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  Texas : Features : Columns : Somewhere in the West

A 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. It is, on the other hand, a beautiful country abound with clear rivers, solitude and an abundance of game and I am here to tell there was a time when it was all of this and much more.

In the mid 1800’s the conflicts with the Indians slowed the settling of this area. The forts that were built along the road from San Antonio to El Paso did slow these conflicts and opened up the way for small settlements along the road. Fort Inge was founded on March 13, 1849 by the banks of the Leona River. It was the security for the settlement of what would later become the town of Uvalde, Texas.

Reading Black was born September 23, 1830 in New Jersey the ninth child of a Quaker family. The family was very wealthy and to leave them was hard but the twenty one year old Reading was smitten by the tales of Texas. Reading’s father was not happy with his son’s decision to follow these stories. In 1852, Reading and his friend Nathan L. Stratton packed their “duds” and headed to the frontiers of Texas.
Reading Black, Unionist
Reading Black
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick
At about this same time in Canada, George Washington (Tom) Wall and his family were beginning to get the itch to come to Texas. In 1856 Tom with his family and the Duncan Wall family set out for new beginnings. Somewhere along the way they teamed up with the family of John Leakey, the founder of the town of Leakey, Texas.

With the desire to make their funds stretch as far as possible Black purchased a league and a labor near the head of the Leona River, the future site of the city of Uvalde, Texas. He established a store, built a home, and laid out the future town. He became a prominent member of the community both financially and politically. His political beliefs caused him to have exile in Mexico until the end of the Civil War. He established himself in Mexico and returned to Uvalde in 1866.

The Wall’s and Leakey’s settled in and around the Uvalde area in the Sabinal Canyon. In 1855 John Leakey was involved in an argument over an irrigation ditch that ultimately ended in the death of a man. Leakey was tried and acquitted. But things heated up for him and he decided to leave the Patterson Settlement, but before the family could get packed and outta there, John was involved in his famous battle with the Indians which only made him want to leave the area that much faster.

Recovered from his wounds he during the Indian skirmish, along with his friends, Tip Stanford, Duncan Wall and Tom Wall, moved to the Frio Canyon and established a shingle making and freight business.

In 1864, Tom Wall’s wife, Kessiah passed away and was laid to rest on their place north of Leakey. At this time Tom was in the trade operation between Texas and Mexico so he farmed his children out to neighbors in order to continue his business.

In 1867, he married Amelda McKinney, the sister-in-law of one Reading Black of Uvalde, Texas. This would be the beginning of what would later become a tragic event for the now connected families. The distance between Uvalde and Leakey is about forty miles.

Texas was slow to mend the division caused by the war and Reading’s political opinions and his representations made him as easy target and may have played a part in his demise or maybe not. However it may be, Reading and the new family member, Tom Wall became partners in livestock and Tom loaned Reading money to open a store. Reading would run the store and tend the stock while Tom ran the trade routes. Monies were co-mingled and the partnership was stretched.

One family member on the Wall side tells that Tom, in 1867, returned from one of his trips to find that the partnership stock had been sold and the money put into the store. Tom tried to collect the loan or the money from the livestock sale but in the end he and Reading quarreled and Tom walked out stating that he would be back the next day to kill Reading or to collect the money. This was in the day when a man’s word was true.

Several of Reading’s friends offered to bail him out but Reading seemed unconcerned probably thinking that the family ties and a good sleep would cure Tom’s rage, a bad decision on his part because the next morning, bright and early Tom rode into Uvalde on his gray horse.

Reading was spending a usual morning in the store visiting with customers when Wall walked up to him demanding the one hundred dollars. When Reading refused and made a move for a gun Tom Wall shot him dead on the spot. Tom was out the door in an instant, heading old gray south for Mexico. He remained in Mexico, part of the time confined to a jail but bought his freedom in 1868.
Reading Black's grave stone in Uvalde Cemetery, Texas
Reading Black's grave plaque
One of Reading Black's stone, and plaque
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick, October 2007
It is said that many motives may have led to the killing other than the money issue, one being that Wall may have just been a spark that was fanned by political issues that used him as their pawn. Since there was never a trail no one knows for sure. But it is believed that “while Wall’s action is indefensible, the greater guilt lies elsewhere.” The Express News, July 8, 1867.

Wall did make his way back to Texas as a fugitive. His family hid him in a cave south of Leakey for safe keeping. It was there that they carried food, supplies and news of the outside. After about a year of cave confinement his family, in the dark of night, escorted him to the Oklahoma border, his final destination - Canada. He was never heard from again.

Just one tragic tale of two early South Texas settlers.
Reading Black's stone in Uvalde Cemetery Texas
View of Reading Black's stone in Uvalde Cemetery
Photo courtesy Linda Kirkpatrick, October 2007
Copyright Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West
October 8 , 2007 Column

Source:
Family stories of Tom Wall by Uvette Hicks Brice
"The Life and Diary of Reading W. Black" arranged by Ike Moore

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