The Keenan and Paschal Families in the Montague County Indian Raid in 1870

By Linda Stewart, 17 March 2019

Susan, William, and John Paschal are buried to the right of the fence under the tree in the Keenan Family Cemetery, Forestburg, Montague Co., TX.  Picture courtesy of Brett Fishburn,

Last year I wrote an article entitled “Just the facts, ma’am”.  I will re-post part of that article.

One of John T. and Mary’s son’s abandoned his young wife and four children.  He moved on and a couple of years later had a new family and children.  The facts say that the son and his first wife were married two years when he went off to war leaving her, now 18 years old, with a one year old baby and a farm to run.  The regiment he was in remained fairly local to the area they lived in.  He received furloughs and came home long enough for her to get pregnant and he returned to his regiment.  In 1865, she was 22 years old, had been married for five years, had four children, and a husband who had been basically absent for three years due to the war.  He came home from the war, but two years later they were separated.  He abandoned her and the children and moved 200 miles away.   Of course we will never know the cause of their separation, but  I can only imagine what emotions this young woman felt … anger, abandonment, grief for a dying marriage, frightened for the well being of her children.  I found documents where she told people she was widowed.  I am sure in her heart he was completely dead to her.  Her parents were both deceased so where was she to go.  She did have siblings, but I did not find any records that she lived with any of them.   I did find a records of her living with two different local families in the county where her brothers lived.  The records were sparse for a two year period, then I find birth information of a fifth child.  I am sure people will gasp at the thought of an illegitimate child, but don’t we all want love and compassion even if that decision is not a wise one?  Her story does not have a happy ending, she was killed a year later.

The man was Montgomery Pike Paschall and his wife was Susannah A. “Susan” Willingham Paschall.  Their four children were Benjamin Franklin “Ben”, William “Billy”, John “Johnny”, and Mary Josephine.   Montgomery abandoned Susan in Fort Worth, TX, and was living in Hays Co., TX by August 1867. In 1868, Montgomery, his second wife Ann Brock and their baby daughter Ada Ann Paschall were living in Austin, Travis Co., TX.  With Susan’s parents deceased, and her husband gone, Susan moved to Montague Co., TX where her siblings were living.

In the spring of 1868, Susan and the four children were living with Levi Perryman and his wife.  On 26 November 1869, Susan’s 5th child,  Melinda Katherine Paschal was born.  By the fall of 1870, they were living in the household of John and Anna Keenan, when Susan, William, and John were killed.  Mary, and probably Benjamin, were raised by Susan’s brother John J. Willingham after her death.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Indian Raid story, below is an article that appeared in the newspaper shortly after the incident occurred.

The Daily Express, (San Antonio, TX) – Wednesday, January 18, 1871, Vol. V, No. 15, Page 4, and The Juniata Sentinel, (Mifflintown, Pennsylvania) – Wednesday, 22 February 1871, Volume XXV, No.8, Whole Number 1249, Page 1.

Indian Outrages. From the San Antonio (Tex.) Express, Jan. 18. [1871] From a letter received by a gentleman in this city, from Lieutenant A. C. Hill, we learn of further Indian outrages in the upper country.

In Montague County near Denton Creek, while the man of the house was from home, a party of nine Indians broke down the windows and doors of the house at about 10 o’clock at night, where two women and eight children were sleeping.  They killed Mrs. Susan Paschal, aged about 35 years.  They killed Billy, her son, or rather mangled him so that he died the next day.  A boy 7 years old named Johnny, was dragged into the yard, scalped, shot, and his bowels cut out while his sister Mary, only 4 years old was shot in the breast with an arrow and severely wounded.  Ben Paschal, age 12 years, was beaten with clubs and left for dead, but both he and Mary are now slowly recovering.  Another of the children was killed by having its head smashed with a stick, and was then brutally thrown into the yard.

Mrs. Ann Kenan, the lady of the house, was shot through the breast with two arrows, beaten with clubs, scalped, and left for dead.  She lived four days, and then died.  Miss Ann Kenan, her daughter, was horribly outraged, and then killed.  A child, 5 years old, was wounded in the bed.  The blood of the victims ran through the beds to the floor – in fact the whole house was covered with blood and hair, and gory clubs, used in the hellish work of these fiends.  The writer adds: “This same party of Indians, after committing these murders, went on down the country, and stole a lot of horses, on which they made their escape back to their homes.  There have been several families murdered besides this mentioned, and, if possible, with more brutality than above described.  I will tell you my honest opinion.  These marauders are the reserve Indians using the Comanche arrows and signs, to mislead the country into belief that they are Comanche’s who commit these outrages.”

Lieutenant Hill, who seems to understand the whole question, continues: “The eight of hundreds of lone chimneys now standing on the whole line of the frontier, from the Rio Grande to Red River, the great number of decaying fences and houses: and houses in this vicinity, stained with the blood of men, women, and children of all ages, is truly a shame to any nation on earth.  You would shrink and shudder if but half were told of the horrid murders committed.”  In regard to the reception of rangers Lieutenant Hill continues: “I am very successful in all my dealings with the whole people: we are gladly received by the citizens and soldiers of all this country.”

The story of the Indian Raid has appeared in numerous publications over the years.  Here are a few of those publications:

Wilcox, Jerry S., H. G. Bedford’s Texas Indian Troubles. “The Scalping Knife”, Hargreaves Printing Co. Inc, Dallas, Texas: 1905, pp. 26-18.

Potter, Mrs. W. R., History of Montague County. “Fate of Keenan and Paschal Families, Winter of 1870”, Austin, Texas, E.L. Steck: 1913, pp. 87-92.

Perryman, Levi., Victims of the Kenon Massacre. Forestburg, Texas:  1919.

London, Marvin F., Indian raids in Montague County.  S. J. T. Printers, Saint Jo, Texas. N.D.: 1977, pp. 71-74.

In each of these stories there are small discrepancies that can probably be contributed to folklore.   For example, the London account says that Susan Paschal and Ann Kennan were sisters.  This is incorrect.  Per the 1860 US Census, Anna was born in 1823 in New York, 7 years prior to Susan’s parents marriage in Missouri.   As family researchers, we are to tell the stories of our ancestors.  The facts tell that story.  Family folklore which is the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth, can be included in your research, but always make it understood that the story is family folklore and may or may not be factual.    Many times researchers are hesitant to include folklore because it is usually a scandalous account, but nevertheless the story exists.  Not only do families have folklore, but counties have them as well.

The Montague County folklore regarding who the supposed father of Susan’s 5th child Melinda Katherine Paschal, has two accounts.  The first account, says that Melinda was the supposed daughter of the local sheriff, Levi Perryman.  It was said that Perryman was known to be a womanizer assisting the widow ladies with all their needs.  Supposedly it would not bode well for Perryman’s political career to have an illegitimate daughter.  The “Indians” were not Indians at all, but white men dressed as Indians hired to kill Susan and Melinda.  The second account, says that Melinda was the supposed daughter of William M. Fanning, who raised her after Susan’s death.

Ancestry DNA testing has been conducted on a great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin Paschal, as well as a great granddaughter of Ada Ann Paschall Cannon.  Both granddaughters were a match with Montgomery Pike Paschall as their common ancestor.

It would be prudent for the descendants of Levi Perryman and Melinda Katherine Paschal to also have Ancestry DNA testing performed.  The results could possibly finally prove or disprove the Montague County folklore.

Happy Hunting!

10 thoughts on “The Keenan and Paschal Families in the Montague County Indian Raid in 1870”

  1. Very interesting article. Was curious how you found the name of the 5th child, Melinda Katherine…that is not a name I have heard. My family knew her as “Dollie” and she was the baby that survived the raid along with her brother Ben and sister Mary. She was my great great grandmother. It is certainly interesting how a widowed Miss Paschal would have an infant child. This wasn’t something that my grandpa ever speculated on at least with me. I was just given the tid bits that he could recall direct from his grandma Dollie, and that the story was written in a “texas history book” somewhere. In my adult years I have done some research on the story and have read several accounts. Also curious if you know if anyone in Levi’ Perryman’s family have done any DNA testing. This story has always fascinated me.

    1. In the book “John T. Paschall and his wife Mary Cook Paschall, Two Hundred Years of Our Family’s History”, I have documented the family line in chapters 12, 13, and 14, totally 87 pages. The book has over 5,000 sources so these chapters are well documented.

