Winter 2002-Contributed by Peggy Fox
This is the continuation of the story of Henry W. Harris, as told by his son, Harvey H. Harris. This story was started in our volume I of the Spring Issue, 2002. (The spelling and grammar was left as written).
Father thought best for us to take steamboat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. We saw many sights and enjoyed this ride on steamboat. They had many entertainments for their cost mores.
We headed from New Orleans by ox wagon to Hillsboro, Texas. That was a long and rugged trip. But as there was plenty of game us boys enjoyed many wild adventures, killing many wild turkeys and sometimes a deer. We never used lines on oxen like horses but learnt right and left by hollern and a bull whip.
I remember one warm day we was coming down the hill and started to quit the road. Father begun to holer ge and haw, but the oxen paid no heed. But went down the hill in a steep place. Father holered to Dick to jump out and stop them, but the oxen paid no heed, but was gaining speed down the steep hill. Father sorter lost his religion. When Dick faild to stop the steers I remember he yelled out we were all going to hell because Dick wouldnít stop the steers. Father and the smaller children rode the wagon to the botam as the oxen was in a lope by the time they went into a hole of water. But as luck was with them, there was none of them hurt, and after several hours we succeeded in getting the wagon out and back on the road. Time never meant much to us people them days.
When we reached Hillsboro it looked like a paradise, with the finest land in Texas. The country was covered with wild cattle and horses, deers, and antelopes and all kind of game and lots of buffalo a little farther west. Father soon settled on some land 5 miles from Hillsboro, Texas. Us boys took up land adjoining Father. As barbed wire was not invented at that time it was a slow go trying to fence. There was no timber in several miles of our home. The most of people had to depend on watching their fields and keeping cattle run off.
Brother Dick and me soon begun work at ranches and braking wild horses. If we had no other employment we would often brake wild steers and with a gentle yoak of steer we did some freighting from Houston.
Fort Worth was a small town at that time just a fort. But people was pouring to that part of Texas from the eastern states, and all them little towns was growing fast.
They had begun to orginize County seats and electing officers in most of them little towns. The sheriffs tried to keep law and order the best they could but as most every man carried guns and knew how to use them most everyone was there own law. As lots of them fellows that had went into a few years before was returning to the west and with there past 8 or 10 years life of crossing the Rockeys and fighting Indians they was plenty tough. Most of the people went well armed on the account of the Indians which they kept pushed a few countys west.
The Comanche Indians often made rades on settlements and sold horses and often killing and sometimes sold women and children. The county northwest of Hill County, like Parker County and other settlements was suffering more from Indian attacks than Hill County.
A few years before we came to Texas the Indians had made an attack on a settlement in Parker County they had killed most of the Parker family. They had stolen two of the Parker children, a girl called Cinthia Ann and a younger brother. Some Indian traders had reported of seeing this Cinthia Ann with the Indian years after she was stolen by Indians.
There was considerbel lot of drinking in Hill County at that time and all over the settlements of Texas. My Father was not a perfect man but he was bitterly against drinking. Father may seem like a hard man to understand. He was a strict member of the Methodist Church, but I guess he was an old bulley, especially in his younger days. He was a large man and he never beleaved in taking anything from anyone. But he always used his fist or his walking cane instead of a gun. I have herd him tell how God would stand by him many times in his fights. He often said he would uter a prair before he got into a fight. I guess some people back them days looked at fighting and religion different than people does nowadays. Father was very commanding and he always expected his children to obey his commands.
In early 1860 I happened to be around home. There was a big country dance to be at a neighbors. I was preparing to go. Father told me not to go to that dance as there would be a lot of drinking there and there was some hard feelings and trouble was expected whenever they met. And those fellows was very high strung and both sides went well armed and as they was drinking men he was sure there would be trouble at that dance. But I was bullheaded like my Father and really wanted to see the excitement I went to the dance against Fathers orders.
I felt as I was 21 years old I should be my own boss. Like Father predicted those gunmen was at the dance well loaded with whiskey and pistols. They got in a few and commence shooting the house where we was dancing. I never saw people scater as they did. Some knocked down the door. One man was killed filled full of holes. Others shot some innocent people ran off slightly wounded by stray balls. Several young folks ran off and while running in the darkness skinned themselves up. Some young folks went out windows when shooting started and only one was killed while several was shot in the fight. My Father was still upset of me going against him and going to the dance the night before so I rode to Hillsboro.
There was a fellow making a speech on the street and telling of a massacre a band of Comanche Indians had done on a settlement of white people a few countys northwest from there where they mascried women and children and had stoled a bunch of their horses and had headed for the Indian country many miles northwest. He was asking for volunteers to join up with the Texas Rangers and help pursue the Indians.
Me and quite a lot of other fellows joined up with them, and headed after the Indians. We was under Captain Sull Ross the noted Indian faighter. We nvere took over that band of Indians before they reached their distination. But I was with the Texas Rangers for a year. We made many attacks on the Comanchie Indians which we folered them into their own country and we finally concured and subdued them for awhile. We was in many interesting fights, too many to relate.
