The Reservation Fight


For some time the attention of the entire southwest had been focused on the Indian reserves. The Governor of Texas had issued his 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 unknown 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 collison 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 Baylor's 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 above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.