Reservation Fight

In the West Texas Frontier, Joseph Carroll McConnell describes the situation at the reservations leading up to the citizen uprising

For several years, as we have already seen, prior to the placing of the so-called friendly tribes of Indians on the Reservations, the Caddos and other tribes, who were considered peaceable, were accused of stealing horses, hogs and other stock, which belonged to the settlers. But when the Indians were located upon the reservations it was sincerely believed by many, the big problem had been solved.

    But late in 1856, the Comanches from the Upper Reserve, stole horses belonging to Fred Gentry, who lived in Comanche County. Early in 1857, horses were also stolen in Coryell and other Central Texas Counties. And on different occasions these crimes were traced to the reservation Indians, which of course, caused the people to become considerably exasperated. Later during the same year, several people were massacred by the Indians, and in several instances, circumstantial evidence pointed toward the peaceable Indians on the reserves.

    During the same year, Sam Houston, a young Comanche Indian, who had been captured when a child in a fight between the rangers and Indians, and who spoke the English language well, in company with about ten other Comanche warriors, was returning to the reservation with a herd of stolen horses, and in a fight with the rangers on the Rio Grande, Sam House and nearly all of his associates were killed.

    During 1858, when the Mason and Cameron families of Jack County were massacred, again the reservation Indians were strongly suspicioned, and during the same year massacres and depredations in Montague and other Texas counties, were charged to the so-called peaceable Indians on the reserves.

    And along about this time, Tobe Palmer, Luke Choate, and two or three others were out hunting hogs about ten miles south and a little west of Jacksboro. When they were on a mountain, bordering on the beautiful Keechi Valley, they found where the Indians had been feathering arrows and perhaps spying on the valley below.

    Since so many stolen horses were often in the possession of the Indians on the reserves, in many sections, the citizens were suspicioning the reserve Indians. But in each and every case, these Indians denied stealing such animals, and stated they had been stolen by the wild tribes of the plains, and traded for by the reserve Indians, so they could be returned to their rightful owner. Each time, however, the frontiersmen were required to pay several dollars reward before they could recover their stolen ponies. This, of course, only intensified the already bitter feeling, for during the year of 1858, the settlers were looking for positive proof that it were the reservation Indians doing a great percent of the depredations. Consequently, it occurred to Mr. Palmer, Luke Choate and their associates that this perhaps, would be an opportune time to obtain such positive proof. So, they staked a horse in an open flat about one mile from the place where the Indians had been feathering their arrows, and in a position that could be plainly visible to the Indians. When night came, these citizens secreted themselves in the nearby timber, and within firing distance of the horse. Just a little before dark, Tobe Palmer, Luke Choate, and one or two others, who were hidden in the nearby brush, saw seven Indians come within thirty yards of the horse, and hold a consultation. According to reports, shortly afterwards, one Indian left the remaining six and started toward the staked pony. He would advance a few feet and then stop, and look in all directions. After making several of such advancements and stops, he reached the horse, untied the rope, and started to lead the animal away. When he did, Tobe Palmer fired, and the Indian, who was wounded, ran about forty yards to his comrades and fell. About this time Luke Choate and the other man also fired, and the following morning, about the break of day, these same Indians reached the lower reservation. One was dead, and at least one more seriously wounded.

    During 1858, Jose Maria and about one hundred of his Indians were camped six miles up the Bosque, above Stephenville. One of his Indian bucks came to town, and in violation of law, was sold whiskey at a local saloon. Stephenville, at that time, was one of the several log cabin villages scattered over the West Texas frontier. This Indian soon became intoxicated, and shortly afterwards went to the home of W. W. McNeill, who lived only a short distance from the courthouse square. The drunk Indian was offered food and kindly treated, but he could not be induced to leave. Arch McNeill, then a young man, came to the rescue of Mrs. McNeill, and told her he would take his pistol and frighten the Indian away. But still the Indian refused to leave. Young McNeill then snapped an empty chamber at the Indian, thinking perhaps that would cause him to ride away; but instead, the warrior drew his bowie knife and charged toward McNeill, who fired and mortally wounded the warrior. When he did, the Indian mounted his horse and started west. The following day the savage was found about one mile west of Stephenville. The killing of this Indian, of course, caused Jose Maria and his men to become greatly infuriated; and for mutual protection, the local citizens of Stephenville "Forted up." But when the affair was explained to Jose Maria and his men, they became at least partly reconciled.

