Buffalo Hump was a formidable Comanche war chief, thought to have been born around 1790. He lived until around 1870 and was one of the most influential Comanche leaders during his lifetime. His native name was Pachanaquarship and he was a respected leader among the Comanche tribe almost his entire adult life. His band were called the Penetekas which is roughly translated “honey eaters” and though they ranged widely in Texas, they spent a considerable amount of time in the general area that is now Abilene.
(Image: uncredited. No documented photos of Buffalo Hump can be found.)
He and his warriors ranged from the Canadian River on the north to the Llano River to the south. One of their favorite campgrounds was near the Santa Anna Mountains in the eastern part of Coleman County. These mountains were named for the Comanche chief Santa Anna rather than for the Mexican dictator of the same name. Buffalo Hump’s warriors are known to have attacked white settlers for roughly thirty years prior 1850 as Texas was being settled. In addition to this, the Comanche had considerable success raiding into Mexico.
Buffalo Hump is prominently noted as a Comanche leader during the Council House Fight in 1840 in San Antonio when around 30 Comanche were killed. At his time, he would have been about 50 years of age. In revenge and retaliation for this, Buffalo Hump led what is called the Great Raid of 1840. It began in the plains of West Texas and terminated beyond Victoria near Linnville with the Comanche succeeding in killing many whites and taking goods, horses and supplies along the way. Elements of the Texas Army along with a number of armed civilian militia pursued and engaged the Comanche at Plum Creek near the current town of Lockhart with both sides claiming some element of victory.
Buffalo Hump met with Sam Houston in late 1843 while Houston was president of the Republic of Texas. Near the end of Houston’s second and final term, Houston desired to forge a treaty with the Comanche. Houston, Buffalo Hump and another chief, Old Owl, discussed a tentative area that would be set aside for the Comanche. Old Owl had also come to prominance after the Council House Fight. He was mostly considered to be a civil chief, although he is known to have also led some raids in his early years. Near the end of the 1840s, Old Owl is believed to have succumbed to a cholera epidemic that had swept through the tribe immediately on the heels of a smallpox epidemic the year before.
The land offered to the tribes under Houston’s 1843 proposed treaty with the Comanche and other tribes would have been large, though the written descriptions of it are somewhat confusing. It was to be a vast area that would have begun near the Red River, extended to include the sacred lands of Comanche Peak, now in Hood County, proceeded southwesterly to near the current town of Menard extending nearly to the Rio Grande. Nevertheless, Buffalo Hump was not satisfied with the terms and refused to sign the treaty as presented, so it was withdrawn by Houston. One can only speculate whether the Texas Legislature would have ratified the treaty even if it had been signed, since Houston (sarcastically referred to as the “best friend the Indians ever had”) experienced considerable opposition to any treaty with the tribes. This was to be one of the last opportunities to fashion an agreement between the Republic and the Comanche, since shortly thereafter, Texas became part of the United States. Following this development, Texas obtained significant support from the United States Army against the Comanche and its foe to the south, Mexico. Buffalo Hump finally surrendered, but not until after several more years of Comanche raids.
Buffalo Hump was known to be a wily leader. One of the early Comanche reservations was created in 1855 north of Albany, Texas and chiefs were asked to bring in their people. The reservation was under the military leadership of U. S. Army Captain Marcy, and was roughly situated along the border between Haskell and Thorckmorton counties. Two chiefs, Sanaco and Katemesee, agreed and brought their people in, but Buffalo Hump refused. He reportedly tried to negotiate with the Indian Agent to receive a cache of liquor, but the agent refused. The chief made another bargain with the agent as the weather got cold and the Agent accepted, providing the Comanche with clothing and blankets. Buffalo Hump and his people agreed to the arrangement, but bolted the reservation after only one night. The chief is known to have made at least one more attempt to negotiate his followers’ resettlement but this time the agent refused.
Buffalo Hump eventually led his people to the reservation near Albany and, probably weary from over fifty years of fighting, he stayed. After about three years, the United States government decided to relocate this reservation and the Comanche were moved from there to the Wichita reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1858. The reasons given for this move were to improve conditions of the tribe which had complained of the poor food, problems with squatters and horse thieves and their general lack of freedom.
Shortly thereafter there was an incident in which the Penetekas were attacked on October of 1858 by Army forces under Major Earl van Dorn in which 80 to 90 of the tribe were killed. Major van Dorn was unaware that the Comanche were returning from negotiating a treaty at Fort Arbuckle. Some accounts portray van Dorn as a gallant and honorable officer while others portray him as having executed a surprise attack on the Wichita Village at the same time as the tribe was negotiating a peace settlement. However, this event likely contributed to the Penetekas’ resignation to accept the move to Fort Sill. The old chief was still influential inside the Oklahoma reservation. It is recorded that he caused some difficulty for the authorities in the early days, although he remained there peacefully.
Fort Cobb was established on October 1, 1859 and was thirty miles to the north of the main headquarters of Fort Sill. Fort Cobb was named for Secretery of the Treasury William Cobb who happened to be a friend of Major William Emory. Emory was its founding officer and Fort Cobb remained active under Union command even during the civil war. The United States government decided to split up the Fort Sill reservation and populated Fort Cobb with Kiowa and Comanche residents including Buffalo Hump. The chief, now in his senior years, asked for a house and some land, which he was given.
In popular culture, the chief was one of several historically named characters in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove book series and film adaptation of the same name. He was also a named character in the film The Outlaw Josey Wales, although neither work was intended to present an accurate historical portrayal of facts of the chief’s life.
Once a great and feared Comanche war chief, Buffalo Hump lived peacefully on the reservation in Oklahoma until he died in 1870. At this writing, the location of his grave is unknown using traditional genealogical sources.
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