Texas Iron

By: Dan L. Flores

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: March 12, 2021

The Texas Iron, for most of the nineteenth century the largest collected meteorite in the world, and still the largest preserved find from Texas, played a brief but active role in early Texas history. There is some evidence that this meteorite, with several others recovered between the Brazos and Red rivers, is the origin of the frontier stories of silver and precious metals on the Southern Plains. The earliest definite mention of the meteorite, in 1772, is by Athanase de Mézières, who wrote of the Tawakoni Indians' excitement over it. Several Texas Indian groups, in fact, had some claim to it. Among them were the Taovayas, one of whom asserted in 1808 that he was its discoverer; a Comanche band that claimed the land where it had fallen; and the Skidi Pawnees, who made it one of their deities. Since the prairie Caddos, in particular, had a sky-oriented cosmology involving meteorites, it is not surprising that the Texas Iron became an important healing shrine on the Southern Plains, the object of ceremonies and gifts. The Indian name associated with it in the literature, Comanche Po-a-cat-le-pi-le-car-re, means Medicine Rock. The rock seems to have been located in the mesquite hills east of the site of present Albany, on the border of Shackelford County. Because the ownership of the rock became an issue in United States-Spanish sparring over contraband trade and tribal alignments, the meteorite's story has been preserved. The first Whites to see it were Anthony Glass and his party of American traders, on a mustanging expedition that delivered United States flags to Texas Indians in 1808–09. The following year George Schamp, Ezra McCall, and several other traders evaded a Spanish patrol commanded by Capt. José de Goseascochea to acquire it from the Indians in exchange for guns sorely needed against Osage raiders. The belief on the Louisiana-Texas frontier was that the 1,635-pound rock was a gigantic nugget of platinum. By 1814, however, Bruce's American Mineralogical Journal, after testing it in New York, reported the mass to be an iron-nickel alloy meteorite. In the 1820s Professor Benjamin Silliman of Yale University, who published numerous articles on the Texas Iron in his American Journal of Science and Arts, collected documents on its retrieval, including journals kept by Anthony Glass and John Maley. Silliman, who had first called the meteorite the Louisiana Iron, by the late 1830s had named it the Texas Iron. The Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, where the meteorite presently resides, calls it Red River.

Dan L. Flores, ed., Journal of an Indian Trader: Anthony Glass and the Texas Trading Frontier, 1790–1810 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985). Dan L. Flores, "The Saga of the Texas Iron," Red River Valley Historical Review 6 (Winter 1981).

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

Dan L. Flores, “Texas Iron,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-iron.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
March 12, 2021