Hood County Texas Genealogical Society

 

THE RAID OF THE SEVEN INDIANS

From the Collection of O. B. Powell (1889-1959)

Contributed by James P. Barrett

 

It was on a beautiful moonlight night in September of 1869 that the last Indian raid took place in Hood County. This band of Indians was first observed passing along Squaw Creek just west and at the foot of the hill below grandfather's (W.G.W. Powell) place. Uncle John R. Powell and his sister Jane were bringing up the cows from the pasture across the creek along about five or six o'clock in the evening when they heard the distant sound of galloping horses and the yelping of the Indians up the creek. When the Indians got on the opposite side of the creek they came to an immediate stop a couple of hundred yards from these children. Uncle John was about seven years of age while Aunt Jane was about -- at the time. I have heard Uncle John say that for some reason these seven Indians did not scare them at all. They stopped and looked at them and counted them while the Indians were murmuring and waving some sort of signs while they appeared to be holding a consultation as what to do next. The children turned around and started up the hill toward the house and the Indians came across the creek and rushed up to within a hundred yards of them when they again turned and looked in their direction. One of the number rode on up to within possibly seventy five yards and motioned about with his hands toward them and then would turn and motion back to the other six who were sitting on their horses observing. This was kept up for a bit when with a few yelping noises and peculiar motions of the arms and hands the entire band turned and rode down the creek. The two children then turned and went on toward the house. After the Indians had galloped a little lower down the creek and were almost south of them they again turned as if to circle between them and the house. The children stopped and watched them again when suddenly they exclaimed with many yelps and jestures [sic] and turned back to pass on down Squaw Creek.

Uncle John said that he and Aunt Jane did not get scared for some reason and remembered that they had been taught never to run from the Indians as they would seldom bother any person unless they showed some fright or tried to hide or run when they came upon them.

These children reported what they had seen as soon as they got to the house but for some reason grandfather and the older boys were not at home yet and grandmother got the younger children close to the house and kept watch till she observed them going on down a half mile below on the creek. The men folk came in a short while after and were told what the children had seen and about grandmother's sighting the band going peacefully down the creek. Grandfather got his gun and he and two or three of the older boys started down the creek to the West and Aston settlements to see if any harm had befallen them or if they had been molested in any way. One or two of the older boys were left with grandmother to protect her in case the Indians should chance to turn back for any cause.

Standing, left to right: Jackson V. Powell, Robert Jones Powell, Charles Y. Powell, Lewis J. Powell, John R. Powell

Seated, left to right: W.G.W. Powell (aka Uncle Billy Powell), Adarine Jones Powell (wife of W.G.W.), Sarah Jane Powell,
Julia Frances Powell

While grandfather was on his way to the lower creek settlements he met Bob West and one of the Aston's coming up to see if they had been bothered.

This same bunch of Indians had passed along the creek near these settlements between sundown and dark. Aunt Sarah West (nee Powell) and some of the other women folks had just finished the family washing at the old wash place on the bank of Squaw Creek and had just got to the house when they heard the yelping noise of the Indians in the direction of the creek. Aunt Sarah stood in the door of her home and watched the Indians take up her clothes from the bushes where she had hung them to dry and start away with them. Aunt Sarah had just stepped to the door and was drinking from an old long handle dipper when she heard them. She turned, with the dipper in her hand, and watched them at a distance of about one hundred yards. She counted them and noticed that one of them looked different and was differently dressed which she later found out was a squaw. She said they appeared to be observing her very closely as if wondering what she might have in her hand. She recalled that the men folks were over at the back of the pasture at work and not yet in so she used the long handle dipper as though it were a gun and the Indians appeared to be satisfied to not come any nearer the house.

These Indians were also seen passing by the Aston's who lived but a short peace below the West's. By the time they reached John Aston's place they had put on the clothes stolen at West's and had their horses decorated in white sheets and gowns. Aunt Bettie Aston witnessed their feats of horsemanship and the many pranks and funny didos they cut a few yards from her house.

After leaving these settlements the Indians went on down Squaw Creek as far as William McDonald's. McDonald was a breeder of fine race horses. The Indians stole many of these horses and together with others stolen during the night at various places near they returned their steps in time to leave the settlements before morning.

When John Aston, Bob West, and Uncle Billie Powell met as each was on his way to learn if the various families had been molested, they lost no time in deciding on the plans to be followed. They spread the news throughout the entire neighborhood. According to McGaughey's Reminiscences of Squaw Creek and published in the Tolar Standard many years ago, grandfather was selected to take the lead in organization of the attack to be made upon the Indians. According to McGaughey, W.G.W. Powell laid the trap to catch these Indians and planned the manner of attack. His knowledge of the woodland areas and his idea of stream courses and directions by night or day rendered him a valuable guide in such an emergency.

