Indians Celebrate the Fourth of July in Tarrant and Parker Counties
The following story by Kate Nowak was featured in the July 2002, Painted Post Crossroads.
I can still remember that Fourth of July the Indians came. The year was 1869 and I was about to turn 12. Of course I thought myself to be quite a bit more grown up that I actually was, and though I've been sorely ashamed of it ever since, I must admit I threw quite a tizzy that day because Mama wouldn't agree to go into Weatherford for the Independence Day festivities. There was this particular boy there, you see, and I was quite smitten. I just knew he would be at the celebration and I thought Mama to be the meanest women in the world for saying we couldn't go. But though I wheedled and whined and threw the greatest of tantrums, Mama wouldn't budge.
A couple of days before, Daddy had left for Oklahoma Territory to check on some business interests he had there, and I know Mama didn't like to travel much when he was gone. Long about mid-afternoon I had almost talked myself into forgiving her when she came and sat down beside me where I'd been sulking under a big chinaberry tree near the barn.
"Annie," she said, "I am truly sorry we couldn't go into Weatherford for the celebration, but that does not mean your day must be ruined. I was just thinking how your father had said before he left that he needed to bring Nero home. Perhaps you would like to ride over to your Uncle Clint's and fetch him? You could leave the mare there and ride Nero back if you liked."
Of course, nothing in the world could have given me more pleasure, and Mama knew it. Nero was my father's racehorse, you see, and I loved riding him more than anything in the world. Daddy had left him at Uncle Clint's ranch, about a half mile away, to service some mares, and the thought of getting to ride him back home across that small stretch of prairie was thrilling to me.
I quickly saddled the mare and before Mama could change her mind, I was headed toward my uncle Clint Rider's place and all thoughts of the boy in Weatherford and the celebration there were as gone from my mind as if they'd never been.
I did not tarry long at Uncle Clint's. There was another man there and the two of them were discussing business, so I just told him Mama had sent me to get Nero and as soon as the stallion was saddled, we took off toward home. I did overhear the other man saying something about it being a near full moon and a good night for Indians, but I paid him little mind. We'd lived on the prairie near Mary's Creek for most of my life and though we'd heard about raids taking place all around us, we'd never had any problem with Indians ourselves, and so I guess I was just too ignorant to be afraid.
Nero was high-spirited that day, and so as soon as we were away from the corrals, I nudged him into a run. I felt like I was riding the wind, he was so fast. It had rained that morning, and now clouds were forming again and I pretended the biggest cloud was a great gray steed racing against us. I knew Nero would beat him to the finish line. By the time we arrived home, I was as exhilarated as if we'd actually won a true race.
I unsaddled Nero and fed him and then turned him into the lot. Just as I stepped onto our front porch. Mama came out and pointed toward a big rainbow spanning the eastern horizon. It was so very beautiful.
Mama asked me to fetch her Bible and then together we read the story of Noah and the flood and how God put the rainbow in the sky as a token of His promise that He would never again send a flood to destroy the earth.
I looked out again at the rainbow, but then suddenly everything changed. There on the ridge were eleven Indians. I'd never in my life seen an Indian before and so before Mama could stop me I ran from the porch for a better look. As if they wanted to accommodate my curiosity, four of the raiders began riding closer, though the other seven stayed put on the ridge. Soon the four were close enough I could see that there faces were painted. One wore two feathers and some beads in his hair, and another was wearing a black hat that had been beaten down and misshapen so as to hardly resemble a hat at all. The first rider was wearing a shirt that was dark, dark red and it reminded me all of the sudden of blood, and before I knew it I was scared as I could be.
I turned and ran back to the porch, but then my curiosity got the best of me again and I stayed there for a bit longer and watched them ride closer still. Mama was urging me into the house, her voice a frantic whisper, but I could not let the image of these warriors go, and so I ignored her urgings and kept staring out at them as they moved closer in.
Finally could stand it no longer and she grabbed my arm and yanked me into the safety of the house, just as one of the warriors lifted his bow and aimed an arrow toward me. My heart leapt with fear as Mama whisked me into the dark safety of our cabin.
It was then for the first time that I really noticed how scared Mama was. Her face was drawn and the skin around her mouth bleached white by fear. She grabbed for Daddy's gun and then she gave me such a look of utter hopelessness that before she said a word I knew what the problem was. We had Daddy's gun, allright, but neither one of us knew how to use it.
"Quick!" she said, "Get in the loft!" And together we scurried up the ladder, pulling it up behind us. Desperately, Mama looked around her and when she spotted the heavy trunk she kept the linens in, she motioned for me to help her move it over the loft opening. That done, we huddled together in fear, certain that every noise we heard would be the last.
After a minute or two, we heard the cabin door thrown open and heavy footsteps. Mama squeezed me tight against her as one of the raiders grunted something to another, and we heard the scrape of the table legs being scooted along the wooden floor boards.
My heart was pounding so I was certain they could hear it down below and Mama was squeezing me so tight I could hardly breathe, not that I would have wanted to scared as I was that they might hear me. I was so scared it was a moment before I realized that Mama's lips were moving and she was whispering something ever so softly. I made myself focus on what she was saying and after a couple of seconds realized she was praying, repeating the words of the 91st Psalm.
