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Ghosts of Elm Creek

It is said that where violent deaths occur, the spirits of those whose lives were taken sometimes linger.

The Elm Creek Raid was born in a vision to Kiowa Chief Little Buffalo several weeks prior to the attack. The chief had seen a vision of great riches and slaughter from a raid into Texas, and after retelling his vision to numerous clans he had quickly convinced a large group of Kiowa and Comanche to join him and they began the trip south into Texas.

On October 13, 1864, this combined war band ranging in size somewhere between 600 to as many as 1100 warriors descended upon the frontier settlements situated just west of Newcastle and about 8 miles northwest of Fort Belknap. It was very good timing on the part of the war parties. Most of the male settlers were gone from the Elm Creek area, having been recruited to help with a round up and drive of cattle.

In the opening minutes of the battle the raiders came across Perry and Peter Harmonson who lived east of Elm Creek. As the Harmonsons were engaged by the attackers with rifles and bows, Peter and Perry retreated to an area of heavy brush in one of the many ravines in our area. Returning fire at the approaching Indians, several sources claim that an Indian chief, perhaps even Little Buffalo, the author of the attack, was shot dead.

Henry Wooten observed the attackers and fled towards Fort Belknap. Anyone familiar with North Texas and its plants knows how thick the briars grow in this area and are not surprised by the fact that when Wootens fled through the briars to escape, the briars were so thick that they shredded his clothing and he was naked by the time he made it to the fort.

To the west of the Harmonson Ranch, settler Joel Myers, a simple farmer with a few head of cattle, was surprised by attackers, killed and scalped as the raiders moves westward in two separate parties.

At the Carter Trading Post, the full ferocity of the attack was unleashed. Inside the main house, Elizabeth Carter and her family: Daughter Susanna, son Elijah, and three grandchildren. Also in the house were Mary Johnson, the wife of slave Britt Johnson, their oldest son Jim Johnson and a younger son Jube and daughter Cherry.

Susanna and one of her infant children were scalped and killed as well as Britt Johnson’s son Jim, with the others taken as captives for slavery or ransom. Elijah would die on the trail three days later.

At a fortified ranch known to the settlers as Bragg’s Fort, settlers waged a six-hour battle, with repeating waves of attacks from the Indians. Dr. Thomas Wilson, who had seen the approach of the attackers and had ridden westward ahead of the renegades warning settlers akin to a western version of Paul Revere. He and an African American boy were killed in this encounter. At times the fighting was almost hand to hand, with warrior braves trying pull down stockade pickets by hand, and settlers firing point blank into the mass of Indians. There is no count of the number of warriors who died in this attack.

A unit of 15 rangers from Colonel Bourland’s frontier Ranger regiment, under the command of a Lieutenant Carson, were surrounded and repulsed several waves of attackers as well. By the time they were able to escape, five rangers had been killed and at least twice that number of attackers. The rangers were able to save Mrs. Isaac McCoy and her niece Betty Morris. Franz Peveler, who had secured his family in another fortified ranch known as Murrah’s Fort watched the murder of Isaac McCoy and his son through a telescope.

By the time the battle was over, twelve settlers had been killed and an unknown number of Kiowa and Comanche Warriors had fallen violently to their deaths. As dusk settled over the prairie, the survivors watched as the victorious war parties withdrew with horse and cattle herds numbering in the thousands.

More than 158 years have passed since the twang of bow strings and the thunder of rifle fire have passed over this area of western Young County. If you watch the sun go down over this creek now, you will here the drone of crickets, the deep call of frogs and the wind pass through the mesquite, post oak and cottonwood.

For those who may be sensitive to things no longer wholly apart of the living … you might hear the cries of the doomed, the war cries of avenging warriors, the death screams of horses falling under their riders, or the crack of timber as it is pulled down and burned.
You might even see stealthy shapes moving among the shadows along the creek, spirit-like silhouettes of those who didn’t make it to the safety of the caves, or were shot from the saddle as they plundered. It was a place of violence, of revenge, of determination and death.

It may only be haunted by memories and not ghosts or spirits, but who knows for sure, and who might be brave enough to linger there and find out?

Peters Colony: 182 Years

The Peters Colony: 182 Years Ago

August 30th marks the 182nd birthday of the signing of contracts to give away land in Texas in an area that would be known as the Peters Colony.

Replica of the Peters Colony Land Office. Farmers Branch Historical Park

William Smalling Peters (1779-853), an English immigrant living in Kentucky, secured a contract with the Republic of Texas to attract colonists to settle in Texas.

The Republic of Texas was attempting to populate the new republic and establish a tax base to fund the fledgling government. A married man could receive up to 640 acres for immigrating to Texas, and a single man could receive 320. Peters, acting as an empresario, could keep up to one-half of a colonists grant as payment and receive an additional ten sections of land for every 100 families brought to Texas.

Peters, and later the Texas Emigration & Land Company, had difficulties fulfilling their obligations and legal battles over possession of colonists’ land eventually led to an armed confrontation, known as the Hedgcoxe War of 1852, in which the agent for the Land Company, Henry O. Hedgecoxe, was forced to flee from his office.

After nearly ten legislative actions, lawsuits, armed confrontation, and twenty years of arguing, the Peter’s Colony brought little profit to Peters and his original investors. The Graham brothers would pick up the right to act as empresarios in 1871 and would be much more successful and would bring many families to the Young County area and amass over 125,000 acres in personal holdings for their efforts.

