Early Republic of Texas Rangers
Early Republic of Texas Rangers | Ranger Descriptions | Rangers
James Milford Day, pictured above, one of Guadalupe County's earliest settlers, was seriously wounded in a gun battle with Cordova's rebels on March 30, 1839.
Ranger Jim Nichols, also above, wrote of Day's suffering:
Marker Title: Battleground Prairie
Daniel Parker Sr.
Abram Anglin, survivor of Parker's Fort Massacre
Marker Title: Fort Parker
Address: Of FM 1245, in Fort Parker Historical Park
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: Fort Parker Historical Park, off SH 1245 on park rd. 35, N of Groesbeck.
Marker Text: Built 1834 for protection from Indians. Named for leaders who brought first Predestinarian Baptist church body to Texas: Elder Daniel Parker; his father, Elder John; bothers Jas. W., Benjamin, Silas, John. Also here were Kellogg, Frost, Nixon, Duty and Plummer families on May 18, 1836, raiding Comanches killed Benjamin, John and Silas Parker, Samuel and Robert Frost and others; captured Elizabeth Kellogg, Rachel Plummer and son James, and Silas's children, John and Cynthia Ann in captivity, Cynthia Ann married Chief Peta Nacona; her son, Quanah, was last Comanche Chief. With her baby, Prairie Flower, in 1860 she was captured by Texas Rangers. She, the baby and Quanah are buried at Fort Sill.
In early August of 1835, Colonel Moore's Ranger's responded to Coleman's bloody July encounter with the Tonkawas. The Colonel led Ranger Captains Williamson, Barnett, Coe, Goheen and Coleman and their companies northwest from Parker's Fort to even the score. Ranger George Erath later wrote:
After waiting for the swollen Navasota to run down, we marched on to the village. Texas Indians never allowed themselves to be attacked by a hundred men together; they had evacuated the village, and we had nothing to do but occupy it. We found sixty acres in corn, which was just hard enough to be gritted, and by making holes in the bottom of the tin cups we carried we fashioned graters, and supplied ourselves with bread. There were also numbers of pumpkins, watermelons, muskmelons, peas and other vegetables, such as were then raised by Indians in their primitive agriculture.
Two days later the troops were on Post Oak Creek when scouts reported Indians ahead. Erath comments that Moore "took as much precaution as if we were about to fight such formidable foes as Creeks, Cherokees, and Seminoles-foes the two had faced in their younger days under Jackson." Battle lines were formed. Erath further wrote:
I was riding a young horse which had been caught a colt from the mustangs, that was fiery. When the order came to charge, it darted forward ahead of all the rest, and I found myself alone in the advance. Next came McFall, who was also on a wild horse, too eager for the fray. The officers shouted to us to come back into line, but our efforts to obey were in vain. Our steeds had determined to give us a reputation for bravery which we did not deserve.
The incident also earned Erath the nickname, "The Flying Dutchman". The battalion trudged on northwest until the end of August when the Rangers enlistments began to expire and many chose to return to their families. Erath continues:
The main body of the Indians were never overtaken; but several small scattering parties were met, with which there was some skirmishing. The Texan forces kept daily diminishing, and in two months the expedition closed.
Moore led the remaining volunteers to the forks of the Trinity, where Dallas now stands, before turning back to the southeast, passing through the future site of Fort Graham. The force returned to Moore's Fort in Mina (present day Bastrop) and disbanded.
After Texas gained its independence, Sam Houston authorized the formation of Texas Rangers and the establishment of blockhouses to protect settlers from Indian attacks. Two facilities were near Austin in 1836. The Texas Rangers established Camp Coleman, or Fort Colorado, as it would later be called. It was on high ground above the north bank of the Colorado River just west of Walnut Creek and six miles southeast of Austin in present-day Travis County. Built during 1836 by Colonel Robert M. Coleman, it was first garrisoned by two companies of his battalion. Lieutenant William H. Moore was the last commander of the fort when it was abandoned in April 1838. There are no remains of the blockhouse, abandoned as the frontier moved westward.
Coleman wrote to Senator Sterling Robertson on October 16, describing Fort Colorado and the deployment of his new ranger battalion.
I have selected the most beautiful site I ever saw for the purpose. It is immediately under the foot of the mountains. The eminence is never the less commanding, and in every way suited to the object in view.
