Alf Ross, Son, Ike Ross and Shade Hightower

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.

Jack County, Texas

    About 1865 Alf Ross and family, and Shade Hightower, lived about two miles north of Finis, on Rock Creek, and in the western part of Jack County. They lived in two log houses, one room to each, and separated only about eight feet apart, with an entrance between the two. Mrs. Ross was washing between the two rooms, and her husband, son, and Shade Hightower, working a short distance away, when many screaming wild demons came dashing down the hill towards these defenseless pioneer people. Mrs. Ross, after gathering her children, ran in the house and closed the door. The Indians formed a battle line in front of the house. Alf Ross made an attempt to reach his residence to protect his wife and little children, but was soon shot down. Young Ike Ross and Shade Hightower ran across the creek from the truck patch, where the men had been working; but they were pursued by some of the savages, and in a short time Ike Ross and Shade Hightower were also shot down. The boy was about fifteen, and Hightower approximately ten years older. While they were being killed, the heroic mother took her little children, slipped out of the house, went up the creek, crossed to the opposite side, and hid in a thicket of timber and brush. Here she remained until night. She then slipped back to her rudely built frontier home, which only a short time before, was appreciated as much as a mansion. Her husband, son and Hightower lay murdered nearby. She also found her husband's scalp lying on the rocks. After giving her children some dried beef, which was about all the food to be found, again Mrs. Ross took her little flock, slipped through the darkness, and hid under a rock bluff about 200 yards down the creek. This rock bluff which was a little waterfall, was not on the main creek, but on a small branch. What a dreadful night! What a desolate surrounding! About the midnight hour, while Mrs. Ross had the little ones hovered around her, a huge Indian was seen standing on the bank above. The silhouette of this savage could be plainly seen by Mrs. Ross, as he stood in the silver rays of a midnight moon.

    The next morning Mrs. Ross decided to again return to the house. But when she peeked over a drift along the bank of the creek, this frontier mother plainly saw two savages getting on their steeds. The Indians were between the cabins where she happily washed during the preceding day. Again Mrs. Ross returned with her children to the little rock cavern under the waterfall, and here she remained until sundown, when she slipped out and started for the home of her mother, Mrs. Terry.

    Picture, if you please, the plight of this pioneer woman with her little children, as she stole her way through the darkness of night, protected only by the instinct her God had given her, and guided only by a few familiar landmarks, and the wild western stars.

    Mrs. Ross reached the home of her mother about ten o'clock at night, and Mose Terry, her brother, hurried to the Lemley Ranch to relate what had happened. The Lemley ranch was about one and one half miles away and before Mose Terry reached his destination, he could hear guns firing across the Brazos at the Kit Carter Ranch, where the citizens were having a short fight with the Indians.

    The next day Mose Terry, George, John and Jeff Lemley, and John Van Housher, removed Mr. Ross to the location of his son and Shade Hightower, and here these three Indian victims were given a final resting place in a lonely and unmarked grave.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: W.A. (Bill) Ribble, president of the Old Settlers Assoc., which meets each year at Newcastle. Mr. Ribble was living in this section of the state at the time, and several times heard Mrs. Ross, herself, and her brother, Mose Terry, and others relate this sad incident. Also interviewed John Van Housher, who helped bury the dead; A.M. Lasater, James Wood, Martin Lane; and several others who lived in this section at the time.

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

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