This party agreed that it would be probable that the Indians, after raiding the settlements below and gathering up all of the horses that they could manage, would then return during the later part of the night along the divide between Squaw and Robinson Creeks. Here was a place where the timber land of Squaw Creek and Paluxy jutted out into the prairie, where the dividing ridge of the prairie was narrow, and known for a long time as a point where Indians entered and departed when passing through this region.

About 11 p.m. of the night following the raid of the Indians down Squaw Creek, the Squaw Creek party, headed by Uncle Billy Powell, Bob and Ben West, John Aston, four of Uncle Billy's boys, viz., Jackson, Robert, Charles, and Jode, and all the settlers that could be spared from the community repaired to The Point of Timbers, as described above, as the spot chosen by Uncle Billy where the Indians could be intercepted.

Uncle Billy Powell had sent, earlier in the night, his son Lewis, a lad some sixteen years old, with a boy by the name of Bazel Holt who was a year or two younger, to Stroud Creek, Thorp Spring and all the intervening neighborhoods to spread the news so that all should collect at the chosen spot for the attack on the Indians.

The Powell party arrived on the prairie near what was known as The Point of Timbers about 11 or 12 o'clock armed with several rifles, one or two muzzle loading shot guns, several cap and ball pistols ranging from the one shooter to the six chambered shooter and all the ammunition that could be raked up in the neighborhood. Powell posted one of his sons (I have never learned which one) in the forks of a large live oak tree which overlooked the entire country for some distance below and instructed him to keep a close look out and report any signs of the approach of the Indians. The rest of the party selected vantage points behind trees and thickets where they could conceal themselves and all began the long weary watch. Time went on slowly to these anxious settlers as no one had any idea how far down Squaw Creek the thieves would go in quest of plunder before they would return. All was still except for an occasional hoot from a disturbed owl, the quivering howl of a coyote on a distant hill or now and then a scream of a panther as it gave answer to its mate while they were in quest of prey. All of this made the night seem doubly long. Now and then the Powell party would gather for a consultation for a few moments and then go back to their post. As the morning star came up in the east the party began getting especially anxious as they had expected the Stroud Creek and perhaps the Thorp Spring party before this time. They began wondering if the Indians could have returned to the settlement and raided it or if the messengers could have been attacked and failed to get to the Stroud Creek or Thorp Spring settlements. Daylight dawned without any signs of Indians. A consultation was again held, as some of the Stroud Creek party arrived. Many expressed the belief that the Indians had evaded them or passed out of the settlement by some other route. Uncle Billy Powell still remarked, "No boys, they will go out this way, let us stay longer. I have traced too many Indians right through this Point of Timbers passage to believe they will take another course."

Just as the sun arose over the tree tops on the eastern hills and while the party gathered around the Stroud Creek arrivals, the watchman in the live oak tree raised the signal that the enemy was rapidly approaching. A hasty preparation was made for battle, each one was ordered to examine his gun and see that it was properly primed and ready for action. No snaps nor flashes must occur if possible to prevent at this critical time. On came the Indians at a gallop pace with a considerable heard of stolen horses being driven in front of them. Apparently they were riding rapidly so as to gain the open prairie where they could keep a sharp look out for any pursuers that might be on their trail.

When in reasonable firing distance the Powell party opened fire from several vantage points along the brushy cedar breaks along the hill side just east of Star Hollow which emptied into Robinson Creek a short ways below. The Squaw Creek party had scattered out rather widely along this cedar break so as to cover the entire Point of Timber in case the Indians should attempt to dash around them when the firing should begin. They had hidden their horses in the cedar brush a few hundred yards up the hill side and stationed some of the party here to protect them.

When firing first opened up the Indians made a dash forward, remaining bunched up as they did so. The loose horses rushed to the left while the Indians were returning the first volley of fire. The Indians immediately shifted to the right in a headlong gallop as if they intended to enter the brushy ledge of Star Hollow. They were mounted on fresh stolen horses and appeared to be planning to make a dash through the firing and to one side in order to skirt the party just as the settlers had expected. The settlers horses had been brought up by this time and a running fight began. One of the party by the name of Weir had failed to remain in line with the other parties and was apparently being cut off by the Indians just as the Thorp Spring party came galloping up. They were discovered by Weir who shouted to them for assistance. This party dashed up in gallant style with John Clark in the lead on a splendid racer pony. It was now about 8 o'clock in the morning. A running fight continued for a considerable time early in the morning with no material damage to either party. The Powell party had held them till now fresh help arrived. The three parties now hastily planned an open and running attack to be made on the Indians without giving them any chance to escape. John Clark, upon his racer pony, sped in advance and passed to the front of the Indians. He was fired upon without harm save one arrow striking the rear pommel of his saddle. He turned and fired upon the band of Indians and one shot took effect in the neck of one of the Indian's horses, felling the horse instantly and dismounting the warrior. This apparently caused much confusion among the seven red men. The dismounted Indian grabbed the tail of one of the other horses and another dash was made for the open prairie. The Clark party had all gotten into the front by this time and decided that the best method of attack was to kill the Indian's horses and leave them on foot. This would prevent them getting to the prairie and also give the settlers the advantage of the brush for protection. A rush could have been made at this time and the Indians soon wiped out perhaps but the leaders preferred maneuvering around so as not to lose any lives of the settlers if possible, and yet manage to slay the Indians with none allowed to escape.

