NINE YEARS WITH THE APACHES AND COMANCHES - Part Three
From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, July, 1954
Written by JOHN WARREN HUNTER in 1906
And thus the days and weeks and months glided by until one bright night he was startled from his sleep by a strange sound, just what it was he could not tell, but it seemed to have been that of a human voice. He went outside his cave and listened, and in a few moments he heard a loud laugh! The moon was at its full and the canyon was lit up almost as bright as day. Going around a projecting rock near his cave and looking down the canyon he saw a large campfire not three hundred yards away, and he could see human forms passing to and fro near this fire, and could hear their voices.
Taking advantage of the growth of willows that fringed the bank of the little stream he crept sufficiently near their camp to hear their conversation and to his utter dismay he found they were Apaches, evidently returning from a raid down in Texas, as they had a large drove of horses, which were being herded below their camp in the canyon. Returning to his cave and gathering up a supply of venison, he mounted his horse and going up the canyon some distance to a gap that served as an outlet to the level plain above, he struck out towards the east, not knowing where he was going any more than on a previous occasion when he had fled for his life from the same enemy. He crossed several streams during his travels, one of which he believed to be the Rio Grande, after which he changed his course to the southeast. On several occasions he saw men whom he took to be white men or Mexicans, but these he avoided, knowing that that they would take him for an Apache, the common enemy to all men. But at length he found himself in a region entirely destitute of grass, game, timber and water. His horse was almost famished and could scarcely walk. It had turned extremely cold and as nightfall drew near death from cold and hunger seemed imminent. Just ahead Herman says he saw a hill or stony, bleak ridge, and just before it became dark, he ascended this hill to get a good view of the country ahead, hoping against hope that perhaps he might see a fire or a smoke in the distance, if perchance there might be a band of roaming Indians in that region. When he came to the foot of the ridge, he left his horse and ascended on foot and when he looked toward the plain before him he saw a band of Indians less than a mile away coming directly toward the ridge on which he was posted. The sight of these gave him no alarm. Cold, hungry and exhausted, his horse unable to go further, he became indifferent to his fate. From this position he watched the strangers, saw them go into camp, erect their tents, hobble out their horses, and as darkness came over the cold earth like a mantle, he saw the gleam of their little campfire. He had no idea as to who they could be. He knew they were Indians, but whether they were Apaches, Kiowas or Comanches, he could not tell as it was too dark to see the shape and build of their tents. He quickly approached the camp and came sufficiently close to hear their conversation and laughter. Theirs was a strange tongue, and he first hesitated then withdrew. If they should prove to be Comanches, they would probably treat him as a hated Apache. If Kiowas, they would either deliver him into the hands of the Apaches, or send them his scalp instead. It was a trying moment. In relating this portion of his history he said to the writer: "I decided that it was death or life. I was nearly famished, having eaten nothing for three days, and the cold was so intense that I knew I would freeze to death before morning. If I gave myself up to those Indians, they could only kill me. Knowing that all Indians admire a brave man, I put on a bold front, and was standing in their midst before they were aware of my presence. You ought to have seen those Indians! With a war whoop that rang wild and shrill they sprang to their feet and with drawn bows surrounded me. Then all became still and two came near me and by the dim light afforded by the waning camp fire peered into my face as if trying to learn my identity. I stood erect, silent as a statue and glared at them defiantly. One of them who could speak a little Spanish said "Americano?" I told him "No" "Mexicano?" "No." "Apache?" “Si!" When I said Si (yes) he said something to an old Indian who came nearer and began to talk to me in Apache. He told me I was with Comanches and if I proved to be alright, I would be among friends and would be protected. I then asked for food, which they gave stintingly at first, warning me of the danger of overeating, I told the old Indian of my capture by the Apaches, my long residence with them, my trouble and escape, all of which he translated to the others who showed interest in my story by many explosive grunts. Three of the men went with me to the ridge where I had left my poor horse. We led him into the camp, and the best I could do was to cover him with a buffalo robe which one of the Indians kindly loaned me for the purpose. There being no grass, he had to remain hungry. I was given a warm place to sleep in the tepee, and from that moment I have always found the Comanches to be my most devoted friends. Don't you believe that the Comanche is a bad man. You hate him and believe him to be a rascal, but the Comanches don't keep books and their side of history has never been written."
