him.
Besides his wife, seven children survive to mourn their loss – three daughters, Mrs. J.E. Armstrong, Irene, Texas; Mrs. G.L. White, Hillsboro, Texas; Mrs. L.H. Giles, Brandon, and four sons, R.M., J.W., H.W., and J.F. Ferguson, all of whom live at Brandon, Texas.