Rush To The Rescue of Our Frontier
Bonham Daily Favorite, March 20, 1994
Although the seemingly endless accounts of Indian depredations were certainly enough to discourage even the hardiest pioneer settler of Fannin County, there is no evidence that there was any wholesale flight from the area in those bloody and savage years from 1838 to 1842. "Niles Weekly Register," a compendium of news gathered from a variety of newspapers and distributed throughout the North American continent, in 1838 reported extensively on the difficulties in Texas.
In a November, 1838 edition under the heading "Indian Difficulties," the Register gave a capsule account of Texan reactions to the warfare raging throughout the Red River Valley and reprinted a resolution recently passed by the Texas Congress: A committee was appointed "for the purpose of preparing an address to all citizens of Texas, urging them to rush to the rescue of the inhabitants of our frontier, who are now experiencing all the horrors of a savage war." (Note: while the Texas frontier extended from Red River southward almost to the Mexican border, the majority of the killings and raids were taking place east of the old western borders of Fannin County in the area now embraced by Grayson, Cooke, and Fannin counties.)
Along with the resolution, the Congress also appropriated 40 thousand dollars for the purchase of clothing and other essentials for soldiers and for the support of an expedition of 250 men against the hostile Indians. General Baker was given the authority to draw on stores, ordinance, or munitions from the arsenal at Houston.
As the depredations continued, Congress issued another resolution: "Resolved, that the late intelligence of Indian hostilities from the Indians of the United States recently emigrated to the neighborhood of the northeastern frontier of this republic claims the earliest attention of this house, and that the President be requested to communicate, as speedily as possible, with the minister of Texas, at the court of the United States in relation thereto - that the government of the United States may be officially apprised of the actual warfare of the Kickapoos, Coshattees, Caddoes, Seminoles, and Choctaws against this republic.
A reporter for the New Orleans Bee reported on November 19th that a passenger aboard the steam packet Cuba declared that more than 400 men were already in the woods against the Indians. The Bee also reprinted an interview with "the honorable Mr. Wright of Red River County." (Note: probably George Wright, early settler of Lamar County.)
Wright's account centered around a visit by a Mr. Neal, Indian trader who had recently visited the hostile Indian villages on the head waters of Trinity River. The principle village was located near Three Forks of the Trinity and was populated with about 700 warriors made up of remnents of tribes of Caddoes, Wacos, Keachies, Towacanies, Ironies, Cherokees, and Seminoles.
A second village was located some distance to the west with about 300 warriors. Wright believed that other smaller groups were being directed from these two bases and that all had been urged to begin their attacks, on the citizens on the frontier, by Mexican agents. This perceived Mexican interference was reported in a number of official reports filed by various citizens of the area.
By 1840 the administration of President M.B. Lamar took steps to develop a more active Indian policy with the aim of establishing treaties with the various warring tribes. In 1838 Edward H. Tarrant resigned his position as Red River County representative to the 2nd Texas Congress and resumed his command as commander of troops along the northern frontier.
In November of 1840 he arrived at Fort Warren to investigate the number of Indians depredations which had been reported in Fannin County. The presence of Tarrant and his troops may have been an influential factor for a period of relative calm was evident in the area.
In 1842 the number of reported raids increased with the result that volunteers from throughout the area met at Daniel Dugan's place early in May. Seventy men organized themselves into a company and elected James Bourland, captain.
As the men were determining what course of action the company would take. Tarrant appeared on the scene. Since the organized company were not recognized militia, Tarrant was without legal sanction to assume command of the men but at the behest of the company he acted as commander.
The company left Fort Warren and marched to Fort Johnson, northwest of present day Denison. From there Tarrant ordered a march toward the headwaters of Trinity River where, as had been reported, a large Indian village had been established. In late May the company arrived on a western branch of the Trinity only to discover two deserted and abandoned villages.
Next Tarrant ordered the men toward the Brazos but they found no Indians and turned back toward the headwaters of the Trinity. Several small villages were discovered on a tributary of the river. In short order the men under Tarrant's command surprised the inhabitants of the first village who fled the scene. In rapid order a second and third village were attacked and destroyed. Tarrant had believed that more than a thousand warriors were to be found in these villages and he ordered that no prisoners were to be taken but the women and children were to be allowed to make their escapes.
Even with the surprise factor working for Tarrant, he was unable to accomplish his goal of ending once and for all the Indian wars in the area. Simply, most of the warriors were away from their villages hunting buffalo. It is not known how many Indian casualties occured, but far less than Tarrant had planned .
One casualty of battle however had a great impact on many of the citizens of Fannin County. One of Tarrant's captains was John B. Denton, popular Methodist minister and attorney. Legend maintains that Denton preached the first sermon ever heard in Fannin County at the schoolhouse at Fort Warren.
In the attack on the last village of Tarrant's campaign, Denton was leading his men into the village when he was killed instantly just as he raised his rifle to fire. The spot where Denton died was after called the Village Creek fight. It took place between present day Fort Worth and Arlington.
Tarrant and his men returned to Fannin County. In July he had managed to raise a force of 500 men who assembled at Fort Inglish. He planned to join forces with troops assembled by General James Smith near the Three Forks of the Trinity. The Indians had word of their coming and fled the scene. Tarrant's command returned to Fannin County and di sbanded .
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas