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Twenty Years Without a Home, 1836-1859

Tribal Locations and Treaty of 1835
Tribal Locations and Treaty of 1835, From The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854, F. Todd Smith, 1995, courtesy of the author.

Click images to enlarge

Some Caddo voices are quiet like a whisper. Some ring out like a bell calling workers in from the field. Some say, "Those people who said those things, they did not know." Some say, "those people who said those things—maybe they were true—maybe not. does not seem right."

Caddo lands in Louisiana were ceded by treaty between the Caddo and the United States in 1835. The treaty required the Caddos to leave the boundaries of the United States within a year. At that time Caddos were living on the west end of a lake they called T'soto, later known as Caddo Lake. Their name for the place was Sha'chahdíinni, "Timber Hill." On leaving Sha'chahdíinni, the Red River Caddos of Louisiana were twenty years without a home.

Texas seemed a safe place for Caddos to resettle, build new homes, plant new crops, and nurture children. East Texas was the ancestral homeland of their kindred, the Hasinai ("Our People"). Generation after generation of Caddos wore major footpaths through the east Texas black land prairie on their way to hunt, camp, meet and trade. An east-west path led to favored camp sites in present Tarrant County. A north-south trail, the Caddo Trace, crossed the northeast corner of what is now Dallas County. There were no roads. North central Texas still belonged to Indians when Principal Caddo chief, Tarshar, led approximately three quarters of the Caddos to the western fringe of Hasinai traditional hunting ground in 1836.

SFA's 1830 map
East Texas as depicted on Stephen F. Austin's 1830 map. Texas seemed a safe place for Caddos to resettle (in 1835), build new homes, plant new crops, and nurture children. East Texas was the ancestral homeland of their kindred, the Hasinai ("Our People").

Estimated Population of Texas in 1836

Estimated Population of Texas in September, 1836:

Anglo-Americans 30,000
Mexicans 3,470
Indians 14,200
to which add the civilized tribes—Cherokees, Kickapoos, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Potawatamies, Delawares, and Shawnees—8,000

Morfit to Forsyth, August 27, 1836

1841 Arrowsmith map
1841 Arrowsmith map of Texas showing east Texas. Notice the trails through Nacogdoches. Trammel's Trail leading north is part of the old north-south Caddo Trace, now being used by Anglo settlers pushing into Texas from Arkansas. Click to see enlarged view and overview of map.

Hasinai villages, like Caddo communities, suffered a great loss of place and population before 1835. Immigrant Indian bands as well as white people crowded into the east Texas territory once dominated by Hasinai. Only Hainai and Nadako, two of the old Hasinai locations, remained in 1835. Written documents from this time forward refer to the people of those villages as "Ioni" and "Anadarko".

When Sam Houston became President of the Republic of Texas, he sent commissioners to make a treaty with the Hainai and Nadako. A resolution "that the Senate advise and consent to ratification of a treaty entered into between T J Rusk and K H Douglass on the Part of the Republic of Texas and the Chiefs of the Ioni and Anadarko Tribes of indians on the 21 day of August 1837" was submitted to the Texas Senate in October, 1837. The treaty was lost at some unknown time. Not even a copy can be found in the great volume of Texas Indian Affairs records, correspondence, and treaties that are carefully preserved from early days of the Revolution to present.


Grandmother's story:

well, the way grandmother's sister, she's the one who really told some of the stories about that. She was much older than my grandma was. She must of been about eight or ten years older than my grandmother was. . . . And my grandmother, her mother, they put her on a horse with my grandmother and her sister. . . .her mother turned around to go back cause she knew that the way things was going turning out they was going to starve to death or die or somebody seeing dying on the way. That she wanted to go back to Louisiana, if she was going to die she wanted to die back home. And she kinda rebelled against em, and she was killed. My aunt said that soldiers stuck her with a knife. Is what she said. She was on this horse and she said her mother fell off the horse. She was telling about that's when they moved.

Fallis Elkins, 1973



Treaties did not prevent whites from taking Indian land in east Texas. Surveyors swarmed valleys of the Neches and Angelina streams where the Hasinai had lived for centuries. New white settlers surrounded the Anadarko and Hainai villages and pressed against the settlements of other Indians who had emigrated and settled there first. Caddos quickly learned; whenever men with sticks and chains appeared, white settlers soon followed. Conflict was inevitable. Hainais and Anadarkos fled from violence, moving west to the Three Forks of the Trinity River where Caddos kindred from Louisiana were trying to establish new homes.


"Mistaken for renegades":

There was so many different communities that the word "nah" . . . denoting "from" "those" "they" "them" "of" . . . Nah-shu-tush "It's a community that they lived in . . .I think there were about seven bands altogether . . . . the Ha-si-nai, Ka-doha-da-cho, Hai-Nai- Hai-ish, Ya-ta-si, they were often mistaken for the renegades of other tribes . . . . several were—as I say, mistaken for renegades when they were out hunting, that's where most of the murders were committed . . . .

Sadie Bedoka Weller, 1968.

