a rustling in the vegetation along the river bank alerted him or he kept working
unaware until he finally saw something large moving toward him on all fours is
not known, but once he noticed it he figured it for a grown black bear.
his rifle, Dolph Rees reckoned his family would be enjoying bear meat for supper.
But just as he started to squeeze the trigger, Rees realized that the creature
was a human, not a bear.
Rushing over to the man, Rees recognized Spencer
Goss, someone everyone in and around the small community of Brownsborough (later
renamed Kerrville) thought
dead. While still breathing, he had been shot beneath one of his knees and now
also suffered from exposure and exhaustion.
Only a handful of families
lived in the area, but all knew of the circumstances that led to Goss’ disappearance
and presumed death 18 days earlier.
started with a horse-stealing foray by Comanches. One fall morning, everyone living
along the Guadalupe in what would become Kerr County woke up to find their stock
gone, the only clue to their disappearance the unshod Indian pony tracks intermingled
with the hoofprints of their missing horses.
Goss had been among the men
who saddled up to trail the Indians and try to recover the stolen stock. The men
tracked the Comanches to the headwaters of the Guadalupe, about 25 miles west
of present Kerrville, before
stopping to camp for the night. Tired from a long day in the saddle, most of the
men slept soundly.
Another account of the incident has the men taking
time to raid what used to be called a “bee tree” to enjoy a fresh supply of honey
and honeycomb – a common frontier treat that could temporarily divert even the
most steely-eyed posse.
Early the next morning, as the pursuers sat around
their campfire while a couple of the men went out looking for a deer for breakfast,
they soon discovered that the Indians they had been trailing had turned the tables
Seeing that the men had disingenuously leaned all their rifles
against a tree about 20 yards from camp, the Indians slipped up and helped themselves
to the weapons before attacking. The Texans still had their six-shooters, but
the Indians not only had the men outnumbered, they caught them by surprise. In
the fight that followed, all but one of the party either suffered arrow or gunshot
wounds and one man was killed.
Goss, who had been sitting near the fire,
caught a bullet in his leg and went down. When the two hunters heard the shooting,
they ran back to camp and one of them fell dead from a bullet believed accidentally
fired by one of the startled defenders. The other hunter took an arrow in his
chest, but reached cover before he could be hit again. Arrows thudded into the
bodies of two other men and another had a load of buckshot slam into his shoulder.
Jack Herridge managed to avoid being hit, but didn’t take time to put
on his shoes as he fled. By the time he made it back to town to report the attack,
his feet were nothing but two large blisters. The community already knew something
bad had happened, because two of the party’s horses had escaped and shown back
up in town. Three other men also straggled back to town, leaving only Goss and
Newt Price unaccounted for.
Hiding in the trees along the river near their
camp, Goss had passed out. When he came to, he called for help and Price, who
also had been hiding in the woods, answered him. Two men spent the night under
a cave-like rock overhang. In the morning, Price said he would walk back to Brownsborough
The wounded man made it about 10 miles but then died. Goss,
not knowing Price had not made it, waited for several days, living off wild grapes.
Finally, he decided to try to reach town himself and left for home using a forked
limb for a crutch.
That’s how Goss ended up being found by Rees, who took
him to a nearby camp and later helped get him back to Brownsborough. No one expected
him to live, but he did.
Two years later, a hunter found Price’s bones.
About the same time, Goss returned to his native Gonzales County. There he met
and married a local woman named Maggie Phillips. Despite his unfortunate earlier
experience in Kerr County, Goss brought his bride back to the Guadalupe country
and settled there for good.
Nearly killed by Comanches, and just as nearly
mistakenly shot to death by someone who took him for a bear, Goss went on to live
a long, full life. He and his wife are buried in Kerrville’s
Mountain View Cemetery.
Cox - August 9, 2012 column
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