Jno. F. Babb moved into Wise County about 1856, settled on Dry Creek about twelve miles west of Decatur, and here at this frontier log cabin home, occurred one of the most horrible and pathetic massacres that ever happened to the early pioneers.
When the savages first entered Wise Co., during September of 1865, they killed a Negro teamster. Shortly afterwards they gave a Mr. Armstrong a thrilling chase for life. In the vicinity of the Woodward residence, the savages had an encounter with Geo. Buchanan and severely wounded Lona Buchanan, who had been drawing water at a well. When they passed the home of a Mr. Floyd, the Indians almost captured his son; but the boy escaped by making a wild run for the residence. When the savages reached Sandy Creek, they gave Lee Dean and A. Henson a lively chase. On Thorn Prairie the native plainsmen encountered Ben Blanton, Lansing Hunt and Glen Halsell, who fled to the home of Dick Couch, and this place was soon assaulted by the savages. Severe fighting followed, and the Indian activities plainly indicated they were more anxious to recover the saddle ponies tied near the residence, than to murder the occupants of the house, who were showing stubborn resistance; and shooting with deadly effect. The Indians finally succeeded in capturing the horses, and then made a retreat, for some of their number had already been killed and wounded. Simultaneously, Ben Blanton slipped away, and hurried to Decatur for reinforcements.
The Indians continued their raid of murder, pillage and plunder, and about four miles from the home of Dick Couch, reached the residence of John F. Babb, who assisted by his oldest son, H. C. Babb, sometimes before, had gone to the markets of Arkansas with a herd of cattle. T. A. (Dot) Babb, about thirteen years of age, and his sister, Bankuella, were playing in the yard. Mrs. Jno. F. Babb, infant daughter, Margie, and an exceptionally beautiful young widow, Mrs. Luster, (Mrs. Roberts), who was about twenty two years of age, whose husband a short time before had been killed in the Civil War, and who was making her home with the Babb family, were in the house. When the Indians discovered there were no men to defend the premises, in truly savage style, they charged these defenseless women and children. Dot Babb said,
"About the middle of Sept. 1865, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, my older sister and I were at play when we discovered thirty or forty Comanche Indians in all the regalia and war-paint of the savage warrior. Stupefied with fright, we looked again and realized that they were advancing rapidly upon us and with quickened heart beats, we wondered what our fate would be at the hands of these emissaries or murderers of implacable hate. We soon saw that they would raid our home, and with their weird and unearthly warhoops ringing in our ears, we ran to the house for the protection of mother and Mrs. Luster (Mrs. Roberts), who had also seen and heard the demons approaching. Mother had us to enter the house as quickly as possible, and close the unbarricaded doors. It would be indeed, impossible to describe the emotions of horror that possessed us in this moment of doom and peril.
"Mrs. Luster (Roberts) undertook to conceal herself in the loft of the log cabin, and I made for two or three old guns in their racks on the wall. Simultaneously several of the Indians broke open the door, and as I would seize a gun, they would take it from me and belabor me over the head with their quirts. My mother was trying to soften or make friends by shaking hands with them, and against these overtures they were as surlily obdurate and unmoved as ever these ruthless slayers had been painted."
The Indians then began their plight of pilfering, and plundering, and in a short time, when Mrs. Babb received her first wound, Mrs. Roberts was so horrified, she screamed and thereby disclosed to the wild demons of the plains her place of hiding.
Concerning the further Indians activities, Dot Babb said:
"They then had Mrs. Luster come down from her hiding in the loft, and she was bound by some Indians and taken outside to the other Indians and their horses and there declared a captive. The remainder of the Indians in the house, seized my oldest sister and started off with her. My mother, prompted by an uncontrollable maternal instinct and affection, interfered and clung to my sister in an effort to prevent her being taken, and as she did, one of the Indians stabbed my mother four times with a butcher knife. They then took my sister from the house and made her captive also, along with Mrs. Luster (Roberts). Seeing my mother brutally and fatally stabbed. I assisted her to the bed just as two Indians came back, and not finding my mother dead as they expected, one of them with drawn bow, shot her in the left side with an arrow that ranged up toward her lung. I pulled the arrow out and sat upon the bed by her doing all I could to console and comfort her as her strength and life waned. The same Indian drew his bow and pointed a deadly arrow at me and commanded me to go with him. Mother, seeing that I too would be killed if I resisted or refused, said, "Go with him and be a good boy."
