Thursday, March 15, 2012

Comanche Raid in Hamilton County, Texas: The Heroic Death and Sacrifice of Schoolteacher Ann Whitney and the Daring Ride of Miss Amanda Howard

In continuing with the theme of Women's History Month, the story of the heroic acts of Miss Ann Whitney and Miss Amanda Howard. As with many stories of traumatic incidents, the accounts of what happened often differ greatly. In piecing together this story I have attempted to consult, and credit, as many credible sources as possible. The story of these heroic women was originally told by Eulalia Nabers Wells in her memoir titled Blazing the Way, but I first heard of the heroic sacrifice of Miss Ann Whitney through the Comanche County Historical Museum in Comanche, Texas.

Schoolteachers played a unique role in the Wild West. In addition to educating children in small towns, schoolteachers were also representations of culture and civilization. This was a challenging role considering many of the small towns were far from civilized, or so far away from what could be considered civilization that the job could be downright dangerous. Such was the case for schoolteacher Ann Whitney who agreed to teach the children in Hamilton County, Texas.

There are few details on the early years of Ann Whitney except that she was a highly respected schoolteacher. She was 32 years old in 1867 and an exceptionally large woman who commanded respect, but also showed tremendous compassion and kindness to her students.

The book Old West: The Women, by Joan Swallow Reiter, has a picture of a schoolhouse in 1887 Live Oak County, Texas showing a bunch of tree limbs covered in dried vines with the children seated inside on wooden chairs. This haphazard construction kept the school area cool for the children--school was held only during summer months so students could help with the harvest and planting in the fall and spring.

The schoolhouse where Ann Whitney taught her students in Hamilton County was just a tad more carefully constructed with logs and boards, but the boards were spaced apart for ventilation, so far apart that a man could stick his entire head inside, which will be an important detail later in the story. The boards on the floor could also be lifted easily by a child. There was a door in the front facing the valley and one window in the back facing the river. The schoolhouse was located in a valley that was 3/4 mile long 1 1/2 miles wide with a completed unobstructed front view of the building, and anyone who might be approaching the building.

On July 9, 1867 Ann Whitney arrived early, as always, on her saddle horse, her favorite pet, Mary. The school room filled slowly with children who obediently took their seats and the morning was relatively uneventful. One of the young girls, 12-year-old Olivia Barbee, was expecting a visit from her father, a stockman who was often working on the prairies, gathering longhorn cattle for his herd. Around 2 p.m., another young girl, Gabriela Powers, the daughter of local resident Alexander Powers, paused as she walked past the doorway and noticed a group of riders approaching the school. She told Miss Whitney that riders were coming. Miss Whitney reminded the child that Olivia Barbee was expecting her father and told the girl to take her seat.

The child shook her head. Suddenly, the girl screamed. "Indians," and she ran across the room to her younger brother, Alex Powers. She grabbed his hand and dragged him to the single window in the back of the school room then pushed her brother through, following close behind him. They ran into the reeds on the banks of a nearby river.

Miss Whitney rushed to the door, her heart pounding as she realized that the school was under attack from a raiding party of Comanche. She could see that the men were stealing her beloved horse, Mary. She slammed the door shut and shouted at the children to climb through the window at the back of the schoolhouse where they would not be seen by the approaching Comanche warriors.

A few children managed to climb through the window before the raiding party arrived, but one young girl, Mary Jane Manning, was very sick when she arrived at school and clung desperately to Miss Whitney's skirt. Olivia Barbee suggested to the rest of the children that they hide beneath the floorboards of the schoolhouse. John Kuykendall was one of the children who joined her, but his sister hid behind a piece of furniture in the room.

The Comanche warriors came to the front door and pounded their fists on the wood, then stuck their painted faces through the slats in the walls. According to the children, one of the men appeared to be Caucasian or Mexican and had red hair. One of the Comanche shouted to Miss Whitney in English. Miss Whitney turned to him and begged for the lives of her children. The man nodded and held up three fingers, but the reason for this is action is unknown.

The Comanche warriors started firing arrows through the walls into the tiny school room. Miss Whitney was hit numerous times. Her blood flowed freely down the front of her dress and onto the young girl still clinging to her skirts, through the floorboards, and onto the children beneath the floor. Miss Whitney continued to pace the floor, begging for the lives of the children. With 12 arrows in her body, she still managed to stumble to the window to help Miss Kuykendall climb through. According to many accounts, including a detailed explanation on Texas United, Miss Kuykendall was shot in the back with an arrow as she climbed through the window, but she survived.