Herman rose rapidly in favor with the Comanches. He soon learned their language and after having been adopted into the tribe he was allowed to choose his foster father, mother, brothers and sisters. After this he was not treated as a captive but was granted all the rights and privileges accorded to one of their own blood. He joined in all their sports and festivities, and went with them in the warlike expeditions against other tribes, besides many raids on the border settlements of Texas. In these raids and expeditions he won the respect and admiration of his savage comrades and was considered a good warrior. He formed strong attachment for Quanah Parker who at that time, was petty chief, but later became head chief of the tribe. He informed the writer that Quanah was not popular with his people for the reason that after the fight at Adobe Walls he would never go with the warriors on a raid into the white settlement on account of the friendly feelings he cherished for the whites, and that his tribesmen often called him a squaw. But Quanah was not lacking in bravery as some supposed. He led a band against the Kiowas on one occasion, and after a desperate battle against great odds, routed the enemy, captured a vast herd of horses, took a large number of women and children as prisoners, and returned to his tribe in great triumph. On another occasion he routed with great slaughter, a large force of Apaches. In this engagement Herman was badly wounded. These victories coupled with the fact that he was the only surviving son of Chief Peta Nacona, who was slain in the battle with Capt. Sul Ross (1859) elevated him to the chieftainship of the Comanche nation.
When the Comanches and other tribes were brought in and placed by the government on reservations near Fort Sill, Herman was listed with the rest as an Indian. He opposed submission to the white soldiers, but when he saw there was no other alternative, he used every available means to conceal his nationality. He avoided the presence of the white man as much as possible and seldom went near the garrison. But with all his care and attempts at disguise by the use of paints, he could not change the color of his blue eyes, and he was often asked by the ever alert officers if his parents were not white people.
A few years after the son was carried away by the Apaches, the father, Mr. Lehmann died, and Mrs. Lehmann with her children, moved to Loyal Valley, in Mason county, and only a few miles from her former home, and the move was chiefly for the purpose of securing better protection against the Indians. Later she was married to a Mr. Buchmier. The husband and older sons looked after their stock interests while Mrs. Buchmier and her daughters kept the village hotel.
Mrs. Buchmier was devoutly religious. Under the preaching of Rev. Schnider, the first Methodist missionary to preach to the Germans in Fredericksburg in 1848. Mr. Buchmier was converted and was among those who organized the first Methodist congregation in that extreme frontier town. Her life has been one of extreme piety and constant devotion to her church. The captivity of her son was the extreme test of her fealty to her master, but during all those long years her faith in God's promises never wavered. "God will restore to me my child!" was ever on her lips when the subject was broached and the restoration of her boy was the burden of her prayers as at morning and at evening she called her children together and engaged in family worship. She was a familiar personage at all the meetings within reach in those days, and on every occasion she rose in the congregation and asked all Christian people to pray that God in His mercy might restore her child.
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During these years she traveled hundreds of miles in the effort to learn something of her lost boy. When she learned that the Apaches had been located on the government reservation at Fort Sill, she wrote to the commandant at that post and also those in command of every post in northwest Texas border. To these she gave a description of her son and implored them to keep a close lookout for him. When she heard of anyone within reach who had but recently been at Fort Sill, or anywhere in that region, she mounted her horse and went to interview him. And thus the anxious years went wearily away and no tidings came from her long lost son. Many mothers would have abandoned all hopes of ever seeing her child again. They would have said, "he is dead and prayers are of no effect; they will not bring back the dead!" But not so with Mother Buchmier, "God will restore to me my boy. His mercies endure forever, and his promises are sure. I trust Him, I believe Him and I know He will bring back my child!" were her words on every occasion when doubt as to his being alive was expressed in her hearing.
Some time during the latter part of the year 1877, General Mackenzie left Fort Sill and made a tour of inspection of the frontier posts. He passed through Fort Concho, Fort McKavett, thence to San Antonio. At old Fort Mason, which is twenty miles north of Loyal Valley, he spent the night. When his presence in Mason became known friends sent a courier to notify Mrs. Buchmier that General MacKenzie would pass through Loyal Valley the day following, and that as he was direct from Fort Sill she would perhaps have an opportunity to learn something of her son.
Unfortunately Mrs. Buchmier was away when the courier came, but others were immediately dispatched, but before they reached her, General MacKenzie and escort had passed Loyal Valley and were well on their way to Fredericksburg where they expected to pass the following night.
When Mrs. Buchmier received word that General MacKenzie was expected to pass through Loyal Valley she rode with the speed of a Bedouin to reach home in time to intercept him, but failing in this she hitched a team of fresh horses to her carriage, and accompanied by her husband, drove like Jehu and came up with the General before he reached Fredericksburg.
