Indian Fight Near the Mouth of Big Keechi in Palo Pinto County
During 1872, H. G. Taylor, Huse Bevers, P. J. Taylor, John McLaren, Lidge Maddox, and others started over the trail with the Taylor and Bevers' cattle, from Palo Pinto County to Kansas. When they reached Big Keechi, these cowmen received the news that the Kansas markets were in a deflated condition. H. G. Taylor and Huse Bevers as a consequence turned back five or six hundred head of young cattle, about one and two years of age. When they did, they had more hands then were needed, so Lidge Maddox, John McLaren, and Pleas J. Taylor, also turned back, and started to Palo Pinto. They were riding three ponies and leading one pack-horse. When the three were within two miles of the Brazos brakes, Pleas Taylor fired about four shots with his six-shooter, at a peculiar bird, so he had only two loads left. Shortly afterwards, they saw twenty-one Indians. Pleas Taylor said, "Boys, let's fight them." But Lidge Maddox replied, "No, we are shot out." It was now about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning, and the three citizens decided to make a run for the nearest cedar brakes, which were close to the old Welty Hollow. For one and one-half miles they ran, with twenty-one yelling Comanches after them. When the Indians saw P. J. Taylor, Lidge Maddox, and John McLaren were going to reach the roughs, the savages stopped on a little ridge to the north. But they succeeded in capturing the pack-horse, which McLaren, and Taylor were leading. Among other things on this pack-horse, P. J. Taylor had three pairs of white lady's stockings, which he wore to dances. Men's fancy silk stockings were then unknown in this section. So Pleas Taylor's stockings fell into the hands of the Indians. When Taylor, Maddox, and McLaren reached the cedar brakes, P. J. Taylor decided to ride behind Jim McLaren, because Taylor's horse was wild. The Indians, some of whom were afoot, appeared to be on their way to the settlements on a horse stealing raid, and apparently had no desire to pursue the citizens further.
When the boys reached Palo Pinto, twelve local citizens volunteered to follow the Indians. J. C. Loving was in Palo Pinto at the time, and making preparations to return to his ranch in Jack County. As the Indians were near his route, he agreed to go, and assume command. The others who composed the expedition were: Pleas J. Taylor, Lidge Maddox, John McLaren, Lem Vaughan, Tom Wilson, James Owen, W. J. Hale, Shafe Vaughan, Ike Metcalf, Geo. Kisinger, John Caruthers, and about one other. The Indian trail was soon found, and it led directly toward the mouth of Big Keechi. Not a great distance from this point, the citizens first discovered several horses in the distance, so they felt sure the Indians were near. Six of the twelve citizens were detailed to remain with the horses, while the others scaled a nearby steep cedar mountain, on which it was presumed the Indians were sleeping. This mountain was evidently a short distance below the mouth of big Keechi, and above the mouth of Turkey Creek. In a report of this fight, J. C. Loving said, that John Caruthers, Johnnie McLaren, Lem and Shafe Vaughan, Geo. Kisinger, and J. C. Loving were the six that scaled the hill or small mountain in search of the Indians.
Concerning this adventure, J. C. Loving said:
"The top of the mountain is a flat plain of some six to ten acres in area, and covered with cedar timber, with but little undergrowth, and would have been a beautiful spot on ordinary occasions. The party following the trail up the mountain side, when within some three hundred or four hundred feet of the top, stopped to listen, and heard the sound of horses' feet up on the level. Thinking the Indians were up there, and had heard their pursuers, and were running from them, the men ran up to the top as fast as they could, and when they reached the level they were in plain view of about twenty Indians. The Indians had been in camp on the top of this particular mountain since some time in the forenoon. And after chasing the boys that morning, were waiting for night to come to raid some near settlement for horses, as was their custom. It was then late in the evening, and the Indians were rounding-up their horses preparatory to starting, when the party on foot stopped to listen, and heard the sound of horses' feet on top of the mountain.
