[Amslers Family web site]



[13.] Recollections of Charles Amsler.

Charles Amsler, a native of Switzerland immigrated to Texas in the summer of 1834, and settled near Mill creek in Austin's colony. Though very poor at the period of his migration, he has, by patient industry acquired a handsome competency. Mr. Amsler says: “In the autumn of 1835 my wife and I were picking cotton on Mr. Nichols's farm on Piney creek when I learned that men were needed to strengthen our army, which was then besieging San Antonio. I at once resolved to repair to the scene of action. With not a little difficulty I procured a horse to ride, and having no arms of my own I borrowed a worthless rifle of an acquaintance and set out alone for the army late in the month of November. Near Gonzales I met Genl. Austin—then on his way to the United States—and Col. Wm. Pettus. With the latter I was very well acquainted. I told him that I was going to the wars but complained of my lockless rifle. Pettus handed me his musket—a very good one,—in exchange for the rifle, which he promised to deliver to the owner who was a neighbor of his, and I went on my way rejoicing. Upon my arrival at the camp of the Colonial army I sought the company of Capt. John York—to which a number of my acquaintances belonged—for the purpose of joining it. Not finding Capt. York, who was temporarily absent—I applied to the first lieutenant—John Pettus, for permission to attach myself to the company. Lt. Pettus rejected my application for the reason that the company already had its complement of men. I then attached myself to Capt. Fisher's 100 company Almost immediately afterwards Col. Milam called for volunteers to storm the town. I joined the storming party and after we had effected a lodgment in the town and in the midst of the conflict, Capt. York recognised me and told me he wished me to join his company, which I at once did, with the permission of Capt. Fisher.—After the reduction of San Antonio de Bexar an expedition to the Rio Grande was set on foot by Cols. Grant and Johnson. I volunteered for this expedition—which set out from San Antonio about the first of January 1836. Becoming very sick on the march I was left in the care of some Mexican rancheros two or three miles west of the mission of Refugio. Late in the month of February, being convalescent, I became very anxious to return to my family, but had no horse to ride, and no means with which to buy one. I made known my condition to some people living near the rancho who very kindly furnished me a horse and I set out for home. Late in the ensuing evening I arrived at Goliad where I procured some provisions and continuing my journey four or five miles farther stopped in a ravine a short distance from the road, tethered my horse, and lay down. About two o'clock in the ensuing morning, I awoke, kindled a fire, and was boiling some coffee when a man rode up and enquired where I was from. I told him from the mission. “I” said he “am from San Antonio and am on my way to Goliad with dispatches for Col. Fannin. I am much fatigued and will rest awhile with you.” So saying, he dismounted and tethered his horse near mine. My coffee being now ready he joined me in drinking it. He was a sociable old gentleman and I was much pleased with him. After resting an hour or more, he said, “Well, my friend, we had better be traveling”—to which I assented and rose to go after my horse. “Please bring my horse too” said the stranger—“certainly,” said I, and walked away. The stranger then picked up my gun, threw out the priming and poured water in the pan. I did not witness these acts but was soon afterwards advised of them. When I led the horses to the camp-fire the agreeable stranger cocked his gun and presenting it at my breast, said “you are my prisoner!” Never was countryman of Tell and Winkelreid more amazed than I was at that moment! I demanded by what authority and for what offence I was arrested.—My captor replied—“By authority of Col. Fannin and for stealing that horse.” I assured him of my innocence and told him how I came in possession of the horse. The stranger then said—“My friend, I trust you did not steal the horse—I scarcely believe you did—but you are charged with having done so and I shall take both you and the horse back to Goliad”[.] I was compelled to submit and we started back towards Goliad.—After daylight I showed my captor a certificate from my captain of my good conduct in the storming of Bexar. I also represented my penniless condition and the probable destitution of my wife. My captor seemed moved and handed me two dollars saying—“This is the money I have—but I can do without it and it may relieve a little.” I now enquired the name of my generous captor. He told me it was Smith—Deaf Smith!—When we arrived at Goliad I was handed over to Col. Fannin. Mr. Conrad, of Goliad, who claimed the horse I rode, made the necessary proof and took his property. After a short detention I was exonerated from the charge of theft and released. I now set out for home on foot. I crossed the Guadalupe at the Labahia road. As the Mexican army of invasion was known to be near our frontier the few settlers on the lower portion of the Guadalupe had already abandoned their homes and moved eastward. About eight miles east of the river I found a house which had evidently been very recently vacated. A fresh wagon track led from the door in the direction I was traveling. I followed this wagon-track with the hope of overtaking the movers and late in the evening got in sight of the wagon on the waters of Lavaca. I also saw the oxen grazing in the prairie. When I arrived at the wagon some trunks were lying, broken open, around it, but no person was visible. At a short remove was a thicket, and it occurred to me that the movers were encamped in it. I walked a few steps towards it and found the half naked body of a man, pierced with many wounds and scalped.—Hastily glancing around, I discovered another dead man—much mangled and scalped. I knew at once that this was the work of Indians—who were doubtless then but a short distance from that spot, as the wounds of the murdered men were still bleeding. I was greatly shocked and traveled on with reasonable fears of becoming the next victim of the savages.

