1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
The Republic-Index | Council House/Linnville/Plum Creek | Gonzales Residents


The Reverend Z. N. Morrell
Early Texas Baptist Cane-break Preacher and Patriot

(From Flowers and Fruits in the Wilderness by Z.N. Morrell)

morrellzn.jpg (47429 bytes)Linnville and Plum Creek
Murder of Dr. Witter
Encounter with Carancahuas
The Battle of Salado

Biography--Texas State Cemetery/New Handbook of Texas

An 1837 original document containing Z. N. Morrel's signature indicates he spelled his surname "Morrel" rather the more commonly appearing "Morrell" in historic documents.



Comanche Raid on Linnville and Battle of Plum Creek.   Long as memory holds her seat will the early settlers of Texas remember the events of 1839. Harassed by war on every hand, the unsettled state of society made our circumstances almost beyond endurance. Our currency was almost worthless, and the Republic without credit abroad. Gradually sinking in value, the money finally, in the year 1840, fell to the small sum of fourteen cents on the dollar. The Indians grew more hostile and troublesome. Our minute men had been called on so often to drive the Indiana from the settlements, that they determined finally to follow them up to their hiding-place, if possible, and punish them there, hoping this would have good effect. Accordingly Colonel John H. Moore, of Fayette County, got up an expedition and traveled far up above Austin, making his way up in the night with the aid of friendly Indians, and found the enemy camped in a bend of the river. The bend resembled a horseshoe, with a high bluff on the opposite side of the river. They were surrounded while asleep, and at daylight a destructive fire was opened upon them, demolishing the camp and killing large numbers. Many swam the river, and being shot while climbing the bluff on the opposite side, fell back into the water. A few attempted to escape by going down the river and crossing at a ford below. These were followed up and killed or captured. The citizens bore the expenses of the expedition. The Indians suffered much during these years, as well as the Texans, and in February, 1840, a squad of Comanches went to the city of San Antonio and proposed to make a treaty of peace with Texas. They were promised that if they would return the captives they had stolen from Texas, peace would be granted. This they promised to do on the next full moon.

At the time appointed several chiefs and quite a number of the tribe made their way to San Antonio, leaving some of the captives behind. A difficulty occurred relative to the terms of the treaty. The chiefs were informed that they would be held as prisoners until the captives they had carried out of Texas were all brought back. Upon this the chiefs made an attack, and continued to fight until they were killed. The punishment inflicted by Colonel Moore and his minute men, and the killing of these chiefs, aroused the Comanches to such fury, that preparations were made for vengeance upon a large scale on the white settlements towards the coast. Early in August, 1840, they swept down the country in very large numbers, and before the citizens of Victoria were aware of their approach surrounded the town. The citizens rallied together promptly and drove them away, carrying as they went large numbers of horses and cattle from the prairies. They went clear to the coast and sacked and burned the little town of Linnville. Several persons were killed, and Mrs. Watts, a lady from Linnville, was carried off a prisoner. Her husband having been killed in her presence.

My wagons had previously been loaded with lumber at Bastrop, which was safely deposited at the place for which I had traded on the Guadalupe, thirty miles above Victoria.   On my return, between the Guadalupe and Lavaca Rivers, I saw clouds of smoke rise tip and suddenly pass away, answered by corresponding signs in other directions. We passed with the wagons just in the rear and across the track of the Indians as they went down. From their trail I thought, and afterwards found I was correct, that there were four or five hundred. The trail was on the dividing ridge between Lavacca and Guadalupe Rivers. I trembled for the settlements below; for I knew this meant war on a larger scale than usual. About two miles after we passed this trail, we found a horse whipped and spurred till he could go no further. Just at this time, a herd of mustang horses, almost run to death, passed about one hundred yards behind our wagons, pursued by a body of twenty-five or thirty Indians. Seeing our guns and pistols, the Indians turned off and kept out of the range of our firearms. Above Austin they had attacked a wagon and thirteen of our men, and although they captured the wagon and killed twelve of the men, it had cost the savages so many lives that they did not care to come in contact with wagons at so early a date the second time. This we presume was, under the providence of God, the reason of our escape. They could have overpowered us in a very short time. This was doubtless the rear guard of the advancing, barbarous plunderers.

