by Jeanette Stanfield
CHILDREN STOLEN BY INDIANS
Because Jefferson Davis Smith was a resident of Coker Settlement until the time of his death, the writer considers this an opportune time to give a story of him and his brother, Clinton, who were captured by Indians while both were small boys. This story is related by the older brother, Clinton, in a book edited by J. Marvin Hunter (39).
It is interesting to note how the people lived in those days. Deer, turkey, beef, bear, honey, and corn pone were the main fare while flour bread was a treat and they usually had this about Christmas time. When coffee gave out, their mother would roast okra seed and grind it to make coffee (40).
Cloth was made in the home by the use of a spinning wheel. In order to give the cloth color, walnut bark was used for black, and other barks and plants were used for various other colors. They tanned their own cow-hides for shoes and used pegs made from sumach wood instead of tacks.
Clinton Smith relates in his book that it took two days to make a twenty-seven mile trip with a yoke of oxen.
The two boys were herding sheep in the fall of 1869, when a band of Indians on horseback rode up and grabbed them. Their sisters screamed for help, but their father was too far away to hear and so the boys were taken off never expecting to see their home again (41).
The Indians rode all night and, about nine o'clock the next morning, they killed a cow and ate the meat raw. They cut into the bag of milk and drank the milk, which was mixed with blood. The boys refused to eat any, but by the second day without food they were glad to partake of the uncooked meat.
Soon, they saw a man making rails. Some of the Indians slipped up and shot him. That was the first man Clinton Smith saw killed.
The Indians had spy glasses with them and would frequently look back to see if they could see any pursuers. "I never knew where the Indians obtained the field glasses, but during my captivity I often saw field glasses in possession of Indians, and they seemed to appreciate the value of them. I supposed they obtained them from the same sources that furnished guns and ammunition" (42).
Later about half of the Indians got off their horses and began stringing their bows. Then they stealthily began to slip away in a half stooped position. After about half an hour, they returned with two pieces of skin and motioned to Clinton to tie them onto his shield. "I thought they were pieces of black calf skin, but I soon discovered they were human scalps. They had waylaid and killed two white men and had brought back these scalps as trophies of their bravery" (43).
When the Comanches captured a new boy they always made him fight an Indian boy. The next day the Indians dressed up and put paint on themselves and on Clinton and Jeff. They prepared a ring and watched the two boys fight with Indian boys about their sizes. The Smith boys could not understand the Indian language so they did not know what was going to happen. The first time the Indian boys won the fight, but the second time the Smith boys won. After their initiation, the boys were given Indian names. Clinton's new name was Bac-ke-ca-ho (end of a rope), while his brother's name was Na-i-flink.
While going south they came upon a wagon train of emigrants consisting of ten or fifteen wagons with about eight yoke of oxen to the wagon. A hard fight followed in which Clinton was struck in the face with a charge of small shot. To this day some of the shot remains in his face. The Comanches killed all of the men, women, and children. They also killed the oxen and cut up the feather beds and emptied the feathers to the wind. They destroyed almost everything (44).
At the time of the first full moon the Indians went on a big killing and stealing raid. All the Indians were painted up including Clinton who looked like one of them. On this raid they stole about thirty head of horses. On their way back to camp the Indians discovered two men. Clinton and an Indian stayed with the horses while the others followed the white men. Soon shooting was heard and it was found out that both men had been killed. The Indians scalped them and cut off their arms and hung their bodies up in trees (45). The Indians took their horses and saddles and proceeded on their way.
The government gave the Indians guns and ammunition at Fort Sill. As soon as they got a new supply they would go on another stealing and killing expedition.
In February, 1871, Jeff Smith was sold to the chief of the Apaches, being traded for a horse and a lot of powder and lead. When the trade was made, Jeff was tied up and branded like a cow and he carried the scars of the brand to the day of his death (46).
The Indians roamed all over the western part of the United States and Clinton became tanned and his hair grew long until one could not distinguish him from an Indian. "There were cemented between him and many of the Indians ties of strongest attachment; ties which could not easily be severed, and even when the time of liberation from his captivity came, he did not want to leave his red brothers" (47).
Every once in a while Clinton would see his brother, Jeff, when the tribes would happen to stop and visit with each other. And all the time Clinton continued to learn the ways of the Indians better and to become accustomed to them.
When the Indians would come to the Fort for supplies the United States officials would try to trade for some captive. After many attempts the government managed to trade for Clinton. Even when Clinton was on the road to his family (and he knew it) he tried to make his escape in order to go back to the Indians.
Clinton had lived with the wild Indians four years and nine months (48). H.M. Smith, his father, had offered a large reward for the return of both his boys but Clinton reached home before Jeff did. The latter had been captured from the Indians in Mexico and was finally returned home.
As Clinton explains "We two boys were pretty wild at first, and had no manners of any kind except those which we had learned from the Indians and they did not fit very well in polite society. But we were happy in each other's company and our family bestowed every kindness and sympathy upon us, until the gentle refining influences of home life began to have its effect and we became civilized again" (49).
Just to show that these boys did not change all of a sudden from the savage and murderous life of the Indians to the peaceful and constructive life of the white people, the writer wishes to relate one incident that occurred after their return to civilization. On one occasion their brother-in-law, Jack Cravey, discovered the boys had taken their father's gun and killed a neighbor's cow. They were roasting the beef when Cravey found them.
These boys grew up and became respectable citizens. They married and reared families which would be a credit to any moral man today.
Upon reading the preceding pages, one does not doubt that the frontier life was hard, and there was a continual fight to exist. The Indians often captured white children and even sometimes Mexican children - the Smith boys being the only ones that the writer knows of which were directly connected with Coker Settlement.
Maybe we of the present generation can better appreciate the value of what we have after reading the previous pages.