Mr. Babb, a descendant of resolute venturesome pioneer stock, entered upon an eventful boyhood in the untamed wilds of the western border of Texas in a locality and period when the mounted Indian marauder with his panoply of war and death was often seen silhouetted against the distant horizon, at a time when the spectre of tragedy and desolation, of atrocious massacre, mutilation, captivity, and torture, cast its terrifying shadow athwart the fireside of every pioneer home; when, unheralded, cunning monsters of vindictive savage hate, here and there among the settlers, in unguarded repose or fancied security, sprang from stealthy ambush, from the wood-land's dark border, the sheltering hillside and gulch, or the shadowy lustre of an unwelcome fateful full moon, amid and unheeding the shrieks of horror and frenzied slaughter, mingled with the cries of anguish and prayers of women and children kneeling before their doom, they struck with the fangs of the most vicious, merciless, and unreasoning beast, and in their unrestrained and unresisted madness and ferocity, they left in the crimson wake a sickening chapter of ghastly human wreckage of whole families exterminated, in either a fiendish butchery or revolting captivity without a counter part in all the annals of every race and age since the hour of the dawn of Christendom, if not since the world began.
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In the Bosom of the Comanches
THEODORE A. BABB
In the bosom of the Comanches, T. A. Babb
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
This book has been licenced under the Creative Commons licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). Details on this licence can be found at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The original work is named 'In the Bosom of the Comanches: A Thrilling Tale of Savage Indian Life, Massacre and Captivity Truthfully Told by a Surviving Captive.' The source of the text is texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38188/: accessed September 28, 2017, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center. We credit the original rights holder for having made this work possible.
In the Bosom of the Comanches 4
In the unchallenged verity of the chronicle of Theodore Adolphus Babb, better known as Dot Babb, recorded in the pages that follow is vouchsafed a sustained and absorbing interest to the reader and the student: a dissolvent of the mystical haziness that has characterized so much of the Indian lore, current hitherto; and a contribution to history, an inestimable legacy and gift to prosperity as rare and timely as truth is mighty and eternal. Mr. Babb, a descendant of resolute venturesome pioneer stock, entered upon an eventful boyhood in the untamed wilds of the western border of Texas in a locality and period when the mounted Indian marauder with his panoply of war and death was often seen silhouetted against the distant horizon, at a time when the spectre of tragedy and desolation, of atrocious massacre, mutilation, captivity, and torture, cast its terrifying shadow athwart the fireside of every pioneer home; when, unheralded, cunning monsters of vindictive savage hate, here and there among the settlers, in unguarded repose or fancied security, sprang from stealthy ambush, from the wood-land's dark border, the sheltering hillside and gulch, or the shadowy lustre of an unwelcome fateful full moon, amid and unheeding the shrieks of horror and frenzied slaughter, mingled with the cries of anguish and prayers of women and children kneeling before their doom, they struck with the fangs of the most vicious, merciless, and unreasoning beast, and in their unrestrained and unresisted madness and ferocity, they left in the crimson wake a sickening chapter of ghastly human wreckage of whole families exterminated, in either a fiendish butchery or revolting captivity without a counter part in all the annals of every race and age since the hour of the dawn of Christendom, if not since the world began.
At a time when there were no white flags and no surrender, and only such alternatives as death, flight, or captivity; when lion-hearted men defiant of frightful consequences went afield, tended the herds and flocks, and pursued the chase of all the vocations of daily life heavily armed, perhaps never to return, or returning to find a home in ruin and the family either annihilated or some members murdered, some made captive, and still others that miraculously escaped by flight, concealment, the coincidence of absence, or being stricken down and unwittingly left for dead; when upon these scenes of appalling desolation men and women assembled, the survivors buried their dead and with the gory fragments builded again, animated by the one unconquerable purpose to defend, hold or die on their border heritage. At a time when keenest vigil day and night was never relaxed by man or beast, when the horizon was anxiously scanned for the ascending camp fire smoke, swirling clouds of dust or other such unfailing portents of the red messengers of devastation and death; when every moonbeam and shadow in thicket or grove, when every sound or noise breaking the slumbrous solitudes (whether a gust of wind or the flapping of wings or plaintive notes of nocturnal fowls) was seen, heard and interpreted with strained senses of preternatural power; at a time when swift hoof-beats rang out upon the stillness of the night the warning of perhaps the sole survivor of the latest massacre, and, with relays of horses fleeting and untiring as if conscious of their mission, the gruesome tidings were borne to the settler far and near. Being thus warned Spartan men and women grimly and silently prepared for the onslaught, pad-locking corrals, replenishing the supply of water from the spring or well, barricading doors and with shotted rifles, bullet molds, and powder, stoically awaited the attack. During the nerve-racking watches of the dismal night, as babes and children lapsed into a slumber perhaps eternal, no sentinel nodded or slept at his expectant post. When at length the attack came, the defenders, conscious that no quarter could be asked or given, were transformed into an incarnation of belligerent fury, a super-human maelstrom of action and combative power, and with souls and all reserve forces and energies ablaze, and an unconquerable purpose to shield and preserve their loved ones, they grappled with the demoniacal savage. Failing, all perished together upon the hallowed altar and sanctuary of a family and home pulsating and resounding a few hours before the emotions and manifestations of love, joy, and hope.
From this circle of dramatic episodes, struggle, and peril, Dot Babb was evolved, and amid such stirring scenes he passed his early youth and advancing boyhood up to the hour of the tragical climax of the unutterably horrifying and heartrendering spectacle of his beloved mother impaled by the Indian as she pleaded for her children and his still deeper sorrow in being torn from her dying embrace for the inevitable captivity which immediately followed and her farewell words of solace in his inconsolable distress, and the tender maternal benediction gently spoken as he looked back into tear bedewed eyes for the last glimpse and vision on earth of a sainted face on which he plainly saw the unmistakable pallor of fast approaching death. In this enforced captivity by the Comanches, one of the fiercest Indian tribes then extant, Dot Babb approached his maturing years as a full-fledged warrior, being made to engage in raids and battles in common with the Indian braves. His experiences, privations and exploits he recounts with the simplicity and vividness of truth and in a like manner details his reclamation by the United States Army and his eventual restoration to the fragmentary units of his shattered family, his recivilization and subsequent career notable for the highest probity of character and usefulness as a most worthy and valued citizen down to this good hour, which finds him happy and prosporous in the sunset of a thrilling life, whether peacefully pursuing the herds on the broad acres of his Panhandle ranch or extending the proverbial pioneer hospitality of a spacious and beautiful home in Amarillo, Texas, to his old-time friends, who are legion. Upon his return from an unwilling militant service in the ranks of the red warriors to the society of his fellows, Mr. Babb was quick to re-adopt and experience a complete revival of the inherent sentiments and amenities of civilized life. After becoming settled in his chosen avocation of cattle raising he married the splendid and estimable woman who to-day is his greatest comfort in presiding over his elegent and hospitable home and in sharing with him the honor and blessing of the sterling family they have reared.
At an impressionable age Dot Babb, the boy captive and warrior, had much intimate contact with the inner Indian life, motives, habits and tribal laws, superstitions, joys, and sorrows of which the Dot Babb of to-day discloses glimpses as rare as they are interesting and instructive. Mr. Babb found much worthy of admiration and emulation if not adoption in the Indian character, in their traditional laws, heroic and domestic life; and being made familiar with the Indian view point he has found no little to condone and defend that in the public imagination has had universal and popular condemnation. In the period of his captivity there were cemented between him and many of the chiefs and the rank and file ties of strongest attachment that have not waned in all the lapse of time. Not a few of the ex-warriors now dwelling in comfort and contentment upon their allotments learned long ago after a fashion to write a mixed Indian and English dialect and have preserved in an unbroken correspondence throughout all the intervening years with Mr. Babb, who both speaks and writes the Indian language with the fluency and ease of a Comanche.
