I like to drive the climb from Rock Creek to Graham almost as much as I like dropping down the Keechi Valley on 4. The terrain is so rough around Rock Creek that the Old Military Road had to take a sharp northern turn to a point three miles above Graham before turning back west to Fort Belknap. Fortunately, Highway 16 makes the beautiful climb up the Belknap Mountains. The Lower Indian Reservation began just beyond Rock Creek where the road starts to climb and extended to the west of the Brazos and north to Graham. Early in the ascent the frontier retreat and steakhouse, Wildcatter Ranch, is tucked away on the west side of the road.
By the middle 1850s white settlers had overrun so much of the Indian's farm land that they had very little left to pay tribute to the Comanches and welcomed the army's promise of protection and retreated to Texas Indian Reservations established on the Brazos. The Texas Comanches were badly whipped and many of the tribal leaders had visited Washington and seen the inevitability of their situation. They too agreed to move on to a reservation further to the northwest, designated just for them.
Jefferson Davis was the U.S. Secretary of War and knew his army needed to field a strong cavalry to guarantee the safety of the reservations and settlements. He served on the Texas frontier and while commanding Camp Verde had even imported camels in an attempt to better transverse the long, dry expanses of the Texas Plains.
Painting by Charles Schreyvogel
Marcy returned to Texas in 1853 and scouted the headwaters of the Brazos. He consulted with Indian Agent/Major Robert S. Neighbors on suitable locations for the Indian reservations recently authorized by the Texas Legislature. The United States Congress approved the formation of the country's first cavalry unit to provide protection to the settlements and the reservations.
The man in charge of the reservations, Major Robert Neighbors, was a champion for fair treatment of the Indians. His nemesis was John Baylor, a former judge turned Indian agent, until Neighbors fired him for negligence of duty. Baylor's right-hand man, Peter Garland, led an angry posse of cowboys into Palo Pinto county looking for horse thieves. They found and massacred Choctaw Tom's sleeping band mostly because they were off the reservation. It turned out they had a hunting pass.
Neighbors wanted Rip Ford to arrest Garland and the others but he declined, claiming lack of authority. The charismatic John Baylor rallied several hundred of the local men in an unsuccessful attempt to storm the reservations.
The settlements could not be pacified and soon politicians demanded that the Indians, many of whom had fought side by side with the Rangers and the Cavalry under Sul Ross, be moved north of the Red River; in effect, into the hands of their enemies. Neighbors was murdered in the main street of Belknap the day he returned from escorting his charges to their new home.