Stephen F. Austin to Jose Antonio Saucedo, 05-19-1826

Summary: Report on Indian relations. Building forts on the frontier. Trial of important case by a jury.

In compliance with your Lordship's communication of the 1st Instant, in which you direct me to report to you any incidents, civil or military occurring in this Colony worthy of the notice of the government, I have the honor to enclose copies of my communications to the Military Commander of Texas, relative to the late occurrences with the Tahuacano and Waco Indians, and the movements of the Militia. I did not communicate these matters to the civil government at an earlier period, because they were purely military; and, having received all my orders on the subject from the Military Commander, I was led to the conclusion that it was my duty to acquaint the government with military transactions through that officer, and that I could irrespectively report to the Civil or Military Chief, both being, in their respective spheres, agents of the Supreme Government. I find myself mistaken, and pray your Lordship to receive this explanation as an apology if I have in any manner failed in the discharge of my duty. Henceforth I shall communicate with you, as well as with the Military Commander, in all military matters.

The attack upon the Tankuas which you direct me to report to you, took place on the 25th of March, on the Colorado, about eight leagues below the Atascosito road. These Indians were encamped on the very same spot, where, some months previous, they had stolen from the settlers twenty odd hogs, and a large quantity of corn. A small party of the neighbors went to the Indians' villages to arrest the thieves; the Indians presented their arms and refused to give up the guilty persons. Those who had lost the property came to me with their complaints. I sent for the Chief Carita, and the Tankua Chief, and told them they must keep out of the settlement and deliver up the thieves for punishment by flogging, otherwise they should be shot; after this understanding they withdrew from the settlement. This took place about eighteen months since. In the mean time the Chief Carita died, and during the month of March his party came down to the Colorado where the hogs had been stolen, which made the people residing there believe that they intended a renewal of their former robberies; and, unfortunately, some fat hogs being missed at the same time, they suspected the Indians of killing them. This, together with the robberies of the previous year, excited the settlers, who immediately assembled to go to the villages and ascertain the fact. The Militia Officer in that part of the Colony is a very young man, and he refused to take command of the party, upon which they elected one of their number to lead them. On their arrival at one of the villages, two or three of the men commenced firing; their example was followed by six others, before they could be prevented by their commander giving, as an excuse for their attack, that the Indians were levelling their arms. Two of the Indians were killed and four wounded, as I since learned; and one of the American party who had lost his way in the woods was killed. So soon as I was informed of the fact, I made inquiry into it, and, from my investigations, I felt satisfied that the presumed depredations of the Indians were not sufficiently established to justify the attack, although there were good reasons to suspect them. I lost no time in calling the Indians together; they arrived here on the 29th of April and remained four days. After having had a talk with them, they declared themselves fully satisfied, and withdrew, with the understanding that any of their tribe who should hereafter steal anything from our settlers should be surrendered for punishment; and, that, on their failing to do so, the party would be shot wherever he was found.

This is the plain history of the whole affair and it will be necessary to compel those who made the attack to pay the expenses incurred by calling the Indians together, there not having been sufficient provocation to justify the attack that was made upon them. In the early part of March five Choctaws killed some of the Tankuas I promised to interpose as peace maker between them.

The accompanying copies of my communications to the Military Commander will apprize your Lordship of the news relative to the Tahuacanoes, and of my consequent dispositions. I consider it highly important that your Lordship and the Military Commander should write to the Cherokees, Alabamas and Cushates, and to the Alcaldes and Captains of the Militia of Nacogdoches and the Trinity, to join us in the contemplated war.

After Captain Boss' encounter with the Indians on the Colorado, I ordered a small log fortification to be erected there, for the protection of the families in case of an invasion: the people of that section went to work very industriously and it is completed. I shall order other works of a similar character to be erected at the crossing on the Brazosof the road to Bexar, and probably here, provided the war is continued for any length of time, as we are all determined to defend ourselves and the Country even if the whole Comanche nation come upon us. If the government can supply us with ammunition, 150 escopets, 150 pistols, and 150 sabres it will be an important addition, also six cannon of small caliber two for Each settlement.

Relative to colonization the business of the first Colony has not been completed, owing to the protracted absence of the Commissioner ; there are some complaints about it, and difficulties are likely to arise. This reason, and the fact that sothing as yet has been done towards the commencement of the new Colony, has caused the inhabitants to petition me not to take the field and expose my person until their business is settled; which induced me not to take command of the party who were sent out to protect the frontier.

Respecting the administration of justice, we had, on the 1st Instant, a suit which lasted seven days. The plaintiff was Imla Keep and the defendant Jared E. Groce. The case being important I called together twelve good men, residents of the Colony, as Jurymen, to hear the evidence and decide upon it, and after a laborious examination of several witnesses for both parties, the decision of eleven of the jurymen was in favor of the plaintiff, Imla Keep, and I approved their verdict. The defendant, Groce was much dissatisfied, and he will, probably, appeal to the government. The affair that occurred between him and the Administrator Don Juan Veramendi at Bexar, will give your Lordship an idea of his character.

The people in this colony, are now, more satisfied and united, live in greater harmony and display more industry than they have ever done before from its commencement.

I request your Lordship to take into consideration my proposals to the Military Commander in relation to the Cherokee, Cushates, and Alabamas, and the Militia of Nacogdoches and the Trinity. If you approve them, I beg you will send me letters addressed to those parties, and that you will also send instructions to the Cherokees relative to the thieving tribes in their vicinity; giving them orders not to make war upon the Tankuas, on whom, they have written to me, it is their intention to avenge the death of some of their warriors who were killed three years since. It would also be advisable to write to the Cushates and the Alcalde of Nacogdoches to tell the Cherokees they must not carry on hostilities against the Tankuas, as that tribe is at peace with the Mexicans.

The foregoing is in answer to your Lordship's communication of the 1st Instant.

God and Liberty.

Stephen F. Austin.

San Felipe de Austin, May 19th, 1826.