Texas Indian Reservations
The Texas Legislature reluctantly agreed to allow the United
States establishment of two reservations on the Brazos. Their concerns
stemmed from the knowledge that most of their constituents on the frontier
strongly preferred to exterminate or drive out the remaining Indians.
Their acceptance of the reservation proposal was based, at least partially,
on the fact that the land they donated was far west of the settlements.
Within five years, Texas ranches completely surrounded the agencies.
Raiders from Indian territory and the Plains increased the frequency
and viciousness of their attacks on the new settlers and racial hatred
increased proportionately among the Whites.
Rip Ford was authorized to form a Ranger batallion to
protect the frontier and the reservation Indians when the U. S. Second
Cavalry was relocated to Utah. White settlers poured onto the frontier
and soon the reservations were surrounded by ranches. Sul Ross organized
the reservation Indians into a militia which fought with Ross and Van
Dorn in major battles in Indian Territory.
The Kiowa and Comanche warriors took every opportunity
to make false trails leading to the Texas reservations. Desire for a
fight was mutual, it seems the Whites learned a few things from the
Comanches when it came to making false trails. Ford had recently taken
command of the Rangers at Belknap and was discussing with his junior
officers the pile of complaints concerning reservation Indians involved
in stealing and murder. Ford suggested sending patrols around the reservations
and one officer remarked that if a trail could be found leading from
an attack back to the reservation, it would prove the complaints were
true. Lt. Allison Nelson added that a trail could be made. Ford lifted
Nelson by his collar and emphatically stated, "No, Sir, that will
not do, I am responsible to the state, and to public opinion, and I
will take no step in the matter, unless I am backed by the facts, and
of such a character as to justify me before the public. I am willing
to punish the [reserve] Comanches, if they are found guilty; but I am
not disposed to do so unjustly and improperly."
Robert S. Neighbors, Indian Agent Quote
that they think that the general government employs
me to herd the horses of the citizens generally, when the fact is
that I have not a single soldier under my control, and am not charged
with the defense of the frontier against Indian depredations
I can only act as a civil magistrate to execute the Indians Laws and
Nelson allied himself with John R. Baylor, whom Reservation
Superintendent Neighbors had fired as Comanche agent. Allison wanted
Neighbor's job and the two did all they could to arouse the anger of
the white settlers. Several incidents of innocent Indians being attacked
and murdered by local residents brought pressure on Ford to arrest the
guilty parties but he refused though it was the Ranger's duty to protect
Superintendent Neighbors and his Indians. Neighbors was forced to relocate
the Indians. The relocation devastated the already impoverished Indians.
Many of the Caddo and Tonkawas had fought with the Whites in Texas and
were understandably afraid in their new home. Neighbors wrote to his
wife the night he arrived at the Wichita Agency, near where Fort Sill
"I have this day crossed all the Indians out of
the heathen land of Texas and am now out of the land of the Philistines.
If you want a full description of our Exodus... read
the "Bible" where the children of Israel crossed the Red
Sea. We have had about the same show, only our enemies did not follow
Agent Shapley Ross remained in Belknap after his friend,
Neighbors, was murdered in the town's main street upon his return from
Indian territory. Ross, and men of like minds, who had at least some
sympathy for the plight of the Texas Reservation Indian made up a very
small minority on the North Texas frontier. Ross had brought his wife
and infant son, Sul, to Texas from Iowa around 1840. There was at least
one occasion when Shapley had to scoop his son up under a shower of
arrows and take cover in his cabin and he once had to ransom his son
from the Comanches. The Rangers were in a tough spot on the frontier
during this time. Though they had been responsible for the Indian's
welfare, they could hardly move against the overwhelming majority of
settlers. On the other hand, the Rangers admired and respected Neighbors
and men like him, proof being that they privately saw to it that Neighbor's
assasins met justice. The respect for the United States' officers on
the frontier dulled their desire to get involved in the Civil War.
John R. Baylor
The following story is from the book, The West
Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.
For some time the attention of the entire southwest
had been focused on the Indian reserves. The Governor of Texas
had issued a proclamation in an effort to establish peace. The
officers in command of Fort Belknap and Camp Cooper had been on
the alert for any emergency. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs
at Washington, issued his several orders. But still the surging
conflict between the citizens on the one hand, and the reservation
Indians and agents on the other, continued to ebb and flow with
an increasing momentum, and the exasperated citizens brought the
question to a final climax, when men from Montague, Denton, Cooke,
Collin, Wise, Parker, Jack, Palo Pinto, Erath, Bosque, Comanche,
Coryell, and other counties rendezvoused near the lines of Young,
Jack, and Palo Pinto Counties, for the purpose of attacking the
reserves. The entire command was placed under John R. Baylor.
