Captive To A Band Of Indians
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 20, 1994
Although there are no documented Indian depredations in the Red River valley in 1837, rumors were persistent that the settlers in the area were subject to attacks from across the river. The still disorganized Texan government was of no help nor did the U.S. government seem to take much stock in the rumors and did little more than to order its Indian agents to investigate and report to Washington.
The perceived threat was real enough to those first groups of settlers who were faced with the rigors of establishing their homes in the new land. The ten or so families who had settled along central Bois d'Arc Creek were agreeable to Bailey Inglish's suggestion that a fortification should be constructed as soon as possible. So by late summer these families completed the second of the frontier forts which would stretch across the countryside.
One hundred and fifty seven years after its completion, the exact location of the original fort remains a mystery. There are, however, a few facts that make an educated guess possible. There is a strong tradition for fort building which dates from the American Colonial period. This tradition was widely practiced in Kentucky where Bailey Inglish spent his formative years.
Tradition required that such structures be erected on a rise of ground, if possible, in an area as open and free from trees and vegetation as possible. A water supply is essential in case of protracted sieges.(generally an unlikely event in the case of Indian warfare) Bailey Inglish's grandson, George Inglish, describing Fort Inglish said that a shallow well was dug within the stockade walls.
It was said that since the fort was being constructed at his urging, Bailey Inglish donated the land for the structure. Since Inglish's survey from the Republic of Texas contained 1280 acres it would seem that the fort could have been located at almost any point along Bois d'Arc in the eastern limits of Bonham today.
Actually at the time of the fort's construction Inglish did not have the 1280 acre land grant. Grants were not to come until about a year later. So, the fort must have been located somewhere near Bailey Inglish's compound. Later we will see his description of how his home was fortified as additional protection. If he was constrained to fortify his home, then it seems likely that the fort was actually some distance from the Inglish compound or camp as they were often called. This was done so that in the event of an actual raid, the action would be against the fort and the house and outbuildings might be spared. An interview with Inglish places his homestead a little north of west of a point near the location of Inglish Cemetery.
In what direction from the compound would Inglish have the fort located? Perhaps the best source of information comes from an interview with Smith Lipscomb in 1915. Lipscomb, who came to Bonham after the Civil War, bought a part of the Inglish farm from the heirs of Bailey Inglish. Lipscomb stated that when he took possession of the farm, the ruins of the fort could still be seen "about 200 yards north of my house."
The Lipscomb farm house was originally located on what is today east Ninth Street about twenty yards south of the intersection of Ninth and Lipscomb Ave. From that point, 200 yards north, would put us directly under the main building of the V.A. Hospital! Considering the grading, levelling, and site preparation that was done for the hospital construction it seems reasonable that all artifacts or other clues of the fort's location have long since been obliterated.
Although the fort seems to have been the focus of only one Indian raid, it served multiple purposes for those early years in the settling of Fannin County. Notably, it was the first public building in the area and as such certainly served as the nucleus around which the little frontier village was to develop. It was the site of the first post office in the central section of the area. And most importantly it became a major rendezvous point for the militia companies organized to lessen the threat from Indian raids.
In 1841 General Edward Tarrant issued a call for militiamen from throughout the Red River valley to rendezvous at Fort Inglish to join in a concerted effort to push the Indians further to the west and rid the valley of any additional threats to the safety and well being of the settlers. About 250 men responded to Tarrant's call.
Over a period of several days individuals and groups arrived at Fort Inglish well provisioned and prepared to bring to an end once and for all the Indian threat to the area.
One evening, as the troops continued to gather, William Cox who lived about four miles northeast of the fort, sent his young son and a friend to bring in the cattle for the evening. When the boys failed to return after a reasonable time, members of the household went down into the Bois d'Arc bottoms to search for them.
The cattle were found still grazing. A multitude of tracks and other evidence showed that the boys had fallen captive to a band of Indians. A messenger was immediately sent to the fort to enlist the aid of Tarrant's men.
Leaving only a small contingent of women, children, and elderly men at the fort, the militiamen were organized into several searching parties and sent out to look for the boys and their captors. Once the searchers were out of sight, a small band of Indian renegades launched an attack on the fort.
The effort seemed nothing more than an attempt to display their bravado. The Indians fired only a few ineffectual arrows in the direction of the stockade, circling the structure a few times. The captured boys could be seen riding behind two of the attackers.
The fort defenders fired a few shots at the band resulting in the death of an old squaw who fell to the ground from her mount. At this the band left riding to the southwest. Later that night the squaw's body was retrieved by some of the raiding party.
The boys were ransomed six months later and returned to their families. Tarrant's efforts were generally successful for after the rendezvous and subsequent encounters with various bands of Indians the threat of more raids and depredations lessened.
In the description of the fortifying of his house, Inglish stated that "I hewed out slabs for doors, made the walls of the house bullet proof, and cut port holes in the walls so that in case of attacks I would be prepared to shoot. The door fastened securely from the inside."
Note: Read more about Fort Inglish and see the beautiful tombstone of Bailey Inglish which includes a likeness of the Fort at the website of the Fannin County Historical Commission.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas