Joseph Deupree

 

    Among books in Dr. William Lightfoot’s library, in what will be Mulberry, (in 1856) were the “literary works” of Sir Walter Scott. Mark Twain considered Scott “in a great measure responsible” for the Civil War, corrupting southern writing and thought with the sins of his language: flowery eloquence. In contrast Twain liked a southern way of talk connected to place, “flowing like the smooth current of a river.” Joseph Emory Deupree was remembered in Fannin County as an orator, and when it was necessary to rename the place he lived, “Hawkins Prairie” became “Ivanhoe.”


    Born in 1840 in Alabama, soon an orphan, Joseph Deupree was seven when he came to Texas with the family of Nathan Smith. Then, when Gideon and John C. Smith moved to their plantation on Red River, Joseph came along on a cattle drive. He entered McKenzie Institute near Clarksville at age fourteen. Back in Fannin County in 1856, he was at school in Bonham. Graduating from Baylor University as salutatorian (1859), Joseph finished his speech. General Sam Houston in the audience then got up and said, “Young man, you’ll go far in this life ahead of you.” Joseph will later write, “a good part of my youth was spent on the Smith farms on Red River.”

    In 1861, the year Gideon Smith voted for Texas’ Secession from the federal union, Joseph Deupree entered law school in Lebanon, Tennessee.  He was visiting relatives in Noxube County when the war started. Everybody was excited, he will write: Young men were forming companies; young women were giving picnics and “threatening to send hoop skirts to all who failed to join the Southern army.”

    Joseph Deupree joined the Noxube Cavalry with a promise of transfer to a Texas company at the first opportunity. During the next twenty months he was in the battles of Bellmont, Shiloh, Corinth and Britton’s Lane. On January 1, 1863 he transferred to Waul’s Texas Legion and a cavalry company from Washington County that included several of his Baylor schoolmates. Near Panola, Mississippi, on June 17 that year, he was captured by Union forces and held prisoner for twenty-three months. During the night of July 1, 1864, with five other Texas men, Deupree attempted an escape from Fort Delaware by swimming the bay. He was the only one recaptured and taken back to the fort, where he remained until April 10, 1865. The next month he was exchanged at the mouth of the Red River under the name of a dead man for whose unit a special exchange of prisoners had been arranged. “Turned loose,” he was told he could get home at his own expense.


    1921 December 13: Dr. John Cunningham of Ravenna was remembering  correspondents of the Bonham News. “Ajax” was Captain J. E. Deupree of Ivanhoe:


    ...highly educated...a veteran of the great Civil War...versatile writer.... [His] pen...dipped in caustic alkali. He frequently wrote from smiles to tears or from love to hatred...the most brilli
ant orator of the Bonham bar. But having married a beautiful young lady with a large landed estate on Red River (near Tulip), he quit Bonham and moved down to his palatial farm.... As a soldier he ranked high. As a prisoner of wrinkled war at Chesapeake Bay, he lived (ever hungry) on short rations and cats while in the island prison. He practiced law in the prison courts and was the most successful at Prison bar. On one occasion a prisoner had robbed a prison restaurant and arrest following, the accused wanted the Captain to clear him. The Captain inquired what he had for a fee; the reply, nothing but the grub he stole. The Captain said give me half of the ham, pies, cakes, and I will clear you. So whacks said the prisoner.

    They went into the trial with jury and strong opposing counsels, the Captain says on that occasion he made the best speech of his life. He won the case and the grub and says he enjoyed that fee more than any ever received afterward because he was half starved. One of the bold and daring adventures of the Captain was in attempting, one dark stormy night to escape prison by making a three mile swim, but was picked up by a passing schooner and returned to his island home. 

    The author [of this piece] at odd times and rainy days was a long correspondent of The News under the pen name of Mouster Touson, later under the name Roustabout. Yes, we have had many pen battles with Ajax but will let other pens second his epitaph....

   

    Joseph Deupree married Annie Jo Ervin on July 29, 1888. They had six children, incl
uding sons, Bryan and Felix, and a daughter, Grace. Joseph died on June 28, 1929 in Ravenna.

    Grace married Dr. A. L. Ridings and had a close friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1938, when Mrs. Roosevelt spoke at a benefit organized by Grace in Sherman, she was a guest in Grace’s home. Grace was a poet. She dedicated “Shawl of Song” to her mother, and “The Lone Star” to her father.

    Bryan Deupree (1896-1981) lived in Ravenna and “carried the mail” around parts of Mulberry. He traded land and cattle.

    Felix also carried the mail and was the “first sweetheart” of Mandy Parks in Mulberry. In 1918 the Fannin County Favorite reported the “unfounded rumor...that Felix, son of J. E. Deupree, of Ivanhoe, had been killed in France. These were but rumor, originating no one knew how, but they went round the county. They had the effect of making his father feel uneasy, though there was no ground for them that he could find.”

    Mandy married and outlived Pierce Donaldson by many years in Mulberry.

Then—“Felix died in my arms,” she said.