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The adventures of
John Himes Livergood

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
In the days of early Texas, Lavaca County had its share of adventurous pioneers, and a man from Missouri, John Himes Livergood, can be counted as one of the best among them.

In October of 1836, Livergood made his way from Missouri to the Lavaca River and took up residence at the Zumwalt settlement. Over the years he was involved in many campaigns against Indians and the Mexican army. Livergood was part of the ill-fated Mier expedition and was captured by the Mexicans. Although he was one of the lucky ones and did not draw a black bean, which meant execution, he still spent some time in the prison at Peyote.

Livergood was elected Chief Justice of Lavaca County in 1850 and spent his entire life serving the people of this area. He served in what would later become the Texas Rangers, as well as several different units during the Civil War including the Lone Star Guards and the Texas State Troops. John Himes Livergood and his wife Sarah raised 13 children on their place near Mossy Grove. He passed away on Oct. 3, 1893.

The following is a story which has been told in the Livergood family over the years, and John’s granddaughter shared it with the Lavaca County Tribune on Jan. 29, 1960.

Expedition which saved little boy from Indians (Lavaca County Tribune – Jan. 29, 1960)

His granddaughter, Mrs. Roy S. Woods of Norman, Oklahoma collected a great amount of material about our pioneer, John H. Livergood, who was the county judge when Hallettsville became the county seat.

Here is a story about him in an expedition against the Indians who had killed a settler’s wife and daughter and kidnapped his 8-year-old boy:

During the Civil War, almost every able-bodied man, in Texas, was away from home and at the battlefront.

This left very few at home to protect their homes and the women and children. Therefore the Indians raided at will. They murdered old men and boys and women and children. They took many women captive and sold them to other tribes for slaves.

These conditions existed when the men began to return from the horrors of war at the battlefronts. Many of them to find their homes in ashes, their family gone and their cattle driven off.

One morning a man rode up to the home of John H. Livergood, and told him that a neighbor’s home had been destroyed and his wife and daughters slain and his little son stolen. The man had gone out to hunt game that day and when he returned, his house was a smoldering pile of ashes and his wife and daughters were lying about the yard, slain.

John H. Livergood saddled his horse and put some food into his saddlebags and was ready to go with a band of Texans to avenge the wrongs [against] his neighbor. They rode all morning without seeing anything of the Indians. Then about noon they found fresh tracks, all going in the same direction. They knew they were the tracks of Indians and probably the ones who had stolen the little son of Mr. Johnson.

The group of men rode that day and camped that night where the Indians had camped the night before, as there were coals of fire in the ashes where their campfire had been. There were fifteen Texans in the group with Abel Smith leading them. Mr. Smith told the men to eat and get all the rest that they could as he thought they would overtake the Indians before noon the next day. “I believe there are about twenty five or thirty Indians in the band,” he said, “maybe more, and we will have a stiff fight on our hands.”

Their horses were staked out near the camp and the men all lay down to sleep or rest, except one man, who was left to guard the camp. This man watched until about midnight, then woke one of the others and let him guard the rest of the night. He roused the others before daylight and they quickly ate breakfast, saddled their horses and were on the trail again as soon as it was light enough to see.

The Indians were traveling northwest. About the middle of the morning the Texans saw a bunch of cows and upon getting nearer they saw something else, which looked like a child. As they rode closer they saw it was a little boy, whom Mr. Johnson immediately recognized as his son. The child was completely naked except for the loincloth that the Indians wore. It was the custom of the Indians to strip the clothing off their captives as soon as they were taken.

The little boy, Dan, told what had happened at home and of his capture. “They left me near the camp fire and when they were all asleep I crawled away until I was out of their sight. Then I walked all night and this morning I found these cows and I thought the wolves would not bother me if I was with them, so I stayed.”

Mr. Johnson was happy to find his little son. He took the child up behind him on his horse and the little group of men continued on after the Indians. Mr. Smith had guessed right and they came up within sight of the Indians as they were stopped at noon to water their horses. They had stopped on a branch of the Big Sandy.

There was a ravine running at an angle from the creek and in this the Texans could get within shooting distance of the Indians without being seen. This they did and began shooting. The Indians were thrown into some confusion. They soon rallied and began shooting arrows in the direction of the Texans.

A hot battle ensued but the Indians were soon routed and some were captured and some killed while many of them escaped.

© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary
March 20, 2008 Column
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