History of Enchanted Rock
Excerpts from the book
“facts and fiction about Enchanted Rock”
Written by my mother Ruth Moss
Copyright April 1956
The Enchanted Rock
Each year thousands of tourists from all over North America visit Texas’ Stone Mountain which is second – and but slightly second – to Georgia’s and possessed of a glamorous and adventuresome saga that dates back to the days history cannot penetrate.
The mammoth Enchanted Rock, rising in a slow curve from the wooded hills between Llano and Fredericksburg, is visible for many miles in all directions. And its eminence gives a sweep of vision for 20 miles. So huge is the rock, that, even under its shadow, visitors misjudge is proportions, and innocently start out for a breakfast appetizer climb that, before it is ended, consumes most of the morning. You can’t estimate how large it is because there is nothing near by to use for a measuring stick. Small trees growing in its crevices look like grass and weeds from below: the great vultures that police its barren slopes appear to be diminutive crows.
The seemingly smooth surface conceals entrances to dark and tortuous caves far below masses of crumpled granite, which have slid form their foundations at some remote date before the memory of white men or of the Indians who feared and told tales of the Rock. One of these caves has its entrance on the summit of the Rock while the exit brings the explorer back to daylight far below on the back side.
The Rock, a gigantic dome of the famous “Texas Pink” granite, covers 640 acres and is estimated to be 500 feet high. The climb from the foot of the mountain to the pinnacle of its massive expanse is about a mile.
Why the Rock is Called “Enchanted”?
The name “Enchanted Rock” goes back into the unwritten chapters of Spanish and Indian history and tells the story of aboriginal rites and ceremonials, of wars and loves and treasure seekers: stories of which we have but fragments enduring as he Rock itself.
Unforgettable as a landmark, and invested with the glamour of gold-seekers’ stories, it impressed early visitors to Texas and inspired newspaper articles in New York, Kentucky, and other distant states more than a century ago. A Kentuckian in 1834 wrote back to Louisville from the Colorado river Settlement of a “large rock of metal which has for many years been considered a wonder. It is supposed to be platinum. The Indians have held it sacred for centuries, and go there once a year to worship it. they will not permit any white person to approach it. It is almost impossible to make an impression on it with chisel and hammer. when struck it gives forth a ringing sound which can be heard miles around.” He states that their party was unable to break off any specimens to bring home.
In an item appearing in the New York Mirror” of October 20.1838, a traveler, lately returned from a prospecting tour in the San Saba country, tells of having found an “Enchanted” or “Holy” mountain on the upper waters of the Sandy- beyond all doubts the Enchanted Rock of other accounts The traveler reports that “the Comanches regard this — hill with religious veneration, and Indian pilgrims frequently assemble from the remotest boarders of the region to perform their paynim rites upon its summit.
Samuel C. Reid Jr. in a book published in 1848, The Scouting Expeditions of McCulloch’s Texas Rangers, says in connection with a scouting trip that Captain Jack Hays had made into the unsettles vicinity of the Enchanted Rock. “We are unable to give to the reader the traditionary cause why this place was so named, but nevertheless, the Indians had a great awe, amounting almost to a reverence for it, and would tell many legendary tales connected with it and the fate of a few brave warriors, the last of a tribe now extinct, who defended themselves there for many years as in a strong castle, against the attacks of their hostile brethren. But ever since, the “Enchanted Rock” has been looked upon as the exclusive property of the phantom warriors. This is one of the many tales which the Indians tell concerning it.
Some of the superstitions connected with the Rock grew out of the Indians report that mysterious flames danced on its summit on moonlight nights. The unromantic hand of science has probed these fancies however, and points out that the weird dance of the flames takes place only on nights after a rain, when the moon shines full on the rounding sides of the rock. These nocturnal spirit fires of the Indians, and the glitter of the mica by day. combined to evoke the awe and veneration of the Comanches. Although this fear of the rock led the savages to sacrifice living victims in attempts to placate the spirit that dwelt on the summit, it also make the place a sanctuary for hard-pressed rides among the whites, if their ponies were sure-footed enough to scale the heights.
The Indians also believed the Rock to be enchanted because of the errie sounds emitting from the huge dome at night and the peculiar sound made in walking on it. The noise made in walking on the rock has been described as exactly as if one were walking on a thin crust over a cavern. The sounds at night have most often been heard after a hot day. Geologists accredit this peculiarity of sound to change in the temperature of the rock. A cool night following a hot day causes the granite to expand and contract, thereby emitting a creaking sound.
Captain John Hays’ Battle with the Indians
Not all of the Indian stories are legends of course: many are history, such as the true story of Captain John Hays. The following account is taken from “Jack Hays, at the Intrepid Texas Ranger” by J Marvin Hunter, appearing in Frontier times, November 1937.
“In 1840, Texas, being too poor to maintain a large army, the regular forces were disbanded,\and the Texan Congress authorized the creation of force for the protection of the frontier against the Mexicans and Indians, It’s organization took place in San Antonio, were the men were enlisted and mustered into service to the number of 75 at first, and the force was called the Texas Rangers.
It was composed mainly of young men from the settlements, hunters,. trappers. adventurers, and frontiersmen. Jack Hays , though quite a young man at that time , only twenty three, had done service as a spy and a scout and had gained as enviable reputation for bravery daring, endurance, and skill in commanding men, and success in opposing the Mexicans, and Indians, in their frequent invasions, and was appointed to the command of the Rangers and commissioned by the congress for the post. This was a very great compliment to the young man, inasmuch as there were many men in Texas at that time who had had a much longer experience on the frontier and who would have made splendid leaders. But the honor thus conferred by the government was not misplaced as was shown by the subsequent career of young Jack Hays.
