Texas, the county seat of LaSalle
County, lies in the deep brush country of South
Texas, just about 65 miles northeast of Laredo.
Today the main artery in town is I-35, for Cotulla
is directly on the most-used of all NAFTA routes. A little over a
hundred years ago, the main travel artery was the International &
Great Northern Railroad.
It was cold in Cotulla
on the morning of December 26, 1886. Mrs. Galloway, from the now-ghost
town of Twohig, about 8 miles south of Cotulla
on the I&GN, arrived at the sheriff's office. She swore out a warrant
accusing one Lorenzo Dow White of the heinous crime of rape, made
worse by the victim being her eleven-year-old daughter. The girl,
who accompanied her mother, verified the accusation. With the warrant
in hand Sheriff Charles Brown McKinney, known as 'C. B.,' and his
deputy, S. V. Edwards, known as 'Pete,' boarded the train for the
stop at Twohig.
In Twohig the two officers were met by 'Bud' Crenshaw and Jim McCoy.
Apparently they were friendly, or at least showed no hostility. McKinney
and Brown hired horses in Twohig and rode toward Crenshaw's home.
Crenshaw and McCoy got there first and were waiting. Each had a Winchester
in his hand, but again, displayed no hostility. The sheriff asked
Crenshaw to talk with him, and the two went a little distance away
from the house. The sheriff remained mounted, Crenshaw was afoot.
At about the time the sheriff and Crenshaw began to talk, McCoy asked
the deputy for a chew of tobacco.
This was apparently an agreed-on signal. Immediately Crenshaw raised
his Winchester, jammed it under the sheriff's chin, and fired, killing
the officer instantly. As he fell from the horse, Crenshaw shot him
three more times. McCoy, a one-legged man, then raised his weapon
and shot the deputy, who had turned at the sound of the first shot.
Deputy Edwards was hit in the back, through one shoulder blade. The
deputy's horse then bolted. McCoy fired again but missed the second
Immediately a 40-man posse was organized to hunt for Crenshaw and
McCoy. The Webb County
sheriff was contacted by telegraph. He and four deputies began to
go up the Rio Grande in an effort to cut off the fugitives, who were
believed headed for Mexico.
Sheriff McKinney, 28, married and the father of several children,
was buried December 27, in Cotulla.
Apparently the sheriff was well-liked, for the report says the funeral
was attended by "every man, woman, and child of the area."
On December 28 Governor John Ireland authorized a reward of $500 for
the arrest of the two men involved in the sheriff's murder. LaSalle
County offered an additional $500 for each man, and local ranchers
matched that with yet another $500. This made each fugitive worth
$1250, a tidy sum in 1886.
Ireland dispatched Captain George H. Schmidt's company of the Frontier
Battalion of the Rangers to Cotulla,
since feelings were running very high. It was very likely there would
be a lynching if the men were captured. The Rangers arrived on December
31 and made camp in an abandoned building. The town seemed quiet,
so after eating supper the men were given leave to have a drink if
they cared to.
As they were on the way to a saloon, they were startled by three shots.
They found George E. Hill on the floor of John Kerr's store, three
bulletholes in his body. He was still alive, and identified his assassins
as Silas Hay and Frank R. Hall. Hay was the sheriff's father in law,
and apparently had some reason to believe Hill was involved in the
murder. Hill denied that vehemently before he, too, died.
Within days a man named Headly White was arrested and charged with
being an accessory in the murder of Sheriff McKinney. His brother,
Lorenzo Dow White, was also arrested and charged with rape. Headly
White was allowed bail, but Judge D. P. Marr denied bail to the other
Crenshaw, also a married man with children, was given away by an acquaintance
who wanted the reward. He camped during the day near a waterhole deep
in the brush, visiting his wife and family at night.
Six Rangers went to the campsite and set up an ambush. When Crenshaw
rode in just after daybreak they covered him with rifles. He immediately
opened fire on the Rangers, who shot him out of the saddle. Three
days later McCoy, who had been hiding in the brush, surrendered, saying
"I'd rather be hanged than live a stray dog's life any longer."
McCoy was tried in San
Antonio, there being no way of getting anything that looked like
an impartial jury in LaSalle
County. He was convicted of murder in district court in June of
1888, and sentenced to hang. His attorneys immediately moved for a
new trial, which was denied. They then filed an appeal, which affirmed
the lower court's action. A request for a rehearing was denied. The
attorneys then circulated a petition for clemency, getting over 2000
signatures. The petition was submitted to the new governor, Lawrence
S. 'Sul' Ross, himself a former Ranger. Ross found no reason to overturn
On August 23, 1889, at 11:33 AM, James McCoy was hanged in the LaSalle
County jail. He left a wife and son. On the scaffold, he said "In
all my life I never done but one dirty trick. I helped Sheriff McKinney
and Deputy Edwards murder a Mexican just outside of Cotulla, and we
sat down and drank a bottle of whiskey by the body. I have been murdered
by Edwards' testimony. McKinney was sheriff, but he was not a good
man. He led me into wrong; he was afraid of me and deputized a lot
of outlaws as sheriffs. One of them shot my leg off. McKinney had
fixed up the scheme when I was laid up. He said I was a (deleted from
original). I have killed two men but I stood my trial and got clear.
Murdering the Mexican was the only dirty trick I ever done and McKinney
helped. His friends have crowded me so I thought I would tell this.
I have not been a good man and I'm sorry. That is all I have to say."
Exactly what he was talking about, no one in Cotulla
knows to this day. There were, so far as people could tell, no Mexicans
who had mysteriously gone missing in the county. McCoy gave no indication
of where or when the alleged murder took place, nor where the body
might have been put to dispose of it. No evidence has ever been found
implicating Sheriff McKinney and/or Deputy Edwards in the murder of
anyone, Mexican or Anglo.
"Charley Eckhardt's Texas"
15, 2007 column