The Neighbors Expedition
One of the earliest written records of the De Leon area came from an expedition headed by Major Robert S. Neighbors that was to mark out a wagon road from Waco to El Paso in 1849.
Neighbors left San Antonio and picked up Dr. John S. Ford in Austin who had been encouraged to join the expedition by citizens of Austin that wanted to connect their city with El Paso. The two proceeded to Barnard’s and Torrey’s Trading House on Tahuacano Creek north of Waco. Joining the expedition were Daniel C. Sullivan and Alpheus D. Neal and four Indians, John Harry, a Delaware, Joe Ellis and Tom Coshatee, both Shawnees and Patrick Goin, a Chocaw who were placed under the direction of James Shaw, a Delaware.
The party was delayed by the arrival of a band of Comanche Indians. The head chief, Mopechocoe, or Old Owl, and his war chief, Porchanaqua heap or Buffalo Hump, were the leaders of the band. Old Owl was “a small man who looked very insignificant in his dirty cotton jacket and distinguished only by his crafty and diplomatic face.
Buffalo Hump, who was asked to act as a guide, was the genuine picture of a North American Indian. Unlike most of his tribe, he scorned the European clothes; his upper body naked, a buffalo robe fastened around his hips, with brass rings on his arms, and a string of beads around his neck; his black straight hair hanging down long—there he sat with the serious, to the European, apathetic, facial expression the North American savage. He had drawn their attention since he had formerly shown great daring and bravery in leading raids against the Texans.”
Old Owl took the expedition a little out of its way, to his camp located on the headwaters of the Leon River which was probably Armstrong Creek, just east of De Leon. Upon their arrival at the camp on March 27, 1849, forty to fifty children were in the creek bathing and they ran for the wigwams crying pau-o-ti-uo, pau-o-ti-uo (whitemen, whitemen), as loud as they could.
“Rip” Ford had found out that a snake will recoil when anything is descending upon it suddenly, allowing him to jump on and quickly off the back of the reptile before it could strike. Having done it several times to the astonishment of the Comanches, he was discouraged from ever doing it again when the Indians brought out a ten foot rattler, capable of knocking him off balance or striking him high enough to assure death.
After several days in the Comanche Camp, the Neighbor’s party moved on toward Pecan Bayou with the children of the tribe often following the party, beating the bushes for snakes, rabbits, and small birds. Old Owl retuned to his camp but Buffalo Hump continued on toward El Paso. (From Rip Ford’s Texas by John Salmon Ford edited by Stephen B. Oates)
Neighbors was born in 1815, and began services as an Indian agent of the Republic of Texas in 1845. After annexation he received appointment as a special agent of the Federal government related to the Indians. He was shot down at Fort Belknap in 1859 by a stranger, presumably because of a dispute over the killing of reservation Indians.
For more information on Robert Neighbors and the expedition click here.