Indian Problems Plague Pioneers in Early Days
by Frederica Wyatt
Few areas of Texas had more Indian troubles than the picturesque hill country, and coincidence was interwove into many of the fatal raids in Kimble County in the heart of the area.
In the latter 1850s, Raleigh Gentry built a wilderness home on the banks of Bear Creek and became Kimble County's first white settler. The Gentry family consisted of several grown sons who helped their parents "prove up" a claim.
More settlers came in the 1860s, and in 1862 Gentry sold his holdings to Rance Moore and moved a few miles away to the Teacup Mountain area.
Typical of many pioneers, the Gentrys met tragedy head on. A son, William, marched away to war and died while in the Confederate Army.
In 1867, another son, Alien, was killed by Indians hunting wild hogs on Little Saline Creek near the spot where the Henry Parks family was slain by Comanches on April 2, 1862. Alien's body was interred in the Gentry Creek cemetery near the family home. Over on Bear Creek, the Moore Colony continued to prosper. Among the newcomers was James Sewell who had brought his young bride from Coleman County in 1868. Sewell was surprised by Indians while cutting wood some distance from the settlement. He was killed instantly and was the second person buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery.
Some time earlier James Bradbury, Sr. had moved to Kimble County from Williamson County and had established a flourishing settlement on the banks for the South Llano River about two miles above the junction of the North and South Llanos.
When the news of Sewell's death reached him, Bradbury eagerly joined a posse and followed the Indian trail.
The redskins were overtaken near Teacup Mountain in the Gentry settlement. In the ensuing Battle of Bradbury Hills, James Bradbury was mercilessly slain by the Indians. The other members of the posse carried his body back to the mourning village. He lies in an unknown grave near the North Llano River.
Sentiment of the Kimble County settlers was expressed in this letter written to the San Antonio Daily Herald: "Kimball (sic) County, April 30, 1872-Editors. Herald:
On this day at eleven o'clock a party of Indians, about fifty in number, passed though this county and found a man by the name of James Sewell making rails. They killed him, scalped him, took his horse and moved on down the country about five miles where they killed three cows and one yearling and were feasting on them when they were trailed and attacked by nine citizens.
The Fight was kept up for a short time as the citizens were so much outnumbered and the Indians having the advantage of arms ... all of them being armed with Winchester rifles. The attacking party thinks, or almost knows, they killed four Indians, but as the Indians kept the ground they would not know with certainty.
One thing they do know, they lost one man, killed. The man killed was Mr. James Bradberry (sic), aged sixty- five years; he had spent forty nine years on the borders of Texas and was brave as could be. Mr. Ranch Moore was the leader of the brave and intrepid nine who had the courage to attack fifty Indians, but of course they did not know that the Indians were so well armed. Nos Messrs. Editors, what do you think of this style of business? Is it not a splendid government we have, to arm the Indians on the Reserves with the most improved guns and send them down to kill us? You may think it is all right, but we up here in Kimball (sic) County think different. Can you not do something in our aid? Tell President Grant that it is very, very wrong. Respectfully, Chas. S. Jones"
In 1873 Dr. Ezekian Kountz moved his family from Kansas and purchased the Bradbury property. All went well until Christmas Eve, 1876, when the last Indian raid was chronicled in Kimble County. On that eventful morning, Isaac Kountz, aged 16 and his eleven year old brother, Sebastian were herding sheep on the mountainside near the home. Suddenly a bank of marauding Indians came upon them, shooting and killing Isaac with a Davy Crockett-type rifle. Sebastian escaped to tell the story. The band of Indians traveled on northward through the Llano River valley past Round Mountain.
After crossing the North Llano River at the foot of Doran' Bluff, the Indians encountered two more young brothers, Tom and Sam Speer. Tom manages to escape, but Sam, aged 17, was killed.
The entire settlement was grief stricken and shocked by the killing of the Kountz and Speer boys. A company of Texas Rangers led by Captain Henry Moore and posse of frontiersmen, consisting of John A. Miller, Jerry Roberts, Billie Waites, Dr. E.K. Kountz, N.Q. Patterson, Billie Gilliland and P.C. Lemons, took up the Indian's trail. It was a difficult course to follow, as it led though cedar brakes and over rocks. The horses finally became too exhausted to go any farther, and the Kimble County men gave up the pursuit at Wallace Creek, a tributary of the Median River.
The Indians were not through with their trail of blood. Coming upon Bandera County Deputy Sheriff Jack Phillips in Seco Canyon, they shot and killed him. In late years, Phillip's nephew, T.B. Phillips, moved to Kimble County and became one of its leading citizens.
Written by FREDERICA WYATT