One was on the brakes of the P----- River where we located there camps. We killed many Indians including their chief. It was in that fight we captured the noted Cinthia Ann Parker you have read so much about. The Indians had captured her when she was a small girl after murdering her parents. They had raised her and married her to their Indian chief. She had raised several children by this chief. One son you read so much about was the late Quanah Parker Indian Chief of the remainder of the Comanchie tribe. This Cinthia Ann had become sunburnt and looked like the other Indian Squaws. How come us to detect her from other Indian squaws; as a rule them Commanchie Indians is like coyotes, they will fight and run until they die or get away. In the thickest of the fights after we had killed her chief and he had fought until the last breath and the women and children were running like quails. This Cinthia Ann Parker thrower up both hands and hollered Massacre in broken English. She had some of her children with her. We first thought she was only an Indian squaw as she was so black and we happened to notice she had blue eyes. She had not offered to talk any more after her surinder. We was talking of her blue eyes and looked like our people one of the rangers remarked something about Cinthia Ann Parker. She said Me Cinthia Ann. We later delivered her and some of her children to her uncle which lived in Parker County. But they say Cinthia Ann was never satisfied in civilization and always seemed to be in deep grief. Probably she had been with them Indians so long and loosing her chief it was more than she could take. Her son was highly egecated and made chief of the remaining Commanchie Indians. Nothing definite was ever known what became of Cinthia Annís brother that the Indians stold when she was stold.
Some Indian traders say he stayed with the Indians and they had saw this boy after he was grown and he was a brave Indian warrior. It is said him and some more Indian warriors rode on raids on some Mexicans south of the border and they had captured a young Mexican girl. They say him and this Mexican girl became in love with each other later. And wonce while the Commanchie Indians was traveling this boy took the small pox and several other Indians. This boy was left to die as they never knew how to treat small pox and this Mexican girl ask to stay and take care of this boy. It is said she stayed and took care of him until he was well and they married in Indian ways of marriage. They raised a family as that was all he knew. He was probably too young to remember who his people war.
The Tonkeway Indians had trouble with the Commanchie. As the Tonkeways was a cowardly, lazy, and filthy Indian and not much fighters they was afrad of the Commanchies. They appealed to the government for protection from the Commanchies. I can say one thing, they served as real guides. The could trot all day like a dog and could trail them Commanchies like a long eared hound. They would put thie head down and look like they was smelling their tracks. When they came in sight of the Commanchies, they would fall back until after the fight and then they would want to take their tomahawks and start scalping the dead and wounded Indians. They were sure afrade of the Commanchies. We tried to watch that and not let them scalp the dead and wounded.
Them old Tonkeway guides could do without anything to eat for two or three days on a scout. But they would make up when they got around food they was as hard to fill up as a greyhound.
When them Tonkeways first became around our camps us boys that was not used to Indians thought it odd to have them eat with us. They would point to the sun and say me come back tomorrow. They would bring another Indian with them and everyday they would add another Indian. They would be eating all our feed up. We found we would have to chunk them off like a bunch of hungry dogs.
There was no settlements in the west them days, nothing but roving heards of
bufilos and deerd and antelopes. Of course there was government forts every few
hundred miles. Over
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona at all the forts they generly kept a bunch of soldears or Texas Rangers. You understand this country had only been taken over from Old Mexico a few years at that time. The government had to pu soldiers or Rangers at all them forts to protect our country from Indians. We was around old Fort Balnap more than any of the other forts. We would go on scouting trips after Indians when we left the forts and we had to use pack mules to take a little bedding and provisions on them scouting trips. Of course, we had plenty of meat from buiflos and dears and wild game.
I remember one long Tonkeway Indian which was a scout or guide for us. I never liked that long jointed filthy Indian. I guess one reason I always thought I could hardly be beat as a marksman with my pistol. Some of the boys matched that Indian shooting against me. They bet me a dollar a shot. Me using my pistol and the Indian his bowanirer. The Indian beat me shooting and I lost several dollars.
Of course they all had a joke on me and I never heard the last of that for several days. One day several days after our shooting match we was all laying around resting as we had been behind on sleep and we was all sleeping. This old Tonkeway Indian had one foot propat up with his long toe nails looked to be a half inch long or never looked to of been cut. He was snowering until I could hardly sleep besides the odar from his old stinking body which I donít supose had ever took a bath.
I got to looking at that long toe nail. I decided it would be a trick to shoot the toe nail off of his toe. So I took a steady bead on the toe nail while every body else was asleep. I guess I took to fine a bead, the bullet took a little bit of his big toe. Just enough to make him turn summersets and take on like a dieing calf. At the sound of the shot and the Indian turning summersets woke every Ranger up with his gun in his hand. I seam to be as much surprised as any of the rest. No one could figure where the shot came from. No harm done the Indian quit limping in a few days.
Bow and arrors was all them Commanchies was supposed to have. But many them had good guns and planty of carteges and knew how to use them.
You understand there was always traders with the Indians. Some of them traders was all o. k., but many of them would do anything for the money like some people is today. It was a heavy penalty to sell Indians guns and ammunition. But like bootleggers, there was always some traders would boot leg Indian guns, ammunition, whiskey, or anything for money. Some of them traders would spend many years or most of their lives trading with Indians. Some of these fellows was white and some half breed Indians. Some of them would double cross the whites and would agitate the Indians in robbing and stealing. Some of them furnished guns and was leaders of the Indians. Many traders was not to be trusted and was very treacherous.
The Commanchis Indians would get behind trees and brush and try waylaying us as we were running other Indians. One day as we had a bunch of the Indians on the run a Commanchie Indian was hiding behind a tree and almost got me with his bow and arror. I jumped behind another tree. Him and I had an interesting fight for awhile as one of us would peep around the tree to shoot, the other would peel the bark in the others face.
Finally as he peeped around to shoot I got him with my pistol. If we never got them a dead shot they would die griting there teeth and pulling their bow. Indians never stood up and shot it out like soldiers it was always a running fight. We could always expect Indians to be behind rocks and brush. Sometimes they would try slipping up and charging when they thought we was unexpecting them. But as we had the best guns and knew how to use them, we always put them to fight.
The Indians thought they was badly treated. As us white people had been pushing them back from their hunting grounds for hundred of years. There was many many treaties made with the Indians. But both sides in many cases was to blame for breaking them. I had many close calls and came very near getting killed many times by the Indians.
One time we had followed the Indians all day. We had to make a dry camp without water. Under the camp in a canyon we could hear water from a spring running. Our captain ordered none of us to undertake going to that spring after water that night. He told us it would be very dangerous. He has us to keep a heavy guard that night. I was vary thirsty when I was on duty. As I had not saw an Indian all day and as I was very thirsty and hearing water running from that spring made me more thirsty. I decided I would slip down to the spring and get my cantean of water. As I was filling my cantean with water at the spring an arrow was shot from an Indian in the dark that almost glazed my head. I left the cantean and crept back to camp where I was on guard. I thought no more about wanting water.
Next mornign I went to the spring and looked things over. There was the arrow that was shot in the bank above the spring that was shot just over my head when I was filling my cantean. A few yards from the spring was the Indian tracks where looked like he had been there all night, waiting for some of us to come to the spring after water.
On one of our scouting trips we had follered the Indians for several days. The Indians had been burning the grass behind them...so our horses would have no grass. As we failed to overtake the Indians and our horses was badly wore out and no grass to eat we headed back for old Bell Knap which was located up the Brazos River. Which was on the frontier at the time.
As we failed to see an Indian that trip and after a couple of three days travel on the way back to the fort after more provisions. We was all wore out as well as our horses and as the Indians had kept the grass burst from our horses was almost starved. On this night I speak of our captain did not think it necessary to keep a guard. Most of us boys so badly wore out we was all soon sound asleep. Some of the boys had hobbled there horses out so they could pick around and find a little grass that the fire failed to get. Several of the horses turned loose to rest and find more grass. I staked my horse to a tree with my lariat rope.
The Indians had been folwing us to get our horses. As we had no guard and all sound asleep, we was a wakening with an afful roar that almost waken up the dead them Indians came thru our camp; all yelling there best and beating raw hides and everything that would make a noise.
We all came up with our guns in our hands, but it was a dark night we never got a Indian. They stampeded our horses, and like a whirlwind they was all gone. The horses that we thought was given out taken new life when they smelt and heard them Indians.
Horses and mules seem to be afrade of Indians like they would wild animals. Some of the boys had there horses tied with old ropes, they broke their ropes and was gone. The Indians which was raised out doors and acustum to prowling around of night seem to see much better of a night than white men. The Indians got off with our horses and left the Rangers afoot. As I had my horse tied with a strong rope he failed to brake the rope. Next mornign our captain ordered the saddles and what bedding and provision we could not take along piled up and burnt, to keep the Indians from coming back and getting them. It was quite away back to old Fort Belknap but as we had our rifles and there was lots of game, we managed to get back to the fort.
The day before we reached the fort we found a new saddle near a spring of water. There was fresh Indian mockerson over the brushy creek thinking we would soon locate the Indian. But as we failed to find the Indian we went back to the saddle and it was gone/ While we was tracking the Indian he had slipped back and got the saddle and got away.
We finally reached the fort and after resting up and getting remounted and provisions and more pack mules we set out again for the Indian country. That trip we got quite a number of Indians and several of our horses back.
By earlie 1861 we had the Indians killed and pushed back and more peace treaties with them. By that time the Civil War had begun. Several of us boys decided to quit the Ranger Service and enlist with the south in the Confederacy.
(To be continued in the next quarterly)