John Henry Brown.

Indian wars and pioneers of Texas online

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country, now embracing all of Gonzales, Caldwell,
Guadalupe and De Witt counties and portions of
Lavaca, Wilson and Karnes, he left for Missouri to
bring out his family. At the same time, Maj.
James Kerr was appointed surveyor of the colony,
with authority to lay out the capital town and sub-



divide the dedicated four leagues of land upon
which it was to be located into small farm lots to be
allotted to the settlers of the town. In fulfillment
of his duties, Maj. Kerr, with his negro servants
and six single men, arrived on the present site of
Gonzales in July, 1825, he thereby becoming the
first American settler, as the head of a family, west
of the Colorado river in Texas.

The six single men who accompanied him to
Gonzales, and for a time remained in his service as
chainmen, rodmen or hunters, were the afterwards
famous Deaf Smith, Bazil Durbin, John Wight-
man, Strickland, James Musick and Gerron


His chief servants were Shade and Anise, the
parents and grandparents of numerous offspring,
who became widely known to the future settlers of
the country and greatly esteemed for their fidelity
to every trust and their patriotism in every conflict.

Soon after Maj. Kerr's settlement, Francis
Berry, with a family of children and two step-
children, John and Betsy Oliver, arrived and settled
half a mile below him. Cabins were erected and
their new life auspiciously begun.

The little settlement remained in peace for a year,
receiving occasional calls from passing parties of
Indians, professing friendship, and occasional visits
from Americans exploring the country. Among
these were Elijah Stapp, from Palmyra, and Edwin
Moorehouse, from Clarksville, Missouri, both of
whom settled in Texas five or six years later.

Capt. Henry S. Brown, brother-in-law of Maj.
Kerr, having arrived on the lower Brazos as a Mex-
ican trader in December, 1824, made his first trip
into Mexico in 1825, and halted his caravan for rest
at the new settlement on both his outward and
return trip.

In the meantime, Maj. Kerr prosecuted his
labors in the survey of lands, his people subsisting
on wild meat and coffee. Each household opened
afield and planted crops in the spring of 1826. In
June, Maj. Kerr was absent on the Brazos.
There was to be a primitive barbecue on the Colo-
rado at Beson's, seven miles below the present
Columbus. It was agreed among the pilgrims that
they must be represented, notwithstanding the dis-
tance was about seventy miles. Bazil Durbin,
John and Betsy. Oliver and Jack, son of Shade and
Anise, were selected as the delegates. On the
afternoon of Sunday, July 2d, this party left on
horseback for Beson's. At that time Deaf Smith
and Hinds were out buffalo hunting ; Musick,
Strickland and the colored people were spending
the afternoon at Berry's, and John Wightman was
left alone in charge of the premises, consisting of a

double log house, with passage between and two or
three cabins in the yard. No danger was appre-
hended as no indications of hostility by the Indians
had been observed.

Durbin and party traveled fourteen miles, en-
camped on Thorn's branch and all slept soundly,
but about midnight they were aroused by the war^
whoop and firing of guns. Springing to their feet
they discovered that their assailants were very near
and in ambush. Durbin fell, but was assisted into
an adjoining thicket where all found safety. The
Indians seized and bore away their horses and all
their effects. Durbin had a musket ball driven
into his shoulder so deep that it remained there till
his death in Jackson County in 1858, thirty-two years
later. He suffered excruciating pain, from which,
with the loss of blood, he several times fainted.
■Daylight came and they retraced their steps to
headquarters ; but on arriving were appalled to
find the house deserted and robbed of its contents,
including Maj. Kerr's papers and three surveying
compasses, and Wightman dead, scalped and his
mutilated body lying in the open hallway. Hast-
ening down to Berry's house they found it closed,
and written on the door with charcoal (for Smith
and Hinds) the words: "Gone to Burnam's, on
the Colorado." It was developed later that when
Musick, Strickland and the colored people returned
home late in the evening they found this condition
of affairs, returned to Berry's and all of both
houses left for the Colorado. As written by the
writer more than forty years ago, in the presence
of the sufferer: "Durbin's wound had already
rendered him very weak, but he had now no alter-
native but to seek the same place on foot, or perish
on the way. Three days were occupied in the trip,
the weather was very warm and there was great
danger of mortification, to prevent which mud
poultices, renewed at every watering place, proved
to be effectual."

And thus was the first American settlement west
of the Colorado baptized in blood.

