| All things
considered, it was a pretty civilized affair.|
were two murders in Austin County in 1895. While they occured in distant
corners of the county, they were separated by a span of only 38 days. Both perpetrators
were apprehended and taken to the County Jail in Bellville.
This sort of situation must have been on the minds of our wise and august lawyers
in Austin when they passed legislation demanding Courthouses be placed near the
center of the county. It certainly made things convenient for the populace to
Sad Day in 1896 (before)|
Photo courtesy Bellville Historical Society
A man named Alois Peters was shot while he slept at his home in Wallis.
The assassin thought he was aiming his rifle at Mr. Peter's head, but (perhaps
as a precaution to thwart would-be-assassins) Mr. Peters had lain his feet where
he usually kept his head. The gun barrel was loaded with all sorts of scrap iron,
and the blast left a shattered bone and a very nasty wound. It would've hurt even
more the next day, had there been a next day. Mr. Peters died from blood loss
while an amputation was being performed.
A Rude Awakening
The culprit, one Clem Strauther,
dropped the rifle and it was identified as belonging to a Mr.B. When the sheriff
showed up at Mr. B's door, Clem was there, but said he "was just leaving."
During the trial Clem tried to frame one Roy Justice, for unknown
reasons. After fierce questioning, Clem (in true Perry Mason style) broke down
on the stand and confessed that he did it.
Judge Teichmueller (who
was the father of Minnie, who painted the Smithville Post Office Mural 40 years
later) set the date of Clem's execution to be March 18th 1896.
This one took place on the evening of December 18, 1895 near the community
Rocky, Bierwinkle and "Old Blue"
Dora Emshoff was a widow who had just brought
in her cotton crop and had the money that was to last her all winter. Her 9-year-old
daughter Clara was wrapped in a blanket, but she saw the man who leveled
a shotgun at Mrs. Emshoff and demanded her money on that lonely dusk-darkened
She stood, but she didn't deliver and was shot below her right
eye with a single barrel of birdshot, knocking her backward into the wagon. The
Pastor of the nearby Lutheran Church heard the shot and ran out into his yard.
There he encountered brave daughter Clara, who had the presence of mind
to take the reins and drive for help.
George Bierwinkle, a guest
of the Pastor was sent to Brenham for a Doctor.
The Sheriff was summoned
and dogs turned loose. The townsfolk, unaware that the name "Old Blue"
was going to become something of a cliché in the next century, let Old Blue lead
the pack. Trudging through Rocky Creek during a rainstorm, the pack pulled
up baying at a darkened house.
Inside was Andrew "Buck" Chappell
with the proverbial smoking gun. Unlike Clem, Buck didn't try to blame it on Roy
Buck was brought before Clara who identified him. Judge Teichmueller
sentenced him to die the same day as Clem, saving Bellville the cost of another
Lynch Mob Thwarted and An Attempted Escape
The Sheriff, one W. B. Glenn, took some wise precautions. When a mob
appeared at his door demanding the jail keys, he turned them over without an argument.
The mob should've questioned why he gave the keys so easily. They soon found out.
The jail was empty and the prisoners had been barely 15 feet from the mob - hidden
at the sheriff's house.
They were taken to a safe place until things
On January 20th 1896, someone noticed that the leg irons
of both condemned men appeared to be half-sawn through. Another prisoner said
that a saw had been thrown into the jail and Clem Strauther said yes, and
that it was Roy Justice who threw the saw. It seemed Clem never gave up
trying to implicate Roy Justice.
As the big day approached, the people
of Austin County showed how civilized they were.
Sad Day (after)|
Notice the man on the left attempting a better view
Photo courtesy Bellville Historical Society
were allowed to interview the prisoners. Clem gave a speech to other prisoners,
advising them to avoid bad company. Advice was the last thing they wanted to hear,
but since it was coming from a condemned man; they were polite and listened. Buck
proclaimed his innocence. Both men were baptized. |
On the big day, a
last meal of bread, biscuits, chicken, ham, cakes, and pies was provided (a little
extra weight might help the 7-foot drop).
Wine was offered and both ate
Black suits, with matching hoods, white ties and small boutonnieres
completed their ensemble.
Like they say, nepotism begins at home, and
a relative of the sheriff built the double scaffold for $22.30. The two graves
were dug at a cost of $10.00.
The event took place at the only cemetery
Bellville had. Just North of town in the pines. An area was fenced off with barbed
wire. Tickets were sold (perhaps to pay for the boutonnieres) and it soon became
evident that non-paying gate crashers outnumbered the paying public.
A crowd of between two and three thousand stood among the pine trees and witnessed
the departure of Clem and Buck. Even freshly Baptised, their destination was debated.
The lever was thrown at 1:00 p.m.
It was something the townsfolk
wouldn't forget. For those with a faulty memory - a photographer took "before
and after" photos. Bellville Historian Helen Alexander told us that
the "after" photo was used as a postcard with the macabre caption: "Welcome
Information for this story was obtained from an unpublished
pamphlet from the Bellville Public Library by Charles S. Fox of
April 2000, Revised April 2001
© John Troesser
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