Depredation in the Sulphur River Valley
Bonham Daily Favorite, February 27, 1994
Even with large forts and stockades scattered throughout Fannin County, many located too far from these refuges to take quick shelter from surprise Indian raids. Undoubtedly many settlers did as Bailey Inglish did and actually fortified their cabins and out buildings in such a way as to provide a reasonable defense against the marauders.
One family that took such measures were the Gilbert’s who had settled on Bois d’Arc Creek about five miles south of Fort Inglish. Family patriarch Mabel Gilbert brought his family to Fannin County in September of 1837 probably about the time that Bailey Inglish and his neighbors were in the midst of constructing Fort Inglish.
Almost from the beginning of their homesteading on the creek they were subject to little annoying incidents involving roaming groups of Indian. Often the family would discover that in the night a horse, or cow, or even chickens had been stolen. Tools and equipment left in some of the out buildings also disappeared with some regularity. Often small groups of Indians would stop at the home and demand food or other things from the Gilbert family.
Initially these little forays were petty in nature but as word of vicious depredations began to reach the people of the area, Gilbert became more uneasy with his position. The five mile distance from Fort Inglish would at best be difficult to cover in the event of imminent danger,
Gilbert and his sons began preparing their home and outbuildings to withstand any attack, Like Bailey Inglish, Gilbert replaced his doors with heavy hewn timbers which were securely fastened from within. Other heavy timbers and interior shutters covered the windows with openings left to serve as gun ports only wide enough to allow tho passage of a gun barrel. Each of the four sides of the house had unobstructed views of every approach to the building,
A Gilbert family history states that the Captain fortified his barns and other out buildings in a similar manner so that with the threat of a raid their closest neighbors would also have a place of refuge.
This fortification was often referred to as Gilbert's Station, Fort Gilbert, or occasionally Gilbert's Blockhouse, The one element that kept the compound from being a true fort was the absence of a stockade.
John Simpson recounted that in late 1838 Thomas Cowart, son-in-law of Bailey Inglish, had killed and scalped an Indian near Fort Inglish, This act created an uneasy environment as bands of Indians were still spotted from time to time throughout the area, It was supposed that these groups wore looking for the opportunity to avenge their slain comrade.
All the residents of the area were fully armed whenever they left the safety of their homes, Even the workers in the fields carried sidearms or had a rifle at arm's reach. During this period of unrest, Captain Gilbert had sent a young servant to work in the corn patch near the home. As he gathered corn three Indians crept up to some brush near the fence and began to imitate wild turkeys. The young boy was completely taken in by the ruse and thinking he had an opportunity to add some turkey meat to the family larder began to move stealthily toward the fence row. The Indians jumped from their hiding place and attempted to capture the boy who quickly grabbed his pistol and emptied the load into tho nearest Indian, who fell. The other two ran at the boy who defended himself with a large knife he was carrying.
He missed both raiders, turned and fled toward the house. In the meantime, Gilbert and his sons, who heard the commotion came to his rescue with their guns. The Indians retrieved their wounded friend and fled the scene.
Although we have few records to verify the circumstances of that tumultuous period in the history of the county it is assumed that the four fortifications of which we spoke were all constructed about the same time. Fort Lyday, in southeast Fannin County near the Lamar County line, was the last of these structures. This compound was planned and built by Isaac Lyday, his brother Andrew, and many of their neighbors.
In 1838, General John H, Dyer sent out a company of men under the command of Captain William Stout. The group were to search out the presence of any Indians in the area between the Sabine and Sulphur Rivers. In a later letter to president Mirabeau B. Lamar, Stout reported that when he and hia men arrived at Lyday’s settlement they found the settlers in a state of alarm over the deaths, at the hands of Indians, of Samuel Washburn and two other men. Stout indicated that the fort which had been built earlier was in a delapidated condition, but he, his men, and some of the settlers were able to repair it. Fourteen families immediately took shelter inside its walls. Stout left a detachment of ten men at the fort and took the remainder of his company to Fort Shelton about twenty miles to the southeast in present day Lamar County.
It appears that there never was an Indian attack on Fort Lyday. The closest thing was a humorous incident that occurred one time while a number of families were living at the fort, This will be recounted in a later column.
Much of the information we have about Fort Lyday come from Andrew Davis' "Folk Life in Early Texas." As a young boy growing up in Fannin County Davis lived through one of the most dangerous and exciting times in the long history of the Rod River Valley. According to Davis twentyfive to thirty families took refuge in Fort Lyday from time to time as news of new Indians raids reached the scattered settlements along Sulphur River,
Ha also reported that Isaac Lyday commanded a company of about eightyfive men as protection at the fort and from this group he frequently sent out scouts to survey the situation, The presence of these men did little to discourage the Indian bands roaming in the area for they often were able to penetrate the security lines and steal horses from those corraled outside the Blockade.
Many of the settlers remained at the fort through much of 1838 and 1839. During one period of calm however, Davis* father Daniel Davis went to his homestead for a few days to tend to his crops. One morning as he stood at his gate talking to a young hired man several Indians fired on them from the horse corral. The young man escaped injury but Davis was mortally wounded. One other raid in 1840 on the farm of Captain John Yeary is the only other recorded incident relative to Fort Lyday.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas