Just such a school was being taught by Wash Hullum, whose
father was one of the first settlers of Golconda (Palo Pinto). The
Hazlewood, Gonzales', Lynch, and Ledbetter children numbered among
those who attended this school. At the time W. H. Ledbetter mined
salt at the old Ledbetter Salt Works, about nine miles south and west
of the present city of Albany, and his sons, Harve L., and John (Dev),
attended the Wash Hullum school, which was being conducted at the
J. C. Lynch Ranch.
Late one evening while Mrs. Lynch was preparing supper,
little John came in the kitchen and his behavior disclosed he was
anxiously awaiting the evening meal. Shortly afterwards, however,
he went out with some of the children about two or three hundred yards
from the house to gather mesquite wax. The children became scattered
in a short time, returned to the ranch, for it was almost time for
supper. Little John, however, mysteriously disappeared. John Gonzales
was the last to see him. But just why he did not return, no one knew.
No one had heard him make an outcry. No Indians had been seen. And
no danger had been apprehended. But little John was gone. Only his
cap could be found. It was surmised that, perhaps, he had become dissatisfied
and started toward his father's salt works. But it was learned he
was not there. Almost immediately searching parties went in all directions
for fear the little fellow had become lost, and wandered through the
wild and open wastes of Western Texas. After diligently searching,
not a single clue that would tend to explain his disappearance, could
be found. The searching continued, and still no signs were seen. On
the third day, a few meager evidences, of Indians were found. For
thirty days, the local citizens searched and combed the earth for
little John Ledbetter. But his sudden disappearance remained as mysterious
as when first missed. By this time many people along the frontier
were wondering what had become of little John Ledbetter.
Since he could not be found, every effort was made to
locate the Ledbetter boy among the wild tribes of the northwest, but
the little fellow's fate still remained a mystery.
In after years, a young man reported to have been an Indian
captive, found his way to the ranches around old Fort Griffin. Since
this young man could not satisfactorily explain his early life history,
some of the frontier citizens began to surmise that perhaps he was
the long lost Ledbetter boy. The news reached Mr. and Mrs. Ledbetter,
who came at once to ascertain whether or not their long lost son had
at last been found. Mrs. Ledbetter, who was almost blind, felt a scar
on this young fellow's head, and since John had a similar scar when
he mysteriously disappeared, she thought this was her boy. Mr. Ledbetter,
however, was not sure. In fact he said it was not his son. He further
stated there was no family resemblance, and insufficient proof to
disclose this was John. But since Mrs. Ledbetter had been grieved
so many years, to satisfy her during declining days, Mr. Ledbetter,
in a measure, acknowledged him to be his lost boy. But neither he
nor his son Harve sincerely felt that John Ledbetter had really been
About the time, or shortly after Mr. Ledbetter died, this
mysterious fellow wrote back that he was not John Ledbetter, and his
real name was F. W. Wesley.
This fellow Wesley has, since, been a minister of the
Gospel, practiced medicine, and it was also reported he practiced
law. As further evidence that this was not really John Ledbetter,
when the estate was divided, F. W. Wesley received no part. Nevertheless,
there are people living today, of the opinion that this mysterious
fellow is really the long lost Ledbetter boy. Others have surmised,
although we so not quote it as a fact, that this mysterious F. W.
Wesley was hired to play this particular role, merely to please Mrs.
Ledbetter, who had yearned so many years for her long lost boy. Nevertheless,
the mysterious disappearance of John Ledbetter is today, as mystifying
and bewildering as it was when he first disappeared. Did he wander
away and perish in the wastelands of Western Texas? Was he carried
into captivity by the Comanches and Kiowas, who lived in the wilds
of the Northwest? These questions cannot be answered, for no one knows.
Note: Author interviewed: Mrs. J. C. Lynch, who was getting
supper when John Ledbetter disappeared, Harve L. Ledbetter, John's
brother, who was at the ranch at the time. Also interviewed, Mrs.
Wm. Cain, and Mrs. C. E. Ferguson, daughters of Geo. Hazlewood, J.
B. (Bud) Matthews, W. D. Reynolds, Mrs. Pete Harris, and several others
who were living in Shackleford, Stephens and adjoining counties at