Keechi Indians were known to early settlers of Central Texas primarily
as thieves, but they could be as ruthless and violent as any other
tribe, including the Comanches. They were supposedly at peace with
the early white settlers but one group of Keechis didn't get the memo.
This group attacked Laughlin McLennan's home in Falls
County in 1835 or 1836, killing Laughlin while he worked in the
river bottom splitting rails, then moved on to the house and murdered
Laughlin's elderly mother and took his wife Peggy and her three sons
captive. On their way out they slaughtered the livestock and set the
Peggy and the youngest son, Daniel, who was four at the time of the
attack, died in Keechi captivity. Neal, two years older, was later
ransomed off to white people and never heard from again.
The oldest son, John, was somewhere between six and eight years old
when the Keechis abducted him. He lived as a member of the tribe for
10 years and reportedly participated in battles and raids against
white settlers until the Keechi returned him to Texas society in about
1845. By that time he was a 6-foot-2, 200-pound teenager and very
fleet afoot. The Keechi hated to see him go.
"He is one of the best horse thieves we have," Keechi chief Dead Man
said. "We will miss him."
feeling was mutual. It took John a long time to cut his waist-length
hair, and he much preferred sleeping outdoors, on the ground. C.F.
Locklin, a fellow Texas pioneer, recalled Bosque John in a 1931 Frontier
Times story by J. Marvin Hunter. He said that Bosque John "for
a time strongly objected to the restraints of life among the whites,
sometimes trying to run away to the tribe that had adopted him."
He eventually adjusted to his new circumstances. Neil McLennan, Bosque
John's uncle and the man for whom McLennan
County is named, took good care of the land holdings of the boy's
slain parents,. Those holdings made John a fairly wealthy young man.
The real tipping point came when he fell in love with and married
"the best looker" in McLennan
County, Barilla Reed, in 1850. Though his bride favored the indoor
comfort of a soft bed, Bosque John still preferred sleeping outdoors.
The couple made it work to the tune of seven children in as many years.
John worked for a time as an interpreter in Indian country, first
for U.S. Army and Texas Ranger expeditions, then for the Confederate
forces. His reputation as a great horse thief and his command of several
Indian dialects made him a great companion if you were a white man
heading into Indian country.
By all accounts, Bosque John was a popular figure around the courthouse
in Waco and even slept there when he had to be in town overnight.
True to his nature, he preferred sleeping outdoors, even at the courthouse.
He died in either 1866 or '67 when he fell (or was pushed) from a
ledge on the second floor of the courthouse while he slept.
Versions and theories about his death vary from one source to the
next. Some say he simply rolled off the ledge in his sleep. Others
say he was sleepwalking, or he was robbed and killed for money he
had earned interpreting. He was 41 years old.
A dam on the South Bosque River brought the waters up to the McLennan
family graveyard in Bosqueville in the early 1930s, but the bodies
of Bosque John and the others were moved. The McLennan gravesites
are now in the Chapel Hill Memorial Park cemetery in Robinson.