Sunday, June 15, 2008

Adobe Walls -- A My Town Monday Post

Some forty odd miles Northeast of Amarillo, sits the meager ruins of an old trading post. Simply by looking at the pile of crumbling adobe, one would never realize the history of the place.

The Adobe Walls trading post started life as a Spanish trading post and fort in 1845 but was abandoned and most of it town down after the original settlers grew tired of Indian attacks. Then in 1 864 the famed and fabled Kit Carson led a group of 300 volunteers from New Mexico against a thousand Indian who were camped near the old structure. That battle ranks as the largest to ever take place between whites and Indian on the Great Plains, but the battle that took place at the site in late June of 1874 has become the stuff of legend.

In the spring of 1874 a scout named Billy Dixon led a group of entrepreneurs to Adobe Walls so they could set up shop and capitalize on the buffalo hunters in the area. Meaning they bought hides or traded the hunters for rotgut from the saloon or for blacksmith services.

As they had thirty years before, the Native American tribes in the area took offense to the white man infiltrating their land and stealing their buffalo.. By that time bands of warriors were feeling the pinch and were desperate to stay off the reservations of Oklahoma and drive the white man from the area.

Quanah Parker, whom I blogged about a few weeks back was one of these restless leaders. As was a Comanche medicine man named Isa-tai. Legend has it that Isa-tai translates to "coyote droppings," but regardless of his name the shaman did what few ever could. He convinced various tribes into banding together to attack Adobe Walls as a single force. Isa-Tai (the man in the photo to the right) told the desperate Plains Indians that his medicine could make the braves bullet proof and that he could create ammo for their guns from his very bowels. It's a persuasive man that convince other he has the ability to shit bullets.

Nevertheless, on June 27th 1874, 700 Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Comanche warriors surrounded the fort in the pre-dawn darkness.

Inside the adobe and sod structure was 28 men and 1 woman. Most were buffalo hunters, but among the inhabitants were a 20 year old Bat Masterson and the scout Billy Dixon.

The Native American warriors nearly took the battle in the initial siege, but despite being outnumbered nearly 30 to 1 the hunters held their attackers off mostly due to superior weaponry.

Even though they hunters had fast firing revolvers they also had luck on their side. They would have been asleep and thusly ill prepared for battle had a lodgepole not have snapped and gotten them up earlier than normal. A hunter stepped outside to take a leak noticed the Indians on the horizon.

After the initial charge the men counted 15 dead braves that had fallen so close to the structures that their fellow warriors could not retrieve the bodies. Incredibly only two inhabitants of the community died in that first charge. A pair of brothers that had fallen asleep in the back of a wagon.

The warriors encircled the encampment and laid siege all through that day and night. occasionally a small skirmish would break out as the braves tested the men inside.

Day two the men inside were growing nervous and as they knew the odds were not on their side despite the early success of defending their position. They watched a group of warriors gathered on a ridge line early a mile away.

Billy Dixon was already noted as a crack shot and the men urged him to take aim at the group of warriors. Getting out his "Big Fifty" Sharps he took aim and dropped a warrior at what some claim as better than fifteen hundred yards.

The various tribes took this as a sign that Isa-tai's medicine was bad and broke off the campaign. a few warriors stayed and there were more skirmishes over the next two days but Billy Dixon's miraculous shot tilted the odds and bought the men inside time until reinforcements arrived a few days later.

Billy Dixon himself never claimed the shot as anything but luck. he didn't even devote a full paragraph the story in his memoirs. Isa-Tai tried to claim his medicine was weakened when a group of warriors killed a sacred skunk just before the battle but he was beaten, dishonored, and discredited after the failed siege.

For more versions or info on Adobe Walls here are a links I drew my research from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.


