Salt Creek Fight


W. C. "Uncle Billy" Kutch at the monument on the site of the Salt Creek Indian battle.
This site is between Jean and Olney and about one mile north of the highway.

Lemley Cemetery Historical Marker

Marker Title: Lemley Cemetery
Address: Cold Springs Rd. off Old Authon Rd. via FM 920
City: Lemley
Year Marker Erected: 1992
Marker Location: From Weatherford, take FM 920 6.6 miles northwest, then 1 mile west on Old Authon Road, turn south onto Cold Springs Road, about 1 mile to cemetery.
Marker Text: The earliest marked grave in this cemetery, that of Elizabeth Moore, dates to 1857. She was buried on part of a 160-acre tract of land settled by the Thomas B. Martin family in 1853 and patented to Martin by the State of Texas six years later. The existence of the cemetery is reflected in the Parker County deed records as early as 1869, when Martin sold his property to John H. and Thomas J. Lemley. The Lemleys came to Texas from Illinois in the mid-1850s and eventually settled in Parker County. The cemetery on their property, which came to be named for them, was used over the years for members of the family, as well as for friends and nearby settlers. Tombstones mark the graves of landowners Thomas Martin and George Lemley, as well as others who lived and died in the area, many of whom were victims of the hardships of pioneer life on the Texas frontier. At least five veterans of the Civil War also are buried here. Many graves are marked only with native rocks. The historic Lemley Cemetery is thus an important reflection of the heritage of this part of Parker County. (1992)

The following story is W. C. Kutch's first-hand acount of the Salt Creek Fight taken from the book, History of Jack County, by Thomas F. Horton.

    The local ranches were gathering cattle northwest of Cottonwood Springs when the Indians attacked.

    We spied a good-sized bunch a good way off and Shapp Carter and I started to the bunch. When we were just about ready to make the run we heard Henry Harrison call-we knew it meant the Indians had run into them. We looked back to the herd which was just about a mile from us, the Indians had rounded up the boys, the herd and the loose cattle and were just holding them there. Carter said to me, “What does that mean no fighting going on.” I said to him, “I am just waiting to see which way to go.” We were in one-half mile of the timber and one mile from them. I said, “We can get away without any trouble.” He said, “What sort of a tale will we tell when we get home?” Nobody was hurt down there yet. I knew he was gritty, I had tried him before. I said to him, “Now, Shapp, we can start to them, down there, there are boys there that you were raised with, among them, and it looks bad to go off, we can start and when we do some of them will commence coming to meet us. You throw your six-shooter to the left and I will throw mine to the right, but don’t you open the fire.” They met us over half way, run around us, about thirty yards from us and got in behind us but did not shoot. They carried us from there down to where the other boys were with the herd-we run right in to where the boys were. Lemly called out, “Rush on to the timber right to our west” I said, “No, not one of us will ever make it, right on the bald prairie, and fifty-seven Indians around us.”

    About three hundred yards there was a right smart of a thicket on the side next to us, on the opposite was a bluff. I said, “Make for that place, turn everything loose.” That was the last resort. Some Indians were standing there who understood everything we said and they made a run and beat us to the place. When they got possession of that place they opened fire on us. We had got into a little basin of a place. I told the boys to dismount and turn everything loose that we would never need the horses any more. All turned them loose, except a negro who was with us, his horse was killed in a few minutes.

    The fight continued from ten o’clock in the morning till four o’clock in the evening. Will Crow was killed at the commencement of the fight, George Lemly was wounded twice, John Lemly was wounded twice, Rube Segress was wounded twice, Shapp Carter was wounded twice, Jim Gray was wounded twice, I was wounded three times, Jesse McClain was wounded once; Henry Harrison, Joe Woody and the negro, Dick, were not wounded.

    …They traveled all night in the rain and got to us about eight o’clock the next morning. They loaded the seven wounded men in the wagon and tied the dead man, Crow, on the back of the wagon. There was where our real trouble set in-no roads, the land was full of little ditches, rocks, bunches of grass, the spikes were cutting and grinding all the time.

