Spencer Goss and Others Fight With Indians in Kerr County in 1857

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.

Kerr County, Texas

    During the above year, after making a raid in the vicinity of Kerrville, the Indians retreated up the river and secreted themselves in the Guadalupe Mountains. Spencer Goss, William Kelso, Jack Herridge, Tom Wherry, Tom McAdams, Dan Murff and Newt Price, pursued the Indians for about twenty-five miles. They then stopped to cut a bee tree, and later evidences indicated their presence was already known to the savages.

    Night was now approaching and the weather was cold. The Texans, still unaware that their presence was known to the Indians, encamped in a thicket and build a huge bonfire to drive away the shivering chills of the crispy night. About the break of day, Tom Wherry and Dan Murff arose, rekindled the fire and went in search of a deer. Shortly afterwards the others were also warming around the fire. All of their guns were propped against a tree about twenty yards away. Several Indians slipped up and after taking possession of the guns and at the unexpected moment, charged the men standing around the fire. So sudden and severe was the attack, the citizens, who were now only armed with sixshooters, became completely demoralized. But Kelso shot an Indian who fell near the fire, Murff and Wherry, who were out hunting a deer, heard the firing and returned immediately to the assistance of their comrades. Murff ran almost among the Indians, and unfortunately had to fire. It is generally believed he was shot down by one of his own men and died almost instantly. Wherry was wounded in the breast with an arrow, and forced to retreat into the thick timber. When the Indians charged, Spencer Goss was sitting near the fire, and the discharge of an Indian's gun broke his right limb below the knee. Kelso was severely wounded with an arrow, but was able to remove the weapon and retreat into the timber. Tom McAdams was pierced with an arrow through his wind pipe, but also made his escape. Newt Price, who was standing with his back to the Indians, received a discharge of buckshot in his shoulder. Jack Herridge was forced to flee without his shoes, and was the only one to escape uninjured, and when he reached the settlement his feet were so badly bruised, they were solid sores.

    The horses of Murff and Wherry had been released to graze when they started for deer, and when the firing started, their ponies became so excited they ran away and safely reached Kerrville. All the other horses fell into the hands of the Indians. After the fight, Kelso, Wherry and McAdams managed to get together, and wounded as they were, started towards Kerrville. Goss and Price escaped into the same mott of timber, but at first, their presence was unknown to each other. When Goss regained consciousness, he called for his companions and was answered by Price. The two, in their wounded condition, then went about a mile and secreted themselves in a cave. Price, who was able to walk the following morning, proposed to go to Kerrville and send aid, but when he went about ten miles, he died. But Goss' whereabouts still remained a mystery, for searching parties were unable to find him. He remained in the cave eighteen days, hoping every hour that Price, whose death was unknown to Goss, would send someone to his assistance. During this time, he lived on grapes and haws. He finally decided, however, he would make an effort to use a forked stick and hobble homeward. And in this way for several days he traveled.

    But Goss became so fatigued, he sat down and leaned against a large tree. Judge Patton, a friend, who was out on a bear hunt, accidentally found him in this position, and assisted him to a camp eight miles above Kerrville. In the meantime, however, searching parties had found his trail and would have located Mr. Goss shortly afterwards. The bones of Price were found by a hunter two years later. When Kelso extracted an arrow from his body, he did not realize the spike remained in the wound, which did not heal for twenty years, or longer, so Kelso had a surgeon to operate and remove an iron arrow point from his side. Kelso then soon recovered.

    Note: The author interviewed Mrs. Spencer Goss, the wife of the man who remained in the cave for eighteen days, Mr. Wharton, Mrs. Moore, Steven McElroy, and others who were living in Kerr County at the time, or shortly afterwards.

    Further Ref.: Texas Indians Fighters by A.J. Sowell.

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

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