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Herman Lehmann Capture

Herman Lehmann

Augusta Adams Lehmann Buchmeier

Recently John Kuker had the privilege of visiting Esther Lehmann in her home and seeing many of the artifacts from her uncle, Hermann.  Below is his history.


Texas Ranger who tried to find Lehmann and bring him home

Lehmann was born near Mason, Texas, on June 5, 1859, to German immigrants Moritz and Auguste Lehmann. The family later settled on an isolated farm four miles southwest of Loyal Valley. On May 16, 1870, a raiding party of eight to ten Apaches (probably Lipans) captured Herman, who was almost eleven, and his eight-year-old brother, Willie, while they were in the fields at their mothers request to scare the bird from the wheat. Their two sisters escaped without injury. Four days later, the Apache raiding party encountered a patrol of ten African-American cavalrymen led by Sgt. Emanuel Stance, who had been sent from Fort McKavett to recover the two Lehmann boys. In the short battle that followed, Willie Lehmann was able to escape, but the Apaches fled with Herman. Sergeant Stance became the first black regular to receive a Medal of Honor for his bravery on this mission.

Life with the Apaches

The Apaches took Herman Lehmann to their village in eastern New Mexico. He was adopted by a man named Carnoviste and his wife, Laughing Eyes. The Apaches called Herman “En Da” (White Boy). He spent about six years with them and became assimilated into their culture, rising to the position of petty chief. As a young warrior, one of his most memorable battles was a running fight with the Texas Rangers on August 24, 1875, which took place on the Concho Plains about 65 miles west of the site of San Angelo, Texas. Ranger James Gillett nearly shot Herman before he realized he was a white “captive”. When the Rangers tried to find Herman later, he escaped by

Esther Lehmann with shotgun and arrows

crawling through the grass. [1]

Asylum with the Comanches

Around the spring of 1876, Herman Lehmann killed an Apache medicine man avenging his killing of Carnoviste, his chief and master. Fearing revenge, he fled from the Apaches and spent a year alone in hiding. He became lonely and decided to search for a Comanche tribe that he might join. He observed a tribe all day long then entered the camp just after dark. At first they were going to kill him, however, a young warrior approached him that spoke the Apache tongue. Herman then explained his situation. That he was born white adopted by the Indians

Close up of Arrowheads and scraper

and that he left the Apaches after killing the medicine man. Another brave came forward verifying his story and he was welcomed to stay. He joined the Comanches who gave him a new name, Montechema (meaning unknown). [2]

In the spring of 1877, Herman and the Comanches attacked buffalo hunters on the high plains of Texas. Herman was wounded by hunters in a surprise attack on the Indian camp at Yellow House Canyon (present-day Lubbock, Texas) on March 18, 1877, the last major fight between Indians and non-Indians in Texas (see also Buffalo Hunters’ War).

Notice the woven sinew

In July 1877, Comanche chief Quanah Parker, who had successfully negotiated the surrender of the last fighting Comanches in 1875, was sent in search of the renegades. Herman Lehmann was among the group that Quanah found camped on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Quanah persuaded them to quit fighting and come to the Indian reservation near Fort Sill, Indian Territory in (present-day Oklahoma). Herman refused to go to the reservation, however, he later followed at Quanah’s request.

Return and adjustment

close up of shotgun

John Kuker with shotgun

Herman Lehmann lived with Quanah Parker’s family on the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in 1877-78. Several people took notice of the white boy living among the Indians. However, Herman’s mother never gave up believing that she would one day see her son again. She questioned Colonel Mackenzie, the commanding officer of Fort Sill, whether there were any blue eyed boys on the reservation? He said yes, however, the description led them to believe that this was not her boy. Nevertheless, she requested for the boy to be brought to her. [3]

In April 1878, Lt. Col. John W. Davidson ordered that Herman be sent under guard to his family in Texas. Five soldiers and a driver, escorted Herman on a four-mule-drawn ambulance to Loyal Valley in Mason County, Texas. Herman arrived in Loyal Valley with an escort of soldiers on May 12, 1878, eight years after his capture. The people of Loyal Valley gathered to see the captive boy brought home. Upon his arrival, neither he nor his mother recognized one another. Herman had long believed his family dead, for the Apache had shown him proof during his time of transition to their way of life. It was his sister who found a scar on his arm, which had been caused by her when they were playing with a hatchet. His family surrounded him welcoming him home and the distant memories began to come back. Hearing someone repeat “Herman”, he thought that sounded familiar and then realized it was his own name. [4]

At first, he was sullen and wanted nothing to do with his mother and siblings. As he put it, “I was an Indian, and I did not like them because


they were palefaces.”

His readjustment to his original culture was slow and painful. [5] His first marriage failed. They were a newly married couple living in the inn with Herman’s mother and stepfather. Herman complained of his wife flirting with male guests so they rented a house across the street. She later attended a neighborhood dance while he was away on a freighting trip. On finding out, Herman left and went back to the Indians. Several months later when he returned unannounced, he found Mrs. Lehmann in the company of another man. He escorted her home and filed for divorce.

On May 4, 1896 Herman married Fannie Light of Loyal Valley. They left Texas and moved back to Indian Territory in 1900 to be close to his Apache and Comanche friends. In 1908, after eight years of legal wrangling, the federal government granted him an allotment of land as an adopted Comanche through a special act of Congress. Herman and Fannie had 2 sons, Henry & John, and 3 daughters, Amelia, May, and Caroline. His wife and children dealt with his emotional scars from his years of captivity. In 1926, Herman left one day without a word. He moved back to Loyal Valley to live out the rest of his life with his brother Willie.

Herman Lehmann’s first memoir, written with the assistance of Jonathan H. Jones, was published in 1899 under the titleA Condensed History of the Apache and Comanche Indian Tribes for Amusement and General Knowledge (also known as Indianology). Herman hated this book for he felt Jonathan had taken liberty to fluff it up a bit.

Throughout his life, Herman Lehmann drifted between two very different cultures. Herman was a very popular figure in southwestern Oklahoma and the Texas Hill Country, appearing at county fairs and rodeos. To thrill audiences, he would chase a calf around an arena, kill it with arrows, jump off his horse, cut out the calf’s liver, and eat it raw.

His second autobiography, Nine Years Among the Indians (1927, edited by J. Marvin Hunter) was at the request of Herman. He requested that this time the book be written just as he told it. It is one of the finest captivity narratives in American literature, according to J. Frank Dobie.

Herman Lehmann’s story also inspired Mason County native Fred Gipson’s novel Savage Sam, a sequel to Old Yeller.

Herman Lehmann was ill for many years. The exact cause of his death is unknown. As per his niece Ester Lehmann (9/4/2007), she believes it could have been cancer. Herman died on February 2, 1932, in Loyal Valley, Mason County, Texas, where he is buried next to his mother and stepfather in the cemetery next to the old Loyal Valley one room school house.



August 31, 2010 - Posted by | Fredericksburg TX

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