Lyzzydee -- Welwyn Garden City England

Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada

Shauna Roberts -- Southern California

Linda McLaughlin -- San Clemente, California

Barrie Summy -- Malibu, California

Patti Abbott -- Motown - Detroit, Michigan

Clair Dickson -- Livingston County, Michigan

Clare2E (Women of Mystery) -- Anytown, USA

Mary Nix -- Olmsted, Ohio

WordVixen -- Lititz, Pennsylvania

Debra -- Cleveland, Ohio


Lana Gramlich said... interesting (& sad. I mean, LOOK at all of those buffalo skins! Geeze!)

Linda McLaughlin said...

Another fascinating post, Travis. Isa-Tai must have been a fast talker to convince his men his medicine could make them impervious to bullets. Or else they were really gullible, lol.

Hoping to have a My Town Monday post up later today.


texlahoma said...

That's good stuff! I was a little conflicted about which side to be for.
Your comment on my blog has really got me curious about your novel. What time is it set in? If I can help with any info about this area I would be happy to do so.

lyzzydee said...

I love the history of this place, we hear about so many battles but its personal to the area yiou come from and must have shaped your surroundings and people!
Trouble is the only meaning for Adobe for a lot of folks is computer programs!!!

yellowdog granny said...

every time i read where they are going to have buffalo hunts to thin down the heards i think they should let the indians hunt them instead of letting fat cat rich guys hunt them...great story..I love old west history..

Barbara Martin said...

Travis, my own My Town Monday post is up. I will return later to read yours.

Packsaddle said...

"A hunter stepped outside to take a leak noticed the Indians on the horizon."

I HATE when that happens.

Patti said...

i'm a sucker for stories like these, and being from the texas neck of the woods there are plenty of them.

i also loved your weather pics. giddy up!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Hey, Travis, my new My Town Monday post has been posted.

Surf's up!


Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

Wonderful history lesson.

Bat Masterson eventually wound up in New York City and became a columnist for one for the dailies. He died here in the 1920s and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.


Big Tex said...

I saw your comment on Tex's blog, and my interest was piqued when you said that you were working on a novel. I'm glad I stopped by - that was an excellent post.

Oh, and judging by your blogger profile, you have excellent taste in music.

Barrie said...

Thank you for all the trouble you've gone to putting together this post. :)

Interesting how we here in CA have several names and bits of history. Like Kit Carson.

My Monday post is up: Malibu, CA

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mine, too. although a short piece as I go on vacation today.
You really are an historian. Great piece as usual.

Clair Dickson said...

Great piece, Travis. You've certainly got some history around you.

I've got a My Town Monday up again for Livingston County, MI.

Clare2e said...

Deary me, another substantial one, Travis, as I post more silly pith and fluff at Women of Mystery. I don't even know what town to put down. Anytown, USA? Although I think the Chipsy Kings must be in the UK.

Mary said...

Excellent post, Travis.

Apparently our Native American forefathers also dealt with politicians who promised what they could not deliver!

DrillerAA said...

Great history lesson. I love this stuff. Keep up the good work.

Charles Gramlich said...

Great stuff. I got my dose of this kind of history in Cross Plains this last week, down your way. I stopped by Camp Colorado and we got some pictures, which I'll post later with some history stuff.

Too bad you couldn't have gotten up to Howard days for a few minutes. Maybe another year.

WordVixen said...

Hmmm... makes you wonder if his name wasn't Isa-tai until after the failed attack.

Hey look! I joined in this week!

debra said...

My post is finally up, Travis. I'll be back later to read yours :-)

Melissa Marsh said...

Ok, that pic of the buffalo skins made me throw up in my mouth a little. It's not that I'm against hunting, but just the sheer number of buffalo that were killed just for their hides. Infuriates me.

the walking man said...

Curious questions arising from this well told account. Did the aboriginal people dance the Ghost Dance? While not a plains tradition it was one that the Sioux and other clans of the Upper Midwest wouldv'e brought with them. It seems that the Ghost Dance made them take inordinate risks during battle.

Looking at the pile of skins would be enough to make anyone who relied on the bison for food to be pissed seeing as that 97/100 were never butchered just shot and skinned eh?

Manifest Destiny writ large by luck...a broken lodge pole...

Thanks Travis always good to read a true page of history.