Too Appalling for Description
Bonham Daily Favorite, March 6, 1994
Two of the more notable books of the nineteenth century dealing with depredations committed by various Indian tribes against the first settlers of Texas paint a vivid picture of the tragedy and terror faced by these early immigrants.
Josiah Wilbarger's 1885 "Indian Depredations of Texas," and John Henry Brown's "Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas," are benchmarks of those troubled times and both are the best sources of information for those who might wish to learn more about this period in our history.
In actuality much of Wilbarger's information about the Indian troubles in the Red River Valley came from a series of newspaper articles written by Judge John P. Simpson and serially published in "The Bonham News" in the 1870's. Wilbarger did contact many of those who were witness to the various attacks and from their accounts provided additional information for Simpson's writings. Simpson's accounts are also available in W.A. Carter's 1885 "History of Fannin County."
However, not all of the stories are to be found in these century old publications. Of equal interest are accounts and reports filed by various settlers of the valley of massacres, skirmishes, and thievery as found in the old unfamiliar records of the early days of the Republic of Texas. Today's column will deal with some of these events which took place within the old boundaries of Fannin County.
It was estimated by various authorities that more than 200 citizens of the north Texas area were slain in Indian raids between 1838 and 1842. These published accounts primarily deal with that period of time.
A letter to Charles DeMorse, published in his "Northern Standard" newspaper on February 25, 1844 details that the dangers were far from over even after the attempts to push the Indians further west in the early 1840's.
The letter from an E.B. Ely is presented in abbreviated form here:"Fort Inglish. Sir: Before this reaches you, you will doubtless be informed of the most horrible murder on Rowlett's Creek on Monday last... Committed as supposed by three Indians who had stopped and stayed all night at the camp of their victims on Saturday preceding. They called themselves Chickasaws but were supposed by the deceased to be Delawares.
Their conduct on Saturday night was such as to excite the suspicions of Mr. Monsey and he spoke of it to some of his neighbors. They departed quietly on Sunday morning and the family was lulled into fatal security.
Early in the night of Monday, Mr. Lee, living about a mile from the camp of Mr. Monsey heard the reports of guns in the direction of his camp and several other sounds of an unusual character, but his suspicions were not excited to such a degree as to create an alarm.
He, however, early the next morning concluded to visit the camp of his neighbors... The sight presented to his view was too appalling for description. Mr. Monsey and Mr. Jamison, an intimate of the family, lay dead in the camp, both having been first shot, then tomahawked and scalped.
A short distance from the camp lay the mutilated corpse of Mrs. Monsey mangled in a most shocking manner, the skin and flesh almost entirely stripped from the body, the upper part of the skull broken off and the brains taken out.
The two sons of Mr. Monsey who also were at the camp are missing and although diligent search has been made they cannot be found. One was about 16 years old the other about 12. Whether murdered, escaped and bewildered in the prairie or carried away captives, is yet uncertain.
The time has now arrived when some regulations must be made by which occurences like this can be guarded against. If not, the citizens of this region of the country must regard every Indian found within their limits as hostile and treat them accordingly."
On a less tragic note one incident occured, during the height of these Indian depredations, in the southeast corner of Fannin County. Andrew Davis recounted the story some years later in his reminiscences of growing up on Sulphur River.
In late 1838 a number of raids and threatened raids had occured in the area and the settlers of the region had taken refuge at one of the various defensive forts which had been in a diagonal across Fannin County. Andrew Davis' family had settled on Davis Creek about ten miles west of Fort Lyday, (North of present day Ladonia).
As the news of more murders and raids reached the scattered families along Sulphur River, about 25 to 30 of these families decided to seek refuge in the fort. Isaac Lyday had also organized the men of the region into a loosely formed militia for protection at the fort and also to serve as scouting parties to ascertain the movements of Indians in the area.
During times of the most serious threats these families would remain at the fort for several weeks. Various men among the settlers provided the provisions needed for the wellbeing of these families and often would round up cows and hogs to be corraled near the fort until needed.
On one occasion most of the men had been sent out on various scouting expeditions leaving on the women and small children behind the stockade walls. As the women went about their chores a disturbance was heard in the woods not far from the fort.
As the women peered through the gunports in the stockade walls the commotion grew in intensity. It appeared to the women that a woman or women might be in distress for what were determined to be screams were now emanating from the wooded area.
They decided that very likely Indians were trying to coax them from the fort so that it could be raided. The braver of the women, probably as proficient with firearms as their spouses, took their rifles and started carefully in the direction of the screams.
As they approached the woods the screams grew louder. The defenders finally drew close enough to see, tightly clutched in the paws of a huge bear, the pet pig of a group of children who had taken shelter in the fort.
According to Davis, Minerva Inglish Clark, mother-in-law to Isaac Lyday, and sister of Bailey Inglish, took careful aim and with one shot dispatched the bear thus saving the hog.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas