Rufus Perry, Texas Ranger
(from The Heritage of Blanco County, Texas by the Blanco County News, 1987, article by Minnie Cox)
These stories were shared with Minnie Cox, next to whose antique shop the Rufus Perry cabin now stands, restored, by a great-niece of Capt. Perry.
Cicero Rufus Perry, better known as "Old Rufe" was the son of William M. and Mary Indiana Perry. He was born August 23, 1822 in Montgomery County, Alabama.
He first entered Captain W.W. Hill's Texas Ranger Company when fourteen years of age. He served in this company from July 1 to October 1, 1836. John Holland Jenkins wrote as follows:
"That Captain W.W. Hill commanded a company of Texas Rangers along in 1836 is well-known, and doubtless many have read brief sketches of some of his campaigns, or perhaps all of them
"Having often heard a full account of his campaign on the San Gabriel..and always finding it interesting, I have obtained all its details from a member of the company, my old friend and comrade Rufus Perry, and submit it to our readers as worthy of attention.
"In the beginning, I would, if possible, place before your eye two pictures or pen portraits of one man. One represents a young man -- tall, muscular, erect -- a perfect specimen of the strong and brave in young manhood.
"Dark eyes, bright with the fires of intelligence and enthusiasm gleam forth underneath the black brows and lashes, while the waving masses of black hair fall in careless grace upon a smooth, broad forehead.
"This was young Rufus Perry. Now, after the lapse of forty years, we behold his handsome face all drawn and scarred, his eye distorted and twitching while he walks with the aid of a cane --all the result of Comanche arrows back in the early days of Texas history.
"But why mention these little items? Well, I believe every true and loyal Texan loves the brave old Texas soldiers wherever found and here is one who suffered the next thing to death for the Lone Star.
"I give the narrative as nearly as possible in his own language.
Captain William Hill organized a company of between fifty and sixty men at Asa Mitchell's in July 1836. We came along the Gotier Trace to Bastrop, thence to John Caldwell's ranch, where we found plenty of corn to feed our horses.
From this point we proceeded to the San Gabriel, finding bee trees and lots of fish, then own a stream some distance we came to a high bluff where we struck an Indian trail making towards Cole's settlements, where the town of Independence now stands.
We followed the comparatively fresh trail nearly two days and nights and overtook the Indians in thick post oak country.
About sundown we discovered the smoke of their campfire not very far off. Dismounting, we prepared to attack them in camp, but a straggling warrior hastened the issue by coming out and meeting us accidentally and unexpectedly.
Of course, we killed immediately, but not before he had raised a war whoop, rousing his comrades to action.
We continued to advance, not withstanding the fact of their being aroused and ready to meet us. We killed three and wounded several whom we did not get.
Andy Houston was the only man in our company who was wounded, he being struck in the wrist with an unspiked arrow.
This occurred on a prong of the Yegua twelve miles from the settlements.
We were somewhat surprised and puzzled just after the fight to see a member of our company, an old backwoodsman named Dave Lawrence, step up and cut off the thigh of one of the slain Indians. I asked him what he intended to do with it.
"Why," he answered, "I am going to take it along to eat. If you don't get some game before noon tomorrow we'll need it."
At sundown we camped about a mile below the battleground on a little creek. I doubt if any of the neighbors in Burleson County know how that little creek got its name of Cannon Snap. Thus it occurred on this very night in the summer of 1836 that a Portuguese, a dark, very dark man, so black that we called him Nigger Biddy, was placed on guard.
During the night he rushed in on our crowd exclaiming, "Oh! I heard a cannon snap!" Poor fellow, he was so much frightened that he magnified a twig's snapping or an owl's laughing into threatened danger. Then and there the little creek received its present name of Cannon Snap.
Next morning we marched to Yellow Prairie on the waters of the Brazos to old man Thompson's. The hospitable old gentleman furnished us beef and corn, a sumptuous dinner, so old Dave Lawrence did not have to eat his Indian meal. Turning up Little River we scouted about two months longer but found no more Indians.
On February 12, 1839, Rufus Perry was wounded in a campaign known as John H. Moore's Defeat. This event was recorded by John Holland Jenkins as follows:
"Fayette and Bastrop counties uniting formed a company of about sixty white men and twenty-five or thirty Lipan Indians. Under John H. Moore they started on an Indian campaign with (little) preparation, except sale, coffee and a little bacon. By the way, this bacon cost twenty-five cents a pound. A man living in a very exposed section sold them meal 'cheap' because they were going to fight Indians.
