A much anticipated report reached the governor’s desk June 27, 1859.
It really was true. A special commission confirmed as fact the rumor that white outlaws were leading renegade Native Americans in ruthless raids against unprotected pioneers.
However much he hated so-called “savages,” the typical Texan understood the fierce resistance of the western tribes. They were defending their territory and an ancient way of life. But how could any white man turn against his own kind?
The first documented attack carried out by the white collaborators was the Lost Valley Raid of April 1858. A band of Native Americans with four fair-skinned allies clearly in charge murdered seven members of two Jack County families, sparing only the small children.
After robbing the homesteads of cash and valuables, the redheaded bandit boss seized a human trophy. 7-year-old Mary Cambern watched helplessly from hiding as the cutthroat rode away with her younger brother Thomas.
But the lad was in luck. Passersby from a California-or-bust wagon train gave chase, forcing the abductor to lighten his load by dumping the boy. Though scared out of his wits, the child survived the harrowing experience with nothing worse than a few bumps and bruises.
For no other reason than the color of their hair, 10 or so suspects were rounded up and brought before the traumatized tot. The tension mounted, as the belt-high victim walked down the row studying each face until he declared at last that the kidnapper was not present.
For years the identity of the white participants in the Lost Valley massacre was a subject of intense speculation. Some believed them to be the Willis brothers, later lynched as horse thieves, while others swore the red-haired leader was John Garner, a desperado hanged in 1860 for an unrelated crime. But no one could ever say for sure who committed the atrocity.
The state was still abuzz over the findings of the gubernatorial inquiry, when another incident in September 1859 added to the anxiety. Escorting a batch of his Brazos Reservation dependents to their new home north of the Red River, Robert Simpson Neighbors was ambushed by aborigines.
The federal Indian agent and his comrades repulsed the attackers, who scattered to the four winds without stopping to collect their dead. Perplexed by the close-cropped hair of an unclaimed casualty, Neighbors wiped off the war paint to find features as pale as his.
During the Civil War decade, a white known only as “George” once more made red a dangerous hair color. Time and again eyewitnesses swore Comanche warriors took their orders from the mysterious turncoat.
The elderly sole survivor of the Elm Creek Raid in Young County remembered “George” as the heartless overseer, who supervised the torture of her daughter and grandchild. He also fit the description of the white “chief ” that lay siege to a Hamilton County schoolhouse, which cost the teacher her life and a student his freedom.
During a hit-and-run Comanche strike on Fredericksburg in the late 1860s, Gen. John P. Hatch caught a fleeting glimpse of a familiar face. Although he had not seen Thomas “Bise” McLean in more than two decades, the middle-aged brave who galloped past was the spitting image of the former West Point cadet.
Kicked out of the United States Military Academy for conduct unbecoming a human being, much less an officer and a gentleman, Mc-Lean wandered west with a chip on his shoulder. Wherever he went, trouble was never far behind. Shunned by the dregs of frontier society as too uncivilized even for their crude company, the pariah eventually found his niche among the Kotsoteka Comanches.
A white man in Comanche costume was killed in a September 1872 clash with the Fourth Cavalry in the Texas Panhandle. A captain, who viewed the body, came away convinced McLean had been slain by soldiers he might well have commanded.
In addition to criminals and outcasts, there was a third category of white renegades that made every Texan’s flesh crawl. Child captives, taken at a tender age and raised as Native Americans, frequently exhibited a fanatical hatred of whites which surpassed the natural animosity of their adoptive people.
Following his “rescue” from the Kiowas in 1874, an 18-year-old captive named Tehan played along with official efforts to locate his relatives. He shrewdly exploited the naïve notion that all captives, regardless of age or length of captivity, longed for liberation and their biological parents.
As soon as the troopers turned their backs, Tehan fled the fort for the reunion he truly desired, but in his absence, the practical Kiowas had chosen the path of least resistance and encouraged the hothead to join them on the reservation.
Cursing his red brothers for their weakness, Tehan vowed never to surrender. He would fight on alone and show them how to be real Native Americans.