This is after all Comanche County, a name suggested to the Texas Legislature in 1855 by Col. John Henry Brown, who it is said heartily admired the Comanche Indians. Ironically, Brown crossed paths in 1840 with one of the few Comanche Indians that actually can be documented by name as having lived or perhaps more accurately camped in Comanche County, the war-chief Buffalo Hump.
Those Indian wars that occurred along the Leon River basin lasted only two decades, technically beginning in December 1854 when the first Anglo settlers arrived in Comanche County and effectively ending with the killing of Robert Lesley by Indians in November 1874 near Van Dyke.
Numerous raids conducted during Comanche Moons have been told and retold in articles appearing in the Comanche Chief and the De Leon Free Press and other area newspapers. A few incidents and events involving this area or the Indians who at times can be documented as having lived in this area, have been recorded in other histories.
The articles included here are simply a collection of the stories as told by others of encounters in and around Comanche County.
Several articles tell of the killing of Bob Leslie. The correct spelling is (Robert) Lesley. He died on November 23, 1874 and is buried in the Zion Hill Cemetery near Van Dyke. He was the last white person killed by Indians in Comanche County.
H.C. Heath Tells Of Coming To This Section in 1874…
“…Mr. Heath also told of the last Indian raid in the country in which Bob Leslie, residing on his farm not far from where Van Dyke is now located lost his life. Leslie went out to get his horse rather early in the morning, the animal having been turned out on the range. He was surprised by a band of perhaps a dozen Indians who shot him in the head and left him for dead. He had not found his horse for they would have stolen the animal if he had. When Leslie failed to return home his family became alarmed and went to search for him finding him wounded in the head. Following a search they found him wounded in the head. He died that night.”
“A posse of citizens attempted to follow the band of murderous savages on the trail leading up the Armstrong River toward the Palo Pinto mountains. The trail was easily visible, Mr. Heath said, and he definitely remembers having gone down to see the trail left by the Indians. But they escaped into the mountains. They doubtless came upon Leslie unexpectedly, and shot him to keep him from spreading an alarm and bringing them into conflict with the whites….”
From History of Texas– Sketch of Captain John Roch p. 303
”In February 1870, he (Roch) received a wound inflicted by an Indian arrow, which struck under the right shoulder blade and came out in front. At that time four men were opposing twenty-eight Indians. F.M. Brown was shot in the arm and in the cheek, Mr. Wallace was shot in the arm, and Mr. Grissom, the fourth member of the party escaped uninjured. Mr. Brown succeeded in killing the chief of the band and another Indian also was shot. A party started in pursuit of the red men, killing seven of them, while among the white men Freeman Clark lost his life. Our subject now has in his possession an Indian comb which was taken from the fellow who shot him, and this he still cherishes as a relic of the bygone days when the pioneers were in constant danger from Indian depredations. He was also in other raids and fights against the Indians.
The Captain…removed to Duncan Creek, where he operated the mill formerly owned by Bob Leslie, who had been killed by the red men in 1876 (actually November 23, 1874).”
From De Leon Free Press–June 28, 1929
G.R. Ross Tells Story of Organization of De Leon Baptist Church
“…A volume could be written of the works of Rev. Reuben Ross the old pioneer preacher, who received calls to pastor the churches at Stephenville, Dublin, and Comanche soon after coming to this section. There was not a house between his home (Ross settled on the Armstrong Creek near the Round Grove Baptist Church in 1865) and Comanche, none between his home and Dublin, and none to Stephenville until one came to the edge of the village. His trips to these appointments were fraught with danger of savages, and he wore a gun buckled by his side when he went out to preach. There was a settlement road to Dublin and thence to Stephenville, but G.R. Ross says his father often struck across the open county because of fear of the Indians. And he often made his trips in the night to avoid the same danger.
During those years of pioneer life, George Ross, then about 15 years of age, was left at home to guard the family. And it was no idle matter, for Indians might at any time appear and threaten the lives of the little family in the cabin, far away from neighbors or other human aid. He said he never saw an Indian but he knew on two different occasions that they were near the home for he heard them and later saw the tracks made by their moccasins in the sand.
