Seminole Scout Descendants, Matthew Gaines, and Packsaddle Mountain

Distance Traveled: 504,665 steps taken together from San Antonio


Location: Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Llano, TX
Churches: St. Peter’s, St. Barnabas’, and Grace Episcopal

Opening Prayer
You call us, Lord,
to leave familiar things and to leave our “comfort zone”.
May we open our eyes to new experiences,
may we open our ears to hear you speaking to us
and may we open our hearts to your love.
Grant that this time spent on pilgrimage
may help us to see ourselves as we really are
and may we strive to become the people you would have us be. Amen

 

Welcome to Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Llano!

Kerrville, TX

We’ve headed northwest of Comfort to find ourselves in the town of Kerrville. With a population just under 24,000, Kerrville has become a destination hot spot for dining, shopping, and music in the last few years. It is also home to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. 

St. Peter’s held its first public service in 1881 and became the first denominational church in Kerrville in 1888. The church building is in the same location today. They have a school that serves children pre-k through kindergarten which opened in 1969. St. Peter’s has three services on Sunday and hosts Christian Formation for all ages throughout the week. They also have a charitable resale shop called The Cottage House that was opened in 1967 by the Episcopal Church Women of St. Peter’s. In addition to providing high-quality second-hand goods to the community of Kerrville, The Cottage House donates to a myriad of charities with their profits including The Battered Women’s Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Good Samaritan Center, World Missions of DWTX, and more. They are currently served by The Rev. Bert Baetz, Rector. 

Since the founding of the nation, many Native American tribes and individuals have served in the military, though their stories have often been overshadowed and untold.  One group with direct links to Texas was the Black Seminole Scouts.  During both the colonial era and early years of the nation, the Seminoles of Florida resisted occupation and were able to live autonomously in the Florida wilderness.  Many escaped slaves would seek refuge among the Seminoles, forming communities on the edge of tribal lands and intermarrying with tribal members.  After several wars with the US, in 1842 the Seminole tribes were forced to relocate to reservations in modern-day Oklahoma.  However, members of the tribes of African descent ran the risk of being enslaved, so many members escaped to Mexico where they were welcomed by the government and would later be joined by members of other Native tribes.

After the end of the Civil War and during the beginning of what would be known as the Indian Wars, the US government sent representatives to Mexico to recruit members of the Black Seminoles to serve as scouts for the army in their fights in Texas and the Southwest.  About 200 members of the tribe and their families would make the move, and the Seminole scouts would come to be regarded as one of the toughest soldiers on the frontier, often serving alongside the other African American units (the Buffalo Soldiers).  While the unit saw extensive combat in Texas and the Southwest the unit never lost a single man to combat, though several members would be killed in incidents of racial violence with local townspeople near the forts they were stationed at.  In 1914 the US army would officially disband the unit, and force all but a few older members off of military bases.  However, members of the unit and their descendants settled in many towns throughout Texas, with one of the largest descendent populations being located in Kerrville.

Fredericksburg, TX

From shopping and local winery tours to the Pacific War Museum and Admiral Nimitz’s childhood home, Fredericksburg, TX boasts entertainment for all. The Episcopal Church’s presence in the town began in 1946 when Episcopalians began meeting in one another’s homes. In 1954 they purchased an old German settler family log cabin which would become their first public house of worship. In 1965 the new parish building of St. Barnabas was consecrated, although the original log cabin is still in use today as a chapel. They hold three services a Sunday and are currently served by The Rev. Jeff Hammond, Rector. 

The institution of American chattel slavery was by its nature designed to crush the soul of those enslaved through brutality and backbreaking labor.  Even with these crushing shackles, many enslaved and formerly enslaved individuals would find ways to not only help their fellow man but also make the world better through acts of selflessness and devotion.  One such individual who resided in Texas was the minister, Texas State Senator, and community leader Matthew Gaines.

Matthew Gaines

Born into slavery in Louisiana in 1812, Gaines would teach himself to read from smuggled books by candlelight.  During his years of enslavement, Gaines would attempt two escapes to freedom, with the second one to Mexico resulting in his recapture in 1863 in Fredericksburg, Texas where he would remain until emancipation on June 19th, 1865 (now known as Juneteenth).

Settling in Washington County, Gaines would establish himself as a leader in the African American community as a Minister in the Baptist Church, and in 1869 he was elected as a State Senator.  Believing strongly in education and breaking the system of itinerant farming known as sharecropping, throughout his term Gaines supported the establishment of the first public school systems and the use of Federal land grants to create the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (modern Day A&M University).  Gaine’s political career would, unfortunately, be cut short when in a politically motivated trial he was accused of bigamy.  Though the charge was overturned on appeal, he was removed from office and replaced by a white senator.  Gaines would continue to be active in politics and would advocate for the African American community both in public and from the pulpit.  Gaines would pass away in Giddings, Texas on June 11, 1900.

 

Llano, TX

Llano, TX has a population of 3,400 and sits on the picturesque Llano River. The first European settlers arrived in 1847 and were of German descent. Llano is home to Grace Episcopal Church. The stone building of the church was erected in 1881 and was intended to be a private academy. When this venture failed the building and land were conveyed to the West Texas Missionary District in 1885. The first service was held in 1888. The stone church was designated as a historical landmark in 1962 and a new parish hall was added in 1972. Today, Grace Church holds a service of Holy Eucharist on Sunday and Morning Prayer on Wednesday. Members host food drives regularly for the local food bank and meet for Bible Study weekly. They are currently served by The Rev. Betsy Stephenson, Priest-in-Charge. 

Llano county officially lists the 1873 Packsaddle fight as the last Native American raid in the county. Two small markers are denoting the story of an Apache raid and retaliation by a group of local ranchers that resulted in four deaths of Apache natives and three injured ranchers. What this history fails to tell is the larger history of the tension of European settlers coming into a land that was already inhabited by native peoples. Texas’ early history is often said to be sparsely populated, however, we know that a wide diversity of first peoples and tribes inhabited the region and called it home for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. Not only was the land taken from these groups, but treaties were often not upheld and the genocide of native culture and traditions was excused and viewed as necessary to assimilate tribes into the euro-centric culture. The particular violence in Llano County is not unique in the United States, nor is how the Packsaddle event is written. Aside from the two historical markers, a painting said to show the Packsaddle battle hangs in the Llano county courthouse. This painting depicts the ranchers in the foreground as defenders of the land, only one side of this complicated story.

Optional Exercises

Research the land of your upbringing and learn what native peoples called it home before modern settlers. Did you already know this history? If so, where did you learn this history? Are the tribes still a part of that community?  

For an outing, visit the Witte Museum to learn more about the First Peoples of Texas. 

Closing Prayer

O God of infinite mercy, we live in a land where the native peoples were moved, often by force, from the bountiful lands they inhabited to places of desolation. Help us to support them now as they seek to retain their rich native cultures. Open our eyes to the poverty and despair that so often accompany them through life, and give us the courage and will to change the systems that perpetuate injustice, for the sake of your Son our Lord. Amen. -The Diocese of West Virginia

 

Next Stop Coming Thursday, June 24th

Confronting Hard Stories

Next Location: San Saba, Brady, Menard, Ft. McKavett TX
Distance to Travel: 258,000 steps from Llano (487,000 from San Antonio total)
Churches: St. Luke’s, St. Paul’s, Calvary Episcopal, and St. James’