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Clareville area in the early 1900's

Collection from Bonnie Handly Station - by her granddaughter Ann Smith Ray

Unidentified people - can you identify?



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This old oak was where the Indian lookout was perched when the Pettus Town folk (or posse) caught up with them and the last Indian fight of Bee County occurred. It is located on the North Side of FM-798 in North Bee County.


It is not clear if the lookout or Indian camp dogs alerted them of the Pettus groups arrival but is said they were caught off guard. The skirmish occurred from this tree to the Southeast over open Prairie amongst scattered oak trees.  Most of the fight occurred on foot. 


In the late 1970's we had cattle with Mr. Fox who pointed these features out when driving the pasture. The tree is on private property with different landowners now.    Source: Will Beauchamp

Last Indian Fight in Bee County

At the time of their last battle in Bee County in the 1870’s, the Karankawas had probably either moved further west or northwest of Bee County, or had become nomads or semi-nomadic in nature, rambling from place to place. From facts surrounding their horse thievery and raids in this area, it appears they did not live within the bounds of what now constitutes Bee County during the 1870’s.

The story of the last fight, which occurred a few miles west of Pettus in the 1870’s, was told by the late Will Fox who lived on the land. Mr. Fox died at his Pettus home in 1956. He recalled that Bill Tomlinson, who had a reputation as an Indian fighter, lived in that part of the county. One of his horses had been stolen, along with those of his neighbors. Someone brought a report that a marauding group of Karankawas was camped near a well-known landmark live oak tree. They not only had the horses they had stolen, they were after more. Tomlinson led a hunting posse on a scouting trip to surprise the ruthless red men. They stayed away from the windward side of the camp, as winds carried noises to human ears and scents to Indian dogs. It was early morning and the warriors were gathered around their breakfast fire, heating rocks to throw into their cooking vessels to cook their meals. The Indiana were early risers, but Tomlinson and his men had risen much earlier and planned their surprise visit in every detail.

A lone red man was up in the live oak tree, stationed there as lookout or sentinel. His job was to give alarm in event of danger, or if the hated Anglo-S axons approached. As everything was quiet, he evidently grew drowsy and relaxed his watch. Even so, a rustle in the grass was heard and the alarm given. The Indian in the tree was uncomfortably near the white men; he fell out of the tree and hit the ground running. At that time, the posse had their attention on the camp fire and the sentinel escaped.

Firing began, with trusty cap and ball rifles aimed at the native horse stealer. The tribesmen forgot about breakfast (not yet eaten) and leapt to their horses. Some were instantly mortally wounded, but probably more than half fled to safety.

This legend was based a true story, as well remembered and authenticated by early residents of Bee County. Cap and ball guns have been found on the premises, as well as money. Just what the money meant in connection with Indian depradation has never been figured out.

Arrow heads and knives were also found on that very ground. There had been a lake nearby and the Indians camped by it when they were in that part of the country.

Those of the last marauding Indian group ever seen in Bee County, who escaped this ambush with their lives, were pursued by the vigilantes headed by Tomlinson in the hope that more of their horses might be recovered. The horses left behind were gathered up and returned to their rightful owners. (Some animals in the discarded herd had evidently been stolen in other communities.) The number of horses were not very large, by Indian terms. They had planned, no doubt, to take more with them.

It appears the tribe of thieves was never overtaken. Tomlinson’s men had made it hot for them, and they were running at breakneck speed to safer territory. The nomads turned to the west, headed for McMullen County. The story was handed down that the red men beat a line to Sakala mountain in McMullen territory.

Mr. Fox, highly regarded as an authority on the lore and history of Bee County and frontier happenings, said the final battle with Indians in this part of Texas occurred in neighboring Live Oak County, following the one in Bee County by possibly three or four years. The name of the tribe figuring in the Bee County or Live Oak battles was not known — they were all just called “Indians.