on the Frio
| April 20, 1881-The
little girl tightly held her mother’s hand. They quietly walked the short distance
to the main dirt road that traversed the small community of Leakey,
Texas. Many people were already gathered. They spoke in hushed tones this
mid April day. There was a light mist falling, just enough to settle the dust
on the road.
The little girl could feel her mother’s hand begin to tremble
as the soft sound of the horse’s hooves could be heard in the distance. The horses
were unaware of their part in this sad but memorable event as the pulled the wagon
to the small settlement. As the wagon bringing the dead approached, the sound
made by the hitched horses pulling against the hames and harnesses grew louder.
The combination of sounds played a mournful funeral dirge. A dirge the little
girl would never forget. She could sense that it was a sad and scary occasion
as she peeked around her mother’s skirt to get her first glimpse of the wagon
as it drew closer.
It was not a welcoming event for the people of the
community. It was a tragedy that would live in the pages of history for the years
to come. They lined the road on both sides. Women cried softly, while most of
the men coughed and cleared their throats attempting to stifle their feelings.
A few of the men allowed their tears to roll unchecked down their cheeks. The
young children were mostly confused but sensed their parent’s protection getting
Everyone had taken for granted that the Indian Wars were over.
There had been no reports of Indian raids of late and because of this many folks
had let down their guard. But yesterday’s attack had brought everything back to
reality. The Frio Canyon was still a place to live with caution. The creaking
wagon proved it.
|April 18, 1881
and the Time Before |
The McLaurin Family
story of the McLaurins stretches back to the moors of Scotland. Duncan McLaurin
was one of the first to set foot on the soil of America. He arrived with his wife
and eleven children around 1788. They were mainly farmers. Their lives were devastated
after the Civil War so they salvaged what remained and like many others moved
west. The move brought them to Texas. The many trails to Texas were lined with
the graves of families and friends of these early settlers. Upon arriving in Texas
the settlers realized that they had to make do with the barest of necessities.
They also became acquainted with the Comanche and Apache. In many instances the
acquaintance was not a friendly one. The settlers felt that the land was theirs
for the taking and the Indians felt that the land was theirs to keep and defend.
A bad mix for both.
The elder John McLaurin, Sr. and his family made
their way to the Frio Canyon in 1872. They built a native limestone rock house
with 24 inch thick walls on Flat Creek. The house is standing today.
John McLaurin, Jr. was not satisfied with the original location of the homestead
south of Leakey
so he made the decision to move his family north of the small settlement. The
conflicts with the Comanche and Apache had been few and he felt that the move
north would be a safe one. So he packed up his wife, Catherine (Kate) and their
children: Mary Sytarys, Maude Lee, John Alonzo and William Franklin and settled
on land about six miles north of Leakey.
The place that he chose was a fertile piece of land that was nestled between two
towering bluffs with the cool, serene West Fork of the Frio River flowing nearby.
The location today is still beautiful, yet haunting.
Not only was this
place the new home to the McLaurin family but fourteen year old Allen Lease made
his home there as well. Allen was an orphan who was living in a large combined
family. Times were hard for everyone especially Allen’s family and in order to
make things easier at home Allen moved with the McLaurin’s to help with their
new homestead. After all, fourteen year old boys were expected to do a man’s work
in this day and time.
The land between the crude log cabin and the river
was ideal for Kate’s garden. The cabin was probably just large enough for the
family. So with a few free ranging chickens, hogs, milk cow, garden produce and
the abundance of wild game the families needs were adequately met.
|The Lease Family|
only was this place the new home to the McLaurin family but fourteen year old
Allen Lease made his home there as well. Allen was an orphan who was living in
a large combined family. Times were hard for everyone especially Allen’s family
and in order to make things easier at home Allen moved with the McLaurin’s to
help with their new homestead. After all, fourteen year old boys were expected
to do a man’s work in this day and time.
The ancestors of Allen Lease
were not unaccustomed to hardship. Allen’s father, William Barney, migrated from
Virginia to Texas at a time when these treks were long and dangerous. William
Barney Lease was married, in Uvalde, Texas to Catherine McCarthy. Catherine had
been widowed twice. She brought to the marriage four children. Catherine and William
Barney Lease had three boys, Thomas Mack, Allen and William Henry. Catherine met
with a tragic accident shortly after the birth of William Henry. She fell, hitting
her head. Head injuries resulting from the fall would be the cause of her death
a few days later.
