The Hittson Project
The second year Mr. Johnson was on the frontier he was surrounded by a band of Comanches, while a short distance from camp, and engaged them in
battle single-handed until his companions came to his rescue .
"In 1868 I was working under W . O . Clark of Fort Worth, manager of John Hittson's camp and branding pen , which was situated at the head of Battle
Creek in Callahan county, " said Mr. Johnson . "There were but few cattle men in that part of the State, Weatherford, in Parker County, being the
dividing line between the white people and the Indians . Frequent raids were made by Indians near Weatherford at that time, and it was unsafe for
anyone to go alone west of that place . Cattlemen and cowboys took the precaution to go well armed, in squads of not less than five or ten, in order to be
prepared to meet the scalping Comanches and Kiowas, two of the most warlike tribes on the frontier. Not many of the Indians, however, possessed
modern firearms, the bow and arrow, the scalping knife and the tomahawk being their principal weapons while the cattlemen and cowboys were well
supplied with Winchesters and Colt sixshooters. "John and Jim Hart, Jim Carter, John Hazelwood and John Hittson were about all the cattlemen in that
part of the country, and they had agreed to begin branding cattle early that year .
Accordingly, on the first day of March we made our first roundup on Sandy Creek, some ten miles east of Battle Creek, where we established a
temporary camp and branding pen. In the afternoon I was sent out about a half mile from camp to bring in a few horses that had been left to graze on the
range. Each cowboy had two or three horses, and even that number were ridden almost to death. I had rounded up the horses, and started to camp with
them when about twenty Comanches came in sight. Although armed with a Winchester and two Colt six shooters, I saw no chance of escape except to
beat the Indians to camp. Immediately the race began, but I had not gone very far until I discovered that another band of Indians had cut me off from
camp, a bit of strategy the war like tribes never lost an opportunity to employ . Realizing that I was facing a perilous situation, I dismounted, crawled up
under a steep bank on Sandy Creek and decided to sell out to the best marksman, some of them being equipped with firearms. They passed me several
times in a ring fight, but the only injury I sustained was from a rifle ball that plowed through my cheek, but proved to be only a flesh wound. One Indian
passed to his `happy hunting ground' and two others fell from their horses, but managed to drag themselves from the line of battle and were carried
away. However, had it not been for my comrades, who heard 'the firing ,and came to my rescue , the grass would have been growing over my grave for
more than fifty years, as my ammunition was about exhausted when help arrived. When the Indians saw the cowboys coming, they withdrew and a
running fight ensued, in which several members of the band and two of our party were wounded."
Volume 23 No. 12 January 1946
|Battle with Indians in Runnels County
Marshall Lafayette Johnson
M.L. Johnson was eye-witness to the
Comanche depredations against the
men and livestock under the care of
John Hittson and his son, Jesse J
Hittson from 1867 to the end of the
great cattle drives from Texas,
approximately 1880. When most
stories were written from legend and
lore, Mr. Johnson wrote from his true
personal experiences. His accounts
are recorded by Frontier Times
Magazine and a book called "True
History of the Struggles with Indians."
Mr. Johnson was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, September 7, 1848. His father, Kindred Johnson, moved with his family to Macon,
Missouri, in 1853, and to Texas in 1855 , locating near Greenville, Hunt County. In 1862 the family moved to Tarrant County, settling some miles south
of Fort Worth in the cross timbers, where Mr. Johnson grew to manhood. Leaving the frontier after seven years of strenuous life, Mr . Johnson lived at
Fort Worth several years. He then attended school at Cleburne four years. Later he married and lived at Austin twenty-five years, where he was engaged
in business . In 1922 he went to Dallas and operated a small printing plant at 2611 Elm Street.
When this story was written he had lived in Texas seventy-one years and had known Dallas since it was a trading post on the banks of the Trinity. But
not all of the animation and pathos incident to Mr . Johnson's eventful life were gained in Texas. When a boy in Missouri he witnessed an annual sale of
slaves, a brief but pathetic account he gives in a little book he published and from which quote :
"At 'the beginning of the year, in antebellum days, slave buyers of the South would visit Missouri and purchase slaves at auction in a manner similar to the
way horses and mules are bought today . It is needless to say this was looked upon with disfavor by the slaves . They dreaded the call to the Southern
cotton and cane fields . The stories that had come from the land of the pine and the date palm to the Missouri prairies may have been wild distortion.
But one part of the traffic was not fancy—the breaking of home ties by separating the family, for 'the slave was true to the mother of his children and he
loved her and his kin with an affection unsurpassed today. The big annual sales occurred the first Monday in January in one of the county seat towns.
There was always a number of wide-hatted, long-booted Southern buyers on hand, which insured lively bidding. The slaves would stand around in
groups, tearfully awaiting their turn to fall into the hands of the stranger from `way down Souf.'
There was a sale at Macon, Mo., in January, 1854 . `I have here, gentlemen,' said the auctioneer, ` a strong-limbed healthy young negro, David Jenkins
by name, sired by Tom Jenkins who lived to be one hundred
years old and could work almost up to the day he died. There isn't a blemish about him anywhere; you can see for
yourself. I'm bid $1,000 as a starter. Yes, he 's married; that yellow gal over there is his wife, but you don ' t have to take her. Eleven hundred! Why,
gentlemen, that nigger's good for fifty years at least!' As the bidding proceeded the negro stood by the block with his young wife's arms around his neck
and her face buried in his
Then occurred an incident which, perhaps, is without parallel in the history of American slavery. When Jenkins was finally bid in at a fancy price and was
being torn from the arms of his wife, Zimariah, a negro belonging to Dr. John Fort, walked up to the block ,and stated that he had his master's ' permission
to go South in Jenkins' place. Zimariah was a stalwart young negro, fully the equal of Jenkins, and without family ties . `What do you say?' asked the
auctioneer of the speculator. " 'I'd as soon have this nigger as the other,' replied the buyer, looking admiringly at the sinewy offering who had bared his
arms and legs to show how well he was fashioned.
" `It makes no difference to me, ' said the auctioneer, `I get my commission just the same. But what do you
want to do it for, Zim? It isn't your funeral . ' " `Ah knows it, sah,' said the big negro, as his eyes shot swiftly toward Jenkins and his wife. `But Ah cawn't
stan to see Zerella cry, cawse Ah—Ah lubs her mysef ! '
"Nobody laid a wreath on Zim's kinky head. Nobody heralded his act in poetry or in song . Nobody erected
a monument to his memory when he died far from the scenes of his nativity . But when he passed down the lane
with the chained gang, following in the wake of an armed horseman, he glanced to one side and saw by the fence a
little yellow woman with tears in her eyes. This time he knew the tears were for him, and that was enough. "
by Marshall Lafayette Johnson