Josephus and Frank Browning

    The Browning Ranch on Hubbard Creek, not a great distance from its mouth, was a well known place during the pioneer days. This ranch was near the present town of Crystal Falls, in Stephens County. During the middle of June 1860, Josephus and Frank Browning, sons of William Browning, were out riding the range in search of cattle. When the noon hour arrived, these boys were below the mouth of Hubbard's creek and about one mile from the Clear Fork, in a mesquite and live oak flat. Since it was extremely hot weather, they decided to stop under the shade of a tree and let their horses graze. A short time later, they heard Indians coming. So the Browning boys hurriedly cut the hobbles from their ponies and started away. Since Josephus had more difficulty with his horse, he was soon overtaken by Indians and killed. Frank being badly wounded, fell from his saddle when he crossed Hubbard's Creek. Frank's pony, with two arrows sticking in his body, ran to the ranch. Wm. Browning instantly knew Indians had attacked his sons. So he, in company with others, took the back trail of the pony. When Frank was found at a crossing of Hubbard's Creek about one and a half miles east of the present town of Crystal Falls, was still conscious and able to relate the story to this father. Frank stated, "I stayed with Joe until he was killed, then I ran away from the Indians." He also told his father the feathered warriors attempted to grab his bridle rains. But when he shot two or three of their number, the Indians fell back. William Browning then sent to the ranch for a wagon, and after Frank was carried home, the relief party brought in the body of Josephus. Frank was wounded about seventeen different times and at least two or three arrows passed completely through his body. But under the care and treatment of a doctor summoned from Fort Belknap, he recovered. His death, however, about twenty years later, largely attributed to the old wounds.

    The living witnesses interviewed by the author slightly differ concerning what the boys were doing at the moment the Indians charged. But we sincerely believe this one of the most accurate accounts of this Indian killing that has ever been written.

    Before writing this story, the author went to Oklahoma to personally interview J. S. Schoolcraft, whose sister married Frank Browning; also went to San Antonio to interview Walker Baylor, who saw the corpse of Josephus Browning and whose brought back nine of the scalps of the particular Indians who murdered Josephus. Also interviewed J. R. Browning, a cousin, F. M. Peveler, J. V. Mathews, James Clark, and others who were living in Stephens and adjoining counties, when Josephus Browning was killed.

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

The picture and text below is from the book, A Cry Unheard, by Doyle Marshall.


    John Robert Baylor (above) and his brother, Walker, gathered a posse and swore to revenge the murders. They killed twelve Indians marking the first success the local men had against the Indians.

On about June 11, 1860, while John R. Baylor, his twenty-five year-old brother, George, his fourteen year-old son, Jack, and other cowmen of the vicinity were rounding up the Baylor cattle, a messenger brought the sad news that Indians had killed and scalped Josephus Browning and had shot Frank Browning so full of arrows that it appeared he could not live.

...Miraculously, Frank later recovered from his wounds and lived many years to tell about the tragic experience.

...Looking down at the cold body of Josephus, George Wythe Baylor emotionally recalled his friendship with the young victim and vowed that the murderers would pay for their crime. Upon leaving the Browning home, John Baylor grasped the hand of "Uncle Billy" and assured him that, if possible, the death of his noble son would be avenged by the taking of Indian scalps.

At the Browning home a party was formed to pursue the guilty band. As usual, the elder Baylor was selected to lead the vindictive ranchers.

...While searching for the trail leaving the campside, the men were assured of being on the correct trail when George Baylor found on the ground the band's coveted trophy, Josephus' scalp, which likely had been dropped during the night by a careless Indian in his haste to break camp.

As the trailing party penetrated farther into the Indian county, the Indian signs became fresher along the trail. On the fourth day of pursuit, the party found a pile of meat in a ravine. Being informed on Comanche customs and behavior, Baylor was sure that the Indians would return for their meat, although it appeared to be spoiled. Deciding to wait for the return of the pursued, the ranchers unbridled the tired horses and let them graze. No doubt the men pondered with apprehension, the fact that until then settlers had experienced limited success in dealing with the Indians who raided the settlements. Being several days' distance inside the Indian country was probably also a discomforting reality to the ranchers.

When the horse showed alarm by raising their heads and looking southward, the ranchers knew that the Indians were returning for their cache. Soon the approaching two Indians became aware of the presence of their enemies and, being outnumbered, began a race for their lives. The frontiersmen quickly bridled their horses and were soon in hot pursuit. Comanche Indians were nothing new to John Baylor's splendid sorrel war-horse, Belton. The bright, swift steed had been stolen by the Comanches in Bell County, ridden until exhausted, then lanced through the lungs, and left for dead. Now the time had come for Belton to get even.

