Enchanted Rock Legends

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: October 21, 2020

Enchanted Rock, a granite dome in southwestern Llano County about twenty miles north of Fredericksburg, has long been the center of various legends. The local Comanche and Tonkawa Indians both feared and revered the rock, and were said to offer sacrifices at its base. One Indian tradition holds that a band of brave warriors, the last of their tribe, defended themselves on the rock from the attacks of other Indians. The warriors, however, were finally overcome and killed, and since then Enchanted Rock has been haunted by their ghosts. Another legend tells of an Indian princess who threw herself off the rock when she saw her people slaughtered by enemy Indians; now her spirit is said to haunt Enchanted Rock. Yet another tale tells of the spirit of an Indian chief who was doomed to walk the summit forever as punishment for sacrificing his daughter; the indentations on the rock's summit are his footprints. Finally, there is the story of a White woman who was kidnapped by Indians but escaped and lived on Enchanted Rock, where her screams were said to be audible at night. The Indian legends of the haunting of Enchanted Rock were probably bolstered by the way the rock glitters on clear nights after rain, and by the creaking noises reported on cool nights after warm days. Scientists have since theorized that the glittering is caused either by water trapped in indentations in the rock's surface or by the moon reflecting off wet feldspar, and the creaking noises by contraction of the rock's outer surface as it cools.

A number of stories involve rumors of great mineral wealth to be found at Enchanted Rock. Spanish explorers believed it was one large chunk of silver or iron. They also sought legendary gold and silver mines nearby, and some early Texans believed that the lost "Bowie Mines" were in the vicinity west of Enchanted Rock. Some gold has in fact been mined near Enchanted Rock, but not enough to be commercially profitable. According to an account written in 1834 the rock was once supposed to be of platinum.

One of the most enduring and romantic stories involving Enchanted Rock is that of a young Spanish soldier, Don Jesús Navarro, and his rescue of the Indian maiden Rosa. Navarro supposedly came from Monterrey to San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission in San Antonio in 1750. At the mission he met and fell in love with Rosa, the Christian daughter of the Indian chief Tehuan. But Rosa was kidnapped by a band of Comanches bent on sacrificing her to the spirits of Enchanted Rock. Her daring lover followed them there and managed to rescue her as she was about to be burned at the stake.

Another tale, given official credence when the state of Texas commemorated it with a plaque near the summit of Enchanted Rock in 1936, relates a heroic episode in the life of Capt. John Coffee Hays. Cut off by Comanche raiders from his company of Texas Rangers on a surveying trip in the fall of 1841, Hays took refuge on Enchanted Rock and singlehandedly held off the Indians in a three-hour battle that ended when the frustrated Indians fled, convinced even more firmly than before that Enchanted Rock was possessed by malevolent spirits.

Samuel C. Reid, Jr., The Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch's Texas Rangers (Philadelphia: Zieber, 1847; rpt., Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1970). Tillie Badu Moss Fry, A History of Llano County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1943). Richard Zelade, Hill Country (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1983).

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

Martin Donell Kohout, “Enchanted Rock Legends,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/enchanted-rock-legends.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 21, 2020