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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 • Posted January 11, 2012

Due to the holiday season, I have ventured away from Erna and the Hill and after much analyzing, I discovered that I needed to search further back in time than the 1874 period as much transpired to lead to the eventual settlements in the area. A friend, Floyd Vest, a prof. at North Texas University gave me a book, captioned “Savage Frontier” by Steven L. Moore, that gave me more info that I had in 4 years of history in school.When Texas won their independence form Mexico in 1836, a Republic was created that did not have money or the means for collecting large amount of taxes. Lamar was elected the President of the Republic and formed the capitol in Washington on The Brazos. After independence was won, Texas suddenly became a target of the inflamed Mexican government and the Indians, who were bands of murderers and thieves. Lamar established a form of militia but was not sufficient to be of benefit in the defense of the Republic. Later, the capitol was moved to Austin but because of the Indian incursions, it was moved back to Washington for safety of records.In 1841, Sam Houston became President but again faced with money shortages, he would not form a militia for the defenses required. Instead, he copied what was a group of citizens formed by Steven F. Austin for the protection of the original colonies in 1823. The 1841 legislature gave Houston the authority to form what Houston called Ranging Companies and these companies, mostly volunteers, were formed in each of the major settlements along the northwest, west and southern edges of the Republic due to the fact that the Indians were a constant threat west of Austin and northwest of San Antonio and the Mexicans at the south edge which was Goliad, Refugio and Corpus.A Ranging Company was formed at San Antonio and the township (at that time was approx. 200) convened and named John Coffey Hays as the commander of the company and was given the rank of Capitan. He managed to muster 25 souls for his ranger force which consisted of a future Kimble County resident, Creed Taylor, and in 1841, they followed a band of Indians north and it is said that he was trapped on the top of Enchanted Rock and single handed, held of the band till his forces arrived to rescue him. The Indians, after this escapade, gave Hays the nickname of “Devil Jack” (as the Indians said, DEVIL YACK). Hays had an advantage on the hill because he had the new issue of the Texas Navy Colt, which was a .36 caliber repeater with a five shot removable cylinder plus the long range cap and ball rifle. In January of ’42, rumors were coming to San Antonio that the Mexican Army was gathering on the River ready for an invasion of the Republic, namely San Antonio. By this time Jack Hays had returned to San Antonio with the ranging force and he sent spies to the border to investigate the rumors. The spies reached the River but were caught by a band of Mexican Banditos and later released to come back and warn the town of an impending invasion. Hays garnered a force of 72 men for defense and sent work out to the outlying forces of the apparent attack on Bexar County. General Vasquez was in command of the Mexican forces and he led about 700 men near the town and then did a flank move with some of his troops and went to Goliad, plundered the city and not gaining much in supplies and then marched on to near Refugio and then back to southwest of San Antonio. It was during this time that two notables, Sam Walker and William A. A. Wallace, joined the force.. Vasquez took up offensive positions and sent his Col. Carrasco too the defenders with a truce flag asking for the surrender of the Hays forces. Hays sent back a reply requesting till 2 pm, thus giving the residents of town a chance to pack up and move out to Sequin. They loaded up most of the wares, drank all the spirits, and smoked the cigars and left town to summons more help. President Houston had already dispatched word to other ranging companies, however, after about a month of the Mexican offensive, Vasquez suddenly reversed his move and went back to Mexico, without any more action other than probes. Things became rather quite on the “Western Front” for a short time in ‘’41 and early “42. Hays disbanded his group and Houston ordered him to re-organize a force in San Antonio and patrol the northern and western “Frontier”. A Col Canales gathered a force of Mexican Soldiers and made an effort to take Corpus/Refugio but there was ranger force camped in the area of Refugio and the battle of Lipantitlan’ ensued. The rangers were overrun and their meager supplies were taken and it is assumed that the supply cache was a disappointment to Canales and he went back to Mexico. Meantime, the Indians raided a settlement in what was called Bandera Pass west of San Antonio and stole about 80 head of horses and murdered the family. Capt. Hays marshaled forces of 16 and trailed the slow moving band to the Guadalupe River in now Kendall County near Sisterdale, at what was called Pinta Crossing, an Indian trail leading from near Austin to below Menard. The “Battle of Pinta Crossing” lasted a couple of days and with the advantage of the .36 cal. Colt, the Indians finally took off. Creed Taylor was shot in the shoulder and did not appear in any more musters. He had three brothers that did remain in service. For my February article, I will have more on the Texas Ranging Companies and how Hays defended another attack by the Mexican Army and the retaliation effort of the Texican forces, which leads up to the adventures of a couple of noted characters in Texas history. It is stated in the book that some of the escapades of the Rangers could not be historically accurate as in interviewing three or so in the same incident, different versions came out as well as the years. So you, up on Texas history, don’t hold my feet to the fire.

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