Turtle Hole

By: Steve M. King

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: January 23, 2019

Turtle Hole, a crossing and spring-fed waterhole on the Butterfield Overland Mail stage route, is on Turtle Hole Creek two miles west of Murphy's Station and twelve miles east of Fort Belknap in Young County. The road was used for many cattle drives after the closing of the Butterfield line, until the fencing of the open range in the 1890s. The reliable source of water made Turtle Hole a popular camping place. In January 1871 it was the site of a fatal attack by Kiowas under Maman-ti on black freighters delivering flour to Fort Griffin, led by scout and frontiersman Britton Johnson and two companions, Dennis Cureton and "Paint" Crawford. This event was of sufficient importance to be commemorated on at least three of the Kiowa buffalo hide calendars. Lt. Robert G. Carter, adjutant to Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, commander at Fort Richardson, referred to the crossing as "Dead Man's Cross" because of the attack there. Mackenzie, as well as later travelers, noted seeing the graves near the attack site. The first man-made reservoir in Young County was built immediately downstream about 1878 by H. S. Eichelberger in a hairpin bend of the creek, known then as Briar Creek. The dam was buttressed with hand-laid limestone. Eichelberger's brand, a terrapin, was one of earliest brands registered by the Northwest Texas Cattle Raiser's Association (later the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association) and is still in use today. Turtle Hole is not to be confused with Turtle Hole Creek on the Fort Griffin-Fort Elliott Trail in Motley County.

Robert G. Carter, On the Border with Mackenzie, or Winning West Texas from the Comanches (Washington: Eynon Printing, 1935). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). Jesse Wallace Williams, Old Texas Trails (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1979).

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

Steve M. King, “Turtle Hole,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/turtle-hole.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
January 23, 2019