Brazos Indian Reservation

By: Carrie J. Crouch

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: October 22, 2020

In the summer of 1854 Gen. Randolph B. Marcy, under orders of the United States Department of War and Interior and in accordance with an act of the Texas legislature of February 6, located two Indian reservations in West Texas. The Brazos Reservation originally comprised four leagues, or 18,576 acres, twelve miles south of Fort Belknap, where the Brazos River makes three big bends. The size was doubled when an adjacent tract of equal size, intended for the western Indians, was added to it. The main building was three miles east of the site of Graham, where a few scattered stones mark the remains of the agency.

Under the direction of Maj. Robert S. Neighbors, the general supervisor of all Indians in Texas, Capt. Shapley P. Ross was made the Brazos agent. J. J. Sturm was agriculturist, and Zachariah Ellis Coombes was educational instructor. About 2,000 Indians took up life on the Brazos Reservation; Caddo, Anadarko, Waco, and Tonkawa Indians had their own villages, and these shrinking groups were glad to have protection from the Comanches. Supplies for the Indians cost the government $80,000 annually. Contracts were made with ranchers for beef, and on an average thirty-four cattle were delivered each week. The federal government had control of the reservation and a ten-mile surrounding area, to prevent the sale of liquor to the Indians. Texas, however, reserved the right of jurisdiction over persons other than Indians for offenses committed upon the person or property of anyone in the state.

About 600 acres was put in cultivation, mostly in corn, wheat, vegetables, and melons. The Indians were good farmers, and many White settlers recognized and respected the reservation dwellers, did not interfere with them, and were not molested by them. Rangers and military officers enlisted the Indians as scouts against the warring tribes. The braves were eager to take part and were so helpful that between fifty and 100 were on regular duty. However, this pleased neither the anti-Indian White men nor the hostile Indians. It also incited a spirit of envy among the friendly Penateka Comanches on the Upper Reserve, who were not permitted to fight against other Comanche groups.

The situation grew worse. Small depredations took place and were always attributed to reservation Indians, so that a lone Indian off the reserve was not safe. A little newspaper published in Jacksboro called the White Man added fuel to the flame of hatred. By 1858 this antagonism verged on warfare. Feelings ran so high that Governor H. R. Runnels and Gen. Sam Houston appealed to the federal government to move the Indians out of the state.

The government, therefore, ordered a survey of land in Indian Territory, but before a suitable location could be secured two incidents brought the issue to a climax. In December 1858 Choctaw Tom and his party of seventeen received permission for a week's hunt in Palo Pinto County. They camped on Ioni Creek a few miles above Golconda, the principal settlement and trading post. On the night of December 26 an attack was made on the party. Seven Indians were found dead in their blankets and four others were wounded.

The commander at Fort Belknap ordered a company of troops to the Brazos reserve. Capt. J. B. Plummer, commander of the troops, fortified the agency building with skins and poles, and made a stockade to protect the women and children. Major Neighbors arrived for an investigation. On January 9, 1859, Governor Runnels issued a proclamation warning all Texans against engaging in hostilities against the Indians. He ordered Col. John Henry Brown to the frontier with 100 men. Major Neighbors learned that the attack on Choctaw Tom's party was made by White men from Erath County. Their names were secured, and an examining trial was set to take place in Waco, but no indictments were made.

On May 23, 1859, several hundred Whites led by John R. Baylor appeared on the Brazos reserve. Baylor stated that he had come for certain Indians and that if the United States troops opened fire on his party, he would treat them as Indians. The agency prepared for battle. Captain Baylor retreated for consultation with his men; while so doing he killed an Indian woman working in her garden and an old man. Then the party hurried from the reserve, pursued by Indians. A few miles beyond stood the Marlin Ranch, which Baylor and his men reached by noon. The men asked Mrs. Marlin to prepare a meal, but before she could comply with their demands, Indians were sighted. The Baylor men took to the cabins on the ranch. United States troops from Fort Belknap had followed, but, having no jurisdiction over the Indians when they were off the reserve, did not intervene. The battle lasted all afternoon. Chief John Hatterbox was killed, two of Baylor's men lost their lives, and others were wounded. The Baylor men were buried on the ranch, and the next morning the wounded were taken to Fort Belknap.

Neighbors promptly ordered the removal of the Indians from both reservations to Indian Territory. As there was no land allotted there for Texas Indians, it was decided to place them with the Wichita Indians in the Washita valley. The Brazos reservation was abandoned on July 31, 1859, and two weeks of traveling brought the caravan of Indians to the valley of the Washita, where on September 1 they were delivered by Neighbors to the Wichita agency officials. Captain Ross resigned his position after seeing his charges safely located, and expressed regret in parting.

Although the Texas Indians set up their villages among the peaceable Wichita Indians, their days of peace and life were short. In 1862 a group of pro-Union Indians from Kansas attacked the pro-Confederate Tonkawas and killed a number of them. The few Tonkawas who escaped wandered back into Texas. Others, generally pro-Union, fled to Kansas.

Lena Clara Koch, "The Federal Indian Policy in Texas, 1845–1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 28 (January, April 1925). Virginia Pink Noël, The United States Indian Reservations in Texas, 1854–1859 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1924). Joseph B. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma (4 vols., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1929).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Reservations
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Carrie J. Crouch, “Brazos Indian Reservation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 22, 2020