Texas: Myths, Legends and the Real Deal
Part 8, The Muncey Massacre, Installment 2
Wooded area on the east side of Rowlett Creek,
part of Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve
It was fall, 1844. Daytimes could be hot one day, cool the next, and nights were sometimes quite chilly. But Jeremiah Muncey, his wife, three older sons, and toddler-aged child, besides old McBain Jameson, were tough, pioneer people. They all slept in the lean-to near Rowlett Creek, with blankets and coals from the cooking fire to keep them warm. I suppose they all looked forward to their log cabin before winter set in.
The following account was pieced together by the local settlers who took part in the tragic events of that morning.
Leonard Searcy, his son Gallatin, William Rice, and his son Joe, left their homes near Wilson Creek, just south of present-day McKinney, for a hunting trip down Rowlett Creek.
They’d been gone for a day or two, traveling about ten miles, when they made another camp for the night on the east side of the creek. The elder Searcy had acquaintance with Jeremiah Muncey and figured their current camp was near his property. After cooking a simple meal, the foursome would have wrapped themselves in thin blankets and slept on the ground.
Unknown to them, an Indian hunting party had also been following the creek and they'd camped some ways upstream from the Searcy/Rice group. The natives might have guessed settlers were nearby. A campfire would certainly have given away that fact. Or perhaps neither group was aware of the other.
In the morning, the fathers decided to cross the creek and find Muncey. Meanwhile, the two sons went in the other direction to hunt, Just beyond the creek, the wooded area became a grassy prairie.
It didn’t take long for Searcy and Rice to come upon the Muncey tract, but they were met by a ghastly scene. The place had been plundered, meagre possessions thrown about, ripped apart, and broken. Far worse, the family had been caught unaware, in the middle of early morning duties. Jeremiah Muncey and Jameson were face-down on the ground, having been shot. The toddler child was also dead, his or her head bashed. Mrs. Muncey had been cooking breakfast, but she’d apparently put up a huge fight with a bowie knife. Searcy and Rice determined that, as they discovered the knife near her. The attackers hadn't been satisfied with her death and had mutilated her body. As for the three sons, ages about 12, 15, and 17, there was no sign of them.
Searcy and Rice were horrified at the killings, and then felt great anxiety about their own sons. They dashed across the creek and back to their camp. Of course, the boys weren’t there, since they’d ridden off to hunt. The men continued their search, leaving the woods near the creek and venturing onto the prairie. Soon, they discovered Joe Rice’s body in the tall grass. The two fathers must have thought the worst had also befallen Gallatin, though he was nowhere to be found.
Rice put his son’s body on the horse with him and the men rode back to their homes. There, they found Gallatin Searcy, collecting neighbors to return and search for his father and Mr. Rice. Imagine how overjoyed Searcy was to see his boy unharmed, while remaining deeply saddened over the loss of Joe Rice.
Gallatin reported that he and Joe had left the creek and gone onto the prairie. In little time, they were startled to see a group of Indians, maybe fifty yards away. Of course, the native fellows saw the settler boys, too. Gallatin said the natives held a white flag and gestured for the boys to come toward them. Gallatin and Joe were savvy enough to know this was a trap. They didn’t move. Two Indian men got off their horses and left the larger group. They walked to where Gallatin and Joe waited, probably sweating in fear. Gallatin warned Joe, “Don’t let them get close to you.”
Too late. One of the two native fellows lunged at Gallatin, the other at Joe. Instantly, Gallatin spurred his horse and galloped off, escaping the native man's hands. Then Gallatin heard gunshots. He glanced around just as both Indians dragged Joe, already dead, from his horse and scalped him. In full-blown panic, Gallatin kept his horse at the fastest gallop and aimed for home.
Searcy, Rice, and the neighbor settlers determined that the natives’ goal had been to get the horses and for some unknown reason, they weren’t interested to go after Gallatin.
The neighbors saddled up with the intention of catching whatever tribe had killed Joe Rice and massacred the Munceys and Jameson. The three missing Muncey boys, it was supposed, had been taken alive, either to become members of the tribe or ransomed. They tracked the band of Indians some distance along a known trail heading west, but eventually, the settlers had to admit the chase was futile. Native men traveled too fast.
Word about the gruesome ends of the Munceys and Joe Rice spread quickly, reaching the settlement of Buckner. Men there rode out with rifles and shovels to the massacre site. Their important job was to bury the dead.
