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Texas | Columns | Somewhere in the West

Woman of the Apache

by Linda Kirkpatrick

Many accounts are told of the April 18, 1881 incident at the McLaurin Ranch in the Frio Canyon of Texas. Kate McLaurin and Allan Lease were killed but the raiders had compassionately left the McLaurin children alive. But you must understand that the story does not begin nor does it end on this day. Many historical accounts are linked to one another and a small glitch in history could have changed many of the outcomes. This particular raid occurred a few miles north of the town of Leakey, Texas. Just one small change could have altered the lives of many, including one Apache woman. In a few of the accounts of this tragedy, it is mentioned that an “Indian woman” rode with the Buffalo Soldiers and the Black Seminole Scouts as they tracked these raiders into Mexico. The “Indian woman” had to have a name, she had to have a family and she had to have a story. All did emerge, but to understand her story you must know the situation in Texas at that time.

Apache Chief Costelitos, Teresita and Black Seminole woman
Apache Chief Costelitos, Teresita, and unidentified Black Seminole woman
Photo courtesy Daughters of the Republic of Texas

The Indian Wars of Texas

President Ulysses S. Grant was convinced that he could calm the conflicts between the settlers and the Indians in the West. He put together what would be known as “Grant’s Peace Policy”. The consensus of the policy states… “the old ways of dealing with the Indians was not working, new ways, which emphasized kindness and justice, must be tried.” The ideas of the policy would later die, along with many settlers and Indians, on the plains of Texas.

In May of 1871, on a Texas plain known as Salt Creek Prairie, a group of Kiowa attacked and killed the teamsters of a wagon supply train. The Indians bypassed a smaller wagon train that carried the General in Chief of the U. S. Army, William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman knew that something had to change. The grave results of Grant’s Peace Policy and the Salt Creek Massacre would impact the history of the West until the late 1880’s.

Sherman realized the strength of the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa and Kickapoo in Texas. In April of 1873, General Belknap, the Secretary of War and General Philip Sheridan arrived at Fort Clark, Texas, supposedly to inspect the troops. However, a secret meeting was held with Captain Ranald Mackenzie. His orders were to control the situation and to do it his own way. The troops stationed at Fort Clark knew that they were not supposed to pursue the Indians into their strongholds in Mexico but McKenzie, in charge of troops at Fort Clark, felt that he would be supported in making this one raid.

The Capture of Teresita

John Lapham Bullis and thirty-four Black Seminole Scouts joined the six troops of the 4th Cavalry under Mackenzie. They left Fort Clark under a cloak of secrecy. The secret was reveled as they crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico.

On the morning of May 18, 1873, McKenzie led the attack on the Indian village of Remolino, Mexico. What happened that day would eventually become part of the McLaurin tragedy. The troops had moved fast to reach the camps. They pushed hard through the heat, dust, mesquite and prickly pear. It was early morning when they thundered down on the sleeping village. From Mackenzie’s view, the surprise attack had been a success. He ordered the village burned. Renty Grayson, a Black Seminole Scout, roped the Apache Chief, Costelietos. The exact number of how many were killed that day is unknown. The wounded were left to die. A few escaped and those who could travel were taken captive. One of the captives was young woman named Teresita, the daughter of Costelietos.

The trek back to Texas was long and hot but Costelietos and Teresita endured and eventually made their home in a jacal on the compound of Fort Clark.

Late April, 1881

Teresita peered out from the door of the jacal to see what the disturbance could be. Several of the men were coming back from the main compound in Fort Clark. Her husband, Black Seminole Scout, James Perryman, told her to get ready. Teresita was a good scout and tracker. She assisted the Scouts on several occasions. Even though she was unsure of his demand, she packed supplies and left the children with a woman from a near by jacal. Where they were going and what they would be doing, she was afraid to ask.

Teresita loved to track. She felt honored that she was allowed to ride along with the men. As the daughter of a chief her life had been better than that of the other captives.

The posse from the Frio Canyon had brought the news of the raid on the McLaurin homestead. These determined men had been trailing the Apache who had killed Kate McLaurin and Allan Lease. They reached Fort Clark after days of riding in wet weather. The posse then turned the pursuit over to the troops. It was obvious that the Apache had retreated into their safe haven in Mexico.

The troops followed the trail into Mexico. Teresita realized that this was her tribe being pursued. She attempted to ride away. Her goal was to either warn the Apache or lead the soldiers off of their trail. Eventually she was subdued. The soldiers tied to her saddle to prevent her escape and it was there she remained until they returned to Fort Clark.

The quest of the troops was successful. The Apache were found. Clothes and items in the camp were later identified by John McLaurin as those belonging to his family. When all was said and done only one Apache woman and a young boy survived, they would live the rest of their life on a reservation.

It is possible that this was the last trek into Mexico for the troops and that the incident at the McLaurin’s was the last conflict in Texas. Accounts are sketchy at best.

It has been written that Teresita died in 1881, the same year as the McLaurin incident. It makes one wonder why she died so young. Was it natural causes or a tragic death? Her life was greatly altered the day of her capture in May, 1873. It is believed that she was the mother of two sons. There are people walking the streets of Brackettville, Texas carrying the Perryman name. Could these be her descendents? Teresita is supposedly buried in an unmarked grave in the Black Seminole Cemetery at Brackettville, Texas.

© Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West
August 2 , 2007 Column

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The story of the Last Indian Raid in the Frio Canyon and possibly the entire state of Texas.

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