By Mrs. Tom O’Connor, Sr., 1958
Editor’s Note: Kathryn Carlisle Stoner O’Connor [1883 – 1979] Mrs. O’Connor’s husband was descended from Thomas O’Connor [1817-1887] and Mary Fagan [1817-1842]
Nicholas Fagan was born in County Mead (or Meath?) [Transcriber’s note: Since Mrs. O’Connor may have received this history verbally, she may have heard ‘Mead’, as the Irish typically pronounce ‘th’ as ‘d’ or ‘t’.] Ireland, in 1795. He died at his ranch in Refugio County, Texas some time prior to August 30, 1852.
His parents were James Fagan and Annie, a first cousin of Lord Packenham. He was a cousin and contemporary of Lord Edward Packenham, who was killed leading the British troops in the battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. It is related in the family tradition that when Edward Packenham and Nicholas Fagan were Fifteen years old they ran away from home with the avowed intention of becoming sailors on a battleship. In Dublin they wandered about with only a few pennies in their pockets, seeking lodging for the night. Refused shelter in several places because they lacked means to pay for it, finally a kind-hearted lady, taking pity on their youth, took them in.
On questioning the youths and learning their names and their plans to go to sea, she wisely discouraged them, and persuaded them to return to their homes and parents. Later Edward entered the English Army and rose to high rank in it, and lost his live in it’s service.
Nicholas remained at home until after his marriage. He was married very early to Miss Kate Connelly of County Mead (about 1813-1815)
Ireland was still groaning under the oppressive penal laws of England and suffering persecution for its Catholic Faith, so the young couple after a few years, and with one, or maybe two, children decided to leave the stricken homelands and go to America. When they could practice their religion unhindered, and where economic conditions were so inviting, and their children would have a happier, freer live.
Coming to America
According, they set sail for the New World and arrived in 1816 in New York with their daughter Annie, who was born in 1814. We have no exact record of the ages of their children, and it may be that John was born before they arrived in New York.
The Fagans remained in New York for four years, then moved to Philadelphia. From there they drifted to Pittsburg, still seeking a warmer climate and a more congenial religious atmosphere. Not finding it there nor at Cincinatti, they moved on to St. Louis. At a point somewhere above the last named city they made their home for three years.
In her old age the daughter Annie related that ‘The country being settled thinly by whites, the Sioux Indians forming the greater part of the population, the climate cold and no Catholic Church near, the Mother was anxious to leave and find a home where her children would be brought up under the influence of her own church.’ She now had three children, Annie, Mary and John.
New Orleans was decided upon, so the trip down the Mississippi, in a flat boat, with all their household possessions and several children, was undertaken.
Unfortunately, when they arrived in that city, one of its periodic yellow fever epidemics was raging. Soon the whole Fagan family, the parents and three children, Annie, John and Mary, contracted the dread disease. The mother died.
Annie tells it: ‘Strangers in a strange land, their situation was pitiful. But as in the days of the early disciples, a Good Samaritan passed by. A wealthy French lady, Madam Duplice, learning of their condition, sent a Mexican nurse to attend them.’ Later Madam Duplice had all the children moved to her own home where she cared for them tenderly until their father was able to provide a home for them.
‘The Texas Fever’ had already struck New Orleans. All the talk was of Texas and the golden opportunity to be found there. Fagan was eager to try his fortune in Texas. But while living in New Orleans he had met and married a widow, Mrs. Catherine Hanselman-Balch. She, being a Lutheran, her religion was a trial to the devout Catholic, Nicholas Fagan.
He carefully and fully explained to her the beliefs of the Catholic Church, ‘But’ he confessed, ‘The obstinate woman still clung to her false religion,’ in spite of his imprecations forcibly expressed. She further maddened him by innocently asking one day ‘Why is it that I hear you speak so much of St. Patrick, St. Bridget and Columkell and never hear you speak a word of St. Martin Luther?’ Then, it is recorded, Nicholas really blew up!
