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  • Texas | Features | Small Town Sagas

    Texas Murders, Mysteries,
    Gun Fights, Hangings, Robberies
    ...

  • Two Ranchhands Meet Judge Lynch by Mike Cox 9-25-13
    In the late winter of 1896, two Waggoner Ranch cowboys took a notion that robbing banks would be less work – and definitely more profitable -- than wrangling cattle...
  • Getting the Most Fun from "The Only Hanging for 50 Miles Around." by Mike Cox 4-4-13
    The tale of one Sam Walker, told in the Shiner Gazette on Jan. 12, 1898 and rediscovered by Austin history buff Sloan Rodgers, is likely fiction disguised as news, but that surely didn’t lessen the pleasure of reading it.
  • Austin Mystery Murders by Mike Cox 11-21-12
    Only a village with a few hundred residents in 1841, Austin experienced at least a couple of homicides that year that by today’s standards read more like big-city whodunits.
  • Lawman's interview provides historical insight by Delbert Trew 9-25-12
  • The Deadly Tower by Murray Montgomery 9-18-12
    One of the saddest days in Texas history occurred August 1, 1966. On that day a crazed man started firing from the observation deck at the University of Texas tower — picking random human targets on the ground and hitting them with deadly accuracy...
  • Tex Thornton: King of the oilfield firefighters and rainmaker by Clay Coppedge 5-1-12
  • Lizzie Hay and the Demise of the Lone Highwayman by Mike Cox 2-9-12
    Sometimes, no matter how good the story, a compelling tale gets forgotten. That’s sure the case with the Texas outlaw known in his day as “the lone highwayman.”
  • The Ghost of Thurber by Bob Hopkins 9-28-11
  • Drought and Skeleton by Mike Cox 9-22-11
    Skeleton in Brackettville...
  • The Murdered Sheriff by Bob Bowman 7-10-11
    Angelina County Sheriff William Reed (Bill) McMullen was one of the men who was killed during a feud between the Gilley and Windham families at Homer, the county seat of Angelina County in the 1860s...
  • Science Hill by Bob Bowman 6-19-11
    Sitting atop a scenic hilltop in southwestern Henderson County, Science Hill lasted only a few decades, but its reputation as a center of education is well-remembered by descendants of its founders and builders. So is its violence in the early days of the Civil War...
  • Ernst Tinaja by Mike Cox 6-16-11
    A geologic feature in Big Bend National Park called Ernst Tinaja, a deep natural water hole dug out of the bedrock over the millenia by erosion—a place of beauty tainted by a history of death.
  • End of the Hanging Era by Bob Bowman 4-17-11
    From the inception of the Republic of Texas in 1836, the method of punishing criminals was usually by hanging at the county level. But in 1924, the State of Texas took the responsibility for capital punishment and changed the method from hanging to electrocution.
  • George Washington’s Execution by Bob Bowman 12-26-10
    When the Texas prison system plugged in its electric chair in 1924, would you believe that George Washington was one of the first four men to be executed? Don’t laugh, it really happened...
  • Prairie Fire by Mike Cox 12-16-10
    A raging winter prairie fire. an arsonist, and post Civil War justice in Hunt County.
  • The Legend of Campbell’s Branch by Murray Montgomery 12-9-10
    If you leave Hallettsville traveling on FM 957 towards Breslau, you will cross over a small creek named West Campbell Branch – known as just plain “Campbell Branch” to most folks. Recently I came across a fascinating story, from 1944, about the legend of Campbell’s Branch...
  • Murder
  • The Murder of Dr. Sam Houston Adams; Slaton, Texas, 1930s by James Villanueva 11-1-10
    The murder of Dr. Sam Houston Adams is not a tragic tale. It’s not necessarily a gloomy story. Nor is it a hopeful story about overcoming hardships or tribulations. It’s not quite folklore either. No. For lack of a better description, it is simply - a love story.
  • Father Joseph Keller
  • The Tar and Feathering of Father Joseph M. Keller, Slaton, Texas, 1920's by James Villanueva 10-1-10
    On a Saturday night, March 4, 1922, in Slaton, what may have begun as a whisper, an aside, a comment, or just mindless chatter amongst neighbors, transformed the community...
  • The Haunting of the Old Travis County Jail by Mike Cox 10-14-10
    Harvey, 34, had the distinction of being the last of nine men legally hanged in the castle-like stone jail...
  • A Hanging in Austin by Mike Cox 8-19-10
    Forty years ago, the late Edmunds Travis of Austin told me about a hanging he reluctantly covered for the Austin daily he edited in 1913...
  • Hanging a Dead Man by Bob Bowman 3-14-10
    George Hughes of Sherman may have been the only man in East Texas to be lynched while he was dead...