Captured An Indian
“George Ross tells of a thrilling incident in which his father and a man named J.T. Bell, captured an Indian in the late 1860’s. The Indian had entered the home of one C.C. Blair not a great distance northeast of De Leon, on (the) Armstrong. He sat down by the fire and was sitting there when a little boy came and pushed one of the doors of the cabin open and seeing the intruder, ran away and told the neighbors that ‘a negro was sitting by the fire.’ The elder Ross and Bell knew that it was no negro. They approached the Blair cabin, Mrs. Blair accompanying them, and the woman and Bell approached one door and Ross the other. They pushed the doors open at about the same time with guns leveled at the savage. The Indian got up from the chair and extended his hand as if to shake hands. Ross motion him back and pointed to his belt to which was attached a revolver. The Indian removed the belt and laid it across his hand and handed it to Reuben Ross.
Not being able to speak English, the Indian could not tell why he was there. But after he was disarmed and the voice of their friend was heard in the cabin, two young girls, daughters of the Blairs, crawled out one from between the mattresses and another from under the bed, their hair standing on end with fright.
The settlers kept the Indian captive for a time then took him to Fort Griffin, near Albany, and there through an interpreter they learned why he had entered the settler’s home. He said he had been watching the cabin for two days and nights in order to catch the men-folks away from home. He had heard that if an Indian entered a settler’s home awhile only women were present, and did not harm them, the settler would not kill him. He was turned over to the government and was never heard of again….”
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
Aunt Fannie Brown
Tom and Francis Brown came to the area in 1876 settling southeast of what would become De Leon in 1881.
“…Indians many times came to their camp as she was moving to Comanche county from Grayson but fortunate for them unfriendly Indians were not encountered. Once an Indian and her husband (Tom) went a few feet from the camp and killed a deer. The Indian kept the hide and gave him the meat.”
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
C.R. Carruth Tells of Buffalo Hunt Near Abilene in Early 70’s And Talks of Indian Raids.
“…It was on this trip (to hunt buffalo) that a snow fell on the party immediately after they started west. Ples Millican, a member of the party, borrowed John Ham’s pony to go down below Cottonwood Springs, to see a friend, later rejoining the party up toward Baird. Millican discovered where an Indian trail in the snow had crossed the trail of the hunters. Although the trail was known to be fresh, still they did not see the Indians. Later it was learned that this band of Indians went down in the country toward Sipe Springs and got under a shelf of rock along the creek, until the snow had melted. They were evidently lost from their party, perhaps a dozen of them, and knew they could be too easily tracked in the snow. After the snow had melted they started out toward the Palo Pinto mountains. It was while on this trip through the sparsely settled country that they come upon Bob Leslie, between (the future town of) De Leon and Comanche and shot him in the head. Uncle Charlie said Leslie was only wounded and he lay a day and night, in winter weather, before he was found and carried to his home. He died the following night from his wound and from exposure.”
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
Rhodes Richard Brachear Cross Red River Into Texas Dec. 1853….
The headline was somewhat confused. It should have read “Richard Rhodes Brashear Crosses Red River Into Texas Dec. 1853″.
Brasher’s family settled at Indian Creek south of Comanche in 1861. While no documentation of when he moved to De Leon has been located, he and his wife were living on the northeast side of town when he died on October 11, 1929, a little more than three months after this article was published. He is buried in the De Leon cemetery.
“…It was in the early (18)60’s when Uncle Charlie Mc Kenzie (actually Mc Kinzie), then 76 years of age, was in the woods in Indian Creek peeling walnut bark to dye clothes. Indians came upon him and shot him to death. A boy was with the old man but he got away and ran to a field not far away and brought his uncle, who brought a hack and hauled the dead man home. The neighbors all gathered in, made a crude coffin and buried him. Two sons of Mc Kinzie were also shot by the Indians.
Brashear also told of a party of Indians coming into the edge of the village of Comanche and rounding up and getting away with a drove of horses. The settlers gave chase but the red men got away. While returning the party saw an Indian pony dragging a piece of rawhide line and, supposing the Indians were near, the men scattered and surrounded a clump of live oak bushes. One of the party named Anderson was shot to death by another named Cox , the latter mistaking him for an Indian. This was in ’63.
Joined the Texas Rangers
It was in 1863 that Brashear joined the Texas Rangers and was in the service for two years and three months. All the government ever paid him he said, were two Confederate $20.00 bills. He furnished his own grub and clothing, receiving nothing from the government but his ammunition. The Rangers’ headquarters at that time was at Gatesville. A force of 120 men was assigned to Coryell and Comanche counties, 60 to each.
