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

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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 5 of 14)
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at Brownwood, formed into line, and the Captain administered the
oath necessary in military organizations, the muster roll made out,
the non-commissioned officers appointed as agreed upon, a contract
made with John T. Gilber, a merchant of Brownwood, to furnish
supplies, and -the company went on duty at once. And the Major
commanding and the Quartermaster and Battalion Doctor publicly
said that it was the best company in the battalion, or that could be
raised in the State, and that Captain Jeff was the only man that could
command them. And this was no flattery either, for they had been
selected for health, strength, horsemanship and experts with the
lasso, and a perfect familiarity of frontier life, and like Davy Crockett
of old, they were half horse and half aligator, many of them stand-
ing six feet two inches in physique, perfect fac similes of the Big
Foot Indian of which we write, less the foot. The Captain turned
over a posse of his men to the Sheriff of Brown County and they
soon arrested or drove out all the' lawless characters, John Wesley
Harden among the rest, while he turned his particular attention to
scouting for Indians.

The trails of his scouting party could be seen in every direction
which kept the Indians from making their monthly raids^ which



gave the settlers such encouragement that they wrote back to their
friends in the other States to come; that they had the very best
of protection, which gave impetus to immigration, and Brown and
adjoining counties rapidly filled up with first-class people, which
greatty assisted in driving back the Indians.


Sergeant Andrew Mather is Sent on a Scout into Callahan Co., Camps

Near Caddo Peak. John Parsons is Sent out to Kill a Deer for

Meat, Encounters Big Foot and Band, Makes His

Celebrated Shot and Big Foot Dodges the

Bullet and Makes another one of his

Providential Escapes.

One of the first scouts made by Captain Jeff's company was com-
manded by Sergeant Andrew Mather, further mention of which will
be made as our recital progresses. He was ordered to take fifteen
men and make a scout through the roughs of Callahan County near
the Caddo Peaks, etc. The second evening after starting he struck
camp near West Caddo Peak, and as it was not customary for this
company to carry more than meat enough for one day when going
on a scout, this scout was no exception to the general rule, so on camp-
ing, Sergeant Mather ordered John Parsons, who was a fine shot,
and an experienced hunter, to take his gun and go out and kill a


deer for supper, saying : "If you find a bunch of cattle don't shoot ;
come back to camp and we will go and rope one, as you know the
Captain's orders are not to shoot at anything but Indians, not even
the Devil himself, if it can possibly be avoided, and I think too
much of old Captain Jeff to break one of his orders." So saying,
Parsons slung his gun over his shoulder and mached off. He had
not been gone but about five or ten minutes when they heard his
gun fire, and he hollowing for life, saying: "Come on, boys! Come
on ! Here are the damn rascals ! Come on !"

Mather hollowed : "Saddle your horses, boys, quick ! quick !" and
in less time than it takes to write about it, the horses were saddled.
By this time Parsons had got to camp, and he fell exhausted for
want of breath. Mather said : "Parsons, did you kill a deer ?" When
he had regained his breath sufficiently to speak, he said : "I did not,
but I killed a - - Indian." It is to be hoped that this rough

expression may be pardonable under the very exciting circumstances.
Here we will let Parsons tell his own story in as few words as pos-
sible before going to verify his statement. He said :

"I was walking along slowly looking for cattle or deer and when
I saw horses' legs coming towards me the limbs of the trees came
down so low that I could not see the horses' bodies. I squatted down
and when they got in sixty or seventy yards of me I saw that old
Big Foot was in the lead; in an instant I thought my only chance
for life was to kill him and the one just behind him, and I tried
to say, 'Now, Parsons, make the best shot of your life,' so I aimed
and pulled the trigger, and I'll be d n if old Big Foot didn't dodge
the bullet and I killed the one behind him ! He fell forward, grabbed
both arms around his horses' neck, then I run and hollowed for life."

While Parsons was telling his story some of the boys were saddling


his horse, so then they all mounted and went in haste to verify Par-
son's statement.

