JOHNSON CITY and Blanco county lost a pioneer last month. Thousands of friends in Central Texas will miss Uncle Dave Wonsley who died about the middle of January as the influenza epidemic was mowing down other pioneers in Central Texas.
Uncle Dave was a picturesque old character with a history behind him that is highly engrossing. He was to be seen around Johnson City or Blanco or other towns around Blanco county nearly every day in his buggy. He was a picturesque old figure -- white beard, tall, big hat and boots.
There was never a reunion within miles of his farm near Henley that was complete without Uncle Dave. He attended all the reunions, barbecues and picnics and usually took part in many of the entertainment features. He was an old Ranger and attended conventions of the Ranger association this year at Colorado City and the previous year at Ranger.
There was a kindly twinkle in Uncle Dave's eye. Around Johnson City, they will tell you how Uncle Dave has ridden for miles to see some veteran of the Confederate war or some widow that he believed entitled to a pension. He worked with Sam Johnson, former member of the legislature, and between them, they managed to secure more pensions for the veterans or widows than any other team in Texas.
Uncle Dave Wonsley came to Blanco county in 1870. One of the first things that he did was to join Capt. Cox's ranger company on the year of the arrival. In the ranks of the company, Uncle Dave saw a great many battles against Indians that made life in Texas miserable. Johnson City and Blanco county was then part of the extreme western frontier that was roamed by the Comanches.
Capt. Cox's company was stationed at old Fort Griffin during the days of service when Wonsley was a member. Later the company was moved to Stephenville.
Uncle Dave rendered valuable service at these forts. He did a large amount of scout work in Blanco county when to scout was flirting with death.
Uncle Dave always had a story for his friends about some of his escapades. One of his favorites is related below.
He was cutting cedar on Cold Branch near Miller's Creek one day and had left his horse tied to a tree nearby. His saddle, lunch, gun and red overshirt were lying on the ground near the horse. A band of Comanches came up and stole the horse and other belongings of the old Indian fighter. Uncle Dave concealed himself in the bushes, and made his get-away down a hollow.
To add to the danger and excitement of the incident, two young hounds that he had following him commenced yelping and barking. Uncle Dave enjoyed telling this incident more than any other in his career. He would jestingly say that he ran all the Indians out of the country, but that he was "working a little bit in the lead of the pack."
Soon after this escape, he returned to his post and led a party of men in pursuit of the Indian outlaws. Sight of the band was picked up near the scene of the robbery. The leader was riding Uncle Dave's horse and wearing his red shirt.
A skirmish took place. Several of the red skins bit the dust, the rest were captured and the stolen property was retaken.
Dave Wonsley was noted for his bravery, daring and fighting ability. He was a genial, kind-hearted and generous man. He took a great interest in securing pensions for rangers, Confederate veterans and widows. He was always willing to assist any friend or any acquaintance when they were in trouble.
Uncle Dave was a splendid old-time fiddler. He always won honors at old fiddlers contests. It was seldom that a contest was held anywhere in the vicinity of where he happened to be that Uncle Dave was not in the heat of the fiddling. He was greatly attached to his old violin which was over 100 years old.
Uncle Dave, whose real name was David Wagner Wonsley, was 80 years old at the time of his death, Jan. 16. He was born in May, 1849 in Anderson county. He had a host of friends in Blanco, Guadalupe, Travis and Coryell counties. He had lived in all of them.
He was married in 1877 to Miss Amada Kent She survives him and now lives in California. There are three surviving sons. Tice and John live in Taft, Calif., and Jeff lives in Henley and was with his father when he died.
Mr. Wonsley was buried by the side of a daughter, Dora, who was Mrs. Boyd Conn, who died some years ago. One son, Frank, also preceded him in death.
Uncle Dave was left an orphan at an early age. He was reared by a Mr. Houchins of Guadalupe county and later of Henley.
Uncle Dave lies buried at Miller creek cemetery near Johnson City. He was a prominent Mason and asked that the Masons have charge of his funeral. It was impossible at the time because so many of the Dripping Springs lodge were ill, but memorial services were held shortly afterwards.