1841 Arrowsmith map
Detail from 1841 Arrowsmith map in Robertson County reads "Caddo Village burned by Genl Rusk 1839"

Caddos crossing from Louisiana into Texas roused suspicion and animosity. Texas Declaration of Independence was only month's old. Many Anglo Americans greedy for free land in Texas brought anti-Indian sentiments with them. Almost all were gripped by fear that Caddos from Louisiana intended to lead massive attacks plotted by Mexicans. Tarshar and other Caddo chiefs admitted that Mexican agents had been among their people but denied that the Mexicans were given Caddo loyalty. Still rumors were rampant. Caddos were accused of instigating or joining in frontier attacks made by roving groups of plains Indians.

Texans petitioned United States officials to keep Caddos in Louisiana, at least until the war was over. General Thomas J. Rusk went a step farther in November 1838. Riding at the head of seventy men he invaded the United States to take control of Caddos living well inside Louisiana, about twelve miles from Shreveport. The Caddos were disarmed, their meager arsenal deposited with their agent in Shreveport. Rusk demanded they stay there until the war with Caddos on the Texas frontier ended. After making this "treaty" with the Caddos in Shreveport, Rusk joined a campaign against Caddos on the Trinity River. He found and burned their village in the Cross Timbers west of the Trinity in January 1839.

Texas Rangers, mostly local community volunteers organized to protect the frontier from Indians, became progressively diligent in their search for and destruction of Caddo villages. Accounts of Indian fights are many and various. Told and retold, some like the "Battle of Village Creek", have become part of Texas folklore. The report written by Acting Brigade Inspector Wlliam N. Porter on June 5, 1841, may be an accurate account of the running battle that took place May 24, 1841.

Caddo-style house burning
A grass-thatched Caddo-style house blazing less than a minute after the fire was set. The scene eerily recreates the cold day in January, 1839 when General Thomas J. Rusk torched a Caddo village, not long after making a "treaty" with the Caddos. Photo by Velicia R. Bergstrom.
burning Caddo-style house
Within five minutes the house collapses. Five minutes between home and embers. Photo by Velicia R. Bergstrom.

Battle of Village Creek:

We soon found two villages, which we found to be deserted-the Indians at some previous time, had cultivated corn at these villages. There were some sixty or seventy lodges in these two villages. They were on the main branch of the Trinity. . . . General Tarrant deemed it imprudent to burn these villages, for fear of giving alarm to the Indians. . . but they were, in a great measure, destroyed with our axes. . . . On the 24th . . . . we found very fresh signs of Indians—The spies were sent ahead, and returned and reported the Indian Villages in three miles. We arrived in 3 or 4 hundred miles yards, and took up a position behind a thicket. . . . the line was formed, and the word given to charge into the Village on horseback; and it was taken in an instant, the Indians scarcely having time to leave their lodges before we were in the Village; several were shot in attempting to make their escape. Discovering a larger trail leading down the creek, and some of the Indians having gone in that direction, a few men were left at that Village and the rest at full speed took their course down the creek, upon which the Village was situated.

Two miles from the first Village, we burst suddenly upon another Village, this was taken like the first—There was another in sight below—many of the houses having fusiles, the men race toward this Village on foot; but the Indians having heard the firing at the second Village, had time to take off their Guns and ammunitions, and commenced occasionally to return our fire. From this time there was no distinction of Villages, but one continued Village for the distance of one Mile and a half, only seperated [sic] by the creek upon which it was situated.

We had now become so scattered—Genl. Tarrant deemed it advisable to establish some rallying point to which smaller parties should be expected to rally—We marched back to the second Village, . . .General chose this as the position—From this point Capt Jno. B. Denton, aid to Genl. Tarrant, and Capt. Bourland took each ten men for the purpose of scouring the woods. The parties went different directions, but formed a junction one mile and a half below the said Village . . .discovering a very large trail—much larger than any we had seen, . . . perceiving though the timber what appeared to be a village still more large than any they had heretofore seen, but just as the head of the two detachments were on the end of entering the creek, they were fired on from every direction by an enemy that could not be seen. . . . In this situation the men did the best they could . . . making every demonstration, as though they intended to charge the creek. The Indian yells and firing soon ceased, and both parties left the ground. It was not the wish of General Tarrant to take away Prisoners. The women and children, except one, escaped as they wished, and the men neither asked, gave, or received any quarter.

From the Prisoners who we had taken, we learned that at these Villages there were upwards of one thousand warriors, not more than half of whom were then at home, the other half were hunting Buffalo, and stealing on the Frontier.

William N. Porter, Acting Brigade Inspector, "Report of the Brig. General Tarrant's Expedition against the Indians on the Trinity"

Original in Texas State Archives, Austin

Jose Maria
Jose Maria, Caddo name Iesh, was the leader of the Caddos, Hainais, and Anadarkos in Texas. He was esteemed by both white men and Indians. This sculpted bust of Iesh stands in the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians, Anadarko, Oklahoma
Caddo Tribal Locations 1835-1854
Caddo Tribal Locations 1835-1854, From The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854, F. Todd Smith, 1995, courtesy of the author.

According to Porter, who was there when the battle was fought, General Edward H. Tarrant organized a company of 67or 69 volunteers who left Fort Johnson (an small fort in present Grayson County). Five days later they found two deserted villages on the western branch of the Trinity River. After another five days they found the first of four occupied villages, about two miles or less from another. They charged the first on horseback and took it easily. The second was taken just as easily. Indians in the third village, though, heard the gunfire from the second and fled. The fourth village, larger than the others, was seen only through the trees. The Indians there had time to prepare. As Tarrant's men came near, they were met with gunfire coming from every direction. One Texan was killed, two wounded. Convinced they were outnumbered, they picked up their bounty from the first three villages and headed back to the white settlements.

A count of twelve dead Indians was claimed by the Texans but, because of the great amount of blood seen on their trails, they thought more were killed or wounded. Not counting the fourth village seen only through the trees, Porter reported 225 lodges and about 300 acres of corn in the villages.

When a larger force of Texans returned in July, they found the villages empty and burned the dwellings. Caddos, Hainais, and Anadarkos had lived there, along the present Fort Worth/Arlington boundary. With them were fragmentary groups of Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Wacos, and Kickapoos. Later that summer, Bird's Fort was built near the battle site. It was occupied for only a few months but remained in use as a frontier gathering place.

The Caddo chief who led Caddos into Texas, was killed in early 1840. His name is spelled Tarshar in most documents of the period, but is given as "Wolf" in some. Since the Caddo name for wolf is ta'-sha, that is probably the correct name of the Caddo chief. After Ta'-sha's/Tarshar's death, José Maria rose to be the principal leader of the Caddos, Hainais, and Anadarkos. Esteemed by both white men and Indians, he gained an almost legendary status during the turbulent years that followed.

Let Us Live Together in Peace: Councils, Treaties, and Promise of Peace 1843-1846

The unwavering desire of Caddos, Hainais, and Anadarkos was to have a peaceful, permanent, place to call home. Without hesitation, they attended peace councils, signed treaties, and staunchly kept the terms. Principal chief José Maria and Caddo chiefs Bintah, Chowa and Ha-da-bah met with Commissioners for the Republic of Texas in March 1843. The meeting was on Tehaucana Creek at a placed used for intertribal councils long before Americans arrived in Texas. Chiefs and headmen of the Delaware, Shawnee, and the so called "wild" tribes, Tawakoni, Waco, Wichita, and Keechi, were also represented at the Council. The Commissioner appointed by President Sam Houston addressed the Council:

Lillie Whitehorn
Lillie Whitehorn, granddaughter of Jose Maria 1978, had this to say about her grandfather: "He's got a pretty name and I do not know why they use that Jose Maria-I do not like it. They should use his Indian name Caddi Ha-Iesh." 1973 photo by Cecile Carter.

The President of Texas has heard that our brothers, the red men, want to make peace with us: for this purpose he has sent us, his Commissioners to meet you. . . .You have heard the talk of our President read to you. He is the friend of the red man; he always has been their friend: he does not talk to them with a forked tongue. He tells you to listen to the words of the Commissioners. We will not deceive you, or give you a crooked Talk.

General G. W. Terrell, Commissioner in behalf of the Republic of Texas


This "Talk" offered promises the "red men" longed to see fulfilled: a country to live in, in Texas; trading houses in their country; agents to live among them and always send their talks to the President, carry his talks back to them, and see that white people did not intrude upon them. Indians could trade at Torrey's Trading House on the Brazos River without being harmed by Texas citizens. They could plant corn any place north of the Trading House that was built near the mouth of Tehuacana Creek about four miles from the old Council ground.


Bintah, spoke for the Caddos saying:

. . . I have only one thought in my heart, I have heard your talk and hold fast to it, your talk is good. . . . What I say to day I shall say always. If I should awake in the middle of the night, I still think the same as now, and I will be true all the time. Our women and children will now be without fear, the road is cleared, for them to travel without danger, I believe that what you have told me is truth, and that from this time henceforth we are all friends----"

President Houston's certificates
President Houston's certificates recognizing Bintah & José Maria.

Following the council at Tehaucana Creek, Bintah and José Maria were invited to visit President Sam Houston at the Texas Capital. Eighty-five years later, the widow of another Caddo Chief, Whitebread, turned two carefully preserved documents over to the tribal attorney. (The documents are archived in the Oklahoma Museum of History.) Except for the names, Bintah chief of the Caddo and José Maria chief of the Anadarko, they were identical. The great seal of the Republic of Texas was set on white, blue, and green ribbons that Houston said denoted peace, the sky, the grass and trees, existing as long as the world stands.

Treaty at Bird's Fort 1843

A Grand Council to conclude a "Treaty of Peace and Friendship" was scheduled to meet August 10, 1843 at Bird's Fort. President Houston was present on the set date. He waited a disappointing month for the Comanches to arrive before going back to the Texas capitol. The Comanches never came but Commissioners and the chiefs of nine tribes--again including Caddo, Anadarko, and Hainai, signed a treaty that incorporated the principals of Houston's peace policy on September 29, 1843. Commissioners were careful not to include recognition of the Indians rights to possess Texas land. The Treaty at Bird's Fort is a rarity. It is one of the few treaties ratified by the Republic of Texas Senate.