An hour or two after night, being much fatigued, I turned a few paces aside from the road and wrapping my blanket around me, lay down in the grass and was soon asleep. The day had been warm, but long before midnight I awoke thoroughly chilled and a piercing norther was sweeping over the prairie. I slept no more that night. When daylight came I resumed my journey slowly and painfully, for my limbs were so stiff and numb that at first, I was barely able to move at all. Early in the day I struck the road leading from San Felipe to Gonzales. Here I found several armed men encamped, on their way to the latter place. After warming myself well at their fire and taking some refreshment which they gave me, I again set out on my solitary march. I had proceeded but a few miles when I discovered, as I supposed, a number of mounted men moving rapidly towards me. I did not doubt that they were Indians, and though escape seemed hopeless, I ran as fast as possible towards the nearest woods, but soon broke down and stopped in the open prairie. Death appeared inevitable, yet I was resolved to sell my life as dearly as possible. Turning towards my pursuers, now near at hand—I beheld a score or two of horses without riders. They were mustangs. Having made a circuit around me and viewed me to their satisfaction, they galloped away. I resumed my journey and in due time and without further adventure, rejoined my wife on Mill creek. The tide of invasion had by this time reached our frontier—the Alamo had fallen—our little army was in full retreat from Gonzales, and nearly all the families of middle and western Texas were deserting their homes and moving eastward. A few of the German settlers on Mill creek not having any means of transportation, resolved to remain at home and take their chances. Mr. Frederic Ernst, the founder of the Industry settlement, vacated his house and camped in Mill creek bottom—hoping thereby to avoid discovery by the enemy. My own effects were no great encumberance, but my wife was enciente and unable to travel on foot. I therefore camped with Mr. Ernst. Mr. Frells and Mr. Wapler—neither of whom had a family—did likewise. Here we remained until our army arrived on the Brazos, when two of our neighbors, namely, Capt John York and John F. Pettus, returned from the Brazos and urged us to leave—saying that if we should not be discovered by the Mexicans the Indians would certainly find and destroy us. Capt. York said he would walk and let my wife ride his horse as far as the Brazos, and I willingly agreed to depart the ensuing day. Capt York then requested me to accompany him to his late home—a few miles further up the creek, to assist him to hunt some horses he had left there. I immediately borrowed a horse and we set out together. We had travelled about three miles when I discovered an Indian standing in the prairie—but he disappeared before I could point him out to Capt. York—who expressed the opinion that I had mistaken a wolf for an Indian. We galloped to the spot where I had seen the Indian—but nothing was visible. York was then satisfied that I was mistaken, and we travelled on.

After a fruitless search for York's horses, we returned, in the evening, to our camp. At nightfall, as the mosquitoes were somewhat troublesome at the camp, Mr. Wepler went to Ernst's house to sleep. Late in the night we were awakened by the discharge of fire-arms in the direction of the house, andp resently Mr. Wapler came to the camp and stated that a party of Indians had fired into the house—apparently at random, and then disappeared.

In a little while it was ascertained that Pettus's horse and one belonging to Frells, were missing.

Ere an hour had elapsed we again heard guns at a distance southward, and in a short time a Mr. Jeorgen, 101 who resided about three miles distant from Ernst's, ran into our camp nearly naked and bleedingly profusely from an arrow-wound in the arm. He stated that the Indians had forced open the front door of his cabin and fired into it—and that being without arms and consequently unable to make any defence, he had, after being wounded, escaped through a back door and left his family (a wife and two children) to their fate. To ascertain, if possible, what that fate had been, York, Pettus, Frells and myself—the former alone being mounted—instantly set out for Jeorgen's house, where we arrived a little after daylight—but found nobody either living or dead—about the premises, and the presumption was unavoidable that the family had been captured and carried away by the savages. We found the trail of about twenty Indians leading from the house. After following this trail two or three miles we gave up the pursuit as hopeless, and returned to our camp. These exciting occurrences “put life and mettle in the heels” of men, women and children, and in a few hours we were all on the way to the Brazos, the few effects we were able to take with us being hauled in an ox-cart of Mr. Frells.

Note 1.

One of the men whom Mr. Amsler found murdered on the waters of the Lavaca was named Hibbins. The name of the other is not recollected. He was said to have been brother-inlaw of Hibbins. Hibbins's family—a wife and two children—were made prisoners and borne away by the Indians.—Another Hibbins and his wife were, two or three years afterwards, murdered by Indians west of the San Antonio river 30 miles below Goliad. Their children were rescued by a party of Rangers.

Mrs. Jeorgen, after a long captivity, was purchased from the Indians and sent home by a U. S. Indian agent. I believe her children were also subsequently ransomed.

Note 2.

Jeorgen, in the foregoing paper, should be written Juergen. 102


Kuykendall, J. H., "REMINISCENCES OF EARLY TEXANS.  A COLLECTION FROM THE AUSTIN PAPERS. ", Volume 007, Number 1, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online, Page 29 - 64. http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/publications/journals/shq/online/v007/n1/article_4.html
[Accessed Fri Jul 18 17:29:29 CDT 2008]
http://www.tshaonline.org/publications/journals/shq/online/v007/n1/article_4.html (IR)

Rev 12/27/2008

[Amslers Family web site]