It has also been a fixed custom of Mr. Babb to make visits at regular intervals to many of his old surviving captors, and is received and entertained by them with an almost unexampled joy and hospitality and perhaps more so than if he were one of their tribal kin and brethren. In fact the Comanches have all along regarded him as the son of their rightful adoption and when the big Fort Sill reservation was being made ready for allotment and settlement Mr. Babb was urged by Chief Quanah Parker and each and subordinates to qualify for allotments for himself member of his family in common with the Comanche and Kiowa Indians. In all their dealings with the United States government and in all important tribal questions and affairs, whether business, domestic, or social, the counsel and advice of Mr. Babb has been sought and freely given, as he has ever been their steadfast friend and co-worker. In their relations there have been the same mutual confidence and reciprocal esteem and sympathy that obtain in the better forms of civilized society.
Mr. Babb is therefore doubly unique in his dual adaptability to Indian life and tradition and to the best business and social life as found in the higher circles of substantial, refined, and enlightened men and women. It can hardly be said that any man living to-day is equipped with the same experience, observation, and knowledge and can speak so authoritatively of the Indian era of Texas, the old Indian Territory, and the Southwest as Mr. Babb. Therefore the narrative of Mr. Babb, replete with deepest human interest and much pathos, and descriptive of expiditions of war and savage fury, as well as of the latter life of the subdued Indian, with his crimson tomahawk discarded forever, is the truest link yet formed between the Indian and civilization. As the Indian, America's first great settler, with such biographers and interpreters of his life, exploits, and character as Mr. Babb, is now essaying his role in the closing scene of the last contemporaneous drama, Mr. Babb's realistic portrayal, is nothing short of a noteworthy contribution to the best Indian archives and an ampler appreciation of one of the stirring epochs of a nation; and as such it is dedicated to the entertainment and edification of the generations of to-day and those to follow.
ALBERT SIDNEY STINNETT,
Editor and Biographer.
My name is Theodore Adolphus Babb, better known as Dot Babb. I was born May 17th, 1852, near Reeds-burg in Saurk County, Wisconsin, to which place my father emigrated from Ohio in an early day. In 1854 my father and his family consisting of my mother and brother, Hernandez Cortez Babb and myself entered upon the long journey 10 Texas. We traveled the entire distance in a two-horse wagon, and were twelve months on the road. Our first stop in Texas was in Grayson County near Sherman. About one year later our family moved in ox wagons to what was known as Dry creek in Wise County, about twelve miles West of Decatur, Texas. My earliest definite recollections were in our new home on Dry creek. There were but few white people in that section at that time, but the Indians were numerous. These Indians were then friendly, and remained so until fugitive outlaws and renegades from other states commenced killing and stealing their ponies, and also killing the Indians who undertook to recover their ponies. The Indians at length decided to strike back, and putting all the white people in the same class commenced their depredations upon the white settlers generally about the time of the breaking out of the Civil War. This caused the state of Texas to place its rangers on the western border from the Indian Territory to Mexico, and ample protection was offered up to the close of the war between the states, at which time the southern soldier was disarmed and the state government turned over to an alien militia concentrated at the state capital and other centers of population. The border settlers had but little if any protection from that time and the Indians became cruelly savage, killing and scalping whole families, taking children into captivity, stealing horses, and engaging in all manner of barbaric practices and deeds.
In the Spring of 1865 my father, Jno. S. Babb, and my older brother, H. C. Babb, started out with a drove of cattle from the markets of Arkansas, leaving mother, me, and two sisters at home. My oldest sister was nine years old, my baby sister eleven months, and I about thirteen years old. There was also making her home with us a Mrs. Luster, about twenty-two years old, whose husband was killed in the Civil War. There were two other families living on our place, and all were within three or four hundred yards of each other. One of the families, Harbolt by name, had several boys, some of whom became notorious outlaws in later years, and many old timers will recall the name of Jim Harbolt as a terrible bandit of the darkest days of the Indian Territory.
