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Occurred in what is now Cherokee County
October 5, 1838

Text & seven photos by Janet Gregg

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Killough Massacre obelisk
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Traveling with a newborn is hard work, whether you’re going by plane, car or bus. Imagine doing it without any of our modern transportation or other conveniences.

Imagine if you can a trip that normally takes one to two days today, taking nearly three months. Imagine walking or at best riding horse back or in a covered wagon during the fall rainy season, with no heat or air conditioning and few, if any, roads to follow.

Imagine having to gather firewood to cook and killing your own dinner. Imagine having no respite from bugs, wildlife or the weather. Imagine the men in your party having to literally at times carve a path through the wilderness in order to proceed further.

This is what it was like for the Killough, Williams and Wood families migrating a distance of more than 600 miles from Talledega County, Alabama to Texas in the fall of 1837. There were approximately 30 people in the party, including Isaac Killough, Sr. and his wife Urcey, who was 60 years old at the time; their four married sons Isaac, Jr., Samuel, Nathaniel and Allen; their two married daughters Mary “Polly” and Jane and their youngest child, a single young woman named Elizabeth. In addition, all of the married Killough children had spouses and children of their own, including two newborns. Mary “Polly” also had two single brothers-in-law join the group. Isaac, Jr.’s brother-in-law also joined the party.

That year, they gave themselves the ultimate Christmas present, a new home. On Christmas Eve 1837 their journey to a new life ended. They settled on land they had paid for with gold.
Vandalized Killough Massacre state historical market
Killough Massacre state historical market
The state historical marker vandalized
Click on image for enlargement to read text
At that time, under a law passed by the Congress of the Republic of Texas, each head of a family could purchase 640 acres of land and single men could purchase 320 acres, at 50 cents per acre. The only catch was all immigrants had to live in Texas three years in order to receive clear titles. It was good deal compared to the cost of land in the United States, which was selling, on average, for $1.25 per acre.

The tiny settlement was located near the Neches River, seven miles northwest of Jacksonville, which didn’t exist at the time, in what was then Nacogdoches County in the Republic of Texas.

Their closest neighbor was 40 miles away. Martin Lacy was a former Indian agent for the Mexican government. Lacy had built a fortified home and trading station on the Old San Antonio Road, located just off what is now State Highway 21, two miles southwest of Alto in Eastern Cherokee County. Lacy’s home was known to the settlers as “Fort Lacy”.

At the time, Texas had less than 57,000 people and fewer than two dozen municipalities. Residents included Anglo-Americans, Mexicans, slaves, a few free blacks and Indians; more than half of which belonged to civilized tribes. Sam Houston was President and the capitol was temporarily located in a new town called Houston, located on the Buffalo Bayou.

Throughout the winter, the Killough, Wood and Williams families built their homes and cleared their land. In the spring they planted crops including a large corn crop.

In August 1838, just as the corn was ready to harvest, rumors of an Indian uprising forced them to flee to Nacogdoches nearly 60 miles away. next page
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Text and photos © Janet Gregg
November 8, 2005

Writer’s Note: As with many stories handed down verbally from generation to generation, there are some discrepancies between the various versions that have been put into writing. I have taken all available information into account and tried to clarify and resolve those discrepancies, choosing the most likely scenarios for this article when a concrete resolution to a specific detail could not be found. - JG

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