When they reached the spot, the mystery of Big Foot dodging
the bullet of Parson's gun was fully explained, for just at the
moment that Parsons pulled the trigger Big Foot's horse stepped
into a hole made by some little animal, that burrows in the ground.
He fell forward and came below Parson's sight thus dodging the bul-
let. Reader, was this luck again for Big Foot, or what? Parsons'
identity of Big Foot was correct, for there plainly to be seen was
his tracks where he jumped off his fallen horse and ran to the as-
sistance of one of his falling braves. From the amount of blood
at the spot, Parsons' shot must have been fatal.

The trail was taken with as much dispatch as possible, and
in less than a mile they reached the hard, stony and bushy hills
just north of the Peak, where it was impossible for them to follow
the trail any further. Go on, Big Foot, go on, there is a man on
your trail ! It has been "diamond cut diamond" with you for sev-
eral years, but the time will come sooner or later, when your dia-
mond will cease to sparkle, and its brilliancy will go out forever
in this world.

Sergeant Mather's scout returned without seeing or hearing of
any more Indians." 'The next light moon the Captain sent out
Lieut. Best on a scout; he camped on the Jim Ned, above Old Camp
Colorado. After supper the horses were all picketed out, and the
guards properly stationed; the men lay. down, and some of them
haa gone to sleep, when the Indians slipped up around the camp
and fired into it, yelling like - dempiis* Lieut. Best sprang to his
feet and hollowed to every man ^o get to his horse quick, quick.
He ran barefooted to his horse, and all the men followed his ex-


ample, taking their arms with them. Each one when he got to his
horse began firing as rapidly as he could in the direction from
which the yells and firing of the Indians cam<e, which soon
stopped the yelling and firing, and in half an hour the camp was
again still and quiet. On examination the only casualty was one
horse killed, which was seen to fall at the first volley that the In-
dians fired. This small loss was lucky, for the arrows and bullets
flew thick and fast at the first onslaught.

This made another one of Big Foot's lucky escapes. As th?
Indians had been driven off nothing m'ore could be done but to
double the guards and stand their ground until morning. On
examination of the surroundings of the camp it was demonstrated
that this attack was made by Big Foot and his band, for the difference
in the size of his tracks and the others proved it to be he wither/
any doubt. The Indians had tied their horses some distance from
the camp and made the attack on foot, and when their attack wa*
met with such cool and determined resistance they ran back to the A
horses, mounted them and rode off in different directions, one of Big
Foot's tactics, and a sure one too, to prevent being trailed or follow-
ed, for it is almost impossible to trail one horse any distance, whi.
a bunch can be trailed with all ease.

Lieut. Best rode in a big circle, but could not find where the
Indians came together, consequently he returned to camp without
anything else to report.


Lieutenant Best is Sent on a Scout. Camps on Jim Ned and is Attacked
After Night by Big Foot and Band. Cool Bravery and Discip-
line Whipped Him off With Only the Loss of
One Horse, Shot Through the Heart.

The next light moon Major Jones made his monthly visit of
inspection and called on the Captain to take scouts and go with
him to Fort Concho. They rode very hard, and when near Fort
Concho the Major told the Captain that he could go back and make
a scout on his return, and that he would go on to Fort Concho with
the men he had with him.

They were then in a spot where there was but little grass,
but remembered passing over good grass some ten miles back, and
were compelled to ride back to get feed for their horses.

The spot of grass was reached after dark, the horses were all
side lined and turned loose to grass, two men to guard them.


The others built fires and got supper, but before they had time
to eat it the Indians, twenty or twenty-five in number, made a des-
perate and reckless charge into and through the camp, firing guns,
pistols and arrows, knocking the fires and supper helter skelter, and
yelling like demons.

They stampeded all the horses, and drove them much faster than
the men could run, but the men ran and fired after them as long as
the sound of the horses' feet could be heard.

When they were completely exhausted, they stopped and sat down,
some cursing and swearing, and some laughing at the figure they
would cut walking forty miles carrying their saddles, etc.

When they all had had their say, Captain Jeff said: "This is
pretty tough on old Jeff's brag company, to go on a scout and be
so badly outgeneraled by old Big Foot that we all have to walk
forty miles to camp carrying our saddles, but let me show you how
much worse it could have been. You see how all of us missed being
killed or wounded; think it over, and you will say that was almost if
not a miracle. See, we are all unhurt, and will if possible be more de-
termined to get even with our Big Foot friend ( ?), for this will en-
tourage him to hunt for us to get some more of our good horses.

