Texas legend Edward Dixon Westfall was a veteran of the Mexican War, a Texas Ranger and famous Indian fighter of central Texas - and friend of Big Foot Wallace

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Edward Dixon Westfall - Texas Legend

A few years before the American Revolution the frontier continued to inch its way west, first to Kentucky and Indiana and by the dawn of the nineteenth century it was at the Mississippi River. A few decades later the Old West included everything west of the Mississippi that eventually became part of the "lower forty-eight."

One of the Westfall families to follow the sun was that of Isaac Westfall, the youngest son of John Westfall who came to Virginia in 1747 with his father Abel. Isaac was actually one of the last of his siblings to leave Virginia for Indiana. In about 1797 Isaac and his family removed to Knox County. Isaac was a surveyor and new territory was a promise of prosperous business for surveyors. Apparently Isaac Westfall served with General William Henry Harrison in the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. The story is that Isaac's young son Abraham begged his father to allow him to go with General Harrison to fight the Indians. His father would not give Abraham permission but went himself instead.

This battle was the result of yet another attempt by Native Americans to stem the flow of white settlers into their lands. The leaders this time were Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (known as the Prophet). They were very successful in uniting their tribes and had formed an Indian "army" more powerful than any Native American movement had achieved before. The capitol of this burgeoning Shawnee nation was known as Tippecanoe. As Harrison's troops approached the Indian town the Prophet inflamed his warriors and attacked Harrison's forces before the Indians were properly prepared for the battle. The results for the Shawnee were disastrous. Their defeat ended their dream of an Indian nation powerful enough to stand up against the United States government.

Edward Dixon Westfall Texas Ranger, scout, Indian fighter

After Abraham matured he married Sarah Rumsour. They had a son Edward Dixon Westfall, born on December 22, 1820 in Knox County, Indiana. In 1841 Abraham moved his family to Jasper County, Illinois. In 1843 the twenty-two year old Edward left Illinois for Missouri. At first he planned to join a wagon train in Missouri to take the trail to Oregon. Something changed his mind; perhaps he was unable to raise the money he needed for a wagon, team and supplies. In those years a trip on the Oregon Trail was expensive and not just anyone could afford it, especially a young man just starting out in life with no wealth of his own. Perhaps he thought he could find a job with a wagon train as a scout or hunter. These jobs were scarce and were given to men with experience in the western wilderness. Usually these men were ex-mountain men looking for a new way of making a living after the collapse of the fur trade. Men given those jobs still had to supply their own horses, guns and ammunition and enough basic supplies to last for several weeks or months. His dream of joining a wagon train did not pan out. During the next two years Ed traveled about and worked at odd jobs in Missouri. Still restless, in 1845 Edward went west on his own, first to Hopkins County, Texas and a year later to San Antonio.

The war with Mexico erupted on April 22, 1846 only a few months after the United States annexed the Republic of Texas and Texas became the 28th state. Mexico had never recognized the Republic of Texas, even after Santa Anna's defeat in 1836. The Mexican army had reoccupied San Antonio twice since Texas had declared its independence refusing to admit that it had lost the territory. Mexico warned the United States that if it annexed Texas it would mean war between the U.S. and Mexico. Santa Anna still considered Texas a Mexican province in rebellion against his government. President James K. Polk was a firm believer in America's manifest destiny. He saw the war as the perfect way for the U.S. to wrench California from Mexico and solve the problem of disputed territory along the border of the two countries. Probably unaware of but certainly unconcerned about the political games being played by the two countries, Westfall joined the U.S. Army in the company of Captain John Conner, Colonel P. H. Bell's regiment of mounted riflemen (Bell would later become governor of Texas). The Mexican War was the furnace that forged the character and leadership qualities of many of the military leaders of the Civil War, both north and south including Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson to name two. The Mexican war ended in 1848 with another defeat for Santa Anna. This must have been a bitter pill for Santa Anna because he considered himself a great general and the Napoleon of Mexico. Ed Westfall apparently distinguished himself during the war and his reputation began to grow with Texans. Shortly after war's end he was discharged from the army in San Antonio.

Soon after his discharge, Westfall went about one-hundred miles west of San Antonio and built a cabin on the banks of the Leona River about thirty-five miles south of present day Uvalde, Texas. At the time the only permanent settlement west of San Antonio was Castroville only thirty miles west of town. Edward Westfall loved the solitude and beauty of the Texas wilderness and wild game was plentiful. In 1959 while I was visiting an uncle stationed in the Air Force at Del Rio we made a day trip through this area. We saw literally hundreds of deer, dozens of flocks of wild turkeys and herds of antelope. You had to be careful driving because the deer would leap the fence running along the road and dart in front of the car. All of the animals we saw were close to the road. There must have been untold numbers in the thousands of acres of open land beyond our view. I have often imagined that a similar sight must have greeted those early pioneers in southwest Texas. A few years later I was stationed in the Air Force at San Angelo. After I married we lived in San Antonio off and on for eight years. I never again saw that abundance of wildlife although we traveled extensively though out south west Texas.

