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In the News

Tony Widner, President
Covered wagon museum exhibit
Shannon Plowman Potts, Treasurer

We’re in the News!

The Young County Museum of History and Culture [YCMHC] is one of 15 museums that make up the Regional Museum Alliance [RMA], based in Wichita Falls. The YCMHC does not officially have a home yet but does house many of the museum’s artifacts in the old Radford Wholesale Grocery and Warehouse in Graham, Texas.

Tony Widner, president of the Board for the YCMHC and Shannon Potts, Board treasurer gave a tour and interview about the new museum. Widner and Potts have been the key backers in getting the museum plans going and are the driving force in propelling the museum into a place to learn all things about Young County history.

According to Widner and Potts, the museum is currently housed in Radford Wholesale Grocery Store and is more than 100 years old. It has a rich history all its own. Widner says the railroad tracks ran directly behind the grocery store and offers deliveries of all the groceries and goods for the entire region. Grocers would come from all over to pick up their orders at the Radford Grocer. The location houses a great many artifacts and is under consideration to permanently house the museum. Currently, the place is only open to tour by special appointment.

Widner and Potts said the museum’s goal is to focus on Young County history and later add in local artists’ work. In addition, the duo says they want to shine a brief light on all the other museums in Young County to pique visitors’ interest and then send them to the museums located in other towns in the county to learn more in-depth about that town’s history.

Potts said, “We were told to start small, which is very wise. So, we’re starting small with the stories, and as we get the stories out, we’re hoping to get more to exhibit. We also want to tell how Young County got started and the industries in Young County, such as ranching, farming, oil and gas. There are so many stories to tell in those alone.”

The museum is a 501(c)(3) and is still in the planning and developing phase. The board hopes to have the main website up soon. The website will help build excitement for the museum to come and attract donors and volunteers.

Widner explained a little more about where the museum was at as far as planning and the focus of the museum.

“We still are working on our master plan. Right now, the strategic plan is getting everybody interested in the history part to make them want more and then with that. We’re also looking at putting together a mobile museum to take it all to Newcastle and other towns. Loving impacts this [Mobile Museum] with some of the people in loving, they’re wanting to give us some of their stuff from their community center because they’re going to be doing some changes there. We can take it around to all the places so that everybody in Young County will see what has happened here. You know I’ve been to Tombstone Deadwood Cheyenne. A lot of these western towns and have one story. They have one or two groups of people that they have told the story over and over.”

Young County has a rich history with many, many stories to tell, according to Widner. To learn more about the YCMHC, please visit their Facebook page at, Young County Museum of History and Culture.

Story by Will Sadler | Photojournalist
Published 9 September 2021
OlneyEnterprise.com

Cheyenne Wuthrich

Meet our Photographer!

Young County is fortunate to have a world class photographer living “just down the road”! Meet Cheyenne Wuthrich — mother, wife and artist. She’s the driving force behind Wuthrich Photography & Design located in Graham. It is her talent displayed in (almost) all of the images of this website.

Cheyenne’s specialties include children and families, scenery, fine art for the home, advertising shoots, portraits and more. Visit her website to see more of Cheyenne’s work.

What Happened Here

Young County was one of the most active locations of the Old West, and it was definitely considered the most dangerous prairie crossing in Texas. Take a look at this list of topics, just to get an idea of our wild history.

  • Site of frontier Fort Belknap
  • Location of the Brazos River Indian Reservation
  • Starting point for the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail
  • Wayside stopping point for the Butterfield Overland Stage Line
  • Location of the infamous Warren wagon train massacre
  • Home of Britt Johnson, a Texas legend
  • Brief history of coal mining near the town of Newcastle
  • The town that started with no name
  • Milie Durkin, Indian captive
  • Satanta, the most famous of the Kiowa chiefs
  • The Kiowa Indian peoples
  • Elm Creek raid of 1864
  • Stovall Hot Wells
  • The Marlow brothers in 1889
  • Home of the largest federal court jurisdiction in US history
  • Colonel E. S. Graham and his brother, Gustavus Graham
  • Texas Rangers and their activity in the county
  • Homelands of the Comanche people
  • Santa Claus bank robbers
  • First murder trial of Native Americans in a civilian court
  • Chronicles of the US Army Cavalry stationed in Young County and environs
  • Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, famous cow men
  • Birthplace of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
  • Oil discovery and production
  • Charles Hipp and the Hipp Rodeos
  • Young County at war (various eras)
  • The era of cowboys and ranching
  • Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche
  • Early days of the railroads
  • Indian depredations and fighting
  • Murder of Confederate commander of Fort Belknap
  • Minerals in the county
  • Frontier regiments
  • Various ethnic cultures forming our heritage

