HORRIFIC INDIAN RAID IN YOUNG COUNTY
Written by Henry C.Williams, Newcastle, Texas
[From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, February, 1947]
On October 13, 1864, about six-hundred Kiowa and Comanche Indians came down from the Indian Territory and made a raid on the settlers located on Elm Creek in Young County, Texas where it empties into the Brazos River, about ten miles up the Brazos River from Fort Belknap. At the time of this raid I lacked ten or twelve days of being seven years old. This raid was made about six' months before the termination of the War between the States, and, as far as I know, the history of this raid has never been written.
Fort Belknap was established by the United States Government in 1851 at a crossing of the Brazos River by the old California Trail, and was near the center of Young County, Texas. According to a map which is in the history of an expedition from Austin, Texas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is shown and Williams, Newcastle, Texas designated on a man in that history a trail called the Chihuahua Trail, running from Fulton, Arkansas, at the head of the navigation on Red River, west through the northern portion of Texas to El Paso. and then to Chihuahua, Old Mexico. This trail is shown on this map to cross the Brazos River at or near Fort Belknap. According to reports, it is stated that this trail was established by the Spaniards while this territory belonged to Spain, and that it was used by the Spaniard long prior to 1820, As far as I can find out, there was no use made of this trail after 1824, when Mexico seceded from Spain, until 1849, when the gold rush to California began.
In 1859 my father, Judge H. D. Williams, and my mother, Mrs. Sallie Williams, came from Kaufman County, Texas, to Young County, Texas, and established a cattle ranch on the South bank of Elm Creek, about a mile from where it empties into the Brazos River. At that time I was a two year old boy. Some of the relatives of my mother came with my mother and father and established their homes in close proximity to my father's ranch. Some of these people may have located their ranches near the mouth of Elm Creek prior to the advent of my father and his family. Within two or three miles of the mouth of Elm Creek, this little settlement consisted of about twelve families.
Young County was organized in 1856. and the county seat was established at Fort Belknap, where the United States Government maintained a fort, and some Texas Rangers were also stationed there between 1851 and 1861. In 1861 the United States Government abandoned Fort Belknap on account of the War between the States, and the six or seven companies of cavalry were removed from that Post. and a great many of the inhabitants moved East on account of fear of the Indians. Shortly after the war broke out the County was disorganized, and the records of the County moved to Jacksboro, Texas, in Jack County, about thirty miles east, and the County was not reorganized until 1872, and the county seat was then located at Graham,Texas.
In 1857 the United States. Government established a stage coach route from St. Louis, Missouri, along this old California Trail, and the contract for the carrying of mail on the stages as well as passengers was made with a man named Butterfield, and the old settlers at and near Fort Belknap called this trail alternately the California Trail, and the Butterfield Trail. I have heard it stated that more emigrants passed over this trail from the States to California between 1849 and 1861, than over any other trail crossing the continent. The Indians were very bad about attacking the emigrants, and the stage coaches were always accompanied by United States troops as a guard against the Indians. The United States cavalry and the Texas Rangers had their Western headquarters at Fort Griffin in order to protect the emigrants, the settlers, and the stage coaches. These soldiers and the Texas Rangers left at the beginning of the War between the States. There were quite a few settlers in Young County at this time, on account of the fact that they could get protection from the Indians. There was a settlement between Fort Belknap and the mouth of Elm Creek, and during the Civil War this little settlement on Elm Creek, in Young County, consisted of about fifty or sixty people. Three of the young men from this settlement went into the Confederate Army, to wit, Charles Allen. Tom Corney, and Thornton Hamby. Charles Allen and Tom Corney lost their lives in the war; Thornton Hamby lived until about five or six years ago. He raised a family, and died in Baylor County, Texas, about six years ago. Charles Allen, who was my mother's brother, lived with my father and mother, as his wife was dead, and he had one child, David Allen, who is now living in Newcastle, Young County, Texas, and who was five years old at the time of this Indian raid: My mother raised him to manhood. Mr. Allen lost two boys killed in action in France in 1918. They were in the 142nd Infantry, Thirty-sixth Division.
