NICHOLS CEMETERY – This place hasn’t changed since my last visit years ago. It is one of those family cemeteries you see around Texas, and, indeed, this one started out that way. Here’s the first tombstone. It’s for W. Rowland Nichols. “Killed by Indians” Today the cemetery is home to all sorts of folks in the Hill Country. Here are the Criders. I hear their dancehall is still operating. The Subletts -- Jesse Sublett was my Natty Bumppo around here. A few of the Dowdys. This last family leads us to a very strange story -- the massacre of the four Dowdy children. It was supposedly the last Indian raid in Kerr County and one of the last in Texas, but we could be on the wrong warpath. I looked into this mystery years ago with help from the Kerrville Daily Times, plus “Kerr County, Texas, 1856-1976,” by Clara Watkins, and Jesse Sublett. Also, I talked to the Dowdy descendants who still have Bill’s Barbeque. One of my brothers says it’s the best barbeque in the world, and I won’t argue. Let’s set the stage: On Oct. 1, 1878, Jim and Susan Dowdy moved here from Goliad, arriving with some sheep and horses and eight children. At the time Houston had public schools, Dallas had a baseball team and Texas had A&M, but the Hill Country was still the frontier. On the morning of the fourth day after their arrival, four of the children were sent to a bluff a half-mile away to watch over a flock of sheep. There was a son, James, 11, with brown hair, large ears and a slightly sad expression; Martha, 16; Susan, 17, and Alice, 18 – girls with long, dark hair and pretty faces. A grown son, Richard, remained at the house so that he and a young friend, who was engaged to one of the girls, could eat an early lunch and then relieve the children so they could go back and eat. The two men finished lunch about 11 a.m. and went out to find the children, but discovered them missing and sheep scattered. They raced back to the house to report. Their mother, Susan, hurried to the hills and there found the bodies of her four children. Two of girls’ bodies were lying together. The third was about 200 yards away and James was some distance from her. All the bodies had been horribly mutilated with bullet, tomahawk and arrow wounds, but for whatever reason they were not scalped. A wagon took the bodies to the house of a neighbor, Mrs. “Wash” Floyd, who helped prepare the bodies. Her daughter recalled much later, “I remember Mama telling me Mrs. Dowdy said to her, ‘I can’t bear to see you pull out those arrows because I know it will hurt.’ Mama told me the children were buried with the arrows still in their bodies.” Many other arrows were found along a hillside as though the children had been running along there, dodging a hail of arrows. The Indians had with them a herd of horses and had made their escape. A posse was formed, but that took a day or so to form, and no Indians were spotted. End of a sad story. Almost. Yes, the first suspects were Indians. October was the time of the year when the dreaded Comanches came up from Mexico and from the Indian territories to the north. But they generally raided only during the light of the full Comanche Moon. There were arrows at the scene, to be sure, and tomahawk marks. But why the raid? Nothing was taken. One family member told me there were some horses stolen, but no one else recalled hearing that part of the story. And you can’t very well rustle a flock of sheep and make any kind of getaway. There were no reports that the girls had been raped. Word began surfacing that the raid was not the work of Indians at all, but of U.S. renegades or Mexican bandits. “They just used those arrows and tomahawks to make the posse go looking for Indians,” Jesse Sublett told me. A family member agreed with Sublett because of a later development: Some time after the raid, a member of the Dowdy family was in the jail in Kerrville when his cellmate, named Potter, not knowing Dowdy’s identity, bragged that he, Potter, had taken part in the raid. Dowdy got word to his family as to when Potter was to be taken by stage to Junction for trial on another matter. When the stage got past Mountain Home, to the north, and reached the top of a hill, Dick Dowdy and another brother, Tom, stopped the stage, took Potter to a nearby tree and hanged him. Potter was buried there, but his body was later moved to make way for a highway, and today no one knows where it is. “He didn’t have anything to do with it,” a Dowdy told me. “He was just bragging.” In any event, Tom and Dick were tried for murder. They hired a San Antonio lawyer named Tarlton, who got them acquitted, and Tom later named a son Tarlton. An entire generation of Dowdys would not speak publicly of the tragedy. Even around Mountain Home, I got only shrugs and silence when asking about the story. “That was so bad, so very, very bad, you can see why,” a resident finally told me. “One sister lived here the rest of her life, too frightened to leave her home. She became a total recluse. Even when the river would rise, neighbors would have trouble getting her to leave. And during the Comanche Moon….” At Mountain Home there is another resting place, Sunset Cemetery, with small shell-covered graves for Susan, Allice (the gravestone seems to have two ls) James and Martha. All four have the same date of death, Oct. 5, 1878. Beneath each name is the word, “Murdered.” But by whom? Ashby is mystified at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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