About a half mile from where we saw the mustangs, a party of stragglers had attacked two men. One of them, being shot, fell from his horse, and they, supposing him to be dead, left in pursuit of the other. They soon captured him and brought him back to where the first had fallen. Immediately after they overtook him they cut off the soles of his feet, and made him walk barefooted on the rough grass back to where the attack was made, hoping, we suppose, after the cruel treatment was over, to get the scalps of both. On their arrival at the spot, the man whom they supposed to be dead had crawled to a neighboring thicket, badly wounded. Fearing to attack him, knowing that he had a gun, and was securely sheltered from their arrows, they took his companions own gun and shot him dead, terribly mangling his body, in plain view. The man in the thicket saw my wagons pass near by, a few minutes afterwards, as he subsequently told me. My oxen were in fine condition, and being anxious to communicate this intelligence to Colonel Ed Burleson and the citizens of the Colorado valley as early as possible, I drove thirty miles in twelve hours. I crossed the Indian trail at twelve o'clock in the day, and reached home, at Lagrange, at midnight. In view of the long race before me, I tried to sleep some, while a horse was being secured. At four o'clock in the morning I was in my saddle, intending to reach Colonel Ed Burleson's at daylight, twelve miles off, on a borrowed horse, as I had no horse in condition for the trip. [The foregoing refers to the Foley/Ponton attack east of Gonzales as the Comanche force moved toward the coast at Linnville--WLM]

The reader must pardon me for a little digression. An incident in the history of the owner of the horse that I had borrowed for this trip will illustrate the confidence felt that no Comanche in the range would overtake me in a fair race. This confidence in those days rendered great relief. Captain Dick Chisholm, the owner, lived a year or two before down the Guadalupe, between Victoria and Gonzales. Chisholm weighed two hundred pounds, and ventured out on business one day, between the Guadalupe and Lavaca Rivers in company with a Texan [according to other accounts, this was Graves Fulshear--WLM], who rode a horse trained to run from Indians or after them. The captain was riding a slow, untrained horse. Soon twenty-seven Comanches were on their track. When Chisholm saw that he must be overtaken, he bid the Texan flee to Gonzales for his life, and tell the news. His slow pony fell down on the bog-wallow land, and the cannibal band stood around him. The Indians represented different tribes, and were compelled to talk Spanish, which he understood. The chief propounded a number of questions, but he refused an answer. In the mean time, the savages discussed the division of the fat man, after he should be killed, pointing out and marking of the desirable part. He finally determined to threaten them and try to induce them to release him. The people at Gonzales, be informed them, since the two men were killed over this way a few days ago, have determined, if another man is killed, to follow the murderers as long as water runs and trees grow, or until they are exterminated.

"Kill me now if you dare, and as soon as my man gets to Gonzales, a large body of men will come here, on horses as fast as his, and they will very soon run down the last horse you have; and they will kill the last one of you, and give your flesh to the buzzards. Kill me and eat me as quick as you please."

The chief's eyes flashed with surprise; fear took hold of him; the horse and blanket and gun were given up; and after an assurance that they and he would ever afterwards remain friends, Captain Dick Chisholm made his way to Gonzales, determined never to ride a slow pony in Indian range again. The sorrel, ball-faced horse was purchased, - full seventeen hands high, seven years of age, and made well for a long race, -at two hundred and fifty dollars. My friend cheerfully tendered me this horse for the hazardous expedition.

The sun was just rising as I reached Colonel Burleson's house. The story was rapidly rehearsed. His war-horse was ordered at once. Just before mounting, he pointed my attention to his saddle, wearing the marks of bullets, -one on the inside of the horn, one on the outside of the horn, and one on the back part of the tree. "All these," said he, "were made when I was in the saddle." His horse was killed under him at the battle of San Jacinto. By the time we were mounted, a man was in sight, his horse running rapidly, and a paper in his hand, fluttering in the breeze. The expressman presented the paper, which read about as follows:

GENERAL: The Indians have sacked and burned the town of Linnville; carried of several prisoners. We made a draw-fight with them at Casa Blanca, - could not stop them; - we want to fight them before they get to the mountains. We have sent expressmen up the Guadalupe. (Signed) BEN. MCULLOCH.

We made our way up the Colorado valley as rapidly as we could to Bastrop, notifying everybody as we went. Here Colonel Burleson called a council, and- it was agreed that the Indians should be intercepted on their retreat at Good's on Plum Creek, twenty-seven miles below Austin. Colonel Burleson requested me to follow up the expressman to Austin, and urge the people to come forward promptly to the point designated. Here I rested at night, after a circuitous ride to Austin of about seventy miles In the morning, rising early, we rode to the point designated, and found Colonel Burleson and his men had been gone about thirty minutes. Riding very rapidly, we came up with the Texan forces some two or three miles, as well as I remember, southeast of the present locality of Lockhart, and at the fork of Plum Creek. Colonel Burleson had been in communication with the troops of the Guadalupe, and now Felix Huston, Jack Hays, Ben and Henry McCulloch, and others, were on the ground. General Felix Huston was in command, and preparations were being made for the fight, when I and the company from Austin rode up. The fight immediately opened, with about two hundred Texans, against what we supposed to be five hundred Indians.

The enemy was disposed to keep at a distance, and delay the fight, in order that the packed mules might be driven ahead with the spoils. During this delay several of their chiefs performed some daring feats. According to a previous understanding, our men waited for the Indians, in the retreat, to get beyond the timber, before the general charge was made. One of these daring chiefs attracted my attention specially. He was riding a very fine horse, held in by a fine American bridle, with a red ribbon eight or ten feet long tied to the tail of the horse. He was dressed in elegant style, from the goods stolen at Linnville, with a high-top silk hat, fine pair of boots and leather gloves, an elegant broadcloth coat, hind part before, with brass buttons shining brightly right up and down his back. When he first made his appearance he was carrying a large umbrella stretched. This Indian and others would charge towards us and shoot their arrows, then wheel and run away, doing no damage. This was done several times, in range of some of our guns. Soon the discovery was made that he wore a shield, and although our men took good aim, the balls glanced. An old Texan, living on, Lavacca, asked me to hold his horse, and getting as near the place where they wheeled as was safe, waited patiently till they came; and as the Indian checked his horse and the shield flew up, lie fired and brought him to the ground. Several had fallen before, but without checking their demonstrations. Now, although several of them lost their lives in carrying him away, yet they did not cease their efforts till be was carried to the rear.

Their policy was now discovered, and Colonel Burleson, with his command on the right wing was ordered round the woods, and Colonel Caldwell, on the left, with his command, charged into the woods. Immediately they began howling like wolves, and there was a general stampede and vigorous pursuit. The weather was very dry, and the dust so thick that the parties could see each other but a short distance. Some fourteen or fifteen Indians were killed before the retreat, and a great many more were killed afterwards. Our men followed them some fifteen or eighteen miles. Just as the retreat commenced, I heard the scream of a female voice, in a bunch of bushes close by. Approaching the spot, I discovered a lady endeavoring to pull an arrow out that was lodged firmly in her breast. This proved to be Mrs. Watts, whose husband was killed at Linnville. Dr. Brown, of Gonzales, was at once summoned to the spot. Nearby we soon discovered a white woman and a negro woman, both dead. These were all shot with arrows, when the howl was raised and the retreat commenced. While the doctor was approaching, I succeeded in loosing her hands from the arrow. The dress and flesh on each side of the arrow were cut, and an effort was made to extract it. The poor sufferer seized the doctor's hand, and screamed so violently that he desisted. A second effort was made with success. My blanket was spread upon the ground, and as she rested on this, with my saddle for a pillow, she was soon composed and rejoicing at her escape. Death would have been preferable to crossing the mountains with the savages. She had ridden a pack-mule all the way from the coast, and when they stopped she was required to read the stolen books for their amusement. I received many letters from Mrs. Watts in after years, but never saw her again.

When we went into the fight there were present about two hundred men; but by night we supposed there were near five hundred. They continued to come in all the evening; many of them from a great distance. Men and boys of every variety of characters composed that noisy crowd that was busily engaged all night long talking of the transactions of the previous eventful days. Here were three Baptist preachers, - R. E. B. Baylor, T. W. Cox and the writer, all in the fight, with doctors, lawyers, merchants and farmers. Glad indeed that the enemy was driven out, but weary and careworn, I made my way home, inquiring, How long shall these things be? 

Murder of Dr. Witter.  When the year 1841 closed, I was at home, two miles above Gonzales, on the Guadalupe, after an absence of nearly three months among the churches between Brazos and Colorado. I of course had been sorely tried, amid the difficulties alluded to in the previous chapter. A hurried trip was made to Mississippi for my children, for want of means to educate them further. This about consumed all the means I had left., The old dreamer, John Bunyan, said that "An idle brain is the devil's workshop." A little farm was at once opened on the river, and twenty-five dollars paid for a plough to break the land. An old set of blacksmith's tools was secured, a young man of good character employed, and farm and shop, by turns, employed a good portion of my time during the spring of 1842. Preaching was kept up regularly at Gonzales, and at a school-house four miles above. During our absence one night at meeting in Gonzales, the Indians stole the last pony we had. The horse was staked about forty steps from our door. After this we all went to meeting together from my neighborhood in ox-wagons. God blessed the little church with some precious seasons.