The State will pay for your horses and as for me, old Selum
will be back here before morning, for the Indian that cuts his side
Lines and mounts him will be a dead or crippled Indian if there are
any trees near this place, for the horse will run away with him
and throw him against a tree or my name is not Jeff. Boys, you
won't have to walk to camp; old Selum will carry me to camp
long before night tomorrow, and I will send back horses for you
to ride on; old Jeff's boys are horse soldiers, not foot soldiers."
When this last talk was finished a distant rumbling like horses'


feet was heard. The boys sprang to their feet, some thinking the
Indians were coming back. As the sounds came nearer and clearer
old Jeff bursted out in a laugh as the sound, tone and be$t of that
hoof was indelibly impressed on his ear and nerve. When the run-
ning horse came near enough to hear the Captain hollowed at the
top of his voice : "Selum ! Selum ! My boy. Here, here !" A sharp,
keen neigh of ' recognition was heard in answer and Selum dashed up
to where the men stood. The Captain said in a gentle tone, "Selum,
my boy, come here," and the noble horse walked up to him and put
his head over his shoulder, with a gentle whinny. The Captain
then said, "Boys, what did I tell you? See this rawhide tug tied
around Selum's under jaw?. Why, an Indian could no more ride
this horse with that tug than I could fly like an eagle, or knock
down a mountain with my fist !"

The boys said: "We know that there is not a man in your com-
pany that can or ever will ride Selum without his running away,
but yourself, and we think that he has made up his mind that
no other man shall ride him." They trudged on back to the tem-
porary camp feeling very much like foot soldiers for the time being.

Captain Jeff mounted Selum and said, "Boys, while away the
time as best you can until tomorrow night, and you will be rangers
again, and I will have you back in camp in three days."

He rode off, and at four o'clock he was at his headquarters
camp and reported his defeat. The next morning he started back
sixteen men with sixteen lead horses and in three days he had all
of his men at headquarters camp. At roll call that evening, the
orderly sergeant reported all men present, sixteen horses absent with-
out leave. "Charge them up to bad generalship of the Captain, and
good generalship of the Big Foot ingin."

Sixteen other good horses were purchased and the company was
soon again in good shape for duty.


High Water, Discipline and the Ranger Feast.

In the month of August Major Jones made his regular return visit
all along the line, and on leaving Camp Company "E" he ordered
Captain Jeff to take a detachment of men and go down on Muke
Water and buy a crop of corn that was reported to be growing on
that stream ; so immediately after the Major's departure, the captain
took three men and went at once to carry out the Major's orders.
U was raining a slow rain at the time they started, and it rained
steadily and slowly all the day and night.

The corn was purchased and the little party camped in an old
schoolhouse, and stood the regular guard (as guard was never omitted
with this company, under any circumstances) the Ca,ptain always
taking his regular turn on occasions like this where the scout or
expedition was few in number.


The next morning it was still raining the steady, slow rain, that
had been falling for eighteen hours. After a hastily prepared break-
fast, the captain orderel "Boots and Saddles" as this company never
stopped for any thing when duty called.

Their course was up Muke Water stream, which was now swollen
to a rushing torrent, and covered the entire valley from hill to hill.

The Captain rode his favorite horse that had always been equal
to any emergency, and as they were all wet to the skin, he thought
to try his boys' luck in water as well as on dry land ; so he turned
Selum directly to the road that led up the creek valley which was
completely covered with driftwood and water from three to ten feet
deep where the small depressions run into the main channel.

At every plunge the boys cheered and hollowed : "Where old Jeff
iares to go, we can follow. 7 This headlong and reckless ride was
kept up for some ten miles to where the road leading from head-
quarters camp to Brownwood crossed the Muke Water stream.

