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The James Gotcher Family: A Pioneer Family in Texas

James Gotcher came to Texas from Alabama in 1829 and by agreement with Stephen F. Austin, under the authority of the ayuntamiento of San Felipe, founded and marked a road or "trace" from San Felipe to the "colony on the Colorado," also known as Bastrop. James led several wagons of settlers along this route and it was later known as the "Gotier Trace," or "Gotcher Road." Many original surveyors' description of property in the counties the trace traveled through contains reference to the Gotier/Gotcher Trace. 

Once the road had been completed, James Gotcher returned then to his family in Alabama. In January of 1834, the James Gotcher family immigrated to Texas. The Stephen F. Austin Papers contain an entry of their immigration on this date. The James Gotcher family consisted of his sons Samuel, Nathaniel, James Jr., and William Riley. Mrs. Gotcher's name was Mary Nancy. Also with the family, their one daughter Jane, and her husband, Lemuel Crawford. 

The Gotcher and Crawford families settled and built homes near the Gotier Trace on Rabb's Creek in Lee County. They were the first white settlers in that county. As you can imagine, James Gotcher was a very industrious and enterprising man. For farming purposes, he built a second home in the old Post Oak Community, located a few miles from his first home on Rabb's Creek. Several historical accounts indicate that James either mined lead along Rabb's Creek or was dealing in imported lead. Such an occurrence would support his need for two places to live. His home by the Gotier Trace on Rabb's Creek would also afford more security if required. 

In the winter of 1836, General Santa Anna was approaching San Antonio with his Mexican Army. David Crockett was at this time in the Alamo at San Antonio and had previously sent for the "Tennessee Volunteers" to come to the Alamo to join the new Republic of Texas Army. The Tennessee Volunteers with their Captain, William B Harrison, traveled a part of their way down the Gotier Trace and stayed with the Gotcher Family on their way to the Alamo. Gotcher supplied Captain Harrison with a large quantity of food and provisions to take to the defenders of the Alamo. Lemuel Crawford, husband of Gotcher's daughter Jane, volunteered to go with Captain Harrison and his men and was subsequently killed in action at the fall of the Alamo. This left Jane a young widow with an infant child, a daughter named Margaret Elizabeth Crawford. 

In the month of March in 1837, a band of Comanche Indians approached the Gotcher homestead intending to attack the family. The family home was located on a hill about 400 yards east of Rabbs Creek and 100 yards north of the Gotier Trace. James and his two oldest sons, Samuel and Nathaniel, were cutting wood nearby. Mrs. Gotcher and James Jr. were in the cabin, while Jane, her daughter Margaret, and the youngest Gotcher son, William Riley, were bringing water from the creek. Mrs. Gotcher shot and killed five of the attackers before she died. She very bravely defended her home and her loved ones as best she could. Before she fell dead, many arrows pierced her body. Gotcher and his sons, hearing the shots, quickly ran to defend their family, however, they were all quickly killed. Jane, knowing immediately what was taking place, attempted to escape with her daughter and William Riley. However, they were captured and along with James Jr. 

They were forced to watch the Indians scalp their mother, who was of German descent and known for her long beautiful golden hair - hair which they placed on a pole for their ceremonial "victory dance." The survivors were forced to participate in the Indian ceremonial dance around their mother's scalp. They then took their captives away, down the Gotier Trace. 

Traveling along the Gotier Trace several days later, General Edward Burleson found the massacred family and buried them near their home by the Gotier Trace. A Texas State Historical Marker has been placed on the burial site. Colonel Burleson buried the Indians that Mrs. Gotcher killed near a large oak tree between the home site and the family graves. Jane, her daughter, Margaret, and two brothers, James Jr. and William Riley were forced to walk behind the Indians who were on horses. They were treated with extreme cruelty and were made to work for their captors who tied them each night. Upon reaching the Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma, the remaining Gotcher family members were traded to a Choctaw Indian village chief. The Choctaw people were not cruel to them, but did require them to perform hard work. 

Near the city of Sherman, Texas was an Indian trading post operated by Colonel Coffee. In January of 1838 through the efforts of Colonel Coffee and Mr. Charles Spaulding, Jane, her daughter and two brothers were bought from the Choctaws. Charles Spaulding later married Jane and brought them all back to their old home in Post Oak Community. 

James Gotcher Jr. enlisted in the Texas Rangers when he was of age, never married, and died of natural causes in 1846.

William Riley Gotcher married Rhoda Margaret Hancock and built a home in Sugar Loaf Mountain Community, Coryell County.

Jane (Gotcher) (Crawford) Spaulding died March 27, 1851.

Her daughter Margaret Elizabeth (Crawford) Timoney died one year later, in 1852, with one daughter, Mary Jane Timoney, left to carry the Crawford family line.