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Creed Taylor

by Clay Coppedge

Given a chance to talk to anyone from Texas history I would not pick Sam Houston, Davy Crockett or even Bigfoot Wallace but instead I would like to hear the stories of Creed Taylor because he saw more of the most interesting pieces of Texas history than anybody else. He was one of the fortunate few who grew up with Texas and one whose personal history most closely matches the state’s.

Born in Alabama in 1820, he came to Texas when he was four years old. Creed was 15 when he defended the “Come and Take It” cannon at Gonzales, one of the earliest skirmishes in the fight for Texas independence. By the time he was 16 he had served as a soldier and scout in the revolution, led his family to safety during the Runaway Scrape following the fall of the Alamo, and hooked up with the Texas army again in time to fight at the Battle of San Jacinto.

With independence won, Creed Taylor turned his attention to fighting the Comanche. He was at the pivotal Battle of Plum Creek, the beginning of the end of the Comanche reign in Central Texas. He was with Matthew Caldwell at that battle and also fought Comanches with Col. Jack Hays at Bandera Pass and participated in many other skirmishes.

When a renegade soldier of fortune gathered forces to take back Texas for Mexico, Taylor volunteered for duty again and turned back the advancing troops at the battle of Salado Creek near San Antonio. There, Hays and 50 or so men lured the Mexican soldiers from the confines of the Alamo into a trap set by Caldwell. Taylor, Henry McCullough and half a dozen other men covered Hays’ furious race back to Salado Creek. During the chase the 20-year old Creed Taylor and McCullough escaped an estimated 100 to 200 shots without a scratch, though Taylor was wounded later in the battle.

We see Taylor in the historical record again in 1846 with the Texas Ranger during the Mexican War, where he served with Samuel H. Walker, who is perhaps best known as the namesake of the Colt Walker firearm. In 1864, at the age of 44, he signed up with Col. John S. “Rip” Ford, another man who got to see a lot of Texas history first-hand.

One of the stories for which Taylor is known today concerns his role in a grisly prank played by Bigfoot Wallace and recorded for posterity by J. Frank Dobie. An erstwhile officer in the Mexican army known as Vidal used the ruse of being a Texas patriot to establish a horse-stealing ring. The thefts were invariably blamed on the Comanches. One day when Creed Taylor was away fighting a band of marauding Comanches, Vidal and his gang gathered up a bunch of horses and headed off toward Mexico with them.

Among the horses thus obtained were some that belonged to Taylor and some more than belonged to a Mexican rancher named Flores; Taylor and Flores set off in hot pursuit. Along the way they met up with Bigfoot Wallace, whose heart overflowed with joy at the prospect of chasing down some horse thieves.

The three men eventually caught up with Vidal and killed him and his compadres. They cut off Vidal’s head and tied the rest of the former rustler onto the back of a mustang and sent the horse and rider off into the world to establish the enduring story of the headless horseman of South Texas.

As for Taylor, he returned to ranching and was present for the entire Taylor-Sutton feud, the longest running and bloodiest feud in the history of the state. The killing and counter-killing and collateral damage went on for the better part of two decades but Creed Taylor lived on.

Late in his life he supposedly told his story in the book “Tall Men With Long Rifles” but the title alone suggests there may be problems with the narrative. Historian Charles M. Yates has studied the manuscript and correspondence relating to the book and concluded that there is no evidence that the author, James T. DeShields ever actually talked to Taylor.

If I could, I would.


© Clay Coppedge
December 9, 2011 Column
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