1844 Council

Although chiefs of nine tribes signed the Bird's Fort Treaty, errant bands continued raiding and stealing horses. When pursued, they frequently passed through the Anadarko, Caddo and Hainai villages on trails that led from white settlements to the villages of different Wichita bands. They were thoroughly rebuked by Caddo chiefs at a council meeting on the Tawakoni Creek grounds in 1844.

Bird's Fort Treaty Ratification
Bird's Fort Treaty Ratification Proclamation, 1843. The 1843 Treaty at Bird's Fort is one of the few treaties ratified by the Republic of Texas Senate. Texas State Library & Archives Commission Archives & Manuscripts "Indian Relations."

Caddo Chief Red Bear:

I do not like to see guns firing and blood spilled, for I am a friend of peace. I am one of the oldest of my tribe. All the red men and all of my other brothers know me well: they know I want to travel on in the white road. . . .my hands are clean and I like to see others the same. . . .I live upon the Brazos. José Maria the Anadarko chief is my neighbor, when our brothers steal horses and take them through our towns the whites blame us for it. . . .

Caddo Chief Ha-de-bah:

. . .You have heard what the old chiefs have said: I want you now to hear me, a young man speak. . . .I want you to hold strong to their talk. We are not talking here to children: our talk is strong and we all want you to hear it. Your warriors by living as we would wish them to, would be happy, and your wives and children see no danger. Captains and you, young warriors, I want you all to stop going to war: 'tis all I have to say to you.

José Maria seldom spoke in the earlier councils. This time, while holding a string of wampum beads, he took his turn saying:

As I am myself, small in size, my words to fit me, shall be few. long talks admit of lies; my talk shall be short but true. Captains and chiefs, listen to me. The Great Spirit has given to us a good day, and we have listened to many good talks. Captains I want you now to listen unto me. the Big Spirit, above, is watching all now here. young men you all look happy. Captains, if you love your children advise them not bad, but good; and show to them the white path. . . .The Great Spirit our father and our mother, the earth sees and hears all we say in council. You have listened to good talk. I hold the white path in my hands given to me by our white brothers. look at it: see it is all fair. To you, Waco and Tawakoni captains and warriors, I give it. stop going to war with the white people. they, the white people, gave it unto me: I give it now to you: use it as I have done and your women, and children will be happy, and sleep free of danger. I give to you this piece of tobacco to smoke, and consider of the white path. when you return to your village, then smoke this tobacco, think of my words and obey them.


The straight talk of the chiefs had no lasting effect on the young men of the Waco, Kichai, and Tawakoni. By the Fall season, Red Bear felt it was time to take charge and punish the culprits. He sent messengers to José Maria's village to raise men for war against the Waco. The warriors intended to go to the white settlements and ask the Texans to join with them against the Wacos or, if they did not want to fight, they would be asked to witness the punishment of the Wacos. The messengers were persuaded to wait at José Maria's village until the next council scheduled for October.

1844 Tehuacana Creek Treaty

President Houston was present at the next Council held in October, the first attended by Comanches. A treaty much like that made a Bird's Fort was concluded and presents were distributed to all but the Wacos who were told they could not receive theirs until they brought in the stolen horses.

Wild talk and rumors of whites' deceit began to spread throughout the Indian villages. Perceiving a danger in rising unrest caused José Maria to present the longest talk ever recorded for him. Honoring his treaty commitment, he reported to the Indian agents at Torrey's Trading house in January 1845:


My young men have left me and gone around because they have heard bad talk, but I do not believe this bad talk, and this is the reason I wish to hold council. That my young men may be convinced that the talk they have heard is false and the talk of bad men.

When I went out on my hunt, I got a passport from the agent, and did not meet any trouble until I got nearly back to this place. When I met this bad news.

When Col. Williams [an Indian agent] went up into our country last summer, I was told that the object of his mission was to get all the women and children in to the council in the fall, and that the whites were then to fall upon them and kill them. The waggons with the goods were to stop below and the troops from the United States were to assist in killing them. At the last Council all of the Captains said the old men with grey beards would not tell lies.--My beard is not yet grey: I am a young man, but I speak truth. For myself I believe that these stories I have heard are lies. . . .For my own part I am not afraid, but my people say I am a fool for staying so near the whites, as so soon as the corn gets fit to eat they intend to raise and kill them all and that the reason these goods were put here was to cheat our people out of their hunts to pay for the good white men they have killed.

I have understood also that if we did not go with the whites and help kill the Waco that the whites would think we were friends to the Waco, and kill us.--The Waco say that if we do not move out, away from the whites they will steal our horses, so you see we are between two fires. What shall we do? I know that it is the desire of the whites to make peace with all, but it is impossible. The whites have done their best to make peace, but the Waco and others will not be friends.

Two nights ago news was brought me that the Waco had stolen all the horses from 5 of my men, and that the men had left their families and pursued the Waco, and I have not heard of them since and do not know whether they are killed or not.