The paradise that Ed Westfall found on the banks of the Leona was also attractive hunting for Indian tribes in the area, among them the Comanche and Lipan Apache. The Apache considered all non-Apache tribes, including white men, to be their natural enemy. The Comanche, relatives of the Apache, had a similar attitude. It was completely honorable to steal from your enemy, and of course kill him if you had the opportunity. This wasn't so much about stopping the influx of white settlers, as it was a natural way of life for the tribes. Soon after Westfall built his cabin Fort Inge was established thirty miles upstream on the Leona to protect settlers against Indian raids. A few years after Fort Inge was built, the settlement of Uvalde sprung up four miles above the fort.

The white settlers brought with them their livestock; most valuable to the Indians were their horses. Raids on Westfall and others were a constant threat. Ed explored his region of Texas and became as familiar with the land as the Indians. He educated himself on the customs and habits of his Native American neighbors and became a well-known scout, guide and Indian fighter. He also became close friends with Texas legends William "Big Foot" Wallace and Henry Robinson, the two other men as familiar with the Texas frontier and the Indians as Westfall. These three men were often called upon to track Indian raiding parties and recover stolen livestock.  The Indians knew and respected the trio. One band even drew pictographs on rocks of Westfall with his rifle and Robinson with his shotgun.

You have to know about Big Foot Wallace if you wish to know Edward Dixon Westfall. Westfall and Wallace were close friends and both were equally famous in their time. Westfall and Wallace were both big men, six foot three inches tall. Westfall had brown hair, blue eyes and weighed 190 pounds. Wallace had long black curly hair, dark eyes and weighed 240 pounds. Wallace was from Virginia. He came to Texas in 1837, a year after Santa Anna's soldiers massacred Colonel James Fannin and his volunteers at Goliad during the Texas Revolution. The men were promised that if they surrendered they would be treated as prisoners of war; instead Santa Anna ordered them all executed. Among the dead were two of Wallace's cousins. Wallace vowed revenge. His hatred of the Mexican Army motivated many of his actions for the next several years.

In 1839 Wallace went to Austin, the new capital of the Republic of Texas. It was here that he said he got his famous nickname "Big Foot." In the area lived a band of Waco Indians, part of the Wichita culture. In the summer most of the Waco lived in permanent houses and raised crops. In this respect they were not much different than their white neighbors but they were not friendly. One of their leaders was nicknamed by the whites "Chief Big Foot." With good reason; his moccasin print measured fourteen inches from heel to toe and he was said to be almost seven feet tall and weighed over three hundred pounds. His moccasin track with one big toe sticking out became well known to people living in Austin. The big Indian and his warriors frequently raided the settlement, stealing horses and killing whites whenever he felt the urge. No one was able to get close enough to Big Foot to stop him. William Wallace worked in Austin hunting, cutting wood and hauling rocks from the near-by hills for new buildings, and bringing in water. Few people would venture out of the settlement because of the danger from the Indians but Wallace made good wages risking his life doing his daily work. One day a neighbor of Wallace's named Gravis returned to his house to find large moccasin tracks around his house and in his kitchen. The neighbor knew that Wallace was the only white man in the neighborhood who wore moccasins. He went to the house Wallace shared with William Fox and accused Wallace of being in his kitchen. Of course, Wallace was indignant. He actually had a small foot for his six-foot-three frame. His shoe size was only a size nine. Wallace went outside and placed his foot into the moccasin track and told Gravis to look at the difference. Amused, William Fox watched the scene. When Gravis left, Fox told Wallace that from now on he would call him Big Foot. The name stuck and for years if someone mentioned "Big Foot" people would ask if you meant the Indian or Wallace. For many years Big Foot the Indian continued his raids unscathed. Ed Westfall finally shot and killed him in a fight years after his first raids on the Austin settlement.

Wallace joined the Texas Rangers in San Antonio in 1840 under Captain Jack Hays. In 1842 the Mexican Army recaptured San Antonio and held it for several days before withdrawing to the Rio Grande. Wallace was part of the Ranger force known as the Mier expedition who continued to follow the Mexicans after they had crossed the Rio Grande. All of these Rangers were captured and suffered unimaginable hardship as they were marched across the Mexican desert. They were taken to Haciendo Salado, in route to the Mexican capitol. It was here that Santa Anna ordered every tenth Ranger to be executed. White beans along with the appropriate number of black beans were placed in a gourd. Those drawing a black bean were executed. Wallace drew a white bean and spent the next two years in prison in Mexico City. In 1844 Santa Anna's wife on her deathbed made her husband promise to release the Texans, which he did. Wallace returned to Texas and built a cabin on the Medina River just below Castroville. There he became friends with Juan Castro, a chief of the Lipan Apache whose Mexican father had founded Castroville. In 1846 at the outbreak of the Mexican War Wallace re-joined the Rangers as a lieutenant and soon became a captain under his old friend Jack Hays. After the war he returned to his home on the Medina River. There he became friends with Ed Westfall, the only other non-Indian or non-Mexican west of San Antonio at the time.

