John Henry Brown.

Indian wars and pioneers of Texas online

. (page 9 of 135)
Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 9 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


learned for the first time, of the victory of San
Jacinto, and that they yet would see their only sur-
viving sister and brother-in-law, Capt. and Mrs.
McHenry. In writing of this incident in De Bow's
Review of December, 18.53, eighteen years after
its occurrence, I used this language: —

"These boys, thus rendered objects of sym-
pathy, formed a link in the legends of the old
Texians, and still reside on the Lavaca, much re-
spected for their courage and moral deportment."

It is a still greater pleasure to say now that they
ever after bore honorable characters. One of the
brothers died some years ago, and the other in
1889. The noble old patriot in three revolu-
tions — Mexico in 1820, South America in 1822,
and Texas in 1835 — preceded by gallant conduct
at New Orleans in 1815, when only sixteen years
old — the honest, brave and ever true son of Erin's
isle, Capt. John McHenry, died in 1885, leaving
a memory sweetly embalmed in many thousand
hearts.



Erath's Fight, January 7, 1837.



Among the brave and useful men on the Brazos
frontier from 1835 till that frontier receded far up
the river, conspicuously appears the name of the
venerable Capt. George B. Erath. He was born in
Austria. His first services were in Col. John H.
Moore's expedition for the relief of Capt. Robert
M. Coleman, to the Tehuacano Hill country, in
July, 1835. Though green from the land of the
Hapsburgs, he won a character for daring courage
in his first engagement, leading in the charge and
gaining the soubriquet of " The Flying Dutchman."
His second experience wns on the field of San Ja-
linto, April 21, 1836. In the summer of that year
he located at Nashville, at the falls of the Brazos,
and over after resided in that vicinity and McLen-



nan county. As surveyor and ranger for ten years
or more he had many adventures and was in many
skirmishes and engagements with the Indians. He
served in the Congress of the Republic, and after-
wards in the one or the other house of the Legisla-
ture, at intervals, till 18G5.

His third engagement as a soldier occurred on
the 7th of January, 18;i7, on Elm creek, in
Milam County. At that time Lieut. Curtis com-
manded a small company of illy equipped rangers
at a little fort at the three forks of Little river, in
Bell County, subsislin-^ chiefly on wild meat and
honey. Erath, as a lieutenant, was first there and
erected several cabins, but on the arrivul of Curtis
he became the ranking ollicer.



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



47



A man arriving at the fort reported a fresh
" foot " Indian trail twelve miles east and bearing
towards the settlements below. It was agreed that
Erath should pursue them. He started on the
morning of the 6th with thirteen men and boys,
nearly half being on foot. Three of the number
were volunteers for the trip, and eleven were sol-
diers, viz. : Lishley (a stranger), Robert Childers
(now living at Temple) and Frank Childers, his
boy-brother, volunteers ; the soldiers were Lieut.
Erath, Sergt. McLocblan, Lee R. Davis, David
Clark, Empson Thompson, Jack Gross, Jack
Houston, and four boys, viz. : Lewis Moore,
Morris Moore, John Folks and Green McCoy,
a boy from Gonzales. They traveled twenty-
three miles east, striking the trail and finding that it
was made by about a hundred Indians on foot. Af
night they heard the Indians, who were encamped
in the bottom, on the bank of Elm creek, eight
miles west of the present town of Cameron, in
Milam County. They remained quiet till nearly day-
light, then, after securing their horses, cautiously
approached along ravines and the bed of the creek
till they secured a position under the bank within
twenty-five yards of the yet unsuspecting savages,
who very soon began to move about and kindle
their flres. When it was sufficiently light each man
and boy took deliberate aim and about ten Indians
tumbled over. With revolvers (then unknown),
they could easily have routed the whole band. But
each one had to reload by the old process. During
the interval the Indians seized their guns, there not
being a bow among them, and, realizing the small
number of their assailants, jumped behind trees
and fought furiously. Some of them entered the
creek below to enfilade Erath's position, and this
compelled a retreat to the opposite bank, in accom-
plishing which David Clark was killed and Frank
Childers wounded. Erath continued to retreat by



alternation, one half of the men covering the retreat
of the other half for thirty or forty yards at a time,
so that half of the guns were alternately loaded and
flred. The bottom favored this plan till they
reached their horses at the edge of the prairie. On
the way, Frank Childers, finding his life ebbing,
reached a secluded spot on one side, sat down
by a tree against which his gun rested, and there
expired, but was not discovered by the enemy,
who, instead of continuing the fight, returned to
their camp and began a dismal howl over their
own dead.