For a short time these men were drilled on a branch, which has
since been known as Filibuster Branch, because Col. John R. Baylor
and his men were referred to as filibusters.
During the morning of May 23rd, 1859, Colonel Baylor
and his command left their camp on Filibuster Branch, which was
about four miles east of the Lower Reservation, and started toward
the Brazos Agency. The movement of the citizens, however, was
not known to the Indians, their agents, and the soldiers at Fort
Belknap. In fact, for several days an attack had been expected.
Ample fortifications and breastworks had been built, and soldiers
from Fort Belknap under the command of Capt. J. B. Plummer, of
the United States Army, were stationed on the reservation for
any emergency. Colonel Baylor drew his command in a line of battle
between the Waco village and Agency buildings, and they were within
six hundred yards of the latter point. Captain Plummer dispatched
Captain Gilbert with his company to meet Colonel Baylor and demand
of him for what purpose he had entered upon the reservation with
an armed body of men. Colonel Baylor replied that he had come
to assault certain Indians of this reserve, but not to attack
any whites. But should the troops or citizens fire upon his men,
he intended to attack them also. After receiving this reply, Captain
Plummer sent Lieutenant Burnet to Colonel Baylor with instructions
to the effect that the soldiers were there to protect the Indians
on the reserves from attacks of armed bands of citizens, that
they would do so to the best of their ability, and that in the
name of the Government of the United States, Captain Plummer warned
Colonel Baylor to leave the reserve. Colonel Baylor then replied
that this last message did not alter his determination to attack
the Indians on the reserves, but that he would attend to this
matter himself, and further that he regretted the necessity of
coming in collision with the United States troops, but that he
had determined to destroy the Indians on both reserves, if it
cost the life of every man in his command.
About the first bloodshed that occurred, if reports
be true, Colonel Baylors men killed an elderly Indian man,
who was away from his comrades and looking after a pony; and an
elderly woman, working in her little garden. But since they were
operating from a distance, they no doubt, did not know that the
latter was a woman. This occurred on Salt Creek, near the crossing,
and only a short distance from the Agency buildings, and it was
here the fight began. Only a few Indians were engaged at first;
a running fight occurred toward the home of Wm. Marlin, where
a stand was made by the citizens. By this time, a large number
of Indians were engaged in the fighting; but as a rule, the two
factions were firing at each other from a considerable distance.
The thickest of fighting occurred around the home of Wm. Marlin,
and it began about four o clock in the evening. At all times
the soldiers were in readiness, but they never entered the conflict.
Late in the evening, when the firing ceased, about one additional
Indian was killed, and five others wounded.
A Mr. Washburn and possibly one or two of the Texans
were also killed. Captain W. C. McAdams, and Dan Gage were wounded.
Along about this same time, some minor attacks were
made upon the Comanche reservation, but the major fighting occurred
on the evening of the 23rd of May, 1859, at the home of Wm. Marlin.
The following story is Captain R. B. Barry's first
hand account of his Ranger duties from the book, Indian Depredations
in Texas, by J. W. Wilbarger.
On one occasion Captain Peter Garland, who was following an Indian
trail, came near a camp of the lower reservation Indians, and
mistaking them for Caddoes, a fight was the consequence, in which
Stephens and Barnes, two of his men, were killed and ten of the
Indians. As this fight took place among the wigwams, some of the
squaws and children were killed in the melee.
This was the beginning of the reservation war. The
citizens flocked to the protection of those living above, near
the reservation; and in a few days there were embodied together
seven hundred men, besides some small parties scattered about
at different points. Captain Allison Nelson was elected to the
command, and it was resolved to make an attack upon the upper
reservation, as it was believed our worst enemies were there.
Four hundred men were ordered to proceed up the Clear fork of
the Brazos, under Colonel John R. Baylor.
While passing up by the lower reservation, Colonel
Baylor's men killed and captured some straggling Indians. This
brought on a fight with the Indians of the lower reservation.
The fight lasted several hours, and war carried on in regular
savage style by both parties, each putting to death all the prisoners
taken. Many were killed and wounded on both sides, but the Indians
having the United States forces under Captain Parmer to fall back
upon, there was but one alternative left us-either to draw off
or attack Captain Parmer's command.
It is very certain that on this occasion some white
men fought against us, but no doubt they were mainly the "dead
heads" and hangers on about the reservation, as no United
States soldiers were seen in the fight.
During a consultation between Colonels Baylor and
Nelson, the Indians of both reservations were thrown together,
and, with the United States soldiers protecting them, they left
the State of Texas and established their reservation at Fort
Cobb, on the upper Wichita, in the Chickasaw nation.