William J.] 1829-1908 [Maltby.

Captain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life online

. (page 10 of 14)
Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 10 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

forward and the line was not sufficient to raise his head or turn him
in the least, and broke. Jeff sat down and meditated a little; go', up
and picked up the buck's head, took it near the fire, drew his big
knife, and Tom said, "What are you going to do now?" He replied,
"I am going to cut off one of these horns, make me a fish hook and
catch that fish. The boys laughed, as a matter of course, but he said,
"We will see where the laugh comes in the morning." So he deliber-
ately hacked off one of the horns just below the lower prong, and
cut off the horn just above the next prong, went and hobbled his
horse and brought the stake rope and fastened it securely just below
where he had cut off the horn the second time, cut four or five
pounds of the meat and wrapped it around the horn, but left the
prong uncovered, fastened the bait securely around the horn with
a piece of his small line that was left to the pole, tied his rope to a
small willow sapling and threw out his bait, saying, "Boys, I will
show you how to catch big fish in emergencies." So the next morn-
ing Jeff's long experience on the frontier where necessity had to be
the mother of invention proved good for he had the big fish, and
when he drew him out George remarked : "I'll be d d if that
ain't a whale or .the fish that swallowed Jonah, my name ain't
George Laird."


They now had fish enough to feed a regiment and could not use
a pound of it, so Jeff said, "It is a pity for the vultures to eat this
fish. I will take off my bridle bits and brand him and turn him
loose in this big water, and as the Indians have stolen many horses
and cattle from me should they catch him they will think I have a fish
brand as well as a horse and cattle brand/' So they branded him
thus [Heart-B] and H B and turned him loose. He swam a
few feet, turned down his head, threw up his tail and disappeared
beneath the Eia Grande waters. They extracted the hook, get-
ting the other piece of the line, and tied the two pieces togeth-
er, so the line was as good as ever, only for the knot.

As our little party of three had feasted as no other men had,
our horses were well rested up, and having plenty of good, barbecued
venison and enough bread baked to last them through any emergency
they mounted and turned their course for the once famous Hot
Springs, on the east side of the river. The old signs and trails
leading in to the springs indicated that the Indians held the virtues
of these springs as the people of old Biblical times held the Pool
of Siloam.

After resting and taking in the surroundings of the springs we
mounted our horses and rode up the river some two or three miles
Texas side. We rode straight up the valley east of the timber
and we came to a fresh trail of ten or fifteen horses going into
the river. We stopped, talked and hesitated a little but went straight
ahead for probably one mile when we came to another trail just like
the first; here we parlied much longer, but Jeff said that he would
like to go on and see the whole thing if we could. So we very hesi-
tatingly rode on, Jeff going some little distance in the lead. We had
gone but a little distance when Tom rode up to him and said, if we are
attacked and we are almost sure to be, you are so big they are
sure to kill you." He laughingly replied, "Tom, I don't know just
what I will do, but I tell you what I think I will do." They had
halted and George rode up. Jeff said, pointing to deep gully that high
water had washed out, "if we are attacked in such a place as this we


will drive the spurs to our horses and jump them in it, dismount and
win the fight. If we are attacked when we have no chance of cover,
I will jump off my horse and shoot him through the brain, you
and George jump off of your horses, let horses and mules go, and
we will all make breastworks of my dead horse and win the fight,
for we have got it to do to get back and report this country, and as
to their killing me, don't have any fear on that score, for they can't;
my guardian angel, or "still small voice" has always told me what,
and how to do, and I have always heeded its promptings."

