Chasing Our Tales - Indian Fights and the Taylors

Some time ago I mentioned that shortly before his death, Gil Hull had brought me some lovely history books of the area, The West Texas Frontier by Joseph Carroll McConnell. Today's column comes directly from one of the books. I have quoted it mostly intact, although I have corrected some of the grammar. The first story tells us about a fight a Ward Mountain.

"The date of this conflict is not certain, but it occurred about 1867 and will be reported at this time. During the days of reconstruction, the savages were so severe in their onslaught, many of the citizens traveled during the night to avoid the Indians. Two Methodist preachers left Stephenville and traveled all night. The next morning they were chased by a large band of savages when they were within one mile of Palo Pinto and near the upper graveyard. These early preachers could run as well as preach, so they reached Palo Pinto safely.

"But in a short time, H. G. Taylor, Uncle Johnnie Lynn, and several others, whose names we do not have, under the command of George Cathey, took the trail of the seven Indians. These savages were followed to Ward Mountain and overtaken about ten or twelve miles southeast of Palo Pinto. The Indians were first discovered on the opposite side of a canyon and were going up the hill. According to reports, Cathey seemed to have urgent business elsewhere, and said, 'Charge them, Boys. I will go after more help,' and ran away. But the remaining citizens charged the seven Indians in the roughs along Ward Mountain, and a considerable fight followed. Uncle Johnnie Lynn continued to point his gun on a particular Indian but never fired. As usual the savages were yelling, dancing, dodging, blowing whistles, etc. to excite their assailants, but in a short time, the Indians began to retreat. H. G. Taylor said to the savages, 'Damn you, why don't you stop and fight?' A rusty old warrior replied, "Damn you some, too.'

"The Indians retreated into the thick timber. After the fight was over, H. G. Taylor asked, 'Uncle Johnnie, why didn't you shoot? You had a bead on him several times.'

"Uncle Johnnie replied, 'Yes, but I could not get him still long enough. I wanted to kill that old greasy Indian.'"

An author's note after the description on the incident states: "The Author heard H. G. Taylor several times relate this incident. Also interviewed P. J. Taylor, a brother of H. G. Taylor, and others who were living in Palo Pinto at the time."

There is, in the books, another tale of the Taylor family, about five years later :

"During 1872, H. G. Taylor, Huse Bevers, P. J. Taylor, John McLaren, Lidge Maddox, and others started over the trail with the Taylor and Bevers' cattle, from Palo Pinto County to Kansas. When they reached Big Keechi Creek, these cowmen received the news that the Kansas markets were in a deflated condition. H. G. Taylor and Huse Bevers, as a consequence, turned back five or six hundred head of young cattle, about one and two years of age. When they did, they had more hands than were needed, so Lidge Maddox, John McLaren, and Pleas J. Taylor also turned back and started to Palo Pinto. They were riding three ponies and leading one packhorse. When the three were within two miles of the Brazos brakes, Pleas Taylor fired about four shots with his six-shooter, at a peculiar bird, so he had only two loads left. Shortly afterwards, they saw twenty-one Indians. Pleas said, 'Boys, let's fight them.'

"But Lidge Maddox replied, 'No, we are shot out.'

"It was now about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning, and the three citizens decided to make a run for the nearest cedar brakes, which were close to the old Welty Hollow. For one and one-half miles they ran, with twenty-one yelling Comanches after them. When the Indians saw Taylor, Maddox, and McLaren were going to reach the roughs, the savages stopped on a little ridge to the north. But they succeeded in capturing the packhorse, which McLaren and Taylor were leading. Among other things on this packhorse, Taylor had three pairs of white lady's stockings, which he wore to dances. Men's fancy silk stockings were then unknown in this section of the country. So Pleas Taylor's stockings fell into the hands of the Indians. When Taylor, Maddox, and McLaren reached the cedar brakes, Taylor decided to ride behind McLaren, because Taylor's horse was wild. The Indians, some of whom were afoot, appeared to be on their way to the settlements on a horse stealing raid and apparently had no desire to pursue the citizens further.

"When the boys reached Palo Pinto, twelve local citizens volunteered to follow the Indians. J. C. Loving was in Palo Pinto at the time and was making preparations to return to his ranch in Jack County. As the Indians were near his route, he agreed to go and assume command. The others who composed the expedition were Pleas Taylor, Lidge Maddox, John McLaren, Lem Vaughn, Tom Wilson, James Owen, W. J. Hale, Shafe Vaughn, Ike Metcalf, George Kisinger, John Caruthers, and one other. The Indian trail was soon found, and it led directly toward the mouth of the Big Keechi. Not a great distance from this point, the citizens first discovered several horses in the distance, so they felt sure the Indians were near. Six of the twelve citizens were detailed to remain with the horses, while the others scaled a nearby steep cedar mountain, on which it was presumed the Indians were sleeping. This mountain was evidently a short distance below the mouth of Big Keechi, and above the mouth of Turkey Creek. In a report of this fight J. C. Loving said that John Caruthers, Johnnie McLaren, Lem and Shafe Vaughan, George Kisinger, and J. C. Loving were the six that scaled the hill or small mountain in search of the Indians.

