Indian fighter W.C. “Uncle Billy” Kutch had the reputation of being a bloodhound on the trail.
In 1855, the North Texas pioneer and his wife, Narcissus McElroy, built a house in Keechi Valley before Jack County was established. He bought 160 acres of preempted state land where thick prairie grass, live oaks, blackjack and post oaks attracted cattleman, including Oliver Loving.
Three years after the Kutch family settled in Jack County, his uncle, James Cambren, aunt and three of their five children were killed by Indians. The Cambren's neighbors, Tom Mason and his wife, were also killed, but the two young children were left unharmed. The attack had all the markings of a Comanche attack because all the victims were shot with arrows. The victims had lived 18 miles from Kutch's ranch.
News of the murders quickly spread and the two surviving Cambren children, Mary, 7, and DeWitt, 5, were taken to safety at the Kutch ranch. But before the frontiersmen left to track down the Indians, they asked little Mary Cambren to tell them what she saw. (The author of “The History of Jack County,” Ida Lasater Huckabay, writes in great detail about the event because she had heard the story from her grandmother her entire life.) Mary Cambren said Indians had done the killings, but there were four white men with them. She said a red-headed man came into the house and opened her father's trunk and took out the $1,000 her father had brought to Texas to buy cattle. The ranchers then realized that the Indian attack was really a cover-up for a robbery of a large amount of money in those days. Evidently, the white men had recruited the Comanches to kill the families in exchange for all the horses and household goods, while they took the cash. The tracks indicated that the Comanches headed north toward the Red River while the white men went south.
W.L. Lasater, the Jack County historian's grandfather, was the captain of the posse. He selected the most experienced frontiersmen including Kutch, Oliver Loving, J.C. Loving, John Taylor, Bryant Herrington and Ryan Herrington. They rode south after the four men, determined to follow them to Mexico if necessary. They followed a trail through the Salt Hill Community (near Barton's Chapel) and Palo Pinto County, passing near what is now Graford and Mineral Wells. The criminals had stopped near Mineral Wells at the home of a man who gave Lasater a description of the four men and their horses. The posse passed through Comanche County and learned that people on the street had seen the four men and knew where they lived. The Jack County Posse pushed on and pursued their quarry until they caught them in Lampasas County.
When the four men were brought back to Jack County, Mary Cambren had no trouble picking out the thieves and organizers of the murders. But, partly because their conviction was based upon the word of a child, the dangerous men were released. Possibly, the political agenda of Texas Gov. Hardin Richard Runnels influenced a decision that was extremely unpopular in Jack County. The governor continued to blame the Indians for the attacks on the Cambren and Masons because this supported his “anti-Indian platform.
But the white renegades did eventually face their day of reckoning. The red-headed leader made a full confession and admitted killing both the Mason and Cambren families and stealing the $1,000. These ruthless men were hanged near Austin with numerous Jack County citizens witnessing the final act of “Judge Lynch.”
Kutch became the best known Indian fighter in Jack County and one of its most respected ranching pioneers. He continued to organize other Jack County ranchers to ward off Comanche and Kiowa raids until the Indian Wars were over.