|Murder of the Dollahites in Blanco County
Allie B. Jenkins, Austin, Texas
as published in the Frontier Times
"Hear the children gaily shout, Half past four and school is out"
McGuffy couldn't know that in years to come gayly shouts of "half past four and school let out" would be turned into cries of anguish and bitter woe.
There lived in a particular section of Blanco county, Texas, a well known family by the name of Bird, of whom Rev. Joseph Bird was the head. He was fatherly, he was kindly. His home was a sort of charity hospital; it was a sanctuary; it was a fort in time of Indian raids; in fact, it was an all round, all purpose shrine.
From the name of Bird the village of Birdville came, but later known and even to this day it is sometimes referred to as Birdtown. However, in the Post Office Department it has always been known as Round Mountain, so named from a small round peak which is about two and one half miles from the colorful little mountain situated on the rugged stream of Cypress Creek.
Back in 1870, when the memory of the Civil War days were still fresh in the minds of children, J. C. Dollahite was engaged to teach a little school at Birdtown, thus contributing his aid to the reconstruction of patriotic Texas. Just back from the battlefield, he was still bemoaning the Lost Cause, but his sense of patriotism and duty led him to the little red school house. This school house - rather a little log cabin, for it was nothing more - was situated at the foot of the peak known as Round Mountain.
"Brother Daniel! Brother Daniel! I fear something terrible has happened to your friend Dollahite." These were the words uttered by Mrs. Jake Roberts as she alighted from her horse and sped into the dining room where Captain Dan Roberts was just finishing his breakfast. Quickly rising and facing the speaker Captain Roberts inquired of her the cause of her alarm.
"Last night," said Mrs. Roberts, sister in law of Captain Roberts, "I dreamed that I saw the body of your friend, J. C. Dollahite, lying on ice caked ground, and round it danced three black crows. Brother Daniel, this was not a mere dream. I tell you I know something terrible has happened to James Dollahite."
Capt. Roberts was not superstitious in the least, and treated the matter lightly, and tried to calm the lady, telling her it was only a dream. But at that moment a messenger arrived and reported that J. C. Dollahite had been slain the previous afternoon by a band of Comanche Indians.
It was half past four and school was out. The children had started happily on their ways homeward, with never a thought of the harrowing scenes to follow. A Mr. Jordan, who lived a short way back of the school house had that day butchered a yearling, and as a special act of courtesy to the popular schoolmaster, tendered the whole of a quarter of beef. Dollahite had fastened the beef to the saddle on the horse his ten year old son, Sammy, had ridden to school. The Dollahite family resided on the Louis Green ranch, about three miles north of the school, and in the neighborhood of Pecan, near Pecan Springs.
Mr. Dollahite and Little Sammy had not yet mounted their horses, but were walking and leading them. They had turned into the roadway and were preparing to mount, when the Indians suddenly swooped down upon them. Some of the school children saw the savages coming and ran to conceal themselves behind fences, trees, rocks, stumps, or any place that offered refuge. Thad Crownover scaled to the forks of a giant oak, carrying with him his tin dinner pail; Henry Wells made the supreme dash that carried him far beyond his home, and he never returned until next day at noon. A few of the children made their way to the village and gave alarm.
Among those yet living who registered as present that day are: Mrs. Mary Price Dodgen, Mrs. Amanda Price Galloway, Mrs. Mary Glass Crider, Mrs. Sue Bird Wolf, and Mrs. Docia Bird Collins. Mrs. Lizzie Dollahite Wagnon and Mrs. Alice Dollahite Lovelady had always been regular attendants at school, but on that particular day Providence intervened, it being extremely cold and raining they remained at home. Had they gone to school probably they would have met the same fate as their father and little brother, as possibly would have Miss Docia and Susie Bird, who contemplated spending the weekend with their school girl friends. Others who were in attendance at the school, but whose given names could not be obtained were: Crownover boy, Rucker boy, Kemp girl, and two Kemp boys, two Shugart boys and a Shugart girl, two Bird boys, and several others.
Those who occasionally reminisce the incidents connected with the tragedy are: Sue Ingram Sharp, Mary Price Didgen, Emil and Charles Klett, H. Glass, Bill Wolf, and our old ex-ranger friend, J. A. Patton.
It appears that Mrs. Dollahite had a resentiment that some sort of calamity would befall her husband, for she insisted that he take with him his gun. This he did, not that he apprehended any danger to himself or little Sammy, but to alleviate the fears of his wife. While the pistol contained only three rounds of, taking to the ammunition, he told her he thought that would be amply sufficient.
A woman living alone with two little girls near the school house saw Dollahite trying to rescue Little Sammy, when he himslef was shot in the wrist by an arrow. This disabled him to such an extent that he did not even have a chance to empty his gun of its three rounds of ammunition, though in the attack seventeen shots were fired. Mr. Dollahite fell and died in a very few minutes.
