Army, both in its absence and its presence, has had a big impact on Coryell County
over the years. |
The establishment of Fort Gates on the Leon River in 1849
is what helped stimulate settlement of the area as folks in Bell, Burleson, Milam
and Washington counties began to move into the eastern and southern parts of Coryell
County. Hostile Indians wisely steered clear of the vicinity.
abandoned the stockaded garrison (one of the few Hollywood-style military posts
ever actually built in Texas) in March 1852, but the settlers drawn by the protection
it had offered did not. By the 1860s, some of the countyís early settlers had
moved westward, building cabins near what soon became the community of Pearl.
With the soldiers gone, and most of Texasí fighting men tied up in the
Civil War, the Comanches felt free to raid all along the stateís western frontier.
Texasí Confederate state government fielded companies of Rangers to patrol the
outlying counties, but they couldnít be everywhere at once.
Warriors by George Catlin|
Courtesy of www.georgecatlin.org
| Thatís how things
stood on April 26, 1863 when a Comanche raiding party came up on a settler named
Steven Williamson, who lived several miles southeast of Pearl.
When Williamson didnít come home that night, worried family and friends
went looking for him. They found his arrow-studded body lying near a large tree
that he may have tried to use for cover. The Indians had scalped him and then
pinned his thighs together, a sign that he had defended himself gamely. Likely
he wounded or killed some of his attachers before they overpowered him.
family carried his body home in the back of an ox-drawn wagon, built a coffin,
lined it with black calico and took him to the southern part of the county near
the community of Eliga for burial.
later, Gordon Shook, Williamsonís great-grandson, could still find what was left
of the liveoak where his relativeís body had been left by the Indians and posed
for a photograph there. Charles E. Freeman used the image in his book, ďA History
of Pearl, Texas.Ē Gordon Williamsonís grandfather, J.W. Shook, in 1875 had settled
the land where the attack had occurred. |
Freeman also included in his book
a couple of accounts from Coryell County oldtimers who lived through those bloody
| Mrs. W.W. Robinson
remembered a time when she was a little girl that she and her father just missed
a run-in with Comanches. During the week, she and her brother John stayed at her
uncle Andy Boneís place on Cowhouse Creek so they could attend a one-room school
at King. One Friday, her father Eli Williamson (whether he was related to the
late Steven Williamson was not mentioned in the book) came to pick them up for
the weekend. Her brother rode his own horse while she sat behind her father on
his horse. Not far from their home on Beehouse Creek, her father spotted a group
of Indians before the Indians saw them.|
Yelling for his daughter to hang
on, Williamson wheeled his horse and galloped off in the opposite direction. They
made it home safely, but it was a scare she never forgot.
County residents had to stay alert for prowling Indians for several years more.
Dallas Edmondson later told of a Comanche horse-stealing foray down Beehouse Creek
in 1871. The Indians missed his horses, which he had out grazing, but they made
off with some others.
Though he died violently, Steven Williamsonís body
rested in peace until World
War Two broke out and the Army decided to return to Coryell and surrounding
counties. This time, of course, the military wasnít moving in to protect residents
from hostile Indians. The Army needed a lot of open land for tank and artillery
The Army bought thousands of acres, including the area where
Williamson had been buried. Some 300 families had to give up their land and move.
Any grave on the soon-to-be military reservation that could be located was dug
up and reinterred, but even with the help of surviving family members, Williamsonís
burial site could not be found. So far as is known, it has never been located.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" January
27, 2011 column
Texas History | Texas
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