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The story of the murder of Elizabeth Ann Whitney has oft been told and remembered. Miss Whitney has been immortalized for her bravery. That is well and good, but few recognize the other heroine of that July day in 1867--the almost seventeen-year old Amanda Howard.

At the time of the Indian attacks, Amanda Howard, sister of Volney "Vol" Howard, and her sister-in-law . Sarah Clover Howard, wife of "Vol" Howard rode into the Warlene Valley from the east. Amanda was mounted on the young unproven and spirited horse she was breaking.

The beautiful Warlene Valley reposed on the south bank of the Leon River six miles northeast of the present town of Hamilton. The valley was approximately three-quarters of a mile wide and one and a half miles long. The school which has no other name than "The Leon River School" was near the center of the valley. The Howards lived about a mile west of the school and the John Baggett lived about half a mile east of the school in this valley. Ezekiel Manning and Alexander Powers lived 1 ˝ miles south of the valley behind a high hill. Two miles up the Leon River were the cabins of the Massengills, the Ganns, the Strangelines, the Coles, Simon Kuykendall, and James M. Kuykendall. J. B. Hendrix and his sons Crockett and Abe lived two miles from the school. Judge D. C. Snow and Uel Livingston and the Pierson ranch were within six miles.

Miss Whitney had been employed to teach a private school on the banks of the Leon River. This school was the first school to be taught in Hamilton County following the Civil War and was the fourth school of record to be taught in the Hamilton County area. The first three schools (pre-Civil War) were:

1857-- Langford Cove school taught by Raleigh Hazzard who was paid $92.58 on 2 November, 1857, by the Coryell County Commissioners. The present County of Hamilton was not created until 22 January, 1858, by the Seventh Legislature of the State of Texas.

1859-- Hamilton--private school taught by John Jefferson Durham. This school ended when Mr. Durham enlisted in the Confederate Army.

1860- private school taught near on the Leon River east of Hamilton by Rev. Jesse J. Griffith, who was killed by Indians 9 February, 1860, thus ending the school.

The Civil War suspended the formal education processes in Hamilton County until 1867 when Miss Whitney taught the private Leon River School.

On July 11 (or July 9--accounts vary) about 2:00 p.m. a party of perhaps a dozen Indians invaded the log schoolhouse of Miss Ann Whitney. The school was a small log cabin which had a door on the south and a small window on the north. Large cracks gapped between the logs in both the walls and the floor. Early schools could be taught only during warm months because the schools were unheated and each would last only for a few weeks.

A daughter of Alexander Powers saw a group of men rapidly riding toward the school and alerted Miss Whitney who was certain that the riders were cowhands of John Barbee who was coming to see his daughter Olivia that day. Olivia Barbee was boarding with a family so that she could attend school. Hence, Miss Whitney made the fatal mistake of ignoring the warning. Watching the approach of the Indians through the cracks in the wall, the Powers child became frightened and pushed her little brother through the window and they escaped into the brush. Going to the door Miss Whitney witnessed the Indians taking Mary, her horse. Closing and barring the door, Miss Whitney instructed the children to escape through the window. As Miss Whitney was pushing the last two girls--Mary Jane Manning and Jane Kuykendall through the small window on the north side of the cabin, Miss Whitney was fatally shot with arrows. Miss Whitney had pleaded with the Indians to kill her and to leave the children alone. The Indians were led by a red-headed white man. All but two of her students were able to escape through the small window on the north side of the cabin. As Miss Whitney lay dying, she spread her skirts attempting to cover cracks in the floor where John Kuykendall and Louis Manning were hiding. Jane Kuykendall, shot by an arrow, fell down and the Indians assumed that she was dead.

The red-headed attacker asked John and Louis if they wanted to go with the Indians. John Kuykendall, who replied "yes," was taken captive.

Olivia Barbee was seized by the English-speaking Indian who forced her on his horse. Olivia slid off the horse and escaped into the dense underbrush when her captor’s attention was distracted. Olivia was so consumed by terror, that when John Massengill spotted her the next day, he had to run her down.

At the time of the attack Miss Amanda Howard and her sister-in-law Mrs. Sarah Howard had ridden their horses into the valley from the east. Believing that the Indians were hunters, Amanda and Sarah rode toward the school. The Indians spotted these ladies and pursued. Amanda and Sarah reversed directions and rode toward the home of John Baggett half a mile east of the school. Amanda’s horse leaped over the Baggett’s eight-rail fence, but Sarah’s horse turned hurling her over the fence as an Indian captured her horse. Sarah was not hurt seriously and quickly found refuge in the Baggetts’ home.

While one group of Indians was attacking the school near the middle of the valley , another group waylaid the Stanaland [not Strangeline] family who were traveling through the valley from the west. Both Mr. and Mrs. Strangeline (correction--Stanaland) were shot as were their two children. Mr. Hugh Strangeline (correction--Stanaland) was killed but not scalped.

Amanda Howard formulated a plan to alert other settlers and to secure help. Amanda had to ride past the Indians and outrun them to get to the only road that crossed the high hill to the south that led to a lower settlement. Amanda’s dash through the valley interrupted the Indians who were attacking the Stanaland [not Strangeline] family. The daring seventeen-year-old Amanda escaped the Indians only by a few rods as she reached the road to the south.

Amanda’s riding skills distracted the Indians from the school, and away from the Strangelines (correction--Stanaland) . Her courage saved many lives as the Indians hurriedly beat a retreat to the west with their captive, John Kuykendall.

Some of the men who joined the posse to search for the Indians were Abe Pierson, Chapman and Volney Howard, and Abe Hendrix and four others.  

School children in Hamilton County later raised money to erect a monument placed in Graves Gentry Cemetery in Hamilton in memory of the brave Ann Whitney.

"In memory of Ann Whitney, a frontier school teacher; born in Massachusetts about 1835, killed by Comanche Indians July 9, 1867. Resting in hope of a glorious resurrection. Erected by the school children of Hamilton County."





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People and Places: Gazetteer of Hamilton County, TX
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Copyright © March, 1998
by Elreeta Crain Weathers, B.A., M.Ed.,  
(also Mrs.,  Mom, and Ph. T.)

A Work In Progress