Brazos River Indian Reservations

Brazos River Indian Reservations

As reported by the Texas Historical Commission, on this the 26th day of April in 1854, the U.S. War Department ordered Randolph B. Marcy, in conjunction with Indian agent Robert S. Neighbors, to locate and survey land for Indian reservations in unsettled territory, preferably on timbered land of good soil adjacent to navigable water. Marcy was familiar with Texas, and this would be his fourth expedition on behalf of the government.

On the surveying trips General Marcy told the Indian chiefs that the government was going to supply them with land so that they might raise crops and live peacefully like the white man. This was a hard task to orient the Indians to, as most of the tribes were warrior cultures where hunting and war with other tribes established a man’s place within the tribe.

Eventually the diminishing tribes of the Anadarkoes, Caddoes, Wacoes, and Tonkawas agreed to the reservation plan, mainly as a refuge from the Comanches. The sites selected after consultation with the various Indian groups concerned were four leagues of land 17,712 on the Brazos River below Fort Belknap for the Anadarkoes, Caddoes, Wacoes, Indians, and another tract of the same size forty miles away on the Clear Fork of the Brazos for the use of the Comanches. A third tract of four leagues adjoined the one on the Brazos and was intended for the use of the Indians living west of the Pecos River, chiefly the Mescalero and Lipan Apaches. These western Indians, however, failed to come into the reservation, and this tract was added to the Brazos agency, making that reservation total eight leagues.

The reservation land was part of the vacant domain of Texas, which was given to the Federal Government, but Texas retained the right of jurisdiction over persons other than Indians for any offense committed by such person or property of anyone within the limit of the state. The federal government had jurisdiction over the Indians within the reservation and a further ten-mile boundary around the reservation to prevent the sale of alcohol to the tribes.

The Brazos River Indian Reservation Agency Building was located near Dry Creek, three miles west of the present sight of Graham. Two agents were appointed for the reservations, under the supervision of Major Robert Neighbors; Captains Shapley Ross and J.R. Baylor. After a year and a half, Baylor was replaced by Matthew Leeper. Baylor was indignant at being released and became a serious point of contention, stirring up racial trouble between the Indians and the settlers.

Almost all of the ranchers who settled into the area were familiar with the reservation Indians, who had proved to be successful farmers, raising cops to rival any farmers in the area. Between fifty and one hundred Indians were even listed in the Rangers service at that time, and though they were used for frontier protection, it raised the animosity of certain white settlers. The rancher’s cattle grazed all over the unfenced and unlimited country. The Indians and Agents made no protest, for grass was free and plentiful. To be fair, certain Indians also exploited their new neighbors, appearing at the door of a ranch stating “Me friend,– me no kill, –give me cow–. (From the book “A history of Young County Texas”, by Carrie Crouch).

But there was a class of white men, known as filibusters, who opposed any Indian presence in the area, and did not hesitate to kill an Indian off the reservation. One incident which caused the federal government to send more troops to Fort Belknap, and eventually led to the Indians being moved to Oklahoma was the murder of Choctaw om’s party in Palo Pinto County. Old Choctaw Tom was known to settlers in the area, even before the reservations. Choctaw Tom made friends with new people arriving to the area and often assisted them as nurses and servants.

In December 1858 Choctaw Tom, having received a permit from the Agent, took seventeen people into Palo Pinto County on a hunt. On the night of December 26, 1858 Tom’s party was attacked while asleep and eight were killed, found the next morning still under their blankets. Toms’ wife had been killed, his daughter shot in the hand, Tom was wounded.

This act put the Indians on the reservation in an uproar, and it took a great deal of diplomacy on the part of Colonel Ross to curb an Indian uprising. The government promised swift justice, but not one indictment was served, fueling tension even more.