I have ordered Capt. Batton to build a block house at or near Milam, where he will station one half of his company. The other half of the company under the 1st Lieut. is also ordered to build a block house at, or near, the three forks of the Little River. I shall in a short time commence a block house at the head of San Marcos, and one at the crossing of the Guadalupe, by which means I hope to be able to give protection to the whole frontier west of the Brazos.
In 1826, John Henry Moore built two blockhouses within what are now the city limits of La Grange. Area settlers were also allowed to use this shelter as a defense against the Indians. Buildings from Moore's Fort have been rebuilt in the nearby community of Round Top.
John Jackson Tumlinson, who had requested the need for a ranger-type system in January 182, was killed on July 6, 1823, by a band of Indians near the present town of Seguin in the Colorado settlement. Tumlinson and a companion, aide Joseph Newman, had been en route to San Antonio to secure ammunition requested by Moses Morrison's men when he was killed by Karankawa and Huaco Indians.
John Jackson Tumlinson's son, John Jackson Tumlinson Jr., later a respected ranger captain, collected a posse and led them against a band of thirteen Huaco (Waco) Indians who had camped above the present town of Columbus. The posse leader's teenage brother, Joseph Tumlinson, acted as a scout for this unit and managed to kill the first Indian when the Texans surprised the Waco camp. Captain Tumlinson's posse killed all but one of the Indians.
In June 1824 Austin reorganized his militia into five companies. Soon thereafter, Captains Jesse Burnam and Amos Rawls fought nine Karankawa Indians on the Colorado River, killing eight. Austin also sent Captain Aylett C. Buckner with a party of volunteers to the Waco Indian village to make a treaty with the Waco, Tawakoni, and Towash Indians.
Captain Randall Jones' twenty-three man militia company was authorized by Austin to make an expedition against a force of Indians who had killed several immigrants en route to Austin's Colony. Jones' men fought two skirmishes with the Indians in September 1824. In the first, the whites killed or drove away all of their attackers. On the following day, Captain Jones and his men made a surprise dawn attack on the Indians. They managed to kill an estimated fifteen Indians before losing three of their own killed and several wounded, forcing Jones to order a retreat.
One of the little settlements that would remain a centerpiece for Indian troubles and revolution was Gonzales, the capital of Green DeWitt's young Texas colony. The area of DeWitt's Colony as contracted with the Mexican government included all of present Gonzales, Caldwell, Guadalupe, and DeWitt Counties and portions of Lavaca, Wilson, and Karnes Counties.
The peace in this area was shattered on July 2, 1826, when a party of Indians attacked a group of pioneers, stealing their horses and personal effects. Bazil Durbin was wounded by a rifle ball that drove so deeply into his shoulder that it remained there for the next thirty-two years of his life. The Indians next plundered the double log home of James Kerr, where John Wightman had been left alone in charge of the premises. Wightman was killed, mutilated, and had his scalp removed by the Indians. The fear spread by this depredation was enough to prevent the Gonzales area from being permanently settled again until the spring of 1828.
The most serious encounter of 1826 occurred when Tawakoni Indians came into the settlements stealing horse and hunting the Tonkawa Indians they so hated. The Tonkawa name was derived from "They all stay together" but has been translated as "men who eat men." They were also reported to have killed and scalped a Mexican resident while on their depredation. The Indians made their camp in the bed of Ross Creek in present Fayette County near the town that later became La Grange. Captain James J. Ross led thirty-one militiamen out to fight these Indians on April 4, 1826. His party was composed of many future Fayette County settlers, including John J. Tumlinson Jr., John Cryer, and S. A. Anderson. When Ross's men raided the Indian camp, they caught them by surprise. Some of the Indians were dancing around with fresh scalps, while others were parching corn of lying down. Of an estimated sixteen Indians, the Texans killed eight and wounded most of the others.
The balance of 1827 and 1828 found Austin Colony settlers and the native Indians on somewhat better relations. In July 1829, however, a battle was fought against Indians who had taken control of Thomas Thompson's small farm near present Bastrop on the Colorado River. Thompson led then men in a fight against the Indians, killing four and chasing away the others. Colonel Austin ordered two volunteer companies of fifty men raised. The companies were under Captains Oliver Jones and Bartlett Sims and under the supervision of Colonel Abner Kuykendall. Captain Harvey S. Brown raised another volunteer company during this time due to murders and depredations committed by Indians around the Gonzales area. Although Captain Sims and his company scouted extensively in pursuit of the Indians, these combined forces only managed to kill one Indian while on their offensive.