Just before Fort Inge was built thirty miles above Westfall's cabin, a band of Lipan Apaches came down from the Black Hills west of the Nueces River and raided the country around Castroville. The Indians stole Wallace's horses and those of other settlers in the settlement. After the raid Wallace went to Westfall to ask his help. The two men returned to Wallace's ranch and gathered thirty men to go after the Indians. The men waited until they were sure the Indians felt no one was following them, and then started on their track. They found the Lipans in camp near the headwaters of the Frio River. With them were more than two hundred mules and horses stolen during their raids. The Indians were completely surprised by the attack from Westfall, Wallace and their posse. They put up a poor fight, and it ended in the death of ten Lipans. None of the posse were injured. As the men charged into the Indian camp, Wallace's horse stumbled and fell, throwing Wallace over its head. Wallace landed on his feet and was able to fire one shot with his flintlock rifle, fatally wounding one Indian. The flint in the flint holder burst and he was unable to fire the weapon again. After the attack only an elderly woman and the chief's daughter were left in the camp. When Wallace approached the old lady, she scratched him, nearly taking out one of his eyes. Others in the posse wanted to kill her but Wallace and Westfall would not allow any harm to come to her.

By 1850 Big Foot Wallace had the mail contract from San Antonio to El Paso. The route was six hundred miles of wilderness and the territory of hostile Comanches. It took more than a month to make the trip. Prior to Wallace, everyone that had tried to make this route had been killed or gave up due to the danger. Wallace employed six guards to ride with him, but often arrived at Army posts along the route so shot up that he had to lie over until his stagecoach could be repaired. On one of these trips Wallace convinced Westfall to go with him as a guard. In El Paso Ed and Big Foot were taking it easy enjoying their rest before their return trip to San Antonio. The Rio Grande had risen from rain upstream and Mexican ladies were paying men the equivalent of two American pennies to carry them across the River. Humor in the frontier was rough and sometimes cruel. Westfall and Wallace decided to play a joke on the ladies. They each picked the largest lady they could find and with the senorita on their backs waded into the river. In the middle they began rearing and bucking like wild horses until the unfortunate women were thrown into the water. Westfall later said that he regretted the joke because he lost, "a dollar's worth of hair" before he could dislodge his rider.  Ed Westfall made several mail runs with Wallace but gave it up because he did not like the work.

Also in the early 1850's Westfall realized that he needed neighbors to help guard against Indian raids on his remote ranch. He rode back to San Antonio and offered anyone who would come west with him one hundred acres of free land. Several men took him up on the offer, but most left after a short while when they realized the danger and hardship they faced. Two men stayed with Westfall, one named Jim Hammock; the other man's name was Blanchard. Both men lived with Westfall in his cabin. Together they prepared the land for a crop of corn. One day the men began to hunger for coffee, flour bread and bacon. They sent Blanchard and another man who had recently come to the ranch back to San Antonio to get provisions. They waited and waited for Blanchard and his companion to return. Westfall and Hammock were beginning to think that the Indians had ambushed the two men and killed them. Ed suggested that he and Hammock go hunting for venison and wild honey to supplement their diet and to pass the time while they waited for their friends. Westfall knew of a good hunting spot on Lake Espantosa. When he went on these hunts, Ed killed a deer and then cased the hide to make a vessel to carry the honey. The deer hide made a good saddlebag for the purpose. Hammock, who was immensely depressed by the failure of his friends to return, was cheered up by the diversion. After the pleasant interlude of the hunt, Jim sarcastically claimed he didn't care if Blanchard and his companion ever returned from San Antonio. Following the hunt Ed and Jim went to work and planted a small crop of corn sustained by a diet of unsalted venison and honey.

Finally, the missing men returned to the ranch, but the only provisions they had with them was a little coffee and some bacon. The pair had run into incessant heavy rain and high water on the way back to the ranch. All of the flour and salt had been ruined. Their diet would continue to be mostly unseasoned venison and wild honey. In time their crop of corn matured and the men ground the kernels into cornmeal and cooked up a batch of cornbread and corn dodgers (hush-puppies for those of you from the south). The corn dodgers were also good for catfish bait and the fish would be a welcome addition to their meager menu.

