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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Bud Newman Gang

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Bud Newman didn’t amount to much as an outlaw, but not for lack of grit.

When and where Newman came into the world is yet to be discovered, though there’s a small Newman family cemetery in Val Verde County that supports the theory his people came from around there.

Frank Gray, author of “Pioneering in Southwest Texas,” first met Newman when the youngster’s father brought “little black-eyed” Buddy riding along with him when he visited a horse camp in Edward’s County where Gray worked as a cowboy.

“I never saw a more quiet and teachable little boy than Buddy Newman,” he wrote. “He seemed to know nothing but to obey his father. Buddy did not use rough or profane language” and plainly had been “brought up under the kindly, thoughtful care of a dear Christian mother.”

But when Newman got older, Gray continued, he “some way or somehow drifted into the swift current of disorder and lawlessness which prevailed at that time.”

While Newman never hit the big time, he clearly had aspirations. And his memory lived on well into the 20th century at Comstock, where some of his exploits occurred.

The late W.E. McCarson, born in Val Verde County in 1912, told me about Newman when we visited at his Comstock residence in the fall of 1987.

McCarson got the essence of the outlaw’s story first hand in 1936, when an old man walked into his family’s store in Comstock.

“Boy,” the oldster began, “you been here very long?”

McCarson allowed as how he had been in Comstock for all his 24 years. But that wasn’t long enough for him to have been around when a Southern Pacific passenger train got robbed by three horse backers who galloped off after some lively shooting. While the shooting left ears ringing, no one got hurt.

The old man proceeded to fill McCarson in on the robbery. The reason he knew so many details is because he had been one of the robbers.

“They sent me to the pen for it,” the store visitor declared, his bitterness as plain as his gray hair.

Four decades after the fact, the ex-con blamed bad whiskey and worse company for his fall. Mainly, it was the robust confidence and lack of judgment associated with over indulgence in spirituous beverages that led to his troubles.

“Those bastards talked me into it,” he told McCarson.

Among those of alleged doubtful parentage he referred to was Bud Newman.

These days, an investigator can reopen a cold case with a few clicks on a computer keyboard, calling up a suspect’s criminal history and other pertinent bits of information. But law enforcement didn’t keep such good records in the 1890s. Fortunately for posterity, newspapers seldom ignore a good story.

Newman first came to the attention of the Texas press late in 1895 when the Dallas Morning News reported that on Dec. 1, a “difficulty” between Newman and Shepard Baker ended “after several shots were fired.” Newman went to jail, Baker to the cemetery. “Both were young men in the stock business,” the newspaper’s correspondent added.

McCarson said the two cowboys shot it out near Kelly’s Saloon, conveniently located on a hill overlooking the Comstock bone yard.

The way he heard the story, Newman and Baker had been feuding over some issue long since forgotten. The day of the shooting, Baker happened to be sitting in a wagon when he spotted Newman and promptly took a shot at him. The report of the weapon spooked the team pulling the wagon and Baker could not get off a second shot.

Newman, however, rested his Winchester on the saddle of his borrowed horse and put a round right between Baker’s eyes.

Having waived an examining trial, Newman eventually gained release from the county jail in Del Rