Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Paved A Way: The Battle of Village Creek

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If you have studied the history of Richardson, Texas, you have probably come across this marker in McKamy Spring Park in Brick Row:
The Yoiuane tribe of the Caddo group of Indians lived here as early as 1690 to 1840. They hunted buffalo and deer on the prairie. They used McKamy Spring as a watering place. It was from these friendly Tejas Indians that Texas got her name.
McKamy Spring Historical Marker

Something about that statement should trigger a question in your mind. What happened in 1840 that caused these friendly Tejas Indians to leave the area? I doubt that it was something like "There's a job opportunity in Oklahoma too good to pass up."

I'm reading "Paved A Way: Infrastructure, Policy and Racism in an American City" by Collin Yarbrough. The city is Dallas, Texas. I'm blogging as I go, using whatever parts of the book catch my attention. Yarbrough doesn't discuss Richardson or McKamy Spring, but he has the answer to my question anyway. And, no, it had nothing to do with the local job market.


On May 24, [1841,] the militia found themselves upon an inhabited village. They dropped "all manner of encumbrances," formed a line, and charged into the village on horseback, taking it swiftly by surprise.
...
The Village Creek encampment had around 225 lodges occupied by Wichita, Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Wacos, Caddos, and Kickapoos. To sustain the estimated ten thousand inhabitants, approximately three hundred acres of corn were under cultivation as well. The mile-long encampment appeared to be a refuge for the fragmented nations being pushed west. [General E.H.] Tarrant’s rangers stole cattle, thirty-seven horses, hundreds of pounds of lead, powder, thirty brass kettles, axes, guns, robes, and "other things not recollected."
...
When Tarrant returned with four hundred rangers two months later in July 1841, the large encampment on Village Creek was found to be deserted. This skirmish marked the end of the safe territory on the western cross timbers for the American Indians and they began preemptively moving west for fear of further attack. The ethnic cleansing was nearing completion. In October, later that year, [Republic of Texas President M.B.] Lamar wrote, "it is the desire of the government to have the entire western country cleared of the enemy (Indians)."
Paved A Way

Let's review. As you might surmise, General E.H. Tarrant is the man Tarrant County is named after. The year of what's come to be called the "battle" of Village Creek was 1841. That's one year after the listed end date for the Caddo people living at McKamy Spring in the future Richardson. Tarrant's militia and Republic of Texas President Lamar's policy "to have the entire western country cleared of the enemy" explains why the friendly Caddo didn't stick around. Village Creek was in Arlington, not Richardson, but boundaries like that didn't exist in 1842. By 1842, the original owners of all this land were either killed or driven out of Richardson and most of north Texas.

If you're like me, your knowledge of Dallas history begins with the pioneer cabin that shares a downtown plaza with the Kennedy Memorial. It's called the John Neely Bryan cabin, although its authenticity has been called into question. Yarbrough ties Bryan and that cabin to General Tarrant and the "battle" of Village Creek.

Six months after the Battle of Village Creek, John Neely Bryan settled near the Elm and West forks of the Trinity River, just twenty miles east of the battle site.
Paved A Way

There you have it. In the schoolbook histories, these stories are in different chapters with little connection between them. One chapter ends with the friendly Tejas Indians still using McKamy Spring as a watering hole. The next chapter begins with pioneer John Neely Bryan building his cabin on the empty banks of the Trinity River. The schoolbooks don't tell you about Tarrant and Lamar's role in why those river banks were empty. If what happened at Village Creek is mentioned at all, it's probably described as a battle and not the massacre it really was. And the schoolbook histories certainly don't tell you that it was all in support of the Republic of Texas's policy of extermination of the indigenous people who had a rightful claim to the land. Paving that empty land is still to come.

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