Ole T. Nystel, a boy fourteen years of age, lived with his father, T.O. Nystel, on Meridian Creek, about ten miles south of Meridian, when he was made an Indian captive. We will place Mr. Nystel before the microphone, and let him relate some of his very unusual experiences. Mr. Ole T. Nystel said:
"When about fourteen, a neighbor of ours, Mr. Carl Quested, stopped at my father's on his way to the cedar brakes to chop and haul some poles. He wanted my assistance which was readily granted, although I was needed at home to drop corn, my father having commenced to plant that morning. It was the 20th of March, 1867, and the day was rather warm for the time of year, as I remember well, for everything connected with that day and a few months thereafter is indelibly stamped upon my memory. We started and soon reached our destination about five miles distant, among the hills and mountains, surrounded by dense thickets of cedar and other scrubby growth."
The cedar brakes to which Mr. Nystel referred was about four miles north of the Nystel home, and six miles south of the present town of Meridian. Carl Quested was hauling rails in an ox-wagon drawn by two yoke of oxen.
Suddenly six Indians appeared, and a part of them charged both Quested and Nystel. Carl Quested, at the time, was cutting standards for the wagon, about 300 yards from Ole Nystel. Quested was soon wounded in the arm, but jumped off of a twenty foot bluff, and happened to hit in some dead timber which saved him. He then successfully made his escape, and raced homeward at lightning speed. Ole Nystel said:
"He did not stop until he had run about four miles, arriving back with nothing but his underclothes on, and then, torn and bloody, the axe still in his hand."
Concerning Ole T. Nystel's individual experience, he said:
"I was at the wagon, and Mr. Quested had gone off about fifty steps to commence work, when I heard a noise, and upon looking up, I saw two Indians, made hideous with war paint. About the same time, they saw me and giving me a few bloodcurdling yells, started toward me. It appeared to my excited imagination that they were devils who had come for me and really thought I could see great streams of fire issuing from their mouths... I really thought Doom's Day had come. I started to run, and had gone about forty yards, when an arrow pierced my right leg, passing entirely through the fleshy part, just above the knee, which still bears marks of the wound. At this, I fell, and one of them leveled a pistol at me, and motioned me to come to him, which I was not long in obeying... The Indian, who took me in charge, led me off to their camp about forty yards distant, where they had a fire. There were six in the party, three of whom were engaged in cooking a meal, consisting of broiled horse flesh and crackers."
After the savages had finished their meal, Ole Nystel said they took a northwesterly course, as they were then on their homeward march. After going about three miles, they charged after a local settler named Fine and his son, who retreated into a mot of timber for protection. Fine was wounded in the arm, but the Indians soon turned their ponies toward the wild northwest.
African Mack had been to the home of his former master, Mr. Gentry, who lived where Gentry's Mill is today, and had gone about ten or twelve miles toward his home, on Meridian Creek, in Bosque County, when the Indians who had Ole Nystel, murdered him. African Mack was driving a yoke of oxen, and had corn and bacon in his wagon.
The savages went a short way further, and murdered African Clint while he was horse-hunting near the Twin Mountains, in Hamilton County.
The Indian then took Ole Nystel, perhaps, through Hamilton County into Comanche, Eastland, Callahan, Shackelford, Jones, and to the Double Mountains in Stonewall County. On the tip-top of these mountains the wild men picked up some guns, spears, tents, and perhaps other articles they had left. After picking up these articles, the Indians went a few miles further, and camped for the night. For five days the warriors had traveled, and this was the first time they camped. Can you imagine the torture, torment, and agony of Ole Nystel, who with his badly wounded knee, was forced to ride for five days, most of the time on a poor horse that had a high backbone. Ole Nystel said:
"On the fifth night we stopped and went into camp for the first time since I was captured. They erected the tent for their own benefit and it seemed I was denied entrance. They knew there was no danger of my getting away be leaving me out during the night since I was dismantled, for my wound was too severe. I could not walk, and though I had to get wood, water, etc., I could only do so by crawling and pushing it before me on the ground. It became very cold during the night, having commenced to sleet and snow. I was almost numb and stiff from cold, having no protection but an old overcoat. What should I do? I must find shelter or freeze, that was certain. So on looking around I saw an embankment near the tent and went down to it and found a small cave which I entered. I found my new quarters comparatively comfortable. I lay down against something warm and hairy, perhaps some wild animal, I never investigated. I was soon asleep from which I did not awake till late the following day.
I heard some commotion in the camp which aroused me, and on coming out I discovered that my dusky companions were gone, the last one disappearing just as I came out. I went into the tent and sat down to await their return, for as I supposed they were looking for me. They soon returned from their fruitless search, and on entering the tent and seeing me, they appeared mystified, not knowing from whence I came, and made signs as to where I had been. Being always ready to answer a question on the spur of the moment when I understood what they wanted, and seeing that the snow had filled up my tracks or path made in coming into the tent, so that they could not tell where I came from; I pointed up indicating that I had been to heaven. At this they showed signs of amazement, making quite a demonstration in their way. As they are very superstitious and ready to relegate anything not easily accounted for to the supernatural, this may have been of unmeasured advantage of me, as it doubtless made them believe I was under the protection of the "Great Spirit." However, it seemed that they easily forgot such impressions and would return to their acts of cruelty."
Ole Nystel was first carried to New Mexico, and then to the Arkansas River. He remained three months with the Indians, who treated him unmercifully. In fact the torture, torment, agony, suffering, and pain administered by the Indians to this young frontier boy were absolutely beyond conception. He was finally ransomed by a Mr. Eli Bewell, who paid the Indians $250.00 in money and other articles. Ole T. Nystel still lives, and numbers among the highly respected citizens of Bosque County. It was the author's pleasure to spent the night at his home, while gathering data for the present work.
Note: Author interviewed Ole T. Nystel, who was carried into captivity and others who lived in Bosque County at the time.
Further Ref.: Lost and Found or Three Months with the Indians, by Ole T. Nystel.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.