The Sandbar, over the last several years, has related several atrocious Indian massacres among our early Texas settlers, particularly in the 1830s.
They included the wellknown Parker massacre in May of 1836 in which Cynthia Ann Parker was captured to become the mother of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. There was also the massacre about 1837 that left the Gilleland children parentless. About this time young Fayette Smith was captured by the Comanches at the new Austin capital area to later be purchased back and became a prominent Navasota businessman.
And, in what became Grimes County, near where the town of Roans Prairie is located, two small Taylor brothers were orphaned by Indians in the spring of 1837. Their father was killed while searching for a cow, and his wife frantically ran out from a neighbor’s carrying a small daughter to both be killed and the boys able to run away and hide.
We have now learned the history of another Indian massacre not far from where the Parker massacre occurred near Groesbeck. This massacre occurred Jan. 23, 1839 in an area that later became Palestine. It hits home because a teenage girl survivor is the fifth-generation grandmother of someone we all dearly know in the Navasota Examiner “family.”
In the 1837, Charles C. Campbell arrived in the vicinity of Fort Houston and settled about 3 miles west of what is now Palestine. His family consisted of his wife and five children, Malathiel, age 20; Pamelia, aged 17; Hulda, age 14; Fountain, age 11; George, age 4 and two negro men. They built cabins, cleared a field and made a good crop in 1838.
In early January 1839, Campbell himself sickened and died. About a week after his death, during a full moon and soon after the family had gone to bed, the house was suddenly attacked by a party of Indians.
The attack is described by John Henry Brown in “Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas,” pages 57-58. “The only weapon in the house was an old rifle with a defective flint lock. With this, son Malathiel, heroically endeavored to defend his mother and her children. Mrs. Campbell caused Pamelia, the elder daughter, to take refuge under the puncheon floor with her little brother George, urging their silence as the only means of saving herself and the child.”
As the attack continued the Indians were able to force the door open, rushing in, and tomahawked to death Mrs. Campbell and the two girls Huldah and Fountain. Malathiel, with a knife in hand, rushed outside but was immediately killed by the outside Indians. The negro men, having no means of defense, managed to escape.
With the final house attack, Pamelia pulling along little George, “stealthily” emerged from their hiding place under the flooring. They nearly escaped being observed until they reached the edge of a thicket when an arrow struck the back of Pamelia’s head glancing off without entering the skull. She was still able to soon reach the nearby Fort Houston to report the massacre. The Indians robbed the house of its contents including a chest containing 400 silver dollars and cash.
Pamelia, who we found in Family Tree under the name Permelia Amanda Almeda Campbell, would marry Thomas Berry, with whom she would have a son Darius to continue the family lineage.
Connie Clements, writer/ reporter for the Examiner, is somewhat emotional about her life that is and has been because her sixth-generation grandmother forced her fifth-generation grandmother under the puncheon boards of the cabin with her youngest son to escape the Indian massacre. Now a few generations later, we find Connie enjoying her family and pecking out the news and her columns we read in the Examiner.
As writer of this dramatic Sandbar, I urged Connie, herself, to write this story for her column, or, if she wouldn’t, I would. She deferred to me. Thank you, Connie. It is a great Texas historical event.
Many of us can think back about the surviving incidents of our ancestors that have been glorified with life.
Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. See www.tworiversheritagefoundation. org for more info and membership.