Henry Harvey King, Explorer and Survivor
Sometime after the King family settled in Red River County, probably between 1892 and 1904,1 Henry Harvey King took off on a long exploration of the new locale. He went south, traveling on horseback or by mule. The countryside was largely unsettled at the time, and he rode for several days before he came upon a fence, somewhere deep in East Texas.
There have long been stories of Spanish gold and silver lost in the East Texas piney woods, and Henry, who was in his late twenties or early thirties when he set out, was intrigued by them. Most of the stories had their origins in the early nineteenth century when Spanish mule trains brought gold and silver from Mexico to Natchitoches,Louisiana, to trade for bolts of cloth and hardware. Bandits often attacked the pack trains near the Texas-Louisiana border. Henry learned about a treasure that was said to be at the bottom of an East Texas pond.2 Part of his explorations included participation in a project to empty the pond and recover the treasure. He joined a crew paid to dig a ditch that would allow the water in the pond to flow into a nearby creek.3 The crew labored for months on end4 and learned a hard, surprising lesson when the ditch was completed. The elevation of the creek was higher than that of the pond. Rather than emptying the pond, water flowed into it, filling the pond to levels even higher than when the project started.
Life was hard in Red River County in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. There were annual epidemics of deadly diseases, like typhoid fever and yellow fever, which were rampant in the summer when the houseflies and mosquitoes that transmitted them were at their peak. Many people succumbed to consumption (tuberculosis) and influenza, which were spread simply by coughing. Sadly, many members of the King family lost their lives at early ages, possibly from these and other deadly diseases then common to northeast Texas.5
At some point during Henry’s explorations he contracted a cough that persisted for many weeks. He grew weaker and weaker from the coughing and, based on the seriousness of his symptoms, decided to return home to die, possibly to his brother Norvell’s farm.6 Henry had been away over a year. One day after he returned he had an
especially serious spell and coughed up a hair. The hair, which had been lodged somewhere in his respiratory tract, was apparently responsible for the cough. The cough immediately disappeared and Henry quickly regained his strength, going on to live a long healthy life of nearly 92 years, many years longer than the lives of any of his siblings.
1The estimated dates correspond to the death of Henry’s mother, Sarah Ann Jones King, on September 25, 1892 and his marriage to Elvira Lavinia Wright on March 13, 1904.
2 The treasure may be the silver and gold described by John Fletcher (Galveston Daily News, April 21, 1898), and the pond may be the mill pond excavated in 1898 on a farm, east of the Neches River.
3W.S. Glenn of Palestine, Texas organized a company, which raised $5,000 to employ laborers to excavate a pond on the above-described farm, the site of his birth.
4Glenn’s crew labored from May until October 1898, when the company funds were said to have been exhausted, and the officers of the company abandoned the project.
5Henry’s older brother, Seneca Jones King, and sister-in-law, Henrietta Josephine Wheelus King, lost four young children after the move to Texas: a daughter Lula of nine months in 1889; a son or daughter of six months in 1893; a daughter Oma Fay of seven weeks in 1896; and a son Martin of four months in 1898. Henry’s younger brother, Allen Norvell King, and sister-in-law, Mary Parmelia Harvey King, lost a daughter Zora of nearly ten months in 1893 and a daughter Nona of nearly twenty months in 1900. Mary died in 1903 at the age of 28, 15 months after the birth of her daughter Alice Emma “Allie” King. Both Norvell and his second wife, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Allen King, lost their lives to tuberculosis in 1906 at the respective ages of 36 and 23. They left the four surviving children of Norvell and Mary ranging in age between four and twelve. The younger of Henry’s two sisters, Lydia Ann King Thornton, died in April 1894 at the age of 32, exactly two months after the birth of her son Guy King Thornton. Lydia left five children, who returned to Winn Parish, Louisiana with her husband, John Johnson Thornton. Henry’s other sister, Frances Jane “Fannie” King Cook, and her husband, John Clayton Cook, died in 1896 at the ages of 40 and 45, respectively. They left four children between the ages of eight and 22.
6Henry was listed in the 1900 census as living with the Allen Norvell King family.