Big Raid Through Wise, Denton and Montague Counties

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.

Denton County, Texas
Montague County, Texas
Wise County, Texas

    During October of 1868, approximately two hundred savages first appeared when they charged John Bailey and Will Ball, who were gathering corn in the northern part of Wise County. Bailey opened fire, and apparently killed a chief, but he too was soon slain. Will Ball, however, hurried toward the house, and may have also been murdered had he not been saved by Will Clark, who concealed himself behind a fence, and covered the Ball boy until he could successfully escape. The savages next appeared at the home of Mrs. Vick, where she was murdered.

    About this time, the Indians were discovered by J.D. White, who was on a ridge and waved his hat pretending to be motioning to men in the rear to rapidly advance. To be sure, Mr. White was alone, and there was no one to rally to his assistance. But this strategic movement seemed to have effectually caused the savages considerable consternation, gave him sufficient time to out-distance the savages, and reach his home where his wife and little ones were unprotected. But while Mr. White was watching the Indians, three of their number rode away in the direction of the home of Mrs. Vick, and when shots were heard, J.D. White thought the savages had added another scalp to their belt. When he considered it safe, he and Granger Salmon rode over to the Vick home, and discovered the savages had, in fact, shot Mrs. Vick while bending over the washboard.

    The Indians apparently, next arrived at the home of J.J. Connelly. He alone was present to defend his home and family. Several women and girls were in his house, he had only one gun, and it contained only one load.

    Mr. Connelly quickly ordered the women to dress in men's clothes, and show the points of broom and hoe handles, to make it appear several men were present, and all were well armed. This bit of strategy also had the desired effect. Up until this time, the Indians' every movement indicated they intended to storm the house. But when the women presented their weapons of war, the Indians rode away.

    The new of the raid finally reached Decatur, then a frontier village, and the local citizens fortified in the court-house, Bishop's Tavern, and perhaps, elsewhere, for it was feared the Indians would circle in that direction, and storm the little village. But the hostile savages passed into Denton County, where they continued their raid in quest of horses and human blood.

    October 30, 1868, a large band of Indians, who came through Montague County, made their appearance in Denton County, and were harassing the people on all sides. According to reports, three hundred and twenty-five Indians were counted by William McCormick. In a short time the savages gathered up a herd of horses variously estimated to be from 600 to 1000 in number. The frontier citizens hurriedly volunteered to defend the frontier settlements. A.H. Fortenberry numbered among the volunteers, and when he and a few others came in contact with the savages, Mr. Fortenberry was killed, scalped, and his body badly mutilated. According to reports, he was slowly burned to death.

    After terrorizing the citizens of Denton County, the Indians headed toward Fort Sill. When they passed through Montague County, going north, W.R. Willingham was watering stock at the Jackson place, about twelve miles southeast of Montague and saw the Indians coming. He hurried in the log cabin, held his horse through the crack in the walls, and knocked the chinkin from between the logs, to have a porthole. After circling the house several times, the savages went away toward Oklahoma. They were also pursued by a posse of citizens of Montague County, but the Indians had such overwhelming numbers, the small band of whites were forced to fall back.

    Note: Author interviewed: W.A. (Bud) Morris; Wm. Harrell; Charlie Grant; and others who lived in Montague and Denton Counties at the time.

    Further Ref.: Of Denton County, by Ed. F. Bates; Pioneer History of Wise County, by Cliff D. Cates.

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

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