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INDIAN LOOK-OUT TREE
This old oak
was where the Indian lookout was perched when the Pettus Town folk (or
posse) caught up with them and the last Indian fight of Bee County
occurred. It is located on the North Side of FM-798 in North Bee County.
It is not
clear if the lookout or Indian camp dogs alerted them of the Pettus
groups arrival but is said they were caught off guard. The skirmish
occurred from this tree to the Southeast over open Prairie amongst
scattered oak trees. Most of the fight occurred on foot.
In the late
1970's we had cattle with Mr. Fox who pointed these features out when
driving the pasture. The tree is on private property with different
landowners now. Source:
Last Indian Fight in Bee County
At the time of their last battle in Bee County in the 1870’s, the
Karankawas had probably either moved further west or northwest of Bee
County, or had become nomads or semi-nomadic in nature, rambling from
place to place. From facts surrounding their horse thievery and raids in
this area, it appears they did not live within the bounds of what now
constitutes Bee County during the 1870’s.
The story of the last fight, which occurred a few miles west of
Pettus in the 1870’s, was told by the late Will Fox who lived on the
land. Mr. Fox died at his Pettus home in 1956. He recalled that Bill
Tomlinson, who had a reputation as an Indian fighter, lived in that part
of the county. One of his horses had been stolen, along with those of
his neighbors. Someone brought a report that a marauding group of
Karankawas was camped near a well-known landmark live oak tree. They not
only had the horses they had stolen, they were after more. Tomlinson led
a hunting posse on a scouting trip to surprise the ruthless red men.
They stayed away from the windward side of the camp, as winds carried
noises to human ears and scents to Indian dogs. It was early morning and
the warriors were gathered around their breakfast fire, heating rocks to
throw into their cooking vessels to cook their meals. The Indiana were
early risers, but Tomlinson and his men had risen much earlier and
planned their surprise visit in every detail.
A lone red man was up in the live oak tree, stationed there as
lookout or sentinel. His job was to give alarm in event of danger, or if
the hated Anglo-S axons approached. As everything was quiet, he
evidently grew drowsy and relaxed his watch. Even so, a rustle in the
grass was heard and the alarm given. The Indian in the tree was
uncomfortably near the white men; he fell out of the tree and hit the
ground running. At that time, the posse had their attention on the camp
fire and the sentinel escaped.
Firing began, with trusty cap and ball rifles aimed at the native
horse stealer. The tribesmen forgot about breakfast (not yet eaten) and
leapt to their horses. Some were instantly mortally wounded, but
probably more than half fled to safety.
This legend was based a true story, as well remembered and
authenticated by early residents of Bee County. Cap and ball guns have
been found on the premises, as well as money. Just what the money meant
in connection with Indian depradation has never been figured out.
Arrow heads and knives were also found on that very ground. There had
been a lake nearby and the Indians camped by it when they were in that
part of the country.
Those of the last marauding Indian group ever seen in Bee County, who
escaped this ambush with their lives, were pursued by the vigilantes
headed by Tomlinson in the hope that more of their horses might be
recovered. The horses left behind were gathered up and returned to their
rightful owners. (Some animals in the discarded herd had evidently been
stolen in other communities.) The number of horses were not very large,
by Indian terms. They had planned, no doubt, to take more with them.
It appears the tribe of thieves was never overtaken. Tomlinson’s men
had made it hot for them, and they were running at breakneck speed to
safer territory. The nomads turned to the west, headed for McMullen
County. The story was handed down that the red men beat a line to Sakala
mountain in McMullen territory.
Mr. Fox, highly regarded as an authority on the lore and history of
Bee County and frontier happenings, said the final battle with Indians
in this part of Texas occurred in neighboring Live Oak County, following
the one in Bee County by possibly three or four years. The name of the
tribe figuring in the Bee County or Live Oak battles was not known —
they were all just called “Indians.