The other family was that of the widow Estes and her several children.
About the middle of September, 1865, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, my eldest sister and I were at play when we discovered thirty-five or forty Comanche Indians in all the regalia and war paint of the savage warrior. Stupified with fright we looked again and realized that they were advancing rapidly upon us, and with quickened heart-beats we wondered what our fate would be at the hands of these emissaries of murderous implacable hate. We soon saw they would raid our home, and with their weird and unearthly war hoops ringing in our ears we ran to the house for the protection of mother and Mrs. Luster, who had also seen and heard the demons approaching. Mother had us enter the house as quickly as possible and closed the unbarricaded doors. It would be indeed impossible to describe the emotions of horror that possessed all of us in this moment of fatal doom and peril. There was no time for either lamentation or prayer with our helplessness accentuated by the lack of every means of defense; and justifiable premonitions of death were proclaimed in our tremulous voices and fear-distorted faces. An eternity of horror crowded into a moment of insufferable suspense for unprotected and undefended women and children, confronted by merciless and remorseless savages whose known acts and lives were records of treachery and blood.
Mrs. Luster undertook to conceal herself in the loft of the log cabin and I made for two or three old guns in their racks on the wall. Simultaneousely several of the Indians broke open the door and as I would seize a gun they would take it from me and belabor me over the head with their quirts. My mother was trying to soften or make friends by shaking hands with them, and against these overtures they were as surlily obdurate and unmoved as ever these ruthless slayers had been painted. The first thing in their diabolical performances was to plunder our home and take off everything in the way of clothing and bedding. They then had Mrs. Luster come down from her hiding in the loft and she was bound by some Indians and taken outside to the other Indians and their horses and there declared a captive. The remainder of the Indians in the house seized my oldest sister and started off with her. My mother, prompted by an uncontrollable maternal instinct and affection, interfered and clung to my sister in an effort to prevent her being taken, and as she did one of the Indians stabbed my mother four times with a big butcher knife. They then took my sister from the house and made captive of her also, along with Mrs. Luster. Seeing my mother brutally and fatally stabbed I assisted her to the bed just as two of the Indians came back, and not finding my mother dead as they expected, one of them with drawn bow shot her in the left side with an arrow that ranged up toward her lungs. I pulled the arrow out and sat upon the bed by her, doing all I could to console and comfort her as her strength and life waned. The same Indian drew his bow and pointed a deadly arrow at me and commanded me to go with him. Mother, seeing that I too would be killed if I resisted or refused, said, “Go with him and be a good boy.” One of them then grabbed me by the arm and jerked me off the bed, and as he dragged me towards the door the other Indian pounded me with his quirt. In this miserable plight I was forcibly separated from my mother, dying in a mass of blood, with my baby sister enclasped within her arms.
A very desperate Indian who shot my mother with arrows at the time she was killed and I captured. I never saw him afterwards, but understood later that he had been shot to death.—Dot Babb
Here in a time of trustful security, as the light laughter of playing children mingled with the songs of birds, and love and joy unconfined rioted in the fondest and most sacred family ties, in a few terrible moments was written in blood a chapter of human bitterness and sorrow at which all civilization and mankind would stand aghast. A home rent asunder, a mother sacrificed in anguishing torture and death upon the altar of dutiful devotion and purposeful life, a young woman and a youthful son and daughter torn from the family roof-tree to be carried into the unknown wilds and the forbidding and darkest realms of the fiercest and most unrelenting savage barbarians that ever trod the earth, an unrestrained, inhuman, savage debauchery crying aloud for the intervention and mercies of God and man.
OMERCAWBEY (Walking Face) Nephew of Chief Horse Back
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