I suppose it was a good thing that the early settlers to Texas did not possess a crystal ball, could not know of the hardship and tragedy that awaited most of them. Peter Johnson Cartwright was no different. Peter was married to Matilda Whatley Johnson, and the couple moved to Comanche County, Texas in 1856.
The Johnsons loved their new home in Comanche County, so much so that Peter wrote a letter to his grown children, urging them to make the move. We just can’t see into the future, can we?
On December 31, 1857, Peter Cartwright 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.), when their wagon was surrounded by a party of Indians.
Mr. Johnson was killed and scalped immediately. His son was taken captive, but only after he had put up a good fight with his father’s buggy whip!
After robbing the wagon and with what they believed to be a very brave 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’s Creek area was raised to look for a missing Mr. Bean and his Negro. 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 bodies of 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.
Eventually, the Indians decided that Peter was not what they had expected, refusing to eat the raw meat that their own children loved so dearly. On the Clear Fork of the Brazos, the Indians dropped little Peter Johnson, taking everything off of him except his shirt and pants. He was fifty or seventy-five miles from the nearest ranch, in month of January, with nothing to eat or protect himself.
Peter lived for five days on grass roots. Finally, he heard a cow bell. Knowing that where there are cows, there will eventually be someone checking on those cows, Peter simply followed the sound. Sure enough, on the sixth day he was found by the cowboys that Bill Keith had sent out from his ranch.
On the day he was found, the weather had turned nasty to the point that one more night would have probably seen little Peter frozen to death. It was said that the boy was nothing more than a skeleton when he was found. Supposedly, when he was taken to the town of Cora, F.M. Collier carried the boy all over town, collecting for Peter a dollar from every man in the settlement.The View From The Old Oak Tree, Fredda Davis Jones