Here the Captain found his company wagon and harness washed
up and lodged against a large mesquite tree, and heard at the same
time a yell from the adjacent hill, and on going to reconnoiter, he
found two of his men that had been sent to Brownwood the evening
before by the commisary sergeant for supplies. They had camped
for the night near the creek. They saved their lives by swimming and
left the wagon to its fate.,

Here the captain and his little party halted to assist his men
and wagon to cross the stream at the earliest moment possible. About
three o'clock that evening two men from headquarters camp rod'-
up and reported to the Captain that the entire camp was washed
away; that one man and six horses were drowned, ana that there
was not a vestige of anything left in the camp, onlv the men, most



of them with only their night clothes, but each and evtry man had
all his arms and cartridge belt, but no other subsistance but air
and muddy water. So much for discipline. This company could not
be taken by surrprise in the loss of arms for immediate use only
by a destructive flash of lightning. Let us briefly explain: The
horses were all tied to a picket line, and a sentinel walked the line
every night as regular as the tick of the clock.

The sentinel discovered a roll of water several feet high rolling
down the entire valley of Home Creek in which the camp was
located in a beautiful grove of spreading elm trees. H'e (the sentinel)
gave the alarm with might and main, to cut thp herpes loose; every
man sprang up, grabbed his arms and ran to the picket line to cut
hir. horse loose, and by the time that was dorfe they had to get to
trees as best they could, and sit perched upon limbs, and shiver
with the cold, as there was nothing they could do until the
water subsided from under the trees; after which they climbed
down, and two of the men went to the hills and got the horses
that were not drowned. They plunged into the raging torrent
to carry the news of their terrible dilema, and pressing ne-
cessities, to the Captain. This was one of the most daring
feats performed by any two single men in the Company. Their
names, as well as remembered, were Curley Hacher and Jose-
phes Rush.

H at once sent them back to the camp with orders to Lieut
Best to get a conveyance and send escort with the drowned man to
Camp Colorado and to have him buried with the honors of war.
The others to Kill and barbecue a beef and subsist as best they could
until he could get to them with rations. The necessities of the
situation inquired heroic exertions. He at once mounted his horse


bareback, rode to the stream and plunged in to see if it was pos-
sible to cross with the wagon. The current was so strong that it
bore him and the horse much farther down than he expected, and it
was with great exertions that his horse mounted to firm- footing
on the other bank. After resting his horse, he went up higher above
the ford, and his horse landed him safely back at the ford. As there
was no possible chance to get the wagon across he had to sit down and
chew the cud of anxiety until the water fell to a crossing depth. At
nine or ten o'clock that night the water had fallen to such an extent
that the Captain ordered the horses hitched up saying, "Boys, we
will plunge that creek at all hazards; our boys in camp are looking
to us for grub and they shall have it. Tie the wagon bed fast to
the axles," which was done, and they moved forward to the bank of
the creek; here he placed two of his men to cross below the team,
the other above the team. He went in the lead, saying, "Now come,
and give them mules the biggest scare you can; that is, make them
jump across, or as far out as possible. If we get across quick enough,
the current won't capsize tl e wagon/*' The plunge was made as
directed, and the landing was well made, and when the top of the
bank was reached. ;he Banker yell of victory could have been heard
for miles around.

Turning to the driver, the Captain said : "John, we want all there
it? in them mules; keep up with us; when they fail, we will tie
on to the end of the tongue with our ropes, and pull the wagon at the
horns of our saddles" In this way, double-quick time was made to
Brownwood, and they plunged into swimming water inside of the
town, but they made a successful crossing, loaded the wagon with grub
as the first essential, and were on the road back to the camp before
daylight. In leaving Brownwood, they went around the water that


they swam on going in, and when they got to Muke Water creek it
had fallen to a fordable depth.

By urging the animals to their utmost, camp was reached by
one o'clock that day, and as the relief party drove into camp a shout
of joy rent the air that will ever be remembered by all the par-
ticipants. A beef had been killed, the hide washed and hung up
to drip ready to kneed the flour, a sack of which was emptied on
the hide, a bountiful quantity of the inside fat was cut fine; salt, soda,
fat and flour were well mixed, and four men went to work with a
will urged on by the cravings of hunger, and in less than it takes
to write it the dough was well kneaded, and each man came with his
stick for his allowance.