"Marching up the river, they were at length forced by a heavy snowstorm to camp at the head of the Lampasas River, where they bided their time as best they could, suffering intensely from the cold. While quartered here, two men, Joe Anderson and Felix McClusky, went out hunting. Anderson who was a short distance ahead of McClusky, saw a large band of Indians and McClusky, coming along, heard the noise of their marching down the country toward home. Coming into camp they reported this to John Moore, but no attention was paid to the alarm. From subsequent events, this hand was supposed to have been the one engaged in the Brushy Creek battle and in the killing of Mrs. Coleman.
"As soon as possible the small army made its way back through he mountains and cedar breaks to the rye bottoms along the Colorado for the purpose of recruiting horses, men and supplies, before resuming the invading expedition against the Comanches. While encamped there, quite a tragic accident occurred, which cast a gloom over the entire band.
"It was about the middle of January and the weather was most excessively cold, so that campfires needed frequent attention. One of the Lipan Indians was bringing wood and struck it against a loaded gun, which went off, mortally wounding one of the soldiers. Prompt effort was made to save him. A skiff was constructed of buffalo hides, and two of his comrades were detailed to carry him down the river to Austin for medical attention, but he died on the way. Rowing to the river's bank, his comrades dug his grave with the blade bone of a buffalo and buried him.
"There is an intense pathos and solemnity in the scene suggested here, as we in imagination follow the little skiff down the Colorado. See the two soldiers exerting every power to make all possible speed, at the same time noting with anxious suspense the fluttering pulse, failing strength, and at last pausing to catch dying words. See how wind and wave and oar are unheeded as the holy hush of death falls upon the trio -- the living and the dying. See strong men bend in sadness over a suffering friend, powerless to aid or cheer in that mysterious struggle, wherein a solitary soul must need go forth alone, at least from all human standpoint.
"Then, when that is over, see rough hands tenderly close the eyes. And then see the mournful sublimity of the simple burial on the river bank.
"But we will return to John H. Moore and his men, whom we left with their horses in the rye bottoms, trying to recuperate after the terrible siege of cold and snow. As soon as practicable, they marched out and up the river once more, sending on four scouts --Mike Hornsby, Joe Martin, and two Lipan -- who by cautious reconnoiter found a large Indian encampment on the San Saba. The company immediately turned in across the river about twelve miles below the mouth of the San Saba, where, arriving at a point near the Comanche village in the night, they waited for dawn. This winter campaign had so far been exceedingly severe, and our men had suffered intensely for so long that everything which in the least brought to mind home and comfort was welcome, even though tantalizing. Their Comanche foes seemed to have established for themselves all manner of home pleasures, for as they lay in the darkness our men could hear chickens crowing, dogs barking, horses neighing; indeed, all of the many sound with which farm life is vocal.
"The encampment was situated on a horse shoe prairie lying in the forks of the San Saba and a little creek, and our men lay on the timbered side under the bank, ready for action. At length, when it was light enough, the order came to charge. Our men ran nearly through the village, driving the Indians before them -- and by the way, the warriors were all at home this time, about 500 in number, against 9! John H. Moore ordered his men back to the timber, whereupon the Indians, rallying, charged, but were repulsed immediately, as the killing of the warchief, Quenisaik, confused, distressed, and completely routed them for a time. Fighting was continued nevertheless, until two o'clock in the afternoon.
"A somewhat ludicrous incident occurred as our men lay in the timber between the charges. When Pat Moore, a little Irishman, crawled cautiously up to the edge of the bluff and presented a cocked gun, some of the boys said, 'What are you doing Pat? Your gun is not loaded?'
"'Hush!' he answered in a loud stage whisper, 'Bejabers, they don't know it!'
"During the first charge DeWitt Lyons called ever an anon for his brother Warren who was at that time a captive among the Comanches, but received no answer. Later when the fight was hottest, he called out, seemingly in great distress, 'Run here boys! Run here!' Several of his comrades rushed to him expecting to find him in great peril, when he exclaimed, 'Here is a dog without one bit of hair on him!' Some laughed while others cursed at this untimely joke, which was characteristic of the man to be cool in excitement or danger.
"Our men left their horses without guards about two miles back, a very singular proceeding for which they paid dearly, as the Indians, slipping around, stole them, together with all the baggage of the soldiers. Much to the vexation of a majority of the men, Moore ordered a retreat, and the band marched back home on foot, bearing their wounded on litters. We had none killed instantly, but seven or eight were wounded, and one Martin, from Bastrop, died in a few days from his wound."
In 1841, Rufus Perry served under Samuel Highsmith and Thomas Green. He was a scout for Gen. Edward Burelson and Mark B. Lewis at various times.