On May 23, 1859, a large group of armed men were reported to be on the reservation and Captain Plummer of Fort Belknap was dispatched to ascertain their intentions. Upon locating the group, Plummer learned it was led by Captain Baylor, the ex-agent who stated that they were looking for certain Indians and that should US Troops interfere they would be fired on. Plummer returned to the Fort for reinforcements. During the interim, they discovered an elderly Indian that they promptly scalped, and learned that an elderly Indian Women was standing there when the evil deed occurred and they promptly killed her as well.

The outlaws under Baylor retreated to the Marlin Ranch and were still there when fifty braves from the reservation arrived bent on revenge. US Troops arrived on the scene soon after, but having no jurisdiction off the reservation, they sat and waited on the outcome. Chief John Polock Mark and Chief John Hatterbox, both elderly, challenged Baylor to single combat, but Baylor refused. A gun battle ensued, and Chief Hatterbox was killed almost immediately and two of Baylor’s party were killed before the Indians withdrew at sundown.

With the tension in the area set to explode, Major Neighbors put in for and executed an order for the removal of the Indians from the Brazos River Reservation. Both reservations reverted to the state when the Indians were removed to the Indian Territory in 1859.

Mesquite Tree

Mesquite Trees

It’s hard to imagine Young County was once described as “open Prairie”.

Settlers and Native Americans alike commented on the “oceans of grassland and vast prairies” of Texas where the buffalo could graze, and you easily become lost for lack of landmarks in 1841.

A portion of northeastern Young County was known as “Lost Prairie” because of its open spaces and lack of landmarks. So what made such a dramatic change to the Texas landscape?

The “beloved” Mesquite tree. (Texas ranchers and farmers, don’t shoot the messenger!) The Mesquite tree was not native to Texas originally. The tree is native to Mexico and other parts of Central and South America. It was slowly moving north, but man sped up the northern migration when cattle, which had eaten the bean pods, were then herded to Texas markets.

Most cattle were quarantined around the Texas shipping port of Galveston, but herds that slipped by quarantine and other herds that were pushed north eventually left the bean pods undigested in the perfect fertilizer – their dung! As the trees grew and prospered, they dropped more seed pods which were again eaten by animals, resulting in more migration north in a very short amount of time.

By 1854, J.R. Bartlett, states in his book “Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua” that much of Texas rangeland was open grasslands with “some” scattered large mesquite.

Most of Texas at that time was open prairie with scattered Post Oak and Cedar trees, depending on where you were standing in Texas. By 1866, however, Captain Randolph Marcy, in his memoir: “Thirty years of army life on the border” described some areas of north central Texas as “covered with groves of mesquite trees”, and an area in the lower Texas panhandle as “one continuous mesquite flat, dotted here and there with small patches of open prairie”.

These observations indicated that mesquite had rapidly become a natural part of the Texas vegetation complex, prior to white settlement in those areas and, in some areas, occurred as dense stands.

The mesquite tree is an amazing work of nature. The tree’s wood is a good firewood choice as it burns very slowly. It was, and still is, used as a building material due to its durability.

Here are some interesting facts about the Mesquite Tree  discovered from the GardeNerdy website:

  • A major use of mesquite is that it is a nitrogen-fixing tree, which means that it restores nitrogen in the soil.
  • The improved fertility is the reason why some grasses grow very well under these trees.
  • Its lateral roots might spread out up to 50 feet in all directions, and compete with grasses for water, absorbing water from the subsoil layers.
  • The tree can easily switch from utilizing one water source to another. This means it will take water to survive from other nearby plants in drought conditions.
  • Mesquite taproots can extend as much as 200 feet below the surface and the surface roots may extend 50 feet or more past the outer edge of the crown.
  • About 5-20 seeds are enclosed in a pod, and the seeds can lie dormant for several years.
  • Nectar from mesquite trees is also known to yield a good-quality honey.
  • The wood is still used for making carvings, panels, furniture, and parquet floors. Its brown and gold color and swirling grain makes it the perfect type of wood for making furniture with a rustic appeal.
  • Its bark is used for roofing in some regions.

