Central Texas Storybooks

Central Texas Stories and Legends

Caroline Childers Tyler
Pioneer Settler of Bell County, Texas

Previous page: Part 1

Caroline Childers Tyler lived the events recorded in this story. Therefore, this narrative is told in the first person. Most of her story was recorded by her son, George W. Tyler, in his book, History of Bell County. Other parts of the story were recorded by other family members.

Part 2 of 3: 1836, The Year of Running

Running for Our Lives, March-April 1836

Falls of the Brazos River Historical Marker
Falls of the Brazos River Historical Marker

Falls of the Brazos River
Falls of the Brazos River

The spring of 1836 will always be remembered as a time of panic and turmoil within our group of homesteaders. Messengers brought the startling news that General Santa Anna had invaded Texas; that the Alamo had fallen; that all the defenders had been killed; that General Sam Houston was in retreat with his little Texas army; that Santa Anna with his well-equipped army was in pursuit; that all settlers of west, south, and central Texas were fleeing for safety toward the Sabine River; that the hostile Indians, incited by the Mexican Government, were about to attack the settlers on all frontiers.

Our family hastily gathered up our belongings that we could carry easily and headed to Parker’s Fort. Our families had come to Texas together in 1833 and were long-time friends.

The saddest and most unbelievable thing happened while camping at the Falls of the Brazos on our way to Parker’s Fort. My oldest brother Thomas accidently shot himself.1 Papa and Mama stayed up throughout the night tending to his wound and doing what they could to ease his pain. Nevertheless, Thomas died the next day. We buried him a few miles east of the Brazos River. Thomas’s death was the second child in our immediate family to die and it sent a pall over the entire family. But there was little time to mourn. We had to rush on to Parker’s Fort and prepare to make a stand against the Indians coming from the north and Santa Anna’s army coming from the south.

When we arrived at the fort, it was decided that the older men would defend the fort and the younger men would join General Houston’s army. My brother Robert was one of those. However, they did not reach the army in time to participate in the victory of San Jacinto. While they were still a day’s travel away, they met soldiers who had been in the battle who told them about Houston’s victory. The battle being over, it was useless to continue so most of the party turned back to take care of their fleeing families.

I learned some time later that our flight to safety became known as the “Runaway Scrape.”

Pioneer Cabin, Fort Parker
Pioneer cabin at Old Fort Paker Historic Site near Groesbeck, Limestone County, Texas
Blockhouse, Fort Parker
One of two 2-story blockhouses erected at opposite corners of Fort Parker. With a blockhouse at diagonal corners, sentries could watch for Indians on all four sides of the fort.
John Parker Tombstone
Tombstone of Elder John Parker, patriarch of the Parker family.
Memorial, Fort Parker
Memorial to those killed or captured during the attack on Fort Parker on May 19, 1836. The most famous of the captives was nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker. This memorial was erected at Fort Parker Memorial Park, which is located approximately two miles northwest of Groesbeck on FM 1245.

Return to Little River, 1836

The war was over. Texas was now a free and independent republic and General Sam Houston was the President of the Republic of Texas. There was no longer a need to fear the Mexican armies. It was time to return home to Little River and see what was left of our homes, our crops, and our settlement. Some families, fearing an attack from the Indians, did not feel it was yet safe to return, but several of the men did return. Ours was the only family to return.

Our home, the Childers home became the headquarters for all the men. We did not know what to expect when we got back to our house, but everything seemed to be in good order. The men worked diligently to work the crops they had planted just before the “runaway.” For mutual protection against the Indians, the men kept together and plowed the land and all the patches of corn up and down the river whether the owners were present or not. This was done so that all the families, who were expected to return eventually, would have subsistence and would be able to maintain the settlements which they had begun.

The Second "Runaway," June 1836

The farmers had just about completed their work and were gathered at our house when two messengers came from Nashville and announced that the Indians were about to attack settlers living along the Little River and the Leon. The messengers urged us to hurry back to Nashville for protection.