There were numerous narrow escapes, balls cut-
ting the clothes of nearly every man. One broke
McLochlan's ramrod, another the lock of his gun,
a third bursted his powder horn, a fourth passed
through his coat and a fifth through the handker-
chief worn as a turban on his head. At- that time
the families of Neil McLennan and his sons-in-law
were living eight miles distant. The men were ab-
sent, and, but for this attack of the bold " Flying
Dutchman," the women and children would have
fallen easy victims to the savages. A month later
one of McLennan's young negroes was carried into
captivity by them. David Clark was past middle
age and was a son of Capt. Christopher Clark, of
near Troy, Lincoln County, Missouri, known to the
writer of these sketches from his infancy. Green
McCoy was a maternal nephew of Clark and a
paternal nephew of Jesse McCoy, who fell in the
Alamo. The Childers brothers were maternal
uncles of George W. Tyler, the first child born (in
1854) in Coryell County. Capt. Erath, Robert
Childers and Lewis Moore, of McLennan County,
are the only survivors of this episode of nearly
fifty-two years ago. Of the whole party, men and
boys, every one through life bore a good character.
They were in truth of the " salt of the earth " and
" pillars of strength " on the frontier.



The Surveyors' Fight in Navarro County, in October, 1838.



At this date the long since abandoned village of
" Old " Franklin, situated in the post oaks between
where Bryan and Calvert now stand, was the
extreme outside settlement, omitting a few families
in the Brazos valley, in the vicinity of Marlin, and
was the county seat of the original Robertson
County, with its immense unsettled territory.



including the west half of Dallas County and terri-
tory north and west of it. It was a rendezvous
for both surveying parties and volunteers on expe-
ditions against the Indians. Its male population
was much larger than the female, and embraced a
number of men of more or less note for intelligence
and courage. Among these were Dr. George W.



48



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



Hill, long a senator and once in President Houston's
Cabinet, for whom Hill County was named : Capt.
Eli Chandler, a brave frontiersman; E. L. R
Wheelock, Cavitt Armstrong, the father of the
Cavitt family of later times, and others.

There was a great desire on the part of both dis-
charged soldiers and other citizens who had just re-
ceived bounty and head-right certificates for land to
have them located and the land surveyed. In the
early summer of 1838, near Richlandcreek, twelve or
fourteen miles southerly from Corsicana, three men
belonging to a surveying party were surprised and
killed. Their names were Barry, Holland, and
William F. Sparks, a land locator from Nacog-
doches. The remainder of the party, too weak for
defense against the number of the savages, cau-
tiously and successfully eluded them and returned
home.

Early in October of the same year William F.
Henderson, for many years since an estimable
citizen of Corsicana, fitted out a surveying party
to locate lands in what is now the southwest por-
tion of Navarro County. He and his assistant each
had a compass. The entire party consisted of
twenty-four men and one boy, and was under the
command of Capt. Neill.

The party arrived on the field of their labors and
encamped at a spring or water hole about two mile
northwest of what after that expedition was and
ever since has been known as Battle creek.

Here they met with a large body of Indians,
chiefly Kickapoos, but embracing some of several
tribes, who were encamped in the vicinity, killing
buffalo. They professed friendship, but mani-
fested decided opposition to having the lands sur-
veyed, assuring the party that if they persisted
the Comanches and lonies would kill them. But it
was believed their design was only to frighten
them away. After a day or two a trial of the
compasses was made, when it was found one of
the needles had lost its magnetism and would not
work. William M. Love, afterward a well-known
citizen of Navarro County, and a Mr. Jackson were
sent back to Franklin for a magnet to recharge
the needle, thus reducing the party to twenty-
three. Early on the following morning Henderson
ran a line for a mile or so, more or less Indians
following and intently watching the manipulation
of the compass, one of them remarking: "It is
God's eye." The party, after a satisfactory trial,
returned to camp for breakfast, and after that was
over, returned to, and were about resuming their
work, when from a ravine, about forty yards dis-
tant, they were fired upon by about fifty Indians.
The men, led by Capt. Neill, at once charged upon