Later in life she did become a devout Catholic and raised all of her children in the faith, and proved to be a model wife, mother and stepmother.
Arriving in Texas
Finally in 1829, Fagan was ready to go to Texas. With his family and possessions he sailed from New Orleans on the Panoma, under Capt. Prietta, a Spaniard, who got a special permit for them to land at Copano, as the vessel was bound for a Mexican port.
Arriving at Copano February 28, 1829, the captain refused to go ashore with them, complaining that he could not see why they wanted to live in such a wild, desolate country, with only Indians and Mexicans for neighbors.
Nicholas, having previously scouted the country, decided to locate his home some twenty or more miles above Copano, on the south bank of the San Antonio River. This is now in Refugio County, but was then in the municipality of La Bahia, and later within the bounds of Power and Hewitson’s Colony. The only families living in that part of the country then were the Hernandez, DeLaGarzas and one white man named Shaw. When Powers established his colony a few years later Fagan received a land grant from Powers, a league and a labor, as did each colonist.
Securing ox carts and oxen the party, which now consisted of the Fagan and McDonnough families, having been joined by the latter family either at Copano or New Orleans, the party set out one bright, warm spring-like morning.
They were enchanted with the beauty of the prairies, a veritable garden of wild flowers of many varieties, and birds, game and fowl in abundance. That night they camped upon the prairie, expecting to reach their destination the next day. But during the night a blue norther struck ‘ something they travelers had never heard of. Soon rain and sleet thoroughly wet and made miserable the party, among whom were two young babies.
Next morning the work animals, oxen, could not be found. They had drifted before the wind far to the south of the camp. The men went in search of them but could not find all the oxen. Leaving one man with the wagons whose teams were missing, the sadly shaken party resumed the march and arrived safely at the site that Fagan had selected, but Alas! no shelter. However, the charitable and hospitable Hernandez family took the travelers into their home and cared for them until they could build their own house.
The McDonnoughs kept up on the country and located on the Coleto Creek. Mrs. J.C. Warden was a daughter of the McDonnoughs and the Warden Ranch ‘ now owned by her descendants, the Lowry family and Sister Loyola Warden of Nazareth Academy, comprises the old McDonnough League.
The Fagan Home on the San Antonio River
On the league and labor allotted to him by Empresario James power, an Irishman, whose colony had not yet been settled although it had been authorized, and under which colonial grant Fagan had immigrated to Texas, begun to build his house. At first it was made of logs, hewn from the trees along the San Antonio River, oaks and cypress and other hard woods. These logs were cut with a whip saw, and some so heavy that six yokes of oxen were required to move them. The shingles for the roof were made by hand and the house put together by pegs and bolts. It would not be entirely taken apart when it was resolved, years later, to erect a frame lumber house. The last house was made largely from lumber and iron salvaged from the wrecked schooner which Fagan found in a creek on his land. The vessel was called a brigantine. From a corruption of this name the creek is now called the Burgantine Creek. At some time previously, in an uncharted Gulf Storm, this sail boat, a two masted square rigged vessel, was washed up from Copano Bay into this creek. As Fagan was a skilled mechanic he could utilize the iron and timber of the vessel, and so build a good strong two-story house.
In the upper story was set aside rooms for a chapel, confessional and priest’s room. Here Padres Valdez, Garcia, and after 1839, Father and later Bishop Odin offered Mass for the family and settlers between Victoria, Refugio and the Bay. From a beam on the upstairs gallery hung a bell ‘ the old Mission bell of Nuestra Senora de la Limpia Conception, which came from the demolished Mission of Our Lady of Refugio, at Refugio.
After the battle of Refugio Mission the Church was so badly shop up that the bells fell, or were taken down from the church towers. There seems to have been four of them.
