Captain James Callaway

1783 – 1815

From the 1884 History of Callaway County, Missouri, page 94 – 98.

Callaway County was organized November 25, 1820, out of territory taken from Montgomery County, and was named in honor of Captain James Callaway, who was killed by the Indians at Loutre Creek, on the 7th of March 1815.

Inasmuch as Captain Callaway occupied a prominent position in the affairs of the country at the time of his death, and a few of his relatives are still living, we insert the following sketch of his life, public services, and death, as given by his sister, Mrs. Susannah Howell, corroborated by Mr. William Keithly and Rev. Thomas Bowen. (Keithly and Brown were members of Callaway’s company, though not present it the time of his death.) James Callaway, elder son of Flanders Callaway and Jemima Boone, was born in Lafayette county, Kentucky, September 13, 1783. He received a liberal education for that period, and in 1798 came with his parents to Upper Louisiana, where he remained a short time, and then returned to Kentucky to complete his education. Having finished his course he came west again, and on the 9th of May 1805, he married Nancy Howell. After his marriage he built a cabin and settled near the northwest corner of Howell’s prairie, in St. Charles County, on a small stream which he named Kraut Run. Three children resulted from this marriage – Thomas H., William B., and Theresa. Captain Callaway is described as a tall man, with black hair and eyes, high forehead, prominent cheek bones, and as erect as an Indian. He was more than usually kind and affectionate toward his family, by whom he was devotedly loved, and his intelligence and strict integrity as a man, gave him the confidence, respect and friendship of all his neighbors. He served as deputy sheriff of St. Charles County for several years under Captain Murray, and in 1813 be raised his first company of rangers for service against the Indians. This company was composed of the following named men, as shown by the muster roll, which is still preserved: Captain, James Callaway; first lieutenant, Prospect K. Robbins; second lieutenant, John B. Stone; first sergeant, Larkin S. Callaway; second sergeant, John Baldridge; third sergeant, William Smith; cornet, Jonathan Riggs; trumpeter, Thomas Howell. Privates – Frank McDermid, John Stewart, John Atkinson, Robert Truitt, Francis Howell, Joseph Hinds, Richard Berry, Thomas Smith, Adam Zumwalt, Enoch Taylor, Aleck Baldridge, Lewis Crow, Benjamin Howell, Anthony C. Palmer, Daniel Hays, Boone Hays, Adam Zumwalt, Jr., John Howell and James Kerr. This company was enlisted for a term of only a few months, and Captain Callaway organized several others before his death. The roll of his last company was in his possession when he was killed, and it was lost, but from the memory of old citizens we are enabled to give a pretty correct list of the names of the men, as follows: Captain, James Callaway; first Lieutenant, David Bailey ; second lieutenant, Jonathan Riggs. Privates – James McMullin, Hiram Scott, Frank McDermid, William Keithley, Thomas Bowman, Robert Baldridge, James Kennedy, Thomas Chambers, Jacob Groom, Parker Hutchings,_____Wolf, Thomas Gilmore.

Early in the morning on the 7th of March, 1815, Captain Callaway, with Lieutenant Riggs and fourteen of the men, viz. McMullin, Scott, McDermid, Robert and John Baldridge, Hutchins, Kennedy, Chambers, Wolf, Gilmore, Deason, Murdock, Kent and Berry, left Fort Clemson, on Loutre island, in pursuit of a party of Sac and Fox Indians who had stolen some horses from settlers in the vicinity. They swam Loutre slough on their horses, and followed the Indian trail, which led them up to the west hank of the main stream. (Loutre slough runs from west to east, parallel with the Missouri river, from which it flows, and into which it empties again, at a distance of seven or eight miles below. Loutre creek flows from northwest to southeast, and empties into the slough at nearly right angles.) The trail being very plain, they had no difficulty in pursuing it, and they made rapid progress. Reaching Prairie fork, a branch of Loutre, they swam it on their horses, a distance of seventy-five yards above where it empties into Loutre creek. It was now about noon and feeling sure that they were not far in the rear of the Indians, they advanced with caution, in order to avoid surprise. About two o’clock in the afternoon, and about twelve miles from where they had crossed Prairie fork, they came upon the stolen horses, secreted in a bend of Loutre creek and guarded by only a few squaws. These fled upon the approach of the rangers, and the latter secured the horses without further trouble. They were not molested in any manner, and not a sign of an Indian warrior could be seen anywhere, although the appearance of the trail had proven conclusively that the party numbered from eighty to 100. These circumstances aroused the suspicions of Lieutenant Riggs, and obtaining the consent of his captain, he reconnoitered the locality thoroughly. before they started on their return. No signs of Indians could be discovered; still his suspicions were not allayed, but on the contrary, they were increased, and he suggested to Callaway that it would be dangerous to return by the route they had followed in the morning, as the savages were evidently preparing an ambuscade for them. Captain Callaway was an experienced Indian fighter, and as wary as he was brave, but on this occasion he did not allow himself to be governed by his better judgment. He declared that he did not believe there were half a dozen Indians in the vicinity, and that he intended to return to the fort by the same route they had come.

