Killough Massacre

Published on February 17, 2013 by Carol

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Killough Massacre Site

The Killough Massacre is believed to have been both the largest and last Native American attack on white immigrants in East Texas.

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The massacre took place on October 5, 1838, near Larissa (north of Jacksonville) in the northwestern part of Cherokee County. There were eighteen victims, who included Isaac Killough, Sr. and his extended family (viz. the families of four sons and two daughters). They had immigrated to Texas from Talladega County, Alabama in 1837, settling on December 24th.

Unaware, apparently, that the land made available to them was hotly disputed by the Cherokee Indians who lived in the area, Isaac Killough and his homesteaders began clearing land for crops, and building homes. Only a year before, however, the area surrounding their settlement had been set aside to the Cherokee under a treaty negotiated and signed by Sam Houston and John Forbes. When the Republic of Texas Senate refused to ratify the treaty and then, in December of 1838, formally nullified it, the Cherokee, who already thought they had conceded enough, became extremely agitated.

The immediate and increasing influx of Anglo settlers into lands thought to have been theirs did nothing to calm Cherokee resentment and as there was also residual bitterness among some Hispanics still loyal to Mexico, the atmosphere in the region became tense in early 1838. By the summer of that year, there were rumblings of coming insurrection from either or both of those factions, and evidence did exist for collusion between them.

Fearing this growing unrest, Killough, his relatives and friends, fled to Nacogdoches for refuge. On condition they would leave the area after doing so, the Cherokee leaders agreed to their safe passage if they would return simply to harvest their crops. They did so. But on October 8, 1838, a band of Cherokee who had not been party to the agreement attacked the settlement. Most of the Killough group — a total of eighteen — were killed or abducted as they worked their fields. Those who survived fled for a time to Lacy’s Fort on the San Antonio Road, just west of present-day Alto, Texas.

According to Dallas newspaperman Charles Kilpatrick, several of the men walked into an ambush and the Native Americans then:

    “…shot down Isaac, Jr., Allen, Samuel and George Wood, then swept uphill into the little settlement. Isaac, Sr., fell in his front yard and Barakias Williams was killed in front of the screaming women. Eight settlers, including seven women and children, were seized by warriors and carried into the forest. They were never seen or heard of again…Nathaniel Killough and his wife (and 11 month old baby girl, Eliza Jane) escaped into a canebrake and Mrs. Samuel Killough, Mrs. Isaac Killough, Sr., Mrs. Isaac Killough, Jr., and the baby William also managed to elude the redskins. Three weary days later the little party staggered into Fort Lacy at Alto, 40 miles south, where they found safety.”

A stone obelisk commemorating the event was erected by the Work Projects Administration in the 1930s and a historical marker was dedicated in 1965.

A man named Hawkins, an earlier settler from Alabama may have encouraged the attack. One of the survivors recognized him in Indian garb and left immediately when he realized she recognized him. He later returned to Alabama and reported the news of the attack. Later, the same survivor returned to Alabama and found out Hawkins was the first to report the attack. Gen Rusk was unable to prove his complicity in the attack.

Source: Legendsofamerica Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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