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City may move Battle of Bird Creek marker

The city has applied with the Texas Historical Commission to move the marker commemorating the Battle of Bird Creek about 100 feet to a location that is more accessible to visitors. The marker was placed in its current location on Nugent Avenue in 1936.

New location would include signage about battle, Indian forces

DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE

A small historical marker commemorating the Battle of Bird Creek may be moved about 100 feet to allow safer and more convenient access by visitors, a Temple official said Thursday.

There are actually two markers in Temple that detail the May 26, 1839, battle between Texas Rangers led by Capt. John Bird and a coalition of about 250 Comanche, Kickapoo and Caddo warriors. 

While one marker is located near Bird Creek — named in honor of Capt. Bird — on Nugent Avenue west of I-35, the other is located near the northwest corner of West Adams and I-35 South.

According to Kelly Atkinson, a senior planner for the city of Temple, the decision to move the Nugent Avenue marker was made after the city and the Bell County Historical Commission received phone calls requesting that the marker be moved to a more accessible location that would retain its accuracy.

“The marker is currently located adjacent to Bird Creek very close to where the battle took place,” Atkinson said. “It’s close to the road and there is really no place to park. We would like to move it about 100 feet to the new Willow Glen subdivision.”

Willow Glen is being developed by WBW Development — the owner of the property — and new homes are being constructed by D.R. Horton Construction. 

“We want to move the marker to a location inside Willow Glen that won’t be developed,” Atkinson said. “It’s still very accessible to Nugent and there is some on-street parking at the location.”

“The marker was placed at the current site in 1936,” she said. “Of course we have to get approval from the Texas Historical Commission to move a marker, but we’ve started the application process.”

In addition to the relocated marker, the Willow Glen site will include additional signage that provides greater detail about the Texas Rangers and the battle. Another marker — this one telling the story of the Indians involved in the battle — will be located elsewhere in the Willow Glen neighborhood.

“We would like to make it into a historical package,” Atkinson said. “D.R. Horton will put in additional sidewalks to connect the relocated Bird Creek Battle marker with the signage about the tribes involved in the fight. There are some 200-year-old trees in the area that likely were present at the time of the battle.”

D.R. Horton also will build decorative concrete walls that ensure privacy for the homeowners.

The Battle of Bird Creek may have been a revenge attack by the Indians against perceived aggression by Bird and another Ranger.

Mexico had lost its battle for Texas in 1836 but the Mexican government was intent on reclaiming the lost land. The Cordova Rebellion, which aligned the Mexican Army and various Indian tribes against Texans, was designed to accomplish that feat.

In May 1839, Bird and about 50 men left Fort Milam near present-day Marlin (about 36 miles northeast of present-day Temple), escorting a handful of soldiers to Bastrop to face court martial charges. They arrived at Fort Little River, which was abandoned at that time, and Bird turned the prisoners over to Lt. James Irvin and a dozen men for the trip to Bastrop.

Bird and his second-in-command, Nathan Brookshire, escorted the men a few miles, then turned back for Fort Little River. On the way back to the fort, they startled three Indians skinning a buffalo on the prairie.

Bird and Brookshire confiscated the meat, returned to Little River, and saddled up the next day in search of the Indians. They found a small force and chased them smack dab into a trap just west of where today’s Nugent Avenue crosses I-35. Bird’s men found themselves outnumbered 20-to-1 by the coalition force.

The Rangers were able to make it to a creek bed and hunkered down. The Indians charged twice, and the Rangers repelled both charges.

After the Indians had dropped back the second time, Bird mounted his horse and charged out of the creek bank to encourage his men, only to be struck in the heart by an arrow fired from about 200 yards away. While the distance of the great shot is often debated by historians, the battle was on, and when it ended Bird, Sgt. William Weaver, Jesse Nash, HMC Hall and Thomas Gay were dead, but the Rangers losses paled in comparison to Indian casualties. Most historians believe five Rangers and somewhere between 30 and 100 Native Americans were killed.

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