A SCALPING AND A VISION
by STEVEN L. YUHAS
man matter-of-factly replied, "I been scalped."
name was Josiah Wilbarger and his story is still told by his descendants and can be found
in several books written about the times.
Wilbarger came from Missouri and settled about ten miles above Bastrop. Several years
later, Reuben Hornsby built a dog-trot cabin about nine miles east of Austin just across
the river from present day Del Valle. Wilbarger Creek and Hornsby Bend mark the locations
of their homesteads. In August 1833, Wilbarger went to Hornsbys to join four men,
Christian, Haynie, Standifer and Strother. They went to explore the country to the
northwest. Near Walnut Creek, an Indian appeared for a brief moment then disappeared in
the cedar bushes.
When they stopped for lunch near Pecan Spring, Strother, Christian and Wilbarger unsaddled their horses. The others left their horses to graze with their saddles on. As they were preparing their food, a large band for Indians crept up on them and opened fire with rifles and bows. The men took cover behind some small trees and anxiously returned fire. Strother was killed outright. Christian took a ball in the hip and then a second arrow. Wilbarger took an arrow in the calf of his leg. Far outnumbered, the survivors hurriedly mounted up to effect an escape. Hornsby bravely turned his horse to pick up Wilbarger but saw him go down and immediately pounced upon by Indians. The remaining men spurred their horses on to Hornsbys place. There they told of seeing Wilbarger being scalped. A rider was quickly sent to gather reinforcements. As they planned on retrieving the bodies in the morning.
midnight, Joe Hornsbys mother woke and told him of a dream. She had dreamed that
Wilbarger wasnt dead, but gravely injured. She wanted her son and the others to
leave immediately to rescue him. Joe said, "Ma, youre excited and your
imagination made you dream these things. Wilbarger is dead. The last I saw of him, he was
down on his back with the Indians running lances through him. They never quit a man as
long as theres any life in him."
later that night the dream was repeated, and this time Mrs. Hornsby said there was a tree
and described the area. She said Wilbarger was no longer under the tree but had clawed his
way to a water hole. The men still doubted her visions but said nothing. As promised,
reinforcements came at daylight. When the rest of the men were mounted and ready to go,
Mrs. Hornsby came out of the cabin with a blanket saying, "Here, take this to make a
stretcher, hes not dead but he cant ride."
Hornsby, the last to see Wilbarger, went straight to the tree. He wasnt there, but a
trail of blood led them to a pool of water. They found him there alive, horribly wounded,
scalped and covered with blood. The put his naked body in the blanket and carried him
between two horses. When they arrived at the cabin, Mrs. Hornsby was waiting outside with
bandages and poultices of wheat bread and bear grease.
he regained some of his strength, Joshia told his story. He remembered being speared soon
after Hornsby fled. His previous wounds and a bullet that had gone through his neck, had
rendered him helpless. He felt a knife working around his head and realized he was being
scalped. Once the knife had gone around, the Indian twisted the hair in his fist and gave
a jerk. At the sound, he said it felt like a gun going off in his ear and immediately
he awoke, the moon was shining and he could hear the usual night sounds. Unexpectedly, he
saw an almost transparent figure of his sister Margaret, sitting next to him. She had been
dead many years and had never been to Texas. She advised him to stay where he was, because
his friends would rescue him in the morning. The vision then vanished in the direction of
the Hornsby home.
began to remember what happened next. His scalp was burning fiercely, but he remembered
the water hole nearby. Unable to rise, he painfully crawled to the water and immersed his
body in it. He found that submerging his head greatly relieved the pain in his scalp. Each
time his head would begin to burn, he would dip it in the water. He continued the
procedure until his rescuers arrived.
Joshia Wilbarger recovered to live another eleven years. All the events were
verified and sworn to by all who were present. They were adamant about it for as long as
they lived. Wallace was amazed at the story but as he had heard it from the lips of the
scalped man, he was not inclined to doubt.