them, but in doing so, discovered about a hundred
warriors rushing to aid those in the ravine from
the timber behind them. At the same time about
the same number of mounted Indians charged
them from the prairie in their rear. Neill retreated
under heavy fire to the head of a branch in the
prairie with banks four or five feet high. There
was some brush and a few trees ; but seventy-five
yards below them was another cluster, of which
the enemy took possession. This was between 9
and 10 o'clock a. m., and there the besieged were
held under a fluctuating fire until midnight.
Every one who exposed himself to view was killed
or wounded. Euclid M. Cox for an hour stood
behind a lone tree on the bank doing much execu-
tion, but was finally shot through the spine, upon
which Walter P. Lane, afterwards a distinguished
Brigadier-general in the Confederate army, jumped
upon the bank and dragged him into the ravine,
in which he died soon afterwards. A man named
Davis, from San Augustine, having a fine horse,
attempted to escape through the line of Indians
strung in a circle around the little band, but he
was killed in sight of his comrades. A band of
mounted Indians, not participating in the fight,
collected on an elevation just out of gunshot, and
repeatedly called out, " Come to Kickapool Kick-
apoo good Indian! " and by gesticulations mani-
fested friendship, in which our men placed no
possible confidence ; but among them was Mr.
Spikes, a feeble old man of eighty-two years, who
said his days were few at best, and as he could not
see to shoot he would test their sincerity. He
mounted and rode up to them and was mercilessly
butchered. Night brought no relief or cessation
of the attack, and a number of our men were dead
in the ravine. The moon shone brightly until
midnight. But when it sank below the horizon,
the survivors determined to make an effort to reach
the timber on a brushy branch leading into a creek
heavily covered with thickets and trees, and dis-
tant hardly half a mile. Three horses yet lived,
and on these the wounded were placed, and the
fiery ordeal began. The enemy pressed on the
rear and both flanks. The wounded were speedily
shot from their horses. Capt. Neill was wounded
and immediately lifted on one of the horses, but
both fell an instant later. A hundred yards from
the brush Walter P. Lane was shot in the leg,
below the knee, shattering, but not breaking the
bone. He entered the brush with Henderson and
Burton. Mr. William Smith entered at another
place alone, and Mr. Violet at still a different
place, terribly wounded, and at the same instant
another man escaped in like manner. Once under



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



49



cover, in the dark, each lone man, and the group
of three, felt the necessity of perfect silence.
Each stealthily and cautiously moved as he or they
thought best, and the fate of neither became
known to the other until all had reached the settle-
ments. Smith, severely wounded, traveled by
night and lay secreted by day till he reached the
settlements on the Brazos, distant over forty miles.
The unnamed man, slightly wounded, escaped
eastwardly and succeeded, after much suffering,
in reaching the settlements. Henderson, Lane
and Burton found lodgment in a deep ravine lead-
ing to the creek. Lane became so weak from the
loss of blood that Henderson tore up his shirt to
stanch and bandage the wound, and succeeded in
the effort. Passing down some distance, they
heard the Indians in pursuit, and ascended the
bank and lay in brush with their guns cocked.
The pursuers passed within three or four feet but
failed to discover them. About an hour before
day they reached the creek and traveled down to
a muddy pool of water. On a log they crawled
onto a little island densely matted with brush,
under which they lay concealed all day. They
repeatedly heard the Indians, but remained undis-
covered. When night came as an angel of mercy,
throwing its mantle over them, they emerged from
their hiding place ; but when Lane rose up, the
agony from his splintered leg was so great that he
swooned. On recovering consciousness he found
that Burton, probably considering his condition
hopeless, was urging Henderson to abandon
him ; but that great-hearted son of Tennessee
spurned the suggestion. The idea inspired Lane
with indignation and the courage of desperation.
In words more emphatic than mild he told Burton
to go, and declared for himself that he could, and
with the help of God and William F. Henderson,
would make the trip. By the zigzag route they
traveled it was about thirty miles to Tehuacano
springs. They traveled, as a matter of course,
very slowly, and chiefly by night. Lane hobbling
on one leg, supported by Henderson. For two
days and nights after leaving their covert they had
neither food nor drink. Their sufferings were
great and their clothing torn into rags. On the
third day, being the fourth from their first assault
by the enemy, they reached the springs named,
where three Kickapoos were found with their
families. At first they appeared distant and sus-
picious, and demanded of them where and how they
came to be in such condition. Henderson
promptly answered that their party, from which
they had become separated, had been attacked by
Comanches and lonies, and that they, in their dis-



