The Fight At Salt Creek Mountain

The following is a horrible story, but it is what it is, and it shows us yet again just how hard it was to live on the Texas frontier during the 19th Century.

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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.

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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.

Although this link did not exist when I first wrote about the Jacksons long ago, I think you will find it very interesting reading if you want to know more about this story.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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9 Responses to The Fight At Salt Creek Mountain

  1. Sharon Haralson says:

    The Jackson family had another son who was older and didn’t go on that trip or I would not be here today. His name was Javan Jackson and he married my great grandma Dora Holden.

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Yes, I’ve read about the fact that he did not go. I have a friend whose grandfather was left in the jail the night the family of John Wesley Hardin was lynched by the mob. It is amazing to understand that she would not be here had her ancestor not looked too young to hang…even though he was not. Just shows that God’s plans will be carried out in spite of those of man.

      I’d love to know more about your family if you have stories to share. You can email me at fredda@texansunited.com. Thanks so much for responding!

      • sharon haralson says:

        I must have been asleep when I wrote my first response!!!! Javan Jackson did not marry my great grandma,Dora Jackson Holden, he was her father. Javan was my gg grandfather!

  2. Bill Elbert Steward says:

    Don, Bas, Malachi and Polk Cox were all brothers who came to Comanche Co in 1856 along with their mother Margaret “Peggy” Cox who was widowed. Their sister Fronia was the wife of Jack Wright and sister Lizzie Cox was the wife of Sim Welch. Bas is Basilee Pierce Cox, 1836 to1909, is my great-grandfather. He later moved to a farm between Chico and Jacksboro in 1871 and is still in the Cox family, he has numerous descendants in the area. Don, Bas and Polk and possibly Malachi fought in the Battle of Dove Creek, Don was killed and Polk was wounded. Uncle Jack Wright led a group back to the battlefield to recover his body, he was found frozen resting against a tree. Don is buried at the Comanche cemetery with a sandstone slab marking his grave stating “Kild at Concho Battle Jan 8 1865″
    Enjoy your site
    Bill Elbert Stewart
    Hurnville Texas

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Bill, do you happen to have photos of any of these? Thanks so much! Fredda

      • Bill Elbert Steward says:

        Yes Fredda, I believe I have pix of all but Don. Don and Polk were married to Baugh sisters from Brown County, old family there. After Don’s death at Dove Creek, his wife married a McGinnis thus the Cox-McGinnis Ranch where Lake Brownwood is now. Posted below is an article in the San Angelo paper back in the sixties, it is interview of my great aunt Lizzie, with whom I was very close. She confuses Wise with Comanche County, but is still an interesting story. Email and I will send some pictures, also don’t get excited but a cousin, J Q Cox, recently passed at 90, last time I saw him he said he had some “ranger group pictures” from Comanche . Will let you know.

        Mrs. Elizabeth Cox Robinson, while visiting with her niece Velvie Cox Synder in San Angelo, Texas, recounted the following story as told to her by her father Baze Cox when she was a little girl. Comanche Indians had stolen some of Baze’s horses in their raids in Wise County. Baze and three of his brothers, all four brothers being Texas Rangers, were trailing the Indians who were heading for Indian Territory in Oklahoma. .Malachi Cox was the eldest of the four, and was one of the first Texas Rangers. The brothers met up with the armies and found they were trailing Comanche Indians who had killed and stolen horses in Wise County. The brothers joined the armies and came under the military commanders orders. Baze Cox told his daughter, “that the Dove Creek Battle was a mistake, the officers sent on that mission wanted Indians and it didn’t make any difference which ones they got.” When the armies came upon the friendly Kickapoo the brothers had no choice but to join the fight. During the fight McDonald Cox was killed. Polk Cox was hit in the scalp with an arrow that also took out part of the bone structure. Repairs were made by inserting a silver dollar into the hole and Polk carried it in his skull to his grave. Baze and Malachi Cox survived the battle of Dove Creek unharmed. Baze rued the day Texas Rangers were involved in a needless battle with the friendly Kickapoo Indians.

  3. Bill Elbert Steward says:

    http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/2623305/photo/JVYC7k22QQ10pwaXvCPebmyjIpay6iJT_ZONr!A3O3wFrhVlOOIsBbFCwQc_Y5UH
    Margaret Helm Cox , known as Peggy, came to Comanche 1856 from Collin County, with 4 sons and Two daughters , quite a feat for middle age widower. Lived on Duncan Creek, ran a stop for travelers, buried in Oakwood Comanche surrounded by family

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