Miss Whitney was bleeding profusely and Mary Jane Manning was covered in her beloved teacher's blood. Mary Jane finally stripped out of her blood-stained dress, climbed through the window with the assistance of her dying teacher, and ran to the river. Her brother, Louis Manning, watched his sister leave. He climbed out from beneath the floor boards and followed his sister through the window. He ran to the river and straight into the arms of his sister, who was hiding in the reeds by the river. Mary Jane held her brother in her arms until they were rescued.

The Comanche warriors broke down the door. Miss Whitney fell to the floor, dying, with 18 arrows in her body. One of the Comanche noticed the floor board and pulled Olivia Barbee up into the school room. He was trying to push the struggling child onto the back of his horse when the leader of the group called him back into the schoolroom. Remarkably, he left the girl, and Olivia ran to the river. She was so terrified that she refused to leave to seek help. She was discovered in the morning by one of the townsmen who had to chase her down and convince her that she was safe.

Inside the building, another Comanche found the two young boys. The Indians asked the boys if they would like to join their tribe. The boys, staring down at their dying teacher, did not know what to say. One boy, John Kuykendall, said yes, and he was lifted up onto the back of one of the horses. The other boy said no, and just as one of the Indians prepared to kill him he heard their leader shouting in front of the house and the man ran outside instead, mounted his horse, and they rode away.

The Comanche leader had gathered his warriors to leave because he spotted two women riding through the valley. Miss Amanda Howard, who was only 17 years old, was already an experienced equestrian and had asked her sister-in-law, Sarah Howard, to ride with her through the valley. When they first saw the men at the schoolhouse they, too, thought they were the cattlemen the teacher was expecting. Amanda Howard quickly realized the men were Comanche and shouted to her sister-in-law as she kicked her horse into a fierce run. The two women turned toward the house of a neighbor, Mr. Baggett, because his house was closer than their own home. The Comanche warriors followed furiously behind. Amanda Howard aimed her horse toward the fence and horse and rider cleared the fence gracefully. Sarah Howard's horse shied from the fence and she was thrown. She jumped to her feet and ran for the house, but arrived safely.

About the same time, Mr. Stanaland and his family entered the valley and their wagon passed the Howard House. (There are numerous names used for Stanaland in reports of this incident, but an email from the Stanaland family to Forttours provides the most accurate identity, in my opinion.) Amanda Howard could see them from the window of the Baggett home. The Comanche killed Mr. Stanaland and wounded his wife and children. Amanda Howard knew the rest of the townspeople were in desperate trouble. She knew she must act, and fast. She ran back to her horse and started to ride for the road leading south toward the rest of the homes. In order to do this, though, she had to ride straight toward the Comanche warriors, outrun them, and turn quickly onto the road. Her bravery was unexpected. She managed to surprise the Comanche with her wild ride facing them, and change direction before they realized her plan. She then turned east toward the nearest settlement. The Comanche, realizing she would succeed in alerting the rest of the townspeople, turned to ride out of the valley.

Amanda Howard alerted as many townspeople as she could on her heroic ride and the terrified parents who still did not know the fate of their children grabbed their guns and raced toward the schoolhouse. Abe Hendrix, a Mr. Pierson, the two brothers of Amanda Howard and seven more men formed a search party for John Kuykendall. They used dogs they had trained specifically for tracking Comanche horses. They tracked the horses for 100 miles far into the mountains, but the Comanche warriors had divided up into many smaller groups and the dogs lost their trail. Young John Kuykendall later said that he was close enough to see the rescue party, but could not shout out for help in fear of being killed by his captors. Six months later, he was recovered and returned to his family.

There is a marker on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn commemorating the sacrifices of Miss Ann Whitney. It says, "In Memory of Ann Whitney, born in Massachusetts around 1835, murdered by Comanche Indians on July 9, 1867 while protecting her students."

The Official State Historical marker at her gravesite reads: "Ann Whitney, 1835-1867, described as a stout lady with an engaging personality, Elizabeth Ann Whitney confirmed that she could be strong, brave and resourceful on one fateful July day in 1867. Ann was a teacher at a nearby frontier school. Suddenly, during the course of a typical school day, a party of Comanche Indians attacked. Reportedly pierced by 18 arrows during the ordeal, Ann Whitney nevertheless helped all but one young boy escape."

