Indian Fight at Hart Ranch

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.

Coleman County, Texas

    During the summer of 1870, Jim Hart and brothers, were running their mother's ranch, on Jim Ned, in Coleman County, about twenty miles north of Coleman. The boys were making preparations to go to a roundup, and had gathered most of the horses. But J.E. Heslup and Jeff Reasoner were unable to find theirs. After breakfast, however, the "chuck-wagon," with horses and seven men, started for the cattle-ranges, and Johnny Heslup and Bill Starnes made a second trip to find the missing horses. This time, they went in a westerly direction, but soon came running toward the ranch, and were followed by about thirty-five screaming savages. John Heslup's horse had been wounded b y an Indian chief, and the pony fell dead when Heslup reached the yard gate at the ranch.

    Joe Hart was then a boy seven years of age, and when he saw the dust in the distance he gave the alarm. Jess soon discovered a band of Indians. John Hart was just arriving in a wagon from Weatherford, with supplies, and he had stopped a short distance from the ranch house to talk to Will McDermitt, Jim Hart, and a third man, who started to the roundup. John Hart had his gun in the wagon, but the three other boys sent their guns on with the chuck-wagon. Jim Hart, Will McDermitt, and their associates then hurried into the house for guns and ammunition. In a short time, the Indians were upon them and John Hart shot and broke the neck of the chief, who was crowding Johnny Heslup. In a few seconds, the three boys returned from the house with guns and ammunition, and were then joined by Grandmother Hart, who, like a man, stood out in the open and shot at the Indians with a Winchester. The savages came charging as if they intended to run over the citizens. When the Indians saw they could not frighten Mrs. Hart, her son, and the two others, however, they dropped back and held a pow-wow. Again they charged, and no doubt, intended to recover the body of their chieftain, who was in the hands of the citizens. But Mrs. Hart and her boys refused to retreat, and each time they showered the Indians with their rifles. Four such charges were made, and counting the chief, seven Indians were seen to fall from their horses. The Indians then went away, and started toward the chuck-wagon. They took with them, the remaining dead and wounded. But they failed to recover the body of their chief.

    Mrs. Caroline Hart, wife of A.A. Hart (deceased), who first settled in Palo Pinto County about 1856, and who had been on the frontier for about fifteen years, stood up and fought like a man. Mrs. Hart, her sons, John and Jim, Will McDermitt, and one other stood out in the open, about seventy-five yards from the house, during all the fighting. None of the citizens were wounded.

    After the Indians left the Hart Ranch, they then followed the chuck-wagon, which was overtaken about three miles away. When the Indians charged, all excepting African Andy, ran in a cave, but according to reports, Andy stood his ground and saved his horses. Those that retreated into the cave lost their steeds and equipment.

    About two days after this fight, a company of surveyors camped near the Hart Ranch. John Hamilton, and Willis Ashberry dragged the dead Indian to their camp.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Jess Hart, who was about seven years old, and at the Hart Ranch when the fight occurred.

    Further Ref.: The Baird Starr, February 13, 1925, published by W.E. Gilliland, a copy of which Jess Hart furnished the author.

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

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