    …We reached the ranch about twelve o’clock. They untied the dead man from the back of the wagon and moved him back under the wagon. I told them to get John Lemley out as quickly as possible for he was dying. Lemley was dead when they got him out. This was the old picket house with a dirt floor. Harmison and all his men gave up all of their bedding and they made pallets all around in the house to put the wounded down. I was the last one to come into the house and there was only a corn sack for my pallet. This man, Whitten, had pulled spikes out of Bill Peveler. I asked him if he had any pinchers about the place. He did not. He finally remarked, “I’ve got a pair of Colts navy six-shooter molds.” I said, “Get them.” I told Whitten to take the molds and pull the spikes from me. He said he could not do it. I told him I knew better-I said, “You are the man who pulled the spikes out of Ben Peveler that the Indians shot into him.” He said, “Yes, but I have no tools to work with.” I told him, “You’ve got all the tools right here that are necessary.” He wanted me to wait till the doctors got there, I told him it might be night before they got there and as a matter of course they will work on the ones suffering worst, first. He finally consented to undertake it, he put a man to each foot and each hand and A. C. Tackett to hold my head. He cut a hole in the flesh to the bone where the arrow went in and after hard pulling he got it out. The boys gave him some handkerchiefs and he bound it up the best he could. I was lying flat on the ground and an arrow had struck me in the top of the shoulder and ran down and lodged in the bottom of my shoulder blade. He cut a hole in my shoulder and ran the bullet molds down there and pulled it out. The third arrow they shot into me went about half the length of an arrow into my leg. I got that one out myself. The doctors came about sundown. They worked on the wounded until next morning. That day was the second after the fight. They got an ambulance and a wagon or two and were fixing to take us all home. We got to Flat Top Springs, three miles north of where Graham now is and stopped for a while. Shapp Carter died there. His father had come to us and they took him on down home that evening. They carried us down to the old salt works, where Graham now is, after so long a time. The balance of us got up and were ready to go. We left part of the wounded there and left one doctor with them. Only three were able to travel and able to be carried on home from there.

    During this battle we had lost two hundred cattle, thirty-one head of horses, the pack mule, all our bedding, our provisions, and our ammunition was just about out when the fight ended.

    The Famous Salt Creek Fight/Second Story

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

      After spending the night on Flint Creek, north of the old Murphy Station, a group of cowmen, who were on a roundup, waded their horses knee-deep through the luxurious wild flowers, found so abundantly in northern Young County, and started to their herd, approximately two miles away. It was Monday, May 16, 1869. For several days, fresh Indian signs had been discovered. So these cowmen realized that the approximately five hundred head of cattle, already gathered, would attract the attention of the savages for many miles. Consequently the Texans camped about two miles distant from the bawling herd, to avoid, if possible, a night conflict with the barbarous hordes of the plains.

      It was a damp day. The spring breezes were blowing intermittent flurries of rain. And about the usual hour, the cowmen began to slowly move their cattle. Ira Graves assumed command, and with him were: Wm. Crow, John Lemley, Geo. Lemley, C. L. (Shap) Carter, Jason McClain, W. C. Kutch, J. W. Gray, Henry Harrison, Rube Secris, Joe Woody, and Negro Dick, a cook.

      After the herd had been drifted for about four miles, several cattle were seen grazing in the distance. So C. L. (Shap) Carter and W. C. Kutch were detailed to bring them in. Kutch and Carter galloped away. They had hardly gone two miles, however, when the two heard the shrill voices of many shouting demons behind them. The peaceful prairies, which only a few moments before, were waving with millions of wild flowers, seemed to have suddenly transformed into a sea of raging red men. Carter and Kutch could have easily escaped into the timber, but realizing the plight of their companions, these faithful frontiersmen dashed almost through approximately fifty-seven painted Indians, to reach their associates, who were also rapidly riding to join Kutch and Carter. The cowboys, only armed with cap and ball six-shooters, rushed toward a little ravine; but when within a few yards, discovered that it was already occupied by a large band of Indians. They were then compelled to retreat, and assume a location in a little depression to the right. This depression drained into one of the prongs of Salt Creek. Their position, then, was about five miles southeast of the present city of Olney, in Young County. Jason McClain and J. W. Gray were already seriously wounded, and since the little wash-out was so shallow, the dozen cowmen were forced to lie down. It was now about ten o'clock in the morning, and again and again the Indians' onslaughts were repulsed by the cowmen. Wm. Crow was instantly killed during the early stages of the battle, when a rifle ball penetrated his head; George Lemley seriously wounded in the face, and before the fight was over, every man received a painful wound, excepting Henry Harrison and Joe Woody. But still the twelve citizens realized their dangerous predicament, and waged one of the most bloody and dangerous battles ever fought on the West Texas frontier. With one man dead, and nine others seriously and mortally wounded, their very existence was suspended by rotten twine. Each savage charge and onslaught came sweeping like a death dealing tide and threatened to completely destroy the Texans so poorly armed.