They also told of the fall of Parker’s Fort, which had occurred only a few days after our family had been there. We were saddened and somewhat panic-stricken to learn that members of the Parker family, our long-time friends, had been killed. We also learned that two of the women, and three children had been captured. Among the children were the infant son of the Plummers, and Cynthia Ann Parker and her brother John Parker. Both Cynthia Ann and John were my friends that I had come to Texas with and had played with while staying at the fort just weeks earlier.

Upon hearing this news, we once again hurriedly gathered up all the valuable belongings that we could carry in an ox drawn wagon, and with a few loose cattle, started for the safety of Nashville. The first night out we camped at Walker Spring, some six or eight miles east of what later became the city of Cameron. There lived Henry Walker, Daniel Monroe, and William (“Camel-back”) Smith, who were also preparing to retreat to Nashville but, not being ready, told Papa to go ahead, as they would go by a different route anyway.

Our party consisted of my father, Capt. Goldsby Childers and my mother, Elizabeth (Thomas) Childers, my three sisters, Catherine, Amanda, and Elizabeth, and myself, and my three brothers, Robert, Franklin, and Prior, who was just a boy. Also, in our party were Orville T. Tyler, Rev. Isaac Crouch, Dr. Robert Davidson, Mr. Shackelford, Mr. Rhodes, Ezekiel Robinson, and the two messengers—five women and girls, one boy and eleven men—seventeen in all.2

Leaving Walker Spring the next morning, we had gone only a few miles when we heard the men driving the cattle a short distance behind the wagon, shout, “Indians! Indians!” Papa was walking ahead of the wagon, but upon hearing the alarm, he ran back to the wagon, calling out to Messrs. Crouch and Davidson, who were riding a quarter of a mile ahead. They quickly turned back to join us at the wagon. But the Indians, about 200 in number and well mounted and well-armed, saw them, and suddenly dividing into two columns, rushed by us on each side of the wagon, and cut off the retreat of Crouch and Davidson. The Indians soon overtook the fleeing Crouch and Davidson and cruelly killed them in full view of us.

While the Indians were quarreling over the disposition of our friends’ things--their horses, saddles, and clothing--Papa directed our group to head to a grove of trees a few hundred yards away. There, the men unhitched the oxen from the wagon, tied them to the wheels, and we prepared to defend ourselves the best way possible. But for some unknown reason the Indians did not attack us. They seemed cautions to approach the wagon, perhaps fearing we had extra pistols and arms in the wagon, and finally withdrew.

Papa shouted for our group to retreat toward Little River. Papa then threw me up on the back of a horse and I held tightly to the coat of its rider as we galloped toward the river, expecting every moment to be attacked. But fortune was with us and we all crossed the river and traveled on until night before we stopped and pitched camp. We reached Nashville in the afternoon of the next day; our escape being regarded as miraculous.3

Fourteen years after our flight to safety, I would marry the rider whose coat I held tightly to as we raced to safety. That man was Orville Thomas (O.T.) Tyler. He was 26 years old at the time of our flight and I was 9 years old.

Fort Griffin historical marker
This Texas Historical Commission marker commemorates the fort built to protect settlers in the Little River area. The fort was built on a section of the Moses Griffin league. The marker is located about six miles east of Belton on FM 436 where FM 436 intersects Wilson Valley Road and Hartrick Bluff Spur.

After staying in Nashville some months, our family returned to our Little River home in the fall of 1836. In the winter of 1836-37, our family was the only family living in what would eventually become Bell County. However, after a short time, Papa and Mama decided that it was not safe for us remain in our cabin on Little River, thinking that we were too exposed to danger from the Indians, so we accepted the invitation of Lieutenant George B. Erath to live in the Little River Fort. The family of Daniel Cullins, one of the rangers, also lived in the Fort while we were there. We were the only families that remained in Bell County during that winter of 1836-37.4

In October 1836, when the first congress of the Republic of Texas met, steps were taken to provide some kind of defense for the settlements against the Indian attacks. Two months later the Act of December 5, 1836, “To protect the Frontier of Texas”,5 required the president of the Republic to raise a battalion of mounted riflemen that would be known as rangers. Each ranger in a battalion of 280 men was promised $25.00 per month and 1,280 acres of land for every twelve months of service. The corps was to have officers and paid the same as the other army corps. Their primary objective was to protect settlers from Indian attacks.

