Massacre of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Briscoe and Capture of Their Children

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.

Jacksboro County, Texas

    Isaac Briscoe first settled about five miles north of Jacksboro, where he remained for some time. Joe Fowler, who was driving home the oxen when the Indians charged the residence of Calvin Gage, married a daughter of Mr. Briscoe. Jim McKinney, also married a daughter of Mr. Briscoe. Mrs. Jim McKinney was a full sister to Mrs. Joe Fowler. Near the close of the Civil War, the savages became so troublesome, Isaac Briscoe, then living with a second wife, considered it unsafe to remain in the territory north of Jacksboro. So he moved to the old Shirley place, about three-fourths of a mile north of Agnes, and about fifteen miles north and west of Weatherford. Here Mr. and Mrs. Briscoe and their two daughters and sons settled to be secure from the savage onslaughts. But one morning in May or June, of 1866, the wild demons of the plains dashed upon their frontier cabin, and none were left to relate their sad experience. It has been supposed that Mr. Briscoe had found a temporary shelter from the summer sun under a grape arbor, near the house, when the Indians appeared. He and his wife were both massacred, and their three children carried into captivity. Only a few local citizens knew the horrors of this awful crime. Mr. and Mrs. Briscoe were not only murdered but their bodies were maimed in many ways, and scalped in the most horrible manner. Mr. Jim Mayo, who lived about one mile east of the Briscoe residence, discovered their dastardly deeds, and sent his son, Tom, to the home of Mrs. Lucendia Caldwell, to notify her of the presence of the savages. Mrs. Caldwell furnished Tom Mayo a pony and then sent him and her son to the home of Mrs. W.H. Allen to notify this frontier lady the Indians were raiding. The extent of their depredations, however, at this time was unknown. And as usual, other runners were also sent in other directions. R.E. and A.C. Tackett, brothers and members of L.L. Tackett's company of rangers, and perhaps others, were soon in their saddles, in quest of the savages. They hurried to the home of Sammy Stacks, whose horses the Indians were stealing. As usual, the Indians divided, and when the Tackett brothers reached the Stacks home, they charged the Indians, who were after horses in a nearby field. One Indian had placed a rawhide rope around a horse's neck, and was in the act of leading her away. A.C. Tackett charged this Indian and almost ran over the savage, who fell over the fence. R.E. Tackett jumped from his steed, laid his gun on the fence, and fired. But about this time, thirty or forty savages came charging toward the whites, who were forced to retreat for their own protection.

    The Indians next appeared at the home of Mrs. W.H. Allen, whose husband, at the time, was away. The warriors reached the Allen home shortly after the arrival of Tom Mayo and the son of Mrs. Lucendia Caldwell. Mrs. Allen was in the loom room weaving, and had sent her daughter, Lucy, to hunt the scissors, when the Caldwell boy and Tom Mayo quickly arrived. About that time, or shortly afterwards, several Indians made their appearance. Mrs. Allen and her five little children, the baby, a few month old, Sarah, Mattie, Annie, Lucy, all of whom were very small, were at the house. The Mayo boy's horse was soon shot, and the Caldwell boy jumped from his pony and ran in the house. Mrs. Allen picked up the baby, Mrs. Lucendia Caldwell's son, H. Caldwell, took Mattie, and they all ran north to the creek, which was about fifty or sixty yards away. When they reached this stream, they waded in the water for some distance, to avoid their being trailed by the Indians, and until they reached the home of Jimmy Shadle. The savages robbed Mrs. Allen's home, ripped open her feather and straw beds, took her bed-clothes and such other things that seemed to suit their fancy. Five feather beds and five hundred pounds of flour were ripped open for the sole purpose of getting the sacks and bed ticking. The family clock was taken out in the yard and destroyed. From here the Indians went north. Mrs. Caldwell took her children into the corn field and hid. Some of the Indians appeared at the home of J.T. Gilliland and Jack Wynn. Wynn and Gilliland started toward the lot to protect their horses, but when fired upon by the savages, they retreated back to the house. The Indians succeeded in getting some of their horses, but the next day one animal returned with a rawhide rope around his neck. The Briscoe children were carried to Oklahoma never to return to their former community. Two Briscoe girls and one boy were carried into captivity. About 1867 or 68, however, an army officer in Oklahoma wrote to the officer in command at Ft. Richardson to the effect that some children by the name of Briscoe, who formerly lived in Parker County, had been recovered from the savages. Billy Briscoe, a son of Isaac Briscoe and his first wife, went to Oklahoma to find his sister and brother, but when he reached his destination he was told that the Briscoe children had been sent to an orphans home.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Joe Fowler, who married a daughter of Isaac Briscoe; A.C. Tackett, mentioned above; Jno. Frazier, Dole Miller, and others, who lived in this section at the time.

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

Additional information from the book, A Cry Unheard, by Doyle Marshall.

When the local settlers learned of the Brisco family massacre, messengers were sent to warn those living in the surrounding areas. Volunteers gathered to pursue the Indians. Soon the posse overtook the band which was in the act of stealing a settler's horse. The settlers' pursuit was abandoned when it was found that the band outnumbered the few frontier defenders. However, because the warning was effectively given throughout the area, the settlement was spared further killings on that raid. Nevertheless, several homes were pilfered by the raiders before they left the county. Like the family of Cynthia Brisco McKinnney, Isaac Brisco and his wife were buried together in a single grave in the Old Goshen Cemetery.

Two years later, a Kiowa chief, Timber Mountain, traded Eliza and Isaac to the sutler at Fort Dodge, Kansas for merchandise. The younger sister was not ransomed along with the two older children, but had either died or remained with the Kiowas. The ransomed captives were placed in the care of Mr. Hugh Bradley, United States guide and interpreter, who fed and clothed them at his own expense for an extended time. One year after the ransom of the children, A.G. Boone, U.S. Indian Agent for the Kiowas and Comanches, was still attempting to locate someone who knew of the childrens' family. On April 1, 1869, Boone wrote to the Commission of Indian Affairs, in Washington, and inquired as to what should be done with the ransomed captives. By letter dated April 27, 1869, the Commissioner requested Texas Governor E.M. Pease to try to locate friends or relatives of the captives and inform them that the children had been found. The Commissioner requested that if friends and relatives could not be found the governor advise as to the desired disposition of the children. An historian of the North Texas frontier stated that Eliza and Isaac Brisco were never returned to the former home-that when their twenty-five-year-old brother, Billie Brisco, went to the Indian Territory to bring the children home he found that federal officials had given up on ever finding the relatives and had placed the children in an orphans' home.

Of the brothers, sisters, and parents of Joe and Elizabeth Brisco Fowler, the Indians in three different attacks killed eight, wounded five, tortured one, and captured five. In spite of the heartache at the hands of the raiding Indians experienced by the determined young pioneer family, Joe and Elizabeth apparently still considered that the advantages of living on the North Texas frontier outweighed the risks, so continued to live there throughout the remaining years that Indians raided the settlements.

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