The word promptings had hardly escaped from his lips when the
yell of a band of Indians echoed and re-echoed from bluff to blufl all
along the Rio Grande caused the hair on our heads to raise
straight up, and looking in the direction from which it came, ten
Indian? some three hundred yards distant were coming on us with
the speed of a hurricane. Jeff said, "Leave the mules, drive the
spurs to your horses and jump into that gulley." This was done
as quick as any mad or desperate leap was ever made by any man or
men. The mules were so frightened that they jumped in after, and
a clear voice rang out, "Jump off. George hold the horses." The
sudden disappearance of the little party caused the Indians to circle,
which gave the party time to prepare for action. Jeff said : "They
will come around within one hundred and fifty yards or two hundred
yards of us to draw our fire,- and get our exact location, so Tom,
as I promised to give you the first shot, I want you to make it
the best of your life, for on our first two shots depends defeat or
victory. When they come around to draw our fire I want you to
kill the lead Indian, and I will kill the next one, and George, \ou hold
the horses, and don't shoot unless Tom and I fail to check them, and
they come right on to us. Then let loose the horses and shoot to kill."
By this time Tom's nerves seemed to be as unruffled as a May morn-
ing and a smile of determination, so plainly depicted on his coun-
tenance, such as the beholder could never forget.

The Indians circled and came around within one hundred and
fifty yards at full speed when "pop," "pop" went Tom's and Jeff's


guns, and the lead Indian fell back and his horse jumped from urider
iiim. The second one's horse bounded high over the fallen one just as
Jeff pulled the trigger, which brought him above the sight, and
the ball killed his horse; the Indian struck the ground run-
runmg with the speed of a deer until he clutched his hand in the
mane of the fallen Indian's horse, bounded upon his back, and
tnen circled and rode at full speed to an elevation some half mile
distant and halted. They could be seen plainly by our little party,
but the high bank of the providential gully at the same time
hid us from the Indians. The bottom of the gully was compara-
tively level, so Jeff said, "Lead your horses, the mules will follow.
We must take time by the forelock, and get out of here before they
get reinforcements and find where we are. We led our horses a
short distance down the gully where a small elevation hid the Indians,
and here we mounted our horses and Jeff said, "We will ride
for all our horses have got in them until we strike the foot hills, the
mules will follow; which they did, and for some ten miles we
did some wild and daring riding, until they struck the foot hill, com-
ing on to a nice spot of grass and a nice, little round mound near
by. Jeff said, "Halt ! We must rest and graze our horses a while
as they have done us noble and never to be forgotten service in the
last hour/'

We did not unsaddle or unpack, but took the bits out of the
horses' mouths, so that they could eat grass without hindrance. We
had plenty of barbecued venison that had been prepared for this
or any other emergency, and were preparing to appease our
hunger, when we looked back from whence we came, and one,
two, three signal smokes shot up high above the muntains.

Jeff said : "See there, boys ; there are three parties of them, and
they are signaling to get together and surround us in that gully.
I will take me a hunk of meat and bread and go up on that little hill
and watch, while you watch the horses." This was done for one hour.
when we mounted and struck out for Carizo Pass station, via Eagle
Springs. We reached the springs late in the evening, watered our



almost famished horses, filled our canteens and moved on to find
a suitable place to camp after dark in case the Indians should follow
us. We found a suitable place to camp, ate a hearty lunch,
spread down our blankets and slept as soundly a? though nothing
unusual had happened during the day. The next morning they
awoke rather late, but were fully refreshed and as gay as larks.
Carizo Pass station plain in view, we made a pot of Western
strong coffee, and with barbecued buck and that same old appetite,
had an enjoyable breakfast, after which we packed up and
went on to the station, our heads set homeward. We reached the
station and prepared to board the first eastbound train, not for-
getting to return the lady her little fish hook, with many thanks,
saying, "Madam, you ought to keep that hook and line for a show,
for it caught a catfish that would weigh over one hundred pounds,"
which was the truth, but it did not pull him out.

The train came and everything was loaded, and our little party,
as the train pulled out, took their /seats to quietly think over their
trip on the Eio Grande. After some little time Tom and George
said : "Jeff, we don't know whether to tell that fish story or not. To
a heap of people it will look mighty fishy." He said: "Yes, but
nevertheless it is a fact that all experienced fishermen who have
caught big catfish know that often a hook is set out and a small
catfish twelve or fifteen inches long gets fast on the hook, and a big
catfish comes -along and swallows the little one, and the fisherman
gets them both; and the hook never sticks in the big fish's mouth.
The lack of experience will make the story fishy, that's all."

