James Francis Blair and James Hart

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Callahan County, Texas

    Aaron Hart and Wm. Blair, fathers of James Hart and James Blair, moved their families to Palo Pinto County, several years before the outbreak of the Civil War. Aaron Hart settled about seven miles southeast of Golconda. In the first part of 1858, Mr. Blair settled near the Brazos, almost the same distance north of Palo Pinto. But during the early 60s, an exodus of citizens of Palo Pinto County moved to Stephens, Shackelford, Coleman, and other counties farther west. Aaron Hart and Wm. Blair numbered among this group, and located near the headwaters of Deep Creek, in Callahan County.

    During 1864 the purchasing of provisions was one of the big problems of that section. So Wm. Blair and, perhaps, others had sent to Old Mexico for coffee and other commodities, which had arrived at Camp Colorado. James Blair and James Hart went horseback to this post about 20 miles away for these supplies.

    James Blair, at the time, was a boy nine years of age; and born February 28, 1855. As a coincidence, it so happened they returned home from Camp Colorado, February 28, 1864. James Hart was several years older.

    It had snowed and the weather was extremely cold. The boys wanted to build a fire, but afraid it would attract the attention of Indians. When they reached the "Hill Country," about halfway between Camp Colorado and their father's ranch quarters, the two boys discovered they were confronted by nine Indians. James Blair and James Hart turned their horses and started to make a dash back toward Camp Colorado, but James Blair's horse was anxious to go on toward home, and simply refused to go in the other direction. Before the boys could hardly get their breath, the Indians were upon them. James Blair shot one of the savages with his revolver. This Indian fell from his horse to the ground, and began a howling cry. The other Indians wrenched the six-shooter from young Blair's hand, and jerked him from his horse. As Hart fled away, an Indian shot an arrow under his shoulder blade, and the spike of this weapon stuck out on the other side of his body. When Hart reached the cedar-breaks, he left his steed and hid in a prolific cluster of prickly pears.

    James Hart's successful escape was very largely due to the Indians struggle with the brave little James Blair, who was now in the hands of the savages. Young Blair asked the Indians if they were going to kill him, and they replied, "No, no, mucha brave! Mucha brave!" The Indians then tied his hands and feet, and wrapped him in a buffalo robe, so they could search for James Hart, hidden a short distance away in a thick bunch of prickly pears. But before they left, the Indians, who treasured their captive very highly, decide they had better give him something to eat. So they offered him spoiled meat, full of worms. The Indians were hardly out of sight before James Blair had one hand untied, was completely unhobbled, and successfully made his escape. When the Indians left him, they held up two fingers, and, no doubt, intended to signify they would be back within two hours. When they returned, however, for their valuable treasure, he was gone.

    Hart, who lay wounded in the thick cluster of prickly pears with an arrow sticking through his body and nearly through his heart, afterwards stated the Indians almost walked over him, and looked everywhere, excepting in the prickly pears. According to one account, the savages even turned over rocks, fully as large as a wagon-bed, in an attempt to locate the other paleface boy who had disappeared.

    The two boys were now, of course, separated and each unaware of the fate of the other. Hart knew Blair had been captured and thought the Indians had carried him into captivity. James Hart also thought he was going to die, but stated that he was determined to live until he could reach home, so he could report what had happened to James Blair, whom he thought was being carried away by the Indians. To die far out on the frontier, many miles from home, was unthinkable, for young Blair's father and mother would never know what had happened to their son.

    So with an arrow in his body, the ends of which were sticking out on each side, the heroic James Hart started towards his home. As he pushed forward, night was rapidly approaching. His blood was flowing profusely from the wounds in his body, and falling about his boyish feet, leaving a crimson streak in the frozen snow. At times James Hart crawled and at other times, he walked. But finally reached his home, 10 miles away. Can we really conceive of the suffering this frontier boy endured, as he then thought, only to relate the fate of his companion? James Hart's fresh blood attracted a large panther, which followed him for several miles.

    Guided only by the wintry stars, somewhere in the western wilds, young James Blair was still wandering across the frozen waste, toward his father's frontier home. Since the two boys were now long since overdue, their parents were spending a sleepless night.

    About one o'clock during the succeeding day, James Hart, wounded as he was, with an arrow sticking through his body, miraculous reached his father and mother's home. The arrow was then pulled out of his body from the front side, and young Hart not only lived to relate the story of his companion, but completely recovered from his wound. According to reports, he reached home before James Blair.

    Wm. Blair and Jno. Hart, a brother of James Hart, then went out to search for Mr. Blair's beloved son. When the father was about five miles from his home, someone was seen in the distance, but Mr. Blair, himself, thought it were an Indian.

    Jno. Hart said, "Blair, that's Jim." The father replied, "No."

    Jno. Hart again said, "Yes, that's Jim." And shortly afterwards, the father was pressing the lost son to his bosom. Little James Blair was so overjoyed, he could not speak. Later, however, he related about his being an Indian captive for some time, and their attempting to make him eat spoiled meat full of worms and wrapped in an old filthy sock. When they reached home, Mrs. Blair, the mother, was so overjoyed she shouted all over their premises, and thus ended one of the most dramatic acts of the great western drama.

    Note: Before writing this section, the author personally interviewed: Mrs. Josephine (Blair) Watkins, a sister of James Blair; Jesse Hart, a brother of James Hart; A.M. Lasater; Mrs. Huse Bevers; Mrs. M.J. Hart; Mrs. H.G. Taylor; E.K. Taylor; Jodie Corbin; Mrs. Wm. Metcalf, Jas. C. Jowell; and others, who were living on the frontier at the time.

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

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