"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day," she whispered.
"Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
"A thousand shall fall at they side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee."
I guess it might seem funny to some, but there huddled in that dark loft with savage Indians only moments away from discovering our hiding place, I was suddenly comforted by Mama's prayer and I felt myself begin to relax.
In the very next instant there was this loud shout coming from near the barn, and we heard the Indians leave the cabin.
For the next several minutes there was so much whooping and hollering and shooting going on, you would have thought a hundred raiders or more were just outside our cabin. Then I heard Nero whinny, so high pitched and loud it sounded almost like a scream, and my heart sunk. The Indians were stealing my Daddy's horse and there was not a thing in the world we could do to stop them.
We strained to hear what else was happening, but after a few minutes more, the noise began to subside and we realized the only sound we heard was hoofbeats growing faint.
Mama let out a sigh and I began to cry. She pulled herself into a sitting position and then drew me into her lap, holding me and rocking me as I cried and cried. When at last I looked up at her face, it was tear-stained, too.
I doubt it was very long, but it seemed an eternity later, we moved the trunk from over the opening, replaced the ladder and climbed back down out of the loft.
It had started raining again while the Indians were still at the barn and from the tracks in the mud it was easy to see they'd taken Nero. Sometime later, a gentleman from Weatherford told us it was that horse that saved our lives because to an Indian a good horse was always more attractive than a good scalp.
Later that evening Uncle Clint came over to check on us and we learned that after the Indians left our place they attacked his ranch, doing no real damage other than shooting the place up a bit.
Others weren't so lucky though. A couple of days later we learned that there had actually been two raiding parties attack the area on the Fourth and again the next day. Over near Grindstone Creek in the west part of the county, they killed a man and woman and their infant daughter as they were returning home from the Fourth of July celebration. The next day they killed another man over near Campbell Prairie and hung his body in a tree.
Rangers tried to track them down and finally succeeded in killing one of the raiders. But though some of the horse and mules they stole were recovered, we never saw Nero again. But until the day my daddy died many years later he always said he was grateful to that horse for saving his wife and child.
I guess maybe I was, too.
The following version is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.
After stealing horses during the third and fourth of July, 1869, in the vicinity of Ft. Worth, and in the western part of Tarrant county, the Indians appeared at the homes of Wm. and C. B. Rider, who lived on the head of Mary's Creek, and on the old Fort Worth-Belknap road, about fourteen miles east and north of Weatherford. The Indians were discovered by little Annie Rider, who counted eleven in number. Annie and her mother, Mrs. Malissa McClain Rider, concealed themselves up in the attic. The Indians stopped on a edge until they corralled a fine horse of Wm. Rider. Mrs. Rider and her daughter, could hear the horse-bell while the Indians were chasing horses. The savages also fired into the roof of the smoke-house. Wm. and C. B. Rider were both away. Perhaps, they had gone that morning to their ranch on the Wichita River. The Indians passed on to the home of Clinton B. Rider, about one-half mile away, and proceeded on east about one mile where they mortally wounded Wm. Tinnell, just before dark. Wm. Tinnell was traveling alone in a wagon and going west with freight. He was scalped, and the Indians took his horses. When Wm. Tinnell was found, however, he was not yet dead, and was carried to the home of John Kaufman, where he lived for nearly a week before he died. Since it was foggy, the savages camped about two miles west of the C. B. Rider home. A Mexican was the only man present, so he hurriedly mounted a small pony and notified the neighbors, who were soon ready to follow the Indian trail. But it was so foggy and dark they were forced to wait until the next morning.
The next morning, the Indians proceeded westward, and were followed by at least two different bands of citizens. A posse of men from Tarrant county was on their trail, and the other group of citizens were from Parker.
The eleven savages killed John Lopp, about one-half mile from his home, and about nine miles northeast of Weatherford. Approximately sixty-two bullet holes were found in Mr. Lopp's body, which was also badly disfigured in other ways. But the Indians hardly completed this dastardly deed, and deadly mark, when Fine Earnest, Henry Gillen, John Robinson, John C. Gillen, and a few others discovered them. These gentlemen were on their way to a Masonic celebration in Weatherford, and to help lay the cornerstone of the Weatherford Masonic Institute. When the savages were seen, however, the citizens had other important duties to perform. The Indians were followed for ten or twelve miles, and near the middle of the afternoon, they finally ran under a little waterfall, about seven miles east of the present town of Whitt, and near the Slip-Down Mountain. One savage was shot down, however, just before he entered this place of concealment. Since the wounded warrior was exceedingly close, Fine Earnest decided to slip up and tie a rope around this warrior so he could be dragged away. But when Fine Earnest touched his foot, the Indians said, "Whauh," and the remaining savages showered Fine Earnest with arrows, forcing him to withdraw. The Indians were kept at bay until dark, when the citizens went away.
Note: Author personally interviewed Mrs. Annie Rider Moran, who was the little girl that counted the Indians; A. M. Lasater; Dole Miller; Joe Moore; and other early citizens of Parker and Palo Pinto Co.
Further Ref.: Smythe's Historical Sketch of Parker Co., (1877).