Various parts of the tree were used by the Native Americans. The tree bears thorns that are about 3 inches long, which were used by the Native Americans to make needles. The inner bark was used for making fabrics, while its wood was used for making bows and arrows for hunting. Native Americans used the bean pods of this tree for food. The pods were ground to make flour, which in turn was used for making several different dishes. The pods were also used for making a therapeutic tea. Mesquites were used by Native Americans for treating certain ailments. They were aware of the therapeutic nature of the tree’s root, bark, leaves, and gum. They used a herbal infusion made from the root or bark to treat diarrhea. They also mixed the gum in water to make a herbal infusion, which was used for treating eye infections. Mesquite gum was also used for treating sore throat and gastrointestinal problems.
They crushed mesquite leaves and mixed them with water. This was used as a remedy for headaches.” Ironically, cattlemen have “gotten” headaches from trying to remove Mesquites, which cattle brought here in the first place!

Finally, you can’t enjoy barbecue in Texas if it doesn’t have that distinct mesquite smoked flavor!
If you’re blessed to live in Young County, or other parts of Texas, imagine what the early settlers used to see when they looked across the land to the horizon.

Imagine the hopes, dreams, struggles, (and mesquite!) that built Young County and helped shape the State of Texas, and even affected the policies of a nation!

There are stories where mesquite figures prominently in our history. Want to know more? Come see us at the museum to find out!

Satanta

Satanta of the Kiowa Nation

Satanta (or White Bear) was born in 1820, the son of red Tipi, a prominent Kiowa and the keeper of the Tai-me, the tribal medicine bundles. The Kiowa nation, numbering less than just two thousand members produced many notable warriors, and Satanta figured prominently among them. From the period of 1820 to the late 1870’s, the Kiowa nation lived a nomadic life across the Midwest plains. Their principal hunting grounds and territory would stretch from the Rio Grande (and over into Mexico on occasion) to as far north as the upper Kansas Territory.

Among the Indian nations of the Midwest, a tribe’s prestige was measured by the size of their horse herds and their fierceness in battle, and the Kiowa were second only to the Comanche in both categories. At a young age Satanta stood out among the other braves for his charisma and oratory skills. By his early twenties he stood six feet tall, was heavily muscled and darkly tanned by the sun. A famous and prominent Kiowa Chief, Black Horse, granted him even more prestige by giving him his shield.

Kiowa shields were made of several layers of thick buffalo hide and wooden sticks to give them shape. They weren’t particularly useful against bullets or arrows, but the Kiowa believed that shields were imbued with strong supernatural protection and so this gift testified to Black Horses conviction that Satanta would be a great warrior. Black Horse had carried the shield into battle many times and had always escaped unharmed, and ironically, he was killed soon after giving the shield to Satanta.

Satanta carried the shield with him into battle, and while in Chihuahua Mexico, he was roped off his horse by a vaquero and would have been dragged to death had he not escaped with the aid of two other warriors and, as he proclaimed, the blessings and protection of his shield.

Dohausan was the appointed Chief of the Kiowa, but by the 1840’s, Satanta was equal in influence among the tribe, and was more flamboyant and charismatic. Using the shield as a symbol of his good fortune, it was hung high in the place of honor in his medicine lodge when not being carried into battle.

Troubles began as early as 1845, when Texas, upon becoming a state, began attracting larger numbers of settlers, who invaded lands the Kiowa claimed as hunting grounds. The settlers would cut down timber and hunters would slaughter large numbers of buffalo for their hides, leaving the meat to rot in the prairie sun.In retaliation for these affronts, the Kiowas, as well as the Comanche began to strike back, killing, taking scalps and capturing large horse herds from settlers. In 1859, Indian Agents reported a “smoldering passion for revenge” from the Indians at the theft of their land by whites.

In 1864 at U.S. Army Fort Larned Kansas, Satanta and another warrior approached the gate to enter but were denied by the sentry. Angered, Satanta was so fast that he put two arrows into the sentry before the sentry could return fire. Knowing the troops would pursue his people, he gave the tribe time to tear down camp and move by attacking the fort, which had assumed the Indians would flee and he and his warriors ran off the garrison’s horses. To add insult to injury Satanta sent a letter to the Post Commander three days later stating that he “hoped the fort would get better horses in the future, because the ones he had captured from the fort were inferior to the horses he already possessed!”

