November 21, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
Adobe Walls Steeped in History

Texas Collisions of Culture Shaped Two Civilizations

‘Man About Texas’ series

By Russell Graves
Field Correspondent,

HUTCHISON COUNTY — Today, nothing remains but a few small monuments to what once was. No old buildings, no grand interpretive center, no fanfare. Just a quiet prairie that sits on the north side of the Canadian River and flanked by high mesas to the east and west.

In the grass quaking in quiet syncopation with the rhythm of the High Plains breezes lies a battle site that was pivotal — to both parties involved in the skirmish.

Near the Canadian River, the Texas Rolling Plains do not offer much to stop the human eye, but Adobe Walls in modern Hutchison County has been key to both Indian and Anglo cultures. (photo by the author)

Near the Canadian River, the Texas Rolling Plains do not offer much to stop the human eye, but Adobe Walls in modern Hutchison County has been key to both Indian and Anglo cultures. (photo by the author)

As nondescript places go, the Adobe Walls battle site in Hutchison County is about as low-key as it comes. However, to stand in a spot of historical significance and to walk on the same dirt that historical figures like Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon once walked, borders on surreal.

The second and most significant battle of Adobe Walls took place on June 27, 1874. By the time of the final and pivotal battle, the outpost was in existence for nearly 30 years and had seen its share of troubles before. Only three years after the original adobe buildings were built, following repeated Indian attacks, traders destroyed the buildings and moved on. Twenty years later, Kit Carson led 300 volunteers in an indecisive battle against Plains Indian tribes in one of the largest battles ever on the Great Plains.

Following the Civil War and the opening of the western frontier, buffalo hunters were dispatched to the Great Plains and quickly devastated bison herds in their northern ranges. In violation of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, hide hunters soon trickled south into Texas and enterprising businessmen tried to revive the town by setting up two stores near the original Adobe Walls trading post. Soon more business followed and the conglomeration of supply stores, hide buyers, a blacksmith, and saloon, and a restaurant served 200 or so buffalo hunters who roamed the area.

In the early morning of June 27th a ridgepole holding up the saloon’s sod roof broke, the subsequent crack waking many of the men. Therefore, most of the men in the outpost were wide awake when a force of 700 Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa warriors rode up in a thwarted surprise attack. Led by legendary Quanah Parker, the tribal force attacked the outpost but only 28 men at Adobe Walls were able to fight off the attack.

On the second day, 15 warriors rode on top of a nearby bluff to assess the battle situation. With a single shot from a 50-caliber Sharps rifle, Billy Dixon shot one of the warriors from his horse.

While historic lore claims the shot was 7/8ths of a mile long, some doubt that distance claiming that while it was a long shot, it wasn’t quite that far. Either way, the shot unnerved the Indian force and they broke off the fight.

The attack prompted the U.S. Army to initiate the Red River War — a campaign that lasted into 1875 and forced the Native American tribes from Texas onto reservations in Oklahoma.

Standing on this historic spot, knee-deep in grass and contemplating the events of those fateful days 137 years ago, I marvel at how events on just a couple acres of ground effectively shaped the paths of two civilizations.

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