If you’ve heard me speak on Texas history, you’ve heard me mention a book by the name of Indian Depredations in Texas, published in 1889 by John W. Wilbarger who moved to Texas in 1837 at the request of his brother Josiah Pugh Wilbarger, who had been in the state for years. It was the scalping of Josiah by the Indians that prompted John to begin collecting stories of the “savages” that would eventually appear in his book.
In August of 1833, John Wilbarger was still living in Kentucky on that fateful day when Josiah Wilbarger and a survey party (consisting of four others) he was working with near the town of Austin, Texas spotted an Indian brave and gave chase. The men lost the brave, and at noon they stopped beside a stream to have a midday meal. The nearest home to their location would have been that of Reuban Hornsby.
As the men relaxed by the stream after eating, they were attacked by Indians. Wilbarger was scalped and thought to be dead; however, he was alive when the Indians left him, and he was able to crawl to a stream where he bathed his head, and I assume this probably stilled much of the bleeding, thus saving his life.
Unfortunately, the only two men who escaped the attack thought that Josiah, along with the others, was dead. They rode hell bent for the Hornsby cabin, telling what had happened and sending a rider to the Wilbarger home to tell Margaret Wilbarger of her husband’s death. By the time all of this was done, night had fallen and it was too late to return to the battle site to collect the remains of those killed there.
No one knew that he should be out looking for the injured man.
That is, no one did until Reuben Hornsby’s wife Sarah had a dream that same night. According to Sarah Hornsby, she saw Wilbarger in her dream, and he was sitting under a tree that she was able to describe perfectly to her husband. She roused the men, fed them, and sent them out with a sheet in which to wrap the injured man.
Sure enough, with his wife’s description, Reuben Hornsby found Josiah Wilbarger just as she said. The injured man was taken back to the Hornsby home where Sarah waited, ready to tend to his wounds.
Josiah Wilbarger lived another eleven years; he died, some say, from a diseased skull. Today, a monument at 51st and Berkman Streets in Austin marks the site of the scalping.
And as an aside, Josiah Wilbarger always said that being scalped sounded like “distant thunder.” Wilbarger County was named for Josiah and one of his brothers.
Photo from Google images