The Adobe Walls Fight

    During May of 1874, several buffalo hunters from Kansas and elsewhere, reached the Panhandle of Texas to pursue their chosen profession. The weather was delightful and the buffaloes were moving northward. To accommodate the hunters, two stores, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon were established not a great distance from the original Adobe Walls, built by the Bents many years before. This new location, also known as Adobe Walls was about one mile from the mouth of Bent Creek, and in a northerly direction from the present town of Miami.

    Only about eight people lived at the post. But June 26, 1874, twenty-eight buffalo hunters, and one woman spent the night at this particular place. Some slept outside, and others within the temporary buildings. About two o'clock in the morning, Sheppard and Mike Welch, who were sleeping in Hanrahan's saloon, were awakened by an alarming sound. At first they thought, perhaps it was a gun, but soon discovered that a cottonwood ridge-pole, sustaining the dirt roof, was partly broken. In a short time, fifteen men were awake and helping repair the roof. By the time it was fixed, the eastern skies begun to present the first signs of day. Several of the buffalo hunters started to retire, but others preferred getting an early start, so they remained on their feet.

    Although Jack Janes and Blue Billy had been murdered by Indians on the Salt Fork of Red River during the preceding day, it seems a majority of the buffalo hunters were unaware of impending danger.

    But at least a small part of these frontiersmen had evidently received news during the preceding day that Indians intended to attack the Adobe Walls.

    The warriors' hostility was most extreme because they fully realized the buffalo hunters were rapidly exterminating their main, and in fact, almost only source of supplies, the wild bison of the plains.

    Billy Ogg went down to the creek, about one-fourth mile away, for the horses. A moment or two later, that well-known buffalo hunter, guide, and Indin scout, Billy Dixon, and others in the dim light, noticed a large body of objects advancing toward the Adobe Walls. A second later, he and they discovered these objects were Indians, who soon began to separate to make an attack. The breaking of the pole, perhaps, prevented the warriors from finding many of the buffalo hunters sound asleep and unprepared. Dixon ran for his gun and fired, and then hurried to Hanrahan's store, but found it closed. He hollowed to those inside to open the door. Bullets by this time were hailing all around. It seemed ages before the door opened. But finally Billy Dixon was admitted. About this time, Billy Ogg, who had gone after the horses, fell exhausted, near the door. He was hardly on the inside befor the Indians had the house surrounded. Two Shadler brothers, keeping in a wagon, were killed and scalped before realizing the Indians were around. About seven hundred feathered Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, and other Indians, under the command of Quanah Parker, Lone Wolf, and other-noted chiefs were waging a most gruesome and bitter Indian war, as picturesque and spectacular as was ever fought in the Great West. Some of the buffalo hunters were undressed, but had no time to hunt clothes. In a short time the citizens organized, and about eleven men fortified in Myer and Leonard's store. About seven men and one woman, the wife of one of the buffalo hunters, found shelter in Rath and Wright's store. The others were in Hanrahan's saloon. During the first half-hour of fighting, the Indians struck the doors with the butts of their guns; but when they saw so many of their number dead on the ground, these tactics of war were abandoned. Many of the Indians dismounted and charged afoot. But when the feathered warriors began to fall, that particular mode of warfare was also abandoned. But again and again, the warriors charged.

    The Indians had a bugler, and some of the men, who understood signals, stated that the horn was blown with as much accuracy as could be expected from an ordinary U. S. Army oficer. This bugler, however, was killed late in the evening.

    About noon, the scouts in Hanrahan's saloon began to run short of ammunition. So Billy Dixon and Hanrahan ran to Rath's where there were stored thousands of rounds of ammunition, used in the long range buffalo guns. When Rath's store was reached, everything was found in good shape.

    By two o'clock, the Indians had lost so heavily, they fell back and were firing at intervals from the hills. By this time, the red men had divided. A part were to the east, and the remainder to the west. But Indian warriors were riding more or less constantly from one group to the other. So the "Crack-shot" buffalo hunters turned their attention to them, and began to tumble these riders from their steeds. As a, consequence, in a short time, the savages were riding in a much wider circle.

    About four o'clock P. M. and after the storm had passed, Burmuda Carlysle, ventured out to pick up some Indian trinkets. As he was not, fired upon, he went out a second time. In a short time, others followed, and it was then ascertained by all that Billy Tyler, at Leonard and Myer's store, had been killed at the beginning of the engagements.

    The second day, only a few Indians were seen on a bluff across the valley. When the buffalo hunters fired, these Indians ran away but returned the fire before they left. All horses were killed and carried off.

    Late in the evening of the second day George Bellfield arrived. When he saw a black flag flying, thought, at first, it was a joke. Shortly afterwards James and Bob Carter arrived. And late in the afternoon Henry Leath volunteered to go to Dodge City for help.

    The third day, a party of about fifteen Indians again appeared on the bluff to the east of Adobe Walls. When Billy Dixon took deliberate aim at these warriors with his buffalo gun, the red men dashed out of sight. A few seconds later two Indians on foot appeared, and apparently took a wounded Indian away.

    According to reports, the Indians' medicine men told them that on this occasion the savages would be practically invulnerable to bullets. But needless to say, they soon found the wrath of the gods against them.

    There was a pet crow at the Adobe Walls at that time, and during the thickest of fighting from time to time, this mysterious bird flew from one building to another, Perhaps the presence of this peculiar bird was interpreted by the Indians as a sign the medicine en made a mistake.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Mrs. Billy Dixon. Mrs. Dixon wrote the book entitled, "The Life of Billy Dixon". Also interviewed A. M. Lasater, who several times heard Billy Dixon relate his experience; and others. Further Ref.: An able account of this conflict written by R. C. Crane and published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram for Nov. 30th, 1934.

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


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