Soon Ed Westfall planned another hunt for deer and wild honey around the bee caves on the Nueces River. The river was not as far out as their previous hunt had taken them. Hammock did not want to go. Jim believed that he had premonitions about future events; the other men usually laughed at him when he made dire predictions. This time Jim was adamant that the hunting trip would end in disaster. He claimed he had been warned not to go. Westfall finally convinced Jim to go along. Reluctantly, he agreed. At noon on the first day out from the ranch the pair stopped in an elm grove near a small lake. The deer here were abundant and Ed went out of camp to kill one for the meat and the hide to make a bag to carry the honey they would find. Jim stayed in camp and built a fire to cook their noon meal. A large band of Indians were passing close by and the smoke of the dinner fire alerted them to the presence of the white men. They immediately attacked the camp. Hammock saw them in time to make a run for it, but he did not have time to go for the horses staked out near by. He made a dash through the brush for the lake and was able to get one shot off at the attackers. At the lake he threw down his weapon and dived into the water with the Indians close on his heels. He swam under the water as long as he could with arrows coming down all around him; he surfaced, took a breath and dived again. He reached the opposite shore of the lake safely. The Indians decided not to chase him any further and returned to sack the camp. Jim continued to run through the bush and climbed a ridge where he could see the camp. He wanted to warn Westfall but now he had no gun.

Ed heard Jim's one shot and assumed that Jim had shot a deer. Then he heard the yelling. Knowing what it meant he started back to the camp at a run with his rifle in one hand and a single shot pistol in his holster. Hammock saw his friend rushing back to save him. He tried to yell and let Ed know that he was safe, but his voice would not carry the distance. Convinced that Westfall would charge into the camp and the Indians to certain death, Hammock decided to somehow make it back to the ranch for help then come back and recover Ed's body.

Ed ran three quarters of a mile before he had to stop to catch his breath a few yards out from the camp. As he approached, he saw that the camp was swarming with Indians ransacking their supplies. The Indians spotted him almost immediately. Ed could not see Hammock anywhere, called his name and got no response. He decided that surely Jim was dead. The Indians were all on foot except one on a mule who was trying to cut him off. As tired as he was, Westfall made a dash across an open area for a thicket, out running all of his pursuers. In the middle of the thicket he lay down and waited for the Indians to come in after him. Armed with his single shot pistol and his single shot rifle he waited for the attack. At least he could take a couple with him if they found him. The Indians, however, knew that Westfall was armed and did not want to run into the thicket without knowing where he was. They stayed around the edges shooting arrows into the brush, shaking the bushes and making a racket in hopes that they could flush him out. Finally, after dark they gave up the game and left Westfall alone in the chaparral.

When things were quiet, Ed crept out of his hiding spot. Carefully, he made his way back to the camp to find Jim's body. Everything, including the horses, was gone. Nowhere to be found was Hammock. Ed figured that Jim had probably tried to make a run for it before the Indians killed him. Deciding there was nothing else he could do in the dark, Westfall started back to the ranch. In the daylight he and Blanchard could look for Hammock's body. At the same time Hammock was stumbling through the brush and prickly pear cactus long after the sun had set, scratched and torn and disoriented. It took a long time, but Jim finally saw the light from the cabin. He didn't know it at the time but he reached the cabin ahead of Westfall by only a few minutes. Ed knew the land better than even the Indian bands that roamed the area and despite a half-day lead Westfall nearly beat Hammock back to the ranch. Jim announced his presence to the cabin and at the door told Blanchard that the Indians had killed Westfall for sure.

"No, they haven't Jim!" Westfall said as he emerged from the darkness. What an amazing turn of events. Both men coming back to the ranch with the sad news of the other's death were both alive, untouched by the Indians. It was a hunting trip Westfall would not forget.

Not long after this Blanchard decided he had enough and left the ranch to return to the comforts of San Antonio. Hammock hired on as a stage guard with Big Foot Wallace on the mail route. Before leaving, Jim told Westfall that he would not live to see the ranch again. Ed considered it just another dire prediction that Hammock was always making. Again, Hammock's premonition came true. A Mexican killed him at a festival dance in El Paso not long after he left the ranch. Ed Westfall was once again alone with nothing but his horses and his favorite dog George Washington to keep him company.

The Indians by now had taken notice of Edward Westfall as a skillful and wily opponent. They knew he was an expert tracker, an exceptional marksman and a lethal opponent in a fight.  They dreaded his deadly abilities, but they were determined to kill him any way they could. One day Ed left his cabin by foot for a short hunt. While he was gone a group of Indians came to the cabin. They saw by the track that Westfall had crossed the stream in front of his cabin by a log footbridge, a tree Ed had cut down so that it fell across the running water. The warriors set an ambush.  They hid themselves close to the log and waited for Ed to return. Westfall never let down his guard; to do so out here would have been suicide. As he approached the cabin he spotted one of the Indians poorly concealed in the trees. Knowing that he was about to walk into an ambush, Ed turned and hastily retreated in the direction he had come.

