Injun Fighting In Early Williamson County History
from the "Tales of Early Days in Texas
by Capt. F. S. Wade
(this is in the local vernacular of the time)
Compiled by Cortis Lawrence April, 1942
(click here for more on Adam Lawrence)
the request of a number of my friends, including the publishers
of the Courier, I have concluded to write a series of tales of
early days in Texas as I recall them from personal experience,
and as related to me by the older settlers.
I came to the state sixty years ago (approximately in the
1850's) before I had any beard, as a school teacher. My home was
at Uncle Add Lawrence's, who lies buried in Lawrence Chapel
cemetery fifteen miles northeast of Elgin. He was one of
Austin's first colonists and reached Texas in the year 1821,
nearly one hundred years ago. He had no education but was the
most perfectly developed physically of any man I ever saw and
very religious, yet he thought it no more harm to kill a Mexican
or an "Injun" than a wolf or rattlesnake. Later on your children
can better understand this seeming paradox. During the years
that I was a member of his family he related the tales I am
about to tell.
These reminiscences are written principally for the
children, some of whom are the grand-children and
great-grand-children of the men and women about whom I am going
Children are hero worshippers. These people who made
Texas, in my opinion, were never surpassed in any age for
exalted heroism and knightly deeds or daring. This my first tale
will be given in Uncle Add’s own language, as I remember it. He
called it, "The Starvation Time".
"In 1824 and 1825 I was living on my headright league in
what is now Washington County just east of where Chapel Hill is
now located. Both years were almost without rain. The Colorado
stood in holes often a mile apart; the Brazos was not shoe mouth
deep. Grass had all dried up and blown away and about all the
game had left the country. Our only food was wild meat and fish.
Our horses had been nearly all stolen by the Kaurenkerways and
what were left were mighty poor. We were trying to keep our few
cattle alive by cutting cottonwood trees and pulling down moss;
occasionally we could kill a deer or a mustang, but our
principle dependence was fish. Now fish without salt, for we had
no salt for years, and no grease to cook fish with, you know was
"I noticed that every day about three o'clock crows came
to roost in the cedar brake and they kept coming until nine
o'clock at night. I felt sure that they went to mast (acorns)
and where there was mast there would be lots of fat game. One
day I was settin' on a stump trying to figger out what was to be
done to keep life in the settlement, for it was nearly
Christmas, when a little girl came up to me and put her hands on
my knees and said, ‘Mr. Lawrence, I'm hungry’. Her words cut me
like a knife and I couldn't keep back the hot tears. I went to
my cabin, got my rifle gun and shot a big black crow. Such a
"caw-caw-caw" you never heard. Sure enough the crow's craw was
full of mast. I called the settlement together and told them
there was plenty of fat game where that crow drew his rations
and I was going after it.
'As many of you as wants to go with me, meet me here in the
morning with the best ponies you have left'.
"Sure enough nearly the hull settlement was ready in the
morning, but I said enough men must stay to keep the Kumanchus
from burning us out and murdering our women and children. So
half stayed as guards and the rest let out northeast, the way
the crows came and went. Just after we crossed the Savasot one
of the men killed a fat buffalo cow and oh what a feast we had.
This was the first time some of us had enough to eat in four
months. We sent the horses back with three loads of meat to the
settlement. Then we pushed on northeast, the crows were guiding
us, for three days when we landed in a sure enough paradise. It
was a flat post oak country near where the city of Crockett now
is. The ground was covered with mast and the woods full of all
kinds of game. Bear, buffalo, deer, elk in hundreds. Some of the
bear were so fat that they shook when they walked, and some,
that like us had just got in, were lean as a sausage.
“It didn't take no vision like came to Peter to tell us
to arise, slay and eat.
"Now I will tell you how we saved the meat as we had no
salt. We cut it in long strips and hung it on lariats (raw hide
ropes) or poles to dry. As soon as we had enough dried, we sewed
up the bear hides and put about one hundred pounds of meat in a
hide, tied two together and put them on a horse sending ten
horse loads back to the settlement by four boys and one man. The
rest of us kept on killing and eating and preparing more meat.
In about eight days both parties who had gone to the settlement
came back leading every horse that could travel. A few days
after, the whole party started homeward, every horse loaded with
all he could carry. We all reached the settlement safely. Such
rejoicing you never heard for everybody had enough fat bear
meat. We had saved the brains of our game. These we used in
dressing our bear and deer hides, so that we could make
moccasins, caps, jackets and britches for the men and boys and
petticoats for the women and girls.
"What a happy Christmas we had. Before our meat was all
gone a splendid rain fell putting the river and creek banks
full; grass was hand high in a couple of weeks, our horses and
cattle got fat and slathers of game came back. Starvation time
When I knew Uncle Add Lawrence he was an old man, but it
seems to me that he was the most perfect rider of a horse I ever
met. He almost idolized his horse. While the work horses made
the crop on the grass, his saddle horse was well fed three times
a day by his own hands; no collar ever went on his neck, and no
one on the place, not even his eldest son, dared ride him.
In his early manhood he spent fifteen years riding races
and mustang hunting. At one time he gave a league of land for a
horse to run mustangs on. He worked out a new method of catching
mustangs known as walking them down, that I will have to
describe before you can understand the following tale.
This plan was based upon the fact that mustangs, and all
other wild animals as to that, have their regular range,
watering at the same place and being at a given point on their
range at about the same hour every day. First select the herd of
mustangs you want, then station the hunters at the proper
places; then let No. 1 start the mustangs and follow them at
nearly full speed for say four hours, when they reach a point
where No. 2 relieves No. 1, and so on for about a day and a
night when the herd is run down and can be driven in a pen
previously prepared. I will give this tale in as near Uncle
Add's language as I can recall it.
the year 1828 the Kaurenkerways had stole about all our horses.
People was a comin' to the settlements nearly every day from the
States and all needed horses. So I organized a hunt consisting
of eight men all splendidly mounted and my nigger Jim for cook.
We had a pack mule to carry about forty lariats and hackimares
(halters), some axes, etc. We got our grub every day with our
guns. We was agoin' to the Gabriel country, now Williamson,
Milam and Burleson counties, this being among the best mustang
range in the province of Texas.
"Jist as we made our first camp I seed a man on a long legged
mule follering our trail. When he came up he axes which of us
was Mr. Adam Lawrence.
" 'That's me young man; git down, young man', says I.
"He shuck hands and said his name was Jim Jones and that
he got to the settlement a few hours after we left.
"Sez he, 'I told the folks there I was from Gadson,
Tennessee, and that I was as green as a gourd; they told me
about your hunt, and that if you would let me go with you I'd
git the green rubbed off'. He smiled a smile that would turn
vinegar into honey.
"I sed 'Onpossible; young man. We are gwine to an Injun country
where we may have to run for our lives. If that happened the
Injuns would sure kotch you on thet mule and skulp (scalp) you'.
“Sez he, ‘Mr. Lawrence, you don't know this mule like I
do. When it gits scairt it can run like chained lightening. Now
if you will only let me go I will be mighty useful about the
“Some of the boys spoke up and said 'Add, let him go', so
I said 'Alright, but at your own risk'.
“Well, Jim was as good as his word about camp, and then
he could sing all the coon songs ever heard of, and beat a
cirket rider a preachin'.
'Well, we finally struck camp on a little clear runnin'
creek whar there was lots of tall elms near the Gabriel. (Uncle
Add showed me this camp which was on Mustang about two miles
below the present city of Taylor.) We begun our pen which was
made out of elm poles built eight feet high, enclosing about
half an acre, a gap on one side with brush wings widening out
from the gap. There were several herds of mustangs on the
prairie, one led by a big, sorrel flax mane and tail stallion.