The homes of Charles Cavina, who had immigrated to Texas in 1828 and received a league in Matagorda County, and neighbor Elisha Flowers were attacked by an estimated seventy Karankawa Indians in 1830 near Live Oak Bayou on Old Caney Creek in Austin's Colony. Four women in the Cavina house were killed, as was Mrs. Flowers. Two badly wounded girls survived the assault.
Cavina raised sixty of Austin's settlers, and command was given to Captain Buckner. At the site of present Matagorda on the Colorado River, Buckner's men fought a heated battle with the raiding Indians. Among his volunteers who narrowly escaped death in this battle was Moses Morrison, who had been the organizer of what was arguably the earliest Texas Rangers. In the ensuing massacre, the vengeful Texans killed Indian men and women. As many as forty or fifty Indians were killed and the riverbanks literally ran red with blood.
From the Falls of the Brazos, the townspeople selected Samuel McFall to run ahead and warn the Bastrop citizens. Bastrop was the uppermost white settlement of any size on the Colorado River in 1835. The local residents had been forced to band together to protect themselves from neighboring Waco, Tawakoni, Kichai, and Comanche raids. Consequently, a strong log stockade or fort was erected in the center of the little town. In the event of a serious Indian attack, the townspeople could take shelter inside.
McFall, a lean and quick man of six feet, three inches, ran the distance on foot and is fabled to have been a faster runner than most saddle horses of the time. Before he could arrive, a party of eight Indians made a vicious attack on June 1. On the road from San Felipe to Bastrop, they attacked the wagon of Amos R. Alexander near Cummins Creek.
Alexander, a Pennsylvania native, had brought his wife and two sons to Texas in the spring of 1833. They settled in Bastrop and eventually opened a store and hotel. In April 1835 Amos and son Amos Jr. went to the coast to get a supply of goods they had ordered. They hired two other men to serve as teamsters to haul their goods. The Alexanders were attacked by Indians on June 1 at Pin Oak Creek about thirty-five miles from Bastrop.
Amos Alexander was killed outright. His son was on horseback and was shot through the body. The younger Alexander rode full speed from the scene of the attack toward Moore's Fort at La Grange, the last town they had passed. He met the second wagon being hauled by the two brothers his father had hired as teamsters. The three started for Moore's Fort, but the young Alexander died from his wounds. His body was laid under a tree and covered with leaves and moss.
The teamsters reached La Grange, and John Henry Moore helped them raise a party of men. Moore, thirty-five, was a native of Tennessee who had settled on the Colorado River in 1821 as one of Austin's Old Three Hundred. By 1828 he owned the twin blockhouse known as Moore's Fort, which was located in La Grange, the town he had laid out and named in 1831.
As this attack was going on, two immigrants had stopped at the home of frontiersman John Marlin near the Falls of the Brazos. While these men lay sick, their horses managed to wander off beyond the Little River toward Brushy Creek. Marlin then employed Canoma and Dorcha to attempt to bring the horses back. In good faith for their services, Marlin presented one of the Indian chiefs with a new shirt.
As Chief Canoma, his wife, son, and his other Indian companion set out to assist the white settlers, other frontiersmen were unwittingly on a collision course with these do-gooders. A party of volunteers from Bastrop was formed under forty-six-year-old Captain Edward Burleson, a North Carolinian who had migrated to Texas in 1831. A soldier under General Andrew Jackson in the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814, Burleson would become one of the most respected frontier leaders in early Texas history. This Bastrop party included Stephen Townsend, Spencer Burton Townsend, Moses Townsend, John York, William Isbell, Jesse L. McCrocklin, and George A. Kerr, among others. Captain Burleson's men set out to follow the trail of the Indians who had killed the wagoner and his son. Finding the bodies of the Alexanders, they buried them and rode in pursuit of the killers,tracking them as far as the three forks of the Little River, where the trail was lost.
