On 10 November 1827, one-hundred-fifty Indians confronted eighteen Texians in what is presently Wise County, Texas. Despite being significantly outnumbered, Lieutenant A. B. Benthuysen and his men defeated the Indians, inflicting fifty casualties upon them while suffering ten casualties among his men. It was called the Battle of the Knobs. After this demonstration of superior fire power and Texian stubbornness, the Indians withdrew further west and their decision opened Wise County to white settlement.
Wise County was officially established in 1856, named in honor of Virginia congressman Henry A. Wise, who supported the annexation of Texas by the United States. There were a few slaveholders in Wise County, but not many — and opinions were mixed about the Civil War. People favoring the Union were persecuted by secessionists. A few unionists were lynched, but it could have been worse. In nearby Cooke County, forty-one men were lynched and two additional men were “shot while trying to escape” by Confederate soldiers.
The seat of Wise County is Decatur. Fifteen miles south is another Texas town — Aurora. It isn’t a very large town, as towns in Texas go. It only occupies an area of about four square miles. There are less than 900 people living in Aurora. Besides the incident with Indians in 1827, there is but one additional “claim to fame.” It is that, according to some, the good citizens of Aurora, Texas witnessed the crash of an extraterrestrial vehicle — in 1897.
Whether or not true, the “incident” received the attention of the Dallas Morning News. And, like the incident that occurred in Roswell, New Mexico fifty years later, the alien pilot was killed and interred in a local cemetery. A tombstone was placed on the alien’s grave, but it has since been removed to help prevent the theft of the pilot’s remains — people like to collect things. Before burial, a U. S. Army Signal Corps officer inspected the body and proclaimed it was “not of this world.” The good news is that the alien was given a Christian burial. The bad news is that the cemetery refused to allow any further examination of the alien’s remains. So, there.
In an interesting discussion of this incident in 2011, writer David Moye made a few interesting observations about the Aurora incident. The first is that two reasonably well-educated individuals give credence to the claim that there have been more than a hundred “UFO” sightings between 1840 and 1900. Noe Torres is a librarian in South Texas; John LeMay is a archivist in Roswell, New Mexico.
John LeMay, commenting on the Dallas Morning News article, points to the fact that the newspaper referred to the alien remains in Aurora as a “Martian.” LeMay says this is understandable because, at the time, most people believed that if there was life in outer space, Mars would be the most likely place for it.
Mr. Torres claims that not only were there hundreds of sightings between 1840 and 1900, but they were reported in the Dallas Morning News, Kansas City Star, New York Times, and San Francisco Call. But most interesting to Torres and LeMay is the manner in which these sightings were described. Before air travel, before helium balloons, people had no frame of reference to aeronautical craft. So what people reported seeing was flying serpents, metallic balloons, and a huge bale of hay on fire going through the air. LeMay concludes that the descriptions may sound silly, but they also give the sightings credibility. How else should a simple farmer describe a spaceship?
One final notation, which is also interesting. Newspaper journalists in the 19th Century reported what witnesses told them — and did so without trying to make the witness seem as if he (or she) was three bubbles off plumb. The witnesses were given respect and some appreciation for reporting what they saw — what they did not understand.
Cowboys and Aliens? Perhaps the story is true, but maybe not. It is a curious story though.