When he run it looked like he was waving two white flags. It
looked like there was more'n a hundred head of them. So I picked
this herd and took one man with me every day so as to find out
their range. When the pen was built or nearly done I started out
to pick out pints for the men that was to walk down the
“Jist after we started Jim overtook us on his mule and
said, 'Add, let me go along’.
“I had seed no Injun signs nowhere, so I sed 'Alright'.
“We were riding near the Gabriel. No mortal ever seed a
purtier country. It was in May and the grass was as green as a
wheat field. The south wind made it wave like the sea. There was
patches of buffalo clover that was as blue as the sky, then
spots of red and white posies that filled the air with sweet
smells. Herds of mustangs off to the east, buffalo, antelope,
deer everywhere. Jim was singing to himself a coon song that
went like this: 'Bend low, sweet lam, bend low', when we jumped
a surprise. As we got to the top of a little hill we discovered
about forty Comanche Injuns in war paint and feathers not more'n
six hundred yards comin' a meetin' us. "When they seed there
wasn't but three of us they raised a warhoop and charged.
“Now I wasn't skeered for myself fur I could outride any
Injun that God ever let live, ef he knows anything about 'em
which I misdoubt, but I was skeered for Jim on that mule. We
struck for camp at full speed. Fur three or four miles Jim kept
up all right, then his mule began to throw up his tail, I
hollered to him to git off that mule and git up behind me.
"He said, 'No Add, your horse couldn't carry us both. I think
when the Injuns git a little closer this 'ere mule will git new
life; but here Add, take my watch and send it to my mother. Tell
her there was no one to blame but me'.
“Two or three minutes after I heard an awful screechin'
and yellin'. My heart came in my mouth for I thought they was
sculping Jim, but they wasn't for just then I heard a pat, pat
right behind me and I whirled back with my rifle gun cocked, for
I tho't it was an Injun; but I saw it was Jim, and you ought to
have seed that mule, as it past by me almost like I was standing
still. Its nose was sticking straight out and smoke was a comin'
out of it like steam out of a kettle. Its ears was laid back on
its neck like they was pinned back. Its tail was a stickin' out
behind him and it looked like he was jumpin' forty feet at a
time. I noticed three arrers a stickin’ up in that mule's rump.
As Jim past me he hollered back and sed, ‘Farewell, Add'.
What was them Injuns
yellin' about? Why, they was watchin' that mule fly. They turned
''When I got to camp the boys were behind trees with
their guns ready, but I told them that them Injuns wouldn't
foller us in the timber for they knowed when we shot we got
meat. Jim had his saddle off trying to pull them arrers out of
his mule. I roped its fore feet and throwed it and cut them out.
I was a little careless when I let it up for it made a bulge and
away it went lookin' back to where it had been introduced to the
Injuns. We never, seed hide or hair of it.
"We spied around a day or two 'till we was sure that the
Injuns was gone then we made our drive. We walked down them
mustangs in twenty-four hours, got them all in the pen and they
was sure a fine lot. We found ten head of broke horses and mules
that had got away from settlements and a big brown horse with a
Spanish brand that I afterwards heard got away from a Mexican
general. If it had been a white man's horse I would have sent
him word but I never mentioned it to that Mexican General though
I knowed him well. We roped out about sixty, turning the rest
loose. It took about two or three days gentling our stock, then
we tailed them six in a string and returned to the settlement,
Jim riding the general's horse. He had no trouble of selling out
at from $30.00 to $60.00.
“One day a man offered me five twenty dollar gold pieces
for the big brown horse. I looked around to Jim. His lips was a
fluttering so I said, 'That's all the horse is worth but this
'ere Jim lost his mule in the hunt and I have been thinkin' of
giving it to him; now I have made up my mind. Jim, 'ere is your
horse'. He shook me by the hand, the tears came into his eyes,
but he smiled that smile again and said, 'Add, you are white all
the way through'."
Early days in Texas were very different from conditions
now. People lived in small log cabins having puncheon floors.
