Today in Texas History – February 26

In 1871, Clint and Jeff Smith were abducted as young boys from their home on Cibolo Creek, and lived as  Indian warriors for years. They returned to white society, married and had children, but always held on to some part of that life. Their story, “The Boy Captives,” first published in 1927, continues to be available. It is a first-hand account of their incredible, and sometimes horrifying, experiences.

From the Annals of the Captives – In 1871, Clinton and Jefferson Smith were captured by Lipan and Comanche raiders.  The brother, eight and ten at the time, were taken while herding sheep on Cibolo Creek near Boerne.  Initial efforts to find the boys failed.  Their father, Capt. Henry Smith, and his cousin Capt. John W. Sansom, of the Texas Rangers and numerous other Rangers combined with a volunteer posse led by Capt. Charles Schreiner, in an effort to rescue the boys.  The large group pursued the Indians from near Kendalia to Fort Concho in West Texas but never recaptured the boys.  Clint and Jeff were not returned to their family for several more years.

In his 1927 book, “The Boy Captives,” Clinton gave a first hand account of his and his younger brother Jeff’s time with the Comanche.   Clint’s roamings with the Comanches took him  into Utah, over the Rocky Mountains,as far west as the Pacific coast. After a period of adjustment, Clint said he became nearly indistinguishable from any other young warrior, as he chased Rangers and soldiers with his adopted family.  He remained in captivity for five years.  Jeff was sold to Geronimo who branded him for identification. time. Clint begged his Indian father, Tasocowadi, to bring Jeff back, even offering to trade all his belongings.  Geronimo, however, would not agree to the deal.

The Indians gave their captives native names. Clint became “Backecacho” (End of Rope), while Jeff was called “Catchowitch” (Horse Tail), and also “Na-i-Flink.” They were often used as bait on bear hunts, and mocked as they were made to exhibit feats of prowess such as fighting other Indian children or, as Jeff once described, being tied to a wild buffalo and made to ride it.

After being ransomed back and returning to Anglo culture, the brothers somehow successfully re-integrated.  They both married, raised children and took up ranching. As with many other returned captives, their experiences with the Indians never left them completely.  Clint and Jeff both expressed that they felt bound to their native brothers and each other in ways only they understood.

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