THE BOWIE NEWS, BOWIE, TEXAS Friday, January 4, 1957
Character Sketch Of Pioneer Resident
A "Character Sketch" of Ira Paschal Whitaker has been written by Jimi Adams of Houston. Mr. Whitaker passed away at his home in Bowie on Jan. 4th at the age of 93 years. The character sketch follows:
Some folks may not realize that the stalwart, yet gray headed gentleman who has been active around Bowie, up until recently, was a valiant pioneer of north Texas. He was also a circuit riding minister of the gospel whom everyone called "Uncle Pack" Whitaker. Last October he passed his ninety-third milestone, yet he was still able to manage for himself. He was born in northern Kentucky as the Civil War raged around Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, away back in 1863.
Even though living near the beautiful Ohio was inspirational, distress and perplexity of war kept nipping at the heels of little "Packís" parents. At that time the Ohio and the Mississippi continued to beckon and the lure of far away Texas was irresistible. So, one of their neighbors decided to make the trip to Texas with the Whitakers when Pack was only three.
Together they purchased a raft upon which they loaded their wagon, their team, and the necessities of life. Floating down those wide rivers was so delightful that no one wanted to sleep on moonlit nights. But, this couldnít last. They had to do some strenuous poling after they reached the Red River where it joined the Mississippi down below Natches.
Here, these Kentuckians really joined hands with trouble. Here, their hardships began in earnest. It was extremely difficult to pole this clumsy barge all the way across Louisiana and half way across north Texas. . .besides the Red River had plenty of quick-sand in it. They were compelled to do this before they could land at the Kentucky Colony which was situated in the big bend of the river due north of where Bowie now stands.
Here the two families had hoped to settle, but they met an old-time trapper and hunter. He advised them to move on saying, "Chief Big Tree scalped several of that colony not long ago, but most of them managed to get away. I was purtneer flabbergasted when old Big Tree emptied a big tow sack full of scalps on the ground before me. He said, "These from Kaintuk people! Heep mad at them! They want my hunting grounds! You know mister, when old Big Tree held up his most precious scalp, which belonged to a woman, my innards trembled. It was of thick and very long red hair. I knew it belonged to a young Mrs. Montgomery."
Hearing this, the Whitakers had a sudden desire to make tracks to Collin County in double quick time. They stopped north of Dallas where there were more people to the square mile, and more safely by the square minute. Here, they lived in peace and comfort for about six happy years.
Packís mother had shown him many fascinating Bible stories, and helped him understand them. He often walked ten miles to a church meeting, and not only that, he would arrive before the congregation did. Here in Collin County, his industrious little mother died, and was buried in a three dollar casket. However, even in those days, that meager sum only paid for the material. Loving hands of friends and relatives made the casket, dug the grave, and administered to all the needs of the dead.
When Pack spoke of this recently, he chuckled with a gleam in his eyes, "Today liviní comes high, but dyiní comes higher! Itís a pity we canít go back to makiní our own coffins again."
But, Packís folks didnít get to stay there as long as they desired. Like good old Daníel Boone, they were ousted from their property on account of a faulty title. Adversity drew the Whitakers closer together and closer to the Bible, as they moved to Cooke County.
Packís appreciation of the scriptures caused him to ponder over them until the wee small hours of the mornings. He often went miles to discuss them with friends. By the time he was twenty-two, he had gone to live with his brother in Wise county. He helped a neighbor clear his land and the ample wage of that day was fifteen dollars per month with "board and keep." Pack vowed that it bought more sixty-five dollars does now.
In 1886, Pack helped that scarcely settled neighborhood to establish a church in a little white building. They worked steadfastly to build the membership to eighty, which was considered a large congregation at that time. In 1889, Pack married a sweet little miss by the name of Miss Lourena Stepp, and in 1890, his firstborn son, Frank, arrived followed by three other children whom he adored.
One fine day Pack preached a stirring doctrinal sermon at this little church, which was his pride and joy. Some of the good old deacons in the amen-corner disapproved both heartily and vociferously. They refused to let Pack speak in this church which he had helped to build. So goes the story of reformation, but that didnít bother Pack seriously. He simply moved over to an old school house and continued to preach of the coming kingdom of peace.
From this little place to the wide stretches of Texas and Oklahoma he became a familiar figure during his circuit riding days. He rode his faithful bay mare with little Frank behind his saddle. In one saddle pocket he carried his Bible, in the other was food for him and the boy. After Frank grew and married, Pack then traveled in a buggy or on the train. When his wife died, he remained a widower for several years, but finally married a gracious widow, Mrs. Whitecotton, and lived in Bowie.
Uncle Pack continued his preaching and teaching until the very last, but he always insisted that he was a farmer by profession. He was a logical reasoner with a ready wit and humor which was a convenient talent on the lecture platform, or in a debate. His love for music almost equaled his desire for a better Biblical understanding. Even at his 92nd birthday celebration he still had a clear strong voice when he and Frank sang a duet together.
Now Packís circuit riding days are over, and with a burning zeal in his eyes, his last words were, "Tell them Son, that earthís darkest hour is just before the dawn. Tell them to ĎSeek the Lord, ye meek of the earth; seek meekness, seek righteousness. It may be that ye shall be his in the day of the Lordís anger.í"
In death, as in life, "Uncle Pack" Whitaker had many friends. They came from New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. They overflowed the undertaking chapel, out into the halls and sidewalks. Three of his friends divided the honors of helping to say the last farewell to Uncle Pack. They came from Houston, Dallas and Lubbock.
In the quiet of a summerís evening some of the old-timers can still recall fond memories when Pack and little Frank passed by riding double on the little old bay mare.