Experience of Tom Stark, Abe Hunter, and Jim Dofflemyre

    During 1865, Tom Stark, Abe Hunter, and Jim Dofflemyre, who lived near the mouth of the Concho, where Runnels, Coleman and Concho Counties come together, had been to El Paso, for supplies, and other purposes, and were returning home. These three frontiersmen would eat their supper about one hour before sunset, and then ride into the canyons of the Guadalupe, the three saddled their horses and traveled about seven miles to the Delaware Springs where they ate their breakfast. While breakfast was cooking, and they were playing cards, the coffee on the camp-fire began to boil over. So Tom Stark went to the springs about ten steps away for water. Here he saw moccasin tracks, and well knew what it meant. These westerners then took their six-shooters, started after the horses, and in a short time discovered about one hundred Indians. These Indians had already captured the ponies, lingered along for a considerable time, and then said, "Adios, by dam you." And then rode away. The whites then slipped away, resumed their journey homeward, afoot, and without ample provisions.

    For a time they traveled by night and slept during the day. Provisions became exhausted, and for several days the citizens subsisted practically alone on grasshoppers. Often they suffered for water and for many miles carried water in their boots, and made shoes for their feet out of a part of their pants. During the seventh day, these pioneers were nearing the Pecos and the three become so famished for a drink, when they were within three miles of this stream, Jim Dofflemyre's tongue was black and about an inch out of his mouth. He told his companions that he had a high fever and could go no further. He also suggested that they leave him for he was going to die. When the other two reached the river, they washed out an old cow-horn, and took it full of water back to their suffering companion. When he was reached his tongue was swollen worse than ever, and could not speak. Little by little they moistened his mouth, and in a short time, Jim Dofflemyer's tongue was in its proper position. These three than reached the Pecos, and spent the night.

    The next morning the citizens started down the river toward the Horsehead Crossing, which was about three miles below. On their way they spied a cow, and Tom Stark said, "Boys, we have got to have her," for they were hungry. But how could she be killed? These three stranded citizens had buried their six-shooters sometime before for they were too weak to wear them. When they got near this old cow, she attempted to hook them, but was so poor, she fell. The three Texans were so weak, they started to run and also fell. The old sick cow apparently could not get up. In a short time, the citizens were on her, attempting to cut the animal's throat with their only weapon, a pocketkniife, that contained one broken blade. When they failed in this, because of their serious condition, they began to cut for meat on the hams of the old cow that was still alive, and succeeded in getting about one-half pound off of a tender part of the cow's ham. About this time a large band of Indians was discovered about 3 miles away. Tom Stark said, "Boys, we have got 95 miles to go over a territory without a drop of water." So in a short time the three started out across the plains. When they had gone only about four miles, the citizens saw Indians, buffalo or something else approaching in the distance. But to their joyful surprise, it was Maliki Cox and two others, going west for salt. Cox and his companions found these stranded citizens in a pitiable condition, and at first were unable to eat. A meat broth was hurriedly made, and offered in small quantities. Their diet was increased as their strength returned, and by the third day they could eat almost anything.

    Shortly afterwards they met Aaron Burleson, who with his seven or eight hands, were moving about 390 head of cattle to El Paso. Since he was short of help, and since Stark, Hunter and Dofflemyre had practically regained their normal strength, they were employed to assist in moving these cattle. Three days later, the cowmen reached the point where the Texans buried their pistols, which they dug up, oiled, and were again ready for action. The citizens camped for the night, and while the three Texans were relating their experience, it began to rain Indians. This camp was three miles east of the Delaware Springs. During the fight that followed, eight Indians were killed, but none of the Texans wounded.

    After their adventurous experience, Tom Stark, Abe Hunter, and Jim Dofflemyre finally reached their home near the mouth of the Concho, and near the place where the citizens "Forted-up" during the frontier days, and known as Flattop, because of the flattop, picket houses in which they lived.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Tom Stark, mentioned above.

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


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