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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Recollections of
Early Texas
The memories of
John Holland Jenkins

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

Folks who read this column on a regular basis know that I am a real believer in using old newspapers as a source to obtain historical data. I tend to believe that eyewitness accounts found in newspapers, diaries, and personal journals are more reliable than what some self-proclaimed historian might conjure up.
It's not always necessary to go back 100 years or more to find articles which document the past. Such was the case when I came across an article from a 1958 edition of The Lavaca County Tribune. This particular story originally came from a book titled "Recollections of Early Texas" and was written by a man know as the "Bastrop chronicler." His real name was John Holmes Jenkins.

Jenkins wrote mostly about the Indians in this part of Texas and his assessment of the Native American is anything but flattering. He called them "savages" and described them in a manner that might chill the blood of any civilized individual.

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The Bastrop chronicler described one account where a band of Comanches was given a beef by the settlers so they would have something to eat. Evidently the Indians were starving and they acted friendly enough that they convinced the Texans to feed them. According to Jenkins' reminiscences, the Comanches proceeded to eat the cow before it was completely dead. "They were eating its raw liver most ravenously while the warm, red blood trickled from their mouths and down their chins," wrote the chronicler.

He also described one of the white settlers as being rather callous as well. It seems the Texans had captured a Waco Indian woman along with her little three-year-old girl. The woman killed her child and tried to kill herself. Evidently she was almost dead by the next morning and one of the men volunteered to finish her off. "Taking her to the water's edge, he drew a large hack knife and with one stroke severed her head from her body, both of which rolled into the water beneath."

Jenkins wrote that these were rough and cruel times and produced some heartless people.

He said that of all the settlers who fell victim to the Indians, a man named Josiah Wilbarger was perhaps the most famous. Wilbarger was hunting one day with four companions when the Indians attacked them. Two of the hunters escaped and the next day a party of men from a nearby settlement found the others. Of the three, two were scalped and dead. Wilbarger was found sitting under a tree. Jenkins wrote, "[He] was scalped and crippled, covered with mud and blood."

Another gruesome event that the Bastrop chronicler described was about a fight between the Tonkawas and those of the Waco tribe. He said that the Tonkawas shot and killed one of their adversaries and then held a happy celebration. "They cut off the hands and feet of the hated savage," said Jenkins, "and boiled them together with some beef."

It's hard to imagine what our ancestors had to endure to colonize this place. Nothing came easy on the Texas frontier and many of those who ventured here, seeking free land, didn't live long enough to raise a family or plow a single acre.

In his recollections, Jenkins told of one ten-year-old boy, Warren Lyons, who was captured by Indians near Schulenburg. Years later some white surveyors found him in San Antonio and returned him to his mother. "The young Warren Lyons returned to the American way of life, married and became one of the outstanding Texas ranchers," Jenkins said.

The recollections of John Holmes Jenkins should remind us all of what our forefathers had to go through so long ago. Their strength and perseverance conquered the Texas frontier - through their many hardships, they left us a legacy that we can be extremely proud of.
Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary
September 20, 2022Column


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