When you rode up and the husband did not ask the wife if you
could stay all night, the wife asked the husband, but either
would heartily respond, "Get down and hobble your horse". The
fare was cornbread, coffee and beef, but the welcome was
If the weather was warm you slept under the trees with
the other boys; but if it was cold when bed time came the
trundle bed was pulled out, pallets made down, and you would be
shown where to sleep. Then you would walk out to see about your
horse, the tallow candle would be blown out and you could step
into bed. At break of day you would see about your horse while
the women folk got up and prepared breakfast. If you offered to
pay you would be called "green from the states".
Then, as now, I liked the company of women and children
better than that of men. Their talk was not about the millennium
foreshadowed by woman suffrage, or cuneiform engravings on the
burnt clay tablets lately dug up in the ruins of Nineveh that
were deposited in the reign of Sargon the Great, nor about the
hieroglyphic inscriptions on the pyramids of Egypt during the
reign of Ramesis the second, nor about the incomprehensibility
of the unknowable. Their talk was about the bravery of their
husbands and sons or their own hardships and privations.
To me the most fascinating of these reminiscences was the
"Runaway Scrape" that was told me by probably a hundred
different women. Do you know children, that within two hundred
yards of where our South School House stands, was the home of
Grandmother Burleson, who was in the runaway? She was the
grandmother of our townsman, H. B. Smith. I think some of the
Standifer women and children were also in the runaway.
As a sample of their tales I will relate this one told me
by Aunt Sallie Lawrence, as we lovingly called her, who was the
wife of Uncle Add Lawrence, the hero of these tales.
Scrape or the Sixth Sense
“In April 1826 we were living on a ranch west of the
Brazos. We had two children and two slaves, Jim and Sella. Mr.
Lawrence was with Houston's army at Gonzales. One day a man rode
up and said that the Alamo had fallen and that Fannin and his
army had been murdered at Goliad, that the Mexicans were
advancing, burning and murdering as they came; that he had been
sent to warn the people to get across the Trinity if possible.
“I had Jim hitch the oxen to the cart. This was made
entirely of wood with wheels sawed out of a log. I turned out
the calves and hogs, carried our only bee gum in the cabin, put
a few clothes and some provisions and an axe on the cart with my
children, never expecting but that the cabin would be burned by
“When we started, the cart creaked so that I feared the
Mexicans would hear it. I had it stopped, ran back and got some
lye soap to stop the screaming. When we got to the river, it was
bank full and the ferry boat was gone but we soon made a raft of
dry logs. Jim made the oxen swim to the east bank, then we got
on the raft, wagon tied behind, and poled across the river. When
we got out on the prairie we met a boy who said that about
twenty families were up at Col. Gross's place and that we had
better go there, which we did. Col.
Gross sent us a beef every day. We spent the time standing
guard, and strengthening our fort, expecting the Mexicans every
minute, but determined to fight to the last.
“All the men, excepting a few very old men, were in the
army. On the 21st, though we had no news from the army, we were
sure that our fate was to be decided that day. About four
o'clock we heard the faint sound of cannon to the eastward.”
At this point of the story Miss Bettie, one of Aunt
Sallie's daughters, (who was my sweetheart) interrupted by
saying, "Mammy, Gross' retreat is seventy-five miles from San
Jacinto. The heaviest cannonade cannot be heard over forty
miles; our people only had two small cannons presented by the
ladies of Cincinnati which could not have been heard over
fifteen miles. You only imagined you heard cannons". Her mother
replied with some heat, "I heard cannon with my own ears, as
well as half the campers", and continued her story.
“When night came we all knew that our fate was decided,
but how was the question. There was no sleep that night or the
next day, for terror was in every sound.
"In the evening, worn out with anxiety, I laid down on a
pallet to get some rest. Suddenly, I sprang up screaming, 'I see
my Add. He's coming',
I ran east screaming all
the way, 'I see my Add'. Some
of the people tried to stop me, but I outran them, and all the
time I could see my husband ahead of me. It looked like he was
in smoke but I could see that he was coming to meet me.
