Capture of Wm. Wilson and Anna Acres

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.

Parker County, Texas

Hiram Wilson was one of the early settlers of Parker County, and during the war, lived about 12 miles south of Weatherford, between Muddy Branch and Spring Creek. Oliver Fulton, his brother-in-law, lived on the latter stream about 2 miles north. Fulton had just purchased a sargum mill, and arrangements were made for Wm. Wilson, the 12-year old son of Hiram Wilson, to drive the steers hitched to the mill, while his uncle and others made molasses. Consequently Wm. Wilson left his father's home late one evening during July 1862, to go to the residence of Oliver Fulton, his uncle, to be on hand early next morning to drive the steers.

Since Fulton's steers were wild, the next morning he decided to send Wm. Wilson back to his home and borrow his father's steers, which were gentle. Anna Acres, a cousin of Wm. Wilson, also about 12 years of age, went along with young Wilson to assist in driving the steers. These two happy children left the home of Oliver Fulton about 10 o'clock in the morning. They were warned, however, to stay in the open road and avoid the timber on account of Indians.

But when the two children were within one-half mile of the home of Hiram Wilson, father of Wm. Wilson, seven Indians dashed from the brush like wild demons, towards Wm. Wilson and Anna Acres. Wm Wilson said:

    "We took to our heels. The foremost of the Indians knocked me down with the but end of a lance. Then riding on, he reached down his hand, and motioned for me to get up behind him. I complied without very well knowing what I was doing. With me behind him, he rode back to the other six Indians, who were standing around Anna, who was crying and fighting them off with her bonnet. One of the Indians said something to the other and one of the Indians dismounted and set Anna behind one of his companions. When the same Indian spoke once more, and with their prisoners, the party whipped their horses into a run and headed for Mt. Nebo, three miles away. I expected nothing short of death, and that, perhaps, a horrible death, as soon as we could reach a place, where our capture would be safe."

When the Indians with their two captives reached the top of Mt. Nebo, they stopped and remained during the day. At times the Indian spies climbed to the tops of the tallest trees, so they could better locate horses and watch the maneuvers of the settlements in the valleys below.

Late in the evening a train of wagons was discovered by the savages about one mile away. Since they were leading about 30 horses, the Indians became excited, and began to make preparations to steal these horses if possible.

Concerning this train of wagons and horses, Wm. Wilson said:

"The movers halted within a mile of our position, and camped for the night, turning their horses out to graze. An hour or two after dark, five of our Indians strung their bow and mounting their horses rode down the mountain, leaving the other two to guard us. A short time later an owl hooted in the valley below. Our guards hastily mounting, pulled Anna and me up behind them, and rode for the valley where they joined their companions who had stampeded and stolen the horses of the movers."

Concerning the movements of the Indians, William Wilson said:

    "Driving the stolen horses, the Indians started back the way we had come. We passed within a mile of my father's house. Our dogs barked familiarly and I distinctly heard our old rooster crow. We crossed the Brazos river and rode all night. At daylight we stopped at a clump of trees at the mouth of a canyon. Staking their horses out with ropes, the Indians got down and fell asleep as they dropped. One of them rolled me in a blanket so that I could not move, put the ends of the blanket under him and caught my feet in his. I was so exhausted that I was asleep before he had finished tucking me in. They did not secure Anna. She lay down at my side. Just before daylight I stirred involuntarily half asleep. I said something, I know not what, but it was enough to bring every Indian to his feet, and I felt very certain that here our captors would kill us. One of them seized me, and another Anna. They threw us on the back of an old roan mare, Anna before, and tying us there, turned our mounts loose. Then hastily mounting they put their drove of more than 30 horses ahead of them and started at a run across Robertson's Prairie, 16 miles in Width, in Erath County. We reached the breaks of Sunday Creek, on the west side of the prairie, about the middle of the day."

    "Feeling safe here, the Indians loitered around all day. They killed 2 or 3 calves and ate the meat raw. They offered us bits of it, but we could not eat it, although we were famished. At sundown, they killed a cow, and one of their numbers started a fire by striking a piece of flint with the back of the blade of his knife, burned some of the meat, which he offered us. We ate some of it, but without relish."

    "Our party resumed the journey, heading for the trail over the Palo Pinto Mountains, the only point at which the mountains may be crossed for some distance, in either direction. This time our captors did not tie us on a horse, though we rode the same old roan mare, who mixed with the rest of the herd. By this time we felt easier. As the Indians did not kill us when they had so much time on their hands, when they were on Sunday Creek, we concluded that they meant to adopt us. Anna suppressed her tears and we talked freely, discussing plans for escape. The Indians at no time objected to our talking, or in any way mistreated us."

    "When we reached the mountains, two Indians rode in front with Anna and me next. Behind us came the loose horses with the remaining five Indians bringing up the rear. Half way up the path we came to a shelf, or level place, where stood an old horse and a done-for-mule. There was a white man's saddle on the mule with an old white hat, with turkey feathers in it, attached to it. The Indians halted, evidently puzzled. After a consultation one of them howled like a wolf several times. After an interval, another gobbled like a turkey, and then a third hooted like an owl. Getting no answer to any of theses interrogations of the wilderness, they strung their bows, adjusted their arrow pouches over their backs, and resumed the ascent of the mountain. It was a serene night with the moon and stars placidly looking down. My senses and faculties were beginning to come back. Anna had apparently gone beyond the tear stage."

We will now place Wm. Wilson himself again before the microphone, and let him relate one of the most miraculous events that ever occurred on the western frontier. Mr. Wilson said:

    "As we neared the top of the path, a rattle of firearms all around us startled the night. At the first fire the horses of both Indians in front and our old roan fell. I found myself in the midst of our heard of plunging and falling horses. I felt sure that the attacking party were my friends headed by my father and uncle, but I could not understand why they were aiming directly at me, as was obviously the case. I could see them deliberately pointing their guns at me, but I was so busy keeping out of the way of the frantic horses that I could not shout. When most of the horses had been killed and the firing had ceased, I called to the men not to shoot any more. One of them who mistook me for a wounded Indian, shouted back, 'Just wait till I load my gun and I will be down there.' Then another voice asked if I were a prisoner. I assured him I was, and invited him to come down and see. "You come up here," he retorted, "and be sure you hold your hands up. If you are a prisoner, don't be afraid. With my hands aloft I started up the path. On the way, I saw Anna once more in tears. She crept behind a rock and I told her to put up her hands and come with me."

    "As soon as she saw white men, Anna fell in a swoon. The men were not our relatives and neighbors at all, but a company of Minutemen, from Stephensville, commanded by Capt. Hughes. There were 45 of them, and as they afterwards said practically all of them emptied their rifles, shotguns and pistols at me. Judge Marvel of Stephensville told my father that with a rush he took six shoots at me with his repeating rifle and added, "I am one of the best marksmen of the frontier." So far as could be learned, all the Indians escaped, but most of the horses were killed outright, or so badly wounded that they had to be shot."

    "After the battle, the men went to the Clayton ranch, two miles from the path, and rested for a time. In the meantime Capt. Hughes dispatched a man to notify my father that we were safe. The next day we proceeded to Stephensville. Anna being too weak to ride a horse, Judge Marvell took her in his buggy, and putting me on a horse, started the following day to take us home. There were no roads and we were four days on the trip."

    "We were not missed from home until the day after our capture. My uncle thought we were at my father's house, and my father thought we were at my uncle's. During the day following our disappearance, my father went over to see how my uncle was progressing with his sorghum making, and it soon developed that something had happened to us. Searching parties were sent in all directions, and the search was still under way when Capt. Hughes' message reached my father's house."

    Note: Author personally interviewed Tom Ribble, Ike Roberts, W.C. McGough, Mrs. Jno. Guest, and several others who lived in Palo Pinto, Parker, Erath and Eastland counties at the time. Also interviewed and corresponded with Wm. Wilson himself. We are quite sure that this is the story incorrectly related in Wilbarger's Indian Depredations in Texas, where it is stated that two Coldiron children were captured.

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

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