Of the interview with General MacKenzie and its happy result s we will allow Mrs. Buchmier to relate her own story:
"Time passed away so slowly. I increased my efforts to learn something of Herman. My faith was thoroughly tested. I heard one day that General MacKenzie was coming through Loyal Valley and I thought I could intercept him as I thought that would be a chance to find out if any more white boys among the Indians had come into the reservations and given up. But he passed before I got to see him. I got my husband to hitch up and carry me to Fredericksburg. We followed on and overtook the General in his camp three miles this side of Fredericksburg. I was conducted to his tent and knew him when I saw him. I told him when Herman was stolen and as he had just come from the reservation thought perhaps he could tell me something of my boy. He asked me to give him the age and description of the boy. When I had done so he said. "There is one white boy there, but from your description I don't think he is your son for he is not that old. He dropped his head and studied for a moment then said: "Madam, I'll tell you what we will do: we will go to Fredericksburg and telegraph to the soldiers there to bring him down and if he is your son I will be very glad, and if he should prove not to be, I will have him taken to San Antonio and place him where he can learn a trade. He has no business with the Indians.' He telegraphed to start immediately with the white boy to Loyal Valley, but received a reply that the boy had gone on a buffalo hunt and would not be back for three months. These were the longest three months I ever spent. I could never wait more than two weeks until I would go to the office to know if they had returned from the hunt. At last a telegram came, saying he had returned and with an escort would start immediately. Think of my anxiety and joy, mixed with doubt and fear! If he should be my long lost son, I would be the happiest woman in the world! I counted the days and many little things brought up doubts and fear! I inquired of everybody who came from that way if they had seen or heard of soldiers coming, but I obtained no tidings. One morning a man passed soldiers between Loyal Valley and Mason. These soldiers, he said, had charge of the white boy and they sent me word they were coming and would arrive that night, I walked the floor, only pausing to listen for the sound of their ambulance, but I could hear nothing but the patter of the rain against the window panes. While we were at the supper table a large crowd came in and said: "Mrs. Buchmier, we've come to take you out to meet your boy.' Mr. Buchmier objected to my going out in the rain; said my going would not hasten things along any. A school teacher who boarded with us said: `Boys, you go meet Herman; the night is too disagreeable for Mrs. Buchmier to go out, and no one knows what she would do if she were to meet him on the road.' The boys went out three miles where they found them in camp. They asked the soldiers to drive into the Valley that night, and they did so. Meantime the teacher and Mr. Buchmier made me sit down and were holding me there. Friends came from far and near to rejoice with me, if it should prove to be my boy. There were three hundred present. Closer and closer came the sound of the wheels of the soldiers' ambulance, while my heart beat faster and faster. Was the ambulance to bring me my boy? It drove to the door, but they still held me. I tore loose, ran to Herman, threw my arms around his neck and wept. I then led him to the light to see if it really was my Herman. When in the light, Great Lord! I thought it was not Herman. Mina came up and said, `Mamma it is Herman. Don't you see the scar on his hand? That is where I cut him with our little hatchet.' Sure enough, a close examination proved it to be Herman! Imagine the joy, the bliss and happiness that assurance brought me. I shall ever be grateful to General MacKenzie for having my boy brought home."
Those who had witnessed this happy meeting add a number of facts not mentioned by Mother Buchmier. Numbers of them have told me that it was near the noon hour when she received word that the escort should be at Loyal Valley. She immediately began preparations for a great feast. She started runners in every direction to call friends, far and near, every oven and stove in town was kept hot, baking bread and cakes; beeves and muttons were slaughtered and a pall of smoke ascended from pits of barbecued meats. A slow rain began falling in the evening but that did not retard preparations for the feast, nor did it lessen the attendance. Everybody loved Mrs. Buchmier, knew how she had prayed, and trusted, and now that the lost son had been found and was nearing home, they hastened to join in the general thanksgiving.
When he arrived and she made sure that he was her son, those present relate that never before had they heard such shouts of praise and thanksgiving to God for His goodness and mercy. The good mother was a devout Methodist and her righteous soul became full to overflowing. There was no dearth of tears of joy that evening; feasting, singing hymns of praise, German and English, prayers of thanksgiving occupied most of the night. All the day following the feast was kept up for those who remained and for those who continued to come. During all this time Herman maintained a haughty indifference akin to Indian stoicism. He had forgotten his mother tongue and could not speak English. He sought every occasion to shun the company of others, and when assigned to a clean feather bed on which to sleep, he refused, preferring to sleep on the ground under a shed with only a blanket for covering. When the escort left, he wanted to return with the soldiers, and was with difficulty restrained. One of his brothers became his constant companion, teaching him his forgotten language, and to prevent his running away. He was given a few horses, cattle and sheep in order that a property ownership might serve to render him content to remain. It was a difficult matter to induce him to wear clothing, and oftimes he would doff the suit furnished him, paint himself, and with leggings, breechclout and feathers, appear among the hotel guests in all the barbaric panopy of a Comanche warrior.