Seeing that further expostulation was useless, Riggs said nothing more at the time; and the rangers were soon in the saddle and on the march for the fort.

Upon reaching a suitable place, about a mile from the mouth of Prairie fork, they stopped to let the horses rest, and to refresh themselves with a lunch. Riggs availed himself of the opportunity, and again represented to the captain the danger they were incurring. He anticipated an attack at the crossing of the creek, and entreated Callaway, for the sake of the lives of the men, to at least avoid that point. He showed that the Indians would have all the advantages on their side; they outnumbered the rangers three to one, were not encumbered with horses, and would, no doubt, fire upon them from their concealment behind trees and logs, where the fire could not be successfully returned. But Callaway, instead of heeding the good advice of his lieutenant, flew into a passion, and cursed him for a coward. He declared, also, that he would return the way he had come if he had to go alone. Riggs said nothing more, but reluctantly followed his captain into what he felt sure was almost certain death.

Hutching, McDermid, and McMullin were in advance, leading the stolen horses, while Callaway, Riggs, and the rest of the company were fifty or a hundred yards in the rear.

The three men in advance, upon reaching Prairie fork, plunged their horses into the stream, which was swollen from recent rains, and were swimming across, when they were fired upon by the entire body of Indians, concealed on both sides of the creek. They were not harmed by the first volley, but succeeded in reaching the opposite shore, where they were killed.

At the first sound of firing, Callaway spurred his horse forward into the creek, and had nearly reached the opposite shore, when he was fired upon. His horse was instantly killed, while he received a slight wound in the left arm, and escaped immediate death only by the ball lodging against his watch, which was torn to pieces. He sprang from his dead horse to the bank, and throwing his gun into the creek, muzzle down, he ran down the stream a short distance, then plunged into the water and commenced swimming, when he was shot in the back of the head, the ball passing through and lodging in his forehead. His body sank immediately, and was not scalped or mutilated by the Indians.

In the meantime Lieutenant Riggs and the rest of the men were hotly engaged and forced to retreat, fighting as they went. Several were wounded, but none killed. They could not tell what execution was done among the Indians. Scott and Wolf became separated from the main body, and the former was killed. Wolf escaped to the fort, and was the first to bring the news of the disaster, which he greatly exaggerated, supposing himself to be the only one who had escaped death.

Riggs and the men under him fell back about a mile, and turning to the right, crossed Prairie fork about the same distance above its month, and making a wide circuit, escaped without further molestation to the fort.

The following day a company of men returned to the scene of the fight for the purpose of burying the dead. The bodies of Hutchings, McDermid and McMullen had been cut to pieces and hung on surrounding bushes. The remains were gathered up and buried in one grave, near the spot where they were killed. It is said that Hutchings and McDermid, shortly before their deaths, had a bitter quarrel, and had agreed to fight it out with rifles as soon as their term of service expired. But their quarrel was brought to a sudden and tragic termination without any intervention of their own, and now their bodies slumber together in the same grave. Thus death ends all animosities.

Captain Callaway’s body was not found until several days after his death, when, the water having receded, it was discovered by Benjamin Howell, hanging in a bush several hundred yards below the scene of the fight. His gun had been recovered several days before. It was found standing upright, with the muzzle sticking fast in the mud at the bottom of the creek. Lewis Jones swam in and brought the gun to the shore, and fired it as readily as if it had never been in the water. It had an improved waterproof flintlock, which water could not penetrate.

Flanders Callaway, learning the death of his son, had come from St. Charles County with a company of men, to assist in searching for the body, and he was present when it was found. The body was wrapped in blankets and buried on the side of an abrupt hill, over-looking Loutre creek. Several months afterward the grave was walled in with rough stones, and a flat slab was laid across the head, on which was engraved:

CAPTAIN JAS. CALLAWAY,

March 7, 1815.

The slab had been prepared in St. Charles County by Tarleton Doe, a cousin of the dead ranger.

Surname Index
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Transcriptions
Township Transcriptions | Biography Transcriptions | Crimes and Criminals | Old Settlers | Official Records | Wars

Comments are closed.