Once I had been alone, as a Baptist preacher, between the Brazos and Colorado. Now that Tryon, Huckins, Baylor, and Garrett were occupying the field east, I was again entirely alone, as there was not a Baptist preacher west of the Colorado River to confer with me. At this time I met with Elder Carroll, a Methodist circuit rider, travelling in the valley of the Guadalupe. Reaching my house, his shoes were worn out. There were no shoes in the country to buy, and nothing scarcely but rawhide to reset. My old Tennessee shoe tools were still on band, and a few small pieces of leather. He came to me in the midst of his distress and inquired if I could in any way relieve him. We did not agree at all on the doctrines of depravity, baptism, communion, and church polity, but just now we were agreed on the old Tennessee doctrine, that a boy was not fit to marry till he could stock a plough and mend a shoe. His shoes were mended, and after a pleasant interview be went on his way, asking a kind remembrance of the Baptist preacher at the throne of grace, for divine protection In the midst of the dangers that hung upon his path.

While at the school-house four miles above Gonzales, at a night appointment, a scene occurred worthy of record. Some were standing guard, and others, in the rear of the congregation, sat with their guns across their knees. I preached with unusual liberty; the attention was undivided; many earnest prayers were offered for our protection in the midst of difficulties and dangers, and some praised God aloud. The congregation was dismissed, and before leaving the place a gun was fired a few hundred yards away; the shrill Indian whistle was heard, and the people warned to proceed with caution to their homes. As the way home for all the congregation was the same for some distance, my ox wagon, carrying my own and two the same way, fell into line, and we moved off calmly, with no confusion manifest. A proposition was made that we should sing one of the songs of Zion, to drive the gloom away. Soon the echo was heard along the valley of the Guadalupe, and no doubt in hearing of the red warrior, of that old song so full of faith and heaven:

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye.
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
Chorus: Oh, sacred hope; oh, blissful hope,
By inspiration given,
The hope, when days and years are passed,
We all shall meet in heaven.

I then thought, and yet think, that amid the solemnities of that hour I heard the sweetest music to my soul that ever fell upon my ear. It was a lovely moonlight night, and a consciousness was realized that God would protect this company of worshippers to their homes. The next morning we assembled, after news was received that a man was killed. About two hundred yards from the little school-house where we worshipped the evening before, we found the body of Dr. Witter, an eminent physician, blood-stained and terribly mangled. We buried the remains as decently as our facilities would permit. Here a little mound was raised over the body of a learned infidel, who refused to go to meeting, though it was so close to his house, and beside that grave stood four interesting children; the eldest about ten years of age, and scarcely done weeping over the loss of the mother, whom we had buried a short time before.

Encounter with Carancahuas.  Man is a strange compound, and often knows but little about himself. Several days passed away; Matthew Burnett and I had but little employment. We grew weary of camp confinement; and as we saw signs of Indians about, and still nobody hurt, we became a little reckless again, and agreed on another expedition, as it would be yet several days before we could start for borne. Parties of Lipan and Tonkawa Indians, friendly tribes, frequently visited our camp and told us of the country farther west, of the salt lake, and other points of interest, that we were anxious to see. They told us of the Comanches and Cacrankaways [Carancahuas], who were enemies to each other and enemies to everybody else. The country we wished to see was occupied by these last-named tribes, who fought wherever they met. In consequence of so much war, the Cacrankaways were reduced to about forty warriors.

Matthew Burnett and I, after necessary preparations, were gone off for a trip of several days. Our course, by the compass, was a little south or west. We saw wild mustang horses and wild game of every description than we had time to number. After travelling about forty miles, we found plenty of fresh water and good grass for our weary, thirsty horses, and struck our camp. No Indians had been seen, and the night was passed without interruption. The next morning, as our meat was out, we determined to kill a beef the first opportunity, as there were plenty of wild cattle in tire range. We soon saw the remains of four beeves killed by the Indians. About noon , we saw some cattle feeding at a distance, and, taking advantage of a small bunch of timber, cautiously made our way to them. When close enough to shoot a fine beef, we saw a horse coming from the opposite direction straight towards the same beef, and after watching a moment, we saw an Indian behind the horse and driving him along. Discovering us, the Indian instantly fell to the ground, and strung his bow. This frightened the beef away, and soon the Indian was on his horse in plain view, about eighty yards distant. My friend Burnett raised his gun to shoot, but I insisted that his life be spared. We were in no danger, could not plead self-defense, and in the commission of a deliberate murder I feared the judgments of God. The Indian rode off, and as we rode along parallel with his course we commenced conversation in broken Spanish. I told him we were Americans, and his friends, pulled my cap off and put it upon the muzzle of my gun, showed him the spring dagger by the side of the barrel, but did not approach any nearer to him. Friend Burnett still insisted on shooting him; but I protested, and continued a friendly conversation. He was a young Cacrankaway, and pointed us to the smoke of their camp, plainly in view, but some distance away. He urged us to go with him to the camp and get acquainted with his chief.