Her tombstone reads: "In Memory of Ann Whitney, frontier school teacher born in Massachusetts about 1835, killed by the Comanche Indians July 9, 1867. Erected by the school children of Hamilton County, Texas."

44 comments:

Rob Lopez said...

An inspiring story and excellent research.

Tim Shey said...

Very good article. Somehow this story reminds me of the film "The Unforgiven" (1960), starring Burt Lancaster.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Wow! what a great story. As if life in those times wasn't hard enough I can't imagine having to worry about indian attacks too.

perpetualthought said...

hard to believe such people existed, there's a hero in everyone, just waiting for the right moment

Richie Bates said...

Just found your blog. Fantastic post. Have you read a book called "The Captured"? As I read this, I was reminded of that book and the many, many heroic women mentioned in it.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

No, I'll have to look for it. My favorite history books are the local histories you can find in the museums in small towns. Those are the best resources, and have such wonderful stories because they generally come from direct witnesses or stories handed down through families.

android phone said...

A very interesting topic, goodluck

Real Property said...

thanks for good info....

Life Have Fun said...

nice blog :D

台北民宿 said...

Nice^^

agman said...

I have also just found your Blog and the post about Ann Whitney is amazing, really enjoyed the post will be back

Jessica Nelson said...

That is so sad and yet fascinating. Since I write historicals and am not near as good a researcher as you, I'll be following this blog. Thanks for the wonderful post!!

Holly said...

I am new to your site- I cannot wait to read your older posts!

JD said...

This is a very faschinating story indeed. Never knew of this before, thank you for a great post.

RODOLFO EDGARDO said...

Estimada Darla.Fue realmente un descubrimiento para mi su blog. Siempre admire a los hombre y mujeres del lejano Oeste Norteamericano que a igual que nuestros hombres y mujeres de nuestras pampas argentinas, tenían que luchar contra el salvajismo de la Naturaleza y la incomprensión,por demás justificada, de los pueblos aborígenes que vivieron antes que el blanco. Realmente la felicito.Siga adelante.Aunque en la traducción a mi idioma se lea algo diferente le puedo asegurar que el ESPÍRITU de su trabajo SE PERCIBE.Muchas gracias por darme la posibilidad de conocer aún más lo que fue el inicio de su gran país.-

Darla Sue Dollman said...

I only have two years of high school Spanish, but I did my best to translate the above message. Thank you, Rodolfo!

Dear Darla Sue:
This is really a breakthrough for my blog. I always admire the men and women of the American Wild West who, like our men and women of our Argentine pampas, had to struggle against the savagery of nature and misunderstanding, for other reasons, for Aboriginal people who lived before the white. Really in my language translation read something different I can assure you that your work SPIRIT IS PERCIBE. Muchas,thank you for the opportunity to learn even more what was the beginning of your great country! (Thank you, Rudolfo!)

insignante said...

Hi, I am new to this blog site. This was an amazing story. I also have been a U.S. History teacher for over 20 years and never get tired of reading neat stories like this one! I will be watching this blog because I love U.S. History. Thank you for writing this for all of us.
insignante

Eun Ju Bae said...

thank you for a great post.

Michael D. Lucas said...

I like to know who was the Red Headed 'leader' of this particular Comanche raid? Some accounts show he spoke english fluently. A gunslinger, or outlaw who found some tough warriors? What outlaws that were red headed, rode with this 'red headed' leader, was he caught, who caught him, where was he hung? Any accounts to this 'mysterious' red headed leader?

Darla Sue Dollman said...

I haven't found anything! It is intriguing, isn't it? It's like a lost piece in a puzzle, a piece that seems necessary to create the picture. It seems as if many people would have been searching for him in particular, singled him out. He's the one I would have gone after. What grudge did he have against the Anglo-Europeans moving into the area? He was most likely a very bad person taking advantage of the anger and the warrior pride of the Comanche for his own advantage, possibly using them to kidnap women and take them down into Mexico for sale, steal horses and cattle--who knows? Whoever he was, whatever his reasons, they were not good.

It was such a rough and wild area back then and you really have to admire the young woman who chose to teach these children, but I also wonder why the schoolhouse was so far away from the homes? I've seen pictures of some early Texas schoolhouses that were no more than stick wickiups, like the kind the miners used for shelter when they first arrived in mining towns, but they were generally on the property of one of the parents.

