by Mike Cox
most states of the Union or those of the Confederacy, Texas fought two wars during
the Civil War.|
One war, of course, was the bloody struggle against the
North. Texas sent tens of thousands of men to fight for the Southern cause in
a mass fratricide that cost 600,000 lives and ruined many more lives. The second
war was primarily one of self-defense against hostile Indian tribes taking advantage
of the absence of the U.S. military and the state’s preoccupation with the larger
The Texas government tried to keep state troops, Rangers, or at times,
regular Confederate soldiers scouting the frontier to ward off incursions. That
effort provided some measure of safety, but for all practical purposes, Texas
had to contract its frontier more than a hundred miles during the war.
brings us to a story connected to Elizabeth Russell Baker of Erath County. Recently
widowed, she was awakened one night during the war by the loud cries of owls near
She knew enough about the frontier to know that Comanches often
imitated owls to communicate with each other at night. As she listened in growing
terror, she could distinguish several different owls. Indeed, they seemed to be
signaling each other. Clearly, Indians had encircled the log home she shared with
her five children.
Mrs. Baker stayed in bed, listening to the hooting,
thinking the end of her life had come. Soon, she would join her late husband across
the great divide. She hoped only that the end would be quick.
of her children? She could hear their slow, steady breathing as they lay deep
in sleep, oblivious to their pending fate. Perhaps, she prayed, the Comanches
would spare them.
Having only a quilt for a door, she knew she stood no
chance if the Indians decided to rush her cabin. She figured their hesitation
came only in their uncertainty as to whether the cabin’s occupants were few or
many and whether they were armed. Probably the Comanches were counting horses
in the pen, animals they would be stealing soon enough.
As she listened,
trying to make her final peace, the owls seemed even closer to her cabin. It would
be over in a few moments, she thought.
Then a sudden resolve swept over
her. If she had to die that night, she saw no need to wait any longer.
off her cover, Mrs. Baker jumped out of bed and went straight to the door in her
night gown. Jerking aside the quilt, she looked out into the moonlit night and
yelled as loud as she could: “Come on and get me if you’re gonna get me!”
for arrows in her chest, all she heard was the flapping of wings as a tree full
of startled owls took flight.
before the war, Indians nearly spoiled a wedding. On Jan. 28, 1859, a preacher
named William “Choctaw Bill” Robinson was ready to unite a Coleman County couple
in holy matrimony. But before he could ask the traditional question of whether
anyone knew a reason why the couple should not be married, a raiding party of
Comanches swooped down on the gathering and kidnapped the bride-to-be.
Friends of the groom and other men who did not kindly abide Indian depredations
saddled up and pursued the young woman’s captors. Finally catching up to the fleeing
raiders, the men skirmished with the Indians and managed to recapture the lady
who had been snatched from the altar. When the Coleman County posse returned with
the bride, the wedding proceeded.
long after the Civil War, a family who lived in a cabin on Armstrong Creek in
Erath County were just about to sit down to supper when a Comanche Indian burst
into their residence and wolfed down all their food.
R.D. Ross took the near-starving intruder to Dublin
and insisted that people there treat him well. The Indian who had invited himself
to dinner stayed for a few days with the Bill Keith family. Once he had recovered
sufficiently to travel, he managed to thank his benefactors and assure them no
further Comanche raids would occur in the Dublin
Whether the grateful Indian had anything to do with it, or whether
it was merely because the U.S. military and Rangers were making progress keeping
the frontier safe, no further attacks occurred in the Dublin
area. Thereafter, folks took to calling Rev. Ross “Comanche Rube.”
"Texas Tales" February
19, 2009 column
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