In 1844 Rufus Perry joined Jack Hays' Texas rangers and while with this force he participated in many Indian fights. One such fight was recorded by John Holland Jenkins:
"From a number of his brave adventures and raids I have procured the following account from my old fellow soldier, Rufus Perry, who participated in the scenes herein described. The old soldiers call it 'Hays' Fight on the Pinta Trail', which took place near the head of Salado Creek.
"In the summer of 1844, a company of only thirteen men under Colonel Hays started from camp at Hackey Madea in search of Indians. After traveling for some time, they (printed copy is obviously missing from the book)..of attacking these five, Hays came right on through the brush and charged the main bank, which was forming line behind the others.
"The Indians charged, too, and ran right through our lines two or three times. Three or four warriors would come together. Here Colt's five-shooter was first used -- two cylinders and both loaded. The Indians were astonished and terrified at the white men shooting their 'butcher knives' at them, and soon retreated in confusion and dismay.
"One of the boys killed their chief and this added to their consternation.
"However, they fought as they retreated, the running fight continuing for about ten miles.
"Sam Walker and Ad Gillespie determined to kill one Indian apiece and started after them.
"The Indians, resorting to an old trick, fell in behind them and speared them both severely, but both got well, and lived to give faithful service for Texas afterwards.
"Finally both of them were killed in the Mexican War.
"In the fight two horses and saddles were taken, but not one Indian.
"On the next day two of the men, Peter Fohr and Andrew Erskine, who were left at camp during the fight, saw five Indians coming toward the camp, and killed all of them.
"Peter Fohr was killed and Andrew Erskine wounded. See what odds here!
"Eleven white men against sixty Indians out in the open prairie, and back at camp two white men against five Indians! -- and this was only one adventure of the many through which they passed.
"John C. Hays was the first to arm his Rangers with repeating hand guns.
"For the first time the white man could fight on horseback.
"Up until this time he had had to dismount to handle his musket, and this put him at a decided disadvantage, for the plains Indians fought from horseback.
"This was the beginning of modern calvary, and the beginning of the end of Comanche raids on Texas.
"Wherever the Texas Rangers appeared with their Colts they terrorized the enemy to such an extent that the London Times asked if the most terrible weapon of destruction ever placed in the hand of man should be let loose on the world.
"The Civil War was fought with muskets, and it has been suggested that if either side had armed its men with revolvers they might have won the war in a hurry."
In August of this same year another encounter with Indians occurred twelve miles up the Nueces River from Uvalde, and was recorded by John Holland Jenkins as follows:
"In 1844 four of our fellow soldiers passed through an ordeal of suffering and danger that well deserves to be recorded among the sacrifices made for Texas in those critical times.
"Jack Hays commanded a company of Rangers and, having received news that Mexicans were trying to get some horses between the Nueces and the rio Grande on Turkey Creek he detached Rufus perry, Kit Achlin, John Carlin and James Dunn to go out and investigate and stampede them.
"They reached the Nueces and began to scout along its banks, Perry riding slowly along and taking notes of the trails and woods, while the others he sent on ahead, advising them to select a high place for camp so that they could have agood view of the surrounding country and thus guard against surprise from Indians or Mexicans."
Riding along alone, he struck a horse trail, which he followed until he discovered that he himself was being followed.
"He then went on as if all was natural and joined his comrades in camp, which contrary to his advice, they h ad pitched in a low brushy spot.
"He felt much dissatisfied and uneasy on account of their selection of camp and took his gun and went over on top of a hill to look around, but could see nothing.
"After dinner Dunn and Carlin took the horses for water and went in bathing in the waters of the Nueces."
Just as they had undressed for bathing, twenty-five or thirty Indians attacked Perry and Achlin back at camp.
"The first thing they knew the Comanches came upon them with a whoop.
"Achlin fired and then ran off afoot, leaving the horses.
"Just as Perry was in the act of firing he received an arrow in the shoulder, which forced him to drop his gun.
"He then drew a five-shooter and retreated for his horse, firing as they advanced upon him.
"A second arrow struck him in the temple, severing an artery, and a third struck his hip, going clear through his body.
"This he pulled out of his back. Just as he was firing his fourth, he fainted from loss of blood.
"When he regained his consciousness his first thought was to commit suicide to escape death from the savages.
"He cocked his pistol and put it to his head, but paused, then discovered that he could get up.
"He made his way to the two men who were bathing.
"They had crossed the river, but came back when they saw Perry.
"In a second, Achlin joined them, and pulled the arrow out of Perry's shoulder.
"They then began to make ready to run from a second attack, which they felt sure the Indians would make.