Newsletter: Winter 2022

Newsletter: Winter 2022

Hello old friends, new friends, and YC Museum Board Members!
We are getting close to another board meeting and thought we should bring you up to date on what’s been happening!

We’ve been Bookin’ it!

This is just a sample of over 275 books (rare — mostly about Young, Jack, Palo Pinto and Parker Counties), as well as boxes of research that have been donated to our museum for use in a future archive or history library. Future generations will be able to come here and research our county, their family histories, or just tales of the wild west!

For their donations and support, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to donors like:
Houston Johnson | Mike Watson | James Shelton | Judge Ken Wise

Can you dig it?

Herbert Lee, or “Herbie” as we know him, has a passion for metal detecting and his talent has provided several displays for the museum.

Among his findings are bullets, buckle and nails from Flag Springs — to an antique clutch purse, an advertising tintype from the early 1900 to 1930’s used in newspaper ads, and more. Come see us to enjoy his exhibits!

We’ve gone Hollywood!

Well … OK. Maybe not Hollywood, but we were represented for the first time at the Regional Alliance of Museums exhibit at the Museum of North Texas History! The exhibit, entitled “Real to Reel” demonstrated the impact local museums have had on Hollywood, (or for the less fortunate counties with not nearly as much history as us, but I digress! Lol) the effect Hollywood has had on them.

Our exhibit, “The Searchers” allowed us to illustrate how John Ford used Alan Lemay’s book The Searchers and turned it into a movie considered the “12th most iconic American film ever created”, according to the American Film Institute. It highlights the story of Britt Johnson, a story LeMay stated was researched prior to writing the novel.

All Aboard!

Most of you have heard that the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum closed down several years ago due to vandalism and lack of funding. The City of Wichita Falls is trying to decide what to do with the locomotives and cars.

The Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad came to Young County to pick up coal and carry passengers and freight to Ranger.
I posed the question in a Facebook Post as to whether we should try to acquire the Steam Locomotive on display. The post was viewed by over 10,000 people and a lot of positive comments were left.

So, what do you think?
Should we pursue trying to obtain any of these displays?

Know a Contractor? We’re Taking Bids!

We have a building, now we are looking for contractors! Shannon and First Baptist Church closed the purchase of the property located at 609 Fourth near the end of August. She hired a crew who tore down the suspended ceiling and the old interior wall and you wouldn’t believe what we found! Underneath the suspended ceiling was this wood ceiling and two feet above it was another wooden ceiling which was the underside of the roof. Some of the boards need to be replaced but remarkably the wood is in great shape!

We are looking for roofers, carpenters, HVAC installers, and plumbers to begin readying the building for occupancy. If you know of someone that does good work, let us know. We need to obtain estimates and then we will be ready to begin fundraising.

Are We Square?

Shannon has employed the services of Alicia Quintans, AIA / JQAQ Atelier, to begin an architectural rendering of the 609 Fourth Street building as it is now and propose some new designs for the interior and exterior.

Mrs. Quintans is a professional Architect living in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. She specializes in renovating and redesigning old structures.

Alicia has a vested interest in helping us. Her maiden name was Alicia Chandler, and she grew up in Graham! God keeps putting people in our path as we move forward on this project!


Social … and connected!

Our Facebook page is reaching about 11,700 views per month on some of the stories we have published. We have over 1,100 followers with an average post engagement of 2840+ each month. On Instagram, we have one post and one follower — but who’s counting? Don’t forget to watch our YouTube feed for lots of video clips, too.

We aren’t Spiderman, but we are Web-slingers!  In June, we contracted with StudioSR to upgrade our website, and we think it looks magnificent. If you have not checked it out, go exploring now! We have received hits (feedback and questions) from people who don’t live here — wanting to know what we have or where to go to research their family history. In addition, we have found a new friend of the museum, Sylvia Caldwell Rankin, a seventh generation Texan current exiled to the less-blessed state of Georgia. Sylvia has roots in Young County dating back to days of early settlement. She is responsible for the new look on our website and gave us some great tips on logos and branding (the marketing kind, not on a cow’s rump).

Time to Elect New Officers

Chartered in January 2021, we have reached the point where it’s time to elect new officers as we prepare for this next phase of our museum. We are growing, and we need talented, intelligent, dynamic people to make our dreams of a museum a reality! We need to select a date around the 3rd week of October for a meeting at which we will elect new officers. What is the best way to get elected? Well, just forget to come to the meeting! LOL.

Seriously, we need gifted leadership as we move towards funding concerns. We need people who can donate time as well as talent. Can’t be a fundraiser? Be a volunteer — guiding tours, developing funding programs, attending civic functions, manning booths, etc.

Plan on meeting October 24th, 2022 at 5:30 PM at the museum (401 Echo). If this conflicts with your schedule, let me know asap! (I will need to get your name on your Campaign for President posters!)


We are going to order polo shirts created for wearing while working in the Museum! Can we interest you in purchasing one for your self? We need to get an idea of how many folks would like to have a polo shirt or possible a teeshirt imprinted with one of the Museum’s logos. You can email to let us know your preference. We will order either khaki with the dark logo (as shown) or possibly chocolate brown with a light version of the logo.

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

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 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.