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Meusebach Makes Peace Treaty With Comanches

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

On March 2, 1847, about 30 miles from the mouth of the San Saba River and north of Fredericksburg, John O. Meusebach, second commissioner-general to the Adelsverein, negotiated a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians. A treaty with the Comanches was essential to settling the Llano and San Saba valleys. Meusebach, whom the Indians called “El Sol Colorado” (the red sun) because of his red hair, had the ideal personality to bring this treaty to fruition.

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer who was traveling in Texas at the time was there when the treaty was signed. He gives a thorough description of the incident in his book Texas. In early February of 1847, Dr. Roemer along with Jim Shaw, and Government Indian agent Major Neighbours would travel to the valley of the San Saba and join Meusebach. Jim Shaw was a six foot Delaware Chief, wearing a black oilcloth coat he bought in Austin. Roemer says that from the back, Jim Shaw looked like a European, but not from the front, as he lacked trousers and wore only deerskin leggings. Major Neighbours would help with translation.

At the end of February after meeting up with Meusebach, the party was greeted outside the Comanche camp by three of the most important Comanche Chiefs. First was Mope-tshoko-pe, meaning “Old Owl”. He was a small undistinguished looking old man, but his crafty face marked him as the diplomatic political chief. Then there was Santa Ana, the powerfully built man who was the war chief. Last, the “unadulterated picture of a North American Indian” (source: Roemer). It was Buffalo Hump. The upper part of his body was naked and only a buffalo hide wound around his hips. His powerful arms were decorated with copper rings and a string of beads was around his neck. He had distinguished himself as a warrior against the Texans.

A camp of about 150 tents made up the camp, some decorated with emblems of individual warriors – shields, headdresses made of buffalo skins with horns attached. About 1,000 horses were grazing nearby and the women and children were busy making horsehair ropes, braiding leather lassos and scraping and cleaning buffalo hides with white clay.

In the morning the chiefs were already squatting before their fire. And by noon, buffalo hides were spread out in a circle in front of the tents. The chiefs and their best warriors sat on one side of the circle and on the other side sat Meusebach, Roemer, Jim Shaw, Major Neighbors, and several others. In the center of the circle lay a pile of tobacco and a pipe. One Indian took two puffs and in complete silence passed it around twice.

Herr Meusebach made the proposals that the Germans should be allowed to settle on the Llano and to survey the land of the San Saba. For this, the Comanches would receive $1,000 in two months in Fredericksburg, where the final meeting would be held. Meuseback assured the Comanches that they would be treated as friends when they visited German settlements.

Abruptly the meeting was over when the chiefs said they would consider it a bit longer.

The next day the proposals were accepted. The two parties mutually embraced with the Comanche trying to show the degree of their friendship by the strength of their embrace. Then they ate venison and rice together.

During the night there was a peculiar serenade made up of Indian men and women. It was a wild, monotonous song along with the beating of sticks over stretched buffalo skins. This was perhaps a response to the folk songs sung by the Germans earlier. They departed on March 3 and headed back to Fredericksburg. Mission accomplished!

A sculpture by Jay Hester in Fredericksburg depicts Meusebach passing the peace pipe to the Comanche Indians.

A sculpture by Jay Hester in Fredericksburg depicts Meusebach passing the peace pipe to the Comanche Indians.