In due time we reached Baird and called on Mr. Glebe Merchant
and made an unfavorable report on the glowing prospects of the last
big ranch that might be obtained on Texas and Mexico soil jointly.

The report was that the river did not run continuously only for
a few months in the year, but stood in pools; that the cattle would
cross over and stray back for miles into Mexico, where they would
be an easy prey to the Mexican and other cattle thieves in general;
and that the drain on the herds would be greater than the increase.


So the brilliant hopes of the big cattle ranch of T. B. Hardley and
Clabe Merchant on the Rio Grande was abandoned in proof that
their judgment was good.

Some time afterwards a young man, full of life, vigor and" enter-
prise, discovered the location of the big cottonwood tree that has
been described in this recital. He married him a noble, pretty wife,
full of hope, courage and devotion. They loaded their effects, with
lumber fixtures and a mechanic to build them a house, and a boat
to ride upon the waters of this big pool. Here they located under
this big cottonwood tree, built them a house, and were monarchs
of all they surveyed for a time, until a band of murderers came upon
them and murdered them, cutting off her fair and beautiful head
with an axe, robbing the house of such things as they wanted, loaded
them into their boat, landed the boat over on the Mexican shore, and
have never been heard of since.

Later, Sam Cutbirth and the McWhorter Brothers, Winfield Scott
and others moved their herds to that section, and the drain on their
herds, as our little party wisely predicted, was so great that their
ranches were abandoned.


A Letter From Capt. Maltby.

Admiral, Texas, Dec. 17, 1904.

Mr. N. 0. Bawcom, Sweetwater, Texas: My Dear Sir As
this is my birthday, at which I arrive at my seventy-fifth
mile-post on life's journey, and as it was your lot to be
in the right place at the proper time to render me valuable
service, as may yet be demonstrated in the near future. Your
letter of recent date earnestly asking a brief statement of my long
residence on the frontier of Texas, my scouting and trailing of In-
dians, with the personal knowledge of the losses of cattle and horses
by the Comanche and Kiowa tribes of Indians, and not recovered by
their rightful owners, received. Up to the present time I have
strenuously refused to make such a statement as I now am going
to make to you. My reasons for not wishing to convey the infor-
mation are on account of my advanced age and enfeebled condition,
and, in fact, not having the courage or disposition to charge for my
time in going long distances to give testimony in the cases of losses
by Indian depredations. My time, age, aches and pains are about
all that I have left. Added to these, an invalid family makes up
the sum total of my heritage, after spending my youth, strength,
vigor and manhood in defense, both of our National and State

My life and career as a frontiersman of Texas dates back to 1850,


and extends over the period of time that dates down to 1874, both
dates inclusive that is to say, that I commenced an active frontier
life early in 1850 and closed my activities with the ending of the
year 1874. I believe I commanded either State Eangers or minute
men during as a great a period as any man living at the present,
or perhaps, as ever did live in Texas. I believe that I made as
many scouts and followed as many Indian trails as any man that
is living on the frontier at the present time or in the past within
the memory of man.

In the year of 1850 I was employed by the United States Gov-
ernment in locating, building and hauling supplies to many of the
Government posts, or forts, namely, Fort Worth, in Tarrant county,
Fort Belknap, in Young county; Fort Phantom Hill, in Jones
county ; Fort Mason, in Mason county ; Fort Clark, in Kinney county ;
Camp Colorado, in Coleman county, and also Fort Concho, in Tom
Green county, the latter fort being established in 1867. I worked
in the different capacities of teamster, wagon-master, carpenter,
scout, dispatcher, and, like David Copperfield, "doer of odd jobs."

