THE ENCHANTED ROCK  |   PART  THREE:

 

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boots copy.jpg (56080 bytes)By the turn of the century the Spaniards faced a more immediate problem than the Comanche. The Mexican campaign for liberation had begun in 1810 and finally met with success in 1821. With the Spanish out of the way, the Mexicans inherited the "Indian problem". Mexico's solution was to allow Anglos to settle that troublesome piece of land knows as Texas. The Anglo settlers were to be a buffer between Mexico and the hostile Southern Plains Indian raiding parties which had been know to traverse the entire length of Texas, from north of the Red River down across the Rio Grande and into Mexico. With the Texans in the way, the Indians would get whatever they were after, or get killed, before reaching Mexico.

In 1822, with the blessing of the Mexican government, Stephen F. Austin, with three hundred families, founded San Felipe de Austin, forty miles west of present Houston. Immigrant Anglos poured into the area. Like a river that had exceeded it banks, the flood of dreamers, desperadoes, and just plain destitute had left their lives in the States and had "gone to Texas".

Within eight years Austin’s colony was home to over four thousand Texans. If the settlers had a hard time, at least they also had hope. The Indians were desperate. Epidemics of smallpox were devastating the Plains tribes from Canada to Mexico. Old hostilities between many tribes were set aside in their struggle for survival. There had been more tribes of Indians in Texas than in any other state, and those that still survived, roamed the Hill Country like dispossessed refugees. Although the Comanche dominated the region, they were intermingled with bands of Lipan Apache, Kiowa, Arapaho, Waco, Caddo, Tehuacanas, Cheyenne, Delaware, Shawnee, Cherokee and others.

As early as 1821, Austin had heard and repeated stories of a gold dust mine on the Llano River and an abandoned Spanish silver mine on the San Saba. In 1829, James Bowie and his brother Rezin, are said to have led a group of men searching for the Lost San Saba Mine. Some tales say they found the mine, others just the opposite. In any event, the name ‘Bowie’ and ‘1829’ carved on a stone pillar at the abandoned Presidio de San Saba, and the word ‘mine’, carved there later, added circumstantial substance to the tales. With so many Indians on so little land coveted by so many Texans; and with legends of gold and silver in the region, trouble was a certainty.

That same year, Captain Henry S. Brown led a group of thirty Texans on a campaign to subdue Waco and Techuacana Indians, who were tormenting Austin's colony. On their way to the headwaters of the Colorado they encountered hostile Indians twice, killing nine. The second encounter was at a place called ‘the enchanted rock’. On his return Captain Brown described the landmark and is credited with having "discovered" Enchanted Rock.

One wonders whether Captain Brown and his men, having covered so much territory and encountered so few Indians, were hunting hostiles or, like the Bowie brothers, hunting treasure. If they hadn’t heard of the legendary San Saba mine in 1829, which is unlikely, they would surely have learned of it two years later when Austin published a brief account of this fabled mine in a promotional booklet for his settlement.

The years that immediately followed were not suitable for such frivolous pursuits as searching for lost mines. The Texans, imported by the Mexicans as a buffer against the Indians, were bent on independence. Ironically, the Mexican government had gained independence and acquired Texas from Spain; and they lost that frontier a mere fifteen years later in 1836, when the Texans concluded their own war of independence.

With Mexico's interference out of the way, the attention of many Texans returned to the lost mines and the mysterious Enchanted Rock. In 1838 the New York Mirror published an account of a prospecting trip on the San Saba River that included mention of an "Enchanted" or "Holy Mountain" near the headwaters of Sandy Creek. According to the article, "The Comanche's regarded this hill with religious veneration, and that Indian pilgrims frequently assemble from the remotest borders of the region to perform their Paynim [pagan] rites upon its summit."

That same year the general land office opened in Texas. Speculators and surveyors, intrigued by stories of lost gold and silver mines, began a concerted exploration of Indian lands, particularly in the Central Mineral Region. For the Indians, it was nothing short of an invasion. Provided with arms and ammunition, both bought and stolen from the Mexicans, Indian attacks upon settlers and surveyors began to increase in frequency and ferocity. Surveyors, considered by the Indians as the advanced guard for settlers, were particularly at risk. During the first year the land office was in operation, the majority of surveyors were killed in the line of duty.

On March 16, 1838, a headright certificate issued to Anavato Martinez and his wife, Maria Jesusa Trevino, granted a league and labor of land which included Enchanted Rock. Given the seriousness of Indian troubles during that time, ownership of Enchanted Rock was largely wishful thinking.

In October of 1841, Anavato Martinez sold his headright certificate, which included Enchanted Rock, to James Robinson, who held title of the property for three years before selling it to a business associate, Samuel A. Maverick.

During the summer of 1838, James Webster with his wife children and a dozen hired hands, led his wagon train toward the fork of the San Gabriel River to settle his headright league. Enroute they were attacked by a band of Comanches led by Chief Buffalo Hump. All the men were killed. Mrs. Webster, her young son, and three year old daughter were taken captive.

Buffalo Hump’s band then split up to evade capture, meeting later at the prominent landmark Enchanted Rock. After two years of captivity, Mrs. Webster managed to escape to San Antonio with her children. Upon her return, she told of gold and silver mines and brilliant stones the Indians possessed that looked like diamonds. The ‘diamonds’ were actually quartz crystals which were found in the area and were sacred objects to the Indians. Mrs. Webster’s stories simply confirmed what the Texans already believed; there was gold, or at least silver, in the Texas hills.

INTRODUCTION |  PART 1: THE FIRST PEOPLEPART 2: THE IMAGINARY FRONTIER  |  PART 3: GONE TO TEXAS 
PART4:
WILLIAM KENNEDY'S TEXAS | PART 5: JACK HAYS  |  PART 6: THE NEW PROMISED LAND  |  PART 7: THE OPEN FRONTIER 
  PART 8:
PIONEER ARTIST  |  PART 9: INTO THE MODERN ERA  |  PART 10: POSTSCRIPT

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