      While the battle was most intense, the citizens discovered ammunition was growing low. So the besieged cowboys began to feel their last hopes were gone. But it was agreed the wounded would load the guns while others did the shooting. When the horses were shot down, their dead bodies afforded the frontiersmen additional breastworks. After the Indians realized the citizens were not being dislodged, they tried new tactics, which seemed to be in accord with the command of the main chief, not in the fight, but stationed on a nearby hill. The Indians attempted to slip up the branch below, but when they did, five or six of their number fell wounded.

      The savages were under the immediate command of a Negro, who seemed to inspire the Indians to fight far more desperately. Finally, however, about five o'clock in the evening, the chief summoned his warriors by his side, and to his place of eminence on a nearby hill. It seems the savages were holding a council of war preparatory to make a final drive. But just at this moment, perhaps, the cowboys were saved by their own perseverance, and strategy of Capt. Ira Graves, who ordered every cowboy, regardless of whether well or wounded, to stand up and wave defiance at the wild demons. Most every one, excepting Wm. Crow, stood up, and this bit of strategy, no doubt, caused the Indians to think that after fighting for six or seven hours, and after losing several of their own number, the citizens had scarcely been harmed. And too, during the last part of the fighting, Capt. Ira Graves and his men had been shooting at the Indian leaders, and this apparently caused considerable consternation in the savage ranks. So the Indians discharged a final volley or two, and then drove the cattle away.

      When the Indians retreated, Wm. Crow had been dead for several hours, C. L. (Shap) Carter had a severe arrow wound in his body, and had been also painfully injured with a rifle ball. John Lemley was mortally wounded in the abdomen with an arrow; J. W. Gray had been twice struck with rifle balls, once in the body and one in the leg; W. C. Kutch had two arrow heads in his knee, and one in his shoulder; Jason McClain had been twice wounded with arrows; Rube Secris had his mouth badly torn, and his knee shattered; Geo. Lemley had his face badly torn, and an arrow wound in his arm; and Ira Graves and Negro Dick were also wounded. Henry Harrison was dispatched to the Harmison Ranch, several miles away for aid. John Lemley died from the effects of his wound sometime in the evening following the battle.

      During the dreadful night that followed, the citizens stood guard and waited on the wounded as best they could. The next morning, their souls were inspired when they saw a wagon approaching in the distance. And according to reports, A. C. Tackett, Bob Whitten, and Theodore Miller, assisted in moving the cowboys, and removing some of the spikes from their bodies. Messengers were also dispatched for Dr. Getzwelder, of old Black Springs in Palo Pinto County, and Dr. Gunn, the U.S. Army surgeon, at Fort Richardson. But it was nearly twenty-four hours after the fight was over, before these surgeons arrived. C. L. (Shap) Carter died the next day after the fight, and his death made the third victim of this battle. About two years later, Jason McClain, who helped move a large herd of cattle over the trail, died in Kansas, and his death was attributed to the wounds received in this battle, which numbered among the most desperate, dangerous, and bloody engagements ever fought on the west Texas frontier.

      Note: Author personally interviewed: A. C. George, and L. L. Tackett; John Marlin; Henry Williams; Mann Johnson; J. B. Terrell; F. M. (Babe) Williams; Uncle Pink Brooks; A. M. Lasater; James Wood; B. L. Ham; Mrs. H. G. Taylor; E. K. Taylor; Mrs. Huse Bevers; Mrs. Jerry Hart; and several others who lived on the frontier at the time.

      Further Ref: History of Young Co., by Judge P. A. Martin, as published in the Graham paper, and W. C. Kutch's own account of this fight, as published in the Star-Telegram and Graham paper. Clippings from these papers were furnished by J. B. Terrell, but we are unable to supply the dates.

Overland Stage Near Salt Creek

On May 31, 1870 the Overland Stage was attacked near Salt Creek, eight miles east of the old Fort Belknap. The driver was killed and the mail was carried off. From signs of the body, evidently death was caused by bullets. The Indians were believed to have been Kiowas.

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