In October, 1864, when this raid was made by the Indians on this little settlement on Elm Creek, as I recollect there were about fourteen families living there. Mr. Peter Harmonson lived on the east bank of the Brozas River from the mouth of Elm Creek. Mr. Roland Johnson and family ranched about one and one-half miles down the river below the mouth of Elm Creek. At or near the mouth of Elm Creek the Widow Fitzpatrick ranched. Her husband was killed before the Civil War, and she remarried a man by the name of Fitzpatrick, who disappeared before the Civil War and was never heard of again. Just about the beginning of the Civil War, Mrs. Fitzpatrick's daughter, Susan, married a man by the name of Durgan, and after two girl children were born to them he disappeared, and nothing has ever been heard of him since. His disappearance occurred some time about the first of the year 1864. Mrs. Fitzpatrick also had a young boy about twelve or fourteen years old. At her ranch house lived a free negro by the name of Britt Johnson, with his wife and three children. Other families lived at ranches on the south bank of Elm Creek, just west of Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and it was about two miles from Mrs. Fitzpatrick's house to the George Bragg ranch, which was the west end of this settlement. The McCoy ranch was on the north side of Elm Creek, about two miles away. The Charlie Neuhouse ranch was about fifteen miles up Elm Creek in Throckmorton County.
At the time of this raid my father and Negro Britt Johnson had gone to Weatherford, Texas, which was the nearest trading post at that time, to obtain supplies for this settlement. Mr. George Bragg's two boys were away that day on a hunt. Thornton Hamby had just returned on a furlough from the Confederate Army and was at his father's ranch. You will see from this that when the Indians made this raid on this little settlement six of the men were not at home.
On the morning of the 13th of October, 1864, a band of about six-hundred Indians came down on the east bank of the Brazos River and had a skirmish with Mr. Peter Harmonson and his boys, just about opposite the mouth of Elm Creek. Mr. Harmonson and his boys escaped to the cross timbers, which was a short distance away, and obtained their safety. The Indians crossed the Brazos River just below the mouth of Elm Creek, and in the valley of the river they met a man by the name of Joel Myers, who lived at Fort Belknap, and was out hunting a yoke of oxen. They there killed and scalped him. The Indians proceeded a short distance West and attacked the house of Mrs. Fitzpatrick. At this place there were three women, Widow Fitzpatrick, her widowed daughter, Mrs. Susan Durgan, and a negro woman, the wife of Britt Johnson. When Mrs. Susan Durgan saw these Indians coming she grabbed her gun and went out in front of the ranch house to protect herself and her children, and showed as much gallantry, self sacrifice, and bravery as any woman who ever lived. The Indians killed and scalped her. They captured the other eight, and the Indians got into a controversy as to who should have Negro Britt Johnson's oldest child, a boy, who was then about twelve years old, and they settled the controversy by killing this negro boy. They then took captive the remaining seven, two women and five children. Two of the children were Lottie Durgan, aged three years, and Millie Durgan, aged eighteen months, the grandchildren of Mrs. Fitzpatrick. The two negro children were under ten years old: Mrs. Fitzpatrick's only boy was about twelve years old.
