William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace was on an expedition that traveled through the eastern side of Comanche County in October 1837 in what may have been the first visit by a group of anglos to the De Leon area. Excerpts from his diary from October 20 through October 22 are repeated here.
Wallace was born in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1816. His brother along with his cousin Major Benjamin C. Wallace were killed at the Goliad Massacre and he came to Texas soon after the Battle of San Jacinto. He was one of the members of the Mier Expedition, and fought in the Mexican War where he participated in the storming of Monterrey. He had command of a Ranging Company and carried mail from San Antonio to El Paso. He died in 1897 and was ultimately buried in the State Cemetery. He was related to Lew Wallace, author of The Robe.
For additional information on Wallace click here.
The Adventures of Big Foot Wallace–The Texas Ranger and Hunter
by John C. Duval
Note: Some people consider Duval’s work entirely fiction or at least not always factual. Some historians indicate Wallace arrived in Texas in 1836, others believe he did not arrive in Texas until November 1837, a month after the events in this purported diary. One reader pointed out that Wallace was not a man who kept diaries. In reading this, it appears that the author knew the geography of the Comanche County region very well. You will have to be the judge of its authenticity.
Wallace’s Journal P. 13 October 20, 1837
“We took our course again, which was about due north and, crossing a range of mountains at a place called “Walkers Pass” we traveled over a rough broken country to the South Leon Creek, a distance, I suppose of 15 or 16 miles, where we “nooned.” We saw some fresh buffalo signs on the way and our old hunters began to whet their bills for fat steaks, marrow-bones, and “humps,” but as yet we have seen none of the animals.
We found the grass very fine on the bottoms of this creek, and have concluded to lay over until tomorrow, and give our horses a chance to recruit, as they have had but poor grazing for the last 48 hours.
We had been in camp but a little while, when one of the boys found a “bee tree” which we cut down, and took from it at least five gallons of honey.
In the evening I went out hunting, but saw no game to shoot at. On my way back to camp I stopped to rest for a few minuets (sic) in a little canon (sic) that lay between two rocky hills covered with thick chaparral. After a while, my attention was attracted by a noise in the bushes and looking around I saw a large bear coming directly towards me. I sat perfectly still, and he did not notice me, but came slowly along, now and then stopping to turn over a stick or rock, in search, I suppose, of insects.
When within twenty feet of me I took sight of his fore-shoulders and fired, and he fell dead in this tracks. This was my first bear. He was very fat and would have weighted, I suppose, three hundred pounds. I went back to camp, which was not more than half a mile off, and returning with two of the men to assist me, we butchered him and packing the meat on a horse, we soon had some of it roasting before our fires. What a feast we had that night on “bear-meat and Honey!” If the mess of pottage that Esau sold his birthright for was as good as bear meat and honey, and he had a good appetite, I believe the poor fellow was excusable.
In the night we saw a long line of light to the westward of us, and supposed the Indians had fired the prairie. The night was pleasant and warm.
October 21, 1837
We left camp after breakfast, taking what was left of our bear-meat along with us, and steered our usual course due north, and about 12 o’clock we struck the Leon River, opposite the mouth of Armstrong’s Creek. The country passed over today was very broken, and but little land on our route is fit for cultivation. We saw a small drove of buffalo, but our hunters did not get a shot at them, and the country where we found them was so broken we could not chase them on horseback. One of our men who had stopped behind awhile for some purpose, when he came up and reported that he had seen an Indian following on our trail, but he was a “scary” sort of fellow and we thought his story doubtful.
We passed a singular chain of high bald hills today. Looking at them from a distance we almost fancied we were approaching a considerable city, so much did they resemble houses, steeples, etc. They were entirely destitute of timber.
The Leon River where we struck it is a small rapid stream, shut in on both sides by high rocky hills. We crossed over to the northern side and “nooned” in a grove of pecans. These trees are full of the finest nuts we had ever seen–very large and their hulls so thin we could easily crack them with our fingers. Before we left, we gathered a wallet-full of them and strapped it on one of our pack mules.
In the evening we continued our route up Armstrong’s Creek, and struck camp a little after sundown near one of its headsprings. The valley along the creek is very beautiful and the soil rich. Our hunter today killed a fat buffalo cow on the way, and we butchered her and packed the meat into the camp. That was the first buffalo meat I ever tasted, and I thought it better even than bear meat. The flesh of an old bull however, I have found out since is coarse, tough, and stringy, but the hump is always good, and so are the “marrow-bones” and tongue.
Just after we had camped, one of our men named Thompson, while staking out his horse was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake. It was a small one, however, and he suffered but little from the effects of the bite. We scarified the wound with a penknife and applied some sod to it and next morning he was well enough to travel. I do no think the bite of the rattlesnake is as often fatal as people generally suppose….
Night clear and cool–cool enough to make it very pleasant to sleep by our fires. Toward midnight we had an alarm that aroused all hands very suddenly. The sentry on post fired his gun off accidentally, and we supposed, of course that the Indians were upon us. We were all up and ready with our guns by the time the sentinel came in and told us it was a false alarm. I was so completely roused up by the excitement and bustle that I did not get to sleep for more than an hour afterward. The little breeze that rustled among the leaves and dead grass the early part of the night had died away, and a dead silence had settled over all. Not a sound could be heard, except the howling of a solitary “cayote” far off among the hills, and the nipping of our animals at they cropped the rank grass that grew around us. The silence was oppressive, and when one of the men muttered in his sleep or one of the animals coughed or snorted, it was an actual relief….
October 22, 1837
After an early breakfast we saddled up and traveled as fast as the broken and rock state of the ground would permit….By noon we had only made 15 miles….”