Mrs. Annie Fagan Teal states in her Memoirs published in 1897, that the old bell was one of the four which had belonged to the beautiful Church of Refuge, or Mission Church, so injured by a storm that it had to be taken down was hung on the upper gallery and sounded the hours for service in the little chapel’ ‘ For some reason the bells were being sent to Victoria. Mrs. Teal resumes, ‘The other three bells were left on a road near the river, where they lay undisturbed. One day a horseman tied his horse to one which bore the date 1722. The animal becoming frightened, ran away, dragging the bell several miles, where it was left with a rim broken off.
When Negroes entered the neighborhood and built Mt. Zion Church (across the river) they took possession of the bell.
Of the Fagan bell, Curley Pete Fagan, grandson of Nicholas Fagan, related to this writer that ‘This bell was the first that Dennis O’Connor (1) ever heard to summon him to devine worship’; and for which the said Dennis O’Connor, who was a grandson of Nicholas Fagan, had such great attachment that his grandfather willed the bell to him, and for which Dennis had a church erected on his ranch as a shrine for the bell. This bell was later given to Mrs. Thomas O’Connor (3) who has it hung in the belfry of the St. Dennis Church which she had erected on the old O’Connor Ranch in 1952. This bell bears the date of 1767 (or 1731).
Bishop Odin’s diary records that he preached, offered Mass and administered the Sacraments in the Fagan Chapel in 1839-40 and later.
Before the Texas Revolution
The newcomers, on account of Indian depredations, could not find any corn grown in the country nearer than the Caney Bottoms, where there were some American settlements, so Fagan and McDonnough had to go to the Caney settlements in boats to get the corn. Fagan had brought millstones from Ireland, and McDonnough had a steel hand mill, but before they could grind the corn for food they had to throw it on hot embers to drive out the weevils, for it was as much weevils as corn. Thereafter the San Antonio River settlers raised their own corn. Wheat was brought from Mexico. The Mexican Government offered to give three leagues of land to anyone who could erect a mill. Mr. Fagan built one, but having all the land he wanted, he never claimed the subsidy. He also had blacksmith tools and did much of the metal work for the colony. The old anvil remained in the family for a hundred years, but was finally donated to the Fannin Battlefield Museum. (Julias)
After Powers Irish colony was settled, several more families moved to the San Antonio River, and in time formed a little community, with neighbors only ten to twenty miles apart. The Sideck, Fagan, Teal, McDonough families lived as neighbors these distances apart.
Four different Indian tribes lived in the country: the Lipans, Tonquays, Comanche and Karankawas and Copanos.
Mr. Fagan often hired men of the latter tribe to harvest his crops and work cattle. The Indians valued their labor at so many jugs of whiskey, but were wise enough to divide the ‘drunk’, half of the tribe getting dead drunk while the other half stood guard, taking their turn when the first half sobered up.
Many tales of Indian fights and Indian depredations were told by the elder Fagans to their descendants ‘ too many to be recounted here. Mrs. Teal told many of them in her memoirs, published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly (Vol XXXIV* No. 4- April 1931)
Role in the Texas Revolution
The Fagan Settlement lived in peace and comfort with their Indian and Mexican friends until the coming of the Texas Revolution brought many newcomers and undesireable people to Texas. Fagan was a leader in all activities, be they peace or war, in this settlement. He was a friend of James Power and like him, felt no animosity toward his Mexican neighbors, but was opposed to Santa Anna’s schemes to centralize the Mexican Government and to his denial of all rights of self government to Texas. Fagan’s stand on this issue influenced many of his Mexican neighbors to follow his council to resist the schemes of Santa Anna to over-ride the Mexican States local government, and when word was received that a Mexican Army was on its way to Texas to enforce the dictators decrees, the Texans flew to arms.
Many of the men of Mexican parentage joined the Texas Army, but one, the most influential of all, the prominent Don Carlos de la Garza, retained his allegiance to the Mexican Government. However, his friendship to his Irish friends remained strong and he never wavered in his kindness and help to them, as was proven by his actions at La Bahia after Fannin had surrendered his command, as we shall see later.
Fagan, when urged to stay at home as he was over age to enlist, said: ‘Packenhams were warriors by land and warriors by sea ‘ to stay at home and not fight for Texas would be a shame. I will join the army.’ And he did.
To oppose the Mexican Army on its way to Texas the Irish colonies began recruiting local companies. Captains Ira Westover, Hugh Fraser and Phillip Dimmett raised companies in Refugio, La Bahia, San Patricio, and from the countryside and ranches.
While Nicholas Fagan was by now already a grandfather, his daughter Annie having married peter Teal in 1833, and had two children, he did not hesitate to enter the fight. When his wife and children and neighbors sought to dissuade him from entering the army he said ‘The Packenhams were warriors by land and warriors by sea; to run away was a disgrace.’ Therefore he volunteered, joined Capt. Philip Demmetts company and fought with distinction throughout the war. He was in Demmetts Company from October 9, 1836 to January 20, 1836. At different periods we find his name on the rolls of Captain Ira Westover’s Company and on Capt. Hugh Fraser’s Refugio Company.
At Presidio La Bahia – Goliad
Military discipline was very lax in the Texas Army. The volunteers elected their own officers, left one command for another when they wanted to, and went home when they wanted to; so it is not surprising to find Fagan’s name on different rolls. His son John, who was now about 16 years old, also volunteered. He was in Captain Ira Westover’s Company in the battle and capture of Fort Lipantitlan in the fall of 1835. Hobart Huson, in his history of Refugio, states that Nicholas Fagan was also in that battle, and likewise Tom O’Connor. John Fagan was elected by the Consultation on December 10, 1835, to be commissary for the garrison of La Bahia. Not only did he gather supplies for the Texas Army, but his father did too, for we have the testimony of Ehrenburg who years later wrote of his experiences in the Texas Army. He states: An especially noble spirited example was given ‘ by a nobleminded individual of the Irish nation, Mr. Fagan, who placed his, and not very small, crop of corn and several hundred head of cattle at Fannin’s disposition, without any prospects of every receiving pay for them.’ Fagan also supplied carts to haul for Fannin’s army.
As Gen. Urrea’s Mexican Army advancing through South Texas was killing, robbing and pillaging settlers along the way, and creating great alarm, most of the men took or sent their families to East Texas or to Louisiana to be out of harm’s way. This exodus is known as ‘The Run Away Scrape’. As Mr. Fagan and his oldest son and son-in-law were always in the army, his family, escorted only by a very young boy and servants, set out alone for Louisiana. Annie Teal tells that ‘A panic ensued. Men, women and children on foot, on horse, with or without saddles, fled the country.’ She, with others of her family and neighbors, made for the Sabine River. She riding horseback with a baby in her arms, rode all day long over prairies, woods and water. Of all the cattle owned by the colonists when they left home, only one cow was left on the ranch, and she proved too refractory to drive. The Fagan party reached Louisiana, where they stayed to plant and raise crops before returning to their denuded ranched after the war was over.
Both of the Fagans were with Dimmett when he captured La Bahia, and John was one of those of Capt. Dimmetts command who signed the Goliad Declaration of Independence [Transcriber’s note: The copy certified by Ira Ingram, Secretary, Town of Goliad, December 22, 1835, does not bear John Fagan’s name.), as did Tom O’Connor and most of the Refugio men. Dimmett, needing a flat for the effort, decided to make one. With the help of his men he took a large sheet of white cloth and painted on it a red arm and hand holding a drawn sword (see Mary Mitchell’s First Flag of Texas) Needing a flagpole to fly it on, Nicholas Fagan went into the woods along the San Antonio River near La Bahia Fort, and cut a sycamore pole to which the flag was secured. On raising the flag on the pole in the center of the quadrangle of La Bahia, it was greeted by a fusillade of shots from without the walls by the Mexico loyalist citizens of the town of La Bahia.