This led to the establishment of forts, including Little River Fort built by Lieutenant George B. Erath and a group of Texas Rangers and volunteers. Papa and brothers Robert and Frank were three of those volunteers. Little River Fort was built about a mile from what is known as Three Forks, near the banks of the Leon River, and was situated on the headright league of Moses Griffin.

Fort Griffin cemetery
Fort Griffin Cemetery, established in November 1836 by Lieutenant George B. Erath. The cemetery is in the Moses Griffin survey in Bell County, Texas about one-fourth mile from the site of Fort Griffin, also known as Little River Fort. The cemetery is the final resting place of several Texas Rangers who were killed at the battle of Bird's Creek while protecting settlers from the Indians. One of the unmarked graves is thought to be that of James Franklin "Frank" Childers. The cemetery is located on private property.

On the evening of January 7, 1837 two of my brothers, Robert and J. Franklin (Frank), who were volunteers under Lt. George B. Erath, set out from the Little River Fort with their squad when they came across the trail of the Indians they were pursuing toward Elm Creek. A battle ensued and brother Frank and ranger David Clark were mortally wounded. Lt. Erath told them and the others who were wounded to take cover in a nearby thicket, that they would be back for them after the fighting was over. They did return. Nine days, NINE days later! They found Frank dead sitting against a tree, his gun leaning upright against it.6

My dear mother who had already lost one son was heart-broken. We all wondered how long did Frank live after being wounded? Did he live for hours or days and nights before death relieved him of his suffering? In the midst of our sorrow, we were grateful for two things. Brother Robert returned home from the battlefields unharmed and Frank’s body was still in intact. When the returning troops found ranger Clark’s body, they found that he had been butchered like an animal. The sacrifices of homesteading in an area with such hostile Indian attacks were almost more than anyone could bear.

At the time of Frank’s death our family and Daniel Cullins, one of the rangers and his family, were still living in Little River Fort. Because of all the Indian raids in June 1837 it was not considered safe for us and the Cullins family to remain at the fort. But our family had no way of moving because our wagons, which we had come to Texas with several years before, were worn out from traveling over the rough and unmarked trails of the wilderness roads. In addition to worn out wagons, our teams and other stock had been stolen by the Indians.

It was deemed unsafe for us to remain in the upper country so five soldiers were sent to Nashville to procure wagons and teams to transport our family and the Cullins family to a safer place. However, on their way back to the Fort, the soldiers were ambushed by a band of Comanche Indians and all were killed.7 After this tragic event Littler River Fort was evacuated and never again occupied as a military garrison.

Return to Little River

With the closing of the fort, our family had no choice but to return to our cabin home on Little River, some twelve miles below. Even though the Indians were threatening and it was not safe to live there, we had no transportation to take us anywhere else.

But then salvation came and it came in the form of a peddler’s wagon. A Mr. and Mrs. Frank, who travelled and traded with the friendly Indians, came along with their peddling wagon and stopped at our cabin. It was such a delight to have company and to see all the pretty things they had to sell. Their visit was a boast to our spirits. During their visit, a group of friendly Indians came by and told us that a band of hostile Indians were planning on attacking us that night. We quickly prepared to defend ourselves but for some reason the attack never came.

However, Papa and Mama, who were growing weary of Indians and Indian attacks, decided to abandon our home and lands and go back to the settlements until conditions were better and life became safer for our family. They, therefore, accepted the Frank’s invitation to join them on their farm in Mound Prairie in Montgomery County. Mr. Frank and Papa planted and reaped a good crop that year; but on account of illness our family was compelled to leave.

Caroline Childers Tyler's story is continued in Part 3 of this article.

By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: April 9, 2024


  1Tyler, George W., History of Bell County, edited by Charles W. Ramsdell, The Naylor Company, San Antonioi, 1936, p. 26.
  2Ibid, p. 30.
  3Ibid, p. 32.
  4Ibid, pp. 32-33.
  5Ibid, p. 40.
  6Ibid, p. 50.
  7Ibid, p. 52.

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