During the summer of 1836, Indian representatives had held conferences with Mexican officials in Matamoros in Mexico just across the Rio Grande River. General Jose Urrea, a Texas Revolution veteran who now commanded Mexican troops in Matamoros, reassured a group of visiting Cherokees that they owned their lands, not Texas. Urrea and the Indians decided that the Cherokees would postpone a planned raid on the Texans until they could be supported by the Mexican Army.
The diplomatic challenge of 1837 was thus to establish control over the Indians as they grew increasingly hostile against Texas settlers, spurned by the Mexican rebels to take action. The Republic provided defense to the frontiers during 1837 with a few companies of rangers and mounted gunmen.
It was not long before the Caddo Indians and other more hostile tribes again began making depredations against East Texas settlers. Details of some of the first acts of aggression by the Indians in this area are documented in a letter dated January 27, 1837, written by Daniel McLean, the first settler of what soon became Houston County. McLean had first come to Texas in 1812 with the Gutierrez- Magee Expedition, had been one of only ninety-three survivors of a deadly Indian battle on the Medina River on August 18, 1813, and had in 1821 become one of the "Old Three Hundred" original settlers of the Austin Colony.
McLean wrote to his son James, who was in school at the time in Natchitoches, that he had recently lost some of his horses. "The Indians have been in the neighborhood a few days back and have stolen every horse that Mr. Greenwood had," he related. "Since they have stolen two from the rangers at Houston, we may suppose that at the rise of the grass they will be on all sides."
McLean also related that a family near the Brazos River had recently been killed and that a party of fourteen men three weeks previously had attacked a force of approximately one-hundred Indians. This was a unit under ranger officer George Erath, who fought on January 7 on Elm Creek in present Milam County. With superior numbers and by using the cover of dense brush, the Indians (believed to be Caddoes and Cherokees) managed to kill two of Erath's men before the whites were forced to retreat to a safer area. McLean also felt that the Mexicans were "generally believed to be making every preparation to invade us in the spring. It is supposed that there [are] from four to six thousand troops at Matamoros and several thousand more coming on. We get no news authentic."
Ironically, the next major encounter with hostile Indians occurred against the white settlers of the newly established Fort Houston on the day after McLean's letter was penned. On January 28, 1837, six rangers, eighteen-year-old Abram Anglin, David Faulkenberry, Evan Faulkenberry, Benjamin W. Douthit, James Hunter, and Columbus Anderson, had left the fort to search for strayed hogs in the Trinity River bottom. Finding some of them, Hunter and Douthit were sent back to Fort Houston to fetch a canoe.
In their absence, the other four were attacked by a band of Indians on the Trinity River at a point known as Bonner's Ferry. Anderson was mortally wounded, although he managed to swim the river and crawl two miles before dying. David Faulkenberry, severely wounded, also swam the river and crawled about two- hundred yards away before succumbing to his wounds. The Indians later claimed that David's son, Evan Faulkenberry, fought like a wild man, killing two Indians and wounding a third. Severely wounded and already scalped, he was said to have jerked from his captives' grasp and swum halfway across the Trinity before dying. The fourth man, Abram Anglin, although hit by a bullet in the thigh, managed to swim the river and escape on horseback with James Hunter, one of the two men who had returned from Fort Houston in time to witness the Indian attack.
This was the closest incident to the citizens of the Fort Houston settlement since the attack on Parker's Fort the previous May. With the recent departure of Major Jewel's troops from Fort Houston, the local citizens inhabiting the fortress were terrified. These men then appealed to Sam Houston in 1837 by petition for better defense, as the Indian raids were now occurring at their own back door. Houston, then in Nacogdoches, was unable to provide troops but did give them help in acquiring a large gun from Fort Jesup, the U.S. Army post near the Louisiana border.Houston sent the Fort Houston settlers a note to present to Fort Jesup's commandant. They were given a 12-pounder cannon weighing 963 pounds that they transported back to Fort Houston and properly mounted for use against the Indians. The story of this gun's presence spread quickly, and many felt that it would prevent the Indians from ever making a direct attack on this fort.