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Montague County was an undisturbed wilderness before 1850 when white men began to settle the area. Rolling upland prairies of native tall grasses beginning just south of Montage County and continuing to Canada, provided the famous habitat where the buffalo roamed. According to testimonies of residents three tribes occupied this territory before 1850—the Wichita, the Kiowa, and the Comanche. Indians relied on bison for food, clothing, and shelter in a nomadic existence.

The Comanches were fierce warriors who lived on the Southern Plains. They are one of the most historically important Indian cultures from Texas. The Comanches were much more than just warriors. According to the old Spanish records and other sources they were also very good traders. The Spanish used to hold trade fairs in the city of Taos and in Santa Fe in what is now New Mexico. Records from trade fairs in old Taos and Santa Fe describe the Comanches at the trade fairs. They were well dressed. The Comanche leaders often wore fine European clothes, with many silver conchos and fine leather boots. And they had money. They would come to trade in organized groups. There was always one Comanche in these groups who could speak Spanish, French, and four or five Indian languages. The group always had a leader who was very skilled as a trader and diplomat. The problem was most of what they had to sell or trade was stuff they had stolen. They sold the stolen horses and women and children they had kidnapped. The relatives of the women and children would come to these fairs to buy them back. This kidnapping for ransom would later get the Comanche in big trouble with the American settlers who were much less tolerant of it than the Spanish or Pueblo Indians were.

Comanche named Bow and Quiver.

Painted by George Catlin in 1832.

Settlement (1857-1860)
Opinions are divided as to who the county’s first settlers were. However, it is generally accepted that the first community was that of Head of Elm (now Saint Jo). Although the exact date is not known, we do know Col. James B. Leach camped at Head of Elm in 1857. The town of Forestburg claims to be the second earliest settlement in the county. Lending proof that Saint Jo and Forestburg were the first two settlements is the fact that in 1858, the only voting places in the county were (Head of Elm) Saint Jo and a site west of Forestburg.

Montague County came into being on December 26, 1857, by an act of legislation, but the government was not organized until August 2, 1858, which is the date recognized as the county’s birth.



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