Later, after Dimmett’s departure and Fannin’s assuming the command at La Bahia, he had his ‘Joahanna Trotman’ flag flown from the same sycamore pole. We have this account from personal reminiscences of Nicholas Fagan and from a printed clipping in the old Fagan scrapbook.
The old soldier was in the battle of Coleto and at Fannin’s side when that commander surrendered his troops to the Mexican general. Fagan advised against surrendering, knowing that the Mexican officials duplicity and habits of killing their prisoners. Much better than the recently-arrived-in-Texas Georgian. But Fannin would not be advised, and surrendered. The Texans were marched back to La Bahia and imprisoned ‘ many in the church and others in the barracks.
When Urrea received orders from Santa Anna to shoot the prisoners, Capt. Don Carlos interceded for his neighbors and the two Fagan’s, with Byrne, Sidick, and Perry were spared. Different versions of the escapes from massacre have been printed. It is well known that the above named men and a few others who escaped by various stratagems were the only survivors. Three hundred and sixty four Texas volunteers were shot dead.
This is the family version of Fagan’s escape: ‘I had heard as a child that John Fagan, son of Nicholas Fagan and Kate Connelly, was about sixteen years old in 1836. We had a contract to keep soldiers at La Bahia in meat as he was a good shot. He was out at the time of the massacre and Mexican friends stopped him on his way in with fresh beef. We were always told that Nicholas’ Mexican friends got him out on pretext of having him do some blacksmith work the day before the massacre and hid him overnight in their homes.’ [Transcriber’s note: This ends the insert described as ‘the family version’.]
After the Texas victory won at San Jacinto April 21, 1836, and the Mexican army was retreating from Texas, General Thomas J. Rusk, then in command of the Texas Army came to La Bahia to collect and inter the bones of Fannin’s men which still lay in the ashes where the bodies were burned at Urrea’s orders. On June 3, 1836, with solemn ceremonies and oratory, a military funeral was held over these remains and they were buried near La Bahia. Both of the Fagan men were honorary pallbearers at the funeral. Major John H. Wood also helped with the burial.
‘ On the day of the Massacre a boy came up to Nicholas Fagan and gold him he was ordered to go into a certain orchard and remain until sent for. Mar. Fagan, thinking it a hoax, paid no attention to it. The same message was delivered a second time and was again unheeded. A third message arrived and told Mr. Fagan the authorities ordered him to take a quarter of beef to Miller’s orchard and for him to stay there until ordered away. Without understanding the strange command Fagan did as he was told, and had barely reached his designated place when he heard the heart rending cries of his comrades, ‘Don’t shoot! For God’s sake don’t shoot us.’
Shot after shot followed in quick succession until the last voice was hushed in eternal silence. But Don Carlos had saved his friends. John Fagan was said to have been out on a foraging expedition getting beef for the army, and so missed the massacre.
After the massacre Nicholas stole back to the field of death to see if any of the Texans laying there were still alive. He found one man, Col. Hunter, badly wounded. Under cover of night Fagan lifted the wounded man to his shoulder and carried him to the Coleto. Consulting with Sidick and Dan Wright what to do with the man who would surely die unless he was soon cared for, it was decided to hide him in a field near the Guadalupe River, near the Wright’s home. Then it was arranged for Mrs. Margaret Wright to slip out at night and feed and care for the wounded soldier. This she did until Hunter had recovered sufficiently to be removed to his friends in East Texas. He lived to be an old man. Mrs. Wright was a valiant woman, doing many daring and dangerous deeds for Texas. Sam Houston called her The Mother of Texas.
After his rescue from the fate of Fannin’s men, Fagan made his way back to his ranch on the lower San Antonio River. He found it in sad condition from neglect and vandalism by marauding Indians and white renegades. His family was in Louisiana where they had to stay almost two years on account of the turbulent conditions in Texas after San Jacinto. They were not in the mission church at Refugio when it was captured by the Mexican’s as Huson, in his history of Refugio, states.