      Montgomery Pike Paschall was married four times and had 10 children. Susannah A. “Susan” Willingham was his first wife with Benjamin Franklin, William, John, and Mary Josephine their children. The Paschall name is spelled with a single and double “L”. Montgomery abandoned Susan and the children in the spring of 1866 or 1867. Susan moved to Montague County because she had family there.

      Dollie was named after her maternal grandmother, Melinda Wainscott Willingham. Her daughter Rena, listed her mother’s name as Melinda Dollie on her Social Security Application. Dollie’s name on her and John Robert Fanning’s marriage license is L. K. Paschal. The 1880 Montague Co., TX census has her name as “Catherine”.

      I do not know if the Perryman family has done any DNA testing. You may be able to find out through Ancestry.

    2. Dollie is my dad’s mother and my oldest living brother Richard Tolliver Underwood 83 who is 20 years my senior lived in Prescott, Az with her before she passed in 1957. Dollie gave birth to my Biological dad in 1907 and he was 54 years old when I was born in 1959! , contact me!

  2. John Keenon was my great great grandfather. His son Vardie was my great grandfather and my Grammy’s father. I’ve heard this story all my life.

    1. This is one of the well know stories of Montague County, Texas. Because the county is located next to the Oklahoma border, it was plagued with Indian raids throughout the 1800’s. The tragic story of the Keenan/Paschal raid, was first published in the Daily Express, (San Antonio, TX) – Wednesday, January 18, 1871, Vol. V, No. 15, Page 4, entitled “Indian Outrages”. The source of the story was a letter written by Asa Collinsworth Hill, who progressed from first lieutenant to colonel (1870 to 1873) in the Frontier Forces and Texas State Police with much of his duty in areas of Indian raids.

      I cannot imagine what your great great grandfather John Keenon went through when he returned from his trip. So tragic, but he did find love again and had more children. That was a blessing. Thank you for your comment.

  3. I have been reading some on the early history of North Texas, in particular the stories of Indian raids on the area. Can anyone tell me where the Keenan Family Cemetery is located in Montague County, Texas?

    1. Dear Jim,
      Thank you so much for the inquiry regarding the Keenan Cemetery.
      The Keenan Family Cemetery is located in Forestburg, Montague County, on private property. If you would like to visit the cemetery arrangements have to be made in advance. I do not know the landowners name, but Max Brown with the Montague County Genealogy Society can assist you, If you are in the Bowie area, the society meets the second Thursday of each month except July at the Bowie Library, 301 Walnut Street at 6:30 pm.
      Be Blessed,
      Linda Stewart

  4. Mary Josephine Paschal Williams was my mothers grandmother. My mother was named for Marys sister Dollie (may have been a nickname). I found that one of the survivors later was in the 1880 census living with theWillingham family. Dollie moved to Arizona later. I met Leon Paschal (grandson of Benjamin Paschal) in Sugarland, Texas and he said that his grandfather showed him the scar from the indian raid. Mary Josephine also had a scar from the raid, as told by my mother. The graves in 1995 were located on Greenwood land, and I went to the cemetary. There are several short graves with headstones, no names for them and no marker for Mrs. Paschal. Perhaps the names eroded away. Did you find a marriage license for Montgomery and Mrs. Paschal? John Kennon filed for reparations from the US government and received them, as these indians were from the reservation at Fort Lawton when the quakers ran the reservation.

    1. In my book, John T. Paschall and his wife Mary Cook Paschall, I did extended research on Montgomery because of all the controversy surrounding him. The information is covered in Chapters 12, 13, and 14. Due to a fire in Parker County Courthouse in 1874, I was unable to locate a marriage license for Montgomery and Susannah A. “Susan” Willingham Paschal. However, Montgomery and 1st wife Susan’s great-great granddaughter through Benjamin Franklin Paschal and Montgomery and 2nd wife Ann Brock’s third great granddaughter through Ada Ann Paschall Cannon each took a DNA tests and their common ancestor was Montgomery. Dollie’s given name was Melinda Katherine Paschal. She was not the daughter of Montgomery Pike Paschall. He had abandoned Susan and the children in the spring of 1869 and Dollie was born in November 1869. Thank you for purchasing a book. I believe it will shed some light on your Paschal family line.

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