It was while serving as a Ranger, the purpose being to protect the settlers from Indians and outlaws, that Brashear tells a story of crawling into a cave out at Copperas, probably twelve miles from De Leon, and went away back some thirty feet and found a bear’s bed where the bears had wintered the year before. He looked up and saw a hole in the rock above him, probably a foot across. He stuck the match in his hand into the pile of straw, probably two wagon loads of it, he said then got out and watched the thin line of smoke go straight up into the heavens. His object was to fool the Indians and make them think it was a signal fire. No Indians answered, but his Ranger captain sent hurriedly to find out what was wrong.”
The Mc Kinzie incident is included in E.L. Deaton’s Indian Fights on the Texas Frontier but is reported as having occurred in 1861. The date on the grave stone is listed as September 18, 1863 (see Comanche County Gravestone Inscriptions 4 by Margaret Waring and Samuel J.C. Waring).
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
Saw Fort Forth When Only Two Houses in Place
Again the headline was jumbled as part of the story being told by Mrs. Bitha Hogan who was talking about early Fort Worth. She and her husband were living at the southwest corner of the De Leon cemetery at the time of the article. She came to the De Leon area around 1871.
“…Mrs. Hogan told many stories of Indian depredations, and narrowly escaped being captured herself by the red men one morning while en-route to school. She out-ran the Indians. Her school mate, another girl, jumped from her horse and ran into the woods and escaped, both going to the homes of settlers.”
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
Mrs. Sarah Wall Relates Some Interesting History
Mrs. R.L. (Sarah) Wall was the daughter of Charlie Mahan and was living north of St. Joe Church at the time of the article.
“Mrs. Wall recalls a visit from Indians when she was a child. Her father was away from home and the red men came and stole their horses. The family dog, standing guard over his master’s household, tried to drive off the Indians and his body was filled with arrows where he was found dead the next morning.
Mrs. Wall also gave a detailed story of the last Indian captured in this section, at the Blair home, across the Armstrong from Round Grove church. She told the story almost word for word as was told the Free Press by Uncle George Ross and same is related in his story in this paper.
Another story of Indian depredations was told by Mrs. Wall regarding the husband of Aunt Mel Smith, who still lives in the Victor section. Mr. Smith was en-route to Stephenville with a load of wheat when surprised by a band of warriors who suddenly surrounded the wagon. This frightened the oxen and they ran away, throwing Smith back in his wagon, only his knee sticking up into view. The Indians shot him in the knee with a steel spike which he carried buried in his flesh for 30 or 40 years, finally having it removed by a surgeon. Aunt Mel Smith has the spike to this day.
From De Leon Free Press-June 28, 1929
Aunt Martha Brumley Tells How Unfortunate It Was for Blonde Girl….
“When a red-haired girl was captured by the Indians it was just too bad for her, said Aunt Martha Brumley, pioneer woman of this section, who still resides with her brother, Uncle Billie Harrell, near the Brumbelow home, six miles north of De Leon. Aunt Martha told about the capture of the two Lemley and two Woods girls, one day back in the 1860’s.
The two families lived not far from De Leon, up in the north country, probably near Lowell. Mrs. Lemley had gone to spend the day at the Woods home and the two Woods girls had gone to spend the day with the Lemley girls. While the four were busy quilting, red men came and captured them and took them away. After going a short distance they sent three of the girls on ahead, keeping the one with read hair behind. The others looked back and saw the Indians “cutting her up alive.” A few days later they killed a blond girl. The two with the black hair were spared. A short time later they escaped and hide in a thicket near the home of settlers. Some women passed and they called to them for clothing, their clothes having been torn off by the savages….”
Kept Horse in Kitchen
“Aunt Martha lived in a log house and once when Indian were known to be in the neighborhood, she led her horse into the kitchen and kept him there overnight. The red men stole about 300 head of horses and killed two settlers named Miller and Woods. A neighbor came (the) next morning and went first to the Brumley stable. Finding the horse missing he came and reported the ‘bad news’ to Aunt Martha. She threw the kitchen door open and led her horse into the yard. The settlers gave chase to the Indians and overtook them with the stolen ponies. One of the settlers borrowed Aunt Martha’s horse. The Indians were roasting a beef when the settlers came up. They ran away but before leaving shot all the horses they could. Many of the animals were recovered with arrows sticking in them.”