In June, 1858, I got married and settled in Burnet county, and
engaged in stock raising. In July of that year the settlers in that
section of country were called upon to meet^at Dr. Wilson Barton's
ranch for the purpose of organizing for protection against the raidb
of murderous redskins, at that time wards of the National Govern-
ment. The meeting was fairly well attended, and a company of
minute men was organized and the work of trying to protect the
women, children and our property was instituted. I was elected as
one of the officers of this company, and we made monthly scouts dur-
ing the year of 1858, and the organization was maintained until the
fall of 1859. In the spring of 1861 the Indians began making
monthly raids on the frontier, particularly in Burnet county, and
especially in our immediate neighborhood, and it began to look as
though they would steal all the work stock as well as other horses
in the county. One of our neighbors, Waif ord Johnson, came and
asked me to assist in getting every man living within a reasonable


distance of our homes to meet at the place of Benjamin Owens, a
wealthy old bachelor, for the purpose of organizing another minute
company as the only means of protection. At that time a great many
men had volunteered and gone into the Confederate service, but the
call was promptly responded to, and at the appointed place and on
the designated date every man in that section, old or young, ministers
of the gospel and boys under the age required for military duty at-
tended and were enlisted in a regularly organized military company
The men who were too old to scout were assigned the task of sup-
plying the sinews of war, such as money, provisions, animals, guns,
ammunition and other things necessary to carry out the plans and
designs of a well-equipped organization; and all boys old enough
to ride and shoot were required to scout the country and notify the
comnijand of any Indians seen or freshly-made Indian trails discov-
ered. The command of this company was forced upon me because
of my years of experience and long service with the United States
Government. The company was not organized any too soon, for it
was but a few days later when the Indians came into that neighbor-
hood and stole all the work and saddle horses that were in the lots
and stables, and before we could follow them we had to go on the
range and get horses to ride. This delay left us b"t little chance to
catch them, but as we wanted to learn the trails they traveled, '-we
followed them about ninety miles to a crossing on the San Saba river,
and learned from the people in that section that in 1859 the Indians
had driven thirteen herds of cattle and horses across the river at
that point.

We returned from this trip, having accomplished nothing more
than to obtain the information in regard to the route they had trav-
eled. On the next light of the moon the Indians made another raid
into the same neighborhood and killed Walford Johnson, the man who
had assisted me in getting up the company. They had also murdered
Mrs. Johnson and her little daughter, about four or five years old.
This murder was committed on Dog branch, about one mile from
my home, and at the same place from where the Indians afterwards


drove off about three hundred head of my cattle and sixteen head of
stock horses and one stallion. I got the news of the killing of the
Johnson family late in the evening of the day on which it occurred.
I had been riding very hard all day, gathering my horses to drive them
to Caldwell county, south of Austin, hoping in this way to save
at least a few of them. I reached home about sundown, and had just
eaten my supper when my first lieutenant, John Owens, rode up and
informed me of the killing of the Johnson family. I had just put
my horses in a pasture, for which the Indians were doubtless headed,
but before reaching it they met and brutally murdered Johnson and
his family, and by this incident saved to me my horses. John Owens,
Alex Burton and myself rode all night getting the company together,
and early the next morning had collected thirty men, old and young,
after which I was one of the first to reach the tragic spot. We heard
a noise in a thicket, and on investigating found Mrs. Johnson's one-
year-old baby boy with an arrow shot through his arm. The little
fellow had certainly suffered inexpressible agony, lying there for
hours wounded, fevered, thirsty, without nourishment or a particle of
human attention; but even the wild animals prowling the forests of
that desolate, rugged, mountainous country had been more merciful
than the redskin demons, and had satiated their hunger with other
prey than a wounded babe, crying in the dark for a dead mother.
When attacked, Mrs. Johnson had doubtless run her horse near a
dogwood thicket in which the child was found, and with a ^mother's
love, last kiss and farewell prayer, had thrown her child into the

When we assembled my horse was completely exhausted, for T
had ridden him fully eighty miles in the last twenty-four hours,
and nothing but a Texas horse of the best mettle could have stood
the ordeal. An old gentleman by the name of Baker, who was too
old to scout, offered me the use of his horse. His offer was gladly
accepted, our saddles were changed and, mounting the fresh horse,
I called for all who could ride ninety miles without resting to
follow me. Fifteen of the thirty men volunteered, and as news had


