|Biographies of Great Lipan Chiefs|
Flacco (abt. 1790- abt. 1850)
Chief Flacco led a Lower Lipan band
which ranged from east of San Antonio to areas southwest of San Antonio
(particularly Medina and Uvalde counties). He first appears in the Texas
historical record during the Royalist-Republican struggles of 1812, as followers
of Father Hidalgo attempted to include Texas in the uprising caused by the priest’s
grito for the independence of Mexico from Spain. Chiefs Flacco
and Cuelgas de Castro visited the camp of the Texas Hispanic rebels,
who had been joined by American filibusters, shortly after the group had
captured Nacogdoches. But the Lipan chiefs sensed that the rebels did not
enjoy the full support of the people of Texas and were divided in their
aims, so Flacco and Cuelgas did not bring their warriors to
fight in the Battle of Medina in 1813 (although other Lipan chiefs did
Once Mexico gained its independence in 1821, however, Chief
Flacco traveled to Monclova, Coahuila, to sign a peace treaty
with Gaspar Lopez, a representative of the new government. The chief also
established a friendly relationship with Stephen F. Austin and the American
colonists who had been allowed to settle in east Texas. In 1829, when Abner
Kuykendall and other Austin colonists launched a military campaign against
the Wacos and Wichitas, Chief Flacco and his warriors rode with them
and participated in several successful battles.
After Texas gained its independence in 1836, Chief Flacco
and his warriors continued to play a vital role in the defense of the
new Republic. From 1838 to 1840, they joined Texas militia units led
by Stephen Moore in campaigns against the Comanches. But Chief Flacco’s
closest association with the Texans was his relationship with the famed
Texas Ranger, John “Jack” Coffee Hays. Hays described the Chief as “tall
and erect, with well-shaped limbs. He gave an impression of bounding
elasticity. His circlet of eagle feathers was set back on his forehead
so that it revealed his black eyes and gave to his bearing a fierce
alertness coupled with strength and agility. Flacco’s general
appearance was suggestive of the hawk and the panther.” The Texas
Ranger also credited Flacco with saving his life on several
occasions in battles against the Comanches.
Chief Flacco also became a well-known figure in early
Austin society, where he was often invited to dine with the leaders
of the new Texas government. However, as more settlers began to pour
into Texas, the Lipans began to be unjustly blamed for depredations
committed by other tribes. In 1841, Chiefs Flacco and Cueglas de Castro
were arrested in Austin on the suspicion that some of their warriors
had killed a settler named James Boyce. Although the chiefs denied
that the Lipans had been involved, they were held in jail until proof
was found which showed that Comanches had committed the murder.
The sentiment in Texas began to turn against the Lipan Apaches.
However, Chief Flacco and his warriors continued to assist
in the defense of the Republic of Texas. Flacco’s son and other
warriors scouted and fought for General Somervell when the Texans were
forced to repel a Mexican invasion in 1842. Flacco the Younger’s
scouts were attacked by Mexican forces at Goliad and were part of the
Somervell force which chased the Mexican invaders back across the Rio
Grande into Mexico. But on their way back from Mexico, Flacco the
Younger was killed. Although Sam Houston and other Texas government
officials tried to blame the murder on Mexican bandits or Cherokees,
Chief Flacco was convinced that his son had been killed by Anglo settlers.
Sam Houston wrote a moving memorial tribe to the younger Flacco,
in which he promised that the older chief and his son would not be
forgotten and that the Texans would “be kind to the Lipan. Grass
shall not grow in the path between us.” But Sam Houston was only one
man and most Texans wanted the Lipans either dead or forced out of their
homeland of San Antonio and south Texas. When the Texas government began
to talk about forcing the Lipans to move north of Austin into territory
inhabited by their Comanche enemies, a disillusioned Chief Flacco
led his band into Mexico. Flacco had been a good friend to the Texans.
He supported them in their struggles for independence; he defended them against
hostile tribes. And he was rewarded with the murder of his son and eviction
from his homeland.
Poca Ropa (abt. 1750- abt. 1790)
Poca Ropa (few or scant clothes) was an
eighteenth century chief of the Little Breech-clout band whose territories lay
along the lower Pecos River of Texas. It is unknown whether Poca Ropa took
his name from that of his band or visa versa, since Poca Ropa and Little
Breech-clout mean virtually the same thing- a short version of the breech-clout
worn only by this particular Lipan group. Chief Poca Ropa is first
mentioned in the historical records in 1775 in connection with Chief Cavezon (Big Head),
a powerful Lipan chief whose band inhabited territory from the San Saba
to the upper Nueces Rivers of Texas. In October 1775, nine large Lipan
rancherías, including those of Cavezon and Poca Ropa’s
bands, were observed camping together along the Rio Grande. Juan de Ugalde,
Governor of Coahuila, revealed in 1780 that Poca Ropa had married the
daughter of Cavezon. This marriage represented not only a union of two
families but also indicated a defensive alliance between two bands whose territories
lay in adjoining areas of southwestern Texas. Poca Ropa also developed a friendly
relationship with Governor Ugalde, bringing his band to camp near the presidio of
Agua Verde (near the present-day border town of Quemado, Texas) in order to receive
food and protection by Spanish troops. Ugalde reported that he met with Poca Ropa
to discuss Spanish frontier Indian policy over a stiff drink, although the chief
was “… careful to leave his rifle with me for the purpose of making himself tame”
since the topic under discussion- the Spanish repudiation of assistance to the
Lipans in favor of a Comanche alliance- inflamed the passions of the Lipan chief.
