The Caddo Star
April 11, 1876
Death of Maj. Aaron Harlan
It is with far more than ordinary feelings of sorrow that we attempt to discharge this last sad duty to the venerable and honored friend whose name appears at the head of this notice. In our pilgrimage through life it has been our good fortune to make an innumerable host of friends, but among them all never a one warmer or truer or more highly esteemed than was the subject of this tribute. Nor had the people of the Territory a better friend in the world, nor the town of Caddo a citizen whose loss would have been more keenly felt or more greatly regretted. But all this is nothing compared with the loss to his devoted family. Would that we could speak but a word to soften the terrible blow to the grief stricken widow and fatherless children. But language is futile. Time alone can heal this torn and bleeding heart; and all we can do is to promise that till we too are borne away to the sad Silent City, they will never lack for sympathy and a true friend.
Maj. Aaron Harlan was born in Jackson County, Ga. Dec. 18, 1811, and died April 3, 1876, in the 65th year of his age. His life was an active and eventful one, having spent the greater portion of it amid the wild scenes of the western frontier.
Leaving the home of his childhood in 1852, when but 21 years old, he started out in the wide world to seek his fortune. Turning his face toward the setting sun, the Mecca of every adventurous spirit, he traversed the wilds of Arkansas Territory till he came to its western limits, stopping finally at the lone cabin on the right back of the river where the city of Ft. Smith now stands. Here he stayed but a short time till he was employed by Coffee and Caldwell, and went with them beyond the Cross Timbers on the Red River to trade with the wild Indians. But a few days before he died he happened to meet with the now only surviving member of his trading party, Mr. Shelton, of Sherman, Texas, after a separation of near forty years. They talked over the success through which they had passed their youthful days and promised to meet each other in that better land beyond the grave.
For more than thirty years Maj. Harlan lived and traded among the Indians of this Territory and his honest, fair dealing won their universal confidence and esteem. Not one can say that he ever knowingly cheated or wronged them out of the value of a cent. During his life he met with several reverses of fortune, mainly due to his misplaced confidence in unfaithful friends.
Some two months ago he took a stock of goods and established a trading post at White Bead Hill, on the Washita River, above Paul’s’ Valley where he was at the time of his death. He was taken sick on Friday and died the following Monday at 2 o’clock, p.m. Three physicians attended him, but his disease- congestion of the bowels- refused to yield to medical skill. Death had marked him for its own. His son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Rooks, happened to be there on a visit when he was taken sick and waited on him throughout his illness and smoothed his dying pillow when the final moment came. The heart-broken wife with her two dear little children started up Sunday evening and reached there a few hours after the spirit had fled. He was perfectly conscious up to the last moment and died in the full hope of a glorious immortality. He left word for this wife and children to meet him in the better land beyond the darksome river, whither he had every assurance he was going. His was no death bed conversion; more than two years ago he prepared to meet his God.
About 12 o’clock on Wednesday the remains reached here and preparations were made for the burial. Business of all kinds was suspended, and nearly every inhabitant joined the mournful procession and followed to their last resting place the remains of him who founded the little Prairie City. At the grave the funeral services were performed by Rev. Mr. Morris, of this place, and Rev. Mr. Hulsey, of Paul’s Valley; and just as the sun went down in the gold tinted west all that was mortal of our loved neighbor and friend was lowered into the lone and silent grave and the will of God was accomplished.
One word more and our sad task is done. We cannot close this humble tribute to departed worth without repeating what we and others, who have known him long and well, have often remarked before: Maj. Harlan was possessed of far more than an ordinary share of the milk of human kindness and love for his fellow man; and as a husband and father he was an exception.
The welfare of his family was his only care. But a few days before starting out for the last time into the cold, hard world to earn something more for his wife and children he was in our office and remarked that he only hoped to live long enough to see the country changed from its present uncertain condition so he might know whether he was leaving his family a home they could call their own.
May He who tempers the winds to the shorn lamb, console the wounded heart of that lone weeping widow and have a protecting care over the orphaned daughters who so sadly mourn for the dear old father they will meet no more but in heaven, is the sincere prayer of the Star.