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James Robertson Couts ~

James Robertson Couts, [J. R. Couts] born in Robinson County, Tennessee, April 6, 1833 came to Texas in 1858 with his father, James Couts. The grandfather of J. R. Couts, John Couts was born in North Carolina and moved to Tennessee when a youth. James Couts was born in Robinson County, Tennessee August 12, 1803, but moved west with his family and son, J. R. to Lawrence (now Randolph) county, Arkansas. In 1858, James Couts moved with his family to Texas. J. R. Couts at the age of 19 married Martha Hardin with whom he lived until her death in 1894. (genealogymagazine.com – J. R. Couts) Couts married a second time to Sallie Buster of Weatherford with whom he lived until his death in 1904.


When J. R. Couts brought his wife and two children from Arkansas to the Parker-Palo Pinto County area, he first settled on 160 acres along the Brazos opposite the mouth of Palo Pinto Creek in Palo Pinto County. He also found himself defending them against periodic Indian raids and Couts quickly established himself as a valuable member of this early settlement.

Billly Atterburner, quoted at length in a history of Citizens National Bank, published in 1910 said  “We were good neighbors, Mr. Couts and me, before the war and during the war, and a better neighbor no made ever had”. Not all soldiers of the South fought against Union soldiers in the Civil War. That was especially true in Texas, where Indian raids were still a constant threat. Couts served in the Home Guard during the War.


Couts had a reputation as being strongly in favor of law and order which, while popular with most folks, was not favored by the outlaw element. A family of outlaws, four in number, started out to pick trouble with Couts and his neighbor Atterburner. They had decided to take out their complaint with Mr. Couts and made a big mistake in doing so. There wasn’t anything particular that Mr. Couts had done to them, but one Sunday there was a meeting at the Soda Springs church house, which was just about six miles from where Millsap is today. Mr. Couts and his family with him were going to the meeting in an ordinary two-horse wagon. As he passed a house on the public road, close to the church, he saw four men standing in the yard, with horses already saddled, hitched to the fence. He recognized two of them as belong to the family of bad men and correctly surmised that the other two were the other brothers. As his wagon passed the four brothers mounted their horses and followed some distance behind with their guns ready for quick work. Mr. Couts drove is wagon to the spring some 75 yards from the church house, send his wife and children into the log church, meaning to follow with a chair and bucket of water from the spring.
In the meantime, the four men had arrived, dismounted and took station in the woods on each side of the path from the spring to the church. Mr. Couts had his gun in the wagon and a very large Navy Colt in his waist band. He decided to leave his gun in the wagon, to take his chair in the left hand and the bucket of water in his right, while his wife’s shawl was on his shoulder covering the Navy Colt and giving him the appearance of being unarmed. When Couts was only a short distance from the spring, one of the outlaws point-blank fired at him, but Mr. Couts was quicker than a cat in “them days” and he dropped bucket of water, jumped behind a tree and shot. The fellow that fired the first shot bit the dust shot right through the top of his heart. Couts picked out the second bad man with the first bullet smashing his rifle near the breech and busted it, but the second shot when plumb through the bad man’s shoulder. The third fellow started to get in the church house and as he was making for the door, Mr. Couts sent a lead ball through his thigh. The younger and fourth of the brothers, seeing that a little more trouble than has been bargained for had been bitten off, mounted his horse and started like a “Kansas cyclone” to get away. Mr. Couts could have killed the fourth brother in his escape, but wanting to reserve his last load no shot was fired. It turned out as shot was not necessary as the fellow’s horse slipped and fell, and when the rider was thrown, he landed on his face and shoulder in such a manner that his face was “stove in” and his shoulder busted, putting him plumb out of the fight. During the fireworks, Mr. Couts has a bullet go through is black silk vest and one through his hat. Another grazed his little finger on his pistol hand. The three remaining fellows were told they had to vamoose out of Parker county and they “got”.  (Quoted, paraphrased and abridged from Pioneer County Heritage, The Weatherford Democrat, Sunday, August 25, 1991)


Soon after the Civil War, Counts began his long and famous drive of one thousand head of longhorn cattle over the Rocky Mountains to California. There was a short supply of beef around the time of the 1866 California Gold Rush where beef was bring a fancy price. Using all his earnings Counts moved the cattle through rough and dangerous territory until he was stranded in Colorado when winter hit and he camped there until the snow melted in the spring. When he and his cowboys were ready to continue toward California and Utah some speculators purchased his cattle, cow horses, chuck wagons and equipment. They even hired his cowhands. After paying off his hands, Mr. Couts, who retained his favorite saddle horse and one pack horse started home to Parker County with fifty thousand dollars in gold, bagged and wrapped, weighing two hundred pounds. He was two thousand miles from home, with no public conveyance and no roads. To employ one or more persons to accompany him would put is life and fortune in jeopardy. He decided to go it along. Riding day after day and camping at night, he eventually reached the head of navigation on the Missouri River where he boarded a steamer for St. Louis. There he took a Mississippi River packet boat for New Orleans. One the trip down the river he learned that the Canal Bank at New Orleans would be a safe place for his money while he was waiting for a ship. At the bank the office force was very courteous to him and it was there he learned much about the banking business. It was also there that he made the decision to return to Weatherford with his fortune and start his own bank. By ship to Galveston and stagecoach through Houston, Austin, Waco and Cleburne, he made his way home, reaching Parker County sometime in 1868. (Copied, paraphrased and abridged from Banking on Grit and Gold, Citizens National Bank, 1989)


J. R. Couts was the father of nine children. He married Miss Martha Hardin in Arkansas in 1832 and she died February 6, 1894. The children are Henry Johnson died at the age of three years, Jonathan Hardin, died at the age of two years; James S. died at one year of age. All three died in 1856 within a few weeks of each other, of typhoid pneumonia at that time a new malady. Of the remaining six children: Mary married S. B. “Burk” Burnett, Susan married A. N. Grant, Martha became Mary Putnam; Maggie married H. L. Mosely, James  Roberson Jr. and Lela married W. P. Anderson.


Counts with John H. Simpson drove the first cattle into Taylor County and located a ranch of 14,000 head. Couts property aside from his banking interest consists of 24,000 acres fronting for a long distance on the Brazos River in Palo Pinto, Parker and Hood Counties. (“Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory” Antiquarian Press, Ltd, NY, 1894)


J. R. Couts liked the Brazos river country and public records reflect that he acquired 1,150 acres of the Albert Sidney Johnson Survey on the Clear Fork of the Brazos in Stephens County from the agent of Albert Sidney Johnson by deed dated April 9, 1877 and recorded in Vol. 47, Page 144 of the Deed Records of Stephens County, Texas. Couts conveyed an undivided one-half interest in the property on the Clear Fork of the Brazos to W. L. Simmons on April 21st of 1877 at Vol. 47, Page 146 Deed Records. Couts still owned the Clear Fork River property at is death. (Summary from Stephens County public records)

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The Couts Anderson Cabin on W. J. Rhodes Ranch, Palo Pinto, Texas. While memories have faded and there is no documentation, other than the remains of the outline of a rock foundation remaining in the "Old Ranch Pasture" that fits the footprint of the present log cabin, we believe this cabin was owned by J. R. Couts on his "Horse Ranch" in Palo Pinto County. We know that the cabin was moved to its present location by Couts Anderson, the grandson of J. R. Couts.