Mason County News
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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 • Posted June 6, 2012

The end of the Republic of Texas has passed and now the new state becomes federalized in its actions in the defenses of the Frontier and the Rangers now become the mounted Rifle Rangers and are asked to provide scouting and spy activities for the U. S. Army. Capitan Hays has formed the five Ranging Companies early in 1846 and in being asked to parlay with General Z. Taylor, becomes a Colonel of the Texas Rangers. The rangers were not in the U. S. uniforms and acted as civilians attached to the Army.

As the supplies and federal re-enforcements began landing at the port of Corpus, Taylor moved his troops from the San Antonio area to Corpus and as the Mexican Government learned of the forces in Corpus, they began to move forces into the Brownsville area, as the Hays spies learned and relayed the info to Taylor. The U. S. then began the move to the area and was challenged by the Mexican Army 10 miles north of the River at de la Palmas. President Polk then on May 13, 1846, declared war on the Mexican Government .The Mexicans fired on the U. S. forces from a distance with 12# canon balls and most were short but rolled into the camp and the U. S. forces treated the canon balls as a game until the challenge was reversed.

The Mexican forces were driven back across the River and Gen. Taylor began his march to Mexico City. The Hays Rangers stayed with the forces, armed with the new Walker .44 caliber Colt pistol, thru the capture of Monterey where he withdrew his Mounted Rangers and returned to San Antonio. During this time, Big Foot Wallace was his First Sergeant and Sam Walker joined Taylor’s Army as a civilian scout and was killed near Monterey with his pair of Walker Colt’s in hand. The drive to Mexico City was completed and the Mexican Government was forced to agree to and sign the Treaty of Guadalupe, which declared the Rio Grande River as the boundary between the U. S. and Mexico plus Mexico had to relinquish the territories of California, Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Utah, Nevada and Colorado to the U. S.

The new State thought that the Feds would supply a force to reckon with common thieves and outlaws but they left that to the State and their goal was to establish a line of forts to the West and North of San Antonio and abate the Indian activity. This now left the Rangers as the law enforcement agency and they continued to play the part of Judge, Jury and executioner, as before. This was in evidence as I read in another sequel of events of the Rangers in 1900 where 41 bandits were executed near the River, so the act of revenge continued after the Hays and Big Foot reign. Gillespie County began settlement in about 1846 and the need for expansion of the frontier had begun.

Big Foot Wallace took command of a ranger patrol to escort a survey party to the West of the Gillespie area and his group surveyed and scouted out the Llano River of the present Hill Country of Texas in the late 1840’s so along with the building of a fort in Gillespie County, Fort Mason, Fort McKavett, Fort Terrell, Fort Concho, Fort Lancaster and Ft. Stockton in about 1855, the settlement was soon to follow with the protection from the Indians by the Army. However, this did not stop the Indian attacks by groups of raiders throughout Central Texas. In 1862, the Parks family was massacred at the Little Saline Community and their house burned, which was on the west line of the present Little Saline Cemetery, where their remains are buried. Another family, the same year, the Johnson’s, settled near the mouth of the Little Saline Creek at a flowing spring on what we referred to as the Judge Slater Ranch and lived in a dug out as a shelter. The Indians came upon him away from the spring and killed him and he is buried on Leon Point in the Long Mountain range. His family returned to Willow City and never came back to the Saline area. I do not know who buried Mr. Johnson. In 1858, a Reichenau came to the Big Saline Creek area south of the present day London, and tried to run sheep on the land but in two years, the Indians aggravated him so that he returned to Gillespie County. The gap where the highway travels south of the creek is now referred to as the Reichenau Gap.

In the1860’s, a community was settled near Red Creek at what is the present cemetery and a Gentry family was one of the settlers. Will Gentry left the area on a hunting trip into the Long Mountain range and a couple of Indians began to stalk him so Will killed one of them and the other fled. Gentry buried him on what we now call Gentry Point about a half mile north of the foot of Erna Hill. I have visited this site on several occasions and the grave had been desecrated on several instances but there still remains a rock perimeter of the grave. This is on private property and please do not attempt to enter.

Even with the building of Fort Concho and Chadburne and the establishment of a ranger camp at Camp San Saba, the Indian raids continued. In the 1860’s, the settlements began to flourish west of Weatherford and Fort Phantom Hill and Fort Griffin were established north of Abilene to house the Armed Forces. There were some Indians who were settled there prior to the white intrusion and they became domesticated into the society but raids continued from Fort Sill. It was during this time that the Fed’s marched the Cherokees from Georgia and the Carolinas to Fort Sill, O.k., which became known as “The Trail of Tears” and was fine fertile soil but the Indians were not SETTLED. Fort Sill became a safe haven for the raiding parties as the Fort had become the permanent reservation for the Tribes. In 1875, Gen. McKenzie, Post Commander at Fort Concho gathered part of his command and traveled to Fort Griffin where he gained a few troops and supplies, continued on to Fort Sill where the Indians ponies were rounded up and 1500 horses were killed on the reservation. The area of the killings became known as “The McKenzie Bone Yard” and this brought to a halt, the Indian raids to the south. It seems that the last major Indian problem was at the battle of Adobe Wells north of Abilene prior to the McKenzie raid.

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