Published on June 22, 2021
You know where Jones Creek is, but have you heard about Capt. Jones?
By Janice R. Edwards
Have you ever wondered where Jones Creek got its name? Well, Capt. Randall Jones earned it - the hard way.
In the history of Brazoria County, battles with hostile Indians are rarely recounted, but there was one battle in September, 1824, that changed the course of Austin’s colony and marked the beginning of the end for the Karankawa tribe.
The Karankawas ruled the Texas Coast for hundreds of years, moving from camp to camp, following their food sources. In 1665, there were an estimated 8,000 Karankawas (total of various tribes) living along the Texas coast. By 1822, their numbers had reduced to an estimated 800 – 1200. They were feared for their fierceness in battle and being cannibalistic.
By the time Stephen F. Austin was establishing his colony, the Karankawa numbers had declined drastically, due to the loss of bison that once roamed the coast in great numbers, disease and loss of their normal seasonal camps, due to the encroachment of white settlers. The “Kronks”, as the tribe was called, still needed to eat and began raiding settlements, stealing crops and butchering colonist’s livestock.
If Austin’s Colony was to succeed, the Indian raids and killing had to be quelled. In October, 1823, Stephen F. Austin issued an order to that effect, stating ”…full authority is hereby given … to make war against the Karankaway (sic) Indians and to raise men … and attack or pursue any party of said Indians that may appear on the Coast or on the River…”
Early in 1824, news came to Austin in San Felipe that new colonists had been attacked, killed and partially eaten. Captain Chriesman, while surveying lands on the San Bernard near Gulf Prairie, also had several skirmishes with the Karankawas. By that summer, Austin had heard enough about the “Kronks” from colonists on the coast and was determined to rid the colony of this threat once and for all. So began the Karankawa Campaign of 1824.
“The Indians and the Karankawas may be called Universal Enemies to man – they kill all nations that come in power,” Austin said. “They frequently feast on the bodies of their Victims.
Jones elected captain
In June 1824, Austin formed five militia companies to protect his colony. Adventurer, Indian fighter and friend, Randall Jones, was elected captain of the company at Brazoria, an area from Chocolate Bayou to 22 leagues up the Brazos River. On Sept. 12, 1824, Austin sent Capt. Jones on a mission to determine if the Karankawas were the source of the latest slayings at the mouth of the Brazos, and if that were true, to eliminate the threat to the colonists.
Capt. Jones set off by boat down the Brazos with a group of 23 men to verify the reports and engage the “Kronks”. Along the way, he encountered several small groups of Karankawas, who, when they saw the preparations of the militia and grasped their intent, feigned friendship. When Jones reached the mouth of the Brazos, his scouts reported that an encampment of about 30 Karankawas were camped at a small creek (now known as Jones Creek), where it widened out into a lake before flowing into the San Bernard, some seven miles to the west.
When Jones’ scout discovered that an additional band of eight to 10 had gone upriver to Brit Bailey’s store to purchase ammunition, he sent two men upriver to raise an additional force. When those two reached Bailey’s store, they discovered several settlers standing around the store observing the actions of the Karankawas.
Bailey refused to sell the “Kronks’ any munitions, and they became agitated. The group of settlers continued watching the actions of the Indians. They gathered around the store as they became more and more unsettled. Fearing outright hostilities were being planned the following morning, the colonists began shooting. They killed a couple of Indians, but the others collected their dead and wounded and escaped to their larger encampment downriver.
Jones takes action
In the meantime, Capt. Jones returned upriver on the Brazos opposite to the Karankawa camp on Jones Creek where he and his company disembarked. There, they concealed themselves until after sundown and sent out spies to determine the exact location and condition of the Kronk’s encampment. Jones’ spies returned at midnight, but without a good enough description of the position of the encampment to advance. The militiamen, therefore, remained hidden and quiet until the next day. Just at sunset, howling and war whoops exploded from the Indian camp. Their comrades from the skirmish at Brit Bailey’s had returned carrying their dead and wounded. It was the break Jones had been waiting for. Now he knew the Karankawa camp was on the west bank of the creek where it widened into a lake just before flowing into the San Bernard River. Not waiting for his reinforcements, he acted.
Jones’ company crossed the creek half a mile above the Karankawa camp and slipped down the west side, arriving within 60 yards of their foe. There, the company stopped, waiting for daybreak and the element of surprise. Once it was light enough to see the sights of their rifles, they realized that the Indian camp was right on the bank of the creek surrounded by reeds and tall grass. Jones gathered his men and attacked the camp.
After the first bullets flew, the Indians hid in the tall grasses and returned fire with bows and arrows. Jones’ men were now exposed and suffered one dead and several wounded. They retreated up the creek, re-crossing it and retiring in the direction of the settlement. The Indians pursued them until they crossed the creek. As Jones was negotiating the creek, he glimpsed an Indian drawing a bead on him. He raised his gun and killed the Kronk on the spot. “That was the narrowest squeak of my fighting career,” Jones later reported.
Battle took mere minutes
In mere minutes, the battle was over. The “Kronks” killed numbered 15, while the militia lost three men: Phelps Bailey (son of Brit Bailey), William H. Singer and William S. Spencer. There were some wounded on both sides. Jones and his men returned home, and the Indians retreated west across the San Bernard.
As a result of this battle, Jones’ reputation grew across the colony, and the creek where the skirmish took place was named in his honor. Another creek in Fort Bend County that ran across Jones’ land grant also bears his name.
Jones returned to his homestead on Jones Creek two miles above the present-day Richmond in Fort Bend County. Stephen F. Austin officiated over his wedding to Polly Andrews on Oct. 12, 1824.
(Write Janice in care of The Bulletin. Email: email@example.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)