Nocona’s Blood Trail Road Trip

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.

Reading the map from the south, approaching Jacksboro, on the Texas Fort Trail.

On the east side of Highway 281, about 1864, Capt. Dillahunty's Rangers commanded by J. W. Sheek were confronted by Indians upon returning from a scouting expedition. The squad broke up to head toward their various ranches when several of the departing Rangers were attacked. They returned to their squad, which mounted up and chased the Indians. They caught them within about a mile, where a running fight occurred. The Rangers recovered several stolen horses. In Old Black Springs, now Oran, which was a few miles away from the fight, school children could clearly hear the gun fire.

October 26, 1863, Mann Tackett and his son left their house in opposite directions in search of livestock. Shortly afterwards, Mann found himself surrounded by fifteen or twenty warriors. He was overtaken within a half mile of his house, and he dismounted in order to sell his life as dearly as possible. He took cover behind a tree and carefully fired the seven or eight shots he had; the gunfire could be heard from his house. J. H. returned there, grabbed his little brother and proceeded to help his father. When they found him, he was already dead, partially stripped, full of arrows but not scalped. A posse followed the Indian trail and within half a mile they found a dead Indian who was apparently a victim of Mr. Tackett's shooting. The Indian was dragged back to the house and stood up against a tree away from the house.

FM 52 connects 281 and 254 to form the Black Springs loop.


In 1867, a group of citizens/Rangers was out scouting when they struck an Indian trail and followed it a few miles west of the town of Perrin where they encountered an overwhelming force of warriors and engaged them in a fight. Among the Rangers, Jack Coldwell was killed immediately and Sam Leonard was paralyzed by wounds received in the neck. Part of the group wanted to retreat, but J. W. Miller and a few others insisted on making a stand. Confronted with the Rangers' fire, the Indians scattered. Leonard soon recovered.

In 1863, Mr. Rolland and his married sons forted up about three miles northeast of the present town of Perrin. Bill Burnet, who lived a few miles further north, discoveNative American signs and hurried to the Rolland's fort where he retrieved the sons, Jack and Henry. The three were riding back towards Burnet's residence when Indians attacked them. Jack Rolland was immediately wounded, so their bunch made a dash for the Rolland Ranch. One of the Indians was riding a horse he had stolen from Isaac Lynn's stable, which coincidentally had been raised with the horse Henry was riding. These horses apparently became involved in their own race and as they ran side by side, the Indian was able to repeatedly strike and wound the boy. The Indians broke off at the sight of the fort. When they reached the house, Henry's father helped him off of his horse, but he died a few days later. Jack held on to life for only a few additional days.

After Jack and Henry were killed, their father moved the rest of his family three miles south to Joe Manley's place. Shortly after the move, John Rolland, two of his nephews and Davy Crockett, nephew of the hero of the Alamo, went to Mud Springs, on the southwest corner of present day Perrin, for water. When the group was attacked by Indians, one of the young boys went home for help, returning with his grandfather and others. He led them to the scene of the fight where they found Davy Crockett dead and John Rolland mortally wounded with five arrows in his back but still breathing. Little Thomas Rolland was held captive until he was recovered by Brit Johnson months later.

On the 24th of December, 1868, several miles further west, the five Lasater brothers were hunting for their hogs when they discovered they were in the company of Indians. The boys successfully escaped into the nearby timber. A posse followed the Indians south into Loving's Valley where they were forced into the timber. The Indians continued to Hart Bend on the Brazos, about six miles east of Palo Pinto. The next day, another posse continued to follow the trail but was unsuccessful in finding the Indians.

Several miles north of Perrin, in 1874, Upton Blackwell, while returning from Jacksboro to his place in Parker County, was killed by Indians.

A little further west, Dick Harris lost his life in an Indian attack while on his way to the home of Mrs. Nancy Williams to help slaughter some sheep.

In 1867, on the outskirts of Jacksboro, Indians appeared at the home of Jack Cooper, who was away at the time. Mr. Cooper's sons and others exchanged gunfire with the Indians. Mr. H. C. (Coon) Cooper received a wound in his shoulder from which he recovered. A large amount of blood at the scene indicated, at least, that some damage was done to the Indians.

Hwy. 281S to San Antonio is a viable alternative to I-35. Katy Vine wrote her impressions of the drive in a recent article in Texas Monthly.

New odometer setting at the intersection of Hwys. 199 and 281. Travel 2.25 miles and on the right side is the location of the Gage Family depredations. At 3.65 miles is the site of the demise of the Landman Family, the first victims of Nocona's vicious 1860 raid.

The oilfield on your left was my grandfather's; the discovery well was at the intersection of 199. Sometimes as a little boy, I got to sit on a well with the Steed men and their partners. There was vienna sausage, sardines and crackers to eat while I watched the men play cards in a little trailer next to the rig. The drill site sort of took the place of the cow camp. Remote locations with no phones and nearly impassable roads, the men were impossible to reach and the women half-jokingly referred to themselves as oilpatch widows. My dad addressed an understanding group of Wichita Falls oilmen one day at a lunch meeting. He began, "Please forgive me if I fumble this speech a little but I didn't sleep well last night. Tiger (my mother's nickname; Dad was called mouse) woke me up in the middle of the night when she came in. I said, Honey, look at the time. Where have you been? She kicked off a high heel and as it hit the wall replied, 'Sittin' on a well.' He finished, 'I just squeaked and rolled over.'"

The entrance to Fort Richardson is at 6.14 miles. There were two separate Indian fights west of the square. One of my earliest memories involves Fort Richardson about 1952. My dad walked out of his room in his uniform and told me to "Come hop in the jeep." In civilian clothes, this would have meant a drive to Herd's for a bag of burgers but this was even better. We met other soldiers at the fort and went through some of the buildings where the army still had equipment stored. Today, it's heartening knowing that the old place has been so beautifully renovated, and how effectively it now tells its history.

Henry Riley

Head Riley

Earhart Ranch Fights

Isaac F. Knight

I feel as well qualified as anyone to serve as a guide on the northwestern frontier. I went through the first few years of grade school in Jacksboro before the family moved to Wichita Falls. We spent a lot of time at my dad's parents in Dallas and even more at my mother's folks in Lawton. We lost an uncle in World War II so Fort Sill memorial activities were always attended. My parents were married at the little chapel next to the parade field and I still drive by that when I can. Best of all, the old folks would take us kids to a picnic (pictured below) around Mount Scott and a visit to the kiddie rides at Medicine Park.

When I became a teenager in 1960, I returned to Jacksboro to work in the oilfields. It was a family tradition. I shared a motel room with my cousin and we roustabouted for a seventy-year old man named Roy Knight. He would pick us up every morning before daylight at the Green Frog Cafe across the street. The ladies there would fix our lunch in anticipation of the hot day, packing a tomato, pickle, onion and fruit separate so our sandwiches wouldn't get soggy. Roy outworked us every day and still had the energy to entertain us with stories about frontier Jacksboro.


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