Maj. Kerr then settled on the Lavaca and made
a crop there in 1827. His place temporarily served
as a rallying point for De Wilt and others, till the
spring of 1828, when the settlement at Gonzales
was renewed. Maj. Kerr remained permanently
on the Lavaca, but continued for some years as
surveyor of De Witt's colony. The temporary set-
tlement on the west of the Lavaca was subsequently
known as the "Old Station," while Maj. Kerr's
headright league and home were on the east side.

In the autumn of 183S, John Castleman, a bold
and sagacious backwoodsman, from the borders of
Missouri, with his wife and four children and his



wife's mother, settled fifteen miles west of Gonzales,
on the San Antonio road and on Sandy creek. He
was a bold hunter, much in the forest, and had four
ferocious dogs, which served as sentinels at night,
and on one occasion had a terrible fight with a
number of Indians in the yard endeavoring to steal
the horses tied around the house. They evidently
inflicted severe punishment on the savages, who
left abundant blood marks on the ground and were
glad to escape without the horses, though in doing
so, in sheer self-defense, they killed each dog.
Castleman, in his meanderings, was ever watchful
for indications of Indians, and thus served as a
vidette to the people of Gonzales and persons
traveling on that exposed road. Many were the
persons who slumbered under his roof rather than
camp out at that noted watering place.

In the spring of 1835, a party of thirteen French
and Mexican traders, with pack mules and dry
goods from Natchitoches, Louisiana, en route to
Mexico, stopped under some trees a hundred yards
in front of the cabin. It was in the forenoon, and
before they had unpacked Castleman advised them
that he had that morning discovered ' ' Indian
signs" near by and urged them to camp in his
yard and use his house as a fort if necessary.
They laughed at him. He shrugged his shoulders
and assured them they were in danger, but they
still laughed. He walked back to his cabin, but
before he entered about a hundred mounted
savages dashed among them, yelling and cutting
out every animal of the party. These were guarded
by a few in full view of the camp, while the main
body continued the fight. The traders improvised
breastworks of their saddles, packs and bales of
goods and fought with desperation. TJie engage-
ment lasted four hours, the Indians charging in a
circle, firing and falling back. Finally, as none of
their number fell, the besieged being armed only
with Mexican escopetas (smooth-bored cavalry
guns) they maneuvered till all the traders fired at
the same time, then rushed upon and killed all who
had not previously fallen. Castleman could, many
times, have killed an Indian with his trusty rifle
from his cabin window, but was restrained by his
wife, who regarded the destruction of the strangers
as certain and contended that if her husband took
part, vengeance would be wreaked upon the
family — a hundred savages against one man.
He desisted, but, as his wife said, " frothed at
the mouth" to be thus compelled to non-ac-
tion on such an occasion. Had he possessed a
modern Winchester, he could have repelled the
whole array, saving both the traders and their

The exultant barbarians, after scalping their
victims, packed all their booty on the captured
mules and moved off up the couuti-y. When night
came, Castleman hastened to Gonzales with the
tidings, and was home again before dawn.

In a few hours a band of volunteers, under Dr.
James H. C. Miller, were on the trail and followed
it across the Guadalupe and up the San Marcos,
and finally into a cedar brake in a valley surrounded
by high hills, presumably on the Rio Blanco.
This was on the second or third day after the
massacre. Finding they were very near the
enemy, Miller halted, placing his men in ambush
on the edge of a small opening or glade. He sent
forward Matthew Caldwell, Daniel McCoy and
Ezekiel Williams to reconnoitre. Following the
newly made path of the Indians through the brake,
in about three hundred yards, they suddenly came
upon them dismounted and eating. They speedily
retired, but were discovered and, being only three
in number, the whole crowd of Indians furiously
pursued them with such yells as, resounding from
bluff to bluff, caused some of the men in ambush
to flee from the apparent wrath to come ; but of the'
whole number of twenty-nine or thrity, sixteen
maintained their position and their senses. Daniel
McCoy, the hindmost of the three scouts in single
file, wore a long tail coat. This was seized and
tightly held by an Indian, but " Old Dan," as he
was called, threw his arms backward and slipped
from the garment without stopping, exclaiming,
" Take it, d — n you I " Caldwell sprang first into
the glade, wheeled, fired and killed the first Indian
to enier. Others, unable to see through the brush
till exposed to view, rushed into the trap till nine
warriors lay in a heap. Realizing this fact, after
such unexpected fatality, the pursuers raised that
dismal howl which means death and defeat, and
fell back to their camp. The panic among some of
our men prevented pursuit. It is a fact that
among those thus seized with the "buck ague,"
were men then wholly inexperienced, who subse-
quently became distinguished for coolness and

Among others, besides those already named, who
were in this engagement were Wm. S. Fisher,
commander at Mier seven years later ; Bartlett D.
McClure, died in 1841; David Hanna, Lnndon
Webster and Jonathan Scott.

