American Indian Heritage

The city of Waco is named after the Waco Indians. The first mention of the area came from an expedition led by Athanase de Mésières, a Frenchman. During a trek up the Brazos River in 1772, he noted two large villages, stretching from the site of present day Waco for several miles northward. In 1824, Stephen F. Austin received a report that the Waco village consisted of about 100 inhabitants with more than 400 acres of corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons under cultivation and a peach orchard.The village stretched from the Brazos River to present day Eight Street and south past Barron’s Branch.

In 1828 a large group of Cherokee Indians left their homes in East Texas intent on raiding the Waco village to recover horses that had been stolen earlier that year. They attacked the Wacos who took refuge in riverbank breastworks. The Cherokees burned the village after killing 55 of the residents. Some time after this incident, the Wacos abandoned the village.

The tribe had a second, smaller village located on the Guadalupe River. In 1835, 1846, and 1872, the tribe signed treaties with the United States and the Wichita. The 1872 treaty established their reservation in Indian Territory, where they were removed. In 1902, under the Dawes Allotment Act, the reservation lands were broken into individual allotments and the Wacos became citizens of the United States. Today they are part of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

Crawford, another Heart of Texas town, was founded on Tonk Creek, named after the Tonkawa Indians. Petroglyphs carved into the creek bed testify to both the Tonkawa presence and also to the probable influence of the Spanish. Early explorer Zebulon Pike described the Tonkawa as a “tall, handsome people” who owned large numbers of horses. The Tonk Indians were removed to the Brazos Indian Reservation in 1855 and only a handful of the tribe exists today in the town of Tonkawa, Oklahoma.

“Historic McLennan County: An Illustrated History,” ed. by Sharon Bracken. Chapter on Waco by Michael L. Toon. Chapter on Crawford by Van D. Massirer.
Wikipedia entry for the Waco Indians.