Taming the Wild West

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Taming the Wild West

To illustrate some of the dangers the first Hill Country pioneers faced, I’m going to tell you the story of an early community called Strickling, and how it fits into Texas history.

Captain John Webster was a plantation owner in Virginia when Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, but the stories he heard appealed to his adventurous disposition, and he sold his plantation to come to Texas. Bringing forty-four like-minded men with him, he joined the fight against the Mexicans. Almost half his men were killed and more were wounded, but Captain Webster survived the war and purchased a large tract of land along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River in what is now Burnet County.

Under President Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Republic of Texas sent the Texas Rangers on an aggressive campaign to end Indian depredation and expand the frontier, and while Comanches still roamed the Hill Country freely, they had suffered a string of military losses.

Taming the Wild West
Photo: stargazermercantile.com

In the spring of 1839, Captain Webster took his family (his wife, a 10-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter), thirteen men and four wagons north from Bastrop County to form a settlement on his new land. Another group was to follow with more wagons and a herd of cattle. Just six miles from the spot where Webster planned to build a fort, the settlers spotted a band of around 300 Comanche warriors, and turned back, hoping to reach the safety of Austin (which itself was still just a cluster of cabins). They were overtaken near Brushy Creek, and after a day-long battle all fourteen men were killed. Mrs. Webster and her two children were taken prisoner, and a wild celebration was held by the whole Comanche tribe at Enchanted Rock, in what is now Llano County.

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