“The frontier to be protected by the Ranger force extended from the mouth of the Rio Grande up to the head-waters of the Colorado, a distance of several hundred miles. the Indians on one side and the Mexicans on the other.
“Each man was armed with a rifle, a pistol and a knife, and with a Mexican blanket, tied behind his saddle, and a small wallet in which he carried his salt and his ammunition, and perhaps a little panola. or parched corn, spiced and sweetened, which was a great allayer of thirst and a supply of tobacco, he was equipped for months.
This body of men, unencumbered by baggage wagons or pack trains, moved lightly over the prairie as the Indians, and lived as they did, without tents, with a saddle for a pillow at night, blankets over them, and their feet to the fire. Depending wholly upon wild game for food, they of course sometime found a scarcity of it, and suffered the privations which are known to all hunters. sometimes there was a necessity of killing a horse for food when all else failed.
The men were splendid riders, and used the Mexican saddle, improved by the Americans, and carried the Mexican riata, make of rawhide, and the cabrista also a hair rope, or the lariat a larger rawhide rope to lasso their horses with.
It was under these prevailing conditions on the extensive frontier of Texas that Jack Hays assumed extensive frontier of Texas that Jack Hays assumed command of the Texas Rangers, and well did he perform the strenuous duties that fell to his lot. He and his men were constantly on the scout, trailing Indians or Mexican marauders. Perhaps they would be in camp on the Nueces, when word would come of a raid on the settlement on the Medina, when they would mount their horses and by hard riding be on the ground where the Indians had probably killed a settler or stolen a bunch of horses, within a day’s time, and taking the trail scarce twenty-four hours old, they would follow it away out to the head of the Llanos, and over-taking the thieving Indians would chastise them severely.
“On one occasion, when Jack Hays was out scouting with a party of twenty-five or thirty men, away up in the Llano river country looking out for a party of Comanche Indians, he left the others and went off by himself, as he frequently did, to spy and scout, giving orders to his second officer, captain Gillespie, to meet him at a certain place later in the day.
“He went on for an hour or two, and soon discovered that Indians were not very far away, by the number of buzzards fly9g about, and presently he met there Indians. Being mounted on a fine horse, he ran, and they took after him. Soon five or six more Indians joined them in the chase after the white man They pursued him for some distance, his horse easily keeping the lead. When they came near enough, he would halt, and they would exchange shots with him.
“This continued for several miles, Captain Hays going in the direction he thought his men would come from, but he saw nothing of them. Finally, his horse began to show fatigue, and the Indians began crowding him more closely. He could hear the yelling in every direction and knew that he was in the vicinity of their large encampment.
“He rode on, the number of his pursuers increasing and presently he saw before him a tremendous boulder standing alone. This rock, which covers quite a bit of ground and been known for years as “The Enchantment Rock and is located not for from the present town of Fredericksburg. Hays made a dash for this rock, the Indians in close pursuit, they having run him then eight miles. He jumped off his horse at the base of the rock, left him there, put his pistil in his belt, and ran up the side of the rock to the top.
“At the top, he found some loose stones, which he hastily piled up to form a kind of shelter. The Indians stopped a little while at the foot and then began to shoot arrows at him. As they attempted to climb up he would shoot down at them and they would drop back, and then return to the fight again. This continued for an hour or two, in the meantime the Indians becoming more numerous. Their main encampment, he afterward learned was only two miles away.
“Hays realized that he was in a close place, “treed” as it were by a band of howling Comanches, but he did not lose courage. He was determined to fight the to the last. Just then, however, to his great relief, his men appeared in sight, having heard the firing and yelling of the Indians. They fought their way through and compelled them to fall back, and thus rescued their commander.”
A GEOLOGY REPORT ON THE ROCK
After several years of study of the Enchanted Rock area, Dr. Robert M Hutchinson, Instructor in Geology at the University of Texas, submitted the following report in 1953:
“The Enchanted Rock is a dome of granite which is a moderate orange pink in color. It is the largest and highest of several such domes which are arranged in a gently curved line along the West side of Sandy Creek. These domes extend for a distance of about a mile. The granite is among some of the oldest igeous rock known in North America. It dated back to what geologists call the Precambrian era. The rock was formed deep in the crust of the earth at lest a billion years ago, but it was not visible to the eyes of man until weathering and erosion had removed many thousands of feet of overlying rocks. This took many millions of years. Enchanted Rock dome probably has been formed about as we see it today within the last million years.
“Nowhere else in Texas is there a granite mountain of such comparable height or size.
“The granite is made of pinkish microline feldspar intimately intermixed with grayish-white plagloelase feldspar, watery looking clear quartz and brownish, black flakes of biotite mica. Rock of a similar composition and texture is quarried extensively near the town of Kingsland in Llano County and is called “Llano pink” granite.
“Weathering and erosion of the rocks in this section of the country has affected the granite less that other rocks, especially those east of Sandy Creek. Throughout the many years of its erosive history, the greater resistance to weathering and erosion of the granite has been mainly responsible for Enchanted Rock standing out as prominently as it does today.
“The broad curved steeply sloping sides of “Enchanted Rock” makes a graceful picture silhouetted against the skyline. Large curved sheets of granite have separated and pulled loose from the main mass of granite. These are gradually being broken up by the weathering processes. Hundreds of granite blocks are scattered about on the shapes of the mountain and are in various stages of reduction by their processes.
“Enchanted Rock is a magnificent product of Natue’s processes. The graceful sweep of its curved outline and the massiveness of its size will yet endure throughout many generations of men and for many thousands of years of geologic time yet to come.”