If it was half as bad as I have heard, a tenth as bad as I have watched on old western movies, the place that came to be known as the Valley of Tears was a hell hole like even my fruitful imagination cannot fathom. It’s not a subject on which I like to write, and yet it needs to be written so that the souls of those who experienced the Valley in person are remembered as having lived and suffered so long ago…and yet not so long ago at all when you really think about it.
The years between about 1820 and 1880 produced a chapter of Texas history little recorded. Few had the stomach to think about it, and even fewer would speak of it. Besides, “decent” people didn’t talk about the things that happened in that valley.
It was a time of unbelievable violence and, of course, fear. The various Indian tribes had been betrayed by government and army treaties for years. Then, came the white traders who further incited them with the white man’s whiskey and his guns, especially those young braves already bitter at the white man’s continued presence on lands their people had hunted and used for centuries, land they considered, if not their own, certainly their birthright to use.
Many of these young braves formed war bands, splitting away from their Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa tribesmen. Thus began a series of savage raids on white settlements and ranches as none of us can imagine today, spurred by the fact that a notorious breed of white and Mexican outcasts known as Comancheros were willing to pay gold, rifles, whiskey, and white man trinkets in exchange for the men, women, and children stolen by the Indians.
The Comancheros, in turn, resold the captives into slavery…or maybe I should say that the males were sold into slavery. The females, of course, went into Hell.
These groups of depraved men met in the Valley, the Comancheros and the Indians with their captives, and they made deals over raucous laughter and whiskey, the Indians selling and the Comancheros buying those they knew they could resell with no regard for the families they tore apart in the process, the screams of the women and children reverberating in their godless ears.
Today, if you travel to the edge of southeastern Briscoe County, Texas near Caprock Canyons State Park, you will find the natural beauty of Texas. However, if you take a walk in the very still portion of the night, you just might hear the haunting echo of the wails of those poor captives who learned firsthand the terror of the Valley of Tears.