Josiah P. Wilbarger

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An interpretation of the scalping of Josiah Wilbarger.

Josiah Pugh Wilbarger (September 10, 1801 – April 11, 1845) was a legendary early Texan who lived for twelve years after being scalped by Comanche Indians.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, and moved to Kentucky in 1818. Wilbarger moved to Pike County, Missouri, in 1823 and married Margaret Barker in September 1827. They left for Texas soon after the wedding and reached what is now Matagorda County on December 26. Wilbarger was a teacher at Matagorda for a year before moving to La Grange, where he taught and surveyed until he settled in Stephen F. Austin's colony in a bend of the Colorado River, some ten miles above the site of present Bastrop, Texas.

The scalping[edit]

In August 1833, Wilbarger was a member of a surveying party of four that was attacked by Comanche Native Americans about four miles east of the site of present Austin, Texas. Two of the men were killed and scalped by the Native Americans. The other two managed to flee. Wilbarger was scalped and the Indian left him for dead, but he was still living when he was found the next day by Reuben Hornsby and taken to the Hornsby home for treatment. Wilbarger managed to survive by crawling into a nearby stream to wash his wounds. According to legend, Wilbarger was thought to have been killed, but later that night Hornsby's wife saw Wilbarger in a dream sitting under a tree. She gave her husband a description of the tree and he was found there the next day. Wilbarger never completely recovered from his wound although he lived for eleven more years. He died at his home near Bastrop in 1845 after an accident in which he struck his head on a low support beam inside his cotton gin. He died because his exposed skull became diseased.

Wilbarger County, Texas is named in honor of Josiah Wilbarger and his brother, Mathias Wilbarger. Wilbarger Creek in Travis County is also named for him.

The actor Don Collier played Wilbarger in the 1967 episode "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" of the syndicated television series, Death Valley Days. Jan Clayton was cast as his sister, also named Margaret.[1]


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