"I ran out of the timber and a mile on the prairie until
I came to a rocky ridge. Then the smoke seemed to clear away and
about a mile further on I saw a horseman on a big brown horse
riding toward me. I could see then, with those natural eyes,
that it was my Add, no plainer though than I had been seeing him
the last half hour by the eyes of faith or whatever you may call
it. I waved my sunbonnet until I attracted his attention, then
he waved his hat three times around his head. I knew that signal
I ran to meet him he got off his horse and I noticed that both
horse and my Add stumbled as they walked. When I got near enough
that I could hear him he waved his hat again and shouted
'Sallie, we whipped 'em'. A moment after, his strong arms were
around me, and as he kissed me he said, 'Glory to God, Texas is
safe'. His hat was still in his hand. There was a halo of glory
around his head like the picture of our Saviour in the
Miss Bettie again intervened, "Why, Mammy, people don't
have halos, only our Saviour. It was the setting sun shinning on
Pappy's red head".
Her mother answered, "Wasn't your Pappy as much my
Saviour as Christ, and hasn't one Saviour as much right to a
halo as another?" Then she half arose, pointing her finger at
her daughter, with a whimsical smile on her face and exultation
in her voice, "Young lady, you will never marry such a man as
your Pappy was then. No, and I will never see his like again
because there is no more".
“I noticed blood on his clothes.
'Oh, my husband, you are
“ 'Naw’, he said, 'that's Mexican blood'.
“By the time we got to the timber it was dark. There we
met some of the people hunting me, believing that I had gone
crazy, when we told them the glorious news they began to shout.
Before we got to the fort everyone who could walk met us.
Everyone said, 'Mr. Lawrence, tell us all about the fight'.
Said he, 'I have had
nothing to eat since this battle'.
“When we got to the fort, after he had several hunks of broiled
beef; he said, 'It wasn't much fight.
We done the fightin' and
the Mexicans done the runnin'. About four o'clock we charged.
Some of the Mexicans were cooking dinner, some were asleep and
some were watering their horses. We shot 'em down as long as our
bullets lasted our guns, or cut their hearts out with our
butcher knives. Every little while some of our boys would yell
out, 'Remember the Alamo, remember Goliad', then we would kill
more of them. We killed about a thousand, about all there was of
them. Did we take any prisoners? Some of the boys took a few,
but not a prisoner for me'.
“Then an old white headed man said, 'Let us pray'. And
such a prayer of thanksgiving for our deliverance never before
was made. Before the prayer was ended Add was fast asleep.
“About nine o'clock the next morning three more men came
in from the battle, and the tale had to be told over again. That
evening we started home. When we got to the river the ferry boat
had been brought back. We got home safe and it was just as we
left it. Two of my hens had hatched fine broods of chickens. The
old white sow had a litter of nine pigs and the bees had made
and sealed a comb of honey outside of the hive as large as a
dinner plate. That we had
The Death of a
Almost everybody in the United States has heard Sam
Dixon's "Birth of a Nation". I am going to tell you of the
"Death of a Nation". Austin's first colony located on the lower
Brazos in 1822 at old San Phillipi de Austin.
Their nearest neighbors were two Indian tribes, the Tonquas on
the headwaters of the Navidad River, and the Karauquas on the
seacoast near the mouth of the Brazos. They were familiarly
called the Tonks and Kraunks.
The first named tribe were friends of the white settlers,
while the other tribe were their relentless enemies. In a recent
war between the two tribes the Tonks had been almost
The Kraunks lived almost entirely on fish, oysters,
frogs, etc., and were said to be of great size and strength.
They had neither horses, cattle nor even dogs, but they were
inveterate thieves, stealing the horses and cattle of the
settlers, using them for food to mix with their fish, often
murdering whole families of unprotected colonists. Tradition
says they were cannibals. If that were true they were the only
cannibals that I ever heard of on the North American continent.