The Indians immediately broke cover and took out after him. Westfall reached a heavy thicket of brush and ducked for cover. Crawling on his stomach he found a spot where he could look out from under the bushes and see his pursuers. As in Ed's previous adventure with Indians in a chaparral thicket, the warriors searching for him began yelling and shaking the bushes on one side of the thicket. Westfall lay still with his rifle and pistol ready.  Suddenly, he heard a twig snap in the opposite direction. Ed turned his head enough to catch a glimpse of a dark figure creeping through brush. He now realized that the Indians were trying to distract him on one side of the thicket long enough for this fellow to sneak in on him from the other. Inch by inch the warrior made his way into the brush looking for his prey. Ed waited until he could see the man's face;  he raised his rifle and fired. The thicket blossomed with heavy white smoke from the flintlock rifle. For several seconds Ed could see nothing.   Hurriedly he reloaded his rifle before the smoke could clear and reveal his position. He grabbed his pistol and waited for the next attempt. As the smoke drifted away Ed could see the dead man, his blood and long black hair spread out on the leaves. The others hearing the roar of Westfall's rifle and seeing the thick smoke guessed the fate of their comrade. Deciding that it would be impossible to dislodge Westfall without more fatalities they left their dead mate in the bushes and abandoned their latest attempt on Westfall's life.

While it was still daylight Ed kept his position. As the sun began to set he crept up on his fallen enemy.  The Indian had his bow in one hand strung with an arrow intended for the white man.  His hair was very thick and about two feet long.  Westfall's bullet had struck the man squarely between the eyes killing him instantly.  When darkness completely enveloped the woods, Ed crept out of his hiding place and started back for his cabin. Leary of another ambush in the dark he went further downstream and crossed a ways below the log bridge. When Ed left on a trek without his dogs he kept them shut in the cabin. When he got back to his home he found them unharmed. The Indians had not approached the cabin when they set their ambush.

Wallace kept horses and mules in corrals owned by two ranchers near Fort Inge. The fort was a relay stop on Wallace's stage route and he would switch to a fresh team here. Once Wallace had to go into San Antonio for a period of time and brought thirty or forty of his animals to the corrals for safe keeping during his absence. One night two Indians were able to steal all of the animals without being detected. The next morning some of the animals got away from the Indians and returned to the corrals and the theft was discovered. Ed Westfall and a few other men went out after the raiders who had been joined by others in their raiding party. The white men followed the track for several days. Finally the trail became so fresh that Westfall knew they were getting close to their prey. Ed told the other men to stay put while he went on ahead on foot. Westfall eased his way into a cedar break, and then saw one of the Indians coming towards him. Ed stepped on a twig and the snap of the breaking branch alerted the warrior. The Indian stopped suddenly to locate the direction of the sound and Westfall fired his rifle, killing the poor fellow instantly. At the sound of the shot, the other Indians fled leaving behind all of the horses and mules and a dog. Westfall and the others adopted the dog and named him "Waco" probably because the Indians were of that tribe. Soon a company of soldiers from the fort reached Westfall and his men and they all herded the horses and mules back to the fort.

On one of his mail stage runs William Big Foot Wallace was approaching Fort Inge when he noticed in the dust of the road the unmistakable sign of moccasins crossing the wagon trail. He stopped to examine the tracks and immediately knew that the fourteen-inch footprints meant his old nemesis and namesake, the Waco warrior "Chief" Big Foot was in the area accompanied by six others. For years off and on Wallace had tracked this man after he raided settlements but never was never able to close in on him. On three occasions Wallace had gotten close enough to see the impressive giant figure but never close enough to catch him. When Wallace reached the relay station at Fort Inge for a fresh team, Westfall was there. Wallace told his friend that Waco Big Foot and several of his band were in the area. He told Ed that he would leave his relay of mules in the canyon along the Frio. If the Big Foot Waco and his companions made a raid on the station and took all of the horses Ed could get the mules to follow the Indians.

As both men expected, the big Indian and his companions hit the relay station a night or two later and made away with all of the horses. Westfall sent for the mules. He gathered up a three or four men and a boy named Preston Polly from around Fort Inge. The small posse saddled up the mules and rode out on the trail of the Waco raiders with Ed Westfall in the lead. The Indians headed up Nueces Canyon above the fort to the source and crossed over to the head draws of the South Llano. In a dense cedar grove the Indians made camp. The Waco band knew that the soldiers at Fort Inge were out on a scout when they hit the relay station, and they knew that they had gotten all of the horses. They felt sure that they were not being pursued.