"The Indians and their pursuers discovered each other about the same time, and opened fire on each other, the Indians keeping up the most unearthly yelling that ever was heard in those mountains. The men had run some distance up the mountain, and the fatigue from the run and the excitement of finding the Indians had put them in a somewhat unsettled and shaky condition. Still, they sent bullets fast and thick over toward where the Indians were, and in turn the Indians cut the leaves and small limbs from the trees over the boys' heads, showing that the Indians were a little excited and shooting too high."
When the citizens first reached the summit of the mountain, some of the savages were still on the ground. The white men first fired at an old rusty Indian, hardly awake, and rubbing his eyes. Just at this time, it seems the Indians were making preparations to leave, and had the citizens been thirty or forty minutes later, perhaps, the Indians would have been gone. Nevertheless, Capt. J. C. Loving and his men succeeded in taking the Indians by surprise, for seldom before had they Indians been attacked in such a secluded position. So securely did they feel on this occasion, the Indians were not even guarded by a spy.
Six of the warriors were each wearing one of Pleas J. Taylor's white lace stockings, which came above the Indian's knee. Dressed as the savages were in their ordinary regalia, this peculiar combination made their appearance all the more hideous. But as these Indians danced about each wearing one white stocking, they made a splendid target for the citizens.
One Indian attempted to reach a horse, and when he did, J. C. Loving and, perhaps, others, wounded this warrior. Excited by the firing, the six citizens, left with the horses, were now rapidly approaching to assist the others.
About this time, however, the Indians used considerably ingenuity so they could remove their dead and wounded. Six brave and able warriors began firing from a rough section on the side, and very near the citizens for the purpose of attracting the attention of the white men in that direction. This bit of strategy worked well, for their shooting could not be ignored. In a short time, the Indians' firing filled Lim Vaughan's eyes with bark, and as a consequence, he was forced to make a retreat. When he did, the others fell back, but the main band of Indians were already retreating down the other side of the mountain with their dead and wounded. The white citizens soon rallied and when they did, the six Indians fell back. The citizens then pushed forward and discovered the savages had forced such horses they had over a ten foot bluff. This was to the Indians' advantage, for several minutes expired before the citizens found a way to lead their horses down the cliff. When Capt. J. C. Loving and his command found a way down, and into the river bottom, they were son on the Indians' trail, which led to the banks of a deep body of water. Here the blood and other evidence seemed to disclose the Indians hurriedly gave two or thee of their dead comrades a burial in the red and brackish waters of the Brazos River. The trail was then followed further, but the shadows of evening had already enveloped the river and most of the mountains. J. C. Loving suggested they had better turn back, for at that late hour, there was danger of running into an ambush.
The next morning the citizens returned and picked up the trail, which was followed for a short distance. Here they discovered signs plainly disclosing the Indians the night before had made a stand and were waiting to waylay the white men. The trail led down the river toward the old Hart Bend. The savages crossed the river two or three times below the Wm. Metcalf place, and were then followed until again lost in darkness. This time, however, the Indians were abandoned in Darcus Hollow, between where the old road and new highway go down Wynn Mountain.
The citizens, after the fight on the little cedar mountain, recovered several of the Indian horses, three of which, were wounded, and one of which soon died. One of the horses recovered, belonged to Capt. J. C. Loving. This horse had been stolen from the Loving Ranch, about one year before. No doubt, this animal had been as far north as Kansas, and more than once passed through exciting experiences. The citizens also recovered some camp equipage, and a breech strap which J. C. Loving and, perhaps, one or two others shot from the Indian warrior when he attempted to mount a pony.
This fight may appropriately be called the "Stocking Fight" because six warriors were wearing P. J. Taylor's stolen stockings.
Note: Author personally interviewed: Pleas J. Taylor, and W. J. Hale, mentioned above; also Mrs. Huse Bevers, a sister of Pleas J. Taylor; Mrs. M. J. Hart, another sister; and Mrs. H. G. Taylor, a sister-in-law.
Further Ref.: J. C. Loving's account of this conflict, in the Cattle Industry of Texas.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.