Anyone who has lived in Comanche for any length of time at all has heard of Uncle Mart Fleming and the Fleming Oak. However, until meeting his great-niece, Elaine Bent, I have to admit that I knew little about the rest of the family. What a treasure of information Ms. Bent has been, sharing with us the words of Mart Fleming’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Washington Fleming.
“‘When I was a girl we rode horses all the time. I rode three miles to school every morning, and three miles home every night. So you can’t blame me for liking automobiles. I think they’re nice, don’t you? Some of the children take me riding nearly every day, and I enjoy it. I never miss a chance to go. I went back and forth to Gorman this summer about six times, and I never did get tired.
“‘Sometimes I rather pity my grandchildren because their life isn’t what you would call exciting in these days and times, but at that, I wouldn’t have them live in the times when I was a girl. I lived in constant fear of Indians,’ she said.
“Mrs. Fleming was born in Arkansas, but came to San Saba County to live when just a little girl.
“‘The very first time that I was frightened was one day when I was going to school. The Indians stopped me. They didn’t hurt me, and I went on to school, but I sure dreaded that ride after that.’”
San Saba County and the surrounding country was overrun by Comanche Indians at that time. Not one minute during the day or night according to Mrs. Fleming did white people feel safe. Always there was a guard to warn the people.
At one time the Indians were so feared, following a number of raids during which a large number of white people were killed, that everybody in the town of San Saba left their homes and went to Richland Springs, taking all their cattle with them. Mrs. Fleming’s family did not live right in the town, and was the only family not to vacate their home.
“‘My brother and I used to go to the spring after water every day. We were too little to carry the bucket of water, so we put the bucket on a short stick, and both carried it. The spring was down a good ways from the house, and down in a gulley. While we were getting the water, the Indians would climb up on the bluff over our heads and throw rocks at us. We never did get to the house with a full bucket, and our father would have to go back after more.’
“‘The Indians were always after our horses. The stables weren’t very close to the house and sometimes they would get them, but when my father went out and whistled, the horses always came back.’
“‘One night (the Indians always made their raids on light nights) a bunch came up to the village. My brother-in-law’s father was killed and scalped. His son swore vengeance on the Indians and said he would never rest until he had an Indian scalp.
“They had minute men then, so my brother called them and they went in hot pursuit of the Indians. The minute men got scared and all the Indians but one got scared and ran, so that left just my brother and one Indian to fight. The Indian was killed and my brother scalped him. For a long time after that we had the scalp hanging to a tree in the front yard.’
“From San Saba County, Mrs. Fleming moved to Eastland County. When they arrived there, Indian wigwams were all over their land, where the Indians had built a village. She married in Bell County. Although she had never been to Waco before three years ago, lumber for her first home after she was married cane from “Huaco,” then an Indian trading post. Her husband came here and got the lumber and carried it back to Eastland County with an ox wagon. It took him about a week.
“‘My husband’s father [William Washington Fleming] was captured once by the Indians and forced to marry an Indian maiden. The ceremony consisted of placing his hand over his heart, looking to the east and west, and then facing the sun. That was some ceremony, but it didn’t take,’ Mrs. Fleming said. ‘He told the Indians he knew where he could get some fine horses, and when they sent him after them, he ran away.’
“‘It would take me all day to tell all I know about the Indians and my earlier life. Every night I tell my grandchildren stories about the pioneer days, and they think they were awfully exciting. They were too, but I’m glad it is 1928, with airplanes and autos, instead of 1846 with Indians roaming all over the country.’”