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Vol. 5 - No.02 February, 2023 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Britton (Britt) Johnson
Britton (Britt) Johnson was born a slave about 1840 in Tennessee. At some point in the 1850s his owner, Moses Johnson, brought him to Texas. When Moses Johnson died, his son, Allan, inherited Britton. Allan Johnson had an interesting viewpoint about owning slaves. He despised the idea of owning another human. He didn't free Britton, but he gave him as much freedom as a slave could have in pre-emancipation days. In effect, Britton became the foreman for the Johnson ranch where he worked for wages, being paid the amount a foreman would earn. In his off hours, Britton was allowed to raise his own horses and cattle.
In the fall of 1864, Britton was living with his wife, Mary, his teenage son, and two daughters along with Elizabeth Fitzpatrick her daughter Milly and Milly's three children in what is now Young County not far from Fort Belknap. That area of north Texas was subject to raids by Comanches and Kiowas, both free roaming and those who lived on reservations. But it was thought that their multifamily residence was safe from Indian attack. On October 13, 1864, about 500 Comanches and Kiowas swooped down on Britton's home, in what became known as the Elm Creek raid, while he and Milly's husband were away. When Milly reached for a shotgun, she was tomahawked, dragged out into the yard by the Indians where prior to being killed she was assaulted. Britt's son resisted and was killed.

The hostiles stripped the house of everything worth taking, tied the survivors to the backs of their horses and headed north at a fast pace. The captives consisted of Mary Johnson, her two surviving children, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and her grandchildren. Before sundown, Britt returned home to find his son had been killed. He buried some of the other victims of the community and began making plans to find what remained of his family. It is this search that made Johnson famous.

Friends and neighbors raised money for him and another man named White to help them with their expenses. White's son had been kidnapped that summer and he had been searching for him. Britt could speak enough Comanche to make himself understood. In the spring of 1865 they found out that there was a council where hostages could be ransomed. White found his son and traded several horses for his freedom, and Johnson continued alone.

He made three trips into Comancheria including up on the Llano Estacado only to draw a blank. In the summer of 1865 a Comanche chief who wanted to improve relations with white settlers helped him purchase the freedom of his wife, their two surviving children, and baby who had been born to Mary during her captivity. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick was ransomed a few months later.
One of Elizabeth's granddaughters was thought to be dead, but some years later, she was found. Much like Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker, the granddaughter had adopted the ways of her captors and considered herself to be full blooded Comanche with unusually white skin. She remained a Comance until her death in 1934. In the meantime, Johnson moved his family to Parker County and became self employed as a freight hauler. It was on this day, January 24 in 1871, that Britt and employees Dennis Cureton and Paint Crawford were caught in the open by a band of Kiowas near Graham, Texas. Unlike the Comanches who had respect for Johnson, the Kiowas attacked and killed them all. There were over 100 empty shells around Johnson's body indicating that Johnson had ably defended himself until he ran out of ammunition. There were four riders who witnessed the attack from a distance and buried the bodies.
Written by Wink Clak of the Legends of the Old West Facebook Group
Call 818-395-5020 for more information
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