who read this column on a regular basis know that I am a real believer
in using old newspapers as a source to obtain historical data. I tend
to believe that eyewitness accounts found in newspapers, diaries,
and personal journals are more reliable than what some self-proclaimed
historian might conjure up.
not always necessary to go back 100 years or more to find articles
which document the past. Such was the case when I came across an article
from a 1958 edition of The Lavaca County Tribune. This particular
story originally came from a book titled "Recollections of Early Texas"
and was written by a man know as the "Bastrop chronicler." His real
name was John Holmes Jenkins.
Jenkins wrote mostly about the Indians in this part of Texas and his
assessment of the Native American is anything but flattering. He called
them "savages" and described them in a manner that might chill the
blood of any civilized individual.
Bastrop chronicler described one account where a band of Comanches
was given a beef by the settlers so they would have something to eat.
Evidently the Indians were starving and they acted friendly enough
that they convinced the Texans to feed them. According to Jenkins'
reminiscences, the Comanches proceeded to eat the cow before it was
completely dead. "They were eating its raw liver most ravenously while
the warm, red blood trickled from their mouths and down their chins,"
wrote the chronicler.
He also described one of the white settlers as being rather callous
as well. It seems the Texans had captured a Waco Indian woman along
with her little three-year-old girl. The woman killed her child and
tried to kill herself. Evidently she was almost dead by the next morning
and one of the men volunteered to finish her off. "Taking her to the
water's edge, he drew a large hack knife and with one stroke severed
her head from her body, both of which rolled into the water beneath."
Jenkins wrote that these were rough and cruel times and produced some
He said that of all the settlers who fell victim to the Indians, a
man named Josiah Wilbarger
was perhaps the most famous. Wilbarger was hunting one day with four
companions when the Indians attacked them. Two of the hunters escaped
and the next day a party of men from a nearby settlement found the
others. Of the three, two were scalped and dead. Wilbarger was found
sitting under a tree. Jenkins wrote, "[He] was scalped and crippled,
covered with mud and blood."
Another gruesome event that the Bastrop chronicler described was about
a fight between the Tonkawas
and those of the Waco tribe. He said that the Tonkawas shot and killed
one of their adversaries and then held a happy celebration. "They
cut off the hands and feet of the hated savage," said Jenkins, "and
boiled them together with some beef."
It's hard to imagine what our ancestors had to endure to colonize
this place. Nothing came easy on the Texas frontier and many of those
who ventured here, seeking free land, didn't live long enough to raise
a family or plow a single acre.
In his recollections, Jenkins told of one ten-year-old boy, Warren
Lyons, who was captured by Indians near Schulenburg.
Years later some white surveyors found him in San
Antonio and returned him to his mother. "The young Warren Lyons
returned to the American way of life, married and became one of the
outstanding Texas ranchers," Jenkins said.
The recollections of John Holmes Jenkins should remind us all of what
our forefathers had to go through so long ago. Their strength and
perseverance conquered the Texas frontier - through their many hardships,
they left us a legacy that we can be extremely proud of.