like other pleasurable things, can get you in trouble if you aren’t
Anyone interested in good health has read of all the ill effects attendant
to the consumption of sugar, from blood-glucose issues to mood swings
to weight gain. But in early-day Texas, basically all that anyone
understood about sugar (in its various forms) was that it tasted good.
They surely must have realized that over-fondness for cakes and pies
could lead to a big belly, but people burned so many calories before
the advent of motor vehicles, heavy equipment and television that
corpulence was not nearly the problem it is today.
Even so, back then satiating your sweet tooth could get you dead much
faster than the time it takes to die of heart disease or the complications
of diabetes. As men along the frontier learned the hard way, a surprising
number of times a hankering for sugar could leave you with an arrow
quivering in your chest or a tomahawk-cleaved skull.
1857, for instance, Comanche’s raided into newly created Kerr
County. A former Texas Ranger named William Kelso recruited six
other young men to ride after the Indians. With Kelso calling the
shots, Spence Goss, Jack Herridge, Newt Price, Tom McAdams, Daniel
Murff and Tom Wherry headed up the Guadalupe
River from the small shingle-making community of Kerrsville
(the “s” later got dropped) in search of the warriors.
Rather than Indians, the armed volunteers found along the river a
tree sheltering a large bee hive. Happy to have stumbled on a source
of honey, the party dismounted and proceeded to help themselves to
globs of the sweet stuff. Whether they gorged themselves or merely
sampled it and saved it for supper is not known, but in their preoccupation
with sugar, they let their guard down.
The Comanches they had been trailing doubled back on the young men
and saw them happily foraging.
That night, after the Texans made camp and had their supper and honey,
the warriors went to bed early to rest up for a day-break attack on
their pursuers camp.
When the Indians swept in on the out-numbered men, Murff was the first
to die. Wherry caught an arrow in his chest, but managed to escape
into the brush along with a wounded Goss. The other men also suffered
wounds in the surprise attack. Price later died of his wound. Some
accounts say all but one of the men eventually succumbed to their
Goss found a cave, and like the wounded animal he was, holed up in
fear that the Indians might still be looking for him. At night, he
crawled out only long enough to collect wild mustang grapes.
Once he had his strength back, he started walking downriver to the
settlements. A man out bear hunting found him and got him home. Goss
lived on for another 36 years, but chances are that honey never tasted
quite so good to him.
The Kerr County incident,
today known as the Boneyard Crossing fight, was not the first
time that preoccupation with a bee hive got Texans in trouble with
the spring of 1837, two ranger companies operated out of a post called
Fort Milam, a log stockade near the Falls of the Brazos in present
Falls County. Either on May 11 or 27 (records are unclear), Ranger
James Coryell and four colleagues came across a bee hive near Perry’s
Stopping to enjoy a sweet bit of nature’s bounty, the rangers raided
the hive. As they enjoyed their snack and talked, a dozen hostile
Caddo slipped up on them and attacked.
For some reason, only three of the rangers had taken their rifles
with them, and one was unloaded. Coryell grabbed one of the loaded
firearms and got a shot off at the Indians about the time three of
them fired at him. As he fell gravely wounded, two of the outnumbered,
out-gunned rangers fled for their lives. A third stood his ground
and raised one of the other rifles, but it misfired. Meanwhile, the
Indians fell on Coryell and scalped him. Seeing that, the last ranger
made his escape.
The 40-year-old Coryell, who had survived an earlier Indian fight
in present McCulloch
County along with future Alamo
hero James Bowie, was buried in the vicinity. Over time, the location
In February 2011, after reviewing an oral history concerning a one-time
slave community in Falls County, Texas Historical Commission archeologists
and a team from the Smithsonian Institution exhumed remains from a
solitary, rock-covered grave near Bull Hill Cemetery not far from
where the Indian attack is believed to have occurred.
An assortment of human bones went to a laboratory in Pennsylvania
for DNA sample extraction. At the same time, a descendant of Coryell
living in Missouri provided a DNA sample for comparison. Test results
proved inconclusive, but circumstantial evidence indicates the remains
are those of the long lost ranger.
The committee which makes the call on whether someone is eligible
for burial in the State
Cemetery has approved the ranger’s reinternment there, but according
to a cemetery staffer, Coryell’s remains are still in the possession
of THC. When he does go back in the ground, maybe his grave marker
should point out that he came to a bitter end over a bee hive.
© Mike Cox
- July16, 2015 Column
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