The battle raged from the Indians rear, left and front, by this time. It was not long till a few well directed shots had dismounted the most of the Indians. They continued to hide behind the remaining horses and kept a volley of shots flying, both bullets and arrows, towards the settlers. A fresh bunch of settlers now arrived from Robinson's Creek which gave added zest to the attacking party. The Indians appeared to suddenly decide to dismount and let their horses go while they dashed into the ravine nearby in quest of a hiding place from the increasing fire of the settlers. No human being, either red or white, had as yet been killed. Both arrows and bullets had whistled over the heads and near almost every one but as yet no settler had been touched. The Indians ran up the dry branch to near its head, where a hole had been formed by the fall of water over the rocks as it descended from the prairie slopes. Here was a considerable thicket of brush and some trees, but beyond was an open prairie on which no brave would dare show his face. The seven Indians found here in this hole a good shelter under the thick roots of a tree which grew on its banks. Other debris that had lodged here as drifts among the brush completely hid the Indians from view while they had a fair view of the approach below where the settlers must attack. Overhanging them above was the rocky ledge bank of the stream which was lined on all sides by the thick growth of underbrush. Near them was a cotton wood log that had fallen across the stream. All of this gave them most excellent protection from shots from the settlers.

The pursuing party, now united by all the several divisions from Squaw, Stroud's, and Robinson's Creeks, and Thorp Spring, came up to find their foes thus concealed. This position was almost impregnable unless a great risk of life should be made. A long consultation was held while all possible methods of attack were reviewed. In the mean while news of the battle had spread throughout all the country about. Settlers were coming in from the breaks above in Palo Pinto and Parker Counties. The party now numbered some seventy or eighty men. Some of the party had brought along some "strong water" which was being lavishly enjoyed by some of the men. It required the combined efforts of Powell and several others to persuade the men not to get drunk and submit themselves to so much danger. Some of the party began accusing the older settlers of being afraid of the Indians and threatening to make their own advance without a leader. This would have meant instant death as was too well known by the sturdy Indian fighter. No particular leader had been chosen to direct the encounter so the leaders of the various parties got together to plan out the proper method of attack. While this was in progress some of the party rushed down near and even exclaimed that there were no Indians in under the bank. By the time they had exposed themselves, however, the Indians let loose a volley bullets and arrows that barely missed the adventurers. This served to convince the most skeptic that Indians were there.

One proposition was made for the settlers to approach the top of the hill above the Indians and let rocks fall through the brush upon them which would bring them out. This was tried a few times but at each time any rocks were let loose the yelping Indians opened fire directly at the settlers which proved this a dangerous method. Others proposed that the settlers retreat as if to give up the attack and see if this would bring the Indians out. Others thought brush could be brought up and fire set to the whole mass when the smoke would drive them out. During this time a turmoil was kept up among some of the men that the old Indian fighter was a coward and afraid to fight. Finally William Weir, who had been one of the principal accusers, called for men to go with him and he would go down and bring them out. He advanced boldly to the brow of the hill and just as he started into the hole an arrow pierced his breast giving him a deadly wound which caused his death a few days later. By this time another party headed by J.D. McKinzie of Robinson Creek attempted a rush from another point when McKenzie received a severe gun shot wound. This practical warning, added to the warnings that had been given by Powell and others all of the time, served to quiet the cries of cowards among them. The party got down to serious business by this time and maddened by the thoughts of the two wounded men they determined that something would be done.

CLICK HERE to view photo of Indian Holdout

While this was in progress the boom of distant thunder announced that a dark cloud was forming in the northwest. It was now almost one o'clock in the afternoon and not an Indian had yet been killed. Not even had one been wounded so far as was known.


Comment by James Barrett: The rest of this account is missing.


For another narrative of this event, with the conclusion, go to the Battle of Lookout Point, J.W. Wilbarger's account from Indian Depredations in Texas - published in 1889


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