Remembering a forgotten battle

Photo by Kat Hinson

Danny Hair led a smudging ceremony at the July 18 Battle of the Neches Memorial.

Van Zandt County once had a red-haired, freckled-faced Indian chief that led 13 tribes of Indians against the Texas Calvary in a battle to the death.

In the tip of the southeastern party of VZC close to Redland, a Cherokee Indian chief and Texas Republic President Sam Houston are memorialized by a five-foot granite marker, denoting the location of the Battle of the Neches.

A gruesome death awaited the half Scotch-Irish and Cherokee Indian Chief Duwa’li Bowles when he took a stand against Texas Republic President Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar who ordered that all Cherokee Indians be removed from Texas in the 1830s, thus forcing Bowles and his tribe from their homes and land previously given to them by Houston.

The Battle of the Neches memorial was held July 18 at the location of the battle between Chief Bowles and his tribe of Cherokee Indians and the Texas Calvary.

The American Indian Cultural Society sponsored the memorial along with state and national tribes.

In the 126 years since the Battle of the Neches, what remains now is a lone memorial, testament to a battle and lives lost of people carving out a life in the southeastern part of Van Zandt County.

Memorial event organizer Sondra McAdams said the reason for the event is to keep the memory alive of the battle.

“Our aim is to keep the history alive at what happened in what looks to be an empty pasture,” she said. “For well over 25 years we have had memorials for the battle and we will continue to do so to keep the memory alive of Chief Bowles and his village.”

McAdams also stressed the need for grants and developments at the site of the battle.

“We desperately need help maintaining the land, memorial and buildings to keep the memory alive of those who stood up for what they believed in,” she said. “Our goal is to teach the history of what happened in our county and in the state to our children. If you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

Eagle Douglas, who owns the land that the battle was fought on and where the memorial is placed, said feels a connection to those who once inhabited the land.

“You can still feel the spirits of the people who died on this land,” he said. “My aim is to keep the area well taken care of and also pay tribute to a memory of a battle fought.”


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