On February 26, 1871 – Clinton Lafayette Smith and his brother Jefferson Davis Smith (ages 11 and 9) were captured by Lipans and Comanche Indians while they were out herding sheep for their father on their ranch located between San Antonio and Boerne. Clint and Jeff’s father, Henry Smith, was a captain in the Texas Rangers along with his cousin, John Sansom. The two men quickly rounded up a posse of fellow Rangers and local militia to serve as a rescue party. They pursued the Indians all the way to Fort Concho in West Texas, but to no avail. They failed to recover the boys. Henry Smith returned home empty handed, but offered a $1,000 reward every year to anyone who could bring his boys home.
In the meantime, the brothers were separated. Clint was adopted by a Comanche chief, while Jeff was sold to Geronimo [Yes, that Geronimo] and branded as his property. Jeff traveled with Geronimo’s band of Apaches. They remained captives for five years, both boys acclimating by necessity and with the innate flexibility of children to their new way of life. They adopted Indian traits and mannerisms. They learned to hunt and went on raids with the warriors of their clans.
I was unable to find any details about how they were eventually returned to their families, but after five years of captivity, Clint and Jeff returned home. It took a while for them to reaccustom themselves to lives as young white men, but they eventually did so. Having developed serious riding skills from their time with the Comanche and Apache, they went on to have strong careers as trail drivers, cowboys, and ranchers. Not to mention frontier celebrities. Everyone wanted to hear their story.
Both men married and had families. Clinton married a good southern woman. You can tell she was a good southern woman simply by reading her name: Dixie Alamo Dyche. Don’t you LOVE that name? Jefferson Davis (an excellent southern name on its own) married Julia Harriet Reed.
When the brothers Smith were in their sixties, they related their stories to an author by the name of J. Marvin Hunter. He did his best to record their tales exactly as the men told them in The Boy Captives. Not everything matches precisely with what the history books teach, but personal accounts like this are a rare and valuable glimpse into a part of western culture we know little about.
I always think of the movie Dances with Wolves. Great film. What others would you recommend?
By the way, if you are interested in learning a new tidbit of Texas history every day, you can sign up for the Texas State Historical Association’s Day-By-Day emails here.