    Late during 1858, and about the time of the difficulty mentioned in the preceding section, some reservation Indians were camped on Eagle Creek, about two miles west of Palo Pinto, and about where the A. D. Lewis place is now located. These Indians professed to be friendly; so no one felt unusually alarmed. In fact, the Indians from the Lower Reservation repeatedly left the agency to come down into Palo Pinto County to hunt hare, deer, and other game, and to travel over their old hunting grounds. No doubt the many places in Palo Pinto County appeared to be their homes for it was here many of them lived for many years before they were assigned in 1855 to the Lower Reservation.

    One morning some of these Indians encamped on the present Lewis place, came to the home of Calvin Hazzlewood, who lived at Lover's Retreat, or the Hazzlewood Spring above Lover's Retreat. Calvin Hazzlewood was away. Mrs. Hazzlewood and Charlie, who was then a baby, and their only child, were at home alone. Mrs. Hazzlewood was working in the kitchen and Charlie lying on the bed. Something attracted her attention and looking around she saw an Indian buck was drawing Charlie's little form into quarters with a tomahawk. But up until the time Mrs. Hazzlewood first saw the Indian, he had not really touched her baby. He only pretended he were going to chop him up into quarters. Mrs. Hazzlewood continued with her work, as if nothing had happened. She conducted herself wisely for an Indian always admired bravery. And when she apparently was not frightened, the "rusty" old warrior said, "Heap brave squaw." He then told Mrs. Hazzlewood the Indians were planning to war against the whites, and Mr. Hazzlewood had better move his family to town. He also told Mrs. Hazzlewood to have her husband come to his camp for honey when he came back home. He did and the Indian told Cal Hazzlewood the same story concerning the Indians' plans for war, and advised Uncle Cal to move to town. This same news was not only conveyed to Mr. Hazzlewood and to the army officers at Fort Arbuckle, but was received from several other sources.

    Such Indian troubles as previously related, according to reports, were being constantly committed by the Indians who belonged on the agencies. So the citizens who had become greatly exasperated, notified both the Indians and the Indian Agents they would not permit the reservation tribes to enter their territory, unless accompanied by a responsible white guide. And many citizens had begun to think that the ages old conflict had been intensified and not abolished, as expected by the establishment of the two Texas reservations.

The Reservation Fight

    For some time the attention of the entire southwest had been focused on the Indian reserves. The Governor of Texas had issued his proclamation in an effort to establish peace. The officers in command of Fort Belknap and Camp Cooper had been on the alert for any emergency. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington, issued his several orders. But still the surging conflict between the citizens on the one hand, and the reservation Indians and agents on the other, continued to ebb and flow with an increasing momentum, and the exasperated citizens brought the question to a final climax, when men from Montague, Denton, Cooke, Collin, Wise, Parker, Jack, Palo Pinto, Erath, Bosque, Comanche, Coryell, and other counties rendezvoused near the lines of Young, Jack, and Palo Pinto Counties, for the purpose of attacking the reserves. The entire command was placed under John R. Baylor. For a short time these men were drilled on a branch, which has since been known as Filibuster Branch, because Col. John R. Baylor and his men were referred to as filibusters.

    During the morning of May 23rd, 1859, Colonel Baylor and his command left their camp on Filibuster Branch, which was about four miles east of the Lower Reservation, and started toward the Brazos Agency. The movement of the citizens, however, was not unknown to the Indians, their agents, and the soldiers at Fort Belknap. In fact, for several days an attack had been expected. Ample fortifications and breastworks had been built, and soldiers from Fort Belknap under the command of Capt. J. B. Plummer, of the United States Army, were stationed on the reservation for any emergency. Colonel Baylor drew his command in a line of battle between the Waco village and Agency buildings, and they were within six hundred yards of the latter point.

