Unsolved Mystery of the Dowdy Family Massacre

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Tony Maples Photography


Thomas A. Dowdy wanted a better life for his wife Susan and their eight children when he decided to move from Goliad to a small town named Eura in Kerr County, TX.  Today, Eura is known as Mountain Home. In 1878, the family packed up their belongings and headed off to start their homestead in the hills of the Texas Hill Country. However, their dream of starting a new life quickly turned into a nightmare when four of the Dowdy children were brutally murdered. This unfortunate event is known as the Dowdy Family Massacre.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Darrylpearson

On October 5, 1878, still in the midst of unpacking their belongings, the Dowdy family was going about their normal day. Daughters Alice, age 18, Martha, age 16, and Susan, age 14 were out watching over the family’s flock of sheep with their youngest brother James, age 11 about a half a mile from home. The oldest brother, Richard, was at home with a friend, who was engaged to one of the girls, to eat an early lunch. They finished their lunch around 11 a.m. and headed to the spot where the Dowdy girls and their brother were tending the sheep. They were nowhere to be found.

Richard and his friend arrived back at the homestead and informed his parents the children were missing and the sheep were scattered about. Mrs. Dowdy rushed to the hillside and found her children pierced by arrows, mutilated by tomahawks, and shot. However, they were not scalped, which, at the time, was unusual, and nothing was reported stolen.

Photo: Max Pixel

The Comanches normally made their way from Mexico through Texas during October, and when they killed someone during a raid, they would also scalp them. Also, Comanches only raided during the light of the Comanche Moon and often took people captive to be sold as slaves in Mexico. Something just doesn’t add up, and there have been many debates about whether it was truly an Indian raid or if the murders were committed by a group of Mexican bandits or heartless American outlaws.

Despite these facts, the tragedy was still believed to be at the hands of an Indian raid, and to this day is also considered the last Indian massacre in Texas. Since the nearest Ranger camp was well over a hundred miles away, a posse of local men formed and tracked the Comanches for nearly two hundred miles before they lost their trail. Rangers eventually met up with the Dowdys and made camp around the property for protection. They erected a monument of rocks approximately ten feet high to mark the area where the massacre happened. The children are buried in Sunset Cemetery in Mountain Home and the word “murdered” rests under their names.

JamesCDowdyGravePhoto: Find A Grave

Sometime after the raid, a member of the Dowdy family was taken to jail. Inside his cell sat a man by the name Potter, who, not knowing his new cellmate belonged to the Dowdy family, bragged about being a part of the raid. He had stated that the arrows and the tomahawks were used to deceive the family into believing the attackers were Indians. Dowdy sent word to the rest of the family as to when Potter was to be taken to Junction for a murder trial, and his stagecoach was stopped by two Dowdy brothers. Potter was hung in a nearby tree. There is still debate over whether Potter really had a hand in the raid or not. It is a mystery that will remain unsolved.

Naturally, the whole family was devastated. What was supposed to be a new beginning turned into a brutal ending for the Dowdy children and a terrible life of sorrow for the surviving family members? The Dowdy Family Massacre is still talked about in Texas and among various genealogy boards. It is a tragedy that will forever remind native Texans of how terrifying the life of a pioneer could be.


Billy the Kid Discussion Board: Last Indian Massacre in Texas

Our Tribune: Dowdy Family