William Barney, now the father and guardian of seven
children, married Sarah Fulgham. Sarah was a widow which children of her own.
It was a matter of convenience for both. Sarah’s first husband was hung as a northern
sympathizer at the beginning of the Civil War. This was a hard time in a hard
country for this desperate family.
William Barney Lease was employed
by John Leakey in the shingle making business. Lease would haul the shingles south
to Sabinal and Ft. Inge
where he would deliver the load of shingles and return to Leakey
with the payment in gold. It was on his trip home from one of these deliveries
that he was ambushed, murdered and robbed of the gold.
mother was once again left destitute. She moved in with her son Tom Fulgham. Tom’s
wife had recently died leaving him with five children. Between the two blended
families there were eleven children.
So it is no wonder that Allen went
to work for John McLaurin at his new ranch north on Leakey.
Allen was fourteen or fifteen years old at the time and would be a great help
to the McLaurin family and one less mouth to feed at the Fulgham home.
what happened that day in April of 1881 was just a robbery gone bad. It is said
that evidence showed that the Lipan Apache may have camped on the bluff above
the McLaurin home for a couple of days. Perhaps they were waiting for an opportune
time to just rob the house. Perhaps they just wanted to see inside the strange
home of a white settler. Then again, perhaps they were seeking revenge and had
decided to take advantage of an unprotected situation.
The small band
of Lipan Apache probably watched John McLaurin as he rode away for the overnight
trip to the Cherry Valley Settlement. They may have feared that John would soon
be back because they then decided to stay another night on the high bluff.
On the night of April the 18th the Whip-Poor-Wills sang their lonely call
to the sighing of the Cypress trees along the bank of the Frio. The Katy Dids
added their evening songs as Kate put her children down for the night while high
atop the bluff over looking the McLaurin homestead a small campfire flickered
and the stars began to send frescos dancing across the bluff. Could this peaceful
scene be a misleading charade of the danger soon to come?
McLaurin Massacre Site|
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick
|April 19, 1881-The
was a crisp, cool morning as Kate McLaurin prepared breakfast for the family.
Allen Lease milked the cow and fed the hogs. The hogs were fed a little corn,
just enough to keep them around. After these chores were finished, Kate and Allen
hauled water from the river. It was wash day and the pots had to be filled and
the water heated for the morning long chore.
Atop the high hill, the
Lipan Apache watched each step that Kate and Allen took.
It was about
mid day when the wash was complete and the clothes were scattered about on bushes
and fences to dry. Kate gathered the children and went to the garden. The garden
was located close to the river, making it convenient to carry water to irrigate
the coveted vegetables. Baby Frank was laid on a quilt pallet for his afternoon
The eyes from atop the hill saw this as the opportune time to descend
the hill for a closer look at the cabin and it’s contents. Cautiously they made
their way to the cabin all the while Kate, Allen and the children were working
in the garden. No one knows the intentions of the Lipan Apache. Had it been revenge
they could have killed the family at any time after John left the day before.
Maybe they just wanted to get food and plunder from the cabin. No one will ever
know or understand what would soon happen.
McLaurin Descendents at the massacre site|
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick
and the McLaurin Family
|April 19, 1881-The
small group of Lipan Apache cautiously approached the cabin. It was clear to them
that everyone was at the garden and the cabin was empty of danger as they entered
the only door. It must have been an exciting experience for them because in a
short time they forgot about the danger of being discovered and in the process
of plundering the cabin the noise that they made was heard at the garden not too
Baby Frank woke from his nap and as Kate was tending to him
she heard an unfamiliar noise from the direction of the cabin. Immediately, she
figured that the pesky hogs had ventured into the yard and cabin. She called to
Allen to go take care of the situation. Allen trotted to the cabin only to find
that the noise they heard was made by several Indians. In fear, he turned and
yelled to Kate. As he started to run back to the garden he was shot in the head
by one of the Indians. Allen lay dead on the ground in front of the cabin.
When Kate heard the shot, she screamed for Maude and Alonzo to run. Kate
was picking up the baby when the well aimed shot from one of the Lipan met it’s
mark. She was then shot again as she attempted to run. Maude and Alonzo escaped
the confines of the garden fence and as Maude turned back she saw her wounded
mother struggling to get over the fence with the baby. Maude, who was only six
years old, ran back and took the baby from her mother. By this time, Kate had
been shot five times but with the help of Maude she managed to get over the fence.