The Indians hurriedly ripped open feather beds, took the ticking, bed-quilts, and such other articles as they needed and happened to suit their fancy. The savages took Mrs. Roberts, T. A. (Dot) Babb and his sister, Bankuella, and started for the northwest. Mrs. Babb's infant baby, Margie, was left bathing in the blood of its dying mother. The savages as usual, to avoid pursuit, rode night and day until they reached Holiday Creek, about eighteen miles southwest of the present city of Wichita Falls. Here they feasted on a large steer, the lobo wolves had killed only a short time before. They then continued their journey until they reached Red River, and feeling that they were now out of danger, the Indians stopped for three days and four nights to permit all to rest and recuperate. Two or three of their number had been killed in the fight at the home of Dick Couch, and another was wounded in the knee. No doubt this lengthy stop was prolonged on account of this wounded Indian. The savages then resumed their journey, crossed Red River, the Washita, and finally reached the Canadian. Here the Indians camped for the night, and here for the first time, Mrs. Roberts and Dot Babb made an attempt to escape. Dot Babb said: "Mrs. Luster and I stole noiselessly from our bunk upon the ground, and with catlike stealth, tiptoed to the horses. Mrs. Luster found a bridle and this we put on the horse previously secured, and led him to a log from which she could mount. Mrs. Luster then whispered to me to get a bridle for the mare I was to ride. I got the bridle but the Indians awoke before I could get the bridle on the mare, and came running toward us. In the meantime, Mrs. Luster had mounted, and I told her to get away if she could, whereupon she bade me good-bye, and with the stillness and swiftness of a shadow, disappeared into the night. I threw the bridle away and turned back, and in this way, for the time being, disarmed the suspicions of the Indians, who had been aroused, and noting my absence started in pursuit. Upon returning I laid down and could sleep no more for thinking and wondering what they would do to me for trying to escape, and it seemed an age before day dawned once more. It was fully an hour after my return before they discovered that Mrs. Luster had escaped, and then eight or ten Indians entered excitedly upon her pursuit, but the savages were unsuccessfully in their search and returned in despair."
When daylight did arrive, on two different occasions the Indians threatened to murder Dot Babb in the presence of his little sister, for assisting Mrs. Roberts to escape, but his bravery and perseverance won the admiration of the Indians; and he was finally released from such punishment and adopted as a member of their tribe.
Meanwhile Mrs. Roberts travelled on and on and on, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement. This splendid woman who was endowed with unusual beauty, and who, before her escape, was designed to become the wife of an Indian chief, finally became so fatigued, she lay down to rest, many miles from where she eluded her captors. This was during the third day following her escape. Here she was found by three Kiowa Indians, who made her their captive, and took Mrs. Roberts to a Kiowa village. Thirty days later she again perfected her escape, and started toward an unknown destination.
Mr. Babb said:
"The next day as she drifted along without a definite course arranged other than a determined flight from her bondsmen and enhanced upon an unknown fate and destination, she mistook some U. S. soldiers for Indians in pursuit, and in a desperate effort to get away, she undertook to outride them. The soldiers mistook her for an Indian and gave lively chase catching up with and capturing her at the end of a twenty mile record run under whip and spur. There was much mutual surprise and gratification when identities were established and the rejoicings of each side were unconfined. Though they were strangers, Mrs. Luster (Roberts) soon related her harrowing story. It evoked the deepest sympathy from the soldiers, who were lavish in the kindness and courtesies extended her."
Mrs. Roberts was faithfully escorted to Council Grove, Kansas, and being unusually attractive and blushing with the beauties of young womanhood, was soon wooed and won by a Mr. Van Noy.
After being in the hands of the savages for approximately two years, Mr. Jno. F. Babb, through the cooperation of H. P. Jones, U. S. Indian interpreter at Fort Arbuckle, Chief Essahaba and others finally secured the release of his two children, Dot Babb and Bankuella.
When Ben Blanton returned to the home of Dick Couch with reinforcements, the citizens followed the Indian trail, and in a short time reached the Babb residence, which at a distance, showed unmistakable signs of pillage and plunder, perpetrated by the wild savages of the plains. But when they arrived all was silent and still, and only the infant baby remained to relate the sad story.
Note: Author personally interviewed: T. A. (Dot) Babb, mentioned above. A. M. Lasater, J. D. White, E. P. (Lif) Earhart, Joe Fowler, Joe Bryant, and others who lived in Jack, Wise and adjoining counties at the time.
Further Ref: In the Bosom of the Comanches, by T. A. (Dot) Babb; Pioneer History of Wise County, by Cliff D. Cates.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.