A short distance west of the Fitzpatrick ranch Mr. Thomas Hamby lived. There lived with him Tom Wilson and family. The three men at the Hamby ranch, Thomas Hamby, his son, Thornton Hamby, and Tom Wilson, were branding cattle at their cattle pen close to the house. When these three men discovered what was going on at the Fitzpatrick ranch they notified the rest of the family, and the women and children in the Hamby and Wilson families fled down the bank of Elm Creek and hid in a cave on the bank of the creek. Then the three men got on their horses and took their guns and pistols in order to defend themselves. Thorton Hamby, being a soldier and used to warfare, took charge of the situation. Thornton Hamby and his father, and Mr. Thomas Wilson could have easily gone down the hill and hidden in this cave and protected themselves from the Indians, and remained safe. Thornton Hamby thought not of himself but considered the terrible plight of the families up the creek. He directed Tom Wilson to proceed as rapidlv up the creek as he could to notify the settlers the Indians were coming and for them to hide out, then he had his father to go with him out in front of the Indians and check them in order that Wilson could have time to notify the settlers. Thornton Hamby and Thomas Hamby stood off the Indians by shooting at them, and checked their march as much as they could, retreating slowly. The first house west of the Hamby ranch was that of William Bragg and family. They escaped and hid as did the Hamby family. The next ranch was that of my father, Judge H. D. Williams. I was there and distinctly remember Tom Wilson riding to my father's house and giving the alarm. The shooting between the Hambys and the Indians could be distinctly heard a few hundred yards away. When Tom Wilson gave us the alarm he told us that Thomas Hamby and Thornton Hamby were fighting the Indians off in order to give us an opportunity to escape. At that time there were at our residence two visiting ladies and some children, I do not remember how many; there was one young man visiting there by the name of Joe Callen. who was nearsighted. He jumped on his horse and escaped across the creek. My mother and the two neighbor ladieswere left with the children, and no one between them and the Indians except Thornton Hamby and his father. My mother huddled to gather the children and took her baby girl, ten months old, in her arms, and fled for safety across Elm Creek, and then recrossed the creek so as to deceive the Indians, and get into a bend of the creek that was thick with brush and briars. She had five of her own children with her and her nephew, David Allen, a boy of five years old, who still lives at Newcastle as above stated. There was a visiting boy there by the name of Rube Johnson, and he and my oldest brother, Sam Williams, were about fifteen years old, and they both took their guns and stood guard over these defenseless women and children. There were three women and nine children. The Indians robbed our house and tore up everything there was in it, and destroyed all of the provisions, bedding and clothing, but failed to find these helpless women and children. By the time Tom Wilson got this little band of women and children hidden, Thornton Hamby and his father were so badly pressed they had retreated and gotten as far as my father's house; there they joined Tom Wilson, and I never shall forget the fighting that occurred there between the three men and that band of Indians. Thornton Hamby then decided he must make a desperate effort to get to the George Bragg ranch and there notify that family, so the three men made a wild ride for the George Bragg ranch, and the Indians pursued them like wild beasts. When they arrived at the George Bragg ranch they jumped off their horses and fled into the picketed house, consisting of two rooms, and before the door could be closed an Indian shot Tom Wilson through the heart with an arrow. He pulled it out and died immediately. The Indians surrounded this George Bragg house, and that must have occurred from all reports shortly after noon. In the Bragg house, there was one old man, George Bragg. His two grown sons were away. Then the three men came, and then started a siege of this little picketed house, where there were five white women, a negro girl, and as I recollect it, some children. Thornton Hamby planned the defense and had the people inside to load and reload the pistols and guns for him, and did the firing. One of the Indians was so desperate that he came up to the house with a pick and started to dig one of the pickets up so he could go in and massacre these people. Old Man Thomas Hamby saw him through the crack of the pickets and he reached his pistol down and shot this Indian in the head. Thomas Hamby was wounded four times; old man Bragg was too old to put up much of a defense. Thornton Hamby was shot once, and after his father, Thomas Hamby, had been shot four times it placed him in a helpless condition, and all the defense rested on Thornton Hamby. He gallantly withstood the siege all afternoon, and none of the women and children were hurt. That night the Indians left. While this siege was going on at the Bragg ranch a large number of Indians were wounded, and some of them killed. No one knows how many Indians were killed and wounded because the Indians took off both their killed and wounded. It has since been ascertained that the Chief was killed at this Bragg ranch fight. His name was Little Buffalo.