On his return the old soldier silently walked up to his deserted and quiet house. He seemed to hear stealthy footsteps upstairs in the chapel. Stealing quietly up the stairs, he came upon a white man riffling the alter tabernacle. As the thief turned around with the chalice in his hands, Nicholas Fagan attacked him and succeeded in throwing the thief headlong down the stairs. Many, many years afterwards, Nicholas Fagan’s youngest son Peter, related that incident to his niece. She asked ‘Then what, Uncle Pete? What became of the man?’ He replied, ‘Young girls should not ask so many questions.’ But she persisted until he said: ‘Well ‘ the San Antonio River was just a few yards from the house.’
Before Fagan could re-enter the army the victory at San Jacinto had been won, but the retreating Mexican Army, the wild victorious Americans who followed them and their own hangers-on brought even worse conditions to South Texas. Indian raids, Mexican forays, and sometimes even worse from the depredations of the discharged soldiers of Houston’s Army, many of whom were newly arrived in Texas and to whom every Mexican was a Greezer, made sad havoc with the stock and fields. The returning settlers were forced to band themselves in local ranger companies to protect themselves and their homes. The Fagan’s names are on the rolls of all these companies formed in Refugio County.
After the Texan’s victory at San Jacinto, April 21, 1836, and the Mexican Army were in retreat to Mexico, Gen. Thomsa J. Rusk, then in command of the Texas Army came to La Bahia and collected the bones of Fannin and his men from the ashes of the fire into which Urrea had the bodies thrown. With all solemnity and polished oratory a military funeral was held and the bones consigned to a grave near old La Bahia. Both of the Fagan men served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral. Major John J. Wood was among those helping with the burial.
After the Texas Revolution
Even after Santa Anna’s surrender the Mexican Government refused to acknowledge it’s defeat not [nor] to honor the terms of the surrender. The country was kept upset by the threats of the Mexicans and the repeated raids upon the Texas settlers as far north as Victoria and San Antonio. The citizens of the South Texas settlements raised local militia, or as they designated them, spy companies and Ranger Companies. On the rolls of Power’s and Cameron’s Spy Company appear the names of Nicholas and John Fagan. Organized and operating in 1836-38 ‘ From 1836 to 1839 the San Antonio River district settlers had a local Ranger Company under command of Capt. J.T. Tomlinson. Among those named as being in it were Nicholas and John Fagan, Capt. John Frederick Kemper, Thomas O’Connor, Capt. Hernandez, Carlos de la Garza, Jose Miguel Alderete, Rafael Alderete, John White Bowen, Peter Teal, Elijah Stapp, Darwin Stapp, Peter, John and Anthony Sidick, Edward Perry, John O’Brien, Morgan O’Brien, Andrew O’Brien, Peter and John Hynes, John Fox, William Johnstone Gilliland, Pelitiah Bickford and Dr. R.W. Wellington. These local rangers could be counted upon to go to the scene of trouble or threatened trouble and without delay. They were active from 1836 to 1839.
September 20, 1841, Refugio was raided by a band of Mexicans under the notorious Ortegon, bent upon revenging themselves upon the Texans. In a surprise attack upon the town every man able to be out of bed was captured and marched to Mexico. It was upon this march that the gruesome murder of Henry Ryals was perpetrated and Col. Power was captured and made prisoner. The town was sacked and looted, even the feather beds cut open and emptied and all food and clothing and supplies of every kind destroyed or taken off by the bandits. The women and children were left in a pitiful state of destitution and unprotected.
Upon hearing of this disaster Fagan and his neighbors loaded up their ox-carts with food, clothes and blankets and went to the rescue of the families. They conveyed the women and children back to the San Antonio River Ranches. Many stayed with the Fagans until the Captive husbands and fathers were released some years later. For this deed of charity Fagan was called the Savior of Refugio, and it was in gratitude to him that the citizens of Refugio bestowed upon Fagan the old mission bell of Nuestra Senora la Limpia Conception.
