The Box Family

Montague County, Texas

    James J. Box, who lived on the head of Elm, in Montague County, near the present city of St. Jo, and who was returning from a trip to Eastern Texas, stopped in Gainesville one week, because of the sickness of his wife. To them a new baby was born, and when the infant was one week old, Mr. Box and family again resumed their journey homeward. James J. Box and wife Mary, and daughters, Margaret, Marzee, Ida, and Laura, the seven days old baby, left Gainesville August the 6, 1866, the same day Wm. McDougall was killed. When they reached a point about three miles east of their home, approximately thirty-two Indians murdered Mr. Box and made captives of his wife and children.

    Charlie and Wm. Grant, Jno. Loran, and Zeak Hoffman rode upon a hill to look over the surrounding country, and to their surprise saw seven or eight Indians going toward a wagon. In a short time, other Indians were seen. Thirty-two savages were then counted.

    Charlie and Wm. Grant, like their two associates, were only armed with cap and ball pistols, had already discharged their loads at some young frying size turkeys and Loran and Hoffman, were riding young ponies. So the boys decided they were in no condition to charge such a large number of savages. As a consequence they returned to their homes, and conveyed the startling news.

    Cherry, accompanied by a Negro named Jack Loran, and, perhaps, one or two others, hurried to the scene where the savages charged the Box family, and discovered where the Indians had opened the feather beds, as usual, for the ticking. They also saw considerable leather on the ground that Mr. Box was bringing from eastern Texas to the local frontier citizens for the purpose of making shoes. So the tragedy had evidently occurred at this place, but up until this time, the body of Mr. Box had not been found. But after riding around the wagon three times, the citizens located Mr. Box lying in the broom-weeds, which were white with feathers.

    When the Indians were killing Mr. Box, his wife, Mary Box, and her eighteen year old daughter, Margaret; eleven year old daughter, Marzee, and seven year old daughter, Ida, in hysterical fright, left the wagon, and were hurrying to and fro in agony, although Mrs. Box was hardly able to be out of bed. With her infant baby hovered to her breast, she was tied on a wild horse, and Mrs. Box, and daughters started on the long journey toward northern Oklahoma or Kansas. Mrs. Box reported that nineteen Indians carried them away, but Charlie Grant stated that thirty-two savages were counted around the wagon. It is possible, however, these other Indians may have gone in a different direction. When they had gone a considerable distance, Mrs. Box's horse appeared to be somewhat fatigued and was slowing down. So a savage punched the animal in the side with a spear, which caused the pony to jump. When he did, Mrs. Box dropped her one week old baby. She then whirled her horse to pick it up, but was prevented by the Indians, who murdered the infant child in the most brutal manner, and before the eyes of its mother, who was already suffering inconceivable agony.

    Concerning the experience of Mrs. Box and her daughters while they were in the hands of the savages, we take the following quotation from the History of Montague County, by Mrs. W.R. Potter. Mrs. Box, who afterwards became the wife of Captain Brunson, told the following story of their thrilling experience with the Indians:

      "After killing her husband they tied her on a wild horse and speared him to make him plunge. The plunging of the horse caused her to drop her baby. The Indians picked the poor little thing up and killed before her eyes, and took the party on across Red River. There were nineteen Indians in the band. They refused to give Mrs. Box water, although she was so thirsty her tongue was swollen from her mouth. One of her daughters took off her slipper and filled it with water as they crossed a stream. She gave it to her mother. Her mother managed to drink it before the Indians could dash it from her lips. They took a leather quirt and beat the daughter almost to death for this act of kindness to her heart-broken mother. The Indians separated the family, putting them in different camps. The little girl, eight years old, would cry and run after the other members of the family when she would see them. The Indians held her feet to the fire until they were blistered, so she could not follow her mother and sister. It is hard to realize that such barbarous acts ever took place in this county, but all the cruelties the early settlers suffered at the hands of the Indians will never be known."

    Due to the patriotic efforts of F.M. Williams, Gov. J.W. Throckmorton, and others who worked through the Indian agents and military authorities, plans were perfected whereby Mrs. Box and her daughters were ransomed from the savages, a few months after they had been captured. They were in the hands of the Kiowas, who roamed over the Texas Panhandle, western Okla., Kansas, and elsewhere.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Charlie Grant, mentioned above; Geo. Jones, who married a niece of Mrs. Box, and her daughters, several times visited Mr. Jones and his wife, after they were returned from the hands of the Indians. Author also interviewed F.R. McCracken, W.A. (Bud) Morris; Joe Bryant, Joe Savage and others.

    Further Reference: A report made by Wm. Fanning, County Judge of Montague County, by Mrs. W.R. Potter, and Hunters' Magazine, October, 1911.

The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.


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