The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957

rexas Pioeer Surveyors aid Jidiaws
FORREST DANIELL
N the July, 1952, number of the Southwestern Historical
Quarterly, Colonel McCorry Henderson in "The Surveyors
Fight" gives an excellent account of hardships faced by early
Texas surveyors. In this particular encounter-the so-called Battle
Creek Fight which took place on Richland Creek in eastern
Navarro County on October 8, 1838-twenty-five surveyors en-
gaged some three hundred Kickapoo Indians in a twenty-four
hour battle in which only seven white men survived. The Battle
Creek Fight was typical of what surveyors faced in Texas in the
1830's and 1840's when the frontier was aflame with Indian war-
fare. Surveying was a main cause of the Indian-white hostilities.
Land locators, anxious to obtain the best lands, had surveyors
go beyond the settlements to begin operations. The Indians knew
well the significance of the compass, and the Comanche Indians
called the instrument "the thing that steals the land." The sur-
veyor with compass became a main enemy of the Indian. With
rifles at their sides, the surveyors read the compass, cut brush
along the boundary lines, and chained distances. The surveying
parties, in drawing the fire of hostile Indians, were the first line
of defense of the weak colonists. Usually working beyond the
frontier, the surveyors frequently were first to encounter Indians
bent on depredations and the first to spread the alarm among
the settlements.
An important surveyor in the period of Anglo-American colo-
nization was Major James Kerr, surveyor general of Green
DeWitt's colony. Kerr arrived at the present site of Gonzales
in July, 1825, and was reputed to be the first American settler,
as the head of a family, to locate in Texas west of the Colorado
River. As Major Kerr pursued his profession of surveying lands,
his party which included Deaf Smith subsisted on wild meat and
coffee. In an Indian fight, one member of the party-John
Wightman-was scalped and the camp house was robbed of its

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/. Accessed March 4, 2015.