on the Texas frontier sometimes made men out of boys and forced women into decidedly
gritty, non-traditional roles. |
When his family discovered some of their
horses had strayed, 15-year-old James Edward Luther Gracy, whose parents John
Newton and Harriet B. Gracy ran the Star Hotel in Lampasas,
saddled up to find them. Seeing no trace of the missing stock, he rode to the
Thomas Dawson ranch, about 10 miles southwest of town, and was welcomed to spend
The next morning, April 9, 1862, Gracy and 13-year-old John
H. Stockman, an orphan Dawson had taken in, set out on foot to look again for
the family’s horses. The younger boy toted a rifle.
It being spring, the
loud gobbles of love-lorn turkeys filled the air. When a startled tom took flight
and landed in a tall tree, Stockman said he would catch up with Gracy and began
a slow stalk toward the tree, hoping for a shot at the bearded gobbler.
did not walk much farther before he heard horse hooves hitting the rocky ground
behind him. Turning, he saw about 15 Indians driving a herd of roughly a hundred
doubtless-stolen horses. When the Indians noticed the boy, several warriors raised
triumphant cires, cut away from the remuda and galloped toward him. They quickly
Dismounting, they tore off his clothes and deftly scalped
him where he stood. Continuing their cruelty, they gestured for him to start running
as if they intended to let him go. When the boy took them at their word, the raiders
laughingly studded him with arrows until he fell dead.
horrified younger companion took all this in from a distance, figuring he would
be next to die. However, just as some of the Indians headed in his direction,
they saw a buggy making its way toward them along the road between Austin
and San Saba. With screams
that would chill the sturdiest man, the Indians charged the wagon.
man named George Baker held the bouncing buggy’s reins. His wife, their blanket-wrapped
infant in her lap, sat next to him. In the back seat rode her elderly father.
two 19th century accounts of the attack did not provide any further detail on
Baker and his family, he clearly knew the first rule in the advent of an Indian
attack – seek cover and make a stand. They jumped from the buggy and started running
for a wooded area about two hundred yards away, Baker lagging behind to cover
them. He killed one raider but soon an arrow thudded into him. Still, the wounded
man continued to shoot, buying time for his wife and family to reach the thicket.
the gunfire frightened their horse and it raced away with the empty buggy behind
it. The wagon soon lost a wheel and crashed, with some of the Indians leaving
the fight long enough to claim the animal.
His father-in-law was not armed
and not in good health, but Baker kept firing. He wounded a couple more of the
attackers, but when another arrow found its mark, he could no longer shoot.
Baker extracted the arrows and did what she could to control the bleeding. Then,
either already knowing how to shoot or being a fast learner, she shouldered her
husband’s rifle and opened up on the Indians. Eyeing one of her husband’s two
sixguns, she understood the second rule in dealing with an Indian attack – should
it come to it, she would kill her baby, husband, father and herself to spare them
from torture and captivity.
If she managed to hit any of the Indians,
it was not mentioned in either version of the incident. No matter, she apparently
shot accurately enough to discourage the warriors from venturing any closer, at
least as long as her ammunition held.
the fight continued, the teenager who had been with Gary ran to the residence
of Thomas Espy, who lived about a mile from the Dawson place. As it turned out,
Dawson had seen the Indians pursuing the runaway buggy. He got on his horse and
set out for Lampasas to get help.
Before reaching town, the rancher encountered a group of four hunters, all well
armed, and told them what was happening. The men followed the scrape marks left
by the buggy to the scene of the standoff.
When they got there, Mrs. Baker
was still holding the Indians at bay. Seeing the mounted Texans, the raiders pulled
back and eventually decided to take their stolen livestock and leave.
Later that day, guided by the Stockman boy, the men set out to find Gracy’s body.
The youth led them to the site of the initial attack, but with night at hand,
they could not locate the slain boy and decided to make camp. That morning, they
found Gracy nearby, his pale form lying among a scattering of white rocks.
men carried the boy’s body back to his parents, who buried him in Lampasas
behind their hotel. Later, after the town’s Oak Hill Cemetery opened, they had
the body exhumed and reburied there.
Chiseled on his simple tombstone,
in addition to his name, birthday and date of death, is the story of his fate
in five words -- “killed & skelped by Indians.”
© Mike Cox
- August 29, 2013 column
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