The Waco also stole some horses from some Lipan a short time since. . . .They have also stolen all the horses from Bintah's son, and he has followed them. . . .I come in to see you and give you my talk so that it can be sent to your Chief as I do not wish to go around like my young men have done but come straight to the white path, and pursue it. Our women and children are naturally scary; but myself and men are not afraid.

Brothers my talk is done.

Jose Maria

corn field
"José Maria and his people had about 150 acres of some of the finest corn ever seen in Texas. Their gardens were green with plump watermelons, beans, peas, and pumpkins yellowed on vines." Photo by Frank Schambach of Arkansas corn field.

José Maria and his people had about 150 acres of some of the finest corn ever seen in Texas. Their gardens were green with plump watermelons, beans, peas, and pumpkins yellowed on vines. In the general council held at the Tehuacana Creek grounds that fall, he and Bintah spoke once more of their hope that the white path would be kept. Towaash, chief of the Hainai, told the council:

Pumpkins were one of the favorite crops of the Caddos. Photo by Frank Schambach.

The President thinks now that all his people are not afraid, . . . because his women and children know that all is peace. Our women and children are not afraid now of the white warriors, all is good. . . .I know what I promised at the first Treaty, and I have done as I said. The President then gave us powder and Lead, and told us to go home and shoot deer and buffalo, and raise corn, for our women and children, so that in the cold rainy weather they would not cry for bread and meat. We have done so and found that it is good. All that he told us was true, and now I can go home to my people and tell them that all is still good, that they can eat and sleep in safety and feel no more afraid.


The Caddos who made the long journey from Louisiana to Indian Territory had not endured conflicts with white men. They were, however, as homeless in Indian Territory as their kinsmen in Texas. Forced to depend almost entirely on hunting to feed their families, they somehow managed to maintain dignity while struggling to support their families in midst of conflicts between immigrant tribes moved to the Territory by the treaties with the United States and prairie tribes reluctant to give up their historic hunting range.

The Creek Indian Nation attempted to bring peace by hosting a intertribal council near the present town of Eufaula, Oklahoma in 1845. Eight Caddo chiefs were among those attending. Cherokee Indian Agent, Pierce M. Butler, noted his impression of the Caddo spokesman, Chowawhana:

map of Caddo route
The Caddos who made the long journey from Louisiana to Indian Territory followed the course of the Red River. From Carter, 1995, Caddo Indians: Where We Come From, courtesy of the author.

The talk of the Caddo chief was of deep interest. He was a striking man of great personal beauty and commanding appearance. Small in stature, yet beautiful and attractive features, dressed in what would be called Indian magnificence, feathers, turbans, and silver bands. His speech was looked for with interest and was very well received. Approving the council, deploring the past and probable future fate of the red man, had been gloomy, future prospects worse, hostility among themselves, destruction of their race and ruin of their children. His people honest and true to the objects of this council. Would, when he got home assemble the people and tell them the talk. The same as though they were present. . . .Creek chiefs made long speeches in good taste and temper promising peace and good will to the effect that their brothers the Caddos had agreed to become the messengers of this tobacco and beads to the Comanches and the Osages to take it to the Pawnee Mohaws wish them to spread the news wherever they went.

notes taken at the "Grand Council" by Cherokee Agent Pierce M. Butler

Lone Star flag
In 1846 the Lone Star flag of the Republic was lowered and the flag of the United States raised in State of Texas.

Texas Statehood and US Treaties

Peaceful relations between tribes and Texans were still tenuous when Texas was annexed to the United States in 1846. As a state, Texas reserved rights to all public lands, assumed no further responsibility for Indians, and charged the federal government with the right and duty to defend the state's frontiers. In other words, the United States had political control of the Indians, but the state controlled the land they lived on.

The United States lost no time in negotiating a treaty with the Texas Indians. The circumstances were odd. Indian signatures (marks by their name) were collected on a separate sheet of paper but were not identified by tribe and the treaty between "commissioners on the part of the United States" and the "undersigned chiefs, counsellors and warriors of the Comanche, I-on-i, Ana-da-ca, Cadoe, Lepan, Long-wha, Keechy, Tah-wa-carro, Wi-chita, and Wacoe tribes of Indians, and their associate bands" was actually not written until after the commissioner returned to Washington D.C.

U.S. flag
1846 United States Flag (28 stars).

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS that Jose Maria a chief of the Ano-ddah-kos and the tribe to which he belongs are by Treaty, on terms of Peace and Friendship with the United States of American.

Jose Maria has in person visited Washington City, the seat of Government of the United States and conducted himself according to the terms of the treaty to which he was a party.

This paper is given in testimony of the Friendship existing between the two countries.

Done at the City of Washington this twenty fifth day of July one thousand eight hundred and forty six

Major Robert Neighbors
Major Robert S. Neighbors, special agent for the Indians of Texas, was a loyal and courageous friend and protector of Caddo rights and safety. From Walter Prescott Webb, 1935, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense.

Following the signing of the 1846 treaty, a delegation of the chiefs was taken to Washington D. C. Major Robert S. Neighbors, newly appointed special agent for the Indians of Texas accompanied them. The long and tiring trip was meant to impress the Indian leaders with living conditions in the United States and the power of its government. As a bonus, Major Neighbors gave the chiefs the horses they rode, on arrival back in Texas. José Maria brought home a document signed by President James L. Polk that was proudly protected through several generations.