Poca Ropa is last mentioned in 1788, when it was noted that he and his band
were camped in Coahuila near Texas Lipan chief Casimiro.
The name Poca Ropa re-surfaced in 1822
when Chief Yolcna Pocarropa (also spelled Yolcha or Yoléna Pocarropa) ,
representing the Lipan bands of west Texas, agreed to a peace treaty with
Anastacio Bustamante, frontier military commander of a newly-independent Mexico.
Yolcna Pocarropa was the successor to Poca Ropa, possibly
his son or grandson. After signing the Bustamante Treaty, Chiefs Yolcna Pocarropa
and Cuelgas de Castro journeyed to Mexico City, in order to ratify
the treaty and meet with representatives of Mexican Emperor Iturbidé. Yolcna Pocarropa
last appears in the historical records of Texas in 1828 when he negotiated a
second treaty at Laredo. By 1828, Yolcna Pocarropa had relocated his
band from west Texas and settled them at a fixed settlement near the town of Laredo.
By 1830, the Pocarropa band had moved across the Rio Grande into Tamaulipas,
settling downriver from Laredo at a location now covered by Falcon Lake, although the
band crossed frequently back and forth from Mexico into Texas. The descendants of
Yolcna Pocarropa have inhabited the Falcon Lake to McAllen area of south
Texas from 1830 until the present day.
Cuelgas de Castro (abt. 1792-1842/1844)
Cuelgas de Castro was an early to
mid-nineteenth century chief of the Sun Otter band which had traditionally
inhabited the San Antonio and south Texas region. Cuelgas, born about
1792, was the son of Josef Chiquito and grandson of Josef Grande el
Manco (Big Joseph the One-Armed), progenitor of the primary line of Sun
Otter chiefs. The Castro surname was informally bestowed on the
family, and particularly on the infant Cuelgas, by Ramon de Castro,
military commander of the northeastern Spanish frontier provinces from 1787
to 1792. The descendants of Cuelgas retained the Castro
surname throughout the nineteenth century and bear the surname today.
When Cuelgas was about eighteen
years old, he and other Lipans joined Samuel Kemperer in attacking San
Antonio during the Gutierrez-Magee expedition (1812), although Cuelgas
did not participate in the later Battle of Medina (1814). Cuelgas de Castro
had risen to leadership of the Sun Otter band by 1822, when he traveled to Mexico
City with Yolcna Pocarropa to ratify the Bustamante treaty with the new
government of Mexico; one provision of that treaty offered land grants to the
Lipans in order to bring them “under the cares of civilization.” In 1826,
Cuelgas signed a second treaty at Laredo with the government of Mexico;
Cuelgas was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel and he drew a salary from
the Republic of Mexico. Cuelgas’ band received gifts and food subsidies
distributed from Laredo through 1827.
After Texas independence in 1836,
Chief Cuelgas de Castro, his son John (or Juan) Castro
and warriors from the Sun Otter band fought as auxiliary troops in Texas
militia engagements with the Comanches, most notably the attack on a
Comanche camp led by Col. J.H. Moore in 1839 in which captive Matilda
Lockhart was rescued. In 1838, Cuelgas signed the Treaty of
Live Oak Point, a “treaty of friendship and mutual aid between his
people and the Republic of Texas.”
Although the Sun Otter band traditionally
inhabited the San Antonio area, they ranged into south Texas and across the
Rio Grande south of Laredo. In 1840, Cuelgas and his band were
living at a buffalo camp near the northern Mexican village of Estacas
(Tamaulipas) where a resident recalled, “I knew the Lipan Indians at
Estacas below Laredo till as late as 1840. They killed many buffalo
and brought the meat and skins to that place to barter to the Mexicans; and
I remember seeing a pet buffalo cow their chief Castro had trained to
follow his saddle animal.”
One outside observer during the early
years of Mexican and Texas independence who left a written impression
of Cuelgas de Castro was Jean Louis Berlandier, a Swiss botanist
who accompanied a Mexican scientific expedition into Texas in 1828.
Berlandier observed that Chief Cuelgas de Castro “is quite civilized. Castro,
as he is called, speaks good Spanish and has a feeling for justice and equity.
He punishes the wrongs his subjects commit when complaint is made to him.