A bountiful fire had been made in anticipation of this pleasant
event, and the beef was cooking to a finish. Reader, let your imag-
ination picture this scene around this fire. Each man cooking his
bread a la E anger style. The beef was now cooked to a finish, and
here the most enjoyable feast that was ever eaten was enjoyed by
Company "E," Texas Rangers, Frontier Battalion.

After the feast was over orders were given to all to spread out
down the valley and collect everything that had been caught in brush
and driftwood, and most of the camp equippage was recovered, but
badly disfigured by its terrible enco'unter with a second Noah's flood,
only the equippage didn't have a Mt. Ararat to lodge upon. Everything
that could be found was gathered and the camp was moved to Mud
Creek and remained there until the reductions of the battalion wa&

Thos. Clark who is now a successful merchant in the pros-
perous and thriving town of Abilene, Texas, was at that time
the youngest member of the Company. For his sterling worth
and honor to report marks and brands correctly, and his ability
to kill beef, he was appointed by the Captain to that position
while in camp or on scouts.


Sargeant Mather is Sent on Scout in Runnels County in which Discipline

Coupled with Individual Bravery Kills the Largest Bear in

West Texas, with a Bowie Knife.

After the new camp was properly arranged Sergeant Mathei
was ordered to take twenty men and go out on a scout in which the
discipline of this company is further demonstrated.

It was standing orders while on a scout that the men were not
allowed to shoot at any thing but an Indian, and when it was neces-
sary to get meat the commander of the scout should detail one or two
men to get the meat while all the others remained on duty. In this
instance, the scout was marching regularly along, when one of the
largest (if not the largest) bears that ever was seen in Texas, came
marching slowly along, as if to banter them to shoot and break their
orders. He came nearer and nearer, and when he had got within
sixty or seventy yards of the scout Sergeant Mather said, "Halt, boys,


remain in your positions/' and quickly taking down his small, nice-
rawhide lariat, he dashed after the bear and hefore he ran one hun-
dred yards he threw his rope and it tightened around the bear's neck.
The bear grabbed the rope in his mouth to bite it in two. Mather
sprang off his horse; the horse was trained to hold anything that the
lasso was thrown over. Mather drew his Bowie knife, ran to the bear,
and drove it through his heart before he could bite the lariat in
two. The other men remained as they were ordered, all except one
Bill Dunman, who ran to Mather for fear that the bear would
get him tangled up in the rope.

The bear's hide was brought into camp, was stretched and hung
up with but one hole in it. The rope was hung up by the hide
with the marks of the bear's teeth on it as proof of bravery and
discipline. This scout returned to camp without seeing any sign of
Indians. This company didn't keep its headquarters camp more
than two months in one place, and in moving alwa} T s selected a camp
so there was a mountain' in four or five miles of it, so that a plain
view of the surrounding country could be had with good field glasses
for miles around. The Captain selected at the start four men for
spies that had no other duty to perform. Early each morning two of
them would mount their horses and go to the spy mountain and re-
main on duty until after dinner when they would be relieved by the
other two, and this spy duty was strictly kept up every day unless it
rained all day.

At this time the headquarters camp was on Mud Creek in Cole-
man County, in heavy post oak timber. About one half mile west
of the camp was a beautiful mountain for spy purposes, and the camp
could not be seen from its base. The spies had been kept on it
for nearly two months when it commenced to rain one morning be-


fore the time for the spies to go on duty, and it rained all day until
late in the evening so the spies were not sent out. Bill Sinclare's
horses would always graze off up to the spy mountain whenever he
was turned lose, but there was no fear of losing him by Indiana
as the spies stood guard there all day and every day. Late in the
evening of this day Sinclaire went out to the mountain to get his
horse, and lo and behold ! there between the camp and the mountain
was an Indian trail of seventeen horses.

Sinelare's horse was hobbled, and just in the right place for them
to take him along. Sinclare made 2 :40 time in going back to
camp with the report. Orders were at once given for seventeen men
to saddle their horses and in five minutes the scout started; they
went out to the mountain and took the trail, Mexican Joe as trailer,
as he had been enlisted ,for that purpose, and could trail almost equal

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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 5 of 14)