BLOODY INDIAN RAIDS IN COOKE COUNTY, TX
W. S. Adair
Mrs. Sarah Witt McCutcheon, who makes her home with her son, W. R. Sheegog, 6120 Gaston avenue, Dallas, now in her eightieth year, recollects clearly some of the incidents of the Indian raid in Cook County in January, 1868.
"It was at daylight Sunday morning, Jan. 8, 1868, "Mrs McCutcheon said. ''Father and brother Hardin had gone to join other settlers in repelling the Indians.
Brother, my little sister, two little brothers and I were alone in the house. We saw some of the Indians throw down the fence and run off fifteen head of horses that were in the lot, and others approaching our house. At the same time father and brother, who had not been notified that Indians had been seen in the neighborhood of our house, returned, and entered the house from the rear. They had but one gun. Father got out in front with that and Hardin and the rest of them bustled about trying to make it appear as if there were a number of armed men in the house. The Indians came up within thirty yards of the house, whooped and shot at the house, and once struck it with a pistol ball but were afraid to come on. Indians were great cowards in front of white men with guns in their hands.
“The Indians surrounding our house were watched by 200 or 300 of their band from the top of a hill half a mile away. We could plainly see them performing the war dance and hear the war whoop with which they accompanied the dance by way of encouraging their brethren below. They had several hundred head of horses which they had stolen. It was a time of awful suspense for mother and us children, and no doubt for father and brother, too, but the Indians, lacking the courage to brave father's gun, which carried but a single charge, at length withdrew.
''Mrs. Edward Shegog, my sister-in-law, who lived three miles from us, was a prisoner in the band of the Indians on the hill and could see all that took place around our house. She afterward told us that she had not the slightest doubt that those of us who escaped the arrows and tomahawks of the Indians would soon join her.
"The day Mrs. Shegog was captured, her father, Joe Manasco, living seventeen miles west of Gainesville, noticing signs of Indians and knowing that his son-in law, Edward Sheegog, was away from home hastened to his house and started to take Mrs. Sheegog, her infant child, her nieces, May and Lizzie Manasco, 8 and IO years old, and a little negro boy to his own home. On the way the Indians fell upon the party, killed Mr. Manasco and carried Mrs. Sheegog and the children and the negro boy away.
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"The first stop the Indians made after capturing Mrs. Shegog was on the hill overlooking our house. That night the Indians made a hard ride. The weather had turned very cold, and, having been stripped of her clothing and even of her hair which the Indians cut close to her scalp, Mrs. Sheegog suffered intensely. During the night the Indians, thinking perhaps that she would soon die, left her on the prairie, but, strange to say, threw a buffalo robe over her. Toward daybreak she saw a light a short distance away, but feared to approach it, lest she should again fall into the hands of the Indians. As it got lighter she saw a house and white people stirring about it. To her great joy it turned out to be the dwelling of Samuel Doss, the big cattle man, near Gainesville.
“The bodies of her nieces were found on the prairie, but they were without marks of violence. The girls had evidently been abandoned by the Indians, as Mrs. Sheegog had been, and had frozen to death. The two little girls were the older sisters of Mrs. A.W. Walker, 3712 Beverly Drive, Dallas. Mrs. Walker was still an infant at the time. In their flight, Mrs. Sheegog saw an Indian kill her baby by striking its head with a pistol. Its body frozen to the ground was found at the place indicated. The settlers searched far and wide for the body of the negro boy, for they had little doubt that when he showed signs of perishing from the cold his captors dropped him on the prairie, too.
"The settlers mustered what force they could and pursuing the Indians, came up with them, and had a running fight in the night. Among the prisoners was a Miss Carrollton, 16 years old, who had been captured on the raid. She was riding a wild horse, which, taking fright at the confusion and uproar of battle, ran away with her, carrying her far from the scene of strife, and thus enabling her to escape since the Indians were too busy at the moment to follow her. She held onto the horse for many miles as it flew over the frozen prairie as if pursued by wolves, until from sheer exhaustion she fell off. In the course of the night she became able to stir and made her way to a ravine, which afforded some shelter from the cold north wind that swept the plains. When the sun rose, she saw a house in the distance. It was the home of Dr. Davidson, a few miles from our house. When the Indians came to the Carrollton home, Mrs. Carrollton and her daughter were alone in the house. They murdered Mrs. Carrollton and carried the daughter away. I never knew the Carrolltons, nor did I ever hear Miss Carrollton’s first name. I do not know what became of her.
"From what I heard at the time and afterward read of the raid, the Indians upon crossing from the reservation into Texas divided into two bands and ravaged a wide scope of country. They stole horses, burned houses, murdered men and murdered or carried away women, and children. They burned more houses at the beginning of their progress than toward the end, for as they went they accumulated such a drove of horses that they were kept busy handling them, and had no time to destroy property. I do not know personally, but learned from the "Book of Pioneers'' that nine persons were murdered on this raid. They were Mr. Leatherwood, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Fitzgerald, Arthur Parkhill, Mr. Loney, Mrs. Carrollton, Joseph Manasco, and May and Lizzie Manasco, with the negro boy missing or unaccounted for.
“After the raid the settlers of Cooke County became discouraged and began to leave the country. Father at once sold his land for almost nothing, since nobody wanted Cooke County lands at that time, and moved to Whitesboro.
"I do not know when my Uncle Preston Witt came to Texas, but it was early enough for him to take part in the battle of San Jacinto, and afterward in the Mexican War of 1846. He brought home from the field of San Jacinto a ring, a mantle, and some other things worn by Santa Anna. He gave the mantle to his friend Dr. B. S. Shelburne of Lebanon, Collin County, who in turn gave it to his daughter, now Mrs. W. A. Smith. 4303 McKinley Avenue, Dallas, who still has it. Uncle Preston induced father to come to Texas.
"We left our home near Alton, Ill., for Texas in 1849, and were three months on the way. I was 4 years old at the time. Mother was in failing health and the doctor said the trip would be good for her. He was so far correct that she completely regained her health. We settled six miles east of Plano, Collin County, where father located on 360 acres of land. Father, the Rev. Eli Witt, was a Baptist minister, and I have heard him say that he preached the first Baptist sermon that was preached in Dallas. He preached in the courthouse, a log structure with a puncheon floor. I have forgotten the year, but it must have been in 1850 or 1851. When we settled in Collin County the people feared prairie fires more than they feared Indians. The native grass was thick and tall, and when it caught fire, the blaze swept the country, unless checked. All the settlers took the precaution to plow or burn spaces around their premises which the flames could not leap. We lived in Collin County until 1863, when we moved to Cooke County.
"Father and Uncle Hamp Witt bought 2,400 acres of land near the present town of Muenster, with a view of raising horses, but learning that the Indians stole horses as fast as they were brought into that part of the country, they abandoned the idea and sold their land for 25c an acre in Confederate money, which turned out to be worthless when the Southern Confederacy fell.
''Uncle Preston Witt built the first grist mill operated in Dallas County. He hauled the machinery, or parts of it, on a wagon from Illinois and set it up near the present town of Carrollton. It was a treadmill, operated by oxen. Later he bought an engine and was thus also the owner of the first steam grist mill in the county. The Indians raided as far in as Dallas after Uncle Preston settled here. Once the settlers followed a band of marauders and had a fight with them somewhere north of Fort Worth. In this fight Uncle Preston killed an Indian in a hand-to-hand fight and took his scalp, which he kept as a souvenir. I often saw the scalp at his house. Uncle Preston Witt was the father of the late John T. Witt and the grandfather of Jack F. Witt of Dallas.
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