tress, had been hoping to fall in with some friendly
Kickapoos. This diplomacy, however remote from
the truth, had the desired effect. One of the red
men thereupon lighted his pipe, took a few whiffs,
and passed it to Henderson, saying, " Smoke!
Kickapoo good Indian!" All smoked. Provis-
ions were offered, and the women bathed, dressed
and bandaged Lane's leg. Henderson then offered
his rifle to one of them if he would allow Lane to
ride his horse into Franklin. After some hesita-
tion he assented, and they started on; but during
the next day, below Parker's abandoned fort,
hearing a gunshot not far off (which proved to
belong to another party of Kickapoos, but were
not seen), the Indian became uneasy and left
them, taking both his pony and the rifle. It should
be stated that Lane's gun had been left where they
began their march, at the little island, simply
because of his inability to carry it ; hence Bur-
ton's gun was now their last remaining weapon.
But now, after the departure of the Indian, they
were gladdened by meeting Love and Jackson,
returning with the magnet, ignorant, of course, of
the terrible calamity that had fallen upon their
comrades. Lane was mounted on one of their
horses, and they hurried on to Franklin, arriving
there without further adventure.

A party was speedily organized at Franklin to
go to the scene and bury the dead. On their way
out at Tehuacano springs, by the merest accident,
they came upon Mr. Violet in a most pitiable and
perishing condition. His thigh had been "broken,
and for six days, without food or water, excepting
uncooked grasshoppers, he had crawled on his
hands and knees, over grass and rocks and through
brush, about twenty-five miles, in an air line, but
much more, in fact, by his serpentine wanderings
in a section with which he was unacquainted. His
arrival at the springs was a providential interposi-
tion, but for which, acconapanied by that of the
relief party, his doom would have been speedy and
inevitable. Two men were detailed to escort him
back to Franklin, to friends, to gentle nursing, and
finally to restoration of heallh, all of which were
repaid by his conduct as a good citizen in after
life.

The company continued on to the battle-ground,
collected and buried the remains of the seventeen
victims of savage fury, near a lone tree.

It mav well be conceived that heroic courage and
action were displayed by this little party of twent}'-
three, encircled by at least three hundred Indians —
not wild Comanches with bows and arrows, but the
far more formidable Kickapoos and kindred asso-
ciates, armed with rifles. It was ascertained after-



50



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



wards that they had sustained a loss in liilled equal
to double the number of the Texians, besides many
wounded. It was believed that Euclid M. Cos,
before receiving his death wound, killed eight or
ten.

The Surveyors' Fight ranks, in stubborn courage
and carnage, with the bloodiest in our history —
with Bowie's San Saba fight in 1831, Bird's victory
and death in Bell County in 1839, and Hays'
mountain fight in 1844, and others illustrating sim-
ilar courage and destructiveness.

THE SLAIN.

Of the twenty-three men in the fight seventeen
were killed, viz. : Euclid M. Cox, Thomas Barton,
Samuel Allen, — Ingraham, — Davis, J. Hard,
Asa T. Mitchell, J. Neal or Neill, William Tremier,
— Spikes, J. Bullock, N. Barker, A. Houston, P.
M. Jones, James Jones, David Clark, and one
whose name is not remembered.

Those who escaped were William F. Henderson,
Walter P. Lane, wounded as described, and Bur-
ton, who escaped together; Violet, wounded as de-
scribed ; William Smith, severely wounded in the
shoulder; and the man slightly wounded, who
escaped towards the east — 6. Messrs. Love and
Jackson, though not in the fight, justly deserve to
be classed with the party, as they were on hazard-
ous duty and performed it well, besides relieving
Lane and then participating in the interment of the
•dead. •

In the year 1885, John P. and Rev. Fred Cox,
sons. of Euclid, at their own cost, erected, under
the shadow of that lone tree, a handsome and beflt-
-ting monument, on which is carved the names of
.all who were slain and all who escaped, excepting



that one of each class whose names are missing.
The tree and monument, inclosed by a neat fence,
one mile west of Dawson, Narvarro County, are in
plain view of the Texas and St. Louis railroad.