Baylor and Belton left the slower of the two Indians for the other men to deal with and started after the one on the faster horse. Since Baylor passed on the right of the slower Indian, he knew that unless the Indian was left-handed it would be difficult for him to use his bow and arrow to any advantage. However, George could see the slower Indian reining to the right in order to get himself in a position to fire on John. When George fired a shot, the attention of the Indian in the rear was diverted from John. Seeing that George's horse was faster than his, the Indian resorted to an old Indian trick. He sprang from his horse to the ground and faced George, hoping to shoot him in the back as he passed. This would enable the Indian to leap onto George's faster horse and escape. Although George turned his mare into the Indian, with the intent of riding him down, the Indian dodged to the left, and the mare swerved to the right. The Indian fired an arrow at George, striking his belt. Immediately another arrow grazed George's back. Leaping from his mare to the ground, George leveled his gun at the Indian and pulled the trigger. To his horror the gun failed to fire. After a second unsuccessful attempt, George found that the cap had been knocked from his gun. Aware of George's misfortune, the Indian quickly reached for another arrow as George reached in his vest pocket for another cap. By that time the other ranchers reached the scene, when the Indian, seeing that he was outnumbered, fled in the direction of a nearby thicket. Before he reached the thicket, George replaced the cap on his gun and fired. The determined red man fell to the ground, rolled over onto his back, and doggedly kept the air full of arrows, aimed at first one and then another of the ranchers until he was riddled with bullets from the white men's guns.

Because John Baylor was having trouble overtaking the Indian he was pursuing, he dismounted, braced himself, and took careful aim at the Indian, who, by gestures, was showing contempt for Baylor. When Baylor fired, the Indian fell forward, clasping his horse's neck. In another fight on the same day the ranchers killed two more Indians. From the signs of the many horse tracks, dead campfires, and slaughtered animal carcasses in the area, the white intruders deducted that there was a large body of Indians nearby and that the six of them stood little chance with so many redskins on their home ground. Therefore, the little band of Indian hunters started for home with their Indian scalps and captured horses. On the trail, when the party reached Paint Creek in Haskell County, they encountered another band of Indians who by the battle's end had contributed several scalps to the ranchers' collection, including one from a "squaw." It was difficult in battle to determine the sex of the Indian fighters, since the women in small bands sometimes fought along with the warriors and looked much like the men. George Baylor recalled that finding the victim to be a female made little difference to the whites, since Indian women were considered to be more cruel to white women and children captives than the warriors were. Gathering their trophies of war, Baylor and his followers proceeded to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, in the vicinity of where Abilene now stands, where they camped. While dinner was cooking, John Robert began scratching himself frantically. Earlier, during the fight he had placed the Indians' lousy scalps in the bosom of his gray flannel shirt, and now the vermin were abandoning the scalps for "greener pastures." George jokingly explained that, in behalf of their former hosts, the Indian lice were trying to get even with John. After taking a swim and fumigating his clothing over a brush fire, John regained his comfort and composure and soon resumed the role of dignified leader of men.

After dinner, the party continued toward their homes, pleased with the success of their Indian hunt. They soon spotted about thirty-five horses led by six Comanches, who were laughing and talking until they spied the ranchers. The Indians then halted and assessed the situation. Since John Robert had learned the Comanche language while serving as agent to the Southern Comanches, he heard the chief suggest to his warrior that since there were only six whites they should go down and whip them and take their horses. In the battled that followed more Comanche scalps were taken, including that of the chief, whose shield was decorated with the plaited auburn-haired scalp of a white woman, trimmed around the edge with varicolored beads. The chief's large silver hair ornament was taken by the Baylor brothers and later fashioned by a San Antonio silversmith into belt buckles for each of them. These buckles became treasured family heirlooms.

Baylor and the ranchers had killed twelve Indians and wounded one who died later after the battered band arrived in the Indian Territory. Fifty-five horses had been recovered, in addition to the scalp of Josephus Browning, which was taken to the Browning ranch for burial with the body. John Baylor presented the scalp to "Uncle Billy" and told him that, although his rancher neighbors could not bring his son back, Josephus' death had been avenged with the taking of nine Indian scalps. After the Brownings' tearful acceptance of the scalp, the tired, but satisfied men left for their homes.

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