No history of Central Texas in 1858 would be complete without mentioning a fight between the early settlers and the Comanches, usually referred to as the Fight at Salt Creek Mountain. Much of the action took place in what is now Brown County as well as present-day Mills County; however, in 1858, parts of Mills County were still in Comanche County.
The story begins on October 21, 1858, with a man named Moses Jackson and his family who had settled in the southeastern part of the newly formed Brown County, now in Mills County. (Jackson’s son had told him that he was venturing too far west.)
Mose Jackson, his wife, and four of their children, left their home that morning to meet some friends and gather pecans. As they approached the pecan grove, they saw movement in the grove, and thinking it was their friends, waved to them.
Of course, it was Indians and not their friends that the Jacksons waved a greeting to, and it was not long until four (most original accounts say five) of them were dead. Historians vary in their writings about what happened next.
They disagree about exactly when the bodies were discovered, how many of the Jacksons were killed, and exactly who assisted in the search for them. However, most writers seem to agree that it was the Jackson family’s friends, the Kirpatricks, who at some point discovered why the family never arrived to gather pecans.
According to Wilbarger, the Kilpatricks found the Jackson wagon that contained the dead bodies of Jackson, his four-year-old daughter, and his seven-year-old son. Not far from the wagon were the bodies of his wife and a teenage daughter. They had all been scalped.
Mr. Jackson was shot first and apparently died instantly.
Next, Mrs. Jackson was pulled out of the wagon; as she kneeled to pray, an Indian grabbed her and slit her throat. The oldest daughter was taken out of the wagon and killed next; finally, the two younger children were killed. Both of their throats were cut, but their bodies were left in the wagon with their heads hanging off of the side slats of the wagon. The final two children, Joshua, 7, and Rebecca, 9, were taken captive.
The Indians apparently left the Jacksons and divided into groups in order to undertake a horse stealing raid with the plan to meet back at Salt Creek Mountain which is located about twenty miles west of Comanche, Texas. One group of Comanches headed for Coryell County where they stole many horses, leaving the county with a posse of Coryell men in pursuit.
“The redskins crossed the mountains near Mercer’s Gap, doubling back into Brown County, and were sighted by the mail carrier….The carrier rode back to Elijah Bancroft’s place, and spread the word…” (Indian Depredations in Texas, 457)
The mail carrier arrived at the Bancroft ranch some time after dark. It wasn’t long until Comanche County men were spurring their horses toward Salt Creek Mountain from which they could see smoke rising.
Don Cox and his mount far outdistanced the others, and he stopped to climb a tree in order to see exactly where the Indians were on the mountain. He waved back to the others and then once again took the lead.
Luckily, the men reached Salt Creek Mountain in the early dawn light, and the Indians were just in the process of getting out of their blankets. Don Cox and Tom Deaton led the charge, and they were able to get within a few yards of the campfire before being detected. As an Indian sprang from his bed, Deaton tried to fire, but his gun failed. Cox’s six-shooter rang out just in time to kill the would be murderer.
It was bedlam in the camp for a few minutes as the rest of the posse reached the camp and began firing.
Both Cox and Jesse Bond were wounded, and most of the Indians escaped with about 400 horses. The Comanche men had left in such a hurry the night before that they had no provisions and were cold and hungry as they turned toward home.
Before going too far, they met thirty men from Coryell County. These men had brought supplies with them, and the combined force ate near Cox Gap. The Coryell men knew that the Indians had divided into groups, and since the Jackson children had not been with the band attacked by the Comanche County men, it was logical to assume that they were with the second group.
The men were able to pick up the second trail, hoping it would lead them to the children.
That afternoon, along Salt Creek, the men stumbled upon a campsite that gave evidence of a hasty exit. As they were about to continue on, someone spied a face peeping out from some brush. Immediately, a search began, culminating with the discovery of the Jackson children who were desperately trying to cover themselves with leaves in case the Indians were looking for them.
According to the children, their captors had heard shots fired and had left and the children had escaped.
It is hard to know how the children recovered from their ordeal. So many times many of the early writers tended to gloss over the “ugly” things that happened to these pioneer settlers in their new western settlements. On the other hand, Wilbarger does tend to be a bit dramatic at times, but given the horrors that these children saw acted out right in front of them, he is probably pretty accurate in this case.
“They were brought back into the settlement and kindly taken care of….the girl is now married…The boy is also living, but his mind never recovered from the shock caused by the murder of his family…a few years after his capture he lost his mind entirely.” (Blazing The Way, 36)
According to T.C. Smith, James Barcroft, Don Cox, Thomas Deaton, William Clemons, Jesse Bond, John Carnes, James Holmsley, Sim Welch, Frank Collins, Lon Price, and others unnamed joined in the fight at Salt Creek.
Lightfoot adds Elisha Barcroft to this list as well.
At the time of this writing, Mr. Jerry Ellison teaches English at Delta College near Saginaw, Michigan; he is also the great-grandson of Rebecca Jackson. He was able to provide a few more details about his family through his book, The Jacksons: True Texas Pioneers. *He is convinced that there were only four Jacksons killed on that fateful day.
His story as well as complete sources for this article can be found in The View From The Old Oak Tree by Fredda Davis Jones.
On April 19, 1998, an historical marker sponsored by the Texas State Historical Commission and the Mills County Historical Commission was erected to mark the Jackson graves.