Western Trips

Western Trips

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Adobe Walls/ Texas Panhandle

The site referred to as Adobe Walls rests in the Texas Panhandle about 78 miles northeast of present day Amarillo.

 During the mid 1800's this was essentially inhabited by Indians, a combination of many tribes and bands including the Comanches, Kiowas, Apaches and others. A fort was established there in the 1840's but was later abandoned due to the hostile nature of the area.

Buffalo Hunters and Indians

As far as the plains Indians were concerned this was their prime buffalo hunting grounds. The buffalo was probably the most important thing for the plains Indians to survive because it supplied not only their prime food source but also buffalo hides that were used for clothing especially during the cold winters and coverings for their lodges. Buffalo horns were crafted into utensils such as plates. The buffalo was the staple resource for plains Indian survival.

The significance of Adobe Walls was that there were two battles that took place there. One was in 1865 that involved frontiersman Kit Carson and units of the army against several Indian tribes. The result was 3 army dead and 60 Indians killed or wounded. Kit Carson considered this battle one of the most close calls in his frontier career.

The second took place in 1874 and involved Indians ( led by Comanche chief and warrior Quanah Parker (which is an interesting story in itself)  against mostly white buffalo hunters. These buffalo hunters mostly from the Dodge City, KS area established a small settlement as a trading post. Dodge City was considered the main shipping out point for buffalo hides.

Sharps rifle model
The Sharps Rifle

The buffalo hunters employed powerful new long range Sharps Bison rifles that were so effective that a single hunter could kill upwards of 100 buffalo per day, sometime more. You can understand how this greatly depleted the massive buffalo herds in the matter of a few years and explains much of the hostility from the Indian hunters.

During the second battle the story goes that white defenders at Adobe Walls while hidden in their mostly sod structures were known to pick off an Indian from his horse a half mile away. This famous shot was attributed to defender Billy Dixon and his Sharps rifle. Needless to say this new weaponry startled the attacking Indians and the battle pretty much ended up a draw.

Tribes Regularly Roamed from Indian Territory

picture of kit carson
Kit Carson,  public domain
During these years many of the Indians were situated in Indian Territory ( this was the goal of the army) which was in present day Oklahoma specifically Fort Sill.

This did not prevent many bands from roaming off the reservation particularly during the summer hunting months. The two main reasons for this was the Indians natural desire to roam free and hunt for food. The second was that  food supplies promised from the government to reservation Indians was actually delivered spotty at best due to both logistical problems and outright fraud and theft.

Thus the Indians repeated incursions off the reservation for both hunting and raiding lonely white settlements. The  ineptness of the Indian agents just added fuel to the flames of Indian discontent with the white settlers. It was one thing not delivering on treaty promises and quite another depleting the buffalo at the same time.

There are no structures remaining today at the site of Adobe Walls but there are several monuments commemorating the historic events that occurred there that explain what occurred and even showing a list of the defenders at the time of the battles.The site is listed in the National Register and is a Texas State archeological landmark. You may find our Western Trips story of the famed XIT Ranch interesting. It existed very near the site of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle.

The main east/west thoroughfare that comes closest to the site is Interstate 40. The site is located in Hutchinson County, TX, 78 miles northeast of Amarillo and 28 miles northeast of Borger, TX.

I think you will find this a worthwhile side trip into history for the whole family.

You may also enjoy the additional Western Trips articles below...

Kit Carson of Taos New Mexico

Historic Fort Reno Oklahoma

(Article copyright Western Trips)
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1 comment:

  1. I just finished Buffalo Trail by Jeff Guinn. The book will be for sale on October 6, 2015. I decided to check on the history of Adobe Walls.


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