Kathleen said...

My family is from the Hamilton County area, and my grandparents were school teachers in all the little towns around there in the early 1900s. Thank you so much for providing some additional information to add to the family stories I have heard over the years. The people who settled that area were an amazing bunch, and I'm proud to be descended from them.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Thank you for reading my blog. And you should be proud! The people who settled that town were strong, tough, determined, and when you think of it, they must have had a great sense of compassion to watch out for each other at all times, no matter what the danger. I spent hours talking to some of the men and women who work in the museum in Comanche and wish I could have stayed for days. The stories they told me will stay with me forever, and the pride in their ancestors is admirable, to say the least.

Gloria Stephens said...

Amanda Howard was my husband's great-great grandmother. The only detail that was left out of this from the family's oral history was that she had to jump a 7 rail fence to get away from the Comanche raiders and that she was riding a two year old colt.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Important details--thank you so much! Your family must be very proud--in my opinion, she is a hero!

Anonymous said...

Excellent read. Thank you. But we must understand that there are two sides to every story of the West. With a change of a few words, this could be a story about how the white settlers attacked, killed and kidnapped many Native American women and children while in the process of stealing their land. You are lucky to have family to relate this missive to you. My people, and their language, has all but been annihilated from this land.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Dear Anonymous: CLEARLY you have not read my blog, particularly the most recent, very long series of articles on Wounded Knee. I work hard to show all aspects of the Old West, very hard, and posted your comment to show that no matter how hard you try to be fair, people will still see only what they choose to see. This woman died. Yes, your family members died, too, but she had family, as well. You're right, there are two sides to every story and I present them both here, but you must open your eyes, and your mind, to see them.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Another comment deleted! I'm not sure what happened. I believe it said there is a book called "The Last Captive" that tells the story of the red-haired boy who was taken captive then returned or escaped. I'll see if I can find more information. If you posted the comment please repost--I'm so sorry!

Mickey Holland said...

Dear Darla, I just thought I would drop you a line to let you know there is some ancestors of Amanda Howard still living. She was my GREAT,Great,Great, Grandmother and i'm so thankful for the awesome ride that she did that day. My mother is 90 years young and has told me about this story numerous times. She said that, all of this was done while riding side saddle. WOW what a cowgirl she must have been! We have the article that The Comanche Chief newspaper wrote on May 2,1941. Article was called, RECALLS STORY OF THE TRAGIC DEATH OF MISS ANN WHITNEY AT EHT HANDS OF INDIANS IN 1867
I HAVE JUST STARTED TO TRY TO RESEARCH OUR FAMILY TREE. Amanda Howard was the mother of Gailhouse Massingill in which we have been having some trouble finding out much about him. Hopefully I will get all of this one day because so far it's like a good book, hard to quit LOL. If you have any insight or more information that might be helpful please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Thank You,
Mickey & Connie Holland

Darla Sue Dollman said...

I would love to learn more! Please keep me updated on your genealogy progress. I am so in awe of that woman--sidesaddle? She was AWESOME!

Gigi said...

Gailhouse "Gail" Massingill was my great grandfather for whom I was named. Of course, Amanda Howard Massingill (wife of Bill Massingill) was his mother. I have a photo of Gail and his wife Hester (Shaffer) when they were young and had only one child, William Lemma Massingill, my grandfather.

Recently, as I began an ancestry photo book, I recommitted to research my family tree. Although there are several memorable people in my family, Amanda Howard, has to rank near the top as her heroics have been widely shared in the Central Texas area.

I just wanted to let you know that there are several descendants of Amanda Howard still living in the Cen-Tex area. In fact, many years ago when my daughter was in 4th grade (she's now 34), the assignment was to research a remarkable family member and write a story relating their findings. After she had read her story to the class, another little girl had written her family story about Amanda Howard, too, who was also her ancestor. We never knew beforehand that there was a relationship there.

Just wanted to let you know that by all accounts, Amanda Howard, was a heroine in the days of the Old West.

Brenda Gail Stephens Andrews
daughter of Lemine Louise Massingill Stephens
Hamilton, Texas

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Absolutely! There is no doubt that she is a hero, and not just for Texas. Her actions provide a strong example for young women everywhere. She was brave and strong. She knew what needed to be done and she didn't stop to think of the possible dangers to herself, she took action. I admire her greatly. You must be very proud.

Eve Austin said...

