In July, I was visiting Leakey, Texas -- with the daughter, grandkids, and their assorted relatives. Not being willing to hike in Lost Maples Park in 100 degree weather, I opted to drive out one of the winding roads through the hills. And, being at my own pace, stopped to read a historical marker. It was marking the spot where the Last Indian Massacre occurred in Frio Canyon.
I remembered this story from a book I own called Early Texas Settlers and Indian Fighters by A.J.Sowell. I happened to bring that book with me, so I went back to the cabin and looked it up. The account in my book said at the time of that writing (1900), the McLauren house was still standing. So, I hopped back in the car and went back toward the marker to take photos of the area -- hoping to somehow imagine the scene.
On my way back I noticed a couple of men outside of a big modern house just before the marker -- and right in front of that big modern house was an ancient wooden structure. Could it be?
I pulled into the drive and asked the workers if they knew anything about that old house. "Well," the guy said, "I think there's a marker up there on the road . . . all's I know is I been here since the 70's and it's always been there."
My heart's beating wildly at this point -- my BIBLE of Texas stories has suddenly come to life. The actual house that young Allen Lease ran toward, thinking there were wild hogs ransacking inside -- is still standing.
Okay, okay -- here's what happened back in 1881. Or 1882, depending on whose telling the story. John & Kate McLauren, their kids Maud, 6, Alonzo, 3 and Frank, a baby, along with Allen Lease (a 15 year old kid who lived with them for reasons nobody knows any more) had been living seven miles "above" (north-northwest) Leakey for two years -- with no Indian trouble. One April morning John McLauren heads out to Cherry Creek -- another settlement "below" Leakey. Mrs. McLauren, Allen and the kids head out to work in the garden which is down the hill a ways from the house. At some point they all sit down on a blanket -- probably had a little meal and Kate probably nursed the baby.
Kate hears a commotion up at the house and asks Allen to go shoo the wild hogs out. Allen comes running back chased by an Indian with a Winchester. The Indian shoots Allen. The ball (bullet) hits Allen in the back of the head and comes out his nose. (I reckon that if you'd seen it you'd have remembered a gory detail like that, too.) So Kate has jumped up by this time and the Indian shoots her too -- hitting her in the breast. She falls to the ground, then jumps up -- still holding the baby -- and screams to the other kids to run. The Indian keeps shooting and manages to hit her three more times -- twice in the leg, once in the hip. Finally, she falls and doesn't get up. The Indian then returned to the house and continued to pillage, along with several other Indians.
Little Maud, desperate to do something to help her mother, runs to the house and returns -- unscathed -- with a pillow for her mother's head. Say what? Yeah, pretty amazing that this little girl walked through a band of Indians who had just shot two people, picked up a pillow and walked back out. The possible reasons for this miracle I'll talk about next time.
The current owners of the property built their new house just a few yards away -- and they take great care that the old place continues to stand. I seriously doubt it would have had a corrugated tin roof originally, but it looks really authentic anyway. The hinges on the door and windows are the only shiny bits. All the nails are square and rusty.
It probably measures about 20' x 15'. Family of 6. No screens on the windows. Chinks in the walls. In Texas. Damn, these were the good old days, huh?
Someday I'm going to interview the owners of the property.
Maybe they'll let me go inside.