A few weeks after his return, a protracted meeting was being held under a brush arbor in Loyal Valley. Herman viewed the proceedings from a respectable distance, and his amazement was extreme. He finally concluded the whites were having a rain dance, and one day at the 11 o'clock service, when religious feeling became intense and singing and shouting was at its height, Herman dashed up to the altar with his war club, he engaged in a war dance that had a startling effect. His brothers seized him and led him away and the service closed without the benediction.
Gradually at first, later speedily, his mother language came back into his memory; he learned English in the course of a few years and went to school to the writer long enough to learn to read and write. But as one in prison, he pined for the companionship of his Indian friends, and their manner of life. His stock increased and in the course of eight or ten years he found himself in fairly good circumstances. He, in company with his brother, G. A. Lehmann, visited his people at Fort Sill and he was received with every demonstration of joy and Indian fellowship. On his return he married Miss Light, a talented girl of Loyal Valley, and later with his family moved to Fort Sill.
When the allotment of the Indian lands was made, Herman, not being an Indian was cut off. He appealed to Congressman Slayden, of San Antonio. Mr. Slayden secured the passage of a resolution in congress, granting Herman a headright to the same as that given each member of the Comanche tribe. This grant was based on the fact that Herman had been stolen when a child, had been adopted by the Comanche tribe, had been given an Indian name, and that by his long captivity he had been deprived of all the advantages of the public schools and all other benefits accruing to American citizenship. At this writing, 1906, Herman is an Indian interpreter at Fort Sill for the government, at a handsome salary and his services are valuable, since he speaks the Comanche and Apache dialects, besides English, German and some Spanish.
In closing this story of the captive German boy, I wish to say that I have
"Told the tale as 'twas told to me."
I have made no attempt at rhetorical embellishment or high sounding flourishes but have rather chosen to relate facts in plain language. To have given a full and complete history of the captive's eventful life while in captivity would require a large volume, hence I have attempted to give only a brief outline of his career.
Herman Lehmann Died in 1935
Herman Lehmann died in 1935 at the age of 76 years. The foregoing story of his turbid life was written by my father, John Warren Hunter, and was first published in the San Angelo Standard in 1906; later it was republished in Hunter's Magazine i n 1911. In 1926 Herman Lehmann came to Bandera and spent a few weeks with me in my home here, at which time I wrote his book, Nine Years With the Indians, which was published in Austin, by the Von Boeckmann Jones Co., in 1927. This book is now out of print and brings a high price as a collector's item. I knew Lehmann from the time I was two years old until he died, for we lived in Mason for many years and he often visited us in our home there. My father taught school at Loyal Valley in 1879, and 1880, two years after Herman's return from captivity. By this time Herman had recovered a "smattering" of English and German, and he entered my father's school, but could not apply himself and dropped out of classes. He finally became thoroughly reconciled to civilized life, made a good farmer and cowhand and was well liked and respected by the citizens of the community. He married Miss Fannie Light in about 1894 and moved to Oklahoma where he received an allotment, and made his home there until the time of death. He was the father of several children, but I do not know their names. In 1927 1 persuaded Herman to accompany me to the annual reunion of the Old Time Trail Drivers in San Antonio, where he met Captain James B. Gillett, old Texas Ranger, who participated in the battle between Captain Roberts' Rangers and a band of Indians on the Concho plains. Lehmann was with this band of Indians, and he and Captain Gillett recounted the details of the battle. Captain Gillett positively identified him as the boy whose horse he shot down in that fight and came near shooting Lehmann, but discovered that he was a white boy, and held his fire. Thus, after more than fifty years the two participants were brought together and enjoyed talking over the running battle they had in that early day, an account of which was furnished John Warren Hunter by Thomas P. Gillespie in 1907 is given. In his last years Herman Lehmann often appeared at county fairs, school gatherings, and old settlers' reunions in Texas, and participated in parades and gave demonstrations of his expertness with the bow and arrow. He was a remarkable character, and when dressed in his Indian garb looked well the part of a wild Indian.
J. MARVIN HUNTER SR.
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