On the second day on the trail Westfall and his posse were catching up to the Indians. The Waco had killed a small bear and made a fire to cook it. Ed saw the smoke and knew he and his men were closing in on the raiders. The posse also made their camp but lit no fire. It was approaching evening and Ed wanted to wait until morning before moving in on the Indians. At daybreak, Westfall took the boy with him to scout the area surrounding the Indian camp. He told the other men that if they heard his gun to waste no time coming after him and Preston. The camp of the Indians was on a hill surrounded by a gorge. The camp was at the same elevation as was the camp of the white men but back in the dense cedar. Ed and the young Preston descended into the gorge and followed its course until they came to a point just opposite of where they had seen the smoke the day before. Here there was heavy course grass along a trail leading down to a cold-water spring. Westfall and the boy knelt here for a moment to decide their next course of action.

As Ed and Preston were examining the trail to the spring from their hiding place, Ed saw the legs of a horse through the bushes coming down the trail towards the spring. Ed cocked his rifle and the two waited breathlessly as the horse and the Indian leading it came down the trail towards them. Suddenly, in view of Westfall and the boy was the huge frame of Big Foot the Indian. Ed motioned for the boy to be still and quietly raised his gun. The Indian's horse immediately sensed the pair and let out a snort. Big Foot stopped short in his track, turned and looked directly at Westfall. In the same instance Ed fired and the Waco legend fell to the ground with a bullet through his heart.

Hearing the shot, the other posse members grabbed their guns and came running to the spot where Westfall and Polly stood over the dead Waco. Together the men charged up the hill into the Indian camp. The six remaining Waco men in the band also heard the shot and knew that it meant bad news for their leader, especially since there was no yell from him after the explosion of the rifle shot. The band jumped on their horses and lit out as fast as their mounts could carry them.

The Indians were preparing to break camp when their leader had taken his horse to the spring for water. In their haste to escape the Indians left behind a good portion of well-roasted bear meat, which the hungry posse eagerly devoured. All of the stolen horses, except for those the Indians rode off on were in the camp. Also left behind was a quiver of arrows and a war shield. When the men returned to the dead man he was still clutching the halter of the horse, which Ed recognized as belonging to a neighbor and friend. In his other giant hand Waco Big Foot was clutching a bow and some arrows. The dead Indian's fingers were pried loose from the halter with some difficulty. Wallace and Westfall never took scalps as some other frontier Indian fighters did. However, Wallace had asked Ed Westfall that if he ever got the best of the Indian, to take his moccasins and give them to him. To honor his friend's request Ed stripped the Indian of his footwear and took them back to Fort Inge intending to give them to Wallace the next time his friend made his stop at the fort. A man came to the fort not long after and convinced someone there to give them to him so he could deliver them to Wallace in San Antonio. Instead, this less than honest person took them with him when he went back east and the moccasins were never seen again.

If the Waco had had a written language and culture, someone of his tribe would surely have recorded the story of legendary "Chief" Big Foot. Even among enemy tribes he must have been as big a legend in Texas as his white counterpart. For years this giant of a man was the scourge of white settlers, until the end outwitting his enemies with every escapade. During his time he was a legend among the settlers that feared him. Once dead, white society forgot him and after a few generations the oral tradition that probably kept his story alive for a while faded away. Now we know about Big Foot the Waco warrior only through the stories about his enemies.

By 1854 Big Foot Wallace gave up the mail business. Governor P. H. Bell asked him to raise a company of Texas Rangers to help protect the settlements around San Antonio from Indian raids, livestock thieves and outlawry on the frontier. Governor Bell commissioned Wallace as Captain of the Texas Rangers and Wallace appointed Ed Westfall as his First Lieutenant.  In August 1854 Wallace and Westfall took seventeen other Rangers with them on a scouting mission in La Salle County; the area was known as the Black Hills because of the creosote and black bush that covered the land. It had been a hot, dry summer and water was scarce. The Rangers had been without water for three days and the situation was becoming desperate. To make matters worse a Ranger named Jackson fell ill and was too sick to stay on his horse. The men carried him on a litter and progress was slowed to a crawl. Westfall and Wallace both knew all of the watering holes in the area but each time they reached one, nothing was left but stinking mud baking in the sun. Wallace knew of a couple of water holes on Todas Santos Creek that seemed never to be dry. The holes were close to the villages of the local Comanches and the Texans knew the risk was great. But, the gamble had to be taken or they would surely die of thirst.

When the Rangers approached from downstream the first waterhole in the creek bed they discovered that it was in the middle of a Comanche encampment. Eighty warriors were in camp and the Texans had only eighteen men able to fight. Almost immediately the Indians spotted the Ranger Company and it was too late to do anything but stand and fight. The Texans quickly laid Jackson under the cover of a mesquite tree and began a fight for their lives. Wallace had a big, heavy rifle which used one ounce bullets.  The rifle was said to have once belonged to Jim Bowie at the Alamo. Big Foot had the ramrod in his hand when he leaped a brush pile the Indians had built around one of the water holes. As Wallace jumped, the ramrod hit Westfall in the eye causing Ed excruciating pain. "This is a hell of a place to punch a fellow’s eye out!" exclaimed Westfall. Ed lay on the ground several minutes before he could again assist in the fighting. For hours the Rangers and the Indians fought a fierce battle.  Bullets and arrows peppered the mesquite trees where Wallace and Westfall took cover.

