Texas community remembers Killough Massacre

By Kenneth Dean
Mount Selman, Texas (AP) September 2010

At the end of a long and narrow paved drive, nestled between a grove of pines in rural Cherokee County stands a stone obelisk surrounded by a cemetery.

The cemetery – which is unkempt and littered with unmowed grass, broken branches, beer cans and broken bottles – is home to the Killough massacre, where 18 members of one family either were killed or abducted by a band of American Indians, Mexicans and others in 1838 – just two years after Texas won its freedom from Mexico.

John Killough, a descendant, said the family had moved from Alabama to East Texas where they bought the land with gold to begin a new life.

“They had a few problems with the Indians, but after a treaty, which had been signed by Sam Houston with the Indians – giving them a million acres – was broken, there were revolts all over. That coupled with some Mexicans, who once held offices before Texas was freed from Mexican control, stirring up trouble led to the massacre,” he said.

John Killough said Vincente Cordova, a high-ranking official during Mexico’s reign over Texas, led a rebellion and led various groups to rise against the Texans in order to regain Texas for Mexico.

On Oct. 5, 1838, one of those bands attacked the Killough settlement.

The survivors, including Isaac Killough’s wife, Urcey, eventually made their way to Lacy’s Fort 40 miles south and told soldiers what had happened.

The following day a group, led by General Thomas J. Rusk, set out after the band and eventually caught the group near Frankston and a battle ensued leaving many members of the raiding party dead.

The massacre, and other rebellious acts, led to the Cherokee War in 1839 and the Battle of the Neches where Chief Bowles and at least 100 other Cherokee were killed in Van Zandt County.

John Killough said the Works Projects Administration built the obelisk in the 1930s and the cemetery gained Historical Society status in the 1970s to mark the spot of the tragic event.

Today, a fence that once surrounded the cemetery has been torn out of the ground, markers have been smashed and grave covers have been shattered.

John Killough said he and other descendents of the Killough family have battled vandalism for years, but recent vandalism has caused the condition of the cemetery to become hopeless.

“Sorry to report the cemetery is hopeless, there is no way to stop the vandals short of a 24-hour heavily armed guard ... We tried to keep it nice for awhile, but a favorite act of the vandals is to knock over the official state marker by the entrance,” John Killough wrote on the family’s announcement page.

John Killough said he was saddened the vandals had again knocked over the marker and the cemetery was in disarray.

“I think we have finally given up because it’s hopeless. We fix it, then they go back in and do it again. It is really upsetting as this is not just my family’s history but a piece of Texas history,” he said.

John Killough said the family does have a small bank account for minor upkeep, but not enough to repair the destruction seen in recent years.

To visit the site, take U.S. Highway 69 south from Tyler to Farm-to-Market Road 855 in Mount Selman and travel west and turn west on County Road 3405 to County Road 3409.

The drive to the monument is marked by two large stones on the left side of CR 3405.