used to say that Grandma Barnett could knock a squirrel’s eye out at 40 paces
with a rifle.|
Nancy Ann Smith Barnett didn’t get to be that good of a
shot because she had any aspirations about joining a Wild West show. She aimed
true because in 19th century Texas, a woman often
had to. When the men folks left to work in the fields or tend the stock, the women
stayed at home with the children. They had to be able to defend themselves.
in Booneville, Tenn. in 1845, Ann came to Texas with her family at the age of
10. They settled in Llano County, then on the state’s westernmost frontier. Not
for more than another 20 years would that part of the state be considered safe
from hostile Indians, particularly Comanches.
When she grew up, Ann became
a school teacher, which is how she met her future husband. Long before public
funds began supporting education, schools raised money through contributions and
Particularly popular was the box supper. Women cooked a
meal, placed it in a highly decorated box, and then looked on hopefully as their
culinary contribution got auctioned to the highest bidder.
Finley Barnett , a young man originally from Mississippi, didn’t know how good
a cook Ann might be, but he sure recognized a pretty lady when he saw one.
With a high bid of 90 cents, he won Ann’s packaged meal. If he had any lingering
doubts after polishing off the box supper, they evaporated when he saw Ann – weighing
less than 100 pounds -- wade into the middle of a fight between two big boys and
pull them apart. That marked the beginning of a short courtship that led to a
long marriage and 11 children.
Given away by her father in a modest ceremony
on June 4, 1861 in front of the family’s fireplace, Ann and her new husband began
their new life in a log cabin Jim had built for them not far from Sandy Creek,
near the Click community.
One day in 1869, while sitting at a window doing her morning churning,
Ann watched as two of her children, seven-year-old John and three-year-old Molly,
built a playhouse on the other side of the piled rock fence that kept livestock
out of their backyard.
The next time she looked up from her butter-making,
Ann saw an Indian stealthily approaching her oblivious children. Screaming for
them to run for the house, Ann rushed to the front room of their cabin and grabbed
the loaded rifle always kept by the door.
As the children raced toward
the cabin, the Indian let fly with an arrow that creased little Molly on her heel.
But the kids made it safely into the cabin.
Ann barred the door and windows,
pulled back the rifle’s hammer and resolutely awaited developments. Peeking outside,
the frontier mother saw more Indians – plenty enough to force their way into her
home, kill her and take the children.
But on this day, the raiders had
more interest in the Barnett family’s horses than the people inside the cabin.
Besides, they did not know that only one woman stood between them and two captives.
For all the warriors knew, several well-armed men might be inside.
tempted to kill an Indian or two, Ann knew that if she fired, the Comanches would
attack no matter what to revenge the death of some of their own. She held her
fire, but could hardly restrain son John when he saw an Indian leading away his
beloved horse “Chiquita.”
As Ann stood with her rifle at the ready, she
watched as the Indians rode away with their stolen stock.
mother had saved two of her children from Indians, but disease proved to be another
story. On their way in a wagon to East
Texas to visit her husband’s parents, their son took ill near Burnet
and died a day before his first birthday. They buried the child on the roadside
and returned to their home in Llano County.
Son John never got his horse
back and he never forgot about it, either. As a young man, he joined the Texas
Rangers hoping to extract a little revenge.
Her husband died in 1899,
but Ann stayed on the family land until 1907. That year she moved to Kingsland,
where four of her sons lived. She lived until April 25, 1912, dying at the age
of 67. They buried her, ironically enough, in Comanche Cemetery in nearby Blanco
Cox - September 18, 2013 column
Marriages | Texas Mothers
Related Topics: People
| Texas Town List | Texas
by Mike Cox - Order Here|