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Raids and Murders in Burnet County

Source: Indian Depredations in Texas, by J.W. Wilbarger, p. 623


The first white man killed in Burnet county by the Indians, was Robert Adams, a stockman, who liven on Morgan's creek. He was killed in 1857, while out stock hunting. Evidently the Indians had chased him some distance before coming up with him at a ravine at the foot of a mountain. When his body was found the following day it had been fearfully mutilated.

In 1859, a small party of Indians came down into Burnet county, on a raid. They were discovered within a short distance of the town of Burnet, when a party of citizens collected and started in pursuit. General Adam R. Johnson, David Hunter, and Billy McGill, a lad of some thirteen years old, were among those who joined in the chase. A portion of the Indians took to the brush, while others fled across the hills, this side of the town of Burnet. General Johnson killed one of the fleeing party, and he, in turn, was slightly wounded in the nose. Billy McGill soon came up, took aim and fired, and at the crack of his gun, another Indian fell, but it proved to be a squaw. Billy, however, was after Indians, and he was not particular about the sex. The Indian shot by General Johnson was not killed on the spot, but was found the next day, with one leg buried in a pond of muddy water. Here he was despatched after being shot sixteen times.


In the spring of 1861, James Gracey, a lad about thirteen or fourteen years old., went to Thomas Dawson's ranch, situated some ten miles southwest from Lampasas, in search of some horses that had strayed from home. The next morning after reaching the ranch, young Gracey, in company with another lad, whose name we do not remember, went out to look for the missing horses. When they had gone a mile or so from the ranch, Gracey's companion left him for the purpose of shooting a turkey that had flown into a tree near by.

He had gone but a short distance when he heard the clattering of horses' hoofs, and looking back, he saw a party of fifteen or twenty Indians coming towards him, driving before them a large herd of stolen horses. Just then the Indians discovered young Gracey, and several immediately rushed upon him, and dismounting, they seized him, stripped him of his clothing and scalped him alive.

Then telling him to go, the little fellow started off, and as he did so, the Indians followed him and amused themselves by shooting him with arrows until he fell dead. All this time Gracey's companion stood terror stricken, and momentarily expecting that his turn would come next, but at the moment the Indians were about to rush upon him, their attention was drawn to another party coming up the road. It consisted of Mr. George Baker, of Austin, on horseback, his father-in-law, Mr. Austin, and his wife and infant, who were in a buggy.

Those of the Indians who could be spared from the herd, immediately attacked this party.; Mr. Baker, who was well armed, endeavored to cover the retreat of his family to some timber a short distance from the road. The Indians succeeded in wounding him, but Baker killed one of the foremose with his gun, which checked their advance temporarily, and he and his family were enabled to gain the shelter of the timber. Mr. Austin was an old man and unarmed, and of course could render no aid, but Mr. Baker kept the Indians at bay by firing upon them and wounding one or two others of the attacking party. Finally, however, he received a wound himself which disabled him, when his heroic wife seized his gun and used it so effectually as to keep the Indians at a respectful distance. In the meantime, young Gracey's companion had taken advantage of this diversion in his favor, to make his escapt, and finally reached the house of Thomas Espy, a mile or so from Dawson's ranch.

When Baker's family abandoned the buggy to retreat to the timber the horse luckily took fright and ran off at full speed towards Dawson's ranch. Just before he reached there he was overtaken and captured by several Indians who had pursued him. This, however, was witnessed by Mr. Dawson, who immediately mounted his horse and started for Lampasas to give the alarm. He had gone but a short distance, however, when he met some four or five men, all armed. He told them what had happened and of the probable murder of Baker and his family, whereupon the whole party hurried on to the rescue.

When they came in sight of Baker's family, Mrs. Baker was still "holding the fort" bravely against the enemy, and as soon as the Indians saw this reinforcement approaching, they hastily abandoned the field. Baker was conveyed to the house of Mr. Espy, where he was well taken care of and finally recovered from his wounds. This incident may have occurred in Lampasas, but must have been near the line if not in Burnet county.


