Death of Sowell, Fannin County, Texas


By Judge J. P. Simpson

After the battle with the Coushatta Indians by the Dugan family, the Indians left Dr. Rowlett's and fled to the Indian Territory north of Red River. The Texans, being greatly incensed at the course practiced by them while living in Texas, determined that they should not remain so near us. Captain Joseph Sowell, with ten or twelve men, crossed the river at night, ascertained where they were camped, charged on them and fired into their wigwams, killing ten (r twelve. This matter was kept still with the Texans, for some time, the act being a violation of International law with the U. S. Government.

The district court for Fannin County was to commence in 1841 at Warren, on Monday morning. Owing to the long distance those summoned as witness and jury-men had to travel to court, many went on Sunday evening, who would be put up at the tavern kept by Capt. Sowell and J. S. Scott. After securing lodging for themselves, and their horses cared for, they would indulge in drinking, and engage in a recital of the dangers, narrow escapes and combats with the Indians.

Capt. Sowell had a fine and favorite charger which he kept to himself securely locked in the stable, his guests horses in a substantial enclosure close by. That night the Indians had cut the door facing in two with their knives and removed the chains and lock from the door shutter, bridled the fine stallion and mounted him for the purpose of driving out the horses in the lot. The Indians had laid down in the fence corners and stationed themselves at the bars armed with bows and arrows, with their horseman on the fine charger in the lot driving the horses out. The neighing and tramp of the horses gave the alarm to those at the tavern, not-withstanding by this time they were in high glee and uproar at the house; for they had arrived at that point, that every man was a hero, a general, a statesman, or some great man, in his own estimation; hearing the mighty crash and tramp of horses their amusement ended in short meter; all hands ran for their horses, most of them without their guns or pistols.

Sowell and Scott ran to the gap laid down by the Indians; Sowell armed with a pistol, Scott with a double-barrel shot gun; Sowell discharged his pistol at them without effect, then they sent a volley of arrows at him, one passing through his stomach and out at his back. He fell at the Indian's feet, and called to Scott to shoot the Indian, and expired without a groan. Scott discharged his gun and one Coushatta fell dead with Capt. Sowell. The other Indians left the horses and fled in every direction, and collected on the road near Brushy creek beyond where Col. Bradford now lives, filled the road with brush and other obstructions, and hid themselves on each side of the road, so if any man had gone that way that night, either with dispatches to Fort Inglish, or to protect his wife and children at home, he could not possibly have escaped the Indians.

From the moccasin tracks next day at the place, we supposed there were twelve Indians. Had I as sheriff went to Warren that evening, which was my usual custom, instead of next morning, I should have tried to return that night to my family at Fort Inglish with the dispatch to the people here, and certainly would have fallen a victim to savage cruelty. Capt. Sowell when I came to the county, was living on a bluff at Red River, below the mouth of Sandy Creek in this county and yet known and called Sowell's Bluff.

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