been brought to me that the Indians had been seen that morning
traveling in a northwesterly direction, the direction in which they
had always left our community, I naturally concluded that they would
cross the San Saba river at their old and well-known crossing place,
and to that point I took the nearest and most direct route, not trying
to follow their trail, but anticipating that we could beat them to the
crossing and there lie in wait for them; but my calculations were
wrong and our efforts came to naught. After going to the north
line of Burnet county the Indians had turned back to the south
line of that county, and thence northwest through Llano county,
where they killed two men who were plowing in a field. They then
went west and crossed the San Saba river about six miles above their
usual crossing place, and at a place where they had never before been
known to cross, and this was four days after we had reached the river
at the point where we expected to trap them. And in this connection
permit, me to say that, after my many years of experience, from 1850
to 1874, and many sad disappointments in trying to out-general the
Indians, that if God or a special providence ever protected any race
or races of people, it certainly was the Comanche and Kiowa Indians
I could enumerate numerous instances in substantiation of this con-
clusion, but suffice it to ask what human intellect or animal instinct
could have so accurately divined the designs of the white men and
enabled the Indian to thwart every plan laid for his capture, and
to only bring on an engagement when all was in his favor. Even
a handful of them, confined on a reservation, and presumably un-
armed, could defy the world's greatest Government, break away from
all restraint, going into a virtually defenseless country, murdering,
plundering, robbing and terrorizing fearless men, escaping vengeance
and returning at leisure to their reservations.

In the year 1867, G. C. Arnett and myself went on a cow hunt,
and established our first camp near old Uncle Jimmy Boyce's, who
had good stock pens, and was then living on the North San Gabriel,
in the northern portion of Burnet county. In our party there were
the following resident citizens: E. P. Boyce, William Skaggs, Mar


cus Skaggs, Millard Moreland, Thomas Wolf, James Sims, S. S.
Johnston and Josiah C. Bawcom. I acted as cook, but always on
cow hunts of this kind in that section of the country I took with me
my saddle, a good saddle horse and the best firearms I had, as did
all the other members of our party, as we were liable to meet hostile
Comanche or Kiowa Indians at any time, these being the only hos-
tile Indians that ever came into our section of country in-so-far as
my personal knowledge extends.

These were the most trying times that I ever experienced in fron-
tier life. People may talk of times that tried men's souls, but if men
were ever put to a more crucial test than were the frontiersmen of
Texas, I cannot comprehend by what miraculous agency they stood
the ordeal. At that time no man's life was safe, and he knew not
at what hour his family or friends might be murdered, tortured or,
even worse than either, taken captives, by the Indians. It was simply
one long, dreadful vigil, fear and apprehension. Had it been so that
the citizens could have followed the Indians to the utmost confines
of the United States and inflicted upon them deserved and effective
punishment, it would have taken but a reasonable length of time to
dispose of the Indian question, but such was not the case. They
would slip away from the reservations, do their murdering and steal-
ing, and unless overtaken within a few hours they would have a suffi-
cient start and advantage to reach the reservation from whence they
came and there be safe from molestation by the outraged citizens and
immune from punishment by the Government, for the citizen could
go no further than the resrvation, and after doing his devilment the
Indian made it a special point to get there first, and of course there
was no way for the Government or injured citizens to identify any
particular Indians as the guilty parties; hence no punishment could
be legally inflicted.

The next morning after establishing our camp, G. C. Arnett, Joe
Bawcom, William Skaggs, E. P. Boyce and S. S. Johnson went west
to a place on Morgan's creek where there were some big cedar brakes
and glades covered with good green grass, and here horses and


cattle were nearly always found grazing, and it was one of the worst
Indian haunts in that entire section of country. As Arnett and his
men advanced cautiously around a cedar-covered point, they discov-
ered a party of Indians not far from them. The Indians were lead-
ing several horses., and one of them was riding a splendid pony,
which the men readily recognized as my property, a kind of pet which
I called Belle. Arnett and his party did not feel safe in attacking the
Indians, but made a dash for camp and arrived late in the evening,
their horses almost exhausted. We immediately began miaking prep-
arations to start after the Indians early the next morning, which we

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14

Online LibraryWilliam J.] 1829-1908 [MaltbyCaptain Jeff; or, Frontier life in Texas with the Texas Rangers; some unwritten history and facts in the thrilling experiences of frontier life → online text (page 10 of 14)