False raid

This wire sent from Denison in April of 1873 reported an Indian raid that never happened. This article was cited widely in multiple papers, too. This is a snip from the Kasnas Democrat (Oswego, KS).

Once again, old newspapers reveal stories that hide more insidious events. I was researching something unrelated when I stumbled upon a reference to a “train with government supplies for Fort Griffin… captured by Indians on Cole Creek sixty-five miles from Denison.” (Denison is in Grayson County, TX and Fort Griffin is in Shackleford County, TX).

This raid took place in April of 1873 and is referenced in several newspapers. All of the newspapers reproduce a wire that the Denison Democrat sent to St. Louis. The text of the telegram was found in the April 25, 1873 issue of the New York Herald, May 2 1873 Kansas Democrat, and April 25 1873 Republican Banner from Nashville, TN. In some newspapers, the report was filed under “Indian and Mexican Troubles.”

This raid, of course, is not about the infamous Warren Wagon Train Massacre of 1871. The “train” does not refer to a locomotive but rather, a mule-cart outfit. The supplies consisted of food stuffs, materials, and sometimes, weaponry.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from New York also relayed the report of a raid on Cole Creek, which turned out to be false, and like the other newspaper, did not issue a retraction.

While a number of raids on wagon trains took place in this period – with most of the blame laid at the feet of random “Indians” – I haven’t been able to point to the site of this particular one. The only Cole Creek I know of is northeast of Electra (Wichita County, Texas). There are other Cole Creeks but not in North Texas, at least to my knowledge. And none of the Cole Creeks are “sixty-five miles” from Denison.

The only Cole Creek in North Texas or southern Indian Territory is in Wichita County near Electra, which lies about 180 miles away from Denison (and not 65 miles). US Bureau of Soils.

I asked readers on my Facebook group about this raid – perhaps they knew of a place that I wasn’t familiar with?

One of my readers, MC Toyer, mentioned the “Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest.” In this collection of letters and documents, Indian agents explained that rumors of raids spread often in localities and newspapers without evidence. This supposed raid at Cole Creek, for example, was a complete fabrication. Toyer cited a letter from J M Haworth, Kiowa and Comanche Agency, IT to Cyrus Beede, Chief Clerk of the Central Indian Superintendency, May 8, 1873: “The report of the killing of surveyors as sent by Shirley turns out to be false, also a report telegraphed from Texas recently of the killing of four men and capture of a train. I have learned since I came here that a large majority of the Indian reports are fabrications manufactured out of whole cloth.”

The newspapers never retracted this false information, either.

These kinds of rumors created fear and mistrust where none were warranted and further eroded any possibility of co-existence between the white elites and the Native tribes. So this got me to thinking. I wonder how many of the violent episodes between “settlers” and Native Americans actually happened in North Texas?

Stay tuned to see what I turn up, if anything!

Questions this blog post might generate:

What might the purpose have been for a newspaper to report a raid, and then not further report that the information was untrue?

Since the location of this false raid was also faulty, the person who wrote the wire was most likely no a local. What benefit(s) would a person who issues a false report about an Indian raid seek?

In what way(s) does a false report like this perpetuate racism?