When he was twenty-one years old, R. C. Roberts of Fredericksburg became a regular Texas Ranger serving for fifteen months in Company "D," Frontier Battalion, of which his half-brother, Dan Roberts, was Captain. He was not inexperienced in frontier service when he joined the Ranger company, for with his family frontier service was almost a heritage. His father, Alexander Roberts, came to Texas in 1836 to help fight the battles of the Texas Revolution, and the family followed up the Texas frontier, helping pave the way for other settlers. Their frontier experiences would fill volumes.
Bob Roberts was born on October 1, 1858 in Llano county near Packsaddle Mountain. There were scarcely any settlers in that part of the country, and during the Civil War the Indians were so troublesome that the Roberts family moved to Lockhart. While Bob Roberts was still a child they moved into the Round Mountain community of Blanco County. Indians were still making raids into the community to steal horses, and the Roberts boys learned to be ever alert and watchful for them. Even as a boy, he carried a gun to school with him.
Once, when he, in company with his older half brother, Alex, who was then about fifteen, a neighbor, and a negro had gone fishing to the Pedernales, they saw some Indians, travelling along single file. There were about twenty one Indians, all afoot, except one, who rode an old nag. The boys were upon a little hill, when they discovered the Indians, and felt comparatively safe, for they were certain that the Indians would not climb the hill to reach them. The boys had come on this trip poorly armed, and they were not eager to meet the Indians, who stopped in their marching as soon as they discovered the presence of the boys. They stayed perfectly still, watching the boys until they saw the boys move on.
The boys hurried to their home, which was eight miles away, gave the alarm, and when a crowd of men had been gathered, returned with them to the spot at which they had seen the Indians. There was much discussion over the direction which the Indian had taken, and so the trail was lost. Later it was learned that the Indians had crossed the Pedernales at the falls, to which the boys had intended to go fishing. And somewhere along their trail the Indians met an old man, Mr. Moore, whom they murdered. Other people of the community were murdered by the Indians within a short time, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Phelps and Jim Dollahite. The life of the settlers had become so uncertain that out of self defense the young men of the community pledged themselves to follow the next band of marauding Indians and bring them into battle. Their decision brought about the battle of Deer Creek, one of the last Indian fights to be fought in that section of the country.
Driving along the highway from Austin to Johnson City one passes through a gap between the hills, about two miles from Johnson City and about fifty miles from Austin, where nearly sixty years ago a battle was fought between a posse of ten men from near the settlement of Round Mountain and over three times that number of Indians.
[The Battle of Deer Creek, August 1873]
Two of the brothers of Bob Roberts took part in this battle, and were wounded there, but Bob Roberts, who was at the time thirteen years old did not get to go along. When news reached the Roberts home one day in August of 1873 that Indians were in that vicinity, the two eldest Roberts boys remembering their pledge, quickly saddled their horses. They told their younger brother Bob, that he might go along if he could find a saddle horse. But there was no other saddle horse near the house, and his brothers were in a hurry to be off. To this day Bob Roberts has not forgotten how eager he was to go with them, and how keenly disappointed he was at being left behind.
Captain Dan Roberts in his book, Rangers and Sovreignty [San Antonio, Texas: Wood Printing, 1914] gives an account of this battle in which the handful of men of the Round Mountain community battled with a band of Indians. When the white men were a short distance away, an Indian, placed upon guard on a hill, saw the white men approaching, and ran to give warning to the others. Thus the Indians were able to entrench themselves and the horses safely in a ravine below the hill, while the white men must approach in the open. George Roberts was wounded throught the nose, and Dan Roberts through the thigh. Seeing, after a while that they could not possibly overpower the Indians, the posse of men ceased firing. As soon as the firing ceased, the Indians retreated. As he was leaving Dan Roberts saw two old Indians climbing up the side the mountain, and he called to them in Spanish:
"Bring your men out into the open and let them fight."
To which the old Indian retorted:
"Take your men out and let them go to hell."
The two wounded Roberts boys were brought to a nearby ranch, and other men took up the trail of the Indians never, however, coming upon the Indians. They found evidence along the trail that wounded Indians had been carried along, and they came upon several graves.
On the day after the battle Bob Roberts went with others to view the battle ground, to which he had almost accompanied his older brothers the day before. He saw the trampled brush, disturbed by the right [sic], found a horse that had been killed, one belonging to an Indian. Farther along he saw the spot where the Indians had made their camp fire to prepare dinner a short time before the fight, not far from the ravine where the Indians had sheltered themselves.
Probably as a result of his valour in this fight Dan Roberts was commissioned a year later, as a charter member of Company "D," of which he later became captain.
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