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 James Bascom Cambern

James Bascom Cambern

Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky, USA
Death 18 Apr 1858 (aged 34–35)
Jack County, Texas, USA
Burial Jack County, Texas, USA
Memorial ID 14179342 · View Source
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JAMES BASCOM CAMBERN was the son of Ignatius and Sarah (Bell) Camborn/Cambern. James attended Centre College of Danville, Kentucky and was well educated. Around 1835/6, James left his home in Lebanon, Kentucky, traveling down through Tennessee, spending time with the Bell (his mother's) family and made plans to travel with them on their emigration to Texas. [Thomas Mage Bell (relative of – possibly a brother to Sarah, James' mother) left Maryland for Tennessee where he married Mary McFalls around 1802.] In December 1837, James Cambern, Thomas & Mary Bell and all but two of their children (including Daniel and Mary (Bell) Kutch, Jacob and Virginia (Bell) Mathews and his future wife Margery who was only about nine at the time) started to Texas on the steamer "Black Hawk". On December 27th the steamer exploded and the families lost all of their possessions including the life of a small daughter, possibly the daughter of Virginia (Bell) Mathews.

Margery Bell and James B. Cambern married in Shelby County, Texas in 1844, then settled in Smith County, Texas. Children soon followed, Luther born 1846, William born 1848, Tom born 1849 and Mary born 1851. In 1855, James and his family moved to Jack County settling near the Keechi community where Dewitt was born in 1855, Flora was born 1857 and the baby James, Jr. was born 1858.

Margery's sister Mary (Bell) and her husband Daniel Kutch also settled at Keechi. Their sister Virginia (Bell) and her husband Jacob Mathews settled nearer to the Fort Worth (Benbrook) area.

1857 James and Margery Cambern filed on two surveys about 15 miles Northwest of Jacksboro. On 12 Jan 1858, Margery wrote a letter to her brother's family back in Tyler describing their surroundings as very promising, that they had already harvested a crop of wheat, and that "we have good land, good range, timber enough and good water." She goes on to say that she had seen only three white men since last August, and finally, to direct their letters to her family to Weatherford. Though the letter had been written in January, there had been no chance to mail it. (This letter was found in their home by relatives, after most of her family had been murdered by white men and Indians on 18 Apr 1858.)

On April 18, 1858, a band of Indians and several white men, later identified as W. E. Willis, Isham Tipton, W. C. Jones and W. B. Morrison, went to the home of James Cambern. James and his two oldest boys, 12 year old Luther and William, about 11 years, had been working in the field and were preparing to unhitch the team before going home for dinner. Some Indians appeared in the field but since Indians were still on the reservation, they supposed they were friendly. Two, however, dismounted, jumped over the fence and one killed James Cambern with an arrow that entered his left side and exited his right side. The other Indian shot and killed the oldest boy, Luther and then shot William, who was nearer the fence and managed to get over the fence before he died. While this was going on, the white men went to the house, took Margery (Bell) Cambern and the younger Cambern children out into the yard, guarding them while other robbed the house. There was a red-headed white man who dictated the affair, and whom little Mary Cambern watched closely. This red-headed murderer sent six or seven Indians over to the home of Tom Mason, about a mile away, to kill and rob them. The Mason family were eating dinner. Just what commenced no one knows, as the oldest child, Alexander (Tobe) was not quite three years old. Milton, the youngest, was ten months of age. Mason and his wife were killed a short distance from the house. The little boys were not harmed.

After the bunch at the Cambern home had robbed the house, they took Margery and the four little children, Thomas, 9, Mary, 7, Dewitt, 3 and the infant James, Jr. upon a high hill out of sight of the home. The Indians from Mason's joined them on the mountain where they prepared to tie Thomas on a mule. Mrs. Cambern began pleading and the baby James began crying where upon the Indians killed both Mrs. Cambern and the baby. They rode off leaving little Mary and Dewitt by their dead mother and brother.

The next morning, April 19th, there was an emigrant train in the area that was bound for California. After breakfast two young men told the train that they were going to take a circle to the north to hunt for deer and would meet them later. They got about a mile away when they discovered the Indians coming with some loose horses. They hastened back to the emigrant train, corralled the wagons, got three more men, and started after the Indians, leaving the other men to guard the women and children. They crowded the Indians so closely that the one who now had Thomas shoved the boy off his horse. The men rode after the Indians but could not over take them so they turned back. The men picked Thomas up and took him back to their wagon. Concerned about his condition, they sent a courier to Ft. Belknap for help. A body of soldiers was dispatched from the fort to lead the train into Ft. Belknap.

Little Mary and Dewitt Cambern, not knowing where they were, stayed on the mountain beside their dead mother and brother until almost sundown. Luckily, when Mary started leading her brother down the mountain, their home came into sight. As she passed her dead father, she stopped and took hold of the arrow that was in his body, pulled it out and hid it under the fence. She took Dewitt into the house, closed and barred the door. The children remained there until about three o'clock the next day, April 20th.

"A History of Texas and Texans" by Frank W. Johnson
Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory by James Cox; and a written document by one of the Grandchildren of Dewitt 'Witt' Cambern.

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  • Maintained by: S. G. Shanafelt
  • Originally Created by: Paul Smith
  • Added: 5 May 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 14179342
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James Bascom Cambern (1823–18 Apr 1858), Find A Grave Memorial no. 14179342, citing Cambern Cemetery, Jack County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by S. G. Shanafelt (contributor 46871301) .