Then someone declared that the 15-year-old Muncey son had not been present at the time of the massacre. His father had sent him to the settlement of Throckmorton to purchase supplies. Several people claimed to have seen him there. But the boy didn’t ever return to his father’s property and no one else said they’d spotted him. People questioned if the boy had really been a Muncey son. Maybe he was a cousin or an orphan the family had taken in.
Months after the massacre, human bones were found near that westward trail used by the tribes. Homesteaders believed the bones were remains of the 12 and 17-year-old Muncey boys.
Among settlers, there was speculation as to the cause of the massacre. Cherokees, Kickapoos, and other tribes living in the area were generally agricultural and non-hostile. But the Kiowas weren’t often friendly and Comanches were seen as fierce and war-like and they always raided from the west. Therefore, some thought the perpetrators were likely Comanches or perhaps Kiowas. Others pointed fingers at the large community on Village Creek that had been attacked by General Tarrant and volunteers. Had native groups who’d escaped taken revenge by killing the Munceys?
A year later, new immigrants, Joseph Russell and family, took possession of land that adjoined the former Muncey tract. An article published in the McKinney Advocate, April 13, 1880, reported: “If the Russells did not know, they surely soon heard that, less than a year before, the Muncey family had been savagely murdered by Indians. . . The Russells lived in constant fear and dread of the Indians who frequently came to the cabin demanding food. Elizabeth tried to keep hot bread baked to appease them because they seemed to favor that. When they demanded meat, she gave them a cow.”
Nonetheless, homesteaders’ fears proved unnecessary, as the massacre of the Munceys was the last fatal raid in what became Collin County.
In 1903, a fellow named G.W. “Uncle Wash” Ford was interviewed for a magazine. He was eighty-two years old and had lived in north Texas most of his life. Relative to the Munceys, he said a man named Lee had brought news about the massacre to the community of Buckner, five to six miles away. Buckner men, of which Uncle Wash was one, returned with Lee, carrying rifles and shovels. They buried the dead in a common grave on the Muncey property. Over a year later, more remains were found nearby, in the west bank of Rowlett Creek. Were these the actual bones of the missing Muncey sons? And not the bones found on the Indian trail? Settlers believed so.
Uncle Wash also reported that the death of young Joe Rice occurred at a completely different time. Wash claimed to have been with a hunting party that included Joe and several others. Joe wandered from the group and was shot by a small band of Indians. Upon hearing the gun, Wash and the others rushed to rescue Joe, but he was dead and the Indians had already taken his scalp.
Was Uncle Wash’s narrative the correct one? After all, he was elderly and the events he described had happened almost sixty years before.
Since no Muncey heir ever presented himself to claim the tract on Rowlett Creek, other people purchased the property. Over the decades, a number of families owned it. Finally, in 1999, a stone marker was donated by William Stephen Chambliss, M. D., and with the permission of the land owners, it was placed on the site of the original Muncey tract, on the west side of the creek. The marker has a cross at the top and a metal plaque on the front gives a brief description of the Munceys, McBain Jameson, and the massacre.
Within the past five years or so, the property changed hands again, purchased by a developer who built two large office buildings facing onto Highway 5. Until recently, people who wanted to see the stone marker and massacre site could park at the back of those buildings and walk to the creek. Not anymore. The property owners put up fencing and no trespassing signs, plus cameras to enforce the order.
On the east side of the creek, there is a large city park that includes a concrete bike/walking trail. Hikers can leave the trail and get to the creek. Still, not even the back of the stone marker can be seen from there.
Nowadays, you can stand in the middle of the park and, looking east, view a residential neighborhood of two-story, brick houses built maybe ten years ago. Do any of the people living there know of what happened nearby, all those many years in the past?
You can turn around and observe the trees growing along Rowlett Creek, still leafless from the winter months. And on the west side of the creek, that Muncey marker sits in the shadow of modern office buildings. Do workers there have any idea what happened within a stone’s throw of their parked cars?
Civilization doesn’t like to give up progress to preserve these places. They’re either fenced off with no trespassing signs, or they’re bulldozed and lost. Even so, the history of each site is still there, if you’re willing to hunt for it.
Map of Oak Point Park, Plano, that borders Rowlett Creek
Bike/walking trail with neighborhood close by
Old photo of Muncey marker on west side
of Rowlett Creek, now off-limits to visitors
texashistory.unt.edu Between the Creeks, Gwen Pettit, Allen Leader and Allen American, from 1986-1992