Neither the Union or Confederacy had been in possession of the resources or the time to deal with the Indian attacks on settler encroaching into land regarded by the tribes as theirs. Both governments had made repeated threats but because there had never been any action taken the tribes felt that the governments were scared of them. Indians of the Plains believed in dealing with others and each other from a position of strength, and believed the whites would back down or bargain and they were correct for a time.In 1867 Congress sent a peace commission to make peace with the southern plains tribes, presumably to remove all cause for warfare. To guarantee the safety of the Indians coming to attend, troops from Fort Larned were sent to escort the tribes to Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas — approximately 5,000 Kiowa, Comanche, Kiowa Apache, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapahoe. While enroute with their escort, the column came across a herd of Buffalo, and many of the white troopers and civilians rushed out and killed them for sport, leaving the carcasses where they fell. This infuriated Satanta who immediately complained to the Indian Agent and the Peace Commission.At the meeting, the Commissioners wanted the Indians to settle on reservations and told the Indians they would provide food and shelter.

When Satanta spoke, his eloquence, stature and presence impressed everyone as he spoke about not wanting to settle, how he loved to roam the prairies as his fathers had done for generations. He said that he spoke no lies and held nothing in secret and hoped that the commissioners would be as honest. As most peace talks went, the treaty demanded they give up land, move to reservations and that military troops would enforce leaving the reservations. The Indians could not read the documents but believed the things they protested the most about had been granted, and only hearing the promises of food, medicine and teaching, and the gifts presented to the tribes, most of the chiefs signed. Among the gifts given to the Indians were some pistols of unknown manufacture. When the weapons were test-fired, every pistol exploded on the first shot.

Upon returning to their lands, they saw that the hunting of buffalo by the white people was only increasing, threatening the continued existence of the tribes. They returned to their homes with no food, and upon requesting the promised provisions from the Indian agents, found that the promised food did not exist. Faced with no other option, the Indians renewed their attacks.

On November 27, 1868, US forces under Lt. Colonel George Custer attacked and annihilated the Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle in retaliation for Indian depredations in Kansas by the Cheyenne. When threatened by General Sherman with military reprisals against Kiowa, Satanta and Lone Wolf approached Sherman under a flag of truce. Custer wanted to hang them on the spot, but Sheridan seized them, ignoring their white flag. They moved to confront the Kiowa who had already fled the area, fearing attack.

Sherman took the two chieftains to Fort Cobb and sent riders to the Kiowa stating that if they did not return the next day to the fort, he would hang Satanta and Big Tree. As a testament to Satanta’s leadership and the devotion of his people, all but a few individuals had returned to the fort by the deadline. Satanta and Big Tree were held until February of 1869 and even though Sherman reported his desire to hang the two, he felt there were too many individuals involved in the raiding to punish just two.

Satanta and Big Tree were released. Both were bitter with Sherman, having attempted to practice peaceful talks under a flag of truce and being arrested, they added this to the list of broken promises made at the Medicine Lodge Treaty. Satanta told his Indian Agent Tatum, that Indians who listened to white men got nothing in the way of food or promises kept, scratching the dirt to try to make a living (farming), and only Indians who were strong would be well treated and survive.

To emphasize the point, Satanta, Satank, Big Tree, Lone Wolf, and Maman’te led a mixed band of Kiowa and Comanche into Young County, Texas. The raid ended in an attack which was known as the Warren Wagon Train Massacre, and sent shock waves across the nation. Seven wagon teamsters were killed, their mules and weapons taken, with the loss of three Indians.

Satanta, Satank, and Big Tree were arrested. Satank attempted to escape and was killed by soldiers on the way to Jacksboro and his body was left beside the road. Satanta and Big Tree were tried for murder in a civilian court, the first time ever for Indians and were convicted of murder. They were sentenced to hang, but the Governor of Texas Edmund Davis commuted their sentences to prevent an Indian uprising.

During Satanta and Big Tree’s detention, they were forced to work laying railroad track between Dallas and Houston. Captain H.E. Alvord, traveled to Washington with a delegation of Indian Chiefs and secured the release of Satanta and Big Tree if they agreed to refrain from raiding for six months. They were released in 1873.

In 1874, Satanta in an effort to keep his word, symbolically gave his Lance to Ato-tain, giving him the status of Chief, and his beloved shield to his son. Without lance and spear, he told others he no longer had strong medicine to fight. Unfortunately, by 1874, white hunters had taken such a toll on the buffalo that they were almost extinct, and starving warriors were forced to eat their horses to survive. Although the Texas legislature discussed protecting the remaining herds, General Sheridan argued “let them kill, skin and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to lasting peace and to allow civilization to advance.”

