Brown County Historical Scrapbook: More Native American battles

Brownwood Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

M.R. Cheatham was an 84 year old pioneer of Rockwood, Coleman County. He was involved in many Native American battles. He traveled through West Texas and helped arrest many frontier outlaws while he was a Texas Ranger, from June 1874 to September, 1876. He recorded some of the events that he experienced. He served in Company E, and most of the time during his service, had headquarters at Camp Mud Creek, seven miles north of Santa Anna. Mr. Cheatham was wagon boss and pack mule foreman of his company.

One night, a band of Native Americans stole some horses from the Rangers near the Mud Creek camp, and when the theft was discovered, several of the Rangers set out in pursuit. The Native Americans were overtaken six miles west of Brownwood, and a fight followed. Three Native Americans were killed, and two others were taken to Brownwood, where they were hanged in a tree on the north side of the courthouse square. Their bodies were left there for several weeks, until some caring person took them down.

The same day, when the Native Americans were hanged in Brownwood, Major Jones of Mr. Cheatham’s company went across the Colorado River, and had a fight with a band of Native Americans. Another time, Mr. Cheatham and a fellow Ranger, Webb Arnett, were in Brownwood when a man reported that he had seen 22 Native Americans with 75 horses near the town. The Rangers went back to Mud Creek Camp and reported what they had heard. That night at 10 o’clock, Lieutenant Foster called for volunteers to follow the Native Americans, and 16 responded. Mr. Cheatham, Mose Israel and Frank Nelson were among those who volunteered.

Reaching Santa Anna mountain at daybreak, the Rangers found the trail of the Native Americans three miles south of Santa Anna. They traveled all day and, when night fell, they camped north of San Angelo about one mile behind the Native Americans. Most of the Rangers were anxious to go forward and attack the Native Americans, but, after scouting trips, three of the leaders decided the Native Americans outnumbered the Rangers too greatly and, the next day, the officers turned back toward camp.

At the time of the chase, there was not a house in the present cities of Santa Anna and Coleman. Two pioneers, Mr. Baron and Mr. Waldrip, lived on Home Creek. The town of Waldrip, 23 miles south of Santa Anna in McCullough County, was named after Mr. Waldrip.

Mr. Cheatham went with part of his company on a scouting trip one time to Jacksboro. After reaching that town, they decided to go farther and crossed the Red River and went north up to the Pease River, staying 17 days and coming back by the way of the Brazos River. The Rangers had to lead their horses for several miles before reaching Jacksboro again. Large herds of buffalo had eaten all the grass, and the mounts of the Rangers were so weak from lack of food that they could not carry the men.

The main work of the Rangers, during his service, according to Mr. Cheatham, was protecting frontier from the Native Americans, and also from thieves and outlaws. Mr. Cheatham, in his day, helped arrest many of these outlaws and bring them to justice. The Rangers helped stop the fence cutting fights that started when landowners started putting up barbwire on their land. The Free Range Men thought they were entitled to graze their cattle anywhere on the range the way it had always been done.

James Carmean and James Tankersely were both residents of Comanche County. In the fall of 1863, they took a large supply of bacon to sell at Camp Collier, on Clear Creek, to the Ranger company stationed at that placed, which was four or five miles from the site of the present town of Brookesmith. The men stayed two nights at a soldiers’ camp and, on the second morning, started on the return trip to their homes. When they had gone about six miles, they were attacked by a band of 16-18 Native Americans. The men turned back and tried to make a run for camp. Tankersely was a large man and was riding a horse that went lame. Carmean probably could have escaped but he was too brave a man to leave his friend. He stayed and they fought the Native Americans for about a mile.

They were right back on the road to the camp. Close to the roadside was a large oak tree, where they stopped. Tankersely was wounded in both legs. Carmean got behind this tree with his rifle and stood the Indians off while his companion crawled off his horse and dragged himself into a small thicket nearby. It was evident that Tankersely died first. He received fatal wounds while on his horse. There was no one to tell this, but it was determined from the location of the bodies. Blood on the ground from where he had crawled to die, showed how badly he was wounded. Signs on the battleground showed that men fought bravely for tier lives.

One of the Native Americans had a rifle, and the man found where he had crawled up behind a stump and shot at Carmean, who was still behind the tree. They found a bullet through the forks of the tree, where it was only a few inches thick. It struck Carmean in the breast, killing him. Takersely’s body was pierced many times with spears, and both men were scalped. Carmean’s clothing was taken. The man found the bodies of the men a short time after they were killed. Two of the men with Cross, Pat Gallagher and Isom Large had been out horse hunting and came on the injured men while their wounds were still bleeding.

The Native Americans were still around and immediately gave chase. They were riding good horses, however, the boys soon ran away from them. The men took the bodies of Tankersely and Carmean to camp and buried them in the same grave. The two men were neighbors. They died side by side and are buried side by side at the old Camp Colier, near Brookesmith. The burial grounds in which Tankersely and Carmean were buried became the Brooks Lee Family burial grounds. There are about 20 graves in this little cemetery, 15 miles west of Brownwood.