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.
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
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.