Contrary to popular belief, Satanta was not present at the attack on Adobe Wells or any other actions against settlers or troops but was subsequently arrested for leaving the reservation without permission (he had gone hunting and this was documented by witnesses).

For leaving the reservation, he was arrested and returned to prison. In 1878 after three years of prison, Satanta asked a deputy marshal if he would ever be released to his people and was told no. The next day he threw himself from the upper floor hospital ward at Huntsville and died. It is reported that his ghost reenacts his death on the upper floor which is no longer used as a hospital wing. Satanta had fought to preserve the way of life and lands of his people. He was originally buried in Huntsville but in 1963 his grandson had him removed to Fort Sill where he was buried with full military honors.

Works Cited: 
Crouch, Carrie “A History of Young County”, Texas State Historical Assn. 1956 pp. 44-51
Worcester, Donald “Satanta” “Studies in Diversity; American Indian Leaders” University of Nebraska Press, 1980 pp. 107-130.
Nye, Colonel W.E. “Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill” University of Oklahoma Press, 1943 pp. 124-148

The Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers

Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry were more commonly known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”.

In 1866, the Congress of the United States authorized the formation of four all black regiments of the United States Army, respectively, the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 24 and 25 Infantry regiments. These all-black regiments were assigned white officers.

The formation of the 9th Cavalry took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, in September of 1866. The soldiers spent the winter organizing and training until they were ordered to San Antonio, Texas, in April 1867. There they were joined by most of their officers and their commanding officer, Colonel Edward Hatch.

The 10th Cavalry formed up at Fort Leavenworth Kansas in 1867, and placed under the overall command of Colonel Benjamin Grierson. These soldiers immediately began to establish a sense of security for Settlers and travelers headed to California and the Midwest across the Central Plains. The soldiers of all of these regiments, hoped to increase the respect and equality of treatment that had begun for black Americans during the Civil War and under the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is no definitive story behind why these soldiers received the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers”. One account alleges the nickname came from the soldiers’ dark, curly hair resembled the fur of a buffalo. Another account states that during an encounter with the Cherokee, the soldiers fought so valiantly and fiercely that the Indians revered their stamina and fighting prowess as they did the buffalo.

On April 18, 1875, companies A through F, K and M of the 9th Cavalry and companies A, D through G, I, and L of the 10th Cavalry were reassigned to frontier posts along the Texas Forts Trail, and headquartered out of Fort Concho Texas. Their mission during their Texas posting was to protect mail and travel routes, to control Indian movement in and out of reservations, provide protection from outlaws, and to map the unmapped portions of the western and northern Texas.

the 9th Cavalry was responsible for the success of the Cavalry campaign known as the Red River War against the Kiowas, the Comanches, the Cheyenne and the Arapahoe. It was after this three-month long battle that the 10th Cavalry arrived in Texas to assist.

Troops H and I of the 10th Cavalry made up part of the forces that rescued wounded Lieutenant-Colonel George Alexander Forsyth and his group of scouts who had been trapped on a sand bar and surrounded by Indians in the Arikaree River.

Not long after, the 10th Cavalry fought over two hundred Indians at Beaver Creek. These units received a field citation for gallantry from General Philip Sheridan. Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry accompanied General Sherman on his inspection tour of Indian depravations in Texas and they narrowly avoided attack by the same Kiowa and Comanche who were involved in the Warren Wagon Train Massacre.

By 1880, the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments had reduced Indian resistance in Texas and the 9th Cavalry was ordered to Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The 10th Cavalry fought to keep the Apache until the 1890s when they were reassigned to Montana to round up the Cree.

About 20 percent of U.S. Cavalry troops that participated in the Indian Wars were buffalo soldiers, who participated in at least 177 conflicts. The Buffalo Soldiers were responsible for stabilizing much of the Texas Frontier, as well as areas of Kansas, and New Mexico.

COL Owen J. Baggett

 WWII soldier who shot down a plane with a pistol:  Never underestimate an armed Texan from Young County!

COL Owen John Baggett

In a late Veterans Day tribute to our native Young County Veterans, we proudly present the legend and history of WWII Colonel Owen John Baggett. Owen John Baggett was born in August 29,1920 in Graham, Texas to John and Mary Pearl Owen Baggett.

