It is not clear why the Indians waited until 1857 to begin their raids on the people of Comanche, Erath, Brown counties and the surrounding area; however, this wait allowed the first comers to get their feet on the ground before they had to become Indian fighters. It gave them the time they desperately needed to build shelter and at least semi-establish themselves in their new world.
This has to have given the settlers at least a small advantage; however, the advantage did not last long. The unbelievable mobility of the Indians and their ability to enter the settlements without being detected simply gave them the edge. Also, it seems that, at least at first, the settlers just did not understand that they had to constantly be on guard.
Throughout history, various tribes seem to have had no problem sharing their land They were robbed, killed, or even captured pretty much at the whim of the Indians. Eventually, this completely stopped immigration into the area.
There are at least two possible theories as to why the Indians waited so long to attack. One is very simple with a few “white” settlers. In fact, stories abound concerning the friendliness of Indians (not usually the Comanche) to the first few settlers in a certain area.
It seems that problems never really began with the first settlers who came into Indian Territory. It wasn’t until the number of settlers increased, and they began to create their brand of “progress” on an area that the Indians began to feel that their way of life was threatened. Possibly this was true in Comanche and surrounding counties. When the first settlers arrived on the frontier, maybe they just weren’t seen as much of a threat.
Another theory was actually held by old timers who believed that the Indian hostilities in the area can be blamed on an incident which happened in Erath County early in 1857.
Apparently, an Indian had too much firewater to drink (though I would have to question just how he came into possession of it) and attacked a woman in a hotel in Stephenville. The woman’s screams alerted the deputy sheriff, who in turn killed the Indian. Many believe that it was this very incident that spurred the marauding and raiding which began to plague the area in 1857.
William C. Davis, author of The American Frontier (Pioneers, Settlers, & Cowboys 1800-1899), seems to agree that it was only when the settlers began to come en masse that the Indians felt themselves forced to react:
“The military presence on the frontier was small before the Civil War, but there were some 300,000 Indians in the West in 1845. Military units were widely scattered in isolated outposts, charged with protecting civilians in their area of responsibility and immigrants traveling through these areas on trails west.
“The soldier was always greatly outnumbered; daily he confronted fear, fatigue, poor rations and little appreciation from those he tried to protect….incidents were relatively few and actual fatalities small in number, although considerable livestock was lost. But, as white immigration increased and their influence expanded, Indian resistance stiffened and tribes began uniting to raid and pillage settlements and outposts.” Taken from The View From The Old Oak Tree by Fredda Davis Jones. Citations can be found there.