A goup of people in the Hamilton, Comanche, and Erath Counties have come together as the Cross Timbers Archeaological Society (CTAS) to locate the exact location of the Leon River Schoolhouse where Ann Whitney was killed. As part of the research to locate the schoolhouse's location, we have unearthed lots of family histories, not all admirable, but interesting nonetheless. It is interesting to note that most of the families represented by the school children are related. One Howard brother married one of John Baggett's daughters. The Massingills and Ganns intermarried. Amanda Howard married William Henry Massingill. A Baggett daughter married a Kuykendall boy. Hugh Henry Stanaland was married to Ruth Massingill. Most of the families in the Warlene Valley along the Leon River had been previously in Angelina County, Texas, before moving into Comanche country.

Eve Austin said...

A goup of people in the Hamilton, Comanche, and Erath Counties have come together as the Cross Timbers Archeaological Society (CTAS) to locate the exact location of the Leon River Schoolhouse where Ann Whitney was killed. As part of the research to locate the schoolhouse's location, we have unearthed lots of family histories, not all admirable, but interesting nonetheless. It is interesting to note that most of the families represented by the school children are related. One Howard brother married one of John Baggett's daughters. The Massingills and Ganns intermarried. Amanda Howard married William Henry Massingill. A Baggett daughter married a Kuykendall boy. Hugh Henry Stanaland was married to Ruth Massingill. Most of the families in the Warlene Valley along the Leon River had been previously in Angelina County, Texas, before moving into Comanche country.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

This story just keeps growing and I am so fascinated and impressed by the women and men involved in this town. I want to continue to follow the schoolhouse story and see where it goes. It is interesting to learn that the families intermingled, but I'm not surprised. They endured a terrible crisis together and this tends to bring people closer. Thank you so much!

Eve Austin said...

I've been on a mission to locate any information on the infant daughter of Hugh Stanaland and Ruth Massingill these past few months. Tonight, I found Dora Stanaland. It seems she and her older half sister Mary Elizabeth spelled the family name as Standalan. Both died in 1913 in Lampasas County. Texas. Mary Elizabeth had married Albert Harrison Bradley, and had a number of children. Dora never married. The only census record is from 1880 when Dora is listed as an orphan living with Sallie Underwood, who was Ruth Massingill's sister-in-law from her first marriage. These two brave little girls survived the horrors of witnessing their father being killed in July 1867.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Hopefully someone will read this who has some information. I have a few family members missing from my genealogy. I think it helps to post on Find a Grave, too.

rickratt said...

I've heard this story recounted by my family members since I was a child because Gabriela and Alex Powers were my GGG? Aunt and Uncle. The Mannings were their cousins, all of their families were originally from Missouri. My Dad's version has Alex Powers shot in the leg with an arrow, don't really know if that happened but makes for a good story. Thanks for posting this.

Cara Jones said...

Ezekiel Manning was my husband's great, great grandfather. We have enjoyed making visits to Hamilton to the cemetery and the original house. He knew a little of this story, but we have learned so much more in the past few years.
Thank you for posting

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Thank you for reading! One of the many things I like about Texas--people love to read about Texas history!

Loyce Foster said...

John and Elizabeth Baggett were my gggrandparents, Mary Clarissa Baggett my great grandmother, her brother was Joel Baggett whom the Indians scalped and killed in 1860 Comanche County.

Loyce Foster said...

Being my courageous Baggett family were part of the Comanche history, would sure like to know if and when they locate the school house are since my gggrandparents lived so close.

Loyce Foster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darla Sue Dollman said...

I'll bet you would! I moved from Texas a few years after I wrote this post, but I can still continue the research. I've heard from so many readers whose ancestors were involved in this story that I think it's time to revisit this post and update the information. If you have anything you'd like to share feel free to do so. You can post it here or send it in a message and I can incorporate it into the post and attribute it to you as the source. I will look into the school house. I must say, one thing I love about Comanche is the united effort made by its residents to preserve its history. It's a great place!

Darla Sue Dollman said...

I'm sorry--your comments are posting out of order. I am sorry to hear about your ancestor. When I read that one of my ancestors was a victim of a mob lynching during the Civil War I started thinking about how the event must have affected every member of that large family, how they would have carried that pain and loss through the rest of their lives, and I cried for them. I cannot imagine how it would feel to learn that your brother was scalped. Texas was a rough place and the people who lived there were tough and strong, but their lives were often filled with heartache.