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2017-01-26

Bandera settlement's First Murder Raid

By Raymond V. Carter, Jr. BCHC Research Historian ©2017

Mistakingly identified as Amanda Davis since the 1890's, new light has been shed upon the earliest days of the settlement that became Bandera. It is the effort of the Bandera County Historical Commission and the Frontier Times Museum to uncover, display and educate the public about our historical treasures, even those that have been lost, forgotten or misplaced throughout the many years of our wonderful history.
One of the greatest treasures we have, are the stories about the people that made up this community. From the first settlers to the present, it is the people that make the history and make the community. Some have their names placed upon monuments forever to be honored and then there are those who have been forgotten or misremembered. Today, we will try to undo a misremembered person and give credit to her real identity and place her in her rightful place in Bandera's history.
In searching for information about Indian depredations and outlaw murders, this writer, after reading the five volumes of "The Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest, 1825-1916" edited by Winfrey and Day and published by the Texas State Historical Association, uncovered a petition from Bandera, then in Bexar County, to Governor Elisha Marshall Pease (1812-1883) dated September 21, 1855. Pease came to Texas in 1835 and later served as the fifth (1853-1857) and thirteenth (1867-1869) Governor of Texas.
To date, this is the earliest document from the Bandera settlement that has been located in the Texas State Archives. The petition was written to the governor concerning an Indian raid made in and around the settlement and what is possibly the first Indian murder of the settlement, in which the young Miss Mary Davis was killed. Mary Davis has been mistakenly identified in the history books as Amanda Davis. The story of the murder was put in print forty–five years after it occurred and her name was forgotten and misremembered. Amasa Clark was interviewed by A.J. Sowell in the 1890's and his recollections and life history was published in the "Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas" in 1900. The confusion came because of the number of years that had passed and I believe he confused her name because Amasa Clark's mother's name was Amanda and one of his daughter's was also named Amanda. I have found the story about her death recorded in three different books, but the petition written in 1855, brings more accurate facts to light.
The petition reads:
Bandera, Bexar County, September 21, 1855
To: E.M. Pease, Governor, Sir:
We the citizens of Bandera would most respectfully call your attention to our exposed and dangerous condition.
On Wednesday the 19th. Ins't. - a party of thirteen Indians- armed with guns, pistols, bows and arrows attacked the family of Mr. R.N. Davis, and shot an arrow through the heart of his daughter Mary-(aged about 13 years): after having run about too (two) yards she fell dead.
His whole family would have been murdered had it not been for the accidental coming up of
Mr. Stanford and Davidson. Mr. Davis' daughter was brought down to this place yesterday evening and buried about 3 o'clock p.m.-There is a trail in different parts of this valley, which must have been made by some thirty Indians. We have ceased our work and are preparing to defend our lives and property in case we are attacked-which we have every reason to believe will be before this petition shall reach you-: but having no horses (having been robbed of every animal) we can not follow them or in any way avenge our wrongs. We are in a manner at the mercy- and of such mercy as the blood of Miss Mary Davis testifies to. Sir, there is too much of the blood of our citizens and of their children spilt in Bexar County by these merciless Demons–to longer hesitate between peace and war. If we the citizens of the frontier have any right of protection form our Country, whether federal or state, in the name of God let us have it before it is forever too late.
Your fellow Citizens,
J.P. Daniel, R.N. Davis, L.W. Thomson, Chr. Luntzel, Charles Montel & Co., W. Ballentyne, M. Gillis, O.B. Miles, A.W. Stilwell, John Mier, A. Smith, F. W. Davidson, C.C. Stanford, T.E. Oborski, Amasa Clark, J. Kindla, G. Carter, George Hay, Samuel Calvert, Andrew Hoffman, I.F. Carter, Lyman Wight, Meacham Curtis, Levi L. Wight, John L. Gressmen, Spencer Smith, Asher Gressmen, Jeremiah Curtis, Frances Johnson, Joseph Curtis, Richard Bird, George Montague, B.F. Bird, Lyman Wight, Aaron Hurley, James Ballantyne, and G.W. Bird.
Richard N. Davis was the father of Mary Davis. It appears that Mary Davis was buried here in the Bandera Cemetery on September 20th, 1855, but no monument or record shows her burial spot. The majority of the signatures on the petition where the men of Lyman Wight's Mormon colony, who arrived at the settlement March 1, 1854. The men that came at the right time that stopped further blood shed was Christopher Cornelius "Kit" Stanford and F.W. Davidson. C.C. "Kit" Stanford (1829-1826) was a noted Indian fighter and Confederate Veteran and lived in what is today Real County. F.W. Davidson was later elected 1st Justice of the Peace of Precinct No. 1 of the newly formed Bandera County on March 22, 1856. But it appears the one time hero who was given partial credit for saving further blood shed of the Davis family turned outlaw. On May 20, 1856, Chief Justice O.B. Miles placed in the official county records the following: "Ordered by the court that F.W. Davidson, J.P., having absconded, his office as Justice of the Peace for Precinct No.1, be hereby declared vacant from and after this date, court then adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning."
According to Amasa Clark, as he recited his story to Cora T. Clark in "Reminiscences of a Centenarian", he met Richard Davis and family bringing Mary's body to the Settlement near where Mansfield Park (the old Ed Mansfield home place) is today. Davis's three daughters went to a spring on the Medina River near their shingle camp to fetch water. The girls were attacked by the thirteen Indians, who were hidden along the river. As the report stated, the teenage Mary was shot with an arrow through the heart, falling dead only after running a short distance. The other two girls made it back to camp to give the alarm.

A copy of the original petition from the Texas State Archives has been given to the Frontier Times Museum to be displayed for public viewing.