Kate collapsed on the other side of the fence. Maude and Alonzo were
petrified and Baby Frank was sobbing as his dying, bleeding mother tried desperately
to comfort him. Kate knew that this was a desperate situation and the only person
that she had to rely on was six year old Maude. The oldest child, Mary was boarding
at the community so that she could attend school. Kate called Maude to her and
told her that she was going to have to go for help. Maude stood and brushed a
wisp of her hair from her eyes as looked south towards help and safety. Then she
looked at her mother, turned west and headed straight for the cabin. The Lipans
were shocked to see this young girl coming straight towards them. It is possible
they might have considered eliminating her life, or to take her as a captive or
maybe they just respected her bravery. For whatever reason, they did not harm
her. They stood in awe as Maude ran by them and took a pillow from a bed. Maude
again ran by the Indians and back to the garden to her dying mother. She placed
the pillow under her mother’s head in hopes that the pillow would help ease her
Everyone still wonders about the compassion shown to
the young McLaurin children. Some even say that a young Indian woman in the group
may have been the determining factor in the lives of the children being spared.
This is just another mystery that will never be solved.
Kate knew her
life was fading but she was somewhat comforted by Maude’s act of courage. She
again instructed Maude to run to the home of the Fisher’s for help. At this point,
brave Maude bid her mother farewell and ran south. She located Mr. Fisher at his
favorite fishing hole. Maude told him that her mom had been shot by Indians and
that she needed help. Mrs. Fisher was also fishing a short distance away and the
three proceeded to the Fisher cabin for a rifle. They knew that more help was
needed so they traveled south towards the Leakey
settlement about six miles away.
The first stop that they made was the
homestead of Jim Hicks. They then picked up Henry Wall and Mrs. Goodman. The next
stop was the home of Dave Thompson. It was here that they left the two women and
Maude. The men kept moving south, gathering a posse.
at the McLaurin cabin, the Indians felt at ease because the two main elements
of danger lay dead or dying. They finished plundering the cabin, taking items
that were easy to carry. Then they mounted their horses and headed for the safety
of the mountains of Mexico.
McLaurin had an uneasy feeling as he rode away from his family the day before.
Some say that he had a premonition, one that was not good. He was heading home,
riding hard in hopes of getting to his family before the sun set.
John McLaurin left Leakey heading north he came upon John Leakey, who delivered
the sad news. John Leakey assured him that Maude was safe at the Thompson home.
The women at the Thompson comforted Maude. The story of the day’s tragic event
was told to the women in the voice of a little six year old girl. They listened
intently to this first hand account of this historical event.
sun was beginning to slowly set in the west, the men of Leakey rode hard to the
McLaurin ranch. They arrived to find Kate dying on the banks of the Frio River.
In spite of the five gunshot wounds, Kate clung to life out of concern for the
safety of her children. John comforted her as best he could but after a few sips
of water, Kate drew her final breath.
As darkness cloaked the tragic
site, the men decided to wait until morning to take the bodies of Kate McLaurin
and Allen Lease to Leakey for burial. The bodies were wrapped in quilts pieced
by the hands of Kate McLaurin and laid in the bed of the wagon.
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick
20, The Day After|
Early the next morning the wagon, with its cargo,
made its way to Leakey where Kate McLaurin and Allen Lease would be the first
bodies laid to rest in the Leakey Floral Cemetery. It was about mid-morning when
the wagon reached the community. The street was lined with people, all with sad
solemn faces. The silence was deafening except for the slow plod of the horses
and the rhythmic sound of the hames and harnesses. No one seemed to move, except
for a little girl who peeked around from behind her mother’s skirt to view history
as it passed.
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick and the McLaurin Family
information on events after the burial of Kate and Allen and the trek into Mexico
to find the band of Lipan Apache can be found in the story, “Teresita.”
A.J. Sowell, “Early Settlers
and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas”
Alan Stovall, “Breaks of the Balcones”
Alan Stovall, “Upper Nueces Headwater Country”
George Nelson, “The Lipan-Apache”
John Leakey, “The West that Was”
Henderson, Margaret McLaurin, “Tragedy at
the McLaurin Ranch”
Miss Sallye Godbold, The
McLaurin Family, Lora B. Garrison, George Nelson
| || The
The story of the Last Indian Raid in the Frio Canyon and
possibly the entire state of Texas.
Price - $7.00 includes S&H
Send order to:
P.O. Box 128
Leakey, Texas 78873