Joe Shugart, a tall, well built young man, living within one mile of the school house, hearing the commontion, hastened on foot to the scene of action. He had no weapon, and in order to ascertain the number of Indians and the direction in which they were traveling, he crept cautiousl near behind a stone wall. As soon as he felt that he was reasonably near, and yet distantly safe, he and raised up and peeped over the wall. The Indians spied him and probably believing that a large number of other men where at hand, hastily departed.
The Indians caught Dollahite's horse; Old Morgan, an iron gray, which they found they could not lead in a run, but the little black pony, on which was tied the quarter of beef, could not be caught, so he was shot to death. The Indians had secured a number of horses in this raid, among which Shugart recognized two as belonging to J. A. and C. C. Patton.
The Indians moved rapidly and in a northeast direction, skirting the site of what is now Marble Falls, from where they followed a course of the Colorado river and into the vicinity of Morman Mills.
A man and his wife, whose names cannot be recalled, were in the lot attending the cows and calves. It was about dusk. His ear caught the sound and clatter of horses' feet, and presently he saw what he thought was a band of Indians driving horses. He told his wife to climb over the fence and hide behind a brush heap, while he went to the house and brought forth two revolvers and a shot gun. He returned through the gateway, leaving the bars down purposely, and concealed himself in a fence corner. Just as he hoped for, the horses headed for the pen, and as they entered, he sprang from his hiding place and began and shouting and shooting. This had the desired effect, for it not only scared and scattered the horses, the full intention, but made the gathering darkness so dense with powder smoke and dust that the Indians were deceived into believing that a large force of white men was attacking them. Leaving the herd of stolen horses, they made a complete get away, taking to he hills and cedar brakes.
In this same hour and in the twilight gray another scene was being enacted. The news of the Dollahite murder had been carried to the villages. In haste men gathered and went to the little cabin school. With his revolver lying nearby, Dollahite's body was found. He was partly stripped of his clothing, but so eager were the Indians to escape they did not linger to scalp him. It was found that only two rounds of his ammunition had been discharged.
Mrs. Dollahite and her little daughters had the table set and a steaming hot supper ready to be served, awaiting the husband - the father and son that never returned. The rumble of wagon wheels over flint and limestone rocks attracted their attention. The sound came nearer. The wagon and its occupant made a distinct silhouette, for the moon was now shining almost as bright as day. The wagon rumbled across the little stream and up the rocky hill. A sudden stillness prevailed. It was Rev. Rucker, a Baptist minister who conveyed the sad news to the murdered man's family. He took Mrs. Dollahite and her children to the home of Rev. Joseph Bird, where grief held sway. Little Sammy had not been found, although a diligent search had been made for him. The only conclusion was that he was captive in the hands of the Indians. After taking Mrs. Dollahite and her children to the Bird home, Rev. Rucker went to the scene of the tragedy and conveyed the remains of Dollahite to the home of Rev. Bird.
The morning following the Dollahite murder, and before it was yet daylight, men went to dig a grave for the murdered school teacher, near the school house, and there at early dawn they stumbled upon the body of Little Sammy Dollahite, lying face downward, with a poisoned arrow sticking in his back - there only two hundred yards from where his father fell. The other victim was carried to the Bird home, and prepared for burial, and from there the remains of the father and son were conveyed to the new made cemetary, and both were buried in one grave.
Almost at the same hour on the day Dollahite was killed, J. C. Tate and C. C. Patton of Llano and Burnet counties, started on their return from Austin with a load of lumber. They were returning by way of old Mormon Mills, and after traveling throughout the night, reached that place early the next morning.
There at Mormon Mills they learned of the tragedy that had taken place at Birdville, and there, too, by a singular coincidence, they recovered the stolen horses which Shugart had the day before recognized as belonging to the father of C. C. Patton, as mentioned above.
In the middle of the week following the burial of the Dollahites, Wesley Dollahite, brother of the slain man, went to the Louis Green ranch and found the home just as Mrs. Dollahite had left it. - table set, and supper ready to be served. He gathered the kitchen utensils, furniture, and all belongings, loaded them into wagons and returned to the Bird home, where he picked up the Dollahite family, and it became his sad task to convey them to Lockhart, where for a short time they made their home with relatives. They never returned to Blanco county.
Many years after the episode the US government fully reimbursed Mrs. Dollahite for the loss of the two horses.
The logs of the little school house have long since decayed, but the mouldering rock foundation, partly submerged by the sod around it and partly overrun by ivy vines and sumach bushes, reposes silently in the
midst of a cluster of saplings, with here and there a moss draped oak as a sentinel stands gaurd. Only a barbed wire fence separates this remnant of early education in Blanco county from the grave of him whose life was given for the beginning of that education.
When Stephen F. Austin settled the first colonists in Texas it was estimated by the U. S. Indian Commissioner that number of Indians in Texas was 45,000, two-thirds of whom were Comanches.