Besides the armed raid others were made upon Refugio, La Bahia and San Patricio and kept the local militia in arms most of the time for the next ten years. Bands of Mexicans, Indians and white rustlers depredated upon the settlers, stealing cattle and horses. Fagan and O’Connor lost heavily from these outlaws. The Mexican Government made no effort to restrain these raiders from Mexico, so Fagan and O’Connor entered claims for their losses against the Mexican government, but during their lifetime recovered nothing. Over one hundred years later these claims were allowed and the grandchildren of the claimants received payment which, with interest, amounted to no inconsiderable amount—But Alas! by that time there were so many heirs that each received only a small sum.
Emboldened by the Mexican raids the Indians now, Between 1840 and 1855 resumed their forays. Both the Karankawa and the Comanches committed depredations upon the white settlers.
Very close to the Fagan Ranch in 1842 occurred the Filleland murders and capture of the children. The night before the Indians descended upon the unsuspecting family Mr. Fagan’s young daughter, Fanny, was invited and urged by little Rebecca Gilliland to spend the night with her, but Mrs. Fagan thought Fanny too young to sleep away from home and so refused to let her go. The next morning the band of Indians, without molesting the Fagans, Attached and killed Mr. Spins Gilliland and took the boy, William, about nine years old, and the girl Rebecca, about twelve, captives. The Comanches headed for the river bottoms, and keeping in the dense woods, made their way slowly and steadily up the river to ward La Bahia. But the alarm was soon given and the Texas Soldiers and men from the settlement were soon in pursuit. They came upon the band of Indians in the afternoon and a hot fight ensued. The Indians outnumbered and not wanting to be encumbered with the two children, spared the boy and knocked the little girl in the head and left them, as the red men thought, dead. But during the night both recovered consciousness and hid in the deep foliage of the brush under the trees The soldiers had gone on after the Indians, not knowing the children had been left on the battle ground. But Fagan, Don Carlos, Tom O’Connor and the neighbors going over the ground found the children, as they heard and recognized Mr. Fagan’s voice and called to him. They were taken to Carlos Ranch and cared for. Mr. Tom O’Connor was appointed by the court guardian of the children, but as they needed medical care he took them to Victoria and placed them with the Presbyterian minister’s family. Rebecca, in after years married and became a prominent club woman of Texas, but never gave credit nor thanks to her rescuers.
The next Indian raid of the settlers and neighbors of the Fagans was in 1844 at Kemper’s Bluff, on the lower Guadalupe River, only a few miles from the Fagans. This time it was a band of roving, thieving Karankawas trying to work over their old stamping grounds on the lower Guadalupe. Capt. John Frederick Kemper, veteran of the Texas Revolution was shot through the heart with an arrow, and died instantly. His wife, mother and three year old daughter and eight month old son, under cover of night eluded the Indians who were trying to burn down their house to get to them. They walked in the dead of night up the Guadalupe to where the Coleto enters, then along the Coleto to the home of friends, the Bass family. The little girl Amanda was later Mrs. David Williams and lived near Carlos Ranch. Kemper Williams of Victoria is her grandson.
The men from the San Antonio River, with some from Victoria and Refugio, and the Mexicans from Carlos’ Ranch soon formed a posse and chased the Indians down the river across the bay. The Kronks stayed on Matagorda and St. Joseph’s Islands for several days, and then went back to Mexico. One account of the fight has it that only one Indian escaped the white men.
All the Irish settlers on both sides of the River were in the possee, but only the names of Fagan, Tom O’Connor, Gus Black, Thomas Lara, and ‘Old Man Whalen’ and Carlos DeLa Garza are now remembered as being in the fight.