Dr. James H. C. Miller, who commanded, soon
after left Texas and settled in Michigan. His
name has sometimes been confounded with that of
Dr. James B. Miller, of Fort Bend, long distin-
guished in public life under the province and
republic of Texas.



An Adventure in 1826.

In the year 1826 a party of fourteen men of the
Red river settlements, of which Eli Hopkins was
quasi-leader, made a trip to the west, hunting and
trading with Indians. Besides Hopkins I have
been able to gather the names of Henry Stout,
Jamas Clark, Charles Birkham, Charles Hum-
phreys, Foi'd, Tyler, and Wallace —

«ight of the fourteen — though the only published
allusion to the matter I have ever seen (in the
Clarksville Times about 1874), only names Messrs.
Hopkins and Clark and states the whole number
at twenty men — nor does it give the year of the
■oceurrerrce. I obtained the date, the number of
men and the additional six names from Henry Stout,
some years later.

It seems that on their return trip homewards, these
fourteen men were surrounded and beset by a large
party of Indians, some of whom had been trading
in their camp before. Instead of opening fire, the
Indians demanded the surrender of Humphreys to
them, describing him by the absence of a front
tooth (a loss they had discovered in their previous
visit and now pretended to have known before),
alleging that on some former occasion Humphreys

had depredated upon them. This was known to
be false and a ruse to gain some advantage. So,
when the chief and a few others (who had retired
to let the party consult), returned for an answer,
they were told that Humphreys was a good man,
had done them no wrong and they would die rather
than surrender him. Wallace was the interpreter
and had been up to that time suspected of coward-
ice by some of the party. , But in this crisis they
quickly discovered their error, for Wallace, with
cool and quiet determination, became the hero,
telling them that he would die right there rather
than give up an innocent man to such murderous
wretches. His spirit was infectious. Every man
leveled his gun at some one of the Indians, Hop-
kins holding a deadly aim on the chief, till they all
agreed to leave the ground and not again molest

They at once retired, evidently unwilling to
hazard an attack on such men. Intrepid coolness
saved them while timidity would have brought their
destruction. As it was they reached home in

The Early Days of Harris County — 1824 to 1838.

The first political subdivision of the large dis-
trict of which the present large county of Harris,
containing a little over eighteen hundred square
miles, formed but a part, was erected into the
municipality of Harrisburg not long before the revo-
lution began, in 1835. It is, at this day, interest-
ing to note the first settlement of that now old,
historic and wealthy district, embracing the noble
•city of Houston, in which the whole State feels
justifiable pride. For a short while also the island
of Galveston formed a part of Harrisburg
"county" — so called under the Republic, after
independence in March, 1836.

The first Americans to cultivate the earth in that
region were Mr. Knight and Walter C. White, who,
at the time of Long's expedition in 1820, burnt off
a canebrake and raised a crop of corn on the San
Jacinto, near its mouth ; but they did not remain


there, becoming subsequently well-known citizens of
Brazoria. For an account of the first actual set-
tlers of the district during the first ten or twelve
years, I am indebted to the fine memory and facile
pen of Mrs. Mary J. Briscoe, of Houston, whose
evidence dates from childhood days, her father,
John R. Harris, the founder of Harrisburg, having
settled there in 1824, and laid out the town in 1826.
He built the first steam saw mill in Texas, for which
he received as a bounty two leagues of land. He
became also a merchant, established a tannery and
owned the schooner " Rights of Man," which plied
between Harrisburg and New Orleans. In 1828 his
brother David came ; in 1830 William P. Harris,
came, accompanied by " Honest " Bob Wilson, and
in 1832 came Samuel M. Harris, a fourth brother,
all of whom came from Cayuga County, New York,
and were valuable men. Mary J., daughter of the



first immigrant, John R. Harris, subsequently mar-
ried Capt. Andrew Briscoe, who, as the colleague of
the grand Mexican patriot, Don Lorenzo de Zavala,
from that municipality, signed the declaration of
independence, and fifty days later commanded one
of the largest companies at San Jacinto. He was
also the first Chief Justice of Hariisburg County
and so remained for many years. The well-known
De Witt C. Harris, who died in 1860, was a brother
of Mrs. Briscoe, as is also Lewis B. Harris, of San
Francisco, who was my fellow-soldier on the Rio
Grande in 1842.

