Negro Brit Johnson, Dennis Cureton & Paint Crawford

    Negro Brit Johnson and his colorful career, during the early days, always commanded the respect and esteem of those acquainted with his activities. Brit had been reared on the frontier among the white citizens, and although he was a Negro in fact, in many respects, was not in ways.

    During the latter part of January, 1871, J.B. Terrell, who still lives at Newcastle, was in Fort Worth and met Brit Johnson, who was there to try to sell his cattle to Dave Terrell. Negro Brit told Mr. J.B. Terrell that he was going to leave the following day, which was Sunday, for Fort Griffin. Brit, as a consequence, returned to Parker County, where he prepared to make his last journey.

    Negro Brit was then living near old Veale Station. After loading his provisions in a bois-d'arc wagon, he started for Ft. Griffin, and was accompanied by Dennis Cureton, who was the slave of Wm. Cureton Sr. at the time of his death in 1859. Brit was also accompanied by Paint Crawford, who was a former slave of Simpson Crawford, one of the first settlers of Palo Pinto County. The three Negroes had been living on the frontier for approximately fifteen years.

    Picture of Turtle Hole Battle Site
    Turtle Hole Battle Site from the book,
    Encyclopedia of Indian Wars
    , by Gregory F. Michno.

    About the second night out, Negro Brit Johnson, Dennis Cureton, and Paint Crawford, camped at the Turtle Hole, at the head of Flint Creek, about nine miles north of Graham, and on the north side of the road. The next morning, Indians slipped over the hill from the east, and charged the three frontier colored men. According to reports, the Indians had previously told Negro Brit they would kill him if he were ever found out alone. Negro Brit's companions ran, but Brit stood his ground and sold his life as dearly as possible. All three were killed and seventy-two empty shells found around Negro Brit's body, told the story of his bitter fight. No doubt, he made several feathered savages bite the dirt. Brit and his companions were buried near where they were killed, and on the north side of the old Fort Worth-Fort Belknap military road.

    And here in an unmarked grave, at the end of his long winding trail, that led to many ranches and cow camps in western Texas, and Indian villages in Oklahoma, lie buried the bones of Negro Brit Johnson. He was a faithful friend to the whites, was highly esteemed and respected by frontier citizens, and helped write much of the early history of Young and adjoining counties.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: J.B. (Blue) Terrell, who conversed with Negro Brit in Fort Worth the day before he started on his last journey, and who passed Negro Brit's grave, about the second day after he was killed; Mann Johnson; Henry Williams; F.M. (Babe) Williams; F.M. Peveler; John Marlin; Uncle Pink Brooks; Jeff (Cureton) Eddleman, who was also a slave of Wm. Cureton, mentioned above; A.M. Lasater; Walker K. Baylor, son of General John Baylor; James Wood; and many others who lived in this section of the time.

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

The following second story is from the book, Carbine & Lance, The Story of Old Fort Sill, by Colonel W.S. Nye; Copyright © 1937 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

    The raiding season of 1871 opened unusually early. On January 24 a group of Kiowas under Maman-ti (Sky-Walker) and Quitan appeared on the Butterfield Trail two miles south of Flat Top Mountain, in Young County, Texas. Here they attacked four Negroes who were hauling supplies from Weatherford to their homes near Fort Griffin. One of these men was Brit Johnson, the hero of the Elm Creek Raid of 1864. Brit had his men kill their horses and use them as a barricade. Though the colored men defended themselves bravely, they all were killed and scalped. On their way home the playful Kiowas amused themselves by throwing the kinky-haired scalps at one another. Finally they threw them away, as the hair was too short to be of value. They had little to show for their efforts when they arrived home, but bragged about the fight nevertheless.

From Ty Cashion's book, A Texas Frontier:

Into the spring of 1871 the raids waxed in both numbers and cruelty. The worsening situation was in part a response to the overtures of a peace commission that entertained a delegation of Plains chiefs in Washington, D.C. Just as Buffalo Hump in 1845 had registered his condemnation of a similar gesture by executing a crushing raid on Mexico, his progeny now vented their wrath on Texas. Hardest hit were settlers between Forts Griffin and Richardson, due south of the raiders' reservation near Fort Sill, Indian Territory. In Young County the Indians killed four African Americans, including Britt Johnson, a "hero of the Elm Creek raid." After scalping, emasculating, and disemboweling him, they stuffed his pet dog into his abdomen. Not far from that place they attacked another man and scalped him alive. Emboldened warriors twice attacked settlers within gunshot range of Fort Richardson, and by the fifth month of 1871, Indians had killed fourteen pioneers.

[Nye, Carbine and Lance , 123-24; Allen Lee Hamilton, Sentinel of the Southern Plains: Fort Richardson on the Northwest Texas Frontier, 1866-1878 , 71; Neighbours, "Elm Creek Raid," 88-89; McConnell, Five Years a Cavalryman , 696-702; Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas , 549-51.]

Other incidences where captives were retrieved by Brit Johnson.

Ben Blackwell
Elonzo White and Sarah Kemp
Thomas Rolland


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