Edens-Madden Massacre

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.

Houston County, Texas

The following is from the book, Taming Texas, by Stephen L. Moore:

John Edens' San Pedro Creek home was a large wooden building of two main rooms with a dogtrot through the center. It was typical of the early Esat Texas farm homes, which used the dogtrot style to create natural air conditioning from the prevailing breezes. A number of recently constructed log homes in this area of Houston County had created a neighborhood of sorts.

Knowing that most of the able-bodied white men had gone off to fight, the blood-thirsty Indians descended upon the little Edens home on the cold, frosty night of Thursday, October 18, 1838. Various early sources that discuss this attack give credit (or blame) for this event to the Cherokees, the Anadarkos or the Caddos. This little settlement was fairly surrounded by Indian tribes, ranging from the nearby peaceful Ionis on Sadler's land to more warlike bands of Anadarkos, Coushattas and Alabamas, who lived nearby on the Trinity River.

The tribe most likely to have committed this attack was the Kickapoos, known to have been stirred up by the recent rebellion. In support of this are the statements of Elias Vansickle before the county court of Nacogdoches on January 25, 1839. He had been captured by Cordova's rebels on October 1, 1838, at the Neches Saline and was held hostage by these Mexicans and Indians for nearly three months. Vansickle stated, that while a prisoner in their camp,

Some Kickapoos, a large number, came in and stated that they had killed the families of Eden and others, near Mustang Prairie, Houston County.

...The Indians waited until everyone had gone to bed for the night, watching as the men took to their own room. Apparently, some of the men had just checked on their children for a goodnight "chat" and were retiring back to their own room at the moment of attack. The women, children and Patsy, the Edens family servant, were across the dogtrot in the other room with many of the guns. By the light of a bright moon, the Indians slipped up beside the house quietly before erupting with horrible "war whoops and yells fiendish..."

Several Indians guarded the door to the room occupied by the men while several others burst into the other room with the women and children. With tomahawks and scalping knives in hand, the Indians proceeded to butcher their helpless inmates. The women cried out for help, but they were prevented from escaping and the men were prevented from coming to their rescue. According to one Texas historian, escape was prevented by "one powerful and hideous demon, guarding the doorway by spreading his arms and legs from side to side and grasping the lintels with his hands, all the while yelling and gloating rapturously over the bloody, sickening scene of death wrought within."

All accounts seem to agree that the Indians attacked the grown women before moving on to the children. Lucinda Edens Madden, wife of James Madden, was savagely attacked. One chop of the tomahawk severed her collarbone while a second cut through two ribs near her spine. After a third blow opened a horrible gash in her back, Mrs. Madden "fell senseless upon the floor and was abandoned as dead." With great physical force, the barbaric savages spared no mercy on the other women.

Captain Sadler's wife Mary was among the first to die. She and her stepmother, Sarah Murchison, and Mrs. John Edens quickly fell to the tomahawks and scalping knives while the raging Indians slashed into the other women and their defenseless children. One of the first published accounts of the Edens-Madden Massacre relates the horrible fate of one of the women slaughtered after Lucinda Madden had passed out. "Another lady was tomahawked and fell dead into the fireplace, her life's blood flowing so profusely as to extinguish the flames, and leave the fiends to complete the slaughter in semi-darkness."

In the crowded women's room of the Edens home, the wooden floors became saturated with blood as the occupants were brutally massacred. Three women, including Mary Sadler, were already dead. The Indians went after the children and remaining women with their tomahawks, and Nancy Madden wife of Robert Madden of Captain Sadler's company, suffered a shot through her ear and a tomahawk wound in the back of her shoulder.

In the wild melee of attacking Indians and screaming children, Nancy Madden somehow managed to crawl from the room and burst into the men's room where she "fell exhausted by fright and loss of blood."

The men, perhaps thinking they could be of no help, attempted an escape.

...There were a large number of children in the women's room, and only two survived. Two of John Edens' daughters, Emily and Caledonia Edens, were killed as were two of his grandsons, Robert and Seldon Madden, both sons of James and Lucinda Madden. A fifth child, Nancy Madden's three-year-old daughter Mary, was also killed. A sixth child, Mary Sadler's infant daughter Sophia, is believed to have been killed and her body left in the house, although many sources do not list her. Noted Texas historian Louis W. Kemp, in a biographical sketch of William Sadler obtained from the Texas State Library, noted that "Mrs. Sadler and her infant child were killed by Indians October 18, 18[8]."

Prior to fleeing from their scene of butchery, the Indians set fire to the Edens home. They ripped into the bedding and emptied the feathers into the room to fuel the blaze, then started the fire by spreading the remaining coals from the fireplace in the center of the room. In the confusion of flying feathers, rapidly spreading fire, and Indians busily scalping, severely wounded Lucinda Madden regained consciousness long enough to escape from the room shortly before the Indians departed. As she later related to her grandson, she crawled through the legs of an Indian guard at the door who was wrapped up in the excitement of the moment.

According to this same account, Lucinda found the strength to pull herself far out of the view of the Indians to save her own life.

Crawling to the corner of a fence, she lay there, bleeding, while the Indians set fire to the buildings and destroyed the entire group of houses with the exception of one little out building. As she lay in this fence corner, my grandfather leaped the fence right by her, hotly pursued by the Indians, but she was not seen by either. My grandfather escaped into the woods. After the fire had died down and the Indians [had] gone, by grandmother pulled herself into this little building which had been left, and lay there alone all night. I have heard from her own lips the remarkable statement that she "never slept better in all her life," a fact probably due to the severe loss of blood.

She would not be the only survivor from among the women and children, however. Lucinda Madden's four-year-old son Balis Erls Madden observed his mother's slithering past the Indian guard and followed suit. Young Balis slipped through, apparently unnoticed, and ran off behind the slaves' quarters to hide all night in what he described as a "hog bed." The young boy remained safe here because the Indians did not molest the African slaves.

The Indian stole the guns from the women's room and took all but one of the horses tied up near the Edens home. Some of their own inferior guns were discarded in favor of those of the settlers before the attackers retired in the direction of Fort Houston. One account claims some of the children may have been carried off by the Indians, while another states that some had their brains smashed out against the side of the home before being tossed into the fire.

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