Killing of John Bowles and John Davenport and the Fight That Followed

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.

Uvalde County, Texas

    John Bowles during 1856 established his ranch on the Sabinal River, about six miles south of the present town of Sabinal. For the purpose of protecting his stock, he constructed a corral near the house.

    During the dark hours of night, about 1856, and just before the moon arose, someone was alarmed by the running of stock. Almost instantly, Mr. Bowles and his boys were on their feet, and in their night clothes followed the sound of the running horses, which could be easily traced, because one of the animals was belled. Mr. Bowles was the first to reach the ponies, and saw an Indian running away. He did not shoot, however, for fear one of his own boys would be killed. The horses were driven back into the pens.

    Mr. Bowles and his boys thought the Indians would again return. So D. Bowles and, perhaps, one of his brothers remained to guard the horses. John Bowles, his father, decided to station himself across the river, behind a hackberry tree. He had been there only a short time when the moon rose, and three Indians, lading a pony, came quietly walking down the trail. At the opportune time, Mr. Bowles discharged his shotgun. This alarmed the boys at the house; so they immediately started to his assistance. The sons then heard their father shoot his pistol six times. When the boys arrived their father was lifting a scalp from a savage. John Bowles remarked, "Hog my cats, if I havent' got one of them!" Mr. Bowles and his boys returned to the ranch headquarters, which were across the river, and word was sent to the adjoining settlements. Just after the break of day several citizens went over to see the dead Indian, and much to their surprise, the dead body of another lay only thirty steps away. The third horse thief was followed by the trail of his blood for approximately four miles. Sometime later a dead Indian was found about one mile father. Mr. Bowles, no doubt, also killed this Indian.

    Afterwards, he was exceedingly cautious for fear the Indians would attempt to retaliate.

    On Oct. the 28th, 1859, Mr. Bowles heard the bell of one of his favorite horses, which he had placed in a field. The Indians had removed the rails, and let the animal out. The Native tribespeople afterwards removed the bell, and were no doubt making it rattle to decoy the pony's owner. When Mr. Bowles reached the place where the Indians were concealed, they shot him down.

    True to their custom, the warriors now took a northwest course, for the purpose of leaving the settlement.

    John Davenport, who lived about three miles east of the present town of Sabinal on the lower San Antonio-El Paso road, reached the home of Doke Bowles, son of John Bowles, about the break of day of the same morning Mr. Bowles was murdered. He was riding a pony and driving a yoke of oxen. During the preceding night a Mexican train also camped near the home of Doke Bowles. The Indians sole some of their horses. After stopping for a short time, Davenport started away. But he had only gone a few miles when he, too, was massacred by the Indians.

    John Bowles and John Davenport were both scalped, stripped of their clothing, but true to Indian custom, one sock was left on one foot.

    Runners soon broadcast the news of the death of these two valued citizens, and word was also sent to Lt. Hazen, at Fort Inge. During the morning of the 29th, twenty-nine citizens and thirteen soldiers, all under the command of Lt. Hazen rapidly rode on the Indian's trail. Doke Bowles, a son of John Bowles, Clade Davenport, a brother of John Davenport, Wm. Thomas, Frank Isbell , Nobe Griner, Arnold, Arnett, Everett Williams, Ben Pulliam, John T. Daugherty, John Kennedy, James McCormick, W.R. Russell, Jesse Lewis and James Robertson, numbered among the twenty-nine citizens. The finding of the bloody shoes confirmed the death of his father to Doke Bowles.

    Bud B. Arnett was riding a race horse, called "Fuzzy Buck," and told Doke Bowles that in event the Indians were overtaken, he would gladly exchanged horses so Doke could better revenge the death of his father. The trail was followed to the head waters of the north Llano, and the Indians overtaken the 3rd of November. The order was given to advance and since a running fight followed with the Indians in the lead, in a short time, citizens, soldiers, and pack mules were badly scattered. Only the foremost men were able to fire. Early in the fighting in a personal combat between the chief and Lt. Hazen, the officer was dangerously wounded. Shortly afterwards, in a similar combat between the chief and Everett, the latter was also shot severely and wounded. In both instances an Indian waved his pistol which he took from the body of John Davenport. Shortly afterwards, Thomas, in a close combat with this same chief, also received slight wounds, and again, the chief waved his pistol and rode away! This chief had already been fired upon no less than one hundred times, and he and his horse were bloody from head to foot. Yet he madly defied his white foes, and continued to wave his pistol. Doke Bowles riding "Fuzzy Buck," was always in the foremost of the fighting and no doubt, inflicted some of the wounds of the chieftain. As a result, the fleeing warriors plunged their horses over a cliff, almost perpendicular and about fourteen feet high. Some of the citizens thought it were too steep, but Doke Bowles replied that a whiteman could always follow Indians. So he plunged his horse over the bluff. Frank Isabell, Nobe Griner, and Williams followed, and these four continued to pursue the savages. Three miles farther, Bowles again overtook the warriors. Doke Bowles would empty his gun, wait for his companions, take their loaded weapons, and again charge the savages. Finally Williams also overtook the warriors, and he and Doke Bowles charged the enemy together. The bloody chief again charged the citizens. Doke Bowles now fired his last shot, and about the same time, counted no less than nine wounds in the chief's body. Williams now was wounded, the chief took the latter's horse and rode away, leaving his own horse standing on the ground, wounded in fourteen different places, and carrying the saddle, rope, and bride of Doke Bowles father. The running fight between the Texans and the Indians lasted for twenty miles, and the entire command now turned their attention to the wounded. James McCormick volunteered to go for medical aid at Fort Clark, which was eighty miles away. During his journey, he was chased by Indians, but in three days, he and the army surgeon reached the bedside of Lt. Hazen, and others.

    While the citizens were running the savages, Doke Bowles saw an Indian throw something under a cedar tree, and thinking perhaps it was his father's scalp, picked it up when he returned. It proved to be an old-fashioned ridicule, which contained the scalps of four children, paint, etc., and a large number of other Indian implements. They also recovered many stolen horses. The paint-horse Mr. Ira Wheat was riding, when killed was also recovered. The Texans recaptured Mr. Wheat's coat, and it's holes indicated where the Indians inflicted the fatal wounds.

    Ref.: The author personally interviewed E.L. Downs, Monroe Finley, J.C. Ware, James Robertson, Tom Brown and others, who were living in Uvalde and adjoining counties at the time. Further Ref.: Tex. Ind. Fighters, by A.J. Sowell; Wilbarger's Indian Depredations in Texas; Vital Statistics of the U.S. for 1860; and a printed account of the above killing furnished by Capt. J.C. Ware.

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

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  • John Davenport was my husband’s great great grandfather. Georgia’s Davenport Burt was my husband’s grandmother. Her father was John William Davenport and his father was the John Davenport in this story.

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