The Aztecs and Toltecs of Mexico sacrificed human beings to
their gods but they did not eat their flesh. Around the
Caribbean sea and in some parts of the West Indian Islands there
was, where Columbus discovered America, a great nation called
Caribs which were all cannibals. The Caribbean Sea was named
after them. A Carib said to a Spaniard, "'White men fools, kill
Carib, buzzards eat him; Carib kill white man; eat him, get all
the good out him". The eating of their captives intensified the
hatred of the colonists for the Karanquas.
At last the overt act that we hear so much talk of these
days came: One Sunday morning a settler and his wife made a
visit to some friends further down the river, sending their two
children to stay with their grandparents who lived near. On
their return that night the father went to his father's to bring
his children home. His parents had just returned from trip
having started early before the arrival of the children. It was
now night and none had seen them children. Then the assembly
call of the horn sounded. The settlers were soon hunting for the
lost children. A man rode up and said that a Karaunkerway Indian
had been killed that morning in a nearby settlement while trying
to steal a horse, and that he had a bundle of childrens' bloody
clothes. Shortly afterwards the doleful howl of a dog was heard
nearby. Following the sound, the searchers soon found the naked
bodies of the children in the long grass three hundred yards
from their grandfather's house. The buzzards had stripped the
flesh from their bones and pecked out their eyes. Their fair
hair was tangled in the long grass. A wail of rage and anguish
arose from the searchers.
Then Add Lawrence raised his hand high above his head and
said, "Before the Eternal God I swear never to sleep again until
I have had vengeance on the Karaunkaways. Who is going with me?"
All answered, "Add, we are with you to the last".
"Then", said he, "Send swift messengers to the Tonks to
meet us at Cedar Point tomorrow at two o'clock".
Two hours afterward over a hundred grim, armed men rode
away in the darkness southward. At the appointed rendezvous
forty Tonk braves reinforced the white men. On nearing the
Karanqua village a dense fog came up out of the salt marshes.
The attack was made without warning. In fifteen minutes a nation
A few made their escape in skiffs in the wild rice or
tules that grew in the swamp. The attackers found other skiffs
and followed trails made by the fugitives. Uncle Add and a Tonk
Indian were following one of these trails when a huge squaw
sprang out of a thick mass of vines and tried to overthrow the
canoe. Uncle Add, with one stroke of his butcher knife, severed
her hand at the wrist and it fell in the boat. She dodged back
in the wild rice. They followed her bloody trail until it
reached deep water where they supposed she drowned. But he said
he thought he was mistaken as some months afterward he was at
the Tonkaway camp where he saw a huge squaw with but one hand.
He pointed to the stub, when she looked up at him and ran away
"screeching", as Uncle Add put it.
I think I afterwards saw the same squaw. When Green's
Brigade were mustered in the Confederate army at San Antonio in
1861 the Tonk Indians were camped on the Cibilo, a couple of
miles below our camp. They were on their way to Mexico. On a
visit to their camp I saw a large old squaw who had lost her
right hand at the wrist. On my return from New Mexico I told
Uncle Add and he was sure it was the same squaw.
Before I close this number, I must tell you children a funny
tale, a comedy after the awful tragedy that I have related.
Every day when we visited the Tonk camp a Tonk girl twelve or
fourteen years old would hang around us, naked and unashamed,
and plait our horses' manes. A party of us boys chipped in two
bits apiece and left word with one of the Tonks, who could talk
a little pigeon English, that we were going to buy our little
squaw a dress. I was made chairman of the bunch, so I went to
San Antonio and bought eight yards of flaming red calico, she
put it under her arm and ran to her tent, kissing the bundle and
throwing back kisses to us boys. We left word we would come back
in three days to see how she looked dressed.
At the appointed time a squad of us rode down to the camp
and called for her to come out. After waiting say fifteen
minutes as I suppose young men have since done, she came out
dressed, but how you could not guess in a year, so I will tell
you. She had torn the whole eight yards into strips and
festooned the most of it in her long black hair, a wide strip
around her waist, and one about each finger and toe. We yelled
with laughter. She at first laughed, then began to cry, and ran
away to her tent. We never saw her again.
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