  • Law and order used to be so very different by Delbert Trew 3-3-10
    Law and order came slowly in the West, because it required decent citizens, fed up with crime and carousing, to finally stand up and put up the money to hire a sheriff or marshal to maintain law and order...
  • “Death by Rope” by Bob and Doris Bowman 2-26-10
    The book explores 49 lynchings and legal hangings in East Texas between 1862 and 1942.
  • This Wild Bill Was No Hero by Murray Montgomery
    The Legend of Bill Longley
  • A Very Personal Ghost and the Hanging on Sawyer Oak by C. F. Eckhardt
    I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that when it comes to ghosts there are two sorts of people—those who realize ghosts exist and those who don’t want to realize it. One of the sure ways to become one of the first variety is to see a ghost. However, even if you see a ghost, you may not realize at once what you’ve seen. I know. It happened to me...
  • John Roan Mystery by Mike Cox
    On Dec. 13, 1879, the Atlanta Constitution published a brief story that should have been big news in Texas, but somehow no editor in the Lone Star state picked up on the Georgia daily’s report. The story dealt with the purported solution of a 29-year-old mystery in Central Texas, the disappearance of one John Roan...
  • Baled in a Bale by Mike Cox
    Though most of the ginning is done by brainless machinery, the industry’s human element has developed a colorful folklore with a range of subsets. But no ginning story can top the occasional tale of a body in a bale.
  • A gunfight in Hemphill by Bob Bowman
    With deep roots in East Texas, John Wesley Hardin was our most famous outlaw and gunfighter, but many of his raids and shootings in the pineywoods have remained unchronicled. A little-known incident in which he won a gunfight with a Sabine County deputy sheriff at Hemphill...
  • Susan's Indians by Mike Cox
    Early one morning, Rebecca and her niece, Susan Jane Ayres, happened to be on the porch of the Duncan cabin when startled by an Indian woman who stuck her head up from a place of concealment in a nearby draw ...
  • Pistol Packing Mamma by Bob Bowman
    One of the most popular songs in the U.S. during the mid-1940s was “Pistol Packing Mama.” But few know that the song came from East Texas... Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Brunt was killed in a shootout with bootlegger Red Creel near Rusk in 1939...
  • A Gruesome Prophecy Tattooed on a Soldier’s Breast
  • Treasury Raid by Mike Cox
    When the bell atop the First Baptist Church started clanging about 9 o’clock that Sunday night, it was not a call to worship. It was June 11, 1865. A full moon hung over Austin, a city of some 4,000 residents.

  • Doak Good by Clay Coppedge
    Good was involved in a fabled but implausible shootout with another rambunctious pioneer of the day, Gabe Henson.
  • Garrett Murder by C. F. Eckhardt
    One of the many unsolved mysteries of the West.
  • White Buffalo by Mike Cox
    "A group of buffalo hunters had gotten drunk and were working on getting drunker. As the Webb boys got the story, the recently departed fellow had killed in a man while arguing over cards..."
  • Murder at a school by Bob Bowman
    During the evening of March 12, 1926, as students and parents watched a play at Center Point school in Trinity County...
  • Hardin's Shotgun by Mike Cox
    John Wesley Hardin's shotgun used by him to kill the Sheriff of DeWitt County, the most notorious of the men who had served in the State Police of the early 1870s...
  • Longhorn Branded Murder 1889 by Murray Montgomery
    To the cowboys who rode the range in West Texas during the [1890s] there was one longhorn steer that was always an object of dread. He was a big, white fellow with “Murder 1889” branded in huge letters on his left side. His appearance among their herds brought a chill of terror to the superstitious...
  • Hanging preceded death of a town by Delbert Trew
    Chipita Rodriquez died on Friday, Nov. 13th, 1863. She is believed to be the only woman ever legally hanged by the state of Texas. Though guilty by circumstantial evidence only, her death seemed to place a curse on the town of San Patricio, Texas, as it signaled the beginning of the end of the small settlement...
  • Bud Newman, part II by Mike Cox
    About 11 p.m. on June 9, 1898 at a point called Coleman Switch about four miles west of Santa Anna, Newman and three other masked men descended on a Santa Fe passenger train...
  • Bud Newman Gang by Mike Cox
    Bud Newman didn’t amount to much as an outlaw, but not for lack of grit...
  • Ben's Pistol by Mike Cox
    Whatever became of Ben Thompson’s six-shooter?
    Thompson, a British-born former Texas Ranger and soldier of fortune with a penchant for booze and gambling, made quite a reputation as city marshal of Austin in the early 1880s. His life ended violently in San Antonio on the night of March 11, 1884 when someone gunned him down along with former outlaw-turned-lawman King Fisher of Uvalde...
  • Santa Robber by Mike Cox
    Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” stands as an enduring classic, but truth being stranger than fiction, Texas can claim one of the nation’s more bizarre real-life holiday tales – a story of a Santa Claus gone bad...
  • The Mystery of Lady Bountiful by Bob Bowman
    November 22 will mark the 85th anniversary of an East Texas murder that created a still-lingering mystery and put a timber baroness in a pauper’s grave.
  • The Bones in the Courthouse Crawlspace by Johnny Stucco
    What the exterminator saw...
  • “Witch’s Gate” by Johnny Stucco
    In Cold Blood: Clay County, Texas 1975
    A needless killing for a fortune that wasn’t there.
  • Tragedy in South Texas: Reading Black - Unionist, George Washington - Wall Confederate by Linda Kirkpatrick
    The northern end of South Texas is still considered by many as a remote, desolate area that could only be home to rattlesnakes, horned toads, scorpions and occasionally an outlaw...
  • Sullivan Mike Cox
    Ex-Ranger W.S.J. Sullivan, and the hanging of condemned preacher Morrison, the last man ever legally hanged in Wilbarger County.
  • Horrell-Higgins Feud in Lampasas County by Clay Coppedge
  • Bloody Christmas by C. F. Eckhardt
    The Murder of LaSalle County Sheriff Charles B. McKinney
  • Looking for Hangings by Bob Bowman
    Before the electric chair gave Texas an alternative way of punishing murderers and the like, Texas counties had the local authority to hang criminals...
  • John Ringo by Mike Cox
    "It didn't play out quite like a scene from "Gunsmoke," but two of the Old West's more notorious characters faced each other in Austin's red light district in 1881..."
  • "No Gallows" by Bob Bowman
    The names of some East Texas towns can be downright confusing. And much of the confusion arises from mispronunciations which, during the passage of time, have become actual names.
  • Belle Starr The Bandit Queen by Maggie Van Ostrand
    "I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life," said Belle Star to The Fort Smith Elevator in 1888, a year before she died...
  • Shootout at Shafter
    Ranger Meets His End on New Years Day 1940
    Story and photos courtesy of William G. Howell
  • Yoakum's Soda-Pop War by Murray Montgomery
    It seems that people will often fight over some mighty ridiculous things. I remember a while back seeing a story, in the Hallettsville paper from well over 100 years ago, where a fellow shot and killed his partner just for playing the wrong domino. People in the old days took things pretty seriously, to say the least...
  • The 1862 Hangings at Gainesville Texas by W.T. Block
    Certainly one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War occurred in Gainesville, Texas in Oct. 1862, when 40 men, suspected of Union sympathies, were hanged...
  • The Night the Posse Chased Santa by Maggie Van Ostrand
    December 23 will mark the 79th anniversary of the bloody melodrama which was about to take place in the town of Cisco in West Central Texas, on the day before Christmas Eve 1927. I know about it because of an article written at the time by the great Texas columnist, Boyce House. He should know. He was there...
  • O. Henry and the Shoal Creek Treasure by C. F. Eckhardt
    "...While Santa Anna was trying to put down the Texas rebellion of 1836, two high-ranking Mexican officers-one was, so the story goes, the paymaster, the other a high-ranking general-decided to steal the entire payroll for the Mexican Army in Texas. ...In the meantime, two of the common soldiers hatched a plan of their own. Why enrich the paymaster? Why not kill him-and the other five soldiers-and have the fortune to themselves?..."
  • The Worst Feud by Bob Bowman
    The deadliest feud happened in East Texas between 1840 and 1844. The Regulator and Moderators War was the first and largest American feud in numbers of participants and fatalities.
  • William Marsh Rice by Archie P. McDonald
    Everyone loves a murder mystery, especially if the murder happened a long time ago and did not involve someone they know. The story of William Marsh Rice's demise is such a case...
  • The Case of Beaumont's Missing Marble Corpse by W. T. Block, Jr. ("Cannonball's Tales")
    It was July of 1901 in Beaumont, and the frenzy of oil excitement rushed on unabated... In the midst of all the oil madness, there emerged one of the strangest tales ever to unfold in the "sawdust city," the case of Beaumont's missing corpse that had turned to stone...
  • The Gunfight that Killed Helena by C. F. Eckhardt
    "The Colonel's son has been gunned down, in cold blood or so the story implies..."
  • Murder of Local Doctor During Reconstruction by Murray Montgomery
    After the Civil War ended, folks in Texas and throughout the South underwent a phase in time known as "Reconstruction." During this period, the states that had previously been part of the Confederacy were now subject to military rule as well as, occupation by Union troops...