    Captain Plummer dispatched Captain Gilbert with his company to meet Colonel Baylor and demand of him for what purpose he had entered upon the reservation with an armed body of men. Colonel Baylor replied that he had come to assault certain Indians of this reserve, but not to attack any whites. But should the troops or citizens fire upon his men, he intended to attack them also. After receiving this reply, Captain Plummer sent Lieutenant Burnet to Colonel Baylor with instructions to the effect that the soldiers were there to protect the Indians on the reserves from attacks of armed bands of citizens, that they would do so to the best of their ability, and that in the name of the Government of the United States, Captain Plummer warned Colonel Baylor to leave the reserve. Colonel Baylor then replied that this last message did not alter his determination to attack the Indians on the reserves, but that he would attend to this matter himself, and further that he regretted the necessity of coming in collison with the United States troops, but that he had determined to destroy the Indians on both reserves, if it cost the life of every man in his command.

    About the first bloodshed that occurred, if reports be true, Colonel Baylor's men killed an elderly Indian man, who was away from his comrades and looking after a pony; and an elderly woman, working in her little garden. But since they were operating from a distance, they no doubt, did not know that the latter was a woman. This occurred on Salt Creek, near the crossing, and only a short distance from the Agency buildings, and it was here the fight began. Only a few Indians were engaged at first; a running fight occurred toward the home of Wm. Marlin, where a stand was made by the citizens. By this time, a large number of Indians were engaged in the fighting; but as a rule, the two factions were firing at each other from a considerable distance. The thickest of fighting occurred around the home of Wm. Marlin, and it began about four o' clock in the evening. At all times the soldiers were in readiness, but they never entered the conflict. Late in the evening, when the firing ceased, about one additional Indian was killed, and five others wounded.

    A Mr. Washburn and possibly one or two of the Texans were also killed. Captain W. C. McAdams, and Dan Gage were wounded.

    Along about this same time, some minor attacks were made upon the Comanche reservation, but the major fighting occurred on the evening of the 23rd of May, 1859, at the home of Wm. Marlin.

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

First-hand account of the Reservation Fight by Henry Belding.

Some accounts say that the group of 250 men going west was under the command of Captain Peter Garland and was going to attack Camp Cooper in order to capture the artillery. However, Henry gives a different picture. He was with the group, and the only officer he mentions was Captain Howard, who asked him to go to a ranch and get flour. He also states that "a hundred of us had orders to go and take the Comanche reservation near Camp Cooper."

This western excursion turned into a fiasco. Henry says,

    After a hard day's march we camped in a valley on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and had eaten supper when our commander got scared and ordered us to get on our horses and march. Directly we started and it commenced raining and poured down for hours. It thundered and lightened fearfully and made the ground muddy and slick and raised the creeks. I think it was long after midnight when we were halted in a prairie. I was so exhausted that I pulled my saddle off and staked my horse and wrapped my blanket around me and went to sleep while it still rained on me. We remained there until daylight when we went to timber and built fires, warmed and dried our shooting irons and ate breakfast when we proceeded to the Baylor Ranch where we remained inactive several days when our flour ran out.

    Then a man who lived near where Fort Griffin was later built came and told our leaders that if they would send to his house in the night he would give them three hundred pounds of flour; that he did not want the Indians to know that he had helped us. So, Captain Howard asked me to go and help bring the flour, stating that we would have guides who knew the country, so seven of us started out before night. We traveled until late in the night which was quite dark, I was bringing up the rear when I heard those in front say, "Form in line, form in line." I rode forward to see what the matter was and saw something which looked like a bunch of horses strung out on either side of the trail we were traveling and when I looked to see the line they had formed, they were running like deer in the other direction. So, I galloped after them. When the man next to me saw a bush on a hill he said, "Boys, let's sell our lives as dearly as possible," and spurred his horse and let his gun go off and away we went. But we had not gone far before a man was thrown from his horse. I told the others that a man was overboard and to stop and help him remount, which they did.

Henry managed to get the command into camp where they learned there had been a fight on the reservation but nothing was accomplished and soon the men returned to their homes.

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