Burleson's force met up with the small group of La Grange area volunteers under Captain John Moore. The united force of sixty-one men proceeded up the Little River to a spot about fifty miles above the Falls of the Brazos. One of Moore's volunteers, John Rabb, described Burleson's men as "don't care a-looking company of men as could be found on the top of the ground.
Control of the combined force slipped, resulting in the execution of the chief and his son.
Chief Canoma's wife, upon returning to the Falls of the Brazos, quickly informed the other Caddos of the murder of her husband and son. Choctaw Tom, the most senior Indian leader left among them, stated that he could not blame the Coloradian settlers for the mishap, but that all the Indians would now make war on the settlers.
Choctaw Tom's Caddos then left the settlement and joined other Indians out in the country. The younger Indians promised settler John Marlin that they did not intend any harm upon him or other "friendly" settlers near the Falls.
Shortly thereafter, Major William Oldham raised a company of twenty-five men from the town of Washington-on-the Brazos. It is interesting to note that both Major Oldham and Captain John York claimed to have been in command of this party of Washington volunteers. Neither, however, left a muster roll that has survived time. This company marched to the Kichai (Keechi) village located on Boggy Creek,a tributary to the Trinity River in present Leon County. As they approached, they had a friendly exchange with Indian representatives. When accused of stealing white settlers' horses, the Indians produced a contract signed by empresario Sterling Robertson to prove their good terms.
According to volunteer Joel Walter Robison, Oldham's party was preparing to leave peacefully when some of the men recognized several stolen horses about their village. Upon being questioned, the Indians replied, "Oh, those. Those were stolen from the people on the Colorado. We don't have any treaty with them."
The Indians immediately seized their arms, and the whites opened fire. In the ensuing battle, two Indians were killed while the rest escaped into nearby thickets. The whites withdrew, taking about thirty horses with them and all of the camp equipage before burning the Kichai village down. Joel Robison:
None of our men were injured. Papers were found in the village which were known to have been on the person of a young man named Edward who was killed by the Indians twenty miles below Bastrop, a few months previously.
When the Oldham/York party made camp that night on the return to Washington, a frightened sentry fired his gun and ran into camp screaming, "Indians!" In the dark and confusion, the half-asleep Texans frantically grabbed guns and fired. One man, Benjamin Castleman, was killed and another volunteer wounded in the confusion of friendly fire. More
During late September, surveyor Thomas A. Graves set out from Bastrop in Robertson's Colony with a party of seventeen land surveyors and speculators. After surveying ten leagues near the San Gabriel River, one of the small groups of surveyors was attacked by a party of Indians. An Irishman named Lang was killed and scalped while working his compass. One of the men of the party of four escaped and ran to the men under Graves to spread the news. The other two men being unaccounted for, the men under Graves decided to go in search of them.
One of Graves' surveyors was George Erath, who had joined his surveying party after serving in the Moore expedition through August 28. Erath felt that "there was little danger in our whole party remaining a few days longer," as the Indians were believed to have fled after lifting their scalps. Graves' men went to the scene of the attack but didn't find any bodies. The Indian attack was enough to cut short this surveying trip, as Erath recalled.
We paused there and, after another deliberation, Graves cut the matter short by declaring he had fitted out the expedition, would have to pay the hands, and did not propose to be at unnecessary expense in public service. So we turned back. Had we gone but a few hundred yards father we would have found Lang's body.
Before returning to Bastrop, Graves' surveying party did find two other badly frightened survivors of this Indian depredation.
Graves, Erath, and the other surveyors returned from their expedition early in October and made town at Hornsby's settlement. There, they found events that would forever change the future of Texas had occurred in their absence.
Some three miles southeast of present day Belton, Kickapoo's attacked the home of Joseph Taylor on the night of November 12th, 1835.
The family held off the Indians and managed to kill two of the attackers. At one point the mother threw a shovel of hot coals into the face of an Indian who was peering through a hole in the wall. Two months after the fight, their fourteen year old son Stephen Frazier joined Sterling Robertson's Ranger company. Rangers arrived the day after the attack, including George Chapman, who lived at the Taylor's home and later married one of the Taylor daughters. She later recalled:
My late husband came to us at the home of Mr. Childers. He had been to our house. The bodies of the two Indians were being eaten by the hogs.