"Concerning this adventure , J. C. Loving said: 'The top of the mountain is a flat plain of some six to ten acres in area and covered with cedar timber with but little undergrowth and would have been a beautiful spot on ordinary occasions. The party followed the trail up the mountainside, when within some three hundred or found hundred feet of the top, stopped to listen, and heard the sound of horses' feet up on the level. Thinking the Indians were up there , and had heard their pursuers, and were running from them, the men ran up to the top as fast as they could, and when they reached the level they were in plain view of about twenty Indians. The Indians had been in camp on the top of this particular mountain since some time in the forenoon. And after chasing the boys that morning, were waiting for night to come to raid some near settlement for horses, as was their custom. It was then late in the evening, and the Indians were rounding up their horses preparatory to starting, when the party on foot stopped to listen, and heard the sound of horses' feet on top of the mountain.

'The Indians and their pursuers discovered each other about the same time, and opened fire on each other, the Indians keeping up the most unearthly yelling that ever was heard in those mountains. The men had run some distance up the mountain, and the fatigue from the run and the excitement of finding the Indians had put them in a somewhat unsettled and shaky condition. Still they sent bullets fast and thick over toward where the Indians were, and in turn the Indians cut the leaves and small limbs from the trees over the boys' heads, showing that the Indians were a little excited and shooting too high.'

"When the citizens first reached the summit of the mountain, some of the savages were still on the ground. The white men first fired at an old rusty Indian, hardly awake, and rubbing his eyes. Just at this time, it seems the Indians were making preparations to leave, and had the citizens been thirty or forty minutes later, perhaps, the Indians would have been gone. Nevertheless, Captain Loving and his men succeeded in taking the Indians by surprise, for seldom before had the Indians been attacked in such a secluded position. So surely did they feel on this occasion, the Indians were not even guarded by a spy.

"Six of the warriors were each wearing one of Pleas Taylor's white lace stockings, which came above the Indian's knee. Dressed as the savages were in their ordinary regalia, this peculiar combination made their appearance all the more hideous. But as these Indians danced about, each wearing one white stocking, they made a splendid target for the citizens.

"One Indian attempted to reach a horse, and when he did, Loving and perhaps others, wounded this warrior. Excited by the firing, the six citizens left with the horses were now rapidly approaching to assist the others.

"About this time, however, the Indians used considerable ingenuity so they could remove their dead and wounded. Six brave and able warriors began firing from a rough section on the side, and very near the citizens for the purpose of attracting the attention of the white men in that direction. This bit of strategy worked well, for their shooting could not be ignored. In a short time, the Indians' firing filled Lim Vaughn's eyes with bark, and as a consequence, he was forced to make a retreat. When he did, the others fell back, but the main band of Indians was already retreating down the other side of the mountain with their dead and wounded. The white citizens soon rallied and when they did, the six Indians fell back. The citizens then pushed forward and discovered the savages had forced such horses as they had over a ten-foot bluff. This was to the Indians' advantage, for several minutes expired before the citizens found a way to lead their horses down the cliff. When Captain Loving and his command found a way down, and into the river bottom, they were soon on the Indians' trail, which led to the banks of a deep body of water. Here the blood and other evidence seemed to disclose the Indians hurriedly gave two or three dead comrades a burial in the red and brackish waters of the Brazos River. The trail was then followed further, but the shadows of evening had already enveloped the river and most of the mountains. Loving suggested they had better turn back, for at that late hour, there was danger of running into an ambush.

"The next morning the citizens returned and picked up the trail, which was followed for a short distance. Here they discovered signs plainly disclosing the Indians the night before had made a stand and were waiting to waylay the white men. The trail led down the river toward the old Hart Bend. The savages crossed the river two or three times below the William Metcalf place. The citizens also quite frequently discovered where the Indians made beds for the wounded and twisted grass to place in their wounds. The savages passed on down below the old Harvey place and were then followed until again lost in darkness. This time, however, the Indians were abandoned in Darcus Hollow between where the old road and new highway go down Wynn Mountain.

"The citizens, after the fight on the little cedar mountain, recovered several of the Indian horses, three of which were wounded, and one of which soon died. One of the horses recovered belonged to Captain Loving. This horse had been stolen from the Loving Ranch about one year before. No doubt, this animal had been as far north as Kansas and more than once passed through exciting experiences. The citizens also recovered some camp equipment, and a breech strap which Loving, and perhaps one or two others shot from the Indian warrior when he attempted to mount a pony.

"This fight may appropriately be called the 'Stocking Fight', because the six warriors were wearing P. J. Taylor's stolen stockings."

Here the author's note says, "Author personally interviewed Pleas J. Taylor and W. J. Hale, mentioned above; also Mrs. Huse Bevers, as sister of Pleas J. Taylor; Mrs. M. J. Hart, another sister; and Mrs. H. G. Taylor, a sister-in-law. Further Ref: J. C. Loving's account of this conflict, in the Cattle Industry of Texas."

Hope you enjoyed these stories, and thanks to Gil Hull, you'll be hearing more in the future.

©2006 Sue Seibert