Finally, the Rangers managed to drive the Comanche from the lower waterhole. To the disgust of the Texans it was completely putrefied, full of maggots, hair and scum. The Indians had been in camp there for more than a week and had been soaking rawhide in the water while making lariats. In the August heat the water was now so foul it was undrinkable. The Texans had no choice but to try to force the Comanche from the upper waterhole. Driven by anger and overwhelming thirst, Wallace and Westfall led the Texans in the assault on the upper waterhole. Finally, the desperation of the Texans won the day and the Comanches withdrew leaving behind twenty-four dead. Wallace later remarked that the water they finally obtained was the sweetest he had ever tasted. Several of the Rangers were badly wounded. Now, not only Jackson, but also the severely wounded men had to be carried by stretcher. Eventually the company made it back to Fort Inge. Amazingly, despite all odds, every one of the Rangers survived. By now Westfall and Wallace were both well known to the Comanche, Apache and the other tribes in south-central Texas. The Indians considered it to be a great coup for a warrior to kill either of them.

In June 1855 a Frenchman named Louie came down from Fort Inge to visit Edward Westfall. Louie was looking for a place to live and the two men came to an agreement for Louie to live with Ed and share the chores of the ranch. Louie needed to bring his belongings down from Fort Inge and they set a date to go to the fort to get them. Early on the scheduled day Westfall went out to kill a deer and saw Indian signs. When he returned to the cabin he told Louie that because of the signs they would wait until dark to leave for the fort. Unknown to the pair, Comanches were already watching the cabin.

About three o'clock in the afternoon, Ed went out to his corncrib to grind some corn in his hand mill. When he finished he hoisted the sack of meal on his shoulder and walked back to the cabin. While Ed's back was turned, one of the Indians left his hiding spot in the woods and quietly ran to cover behind the corncrib. At the door Westfall turned to look about, as he always did. The Indian behind the corncrib already had his rifle sight on Westfall. The Comanche warrior fired and the bullet struck Ed in the chest near his collarbone, traveled through his right lung and out the right side of his body. The impact of the bullet did not knock down the big man. He slammed shut the cabin door, set the bag of meal on the floor and grabbed his rifle and pistol. Thinking he was a dead man anyway, Ed started back out the door to fight the Indians. He was determined to take with him as many of the Comanche as he could when he died. Louie grabbed him and told him to lie down; he would fight the Indians. Ed was losing a tremendous amount of blood and realizing how weak he was he relented. Louie helped him to his bed. He pried a board from the wall so Ed could stick the muzzle of his rifle through a crack between the logs and fight from his bed. By now the warriors outside were in a full-scale assault on the cabin. War shouts erupted from the woods, and bullets peppered the cabin from across the open ground. Louie grabbed his shotgun, threw open the door, immediately fired one barrel and blew the Indian by the corncrib to his final reward. Just as quickly he slammed the door shut. Ed told the Frenchman to bide his time and hold his fire until he had a good opportunity. But now Louie was in a high state of excitement; cursing and yelling he flung the door open again. Immediately a musket ball struck him in the upper body. The bullet passed completely through the Frenchman's body and dropped into a tin pan on the table. Dumbfounded, Louie turned and looked at the bullet in the pan. He told Ed that now he was killed too. He sat down in a chair, asked for a drink and died.

The door to the cabin was wide open and Ed was too weak to get up to close it. Ed's dog George Washington tore out of the door at a Comanche running towards the house. The brave dog ripped into the Indian, tearing off the quiver from the man's back and pulling off much of his clothing. The Comanche warrior speared the dog with his lance and the mortally wounded dog ran back into the cabin and died next to the Frenchman. Ed was now certain he was finished. He was too weak to even lift his rifle. Never before had he been in such dire circumstances and unable to defend himself. He knew the Comanche would pay any price to get his scalp.

Fortunately, the Indians did not know how badly off Westfall was. The bullet that first struck Ed did not seem to faze him. They did not know he was seriously wounded or that Louie and the dog were dead. They were afraid to attack what appeared to be the well-fortified cabin. Their legendary foe had always gotten the upper hand in previous skirmishes, and there was no evidence that this time would be any different. After a while, the Indians quietly withdrew.

Westfall lay in his blood-soaked bed all night, sometimes conscious and sometimes not. By morning his eyes, head and neck were so swollen he could not see. He knew it was daylight only because he could hear the birds chirping outside the cabin. Some men were supposed to come down from Fort Inge for Ed to guide them on a hunt. He expected them that day, so he lay in his bed waiting for help to arrive. The day passed and then the next without any sign of the hunting party. By the third day the swelling in his face and eyes had abated and he could at least see. Perhaps Indians had also killed the hunting party he was waiting for. If he was to be saved he was going to have to do it himself.