Note. This William Smith, prior to this dis-
astrous contest, but at what precise date cannot be
stated, but believed to have been in the winter of
1837-8, lived in the Brazos bottom. The Indians
became so bad that he determined to move, and
for that purpose placed his effects in his wagon in
his yard, but before starting his house was at-
tacked. He barred his door and through cracks
between the logs fired whenever he could, nearly
always striking an Indian, but all his reserve
ammunition had been placed in the wagon and the
supply in his pouch was nearly exhausted, when
Mrs. Smith opened the door, rushed to the wagon,
secured the powder and lead and rushed back.
Balis and arrows whizzed all about her but she
escaped with slight wounds and immediately began
moulding bullets. She thought not of herself but
of her little children. Honored forever be the
pioneer mothers of Texas and thrice honored be
such as Mrs. Smith. It was my pleasure after-
wards, personally, to know her and some of her
children, and to serve on the Southwestern frontier
with her fearless husband, an honest Christian
man. One of their sons was the late Prof. Smith
of Salado College, a son worthy of such parents.
Mr. Smith crippled so many of his assailants that
thoy retired, leaving him master of the situation,
when he removed farther into the settlements.
There is one fact in connection with this affair
that, as a Texian, I blush to state. There was an
able-bodied man in Mr. Smith's house all the time
who slunk away as the veriest craven, taking
refuge under the bed, while the heroic father and
mother "fought the good fight and kept the
faith." I have not his name and if it were known
to me would not publish it, as it may be borne by
others of heroic hearts, and injustice might be
done ; besides, the subsequent life of that man must
have been a continuing torture.



Karnes' Fight on the Arroyo Seco, August 10, 1838.



From the beginning of 1837, lo his death in
August, 1840, Henry W. Karnes, a citizen of San
Antonio, stood as a pillar of strength and wall of
defense to the Southwestern frontier. He was ever
ready to meet danger, and often commanded small
bodies of volunteers in search or pursuit of hostile
Indians. He had numerous skirmishes and minor
encounters with them and was almost invariably
successful.



In the summer of 1838, in command of twenty-
one fearless volunteers, while halting on the Arroyo
Seco, west of the Medina, and on the 10th day of
August, he was suddenly and furiously assailed by
two hundred mounted Comanches ; but, ever alert
and prepared for danger, in the twinkling of an eye
his horses were secured and his men stationed in
their front, somewhat protected by a ravine and
chaparral, and fired in alternate platoons, by which



INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.



51



-one-third of their guns were always loaded to meet
the attack at close quarters. Their aim was deadly
and warriors were rapidly tumbled to the ground.
Yet, knowing they were ten to one against the
Texians, the Comanches were not willing to give up
the contest till over twenty of their number lay
dead, and doubtless as many more were wounded.
■Col. Karnes, in his intense and unselfish desire to
both save and encourage his men, greatly exposed
himself and was severely wounded, this being the
only casualty to his party, though nearly all his
horses were more or less wounded. It was a gal-
lant and successful defense against immense odds,
.and served to cement more closely the already



strong ties that bound the modest but ever faithful
and fearless Karnes to the hearts of the people of
San Antonio and the whole Southwest. Living,
fighting and dying in the country without family or
kindred ; leaving no trace on paper indicating his
long and faithful service ; largely winning achieve-
ments of which neither oflScial nor private record
was kept ; though personally having had very slight
acquaintance with him, it has ever been to the writer
a sincere pleasure to rescue from oblivion his many
gallant deeds, and place his memory where it right-
fully belongs in the galaxy composed of the truest,
best, most unselfish and bravest men who wrought
for Texas at any time between 1821 and 1846.



The Captivity of the Putman and Lockhart Children in 1838.



In the summer of 1837, succeeding the great
-exodus of 1836, Mr. Andrew Lockhart returned to
his frontier home on the west side of the Guad-
alupe, and nearly opposite the present consider-
able town of Cuero, in DeWitt County. He was
accompanied, or soon joined, by Mitchell Putman,
with his wife and several children. Mr. Putman
was a man of good character, and had been honor-
ably discharged from the army after having served
a full term and being in the battle of San Jacinto.
The two families temporarily lived in the same
yard.

When the pecans began ripening in the fall, the
children of both families frequented the bottom
near by to gather those delicious nuts, which, of
course, were highly prized at a time when nearly
all, and oftentimes all, the food attainable was



Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 9 of 135)