Duncan Rich was not a woman to be trifled with.
Recently widowed, in 1850
she lived with her older brother John Bruce Duncan and other family members in
newly created Caldwell County. Not far down the road from their place lay Lockhart,
population 40, a collection of log cabins and only three plank buildings.
Early one morning, Rebecca and her niece, Susan Jane Ayres, happened to be on
the porch of the Duncan cabin when startled by an Indian woman who stuck her head
up from a place of concealment in a nearby draw. Then a male Indian raised his
head to look around. Apparently satisfied they could proceed unchallenged with
whatever they had in mind, the two Indians stood and faced Rebecca and Susan.
this point in Texas history, hostile
Indians posed no real threat in the eastern half of the state. How two Indians
came to be in Caldwell County went unexplained in a later telling of the story,
but it seems highly unlikely they had an attack in mind. Maybe they meant only
to beg for food, or perhaps hoped to steal grub or horseflesh. Whatever their
purpose that morning, they hardly constituted a war party. But back then, none
of that made much difference to a pioneer Texas lady who surely had heard stories
of Indian depredations.
E. Frey, who heard the tale from her grandmother Susan, later described what happened
next in “The Haynes Family Papers,” a privately printed family history published
“My Aunt Becky and Grandmother grabbed their guns without waiting
to call the menfolks, took aim and fired. Both Indians fell dead!”
Indians may have been shot in their tracks that morning, but Mrs. Frey’s hand-me-down
story has more holes in it than the unfortunate Indian couple. If the incident
happened in 1850, only Rebecca, at 21, would have been capable of aiming a firearm.
(Since she had to fire at least twice to kill the Indians, it must have been a
revolver.) Susan, the daughter of Rebecca’s sister Juliana Duncan Ayres, was only
a toddler. She had been born on Christmas Day 1848.
Her aunt Rebecca E.
Duncan, born in Georgia in 1829, came to Texas with
her family in 1836. When her father George Washington Duncan died in 1849 at Webberville
in Travis County, Rebecca and her mother Penelope moved to Caldwell County to
live with John Bruce.
Rebecca had married a man named Rich, but he died
not long after their nuptials. Within two years of the shooting incident, Rebecca
found another husband, Charles Haynes.
A Kentuckian, Haynes had come to
Texas in 1836 from Cincinnati in a company of volunteers
who called themselves the Buckeye Rangers. He fought at San
Jacinto, and settled in Caldwell County in 1848.
Not long after Rebecca
and Charles got married on Oct. 31, 1852, Penelope Duncan and her son decided
to move to what they called “the mountains” of Llano County. The Haynes’ joined
Susan and her parents apparently stayed in Caldwell County. On April
11, 1867, at 19, she married James Yates, an Englishman ten years her senior who
had arrived in Lockhart on New Year’s
Day in 1845. Yates had ridden as a Texas Ranger in the 1850s and fought for the
Confederacy during the Civil War.
In time, the cabin where Rebecca Duncan
had killed the two Indians got torn down, replaced by a creamery. During the construction
of the creamery, as Mrs. Frey put it, “the bones of those two children of the
forest (the slain Indians) were discovered.”
The problem was what to do
with the remains. Without going into the details of who made the call or when,
Mrs. Frey said “it was decided that since they were, in a sense, Susan Ayres’
Indians and since she had married into the Yates family, they should be in the
Yates plot at the cemetery. And that is how the two Indians came to be buried
with the people who killed them!”
Well, Susan Ayres Yates is indeed buried
in Section E of the Lockhart City Cemetery, but it was her nervy Aunt Becky who
killed the Indians. Susan died July 16, 1896. Her husband lived until 1922 and
is buried next to her. Fourteen of their kinfolks also lie in the Yates plot,
including Mrs. Frey, who died in 1963. While the cemetery’s long list of graves
does not include any mention of “Susan Ayres’ Indians,” there’s ample room in
the Yates plot to have accommodated their remains.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" June
11 , 2009 column
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