Wilbarger County is named for Josiah Pugh Wilbarger and his brother Mathias. Josiah lived from 1801-1844 and was the son of John and Ann Wilbarger. His place of birth is listed either as Rockingham County, Virginia or Bourbon County, Kentucky. He married the former Margaret Barker in Missouri in 1827 and they relocated to Matagorda, Texas in December of that year. He taught school in Matagorda for a year before moving to La Grange in Fayette County. From some time after that, he was a surveyor by trade and and eventually moved to a settlement about ten miles north of present day Bastrop, Texas, staking his own claim in an area contested by Indians about 26 miles southeast of Austin.
One day in August of 1833, he and three other individuals were surveying near the present location of Austin. They had stopped for lunch when they were attacked by Indians in the vicinity of Pecan Springs. One of his associates was soon killed. Josiah was attempting to mount up behind one of the men who managed to reach his horse when he was hit with an arrow and lost his grip. He survived the attack by acting as though he were dead, Josiah was stripped down to one sock and then scalped. When he regained consciousness, he had been left by the two companions who had escaped, as well as by the Indians. He walked a short distance, packed his wound with mud from a nearby creek and propped himself against a tree. The tale is told of neighbor Sarah Hornsby’s dream three different times that night of Josiah having survived, but being too wounded to return home. Josiah himself told of having a dream in which his sister Margaret Clifton (then living in Missouri) appeared to him, telling him to remain where he was and that he would be rescued. The following morning, Sarah Hornsby persuaded her husband and others to to go the site to find Josiah and they found him right where Sarah told them he would be.
Wilbarger was brought to safety. His wife was notified and she came to take him home. News of the attack, the dreams and his rescue were communicated to his family in Missouri. Josiah found a few weeks later that his sister had actually died the day of the attack. Josiah lived another 11 years, though he never fully recovered. He became a cotton farmer on the Colorado River but died from injuries sustained after striking his head on a low doorway when going into his gin house in April of 1844.
He was initially buried at Fairview Cemetery in Bastrop County, but in 1936, his remains were reinterred in what is now the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. The legend of the dreams is not mentioned in Zachary Taylor Fulmore’s 1915 account in History and Geography of Texas as Told in County Names, but is told in an earlier account from 1880 in the Biographic Encyclopedia of Texas, author unknown.
© 2015, all rights reserved.