From De Leon Free Press
Undated but probably the May 15, 1914 issue
Reminiscences of the Pioneer Days Mrs. Meeky Blair Talks of Indians
This is taken from a photocopy of an article that probably appeared in an early edition of the Free Press although there is no heading or date at the top of the page.
“…In 1857 we moved still further west, settling in Parker county. Here we saw our first Indians who were then stationed on the reservation and cared for by the government.
In 1890 (actually 1860) we moved to Eastland county. Here I saw my first out-break of Indians. After this we often heard the Indian war whoop. It would make the hair of the bravest of men stand on end to hear these war whoops, but I have heard them often. We established a fort near the present town of Desdemona, which was afterward known as Blair’s Fort. My husband was one of the first men to plow a furrow in Eastland county.
We lived at Blair’s fort until 1864. The Indians were on the war-path all the while and we knew not when they would swoop down on us in numbers sufficient to exterminate the whole colony. One day they did steal in on us and captured two of the Lemley girls and a Mrs. Wood. A short distance from our home the Indians killed Mrs. Wood and one of the Lemley girls. They scalped Mrs. Wood. Her hair was red, a great favorite with the Indians. The two girls whose lives they spared were later re-captured by the whites and they told about the gruesome war dances the savages would indulge in around the scalp of Mrs. Wood.
The Indian depredations became so numerous and their attitude toward the whites so hostile that our colony was forced to move to old Stephenville for protection. Stephenville was a very small place at that time, but there were enough whites living there to repulse the attacks made by Indians. There were only two stores there. After six weeks sojourn here we decided we could return to our home at Fort Blair and started out, but the Redskins came very near getting us. We did dodge them and beat a hasty retreat to the fort where to our surprise and delight we found the rangers had taken up quarters with supplies.
Another incident worthy of mention was the fact that the Indians had visited our place during our absence and before the coming of he Rangers and had killed all our hogs.
That period of time between 1860 and 1864, at Fort Blair, was fraught with every danger and hardship imaginable. In 1861 the whites returned to their ranches with the exception of the Blairs and McCulloughs. Here it was necessary to guard the children while they went to the spring for water and while milking. The fort was picketed in and we had protection from the attacks of the red men…
The Indians continued to harass us, killing whites in and around the community every once in a while.
We finally moved to Fort Shirley for protection. This was a distance of eighty (actually eight) miles. My husband was pressed into service as a ranger for frontier protection. Shirley fort was located at Flat Creek, a tributary to the the Leon river. Indians practiced all kinds of deceptions to lure whites from the forts. They would bark like a dog, hoot like an owl and do various other things at night to entice the venturesome ones out.
I remember that while my husband and other rangers were out scouting they ran on a band of Indians at Ellison Springs. In the fight that ensued their captain, Sing Gilbert and Button Keith were killed and several were wounded. Another time my husband in company with Mr. Shirley, Jim Head and Joe Smith ran onto a band of Indians on (the) Leon river. A fight followed and several of the Indians were killed.
From Fort Shirley we moved in 1865 to Armstrong creek, another fork of the Leon. Here we pre-empted our first land in Texas and began farming. The Indians made only one other raid through this country after we moved to this new place. A fight followed as soon as the pursuing party overtook them and several were killed. One Indian got lost from the band and came to my house and gave himself up. He was afterwards sent to Fort Griffin….”
From Comanche Chief Golden Anniversary Issue
June 6, 1924
Miss Carrie Childress tells about Sipe Springs Indian incidents
“Captain (M.W.) Hall organized a company of Minute Men in 1873 for protection of the settlers against the Indians. In 1873 the Indians drove off the horses of (a ranching operation owned by a Mr.) Justice and (Cal) Watkins on the Sabano. A man by the name of Gass Evans notified the company and they followed the Indians into Callahan county and recovered the horses. The last Indian raid was made in 1874, when the Indians killed Bob Leslie on Rush Creek. In leaving the country they touch(ed) the point where the house now stands on the old Tom Hale place east of town and swung into the north and west. A few earlier raids had been made in the early part of January 1870, the Indians raiding the Schmick and Follis ranch, and driving off the horses; Bill McGuire, the only man on the ranch who had been left to protect the women and chilren shot at the Indians but they made their get-away with their horses.”