  • Seth Carey's Escape from the Murderous Yocum Gang by W. T. Block
    Just another fly caught up in Yocum's web of murder and intrigue, Carey not only survived his slated assassination and dismemberment in Yocum's alligator slough, but he lived instead to finger the gang and account for its destruction.
  • A criminal or a saint? You never know by Delbert Trew
    "Route 66 certainly endured its share of crime in its heyday."
  • Yocum's Inn: The Devil's Own Lodging by W T Block Jr.
    "A gentleman's life...held no attraction for Squire Yocum, a man who literally was nursed almost from the cradle on murder and rapine, and for many years Yocum's Inn was actually a den of robbers and killers..."
  • Three Tragedies by Bob Bowman
    An intriguing family mystery spanning more than 135 years is told by three tombstones lying behind a rusting iron fence in a small East Texas cemetery.
  • Hardin Shootings at Albuquerque by Charley Eckhardt
  • Book Burning by Mike Cox
    “'Where they have burned books,' German poet Johann Heinrich Heine wrote in the 19th century, 'they will end in burning human beings.'
    Indeed, Texans have done both...."
  • Freeny Hanging by Mike Cox
    "... No matter White’s official status, most folks remembered him as the sheriff who hanged a tenant farmer named George Freeny for killing his son-in-law..."
  • Poisoned Supper by Bob Bowman
    A tragic, unthinkable incident in the spring of 1847, frequently associated with the Regulator-Moderator War, remains after 157 years one of East Texas’ worst mass murders -- if it was murder.
  • PRAIRIE DELL, Tranquil setting belies past by Clay Coppedge
    The principle set for the sequel to the movie "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
  • Poison Doc by Mike Cox
    Herman Webster Mudgett, America’s first serial killer
  • How Bonnie and Clyde Were Caught by Bob Bowman
  • Rockledge, A Panhandle Ghost Community by Delbert Trew
    Two murders and a bank robbery
  • Murder at Camp Swift 1942 - The Tragic Death of Little Lucy Maynard by John Troesser
  • Camp Bowie by Mike Cox
    On the night of May 5, 1837, two officers of the Republic of Texas' army lay asleep in their tent at Camp Bowie. Only one of them would wake up.
  • McDade Hanging by Mike Cox
    While not quite on the level of "A Christmas Carol," "The Miracle on 42nd Street," or "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," the story of the McDade Christmas clean up has become one of Texas' more frequently told Yuletide tales.
  • A Famous Murder by Bob Bowman
    80th anniversary of one of East Texas' most famous mysteries
  • Range King by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
    "It can't atone for his murder, or even the apparent contempt of those who buried him, but at least James W. King lies in a beautiful cemetery."
  • Pearl by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
    Pearl was tried and convicted in Brown County. The jury's finding in regard to his punishment was easily written on a single piece of paper: Death by hanging.
  • Looking for Old Murders by Bob Bowman
    Between the 1860s and 1940s, East Texas produced some of the strangest murders in Texas.
  • Cranfill - by Mike Cox
    For about the last quarter of the 19th century, and the first two decades of the 20th century, being a "wet" or a "dry" defined a Texan politically much more accurately than being Democrat or Republican. Both sides of the issue passionately believed they were in the right. Often, they were willing to fight over their belief, sometimes to the death.
  • The Barrymore Shooting by Bob Bowman
    Someone asked John Barrymore, the patriarch of America's famous family of thespians, what he thought about Texas. In his deep, resonant voice, Barrymore replied: "Texas is a no man's land where sudden death lurks in every bistro." He had good reason for feeling that way.
  • The Bank Robbery (Dalton Gang, 1894) by Bob Bowman
  • Bill Longley Does Not Get Along Well With Others.
    A Visit to the Giddings City Cemetery

    Bill Longley, his hangings, and his grave.
  • The Day Doc Newton Robbed Bonnie Parker's Bank - He could've been charged with disturbing one hundred years of solitude
  • The Double Murder in Granger, 1934
  • The Tall Texan : The Story of Ben Kilpatrick by Arthur Soule
  • The Last Full-sized Train Robbery in Texas by Brewster Hudspeth
  • The Double Hanging at Bellville in 1896
  • The Infamous East Texas Sewing Needle Jailbreak
  • The Day Eastland Texas Hanged Santa Claus
    "....And to think that it happened on Mulberry Street!"
  • Diamond Bessie: The Trial of the (19th) Century
  • The Huston-Johnston Duel
  • Watt Moorman, a central figure in the Regulator-Moderator War, was shot to death by Bob Bowman
  • Gunfight at the Lampasas Saloon - Historical Marker
  • The Killing of General J. J. Byrne Historical Marker 10-3-11
  • Shoot-Out on Jones Street, Castro County, Dimmitt, Texas - Historical Marker
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