During February, 1867, the Indians slipped into the frontier town of Palo Pinto, and stole several head of horses. The next morning a number of local citizens took their trail which followed along the top of the hill south of Mrs. Poise McDonald's present home, between the Brooks and McQuerry Hollows. From here, the trail led on down the divide, went off the hill near the present big tank in the McDonald pasture, about one-fourth mile east of the Palo Pinto-Santo road. The savages turned east toward the river, and when the top of the mountain was reached, the citizens who were following the trail, found several horses tied in the edge of the cedar brakes and timber, but the Indians were not there. As a consequence, the scouts decided to return to town, for reinforcements and for dogs for it was reasonably certain the savages were hiding in the mountains and breaks along the Brazos.
After noon, Huse Bevers, H.G. Taylor, Henry Belding, Buck Dillahunty, Dick Lemons, M.O. Lynn, Bill Cameron, Beal Locke, Tom Humphries, T.C. Powers, Jno. Hittson, Jno. Dalton, Jno. Hays, Tom Hullum (colored), and possibly one or two others, returned to where the horses were tied to the east of the McDonald Tank. When the horses were reached, the command divided, and Henry Belding, T.C. Powers, Tom Hullum (colored) and about three more, remained with the horses. The remainder followed the dogs which were soon on the Indians' trail. The citizens saddle-horses were then carried on down the mountain, but were stopped near the river. Uncle Henry Belding said, "After a while we heard a hound bark, and a gun fire and a jabbering commence." An unusually large warrior shortly afterwards jumped upon a rock and said, "Me Mexicana, by ____!" When several fired, this warrior disappeared, and the exciting fight in the cedar breaks near two large white bluffs, and near the top of the mountain, began on an extensive scale. There were approximately twenty Indians and sixteen citizens.
When they firing began, Henry Belding, T.C. Powers, and possibly one or two others, left the horses near the bank of the river, and started toward the excitement, for Indians were yelling, ringing bells, blowing whistles, and needless to say, the citizens were also raising considerable disturbance, for they were being closely crowded. Belding and Powers had not gone far until they met their companions, coming down the mountain and the Indains bringing up the rear. During the exciting chase with the citizens in the lead, according to reports, Jno. Hays, a cripple man, who was showing considerable speed, instead of trying to go around a large tree humped between its high forks. The whites retreated to a deep ravine in the river sand, near the banks of the Brazos, where they made a stand. One man, however, never stopped until he got home, for the hostile Indians in the cedar breaks looked too hideous for him. The Indians came charging on, and in a short time were shooting over the head of the citizens. Houston Bevers' horse was killed. When his horse fell, Uncle Huse, who was somewhat excited, exclaimed, "D_____ you, I'll kill you and skin you alive." When the citizens began to fire, the Indians dropped back, and the action of the Indians just at this time was vividly described by Hen. Belding when he said:
"I jumped upon the bank, thinking I would get a shot, there was about a half-dozen of them coming abreast, but when I threw up my gun to my shoulder to shoot, they dodged out of my sight, reminding me of turtles falling off a log into a lake of water. I then dodged back into the ravine, and went up a short distance where I saw another Indian who also dodged me. In the meantime the old chief had crossed the ravine above us, and was on the northeast of us jabbering away while they were firing at us from that direction. I had taken position close to the north bank of the ravine, when a large bullet came whizzing by my head, and struck John Hittson's horse, slightly wounding him. Directly I saw Buck Dillahunty shoot his six-shooter at the old Jabberer, but he never batted his eye, but came on like he was going to walk over us. Then I took deliberate aim with my shotgun at his side and at the crack of the gun, he went off, all doubled-up, as though he had the cramp colic pretty badly. That terminated the fight; he never jabbered at us any more."
During the time H.G. Taylor, Huse Bevers, Buck Dillahunty, M.O. Lynn, Jno. Hittson, Dick Lemons, John Dalton, T.C. Powers and Beal Locke were also firing at the savages. When the Indians retreated the shadows of the mountains were lengthening fast over the tall trees and vines across the river from old Village Bend. In a short time, where such tremendous disturbance prevailed only a few moments before, the lonesome breaks along the Brazos were silent, lonesome, and still.
The night following, it is supposed the same Indians stole horses on Big Keechi, and the next day, citizens who reconnoitered the battleground found two bloody shirts and other Indian implements nearby. One of these shirts had been punctured with several buckshot, and it has been presumed this shirt was worn by the savages whom Hen. Belding gave the cramp colic.
Although the citizens became somewhat excited and retreated down the mountain, nevertheless it must be conceded that it required unusual bravery for such a small bank of citizens to penetrate into the dense cedar breaks for the purpose of charging a large number of hideously decorated and yelling demons, who had every advantage.
Note: Author heard H.G. Taylor, Houston Bevers, Henry Belding and others several times relate the story, also interviewed Jowell Locke, Mrs. H.G. Taylor, Jrs. Huse Bevers, Mrs. J. Hart, Jodie Corbin, T.C. Powers, who was in the fight, A.M. Lasater, J.C. Jowell, Mrs. Wm. Metcalf, Mrs. Dick Lemon and several others who lived in this section at the time.
Further Ref.: Henry Belding's account of this story published in the Mineral Wells Index, during 1910. Also interviewed Tom Hullum.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.