Proud of East Texas: Killough Massacre

CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Shelley Cleaver is a member of the State Historical Commission and he admits that even after all this time, there are many mysteries still unsolved about the infamous Killough Massacre, that took place on October 5, 1838.

"It was one of those tragedies that never was solved." There was 18 people here that was never heard from again or they don't know what happened to them."

18 members of the related Killough, Wood, and Williams families were killed or captured here by marauders dressed as Cherokee Indians.

The Killough homesteaders had begun clearing land for crops and building homes on the land a year earlier, unaware that the area had been set aside for the Cherokee under a treaty negotiated and signed by Sam Houston and John Forbes.

When the Republic of Texas Senate refused to ratify the treaty and then formally nullified it, controversy over the land grew. Fearing Indian unrest, the Killough group fled to Nacogdoches but returned to pick their crops with assurance of safe passage from Indian leaders.

"They had a peace treaty with the Cherokee Indians and they didn't bring their guns with them to collect their crops, thought it was peaceful."

Just after noon on that October day, renegades, dressed at Cherokee Indians, attacked the group, killing or abducting a total of 18 men, women and children.

Eight settlers were seized and carried into the forest, never to be heard from again. Seven survivors escaped on horseback.

"What they were trying to do and they wanted the Cherokee Indians out of the county, out of this part of the country."

The renegades accomplished their purpose. The Cherokee Indians were accused of the attack, which led to retaliation by the Republic of Texas Army.

"They finally had a battle at Kickapoo and they killed Chief Bowles and carried the Cherokee Indians to Oklahoma."

The remains of the slaughtered settlers are buried here in this lonely cemetery in Cherokee County, just outside Jacksonville.

Many of their descendants have chosen to be buried here as well. A monument was erected in the 1930s, although the Killough massacre was later proved to be the work of renegades, instead of the Cherokee, the fate of the women and children carried into the forest remains a mystery.

Shelley Cleaver has published two cookbooks containing stories of early Texas, including the Killough Massacre story.

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