In Young County, you generally find two types of native citizens: Those who move away as fast as they can, or those who never really leave. Owen Baggett appears to have had the wanderlust of the first category.

After graduating high school in 1938, Owen, who was reported in several accounts to have been remembered by the citizens of Graham for his quick smile and kind words, attended Hardin Simmons University and served in the band as its Drum Major, graduating in 1941.

He took his degree to New York, where he was soon employed as a Defense Contractor, working in an office on Wall Street.
After the onset of World War II, Owen enlisted in the Army Air Force and was accepted on July 26, 1942, and attended New Columbus Army Flying School. Baggett graduated with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and was assigned to the 7th Army Bomber wing, stationed in the Pacific Theater in British East India.

Baggett was assigned to fly the American Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” Bomber, a predecessor of the B-17 “Flying Fortress”. The B-24 had been designed with what was considered a highly efficient shoulder mounted, high on the airframe “Davis Wing”. The wing made for more efficient flight at high speeds and altitudes which increased its range, but the wing also put a lot of weight on the plane that often caused catastrophic damage to the airframe when crashing. The plane was also reported to be notorious among pilots for its tendency to catch fire.

There is only one intact B-24 left in the world today and is owned and operated by the Collins Foundation. Because of the long range of many of the B-24 bombers, they would often be forced to fly without friendly fighter escorts, leaving them as easy prey of enemy fighters, such as the Japanese Zero, one of the finest fighters of the day.

As if this wasn’t enough of a danger to American plane crews, the Japanese had adopted a policy of shooting plane crews when they parachuted out of their aircraft to keep them from being rescued and returned to flying attack missions.

On March 31, 1943 Baggett’s squadron was ordered to destroy a bridge at Pyinmana in Burma.
The bridge was an important supply line for the Japanese and as such, was heavily fortified by anti-aircraft emplacements and fighter air patrols. Enroute to their target, the bomber squadron was soon intercepted by 13 Ki-43 fighters of the 64th Sentai Imperial Army Air Force. Almost immediately, Baggett’s plane was hit, and several rounds punctured the aircrafts fuel tanks, with the plane catching fire.

The plane was severely damaged, on fire and losing altitude so Baggett and the crew made the decision to abandon the plane, each taking their turn stepping out of the aircraft and into the sky. Baggett had already been wounded before bailing out, and attempting to play dead, watched two of his crewmates die from strafing gunfire by Japanese fighters as they floated helpless in their harnesses.
WWII pilots and crews were issued 1911 45 caliber semiautomatic pistols, a design that had been patented during WWI, hence the name 1911. As he drifted towards the ground, he observed one of the fighters break off from the attacks, and slow to do a flyby to see if he was in fact dead. As the pilot closed the distance, Owen observed him open his canopy to get a better view.

Seizing the opportunity, Owens drew his pistol and fired four shots in quick succession into the enemy cockpit. Accounts differed at the time, as there were reports that the enemy aircraft spiraled out of the sky to crash and the body of the pilot found in the wreckage with a bullet hole in the skull, to the “official Japanese air report” that no planes were lost, however this report, was suspect as both sides practiced giving misinformation during the war.

Baggett was captured immediately upon landing and remained a prisoner of war for two and a half years, before being rescued along with 37 other POW’s in a daring rescue by eight OSS agents. Upon his return he learned that he had become famous for being the only person in WWII to shoot down an enemy plane with a handgun. The feat had been witnessed by Colonel Harry Melton whose fighters had been assigned their escort that day. Melton could confirm that he witnessed the shot and saw the enemy plane crash. Baggett acknowledged publicly that he was grateful that his life had been spared, and returned to the service, retiring with full honors as a Colonel in 1973 at the age of 53.

Baggett was a true servant and was recognized for work with children. He sponsored both a boy and a girl through the Army Air Force’s Commander for a Day program.

After leaving the Air Force, he went back to work as a defense contractor manager. His life of service ended with peace and dignity when he died at his home in New Braunfels, Texas on July 27, 2006.

It is the duty of historians to report the valor and honor of those who go before us, and we hope that those who served will record their memories for the children of the future, to learn what was important to them, what they experienced, and what they learned and how that experience affected the person they became.

As always, we proudly honor our Veterans who defend and protect our way of life every day. May God bless and protect all who serve and have served.