He was too weak to carry his rifle so he hid it in weeds near the cabin. He did not want the dead Frenchman and his faithful dog to decay in the house so he managed to move their bodies outside and a little ways from the cabin. Ed put some ground coffee in a tin and filled a gourd with water and stuck his pistol in his waistband. He made a crutch from a stick and struck out for the fort thirty miles away. The first day he managed to make five miles. When he became too weak to continue, he would brew some strong coffee and rest until he felt he could go on. On the third night he was on the Fort Inge Road when the hunting party he had been waiting for came across him. The men carried Westfall back to the fort and he was put in the care of the post surgeon.

On the same day Westfall was discovered by the hunters, Big Foot Wallace was guiding two slave hunters who had no experience on the frontier. Wallace intended to meet up with Westfall at his ranch. When Wallace and his companions approached the cabin they saw the dead Frenchman laying in the yard. At first Wallace thought the corpse was his friend and exclaimed to the other men that the Indians had killed Westfall. As he approached the body, which was now bloated and discolored, he saw the Frenchman's long black hair and exclaimed that no, Westfall had killed an Indian. On close examination Wallace could see that the body was neither Westfall nor an Indian. Big Foot started to look around the grounds for his friend whom he assumed was either dead or badly hurt. He soon came across Ed's tracks and could tell from the sign that Westfall was probably seriously injured, using a crutch to help him walk and was not carrying his heavy rifle. He knew that Ed was trying to make it to Fort Inge.

Big Foot Wallace and the other men started out on Westfall's trail. Late that night the men met with a party from the Fort coming down to Ed's ranch to bury the Frenchman. Together the group returned to Fort Inge; along the way Wallace learned details of the past few days. At the fort Big Foot stayed with his friend for a while, then returned to the cabin to bury Louie and the dog. Westfall had tied two horses out in the brush before the fight at the cabin. He assumed that the Indians had taken them. Wallace found them still tied to the bushes but half starved.

It took months for Ed Westfall to recover from his wounds. While Ed was laid up in his cabin, Wallace would bring him books and papers from San Antonio. During his convalescence Ed discovered that he greatly enjoyed reading. He had little formal education but he made up for that now by devouring the books his friend brought him. Edward's brother Abel Westfall learned of Ed's condition and came to Texas "from the States" to take care of the ranch. The two brothers lived together on Ed's ranch for several years and Abel helped turned it into a profitable horse and cattle business.

During the Civil War Ed and Abel moved their livestock into the Nueces Canyon in the vicinity of the new Fort Wood, located thirty-five miles north-west of Uvalde. The brothers moved to the area of Fort Wood but Ed kept his homestead on the Leona River. For twenty years after his brush with death Ed continued to act as scout and guide for hunters, settlers, Texas Rangers and soldiers. Abel Westfall returned to Illinois for a short time but returned to Texas with his family. Brother Isaac Westfall brought his family to Grayson County, Texas where he lived for the rest of his life. Younger brother Henry Westfall died during the Civil War in Kentucky.

In 1874 as the frontier became more and more tame, Edward sold all of his cattle and three years later moved to Bexar County, fifteen miles southwest of San Antonio on the banks of Calaveras Creek. There he concentrated on farming. He sold his ranch on the banks of the Leona River in 1881. That same year on June 5, at the age of sixty Ed Westfall married for the first time. His bride was Miss Josephine Susan Dillon, a woman thirty-seven years younger than he was. The two were devoted to each other and Mrs. Westfall described him as a loving, caring husband. Edward Dixon Westfall died peacefully on June 12, 1897 on his farm near Elmendorf, Texas at the age of seventy-six.

Ed and Josephine had no offspring of their own but Abel and Isaac both had children. Ed's nephews and nieces were apparently very fond of him. Ed willed his entire estate to his wife but stipulated that after her death any remaining property be converted to cash to establish a free public library in San Antonio. With equal access and reading rooms for blacks and whites. Josephine died in 1940 and the estate was worth $50,000. The city of San Antonio used the money to establish the Westfall Branch Library. Several descendants of Abel and Isaac Westfall were at the ceremony when the branch library was opened.

Ed Westfall's good friend William A. A. "Big Foot" Wallace lived until 1899. He never married, but for almost thirty years lived with the McHenry Bramlette family. The Bramlettes treated Big Foot as if he were one of their own kin. When daughter Fannie Bramlette married rancher W. W. Cockran she took Big Foot to live with her family. Big Foot treated her children as if they were his own grandchildren. He died on January 7, 1899 while sitting on his bed putting on his shoes. He was first buried in Devine, Texas but a month later his body was moved to State Cemetery in the capitol of Austin. He was given full military honors at his reburial.


Ronald N. Wall
Modified: 09 September 2017