The Mysterious and Gruesome History of Baby Head, a Texas Ghost Town
I've always enjoyed learning the history of our state, and with Texas Historical Markers throughout the state there's no shortage of learning that can take place. I've also found myself looking out for these historic sites when taking road trips.
This past weekend I had a chance to visit Fredericksburg, Texas, which is always a great place to go.
On the way back, we stopped in Llano for lunch, and that put us on the path to check out a ghost town just 10 miles away: the former town of Baby Head. It's a mysterious ghost town that dates back to the 1800s. How the town got its name is gruesome -- that is, if you believe the version of the story that's most widely passed down.
Baby Head, Texas is located off Highway 16, 10 miles north of Llano. There's no sign welcoming you to Baby Head, and no one lives in Baby Head. In fact, there is no town of Baby Head anymore. It's just a cemetery and a hill in the distance called Baby Head Mountain. A creek also has the name.
How did the town become known as Baby Head?
According to TexasHillCountry.com, between 1850 and 1870 a group of Native Americans attacked a group of settlers and kidnapped a young girl. According to stories passed down, the girl was killed and her head was put on a spike at the foot of the mountain. In 1870, settlers settled in the area and named the town Babyhead in the child's honor. There are, in fact, maps showing the town's name as Babyhead.
According to 101highlandlakes.com, in the late 1870s the community prospered and grew. In 1879, a new local post office was opened, and in the 1900s Baby Head, also spelled Babyhead by some, had a store, a cotton gin, a blacksmith, and even a school. The oldest gravestone at the Baby Head cemetery belongs to Jodie May McKneely, who died in 1884.
So did Native Americans actually kill a baby? That is the widely accepted story, as 101highlandlakes.com points out, mainly due to writings and stories that were told:
Then, in 1983, John E. Conner’s memoir, “A Great While Ago,” came out. Conner, who was about 98 when he finished his memoirs and spent his boyhood in Llano County, recounted a different take on the Baby Head name genesis.
According to Conner, the incident actually occurred in 1873, and it might have involved the group of Indians who fought settlers south of Llano on Packsaddle Mountain.
In his account, Conner said the Indians raided the area and kidnapped Bill Buster’s daughter. The Indians raced off with the child, who — depending on the version — was an infant or as old as 4. The settlers pursued the Indians, but it was a few days later, after possibly being alerted by circling vultures, that they recovered the child’s remains with only her head distinguishable.
Conner's story was backed up by another historian:
Still, longtime Llano County historian Alline Elliott corroborated Conner’s version in published reports many decades ago. Her husband, Sydney, was 17 years old in 1873 and working on a Llano County ranch, and his stories of that incident fall in line with Conner’s.
Elliott pointed out that the community in question didn’t become known as Baby Head until the 1870s. She even identified the child as Mary Elizabeth in one published story.
But there's also another version of Baby Head's story. A much different version where Native Americans didn't kill a child, but instead it was wealthy ranchers who wanted to blame the Native Americans. According to that tale:
The killers, according to Webster, who passed it down to his son, who then told it to Fry’s source, were not Indians at all but “wealthy and powerful” local ranchers. The story goes that the men approached Webster, who was well thought of in the Cherokee community just north of what became the Baby Head community, about a plan to murder a homesteading family.
The idea, as the story goes, was that the men would kill the family to get the attention of the U.S. government in hopes of having a cavalry unit or other military protection assigned to the area. The government had already dismantled a number of forts in Texas because they felt Native American threats had declined to the point that locals could handle them. The men allegedly involved in the plot believed Indian attacks were still a problem and warranted military intervention.
No matter how the town became known as Baby Head, it's still a pretty eerie place to visit, even during the day like I did. It should also be noted that the cemetery has been listed as a haunted, which does make sense if you believe in ghosts.
Check out some pictures from my trip to Baby Head below.
The Texas Ghost Town Of Baby Head
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