We had, however, seen enough, aware of the fact that they knew the locality of our camp, and as we were so far away they would naturally suppose our company was scattered. With these facts before them, we were of the opinion that they would hasten to camp, hoping to surprise and capture it. No time was lost. We were between forty and fifty miles from our camp and, knowing the character of our enemy, it was necessary for us to reach the surveyors by the coming morning early, or in all probability it would be too late. We rode hard during the entire evening, and as much of the night as the horses could bear. We kept off of our former track, test we might come in contact with the Indians, and traveled ten or fifteen miles farther, we supposed, than when we came out. About daylight, on the third morning after we started on the expedition, we reached the camp of our boys, then, as usual, about four miles from the surveyors. Preparations were made as soon as possible, and when we reached the main camp, we found Buchanan and his men surrounded by the Indians, their horses, guns and everything in the enemy's hands. The Indians had out-traveled us, knowing the country and taking a nearer route. The chief was on Buchanan's horse, and his forty warriors stood defiantly round the camp. Not a man as yet was hurt. Four of us stood off about eighty yards, with gun in hand, and proposed a conference. I felt confident they were the same Indians whose smoke we were pointed to the day before, full forty-five miles towards the west. Accordingly I assumed command, and ordered Buchanan, then a prisoner, not to answer a question until it was first submitted by the interpreter to me. Under this order he assured the chief that we were his friends. He inquired of Buchanan, if any of his company had been out hunting the day before; the number and color of their horses, and character of their clothing. These questions were satisfactorily answered, and the chief said, "If these are the men, you are friends, or they would have killed my boy." We called for the boy to make the examination. He started to us with his bow, but we made him throw it down; and as soon as he recognized us he ran up smiling and shook hands with us, apparently glad as if he had met relatives. We then ventured up closer, keeping our guns in readiness. Peace was soon made. Horses, guns, blankets, and everything was given up, and a treaty was made. I thank God yet that my motto ever was, even among Indians, not to kill except in self-defense.

We agreed to give the chief a letter to president Sam Houston, then in the city of Houston, asking him to recognize our treaty. He left that day with three of his warriors, and one of our men to accompany him. We remained a few days longer, got our lands surveyed and field notes written, and when we reached Victoria, met the chief on his return. Sam Houston had signed the treaty, and, complying with the Indian custom, had made a number of presents. The chief left us near Corpus Christi, almost naked. Now he stood before us, full six feet and four inches high, weighing two hundred pounds, wearing a two-story silk hat, a fine broadcloth suit, and a fine pair of military boots, with a sword hanging at his side. He at once recognized our company, and ran to shake hands, but on approaching me took me in his arms. This was the first and only Indian that ever hugged me.

Mrs. Makaly Duncan to Z. N. Morrel.  The document below is though to be a record of transactions between Z.N. Morrel and Mrs. Makaly Duncan, most likely for goods provided by Morrel who was a merchant in addition to his ministry and other lines of activity.  The text at the bottom reads "I suppose that you would understand this receipt as you were know to the arrangements I can't say that I do properly understand the receipt as it stands. Cepphas F. Andrews.  Received payments in full on the above account on this 26 of July 1837.  Z. N. Morrel."  This signature of Morrel with one "l" indicates that the more common spelling Morrell that appears in archival documents is unlikely his own spelling.  The document among others was found in the personal effects of an in-law of a descendant of the Duncan family of the Robertson Colony.  Mrs. Mahaly Duncan left Nashville, TN  in Nov 1835 with her five sons among which were: N.C. and Green Smith Duncan.  According to written accounts by N.C. Duncan they met Col. Davy Crockett and his men also enroute to Texas and traveled with them for a part of the journey.  After a later marriage, Mrs. Duncan established a business called the "Old Stage Coach Inn".  [Document and information provided by Robert Pearson]

Duncan Ledger


Duncan Ledger

A second attached page.  Text reads "This I omitted drawing of I suppose if you could see the book that you could settle better. This is the nearest that I can draw it of. Cepphas F. Andrews."

Next page 2  The Battle of Salado

1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
The Republic-Index | Council House/Linnville/Plum Creek | Gonzales Residents