According to the notes of Mrs. Briscoe the first
actual settlers arrived in April, 1822, of whom
Moses L. Choate and William Pettus were the first
settlers on the San Jacinto, and a surveyor
named Ryder, unmarried, settled on Morgan's
Point, on the bay. In June John Ijams, with his
wife and two youthful sons arrived, of whom John,
the elder, then fifteen years old, still lives in Hous-
ton, aged 82, a tribute certainly to the climate in
which he has lived sixty-seven years. They settled
at Cedar Point, afterwai-ds a favorite home of Gen.
Sam Houston. Johnson Hunter settled near Mor-
gan's Point, but ultimately on the Brazos. In the
same year Nathaniel Lynch settled at the confluence
of the San Jacinto and Buffalo bayou, where
Lynchburg stands ; John D. Taylor on the San
Jacinto at the place now called Midway ; John
Jones, Humphrey Jackson and John and Frederick
Rankin, on the same river, where the Texas and
N. O. railroad crosses it. Mr. Callahan and Ezekiel
Thomas, brothers-in-law, located as the first set-
tlers on Buffalo bayou. Mrs. Samuel W. Allen,
youngest daughter of Mr. Thomas, still resides in
Houston — another tribute to the climate. In the
same year four brothers, William, Allen, Robert
and John Vinee, all young men, settled just below
the mouth of Vince's bayou, rendered famous in
connection with Vince's bridge immediately before
the battle of San Jacinto, the destruction of the
bridge by order of Gen. Houston, leading to the
capture of Santa Anna. William Vince had a horse
power sugar mill on his place. During the same
year, Mrs. Wilkins, with her two daughters and her
son-in-law. Dr. Phelps, settled what is now known
as Frost-town in the city of Houston, being the
first settlers there. In 1824 came Enoch Bronson,
who settled near Morgan's Point ; also Wm. Blood-
good and Page Ballew, with families, and several
young men who settled in the district ; also Arthur
McCormick, wife and two sons, who settled the
league on which, twelve years later, the battle of
San Jacinto was fought. He was drowned soon
afterwards in crossing Buffalo bayou, as was his

surviving son, Michael, a long time pilot on a
steamboat, in 1875. It was suspected that the
widow, eccentric, well-to-do and living alone, was
murdered by robbers and burnt in her dwelling.
George, Jesse, Reuben and William White, in 1824,
settled on the San Jacinto, a few miles above its
mouth; William Scott at Midway, together with
Charles E. Givens, Presly Gill and Dr. Knuckles,
who married Scott's daughter, while Samuel M.
Williams married another. [Mr. Williams was
the distinguished secretary of Austin's Colony and
afterwards, long a banker in Galveston. J

In 1824, Austin, with Secretary Williams and the
Commissioner, Baron de Bastrop, visited the settle-
ment and issued the first titles to those entitled to

In 1825 the Edwards family settled on the bay
at what has since been known as Edwards' Point.
Ritoon Morris, a son-in-law of Edwards, and a man
of wealth, came at the same time. He was greatly
esteemed and was, known as " Jaw-bone Morris,"
from a song he and his negroes sang while he picked
the banjo. He settled at the mouth of Clear Creek.
About 1829 Mr. Clopper, for whom the bar in Gal-
veston bay is called, bought Johnson Hunter's
land and afterwards sold it to Col. James Morgan,
who laid out a town destined never to leave its
swaddling clothes, calling it New Washington. Its
chief claim to remembrance is in the visit of Santa
Anna a day or two before his overthrow under the
war cry of "Remember the Alamo." Sam Mc-
Gurley and others were early settlers on Spring
Creek. David G. Burnet, afterwards President,
came in 1826. In 1831 he brought out the machin-
ery for a steam mill which was burned in 1845.
With him came Norman Hurd and Gilbert Brooks,
the latter still living. President Burnet built his
home two or three miles from Lynchburg. Lynch-
burg, and San Jacinto, opposite to it, were de-
stroyed by the great storm and flood, on the 17th
of September, 1875.