"Achlin tried to persuade them to take Perry behind on a horse, but they would not, probably thinking from his weak and suffering condition that he would die anyway --then, too, they were anxious to ensure their own escape and knew a wounded man could not but impede their ride.
"He caught hold of the tail of one of their horses and was thus helped across the stream, when he again fainted.
"They must have supposed him dead, for they robbed him of his gun and pistol and all left him to his fate.
"He became conscious again just as the Indians were making a second charge.
"He struggled to his feet, and ran with all his little remaining strength for a thicket, at the same time trying to staunch the blood from his wounded temple by holding his overshirt closely against the wound as he ran.
"He crawled into the depths of a dense thicket and lay on the bare ground, securely hidden from the savages; at the same time the dust and sticks on the ground stopped the bleeding in his wounded side.
"The Indians surrounded his hiding place, knocked around in th brush, but for some reason did not enter the thicket, probably thinking Perry was armed and feared to risk one of their own to kill an already seriously wounded man.
"He waited until dark and then started toward the roaring of water which he could hear, but every time he would get up and start, he would faint from pain and weakness, so that he did not reach water till daybreak -- all night going about two hundred yards!
"Then he washed the blood and dirt from his face, drank, crossed the stream, and crawled into a hole at the root of a large tree that had been blown down.
"That night he started for San Antonio, a distance of 120 miles -- wounded, unarmed and without provisions.
"In spite of his weakness and pain he persevered the first day until he was three miles on his way, then being utterly prostrated had to lie and rest.
"When able to proceed, he went on at intervals, getting only two or three miles at a stretch till he reached San Antonio.
"On the seventh night just at dark, he reached the city, more dead than alive, having traveled all seven days with no food except three prickly pear apples and a handful of mesquite beans.
"With every attention his recovery was a very slow and painful one, keeping him in bed about three months.
"His clothes were pierced by twenty-one arrow holes when he reached home.
"Rufus Perry is an intimate friend and acquaintance, and associate veteran, and for more than twenty years was a citizen of Bastrop. I have gathered this account from his own lips, and can vouch for its truth.
"In giving the details of this adventure, he always mentioned the kind and untiring attention he received from two women of San Antonio, one a German, the other a Mexican. The former often shed tears over his crippled and wounded condition.
"Perry prior to this was a good looking man, but now after the lapse of forty years, still bears a drawn and scarred face, a twitching eye, and walks with the aid of a cane -- all the result of the Comanche arrows.
"Achlin reached San Antonio on the morning of the eighth day, having fared like Perry on prickly pear apples and mesquite beans. He was, however, not so mutiliated and battered up as his comrade. He was almost well in two weeks.
"Dunn and Carlin rode to San Antonio completely naked and were terribly sunburned. Rufus Perry was very bitter toward them for deserting him and Achlin.
On June 24, 1845, Rufus Perry and Margaret Ann Rousseau were married in Bastrop. Her father, Mosea (or Mozea) Rouseeau, had been killed by Edward Jenkins, father of John Holland Jenkins. The following year Edward Jenkins was murdered. He was found by friends beneath a large pecan tree, in a cornfield, and had been scalped.
John Holmes Jenkins III, a descendant of Edward Jenkins and John Holland Jenkins, has written as follows in his book Recollections of Early Texas:
This was indeed a most mysterious murder. According to family legend, Jenkins was killed by the half-Negro, half-Indian slave of Moses Rousseau. Edward Jenkins had killed Rousseau in a knife fight a year before and there are no records of Jenkins every being brought to trial.
Matters of that sort were generally handled by the families or friends of those involved. Rousseau's slave was semi-civilized, wore moccasins, and was known to be able to handle a bow and arrow.
General Burleson, it is said, told John Jenkins this when he reached manhood. The general had wisely wished to avoid any more murders on that account and since the slave was never again heard of in civilized circles, it was suppsed he joined the Indians or was killed by them.
Rufus Perry served as Second Lieutenant under Col. Peter Hanaborough Bell's Texas Volunteers during the Mexican War. Col. Bell became the third Governor of Texas. Rufus Perry served in the Confederate Army and was in command of an advance guard of 183 men against the Indians in Concho County at the time of Lee's surrender.
The 1861 Blanco County, Texas tax roll, lists C.R. Perry property thus: 300 acres on Pedernales River, value $800; 4 negros $3,500, 175 cattle $1,050; 12 horses, $420, and other property $285.
His cattle brand "P Bar" was registered in Hays and Blanco counties from 1857 to 1882.
Cicero Rufus Perry passed away October 7, 1898 in Johnson City, Texas and is buried there.