sidebar menu icon


TURTLE HOLE. Turtle Hole, a crossing and spring-fed waterhole on the Butterfield Overland Mail stage route, is on Turtle Hole Creek two miles west of Murphy's Station and twelve miles east of Fort Belknap in Young County. The road was used for many cattle drives after the closing of the Butterfield line, until the fencing of the open range in the 1890s. The reliable source of water made Turtle Hole a popular camping place. In January 1871 it was the site of a fatal attack by Kiowas under Maman-ti on black freighters delivering flour to Fort Griffin, led by scout and frontiersman Britton Johnson and two companions, Dennis Cureton and "Paint" Crawford. This event was of sufficient importance to be commemorated on at least three of the Kiowa buffalo hide calendars. Lt. Robert G. Carter, adjutant to Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, commander at Fort Richardson, referred to the crossing as "Dead Man's Cross" because of the attack there. Mackenzie, as well as later travelers, noted seeing the graves near the attack site. The first man-made reservoir in Young County was built immediately downstream about 1878 by H. S. Eichelberger in a hairpin bend of the creek, known then as Briar Creek. The dam was buttressed with hand-laid limestone. Eichelberger's brand, a terrapin, was one of earliest brands registered by the Northwest Texas Cattle Raiser's Association (later the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Associationqv) and is still in use today. Turtle Hole is not to be confused with Turtle Hole Creek on the Fort Griffin-Fort Elliott Trail in Motley County.

Robert G. Carter, On the Border with Mackenzie, or Winning West Texas from the Comanches (Washington: Eynon Printing, 1935). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). Jesse Wallace Williams, Old Texas Trails (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1979).
Steve M. King

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Steve M. King, "Turtle Hole," accessed November 18, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.