The Bitter Years 1847-1853

The Anadarko village was then sixteen miles west of the present town of Hillsboro. A second Anadarko-Hainai village was not far off away. José Maria had formed friendships with good Texas families all along the Brazos River and often visited their homes. Another kind of Texan, a troublemaker with a bad reputation, accused José's people of stealing hogs and threatened him with a gun. He then tried to raise a force to kill José Maria's entire band. White friends told the chief it would be wise to move. So Anadarkos once more left homes and fields behind, moving to a place on the Navasota River in Limestone County.

It was not their last forced move. Two years later the Anadarko, Caddo, and Hainai were living in Palo Pinto County. Surveyors were seen all about and they had learned, wherever there were men with measuring sticks and chains, settlers soon followed.

In 1848, Texas Rangers killed a sixteen-year-old nephew of Caddo chief Ha-de-bah. They had no excuse for doing so. They knew the young man. He had supplied their post with game and gave them no cause to kill him. José Maria had a hard time controlling his people's anger but managed to convince them they should keep the treaty and let the agent handle justice. Major Neighbors recommended yet another move. José Maria again relocated his people. This time farther northwest near a well known landmark called Comanche peak.

A Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1849 said that José Maria was the leader of twelve hundred people. Caddos who had gone to Mexico after leaving Louisiana had returned during the summer of 1844 and fragments of some other tribes had joined under José Maria's leadership. The report also stated that the Anadarko and Hainai as well as the Caddo had migrated from Louisiana. Texans in 1849 commonly chose to forget, or did not know, that the Anadarko and Hainai had lived in northeast Texas for hundreds upon hundreds of years before Americans arrived. Major Neighbors' census recorded 1,400 Caddos, Hainai, and Anadarkos with 280 warriors.

Forced to abandoned field after field, often before they could harvest crops, Anadarkos & Hainais living near Comanche Peak made only enough corn to last about 4 months in 1853. Caddos near the junction of Clear Fork with Salt Fork on the Brazos made so little corn it was consumed in roasting ears. The Caddo Chief was dead. Some of the young men had taken to whiskey. Game was scarce for all. The treaties signed in good faith and earnestly kept had failed to relieve their uncertain lives.

End and Beginning of Homelessness 1854-1859

Early in 1854, the Texas legislature reacted to pressure by citizens demanding a protective line between themselves and the Indians. An act providing for Indian reserves gave the federal government authority to select twelve leagues of land for the reservations. A line of military posts was intended to separate Indian range from white settlements. Captain Randolph B. Marcy and Major Neighbors were appointed to locate and survey lands. They called the chiefs together for a council.

José Maria was now sixty years old. He had attended too many councils with too many white men to have faith that this one would have truer meaning than the others. In this council his words reflected many crushed hopes.

Jose Maria Commendation
"It is believed that there is no chief on the frontier of Texas, when friendship is of most importance and value than Jose Maria--nor any to deserving more consideration, or is better entitled to good treatment than he." Jesse Stem, US Special Indian Agent for the Indians of Texas 1852
Caddo village locations
Area where Caddo villages stood during the "bitter years 1847-1853." The map was published in 1857, but the two Caddo village locations shown are those prior to 1854. Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railroad map. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.
Rangers and Indians
In 1848, Texas Rangers killed a sixteen-year-old nephew of Caddo chief Ha-de-bah. They had no excuse for doing so. They knew the young man. He had supplied their post with game and gave them no cause to kill him. Drawing from Walter Prescott Webb, 1935, Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense.
Salt Fork of the Brazos river
The sandy, salty, and intermittent Salt (or Main) Fork of the Brazos not far above its confluence with the deep Clear Fork. Caddos lived very near here in the early 1850s in great uncertainty. Photo by Susan Dial.
Cpt. Randolf Marcy
Captain Randolf Barnes Marcy located and mapped the lands that became the Brazos Reservation. (Shown here as a Union General in the Civil War.)

I know our Great Father has power to do with us as he pleases; we have been driven from our homes several times by the whites, and all we want is a permanent location, where we shall be free from further molestation. . . .Heretofore we have had our enemies, the whites on one side, and the Comanches on the other, and of the two evils, we prefer the former, as they allow us to eat what we raise, whilst the Comanches take everything, and if we are to be killed, we should much rather die with full bellies; we would therefore prefer taking our chances on the Brazos, where we can be near the whites.

Marcy Map of 1854
"Marcy Map" of 1854 "Map of the Country upon Brazos and Big Wichita Rivers Explored in 1854, Embracing the Lands Appropriated by the State of Texas for the Use of Indians."
Detail of original Marcy Map
Detail of original Marcy Map showing area where Brazos Reservation was established.
mesquite-flat country
The mesquite- flat country around the Brazos Reserve was a very different environment from the Caddo Homeland: drier with shallow and less fertile soils. Photo by Susan Dial.
"Twilight of the Indian"
This painting by Nola Davis based on Remmington's "Twilight of the Indian" brings to mind the Caddos' days on the Brazos Reserve. Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife.