The Rangers cut the heads off of the dead warriors and stuck them on poles as a warning to any other hostiles that should pass that way.
January 20th, 1836. Ten miles northwest of Austin. The following story is from the book, The Texas Rangers, by Walter Prescott Webb:
The Rangers were an irregular body; they were mounted; they furnished their own horses and arms; they had no surgeon, no flag, none of the paraphernalia of the regular service. They were distinct from the regular army and also from the militia
The officers of this ranging corps were elected on the night of November 28. The captains were Isaac W. Burton, William H. Arrington, and John J. Tumlinson. R. M. Williamson and James Kerr were nominated for the office of major. Williamson was elected. Noah Smithwick served under Tumlinson and R. M. Williamson, and has left us some account of what these Rangers did. Texas had an army of five or six hundred men, and was preparing to invade Mexico. The Indians took advantage of the situation and began to raid the frontier and murder the citizens. 'So,' says Smithwick, 'the government provided for their protection as best it could with the means at its disposal, graciously permitting the citizens to protect themselves by organizing and equipping ranging companies.'Since Smithwick's account gives such an excellent idea of the nature of the Rangers' work in this early period, it is given in his own words, as follows:
'Captain Tumlinson was commissioned to raise a company on the Colorado, and early in January, 1836, he reported for duty with a company of sixty mounted men, myself included. We were assigned to duty on the head waters of Brushy Creek, some thirty miles northwest of the site of the present capital, that city not having been even projected then. The appointed rendezvous was Hornsby's station, then miles below Austin on the Colorado, from which place we were to proceed at once to our post, taking with us such materials as were necessary to aid us in the construction of a blockhouse.
June 4th, 1836, Cameron Texas, seventeen settlers under Captain Goldsby Childers were retreating to Nashville for protection from the warring Indians. Montgomery Shackleford describes the account:
"When they approached within two hundred yards, they divided, one half to the right, the other half to the left-passed us shooting at us-and pursued and killed Crouch and Davidson, who were some three hundred yards ahead of us. Before they could gain, those of us who were near the wagon made our way to some timber that was near. The Indians drove off our cattle and took one horse; the balance of the company escaped without further injury."
The Indians scalped Crouch and Davidson after killing them and began to fight over who would keep the scalps and booty. Childers took this opportunity to lead his party to safety under the cover of some oak trees. The Indians turned back and headed for the Little River houses where they found the remaining families. Daniel Monroe relates:
"They used guns, bows and arrows, and spears. Whilst defending themselves in their house against the Indians, William Smith was shot on the outside of the door through the leg by a rifle ball. They shot and killed deponent's horse whilst tied to the house-killed many cattle-drove the balance off-and plundered a wagon."
A few days later, Judge O. T. Tyler performed last rites at the gravesite on the prairie where the killings took place.
January 7th, 1837, Sergeant Erath had ten horsebacked Rangers (all they had was ten horses). Erath's men could hear the Indians coughing. They crept up the river bank until they had a good view. Erath recalled that all were:
"dressed, a number of them with hats on, and busy breaking brush and gathering wood to make fires. We dodged back to the low ground, but advanced toward them, it not yet being broad daylight. Our sight of them revealed the fact that we had to deal with the formidable kind, about a hundred strong. There was not time to retire or consult. Everyone had been quite willing to acquiesce in my actions and orders up to this time. To apprehensions expressed I had answered that we were employed by the government to protect the citizens, and let the result of our attempt be what it might, the Indians would at least be interfered with and delayed from going farther down the country toward the settlements."
They took a position under the river bank twenty five yards from the camp and on command began firing. Within a few minutes, David Clark and Frank Childers fell dead. The remainder broke into two groups, one retreated while the other covered them with fire.
Captain Elisha Clapp was captain of the mounted Rangers, whose fortified home became the headquarters for his Rangers. On September 16th, 1836, he received orders from Sam Houston that read as follows:
"You will range from any point on the Brazos to Mr. Hall's Trading House on the Trinity. For your orders, I refer you to copies of those given to Captain Michael Costley of the N. W. Frontier, therewith enclosed for your information. The general principles of them you will find applicable to your command as well as to all officers employed on the frontier. You will detail eight men from your command for the service and place at the disposition of Dan Parker Esq., as the local situation of the frontier may require."
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