The winding black top country road
shaded with huge east Texas pine trees protected us from the hot July sun as it
pried its way through the branches. As descendants of the Killough Klan
living in a distant state, my husband and children had never seen the family
monument dedicated to one of the greatest tragedies in East Texas
history. A massacre and tales of conspiracy are still keeping us guessing
to this day of what really took place that set this tragedy into motion.
This was how legends are started so we wanted to uncover the truth.
Is it fact or fiction or could it be both?
Our directions and GPS seemed to
fail us as we drove deeper into the countryside on Farm to Market (FM) roads
that didn’t seem to end. Farm after farm and roads that appeared to
shrink in size as the large oak and pine trees overshadowed them with their
huge century old branches. As we parked along the side of the road a
couple who lived close by stopped and asked if they could help us. In our
desperate situation we readily accepted their help. They knew exactly
where we wanted to go and appeared to have helped lost sightseers in the past
find this elusive historic site.
As we followed we quickly realized
without a guide we would have never found the old Killough farm
homestead. As we traveled along twisting roads and turning onto one FM
road after another our GPS was clueless. We were fortunate that day
unlike our ancestors years ago.
As we reached the monument, thanked
our guides and received directions on how to find our way out, we started to
explore the area. We quickly realized how foreboding and mysterious it
appeared to us. We gave a lesson in history to our children of what we
knew yet there was so much we really didn’t know and could only speculate.
As we approached the monument we did
know that we stood on what was once blood soaked ground and the air around us
felt heavy with sadness. The monument area, however, was open and
inviting but the surrounding area was thick with trees and overgrown
shrubs. We were thankful that we were there during daylight hours even
though dusk was fast approaching by the time we reached the area.
The Killough massacre took place on
October 5, 1838. The Killough family, with Isaac Killough Sr. as the
Patriarch, was Irish immigrant farmers who went out that day to harvest their
fields. Normally they would take their guns with them but that day was
different. They didn’t take their guns which proved to be a fatal error.
Eighteen were either killed or taken never to be seen again. It is still a
mystery to this day on why they didn’t take their guns since there were known
Indian raids in the area. What happened to the captured family
History was awakening before our
eyes deep in those east Texas woods. No longer were we just reading about
the event but we were seeing and feeling it just by being there where it all
took place. The monument stood with a large heavy stone base that thinned
out the taller it reached into the sky. It was inscribed with a summary
of details that took place that fateful day. It was a pinnacle of a memorial
that told of death and survival.
“In this area on October 5, 1838,
the Wood, Killough, and Williams Families, all relatives, were going to the
fields. They were gathering crops grown in spite of Indian raids.
Here less than a year, the settlers usually carried guns to the fields, but this
afternoon were unarmed. Attacked suddenly, 18 pioneers were either killed
or captured, never to be heard of again. 8 horseback riders escaped. The
wives of Isaac Killough, Sr., Isaac, Jr. and Samuel Killough fled on foot,
carrying a baby. On their third day of hiding, a friendly Indian saved
them. This was the largest Indian atrocity in East Texas. Bodies of
the few victims were found were buried here.” (1965)
We knew before seeing the monument
that our ancestors had been murdered and some were missing. That was
fact. We didn’t know what happened to the missing people who were
captured. Any answer to that question would fuel that which legends are
The fact is our family members died.
Some survivors were carried away by a band of rebels to never be seen again and
others escaped to the local Fort. According to Jack Moore’s research paperback
book, “The Killough Massacre”, this piece of history is not just about the
massacre of innocent settlers. It also depicts the anger and rebellion coming
out of the Texas revolution and how it said to have spawned some of Mexican
descent to band together with some rebellious Indians to rid the Republic of
Survivors identified a man they knew
and said he was disguised as an Indian during the raids that fateful day along
with the rebels. Could this man have fooled the settlers into leaving
their guns and then betrayed them? Answer to this question only produces
a new legend. We may never know.
History can’t be rewritten but we
can learn from it. We can study it up close by traveling to these types
of sites and breathing the air, feeling the wind and yes standing where history
stood still. What we do know as fact on that hot summer day is that we
found a little piece of history in the back woods of East Texas. Tragic,
ridden with conspiracy, it tells a tale of fact and fiction. Truth and
legend, all snuggled under a large pinnacle of a monument representing death
The midnight sun was glowing across the horizon off the coast of Norway deep into the summer night. There was a thrill just for being on top of ancient rocks that lined the coast of the Atlantic as the light was starting to fade in the distant horizon. Our words and laughter seemed to echo across the rocks as the waves crashed high into the air. We were not only enjoying the view but the sounds and smell of the open air of the salty ocean.
The glowing sun became a light in our hands as we stood and faced the camera. As a couple we “held” the sun gently surrounded by our linked hands. Norway in that moment instantly became my favorite travel destination.