A reserve of 37,152 acres, for the Anadarko, Caddo, Waco, Kichai, Delaware, Twakoni, and Tonkowa, was commonly called the Brazos Reserve. It was situated on the main branch of the Brazos a few miles below Fort Belknap in present Young County. A separate reservation for Comanches was called the Upper Reserve.

The Caddo, Hainai and Anadarko gathered in March 1855, eager to break the tough prairie grass sod and plant fields in ground they could call their own. It was a dry spring—no rain for nine months. Four hundred acres were planted but the seeds, dropped late in dry earth, did not yield enough to make the effort worth while. Two-hundred-five Anadarkos (Hainai were counted with the Anadarkos) and 188 Caddos settled in villages next to dried-up fields.

Drought and grasshoppers spoiled the next two crops as well. But the following year forecast a good life in villages with traditional grass houses, neat cabins, and gardens full of vegetables and melons. The chiefs and the agents worked together to organize law and order. A government farmer lived at the agency in the middle of the reserve and worked with the people to develop their fields and stock. A resident blacksmith took care of tools and weapons.

The Caddos built seven good log houses and had 130 acres in corn, 20 in wheat in 1857. The Anadarkos built ten log houses and had 115 acres of corn and 20 acres of wheat. Particular attention was given to raising stock and the number of horses, cattle and hogs steadily increased. The women milked and made butter. There were few deaths and, for the first time in many years, children were thriving. Finally, in 1858, a schoolhouse was built and the teacher soon had sixty pupils.

Outside the Reserve, the landscape was changing. When Neighbors and Marcy surveyed boundaries for the reserves, a wide stretch of mesquite-dotted country lay between Texas settlers and the Indians. But in less than three years, while the Caddos, Anadarkos, and Hainais built and planted, a boom of new settlers came to Fort Belknap and Young County. Complaints that the federal government provided too little protection rose with the increasing white population. Hostile Indians, mostly from north of Red River, raided Texas settlements. They made an easily followed trail to the Brazos Reserve and then scattered so that no trail was visible above.

Small groups of self-appointed protectors ready to believe the worst about any Indian, concluded that all their troubles were caused by reserve Indians. A leading troublemaker was John R. Baylor who had been dismissed as the first agent for the Comanches on the Upper Reserve. His inflammatory remarks in public letters and mass meetings of citizens excited prejudices and roused emotions.

The year the schoolhouse was built on the Brazos Reserve, Texas Governor H. R. Runnels authorized J. S. Ford to organize a hundred Texas Rangers. Ford brought his Rangers to the Reserve to enlisted the tribes' help in a war against the Comanches across Red River. The chief's called in to council willingly agreed to send about one hundred warriors. They, too, had suffered the loss of great numbers of livestock to raiders from across the River and had been subjected to unjust blame for depredations those Indians had committed upon white settlers.

Ford directed an attack on Comanches camped near the Canadian River on May 12. A running battle covering over six miles began about seven in the morning and lasted until Ford declared a victory about two in the afternoon. He gave the Indian captains his highest praise saying, "They behaved under fire in a gallant and soldier-like manner and I think they have fully vindicated their right to be recognized as Texas Rangers of the old stamp."

That fall, 1858, 125 Anadarko, Caddo, and other Brazos reserve warriors again cooperated in successful campaign against the northern Comanches. This time they rode in support of 400 U.S. cavalry led by Major Earl Van Dorn. The Major asked them to accompany him again on his spring campaign. They planned to do so, but for now their horses needed rest and fattening.

Agent Ross gave Tom, a Choctaw married to an Anadarko woman, permission to take his wife, some of his grandchildren, and other family connections a few miles below the reserve where there was good grass for grazing. All together there were twenty-seven people in the party—eight men, eight women, and eleven children. They set up five camps above Golconda, in Palo Pinto county. Late fall eased into an early winter and hunting season. Several white men came to ask Tom's family to go with them on a bear hunt. The family agreed and moved camp to the edge of a small creek about 15 miles below the reservation. Near daylight, before anyone was awake, gunshots pierced their tents. Choctaw Tom's wife, another Anadarko woman, three Anadarko men, a Caddo man and Caddo woman were killed. Six died instantly on the beds where they slept; the seventh was able to reach his gun and crawl through the tent flap before he died. José Maria's nephew, Little John who had served with Van Dorn, was one of the young men killed. A thumb was shot off the hand of Tom's daughter. Another woman and three men had severe wounds. Eight children were injured, three seriously. The name's of the men who participated in the massacre were known. They made no secret of their identities.

People who lived near the camp left their homes. Agent Ross was away so it was left to J. J. Strum, the government farmer for the Brazos Reserve, to explain that the settlers were afraid of blame and retaliation. José Maria and the Caddo chief, Tinah, said tell them "We are not wild Indians and will not harm the innocent." They said Strum should send someone to tell those settlers, most of whom were friends, to return to their homes and take care of their farms. The Caddo and Anadarko did not blame them—they had been told that the men who killed members of their families would be caught and punished according to the white man's law, and that was the way it should be.