On October 1, 1850 another Indian foray in this district took place. On that day a band of the Comanches tribe descended upon the Salt Creek Ranch of Jacob Thomas. Finding his two little girls, Sarah, age 11 and Eve, 15, out in the pasture driving up their milk cows, they pounced upon them and captured the two girls. They were placed upon horses with an Indian rider and were carried away. All night long the Indians traveled. Eve tried several times to escape, until finally the savages tired of her tricks and tried to kill her. They threw her off the horse and each one as he rode past threw his spear at her, and several pierced her body. They cut off her hair but did not scalp her. They tied little Sarah to her horse and rode off.
All of this happened near the Fagan Ranch. Early next morning Eve revived, and being near a tree climbed up in it’s branches. She was afraid of wild animals. She saw two horsemen coming toward her. At first she thought they were Indians, but coming closer she saw one was her brother John and Mr. John Fox. They were out trying to find out how many of their horses the Indians had driven off in the night, for they had heard the passing, but not dreaming they had the two little girls in their possession. They took Eve to the Fagan Ranch where she Stayed until she was strong enough to go home. Dr. Wellington dressed her wounds and Mrs. Fagan nursed her. Sarah was kept by the Indians at their hide out dear San Saba for more than a month. She was finally ransomed by the U.S. Government Indian Agency and returned home.
The last Indian fight for the Irish settlers on the San Antonio River was in 1851 or 1852. Some from the same tribe that killed Capt. Kemper reappeared on the lower Guadalupe and along Hynes Bay country. The shortly reverted to their old habits of Killing or driving off cattle and livestock and committing petty thievery. In time they became such a nuisance that the citizens of the San Antonio River section determined to rid the community of them once and for all.
William Kuykendall and sons Thomas, William and Talbot ran upon their camp, and unseen by the Indians, rode off in haste and notified the settlers, who immediately gathered to run the marauders off. (Huson, Vol. I p )
The posse met at Fagan’s Ranch and elected John Hynes as its leader. Included in the posse were John Hynes, Captain; William Hynes, William Fagan, Nicholas Fagan, John Fagan, Thomas O’Connor, William Kuykendall, Thomas Kuykendall, Talbot C. Kuykendall, John O’Brien, Michael Whalen, Dr. R. W. Wellington, Alfred S. Thurmond, Carlos de la Garza, James W. Byrnes, Martin L. Byrne, Moses Sampson, Walter Lambert, Charles G. Norton, John R. Baker, and Samuel Townsend. (Huson)
The settlers came upon the Indians and took them by surprise but the reds put up a stiff fight and wounded some of the posse. After several of the Kawakawa were killed the rest fled. The white men followed them for a while, but returned to care for their wounded friends. The Kronks returned to Mexico where their evil ways soon forced the Mexicans to exterminate them, the remnant of the once great and formidable tribe. Hobart Huson writes ‘Such was the end of the Kawakawa in Refugio County’. And it seems that this was the end of Nicholas Fagan’s Indian fights.
He was now nearing the end of his eventful life. In his fifty-seven years, he lived through many vicissitudes, triumphed over all hardships, and from a wild, almost uninhabited country carved out a ranch which has survived to this day. It is a handsome heritage to his grandsons and great grandsons and daughters of the present date.
The present Fagan ranch comprises the original land grant, to Fagan from James Powers, Empresario under the Mexican Government.
Nicholas Fagan was noted for his generosity, charity and staunch Catholic Faith. He was buried in the Fagan graveyard that he had enclosed to guard the graves of his young daughter Margaret and son, Thomas, and perhaps others we do not know of today. His grave, for over a hundred and five years, was marked only by the huge live oak tree at its head. But in December, 1958, the Fagan Cemetery Association, composed mostly of his descendants and relatives, with some of those who live nearby, secured from the Texas State Historical Survey Committee, Texas Historical Foundation, a State Texas Revolution Veteran grave marker, or monument, with this inscription:
Came to Texas and settled in Powers Colony
in 1829. A private in Fraser’s Refugio
Company at the Battle of Coleto.
He was saved from the Massacre through
the intervention of Mexican Colonial friends.
Erected by the
State of Texas, 1957
This document may not be republished without permission from the Fagan family.