Dr. James Hays recently gave a presentation to the Brown County Historical Society about battles with Native Americans.
In the early part of the year 1858, a man by the name of Jackson with his family, settled in what was afterwards known as Jackson Springs, then in Brown County, now in Mills. The family consisted of himself, his wife, a daughter who was 18 and three other children ranging from 7 to 12 years. Late in the fall of that year, the Jackson family went pecan hunting. They intended to go to a place on the bayou where Al Jay and James Kirkpatrick were getting timber. They reached the middle of the Jackson Valley. About two and a half miles from home, they were surprised by a band of Native Americans who brutally killed the father, mother, 18 year old daughter and youngest child and carried off the two oldest children. When the victims were discovered soon after the killings by the Kirkpatricks, their mutilated bodies were a ghastly spectacle. The young lady had been treated cruelly and was found a short distance from the others with her throat cut. The Kirkpatricks went and reported the incident. A messenger was sent to Camp Colorado to notify the soldiers, who were stationed there. The soldiers immediately responded. Sergeant Alby with fifteen men took off trying to trail the Native Americans. Neighbors gathered at the scene to bury the dead. They wrapped in blankets, and buried them where they fell. The father and mother were buried in one grave, and the two others in another. The graves can still be seen in the Jackson Valley.
The Native Americans continued their raid into Coryell County, stealing horses, and, on their way back, crossed the mountains near Mercer’s Gap into Brown County. Later in the evening, they crossed the mountains. The mail carrier between Meridian and Brownwood, passing through Mercer’s Gap, saw them. He turned back to Elija Brancroft’s place, to report a band of Native Americans in the area. He was killed in the Dove Creek Native American fight.
Thomas Deaton, William Clemmons, Jesse Bonds, John Carnes, James Holmsley, Sim Welch, Frank Collins, Lon Price, and two other men, whose names are unknown, all from Comanche County, took off following the trail. In the middle of the afternoon they decided that six of their number would go to Salt Gap, which was then noted Indian pass-way, in hopes of intercepting the Native Americans. The other seven men followed the trail. Near Salt Gap, the six men saw the Native Americans at a camp on the bank of a creek at a spring.
The Anglos dropped back out of sight into a ravine, which they followed until they came close to the Native Americans. There they remained until everything was silent in the Native American camp. They checked out the situation. They discovered the Native American horses. There were about thirty. The men quietly took the horses. They were outside of the hearing of the sleeping Native Americans. They drove them back to Blanket Creek and left them there and returned to the ravine.
At daybreak, they charged the Native Americans who were up and getting breakfast. The Native Americans were taken completely by surprise. Don Cox killed one who fell dead in the creek. The others succeeded in gaining the shelter of a nearby thicket except one who faced the Anglos. He stood over the dead body of his comrade, and shot arrows so fast, and with such accuracy of aim, that the Anglos were forced to take to the shelter of trees. He put eighteen arrows into a tree behind which William Clemmons was standing and one through his clothes.
Tom Deaton also had one shot through his clothes. Jesse Bonds was shot in the breast. The arrow came out through his back. The men broke off the arrow and pulled it out. Bonds, though desperately wounded, finally recovered. The Native American’s supply of arrows was soon exhausted. Then he then made a dash for the thicket, badly wounded.
The Anglos withdrew. They had not eaten since leaving home. They started back. They came across men who had gone to the scene of the killing. From these men, they learned that the Jackson family had been killed. Also that the Native Americans had split into groups near Cox’s Gap.
A part of the band headed to the South. It was then decided that the children must be with the Native Americans, who went in the southerly direction, since they were not seen during the fight. The Coryell men were well supplied with provisions. The first men rested long enough to eat a hasty meal, and went back to where the fight took place. They wanted to look at the dead Native Americans and see if anymore had been killed. From there they went south, down Salt Creek, until they found the other trail.
They followed it about two miles and found where the Native Americans had camped the night before. The camp showed evidences of having been hastily abandoned. The men spread out, following the general direction of the trail. After a short distance further on, one of the men thought he saw a human face peering from a thicket. He told the others.
The thicket was at once surrounded but no signs of life could be seen. They rounded up two small men to crawl into the thicket. They had not gone for into it when they discovered the two children trying to cover themselves with leaves. The children were frightened. They thought that the Native Americans were coming back.
The children were worn out from their terrible experience and the exhausting trip they had made. The little girl’s back was covered with freshly made scars where she had been prodded with arrows to make her keep up walking in front of the Native Americans on horseback. The boy said that when the fight started with the other band of Native Americans, the shooting could be plainly heard, and the Native Americans who held them became very alarmed and hastily broke camp, leaving them there. They could not fight and flee easily carry the children.
The boy and his sister hid in the thicket in which they were found. They crawled into it and fell asleep from which they were awakened by the noise of the passing horsemen. The boy peered out. He thought that the Native Americans were coming back for them. They tried to cover themselves with leaves. When the two children were recovered the whole search party returned home. Soon after a married brother came after the children and took them to his home near Round Rock and raised them.
The Brown County Museum of History has a display about Native Americans, including a teepee and a film about making arrowheads.