Passing over the intervening years, we find that
in 1835 the municipality of Harrisburg abounded
in a splendid population of patriotic citizens, the
noble Zavala having become one of them. In the
Consultation of November 3-14, 1835, her delegates
were Lorenzo de Zavala, William P. Harris, Clem-
ent C. Dyer, John W. Moore, M. W. Smith and
David B. McComb. In the convention which de-
clared independence, March 1-18, 1836, her dele-
gates were Lorenzo de Zavala and Andrew Briscoe,
as previously stated. When the provisional gov-
ernment of the Republic was created David G.
Burnet was elected President and Lorenzo de
Zavala Vice-president, both of this municipal-



ity. Harrisburg, grown to be quite a village,
was the seat of justice, and from March 22d
to April 13lh, 1836, it was the seat of govern-
ment, but abandoned on the approach of the Mexi-
can army, by which it was burned. The first Lone
Star flag had been improvised there in March by
Mrs. Dobson and other ladies — that is, the first
in Texas, for that by Miss Troutman, of Georgia,
had been made and presented to the gallant Capt.
(afterwards Colonel) William Ward two or three
months earlier. The ladies also, says Mrs. Briscoe,
cut up all their flannel apparel to make cartridges,
following the example of Mother Bailey, in Groton,
Connecticut, in the war of 1812.

In August, 1836, the brothers A. C. and John K.
Allen laid out the town of Houston. The First Con-
gress of the Republic, at Columbia, on the 15th of
December, 1836, selected the new town as the seat
of government, to continue until the session of 1840.
The government was removed there prior to May
1st, 1837. Soon afterwards the county seat was
moved from Harrisburg to Houston, and the latter,
under such impulsion, grew rapidly. This was
one of those enterprising movements at variance
with natural advantages, for all know that Harris-
burg, in facilities for navigation, was greatly supe-
rior to Houston, and, as a town site otherwise, fully
as desirable. But notwithstanding all these, pluck
and enterprise have made Houston a splendid city.

The first sail vessel to reach Houston was the
schooner Rolla, on the 21st of April, 1837, four
days in making the trip of 10 or 12 miles by water
from Harrisburg. That night the first anniversary
of San Jacinto was celebrated by a ball, which was
opened by President Houston and Mrs. Mosely
Baker, Francis R. Lubbock and Miss Mary J. Har-
ris (now Mrs. Briscoe), Jacob W. Crugerand Mrs.
Lubbock and Mr. and Mrs. Welchmej'er.

The first marriage license signed under the laws
of the Republic, July 22, 1837, by DeWitt C. Har-

ris, county clerk, was to Hugh McCrory and Mary
Smith, and the service was performed next day by
the Rev. H. Matthews, of the Methodist church.
Mr. McCrory died in a few months, and in 1840 the
widow married Dr. Anson Jones, afterwards the
last President of Texas. She still lives in Houston
and recently followed to the grave her popular and
talented son, Judge C. Anson Jones.

At the first District Court held in Houston, Hon.
Benjamin C. Franklin presiding, a man was found
guilty of theft, required to restore the stolen money
and notes and to receive thirty-nine lashes on his
bare back, all of which being accomplished, it is
supposed the victim migrated to other parts.
Thieves, in those days, were not tolerated by foolish
quibbles or qualms of conscience. There were no
prisons and the lash was regarded as the only avail-
able antidote.

In 1834 the Harris brothers brought out a small
steamboat called the Cayuga, but the first steamer
to reach Houston was the Laura, Capt. Thomas
Grayson. On the first Monday in January, 1838,
Dr. Francis Moore, Jr., long editor of the Tele-
graph and afterwards State geologist, was elected
the first mayor of Houston. He and his partner,
Jacob W. Cruger, early in 1837, established the
first newspaper, by removing the Telegraph from
Columbia. On the 21st of May, 1838, agrandball
was given by the Jockey Club, in Houston. " The
ladies' tickets," says Mrs. Briscoe, "were printed
on white satin, and I had the pleasure of dancing
successively, with Generals Sam Houston, Albert
Sidney Johnston and Sidney Sherman."

I have condensed from the interesting narrative
a portion of its contents, omitting much of interest,
the object being to portray the outlines of how the
early coast settlements passed from infancy to self-
sustaining maturity. Locally, the labors of this
early Texas girl — now ranking among the mothers
of the land — are of great value.

Fight of the Bowies with the Indians on the San Saba in 1831.

In 1832 Rezin P. Bowie furnished a Philadelphia
paper with the following narrative. It has been
published in several books since. Col. James,
Bowie made a report to the Mexican Governor at
San Antonio, not so full but in accord with this
report. It gives an account of one of the most
extraordinary events in the pioneer history of

"On the 2d of November, 1831, we left the

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