and Augusta Johanna Lehmann were German immigrants who met and married in Texas
in 1849; settling near what would later become Loyal
Valley in Gillespie County. In the Spring of 1859 they gave birth to their
first son and named him Herman. As they gazed down upon their cooing offspring
they must've wondered at his future. Doctor? Lawyer? Indian chief? Imagine his
mother's surprise when (eight years later) she found out it was Indian chief.
German immigrants in
mid 19th Century Texas didn't have it easy. Although John Musebach had had success
with treaties between the settlers and the semi-nomadic Comanches, still there
were people who "didn't get the memo." There were Comanche renegades, parties
that didn't read the fine print, parties that didn't bother to read the large
print and then there were the Apaches.
The Lehmanns had three other children,
two girls and a boy named Willie. Mr. Lehmann died in 1864 and Augusta soon found
another husband / father in Philipp Buchmeyer. I'd say that the children were
playing one spring day in 1870, but knowing they were German, they were probably
building rock walls, digging wells, milking deer or doing something constructive.
Suddenly, without warning, a group of Apaches (not Comanches) swooped down on
the defenseless group, capturing Herman and Willie, and leaving the girls to explain
to Mama why Willie and Herman weren't at the dinner table.
managed to escape after a week or so and find his way home; but Herman's odyssey
was just beginning. Before he had had a chance to attend even a single day of
German school, Herman found himself suddenly enrolled in the Apache school of
hard knocks. He survived "Initiations for German Settlers' Children," and managed
to pass basic ASL (Apache as a second language).
Herman's Indian mentor
was a notorious Apache warrior known as Carnoviste, and when Carnoviste wasn't
busy killing settlers or rival Indians, he instructed young Herman in all the
lore that Apache boys needed to become Apache men - which was mainly killing Comanches,
Rangers, Mexicans, and white settlers - in no particular order of preference.
Carnoviste died a warrior's death and Herman (who had grown pretty tough
by this time) got into an argument with another warrior. Apache arguments often
had fatal results and such was the case here. Herman won, but the dead Indian
happened to be a Medicine Man - which made it a felony under Apache law. Herman
decided to separate himself from the tribe for awhile and free-lance - spending
a year alone in West Texas. (Even
today mental health professionals can't agree on the long-term effects of spending
a year alone in West Texas.)
his travels, Herman crossed trails with some Comanches. Although they first recognized
his Apache fashions and almost killed him, they also noticied his third-degree
sunburn. He joined up with them and his new companions called him Montechena (which
is Comanche or Spanish for something). Among Spanish-speaking Indians he was known
as Alemán - or "German."
With his new companions, Herman fought the United
States Cavalry and their allies, the Tonkawa. He was captured and interred with
Comanches at Fort Sill and is said to have been adopted by none other than the
Quanah Parker. His European features and fair skin gave him away and he was
sent back to Texas to be reunited with his original
family. He arrived in Gillespie County in May of 1878 - almost exactly eight years
to the day that he was captured.
reentry into "polite" society had its rough spots. Eating family pets, refusing
sauerkraut, and chanting when everybody else was trying to get some sleep tried
everyone's patience. Little brother Willie, who must've been thinking "Aber für
die Anmut des Gottes, gehen Ich," tried his best to explain to Herman that killing
the neighbors' livestock was frowned upon. Willie also coached Herman in German
and generally kept a protective eye on his older brother.
Since there were
no state-run halfway houses for former captives, Herman lived with his family
at his mother's boarding house. He prefered wearing his Indian regalia and frequently
appeared at meals wearing little else but paint and feathers. Guests either found
Herman's habits amusing or found other lodging.
Herman finally got around
to enrolling in school. As soon as he realized his credits for life-experience
didn't transfer, he immediately left. He longed to do what he was good at, but
with killing now out of the question, he tried his hand at odd jobs - including
signing on as a cowboy on a trail drive to Kansas.
and Willie Lehmann historical marker in Loyal Valley Cemetery. |
Parson, March 2006
Herman finally settled down for good at Loyal
Valley. He was said to have had a sense of humor and he certainly enjoyed
his celebrity status. - which was [probably] curtailed when he married Miss Fannie
Light in 1890. Since his last employment as an Indian was as a Comanche; he became
eligible for an Oklahoma land grant. He and Fannie had five children and spent
their lives between their home in Oklahoma with frequent visits to Texas.|
posed for the portrait (above) during a 1928 Trail-Rider's Convention in San
Antonio. He died in 1932 and is buried in the Loyal Valley cemetery.
shoe horses, don't they?" April
20, 2006 Column
Uncle Herman Lehmann
Good Morning: I want to take a moment this morning to thank you for the hilarious
– and vivid – stories that you have published about our Uncle Herman. I believe
I speak for our whole family when I say that you really have captured his eccentric
nature. I was wondering, however, why there was no mention of the Cherry Hills
Dance Hall in your account of his various occupations…especially considering the
importance “Honky Tonks” have played in Texas history. Thanks again! - Kimberley
Holcomb, October 16, 2012
Show by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
Fred Gipson's family went to an old-settlers reunion and fair at Katemcy to see
the aging Herman Lehmann put on a one-man exhibition, the Mason County youngster
got a taste of the old west far more realistic than anything he ever saw in a
Tom Mix movie... more
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