According to DeShields and Deaton (both recorded early day happenings), the year 1858 began with Indian attacks and ended with Indian attacks, and settlers in Central Texas found themselves in dire circumstances.
A Mr. Bean (moved from Coryell County, Texas) was killed in January, 1858, when a party of Indians came through Erath County to the Comanche County line near the Barbee’s ranch on Resley Creek.
A slave belonging to Barbee was about half a mile from the house taking care of Barbee’s horses when a party of Comanches surprised him. After lancing the slave in several places, they left him for dead. As soon as the Indians were out of sight, the man ran to the house minus the horses, and reported to “Massa Barbee” that his horses were gone.
According to DeShields, the man then said, ‘The Injuns kill me for awhile, and they tink I was dead for good, but I wasn’t; I played ’possum on ’em, and they didn’t scalp dis nigger, shore.”
After leaving the Negro for dead, the Indians continued on their horse-stealing mission. As quickly as possible, Barbee rounded up some men and took off after them. However, since there were so few men in that part of the county, and since Mr. Barbee was afoot, this took quite some time.
John Bean lived about five miles farther down the valley from Barbee, and he and one of his slaves had left in a wagon earlier that morning, heading for Waco. Near what are called the Twin Mountains which are today in Hamilton County, the Indians killed the two men, stealing what they wanted from the wagon.
From here the Indians turned northeastward as they traveled to what was called Meridian Peak, located about fourteen miles west of Meridian, Texas and just about a mile south of today’s town of Iredell.
On this same day, Peter C. Johnson and his ten-year-old namesake, Peter C., Jr., were returning from Waco, having been there to purchase supplies. Father and son were returning home, and after passing Meridian Peak (It is called Johnson’s Peak today.), their wagon was surrounded by a party of Indians.
Mr. Johnson was killed immediately, his son taken captive. After robbing the wagon and with young Peter in tow, the Indians went up through the Bosque Valley and out through the northeast portion of Erath County, toward the Clear Fork of the Brazos. They were pushing a large herd of horses in front of them. From the direction the Indians took, it is easy to see why many believed they were reservation Indians.
While all of this was going on, a posse of men from the Resley Creek area was finally raised; some of the men in it were Eli Picket, Dave Roberts, George B. Hasty, Jim Neal, F.B. Gentry, and Tom Shockley. They picked up the Indians’ trail on the creek, and followed it until they came upon the murdered Bean and his Negro. Of course this delayed the men as did the finding of Johnson’s body; leaving the posse little hope of rescuing Peter, Jr.
“On the Clear Fork of the Brazos, from some cause unknown, the Indians dropped little Peter Johnson, taking his coat, hat, and socks, leaving him with nothing on but his shirt and pants, fifty or seventy-five miles from the nearest ranch, in the bleak month of January, with nothing to subsist upon and no means of procuring any, and liable to be destroyed by hungry wolves.
The following taken from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.
“…Little Peter lived five days and nights without a single morsel to eat save grass roots. On the evening of the sixth day he was found by a company of cowboys that Bill Keith had sent out from his ranch to make a ‘round up.’
“The little fellow had found the cattle and had remained with them, thinking perchance he could procure milk from some of the cows, but in this he failed, the cows being too wild, but the cow hunters found him in time to revive and save him.
“…A cold, drizzling norther was blowing at the time and the poor little fellow would evidently have frozen to death during the night that ensued. When brought to Cora a few days after his being found, says Hon. Frank M. Collier (who gave me these facts), he was the poorest looking object imaginable- a mere skeleton.
“Mr. Collier says he took the little fellow up in his arms and carried him around all over town and procured a present of one dollar from every man in town.”
There are also accounts that young Peter was taken to Stephenville,Texas after he was rescued. I personally believe that he was taken to Stephenville as soon as he was found and then taken to Cora a few days later.–Full citations may be found in The View From The Old Oak Tree written by Fredda Davis Jones.