Josiah Pugh Wilbarger

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Headstone Photograph

Colonel Josiah Pugh

Born in Kentucky Sept. 10, 1801
Died at Bastrop, Tex. Apr. 11, 1845

His Son

John Lemon Wilbarger
Texas Ranger
Born in Matagorda, Texas.
November 19, 1829
Killed by Indians
On the Rio Grande River
August 20, 1850
Erected by the State of Texas

Back of headstone

Captain of a Company of the
Mississippi Militia in the War
of 1812. First came to texas in 1814
In 1818 he was Brigade Major
of Long's Expedition
Returned to Louisiana and
next came to Texas in 1822 with
Stephen F. Austin
Fought in the Battle of
Velasco in 1832
and was a delegate to the
Consultation in 1835
Full Name: Josiah Pugh Wilbarger
Location: Section:Republic Hill, Section 1 (C1)
Row:T  Number:7
Reason for Eligibility: Veteran, War of 1812; Republic of Texas Veteran; Delegate, Consultation of 1835 
Birth Date: September 10, 1801 
Died: April 11, 1844 
Burial Date: Reinterred in 1936 




The following biographical sketch was compiled by the Texas State Cemetery Research Dept. 


Josiah Pugh Wilbarger was a early Texas settler and a veteran of the Texas War for Independence.  He was born September 10, 1801, to John and Ann Wilbarger in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  Although some sources claim he was born in Rockingham County, Virginia.  By 1823, Wilbarger moved to Pike County Missouri.  He married Margaret Barker in September 1827 and moved to Matagorda, Texas, in December. 


While in Texas, Wilbarger became a legend, along with his credentials as an early Texas settler and Texas Independence veteran, he gained a unique place in Texas history.  Wilbarger survived a scalping at the hands of a group of Comanche in 1833.  Before the scalping, he taught school, surveyed land, and he settled in Stephen F. Austin’s “Little Colony” near present-day Bastrop – becoming the first Texas colonist to settle in the area.


University of Texas professor and author J. Frank Dobie recounted the legendary tale in his book, Tales of Old-Time Texas.  According to Dobie’s account, Wilbarger and four other men were on a scouting trip for land.  The group was surprised by a group of Comanche while eating lunch near Walnut Spring.  Some accounts say it was a group of Kickapoo who attacked the scouting group. 


Two men died, two escaped and Wilbarger was left for dead.  Wilbarger was shot in the neck and the leg and was then scalped by his attackers.  According to accounts, he was conscious when he was scalped.  The two scouts who survived swore Wilbarger was dead, but one woman did not believe it.  In Dobie’s account he writes, “About midnight Sarah Hornsby, a remarkably plucky and resolute woman, roused her husband saying, ‘Wilbarger is not dead.  I saw him in a dream.  He sits under a large oak tree, naked, scalped and covered with blood.’”


Wilbarger survived the night with a bleeding scalp along with the other wounds.  According to accounts, he crawled to a nearby watering hole to drink water and clean his wounds.  While in the water, blowflies laid eggs in his scalp and in his other wounds.  He later recounted how he could feel the maggots hatching in his skin.  He survived by drinking water and eating snails. 


Wilbarger came to the conclusion, if he would survive he had to crawl to the Hornsby House – three quarters of a mile away.  He made it to an oak tree to rest.  As he laid under the oak tree, Wilbarger saw a vision of his sister, Margaret Clifton.  Dobie wrote, “Standing near him, the sister said, her voice calm and restful, ‘Brother Josiah, you are too weak to go any farther by yourself.  Remain here under this tree and friends will come take care of you…’”


Sarah Hornsby had convinced her husband and other men to find Wilbarger and to bury the other men.  Later the next day, the men found Wilbarger sitting under a tree, naked except for a single sock and covered with blood.  They carried Wilbarger back to the Hornsby House where they treated him. 


According to the tale, Wilbarger learned the fate of his sister.  Dobie wrote, “He saw her {Margaret Clifton}, yet she, he knew well, was living in Missouri, near St. Louis, more than 700 miles away.  It was not until many weeks had passed that he learned she had died the day before he was wounded and even at the hour of his vision was spending her first night in the grave.”  After Wilbarger and Sarah Hornsby talked about the experience, they determined Hornsby’s first dream of the woman telling her about Wilbarger’s fate came shortly after his visit by his sister, according to Dobie. 


Wilbarger survived for years after his scalping.  His wound to his throat and leg healed, however, his scalp never completely healed.  According to the legend, years following the incident, it was said parts of Wilbarger’s exposed skull could still be seen.  His wife sewed a special hat for his head and he wore it at all times.  Although he survived the scalping, his scalp grew very weak.  Dobie said, Wilbarger died one day while working in his grain mill, when he stood up too quickly he hit his exposed head on a low beam and died instantly.


Josiah Pugh Wilbarger died at his home on April 11, 1845, and was buried in Fairview Cemetery near his home.  Later, Wilbarger and his son, John Lemon, were buried at the Texas State Cemetery.  According to the headstone, “John Lemon Wilbarger, Texas Ranger, was killed by Indians on the Rio Grande River – August 20, 1850.” 



#9068) The Handbook of Texas biography above indicates that Josiah Wilbarger's wife, Margaret, was reinterred with him in 1936. Margaret Wilbarger is not buried at the Texas State Cemetery. Their son, John Wilbarger, was reinterred from Fairview Cemetery, Bastrop, Texas, with Josiah in 1936. Margaret Wilbarger remarried after Josiah's death, to a man named Talbert Chambers. She is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Bastrop, Texas under the name Margaret Chambers.
Entered by Jennifer Aprea on 3/24/1999 3:04:10 PM

Additional Multimedia Files To Download:

#6920) Title:Scalping of Josiah Wilbarger
Source: Indian Depredations in Texas by J.W. Wilbarger, 1890. Photograph courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Description: Sketched by T.J. Owen, which was a pseudonym for William Sydney Porter also known as O. Henry.


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