He says that he has several times tried to get the scattered rancherías
to join into villages but that most of the Lipans are unalterably opposed to
such a move.” Berlandier also noted that Cuelgas was “a man remarkable
for his urbanity and his propensity toward civilized life.”
When Cuelgas de Castro died (1842-1844),
leadership of the Sun Otter band devolved upon his sons, Ramón Castro and
Juan or John Castro. Ramón Castro and his ranchería settled in the Selma,
Texas area northeast of San Antonio. This site, located along Cibolo Creek, had originally
been a buffalo camp in the eighteenth century but by 1846 had become a Lipan settlement
area called “the Lipan’s old Town” by Robert S. Neighbors, Texas Indian Agent.
As pressure mounted in the 1840’s and 1850’s to remove the Texas Indians and place
them on reservations, the Ramón Castro ranchería moved between the Selma,
Texas area and Atascosa County, south of San Antonio. John Castro and his
portion of the Sun Otter band ranged southwest of San Antonio.
Like their father, Ramón and John Castro
attempted to establish a cooperative relationship between the Lipans and the Texas
government. Chief Ramón Castro signed the Tehuacana Treaty of 1844 with the
Republic of Texas and once Texas became a state, Chief John Castro signed the San Saba
Treaty of 1851 with the United States. However, both leaders soon found that their
cooperation would be used by the Texans as a means to remove the tribe from its ancient
homeland. By 1847, Ramón Castro rejected the Texas Indian Agency’s attempt to
restrict and control the movements of his portion of the Sun Otter band and fled with
his people into deep south Texas and later, into Mexico. When Chief John Castro,
who placed his portion of the band under the control of the Texas Indian Agency, was
accused of the massacre of the Forrester family (a crime perpetrated by the Comanches)
and threatened with imprisonment and forcible placement on a reservation, the chief
fled with his people to Mexico in 1855. However, portions of the Castro rancherías
later filtered back into Texas and the Castro family returned to the San Antonio area,
where they remained throughout the twentieth century and are still living today.
Costalites (abt. 1820-1873)
Costalites was the chief of a Lipan band
which ranged from the northern Mexican state of Coahuila up into southwestern Texas.
He is first mentioned in 1866, when warriors from his band captured a thirteen year
old boy named Frank Buckelew from the Bandera/Medina County area of Texas.
Costalites welcomed the young boy into the band and indicated that he
wished to arrange the marriage of Buckelew with the chief’s granddaughter, but
Buckelew escaped before the marriage could take place. In 1869, U.S. envoy Stephen
Smith attempted to meet with Costalites and other Lipans in Mexico, but found
they had fled into Texas after an attack by the Mexican Army near Zaragosa, Coahuila.
In order to counteract the military pressures being
exerted against the Lipans from both sides of the Rio Grande, Chief Costalites
made several important alliances with Indian tribes who were not generally traditional
Lipan allies. The chief’s alliance with Wild Cat’s band of black Seminoles, a group
which had been given permission in 1850 by the Mexican government to settle in Mexico,
was sealed by the marriage of the chief’s daughter Teresita to a black Seminole who
later served as an Indian scout at Ft. Clark. Costalites also established an
alliance with a group of southern Comanches led by Také-vera, who entered Mexico in 1872.
In spite of these alliances, military pressures against
the Lipans only increased in the 1870’s and the alliance with the black Seminoles eventually
led to betrayal. In May 1873, Col. Ranald Mackenzie and six companies of the 4th U.S. Cavalry
from Ft. Clark crossed the Rio Grande and attacked Costalites’ camp and a nearby
Kickapoo camp at El Remolino, Coahuila. Mackenzie and his troops were led to the camps’
location by black Seminole scouts, one of whom roped Chief Costalies and dragged him
behind his horse. Nineteen Indians were killed in the attack and 41 Lipan and Kickapoos
were taken prisoner, among them Chief Costalites. The prisoners were brought to
Ft. Clark and were then marched to San Antonio, where they were housed in a corral
in conditions later described as a “prison camp.” One oral tradition states that
Costalites refused to eat while in custody, as a protest against the prisoner’s
treatment. In late June 1873, Chief Costalites escaped from Army custody.
His body was found several days later, thirteen miles west of San Antonio. A rabbit
carcass was found near the body, leading to the assumption that the chief had killed
the rabbit for food and had died while attempting to eat it.
Magoosh (abt. 1830- abt. 1900)
Chief Magoosh was born into a band which traditionally
inhabited the area around San Antonio, Texas. As a young boy, he witnessed the Battle of the
Alamo. In 1850, however, a severe smallpox epidemic caused Magoosh’s band to
flee the San Antonio area. One group went to Mexico and settled near Zaragosa, Coahuila.
A second group led by Magoosh sought refuge with the Mescalero Apaches in
New Mexico. When the Mescaleros were placed on a reservation in the 1870’s, Magoosh
and his followers formed the core group of Lipan Apaches living on the Mescalero reservation.
His descendants still live at Mescalero.