Erath, Comanche Counties: 1857 Saw Indian Attacks Begin

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.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for and marketing small-town Texas.
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4 Responses to Erath, Comanche Counties: 1857 Saw Indian Attacks Begin

  1. Missy Jones says:

    On December 31, 1857, my great great grandfather, Peter Cartwright Johnson, along with his young son, Peter, Jr, was riding in a ox-drawn wagon, coming back from “Quote: “the mill on the Bosque river” Unquote” between Iredell and Meredian, Texas. They had been to the mill to have corn ground (for meal), and to buy supplies when the Comanche’s attacked them. Peter Senior was scalped and killed and his young son was taken prisoner and kept by the Indians for several days. Other atrocities were committed at about this time, and thinking is that there was one band of Indians doing this. This letter is told on your site and other locations. Missy Jones

  2. C. V. Dickson says:

    Freeda, if you haven’t already done so, please read “Empire of the Summer Moon, Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, by S. C. Gwynne. It is the most chilling, well written account of the fearsome Comanche nation. They completely controlled and dominated the south central portion of the United States and northern Mexico for four hundred years. Fascinating reading.

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Not only have I read it, I used to assign it! It is a great read AND a great study on something that is almost impossible for 21st century minds to comprehend. Thanks so much for reminding us!!

  3. Gator says:

    Being from Comanche it amazes me of just how little people actually know about the history of the area. Thank you for taking the lead on keeping the history alive!

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