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Young County TX
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Young County
“Buried Here” Marker

“Warren Wagon Train Massacre”

Young County

By Barclay Gibson

We all do it. We try not to notice the funny noise the car has started making, or we try to think it’s our imagination when the refrigerator doesn’t seem as cool as it used to be, and we want to think that the drip under our water heater is just a leaky valve. I should have recognized the warning signs when I drove up to Walter’s house, and the first thing he said to me was, “Got anything to kill rattlesnakes with?” Followed by, “You carry a water bottle? I don’t go anywhere without a bottle of water.” My biggest clue for what I was in for was when he asked if I had ever ridden on a 4-wheeler. I knew it was too late when he said, “Here’s a cushion for you.”

Young County TX - Buried Here Marker
The "Buried Here" Texas Centennial Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

What sparked this interest I have in trying to locate the roughly one thousand old granite Texas Centennial Markers that were put in place all over the state back in 1936? I can’t say for sure. What could be easier than driving up to a historical marker beside the road and snapping a few pictures? Nothing to it. A lot of historical markers are like that. But one that has been the hardest, so far, to even be sure it existed, was the Young County “Buried Here” marker. It might also be called the “Teamsters” or “Warren Wagon Train Massacre” marker.

Buried Here; those are the first words engraved on the marker itself and often designates the marker’s title. Searching several websites that specialize in historical markers didn’t turn up anything. The 1938 book published by the Texas Centennial Commission doesn’t have this listing in its index, nor does the Texas Historical Commission have a page for it. Some local historians have heard of it. After several months of phone calls and searching the internet, I finally found one single picture of the marker. This was the first clue that the marker really existed. I called the photographer, also a local historian, and after grilling me as to who I was, whom I represented, and why I wanted to see the marker, refused to either tell me where it was or give me a phone number of someone who would. He deemed me too much of a novice, and I was unqualified to even see it.

Barclay Gibson

This was a real setback for me. Why did I want to see it? Now I wanted to see it even more. I decided to make one more phone call. This time a very nice lady gave me a phone number; I called it and was given another number. That was my first contact with Walter. There was no quizzing or hesitation, just “When are you coming?” He doesn’t own the property where the marker is located but has permission to go there. When he asked me about the rattlesnakes, I thought, well, on all Texas road trips I always carry extra fuel, two spares, three jacks, a shovel, first aid kit, cell phone, bed roll, and even bug spray in case my flat is in the middle of an ant bed. But I have nothing effective against rattlesnakes except for high top boots, which I immediately put on. I thought I would follow him to the marker in my truck and be on my way in fifteen minutes.

Walter said he would drive and to get in with him. I told him how much I appreciated him taking his time to show me the marker. He commented that he was seventy-six years old and had nothing else to do. Judging from the immaculate condition of his house, lawn and surroundings, I knew he had plenty to do, and he was always busy. Tropical Storm Hermine had just left the area and had dropped several inches of rain on her way to Oklahoma. We took off and headed down the road.

The first thing he showed me was the aluminum historical marker set out on the highway commemorating the death of the seven wagon teamsters back in 1871. Often these markers serve as available replacements for the granite markers that are inaccessible.

Warren Wagon Train Massacre
Warren Wagon Train Massacre Historical Marker
Hwy 16, 8 Miles NE of Graham

Warren Wagon Train Massacre

On Salt Creek Prairie (1.5 mi. W), On May 18,1871, Kiowas and Comanches from the Fort Sill Reservation, in present Oklahoma, attacked a train of 12 wagons owned by Capt. Henry Warren, contractor of supplies for U.S. forts in this frontier region. Seven teamsters were killed. The chiefs who led the raid were soon arrested, and Satank committed suicide. In a nationally spotlighted trial at Jacksboro, Satanta spoke with great eloquence on behalf of his people. Texas' Governor, E. J. Davis, later commuted the death sentences given by the court.

Next, we drove into his son’s place. It had a very nice house and several barns. Walter noted that he and his wife had built it, and it is now his son’s. Next door was the house where Walter grew up, and where his granddaughter now lives with her family. This is when he asked me if I had ever ridden a four-wheeler. I sure am glad he thought to bring cushions; I took them both. That passenger pipe rack on the back of a four-wheeler would have left grid marks on me for days. He grabbed two water bottles and his mini-oxygen tank, thanks to forty years of smoking, put them in the handy tray and said, “Hop on.”

At this point I must confess that I am not a professional photographer, but I like to go into an area in Texas, whether it is a ghost town, state park or a beautiful bypassed through-truss bridge, take as many pictures as possible, regardless of the sun or glare, and move on. My camera is nothing fancy, and I refer to myself simply as a “drive-by photographer.” I don’t carry a tripod or changeable lenses. Many of the accompanying photographs were shot on the move from the back of the four-wheeler.

Barn And Windmill
Barn and Windmill
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Mesquite Bushes
Mesquite Bushes
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Low Branches
Low Branches
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Walter and I took off out the back way, past an old barn and windmill, toward one of the few hills in the area. We circled around to the north side and started to climb. There are a lot of mesquite bushes in the area, and we dodged a lot of low hanging branches. I kept expecting the marker to come into view at any moment. The hill wasn’t very high, but it sure gave us a commanding view because we were so much higher than anything else around. We got to the top and hopped off.

Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Walter began to explain this is where the Kiowas and Comanches from the Fort Sill Reservation camped and were able to spy on any activity in the area, particularly the Butterfield Stage Route traffic between Fort Richardson near Jacksboro and Fort Griffin north of Abilene. There was another camp some distance to the northwest called Flat Top Mountain, for a quite obvious reason. Whoever occupied these two locations would be in control of the whole area. It was from this first camp in May of 1871 that the Kiowas and Comanches attacked a wagon train killing seven teamsters. The chiefs who led the raid were put on trial, but that is another story.

Hilltop View
Hilltop View
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

I was fully expecting to see the marker nearby, but clearly it wasn’t. I asked myself if this was all he was going to show me. Not wanting to appear unappreciative, I asked him about it. He pointed off the southeast, maybe two miles, and said it was near one of the pump jacks that the haze almost obscured.

As Walter and I went back down the hill, we backtracked around to the south and again turned toward the hill. At its base were the remains of a very well laid rock foundation about six feet high. The second floor of the house, now gone, was wooden and was entered from the hill. It was what we would call a split-level house today. This house was obviously built some time after Indians ceased to be a problem in the area. He said that Loving and Goodnight built dipping tanks for the cattle in preparation of their drive cattle north. A couple who lived in the house often took Walter fishing many years ago.

I asked if we were going to see the marker now. He said yes, but that we would take the pickup. Back at the barn I had to admit that my first experience four-wheeling was a lot of fun. Walter handled the four-wheeler very well and didn’t throw me off even once. Back in his pickup, as we drove back to the highway, he asked me if I had heard of Murphy Springs. Of course, I had not. It was a stage stand for the Butterfield Trail. Fresh horses were ready for the stage coaches as they passed through the area. He showed me its approximate location. The wagon train never made it to the stand that day.

Buried Here Marker
"Buried Here" Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Turning back east down a dirt road, we came to a gate which was unlocked. Walter noted that an oil field pumper was probably on the property checking on oil wells. We drove in and sure enough here came the pumper. Walter asked him to leave the gate unlocked, and we would lock it when we left. At last, off to the right I could see the marker. Very often these markers were just stuck in the ground without any concrete base, and cattle liked to scratch their backs on them. Given rain soaked soil and enough back rubbing, it was not uncommon for the 1,500 pound marker to topple over.

Young County Texas - Buried Here 1936 Texas Centennial Marker
Another view of the "Buried Here" Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Walter said this one laid flat on the ground for many years until sometime in the 1970s a group of men were able to get permission from the land owner to stand it back up with a concrete base and build a protective pipe fence around it. The marker looks every bit as good today as it did the day it was delivered over seventy years ago. Even now the back side has a soil stain that can’t be rubbed off from all those years it laid in the dirt.

"Buried Here" Marke Text
"Buried Here" Marke Text
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Walter and I locked the gate on the way out, and he asked if I was in a hurry. This was the last marker I had planned to see on this trip, so I had plenty of time. We continued down the road, and he would tell me whose property we were passing. We went past the place where his grandfather had built his first house. The old barn is about gone, but the large rock with the road number is still standing.

Young County History Tour Brass Marker
Young County History Tour Brass Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Young County History Tour Brass Marker Text
Young County History Tour Marker Text
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Most of the roads we had been on were dirt and gravel, but we came upon a place where the water was still standing. He asked me what I thought. Here we were, two men far from anywhere. Our total age was over 140 years (you can figure pretty close to my age), and while I still like a challenge, we knew it was best that to turn around. If we had gotten stuck, we would have had a whole ‘nother story to tell.

Jermyn TX - First Methodist Church Closed
Jermyn TX - First Methodist Church Closed
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

Jermyn TX First Methodist Church Marker
Jermyn TX First Methodist Church Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

We came into the small town of Jermyn, and Walter said there was an old church off to the south. I had already seen the church on a previous trip, but I would like to see it again. We saw the old closed and abandoned church, slowly deteriorating. I took several pictures of the outside and noticed one of the panels of the front door missing. He wanted to go in.

Jermyn TX - First Methodist Church Interior
Jermyn First Methodist Church Interior
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2010

The sanctuary looked just like it did when the last service ended. Everything was same except for the accumulating water damage from the leaky roof. The people just left and never came back. The song books were still in the pews; the piano was still behind the pulpit, and the Sunday School materials looked ready to be handed out. It is a sobering thought about what is happening all over the country to small town America.

Jermyn TX - First Methodist Church Piano
Jermyn First Methodist Church Piano
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2010

By the time we got back to his house, nearly three hours had past. It was time well spent. Walter knew nothing about me when we first spoke. I only came to see the old marker, but he wanted to make sure I knew what the marker was all about. Thanks to Walter and his love for the area I knew, at least a little more of the story of the Warren Wagon Train Massacre. I couldn’t have gotten that from reading a roadside marker for two minutes and driving on.

Lovely Cushion

One should never ignore warning signs. In this case I am glad I embraced them. We didn’t see or hear a single rattlesnake. We didn’t need the water or oxygen, and I am really glad I took those cushions to sit on. Thank you, Walter, for taking the time to put up with this “city guy” and showing him, firsthand, a portion of what made this country so great.

© Barclay Gibson October 1, 2010
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