I first saw Austin in 1977. It was love at first sight. A New York State Yankee by birth with Yankee forebears going back to the 1650’s, I eventually married a fourth-generation Texan whose mother’s folks arrived in Hays County from Illinois in 1850. (Can you say “cultural differences”? “Bagels for breakfast? Where’s the meat?”) So my perspective is that of the transplant who stayed and took root.
Since leaving the Northeast, I have lived in both Texas and Arizona. In both places, the past is nearer than it was up north. Here’s an example:
In 1840, Texas Rangers and many others had famously battled the Comanche Indians in the Battle of Plum Creek at Good’s Crossing. Comanches led by Buffalo Hump had been raiding as far south as Victoria and Linnville on the Texas coast after what they viewed as betrayal in treaty negotiations. Comanches were angered by the events of the Council House, in which Texans had killed the Comanche chiefs when the Texans had raised a white flag of truce to settle conflicts.
Texas Rangers, a hastily-assembled rag-tag militia, and volunteers from nearby towns of Bastrop and Gonzales gathered neared Lockhart to cut off the Comanche retreat. The Comanche were running for the Llano Estacado in the Texas Panhandle with an immense plunder of stolen horses and other goods. My husband and I live on coastal prairies southeast of Austin and our back deck looks out toward Lockhart; it is probably the route from which combatants retreated in the famous 1840 “running gun battle.”
Hays County is named after one of the Texas Rangers, John “Jack” Coffee Hays, who was a leader in the Battle of Plum Creek. It is one of the fastest growing counties in the USA. But, at 860 square miles, Hays County is not yet crowded, although we are fond of decrying housing developments with postage-stamp lots in the middle of our prairies that seem to sprout up every time we look away. And, on the homefront, the lovely vista from our back deck has been marred by a massive powerline crossing the historic fields.
My husband Tim’s great-great grandfather, Lorenzo Daw Moore, was a county commissioner in Hays County. Moore ranched near the town of Dripping Springs in western Hays County. In 1850, Lorenzo’s family followed other northern relatives who had land grants in the area. Lorenzo’s mother, Polly, survived the Indian Creek Massacre in La Salle County, Illinois, in May of 1832. When braves broke into her cabin, Polly ejected them by throwing ladles full of hot soap that she was making into their faces. Two of her children, her sisters, and others were killed.
For Lorenzo to get to the county seat of San Marcos for commissioner’s meetings required a lengthy buggy ride of more than twenty-five miles every month. Commissioner Moore would drive for a day, attend meetings, and then drive home. On Sunday, May 19, 1872, Moore went looking for his mare at a creek on his property so he might hitch up his buggy for the monthly trip. What he found was a small band of the remnants of the Comanche in this part of Texas. They were starving and had killed his mare’s foal to eat. The mare they took with them. On that day in 1872, Commissioner Moore was the last individual killed by the Comanche in Hays County. Family lore has it that Lorenzo was bald, so the Comanche didn’t scalp him. His dog alerted neighbors to the tragedy.
A quarter-acre graveyard, owned in perpetuity by descendants of the Moore family, hides in the Texas Hill Country near Dripping Springs. There resides Lorenzo Moore, his mother, and other family members. Confederate veterans rest there by other family who fought for the Union. In the springtime, wildflowers fill the spots not occupied by the so-called cedar (actually ash juniper) trees which are ubiquitous since ranching practices in the 1800’s changed the soils and landscape forever. It is a quiet place and not far from where Lorenzo was killed.
My husband recites the details of these stories with the correct number of “greats” in front of each character’s relation to him. Family members still tend these graves. In our time, we certainly recognize the wrongs white men did to Native Americans, and there is a lot more grey in the stories than there used to be. We are humbled. Our goal here is simply to offer one more insight into why Texans are so fond of Texas. The stories and the places are epic, at your feet, as far as you can see, in the air. They infiltrate your heart, once you know them. Texas is spectacular. Come see.
SEE MORE “LORENZO MOORE” PHOTOS HERE