During July of 1864, Col. W. W. Cockran, twelve year old son, Walker C. Cockran, Jimmy Daniels, Wm. Cureton, the father of C. M. Cureton, the present Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, and H. J. Cureton, an attorney at Meridian, Mack Beshears, Boyken Bradley, Banj. Harris and James Reed, met at the ranch of Capt. Ellis, which was on White Flat, in Stephens County for the purpose of making a round-up on Big and Little Cedar Creeks.
Since no Indian signs had been seen for a considerable time, the cowboys decided to leave their rifles at the ranch. By noon, many cattle had been thrown together. The weather being extremely warm, the cowboys rested at noon, and let their ponies graze until about two o'clock in the afternoon. They then resumed their work, and Capt. Ellis requested Col. Cockran, his son, and Ben Harris, to go down the creek and hold the cattle, which were wild in those days, because the country was unfenced and stock were seldom handled. Before they reached their destination, however, Col. Cockran discovered Indians, and began calling loudly to his son, who was riding an unusually good horse. The son thought his father was only talking aloud to control the cattle. So he rode ahead and in a short time, ran through the Indians catching the horses on the other side of the creek. Mr. Cockran's son then ran back through the Indians, recrossed the creek, to his father, and by this time, the savages were on their steeds attempting to catch him. Since Walter Cockran was riding a much better horse than his father and Ben Harris, in a short time the boy was, perhaps, one-half mile ahead, and wanted to run completely away from the savages, but each time, would be headed off by an Indian chief, who also rode a splendid horse, and who made several attempts to catch young Cockran's bridle rein. The Indians seldom killed small boys, but rather preferred carrying them into captivity, so they could demand a ransom for their return. After the fight had lasted for several minutes, and the citizens ran about one mile, they retreated into an oak thicket; and the Indians then rode back toward their stolen horses.
The shooting and noise made by the Indians, Mr. Cockran, his son, and Ben Harris, had by this time alarmed the remaining cowboys, who were a considerable distance away. When the cowmen came to their companions' rescue, they met the Indians. Although the cowmen were only armed with pistols, the fighting began in earnest, and the three who had retreated into the live oak thicket, now joined the other seven. Again a running fight lasted for about a mile, and during the fighting, James Reed and at least one Indian were killed.
A short time before, the Indians had stolen some of James Reed's horses, in Palo Pinto County, near the present city of Strawn. The cowboys were surprised to see one of the savages riding the identical black animal, which belonged to James Reed, and which the Indians had carried away a few nights before. During the fighting James Reed said to Capt. Ellis, "If that Indian riding my black horse makes another dash at me, I know I am riding the best horse. I am going to run over and kill him." This Indian, in a short time, made another play, but unfortunately Reed's pistol failed to fire. This cost him his life.
During the thickest of fighting, Jimmy Daniels' pony, a bronco, was shot in the neck with an arrow, and began to pitch. Daniels after being thrown from his horse, hid in a gulley until the savages were gone.
The body of James Reed was carried to the home of Capt. Ellis, the following night. The next day the cowmen started with him toward his home. Concerning this journey, Walker Cockran, himself, said:
"The next day we tied Reed on his horse, and took him home to his wife and six children. That was a sight, when we rode up to the house, with Reed tied to his horse, that I never want to see again."
James Reed was buried in the Davidson Cemetery between the present cities of Strawn and Thurber.
Note: Author interviewed and corresponded with Walter C. Cockran; W. C. McGough; and others who lived in Palo Pinto and Stephens County at the time. Also consulted the unpublished memoirs of Wm. E. Cureton, who was in the fight.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.