In 1862, John McGill, brother of Billy McGill, who killed the squaw, was killed by Indians about five miles west of the town of Burnet. He and his brother Sam, his cousin, Marshal Thomas, and two other boys, the oldest one about fifteen years of age, were out looking for stock. They were discovered by a party of Indians, who immediately gave chase, and the boys fled toward the house of Thomas Shepard. Two of the Indians who were pursuing John soon overtook and shot him. The boy fell from his horse just as he reached the road. The other boys made their escape to Shepard's house. John, when found that night, was still alive, but died soon after his friends reached him.

During the spring of the same year, Skaggs and Vanhook were killed while out hunting stock on the San Gabriel, in Burnet county. The former lived in Burnet, the latter in Lampasas county.

In the month of February, 1863, Jonathan Ragle, Jackson and two young men by the name of Holland, who had been to mill to get their corn ground, on their return home, and within about six miles of the town of Burnet, were attacked by a party of Indians from an ambuscade. The men sprang from their wagon and rushed for a mott of timber. Ragle was killed just as he was entering the mott. Jackson was pursued a little farther and also killed. The Holland boys took refuge in a small thicket and defended themselves as best they could with their only weapon, a sixshooter. One of the boys finally received a wound, destroying his eyesight. The younger one, a lad some thirteen years of age, made such a successful resistance that the Indians finally left him. When night came young Holland left his brother in the thicket and made his way to the settlements. Upon repairing to the spot next day the citizens found the bodies of Jackson and Ragle. Holland was still alive but suffering terribly from his wound. He survived nearly a week. Ragle left a wife and two children.
[See Stories From Our Past - Maria Louisa Ragle Baker]

During the same year, while Waford Johnson, his wife and three children were returning home from a neighbor's they were fired upon by Indians lying in ambush near the road. Johnson, his wife and their eight year old daughter were killed instantly. The youngest child, an infant eighteen months old, was shot in the arm and thrown into a brush pile, where it lay until it was found next morning. The second child, a girl five years of age, made her escape, ran to the house and there met her aunt, who had just ridden up on horseback. She took the little girl up behind her, and fled to the house of Mr. Johnson's father.  [see obit of Katie Carolina Johnson-Proctor for more information about this incident]


In 1864 a party of Indians came on Sam Binion, about five miles north of Burnet. While attempting to reach a neighboring thicket he was roped, killed and scalped. A short time after this, J. T. Hamlin was attacked near the same place. While being pursued he picked up a charred stick. When the Indians would charge up near him he would present the stick. This ruse proved effective; the Indians thought it was a gun, and finally abandoned the chase. Not long afterwards, while plowing in his field, Hamlin discovered an Indian near him. He broke across the field, the Indian in close pursuit. When he reached the fence he was so exhausted he could not climb over. Turning around, he met a Tonkawa Indian face to face, who exclamed: "Me good Indian; me no hurt." Hamlin declared that, had he possessed the strength, he would have killed the young brave.

During the summer of this year, ____Benson went into the woods for some timber, taking with him his little boy, five years of age. While out in the woods, they were surrounded by Indians. Benson ran from tree to tree, trying to defend himself with his axe and an iron wedge, but he was soon killed and scalped.  His little boy was taken prisoner and kept for three years, but was finally ransomed by an agent of the United States at Fort Sill, and was returned to his mother in Burnet county, where he was still living a few years ago.

In the month of February, 1868, R. Smith, while out hunting stock, was killed, scalped and his body fearfully mutilated.

The Indians made frequent raids into Burnet county, and as a natural result, the citizens often had skirmishes with them. Among those who rendered efficient service to that section was Captain James P. McGill. He was among the early settlers of the county, and in 1863 and 1864 commanded a ranging company. In 1864, while scouting the country, his scouts reported Indian signs. He sent them out to look for the enemy, and they had scarcely gotten out of sight when Captain McGill heard savage yells about a mile distant. Repairing to the spot, he found that Captain Allen, who also commanded a ranging company, had engaged the enemy. McGill joined in the fight. He was wounded in the engagement, and a man by the name of Murphy was killed.


In 1870 a party of eighteen Comanches came down into Burnet, stole about one hundred horses, and left for the mountains. They were pursued by fifteen hardy frontiersmen, under Andrew Field. The Texans overtook them, when a running fight ensued, in which one Indian was killed, five wounded and all the stolen horses recovered. This ends our list of incidents in Burnet County.

See also Burnet County in "The West Texas Frontier" by Joseph Carroll McConnell, 1939.   



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