That is not the way it was. There were no arrests. At an official examination of the murders that took place in Waco, the grand jury described the Brazos reserve as a nuisance. Stating that the Indians there were doing all the mischief they concluded, "It is now the prevailing sentiment that we must abandon our homes and take up arms against the reserved Indians." Instead of charging the admitted murderers, the jury found José Maria guilty of stealing a mule.

Near the end of February, Comanches stole 80 horses from the Caddo—about the last of some five hundred head they and the Anadarko had three months earlier. In May a Caddo Indian named Fox, was brutally killed while carrying a official dispatches from Agent S.A. Blain at Fort Arbuckle in Indian Territory to Agent Ross at the Brazos Reserve. Agents were accustomed to expressing dispatches between reservations by reliable members. They had known Fox since boyhood, he had done good service in Ford's and Major Van Dorn's fights. An army officer accompanied by a party of Indians from the reservation went to Jacksboro in search the men who murdered Fox. This incident was used by John R. Baylor to spark an attack on the reserve.

On the morning of May 23, 1859, Baylor led a force of two hundred fifty men onto the Brazos Reserve. An infantry company from Fort Belknap reinforced a guard that had been posted at the agency. Baylor and his company drew their mounts up in a single line within 600 yards of the agency. He told the officer sent to meet him that he had come to fight Indians, not whites, but if the troops fired on his men, they would fight back. The Captain in command said his orders were to protect the Indians on this reserve from the attacks of armed bands of citizens and he would do so to the best of his ability. Baylor backed off and set up camp outside the border of the Reserve. At the same time he declared that the warning did not alter his determination to destroy the Indians.

Neighbors urged the Office of Indian Affairs to authorize immediate removal of the tribes to a temporary location north of the Red River at Fort Arbuckle. Instructions were finally written on June 11—pack up and move.

The Removal

The thermometer reading on the Brazos Reserve for the past month had averaged 106 degrees from midmorning until five in the evening. The gauge was no different on the first day of August when the families of the Caddo, Anadarko, Hainai and associated bands left their houses, gardens, almost all their stock and all possessions they could not carry. The whereabouts of Baylor and his mob was not known, but it was possible that they would try to carry out their threat to kill all the Indians as soon as they were off the Brazos Reserve. Two companies of cavalry and one of infantry provided a protective escort. Wagons carried military provisions for five months. The very old and infirm rode, the very young and small were carried, most walked the arid two hundred mile trail that ended on the bank of the Washita River near present Anadarko.

redrawn Marcy Map
Redrawn version of the Marcy Map of 1854 showing the Brazos Reservation. From Carter, 1995.
detail of redrawn Marcy Map
Detail of redrawn version of Marcy Map of 1854. From Carter, 1995.

Brazos Indian Reservation School

Operated for Indian children living on Brazos Reservation, a 37,000-acre refuge created by state in 1854. Here over 1,000 Anadarko, Caddo, Delaware, Ioni, Shawnee, Tawakoni, and Tonkawa people lived, farming and acting as U.S. Army Scouts. Despite racial strife outside reserve, teacher Z. E. Coombes (1833-95) reported unusual good will and harmony in classroom. Subjects taught were English, spelling, writing, and arithmetic. From 34 to 60 students were enrolled. School closed when Indians were moved north in 1859.

Texas Historical Marker


Esther Hoag Hornovich:

He often told us that there was different bands of Caddos at the point of—course of the Red River. He said they were called Kahadoches—they were up around in there, a large group of them. Several villages, but it see like he said towns, I do not know the exact words in Caddo, but he said there were some Hanai groups, and then along the Sabine River . . . . there were bands living along the Angelina River and Colorado River and some at the point of Sabine around in that area and along the limestone caves and around Santa Marcus. . .And that was told him by Grandmother. . .He said all the bands including a few of the tribes that were with the Caddos . . . were brought to Washita Valley . . . and he said there was others also from the east that had to come later. . .I mean now eastern Oklahoma and in that vicinity—Choctaw country. The Whitebead family and some others—The Nedarkos [Nadacos, Anadarkos] were not living below Belknap before that time. They were living in east Texas somewhere or Louisiana. . . that was their beloved home and when they [Caddos] made this treaty and they wanted them to move on, that they were paid and later on they moved away from there to west from there towards the Angelina River with other tribes that were already there of their people. . .I do not know how the map is. Anyway it's close to this Angelina River. . .all I remember of the ones he named was mainly his own people and the Nadaco and there was the Iona [Hainai] Band which was similar to the Nadaco . . . it seems that the white people in East Texas wanted the fertile land down there and they wanted them removed so when they were removed and given certain tract of land there [the Brazos Reserve] for their permanent establishment but it seems later on in a few years, at least four years, they had this trouble with Baylor and his men. . . . he did not remember anything because he was a small baby when they moved there [Oklahoma]. . . the soldiers brought them and they kept the old folks, old ladies and small children in a wagon. I did not pay attention to haw many they had. My Grandmother, she walked all the way and her sisters, and her daughter, my oldest aunt, took turns carrying my daddy because he was too heavy.

Esther Hoag Hornovich, daughter of Enoch Hoag,
Jose Maria's son

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