There were five women and some children in this little Bragg ranch house, consisting of two rooms constructed of pickets. Four men began the defense; one, Tom Wilson, was killed at once. Old Man T' was severely wounded in the beginning of the fight, and that left him out of it. Thornton Hamby and his father were wounded but Thornton Hamby kept up the fight with the assistance of his father and a woman, who loaded the guns and pistols for him. The cool heroism and unexcelled bravery of Thornton Hamby from the first to last has never been excelled, although a young man, he planned the defense; down at the Hamby ranches checked the raiding band of Indians in order that women and children might have time to escape. He planned and directed that Tom Wilson should precede him in notifying the settlement, while he and his father stood up manfully and fought this horde of yelling savages, and retreated slowly until they got to the Williams ranch, and there they were so badly pressed, Thornton Hamby gave orders for the three of them to retreat as rapidly as possible to the George Bragg ranch, knowing that there was a band of defenseless women and children at that ranch. When Thornton Hamby, his father, and Tom Wilson knew that we were safely hidden in the brush and briars, and started west, I never shall forget the shooting and yelling which was done by the Indians. I thought, of course, that it was impossible for the men to get to the Bragg ranch under the circumstances, as hundreds of these savage Indians were using every effort to cut them off from escape. While a boy and after I attained my majority the entire settlement gave Thornton Hamby credit for his self sacrifice, and his cool judgment and generalship, not underestimating, however. the services of his father and Tom Wilson, who gave up his life. At almost any time before the battle began at his father's ranch. Thornton Hamby, his father and Tom Wilson could have escaped unhurt. Few men indeed would have shown such heroism and generalship as he displayed in the face of several hundred wild, yelling savages. After the War between the States ended, Thornton Hamby returned to this locality and lived, and died in Baylor County, Texas, a few years ago at a ripe old age. I feel as if he saved my life and the life of my mother, brothers, and sister. In the language of Theodore O'Hara, I think this epitaph should be placed upon his grave: On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guard, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
During the time this fight was going on at the George Bragg ranch a band of these Indians stole all the horses they could find in the settlement and drove them north in the direction of the Indian Territory. They met Mr. McCoy and his son away from their home on the prairie, just a short distance north of the Bragg ranch, and killed and scalped both of them. They missed the McCoy ranch, where were located three defenseless women, and a few miles further on they met a squad of fifteen Texas Rangers, who were returning from Pease River, where they had followed another band of the savages. These fifteen Rangers engaged in a fight with these Indians, and five of the Rangers were killed. They were out of Captain Ed Burleson's Company, then located at Paint Rock, Texas.
On this raid the Indians took seven captives, two women and five children, as heretofore stated, all from the Fitzpatrick ranch, and killed eleven of the settlers. These Indians then proceeded north with their captives, stolen horses and all the plunder they could get. The next day after they left this settlement the only son of Mrs. Fitzpatrick took sick and could not travel, and for that reason the Indians killed him. Years afterwards it was learned that the Indians had twenty killed iii the fight at the Bragg ranch and with the Texas Rangers how many were wounded was never known. Most of the Indians killed were attributed to the coolness and marksmanship of Thornton Hamby.
As far as I can learn, this was the worst Indian raid that was ever made in Northwest Texas, I do not remember hearing of as many fatalities and as many people taken captive in any other raid. All the people who were in this raid, as far as I know, are dead except four; R.J. Johnson, the son of Roland Johnson, who was then about four or five years old, and the Indians missed his father's ranch by about a few miles; David Allen, who was a boy five years old at that time, and was living with my mother. Messrs. Johnson and Allen are still living at Newcastle, in Young County, Texas. My sister, who was ten months old at the time of this raid, is now living in Knox City, Texas, and myself.
The reason we could always know the date when this raid occurred was that it was the day upon which my sister was ten months old.
Many other raids were made in Young and other Counties by the Indians, but none of them, as far as I could learn, was comparable to this. You can little imagine the panic and horror of this fearful massacre.
I forgot to relate that after the Indians had the fight with the fifteen Rangers, where there were five killed, that the other Rangers went to the McCoy ranch and rescued the three women and took them across the Brazos River to a place of safety, known as Fort Murray.
My father and the negro, Britt Johnson, soon returned from Weatherford and found the houses of all the settlers plundered except those at the Johnson, McCoy and Bragg ranches. Most of the horses were stolen. For some time after this raid it was hard for the settlers to get proper food and clothing and bedding. These settlers, in my opinion, gave Thornton Hamby the credit of saving the lives of forty men, women and children.
Negro Britt went to the Indian Territory three times for the purpose of trying to negotiate the purchase of his wife and children, as well as Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her two grandchildren. After the Civil War the United States Government established an army post above Anadarko, and on Negro Britt's third effort to obtain his wife and children from captivity he was assisted by the United States troops, and succeeded in getting restored to him his wife and two children, also Mrs. Fitzpatrick and one of her grandchildren, Lottie Durgan, and the Indians reported that the little girl, Millie, had died, and she was never recovered, but is still living. It now appears to be authentic, and to my mind there is no question but that
Millie Durgan is still living. She visited the Old Settlers' Reunion at Newcastle, Texas, July, 16, 1932, and brought with her her son in law and a number of her descendants. She has been married three times. All three of her husbands are dead. Her last husband was an Indian scout for the United States Government, and Millie Durgan is now receiving a pension of $30.00 per month. She has fifty-two descendants. Her son in law, a Kiowa Indian by the name of George Hunt, is very well educated. He came with her and some of her descendants to this reunion, and made a speech for us. Millie Durgan also made a speech, which was interpreted to us by her son in law. She cannot speak a sentence in the English language, and, of course, has no recollection of this raid. It appears that some of the old Indians who participated in this raid were young boys at the time it occurred, and remember distinctly all about it, and they told Millie Durgan and her son in law when and where her capture occurred, and they claim to still have a record of it in the Indian sign language. These old Indians are living on the Indian Reservation near Fort Sill. Millie Durgan is living at Mountain View, Oklahoma. The only discrepancy in the description of this fight on the part of the Indians was that they had it that the fight occurred in 1865, but I know that it occurred in 1864. Millie Durgan is nearly seventy years old, and is distinctly a white woman in good health; has been converted to the Christian religion, and she and her descendants are very devout Christians.
Negro Britt in his persistent efforts to reclaim his wife and children caused the Indians to have quite a resentment toward him. In 1871, while Britt was engaged in freighting with five other negroes from Weatherford to Fort Griffin, four or five years after he had reclaimed his wife, children and Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her grand-daughter Lottie, the Indians again made a raid in Young County and killed Negro Britt and four of the employees on the road about ten miles east of Fort Belknap. They killed all five of these negroes and burned their wagons, and stole their teams. After Mrs. Fitzpatrick regained her freedom she returned to her ranch and remarried, raised her granddaughter, Lottie Durgan, to womanhood, who married Dave Barker. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her third husband are both long since dead. Lottie Durgan Barker and her husband, Dave Barker, moved to Wheeler County, Texas, nearly fifty years ago, and raised five children. They both died, and their children are married and scattered over the country, I know not where.
My father and mother lived at Old Fort Belknap until their deaths about thirty years ago. My father served three consecutive terms as County Judge of Young County. I served six consecutive terms as Sheriff of Young County, Texas. I have lived continuously in Young County since 1859.
A day or so after this raid my oldest brother, Sam Williams, who was then about fifteen years old, found a silver medal which the Indians lost at my father's residence. This medal is about three inches in diameter. On one side of the medal appears a stamp of the bust of James Monroe; encircling the picture are the words, "James Monroe, President of the United States"; on the other side the year "1817" was stamped thereon, and a tomahawk and a pipe form a cross; also on this medal, with the word "Peace" under it. This medal has been in the possession of my family and myself ever since October 1864. I have often wondered how this medal came into the possession of these Indians.
I have made this statement at the request of some of my personal friends, for the reason an account of this raid has never been contained in any publication of any kind, and so far as I know, has never been reduced to writing. My friends want this in writing so that this history of Young County may be preserved in order that the people of Young County and other portions of Texas may know and understand some little of the hardships endured by the early pioneers of this section.
H. C. WILLIAMS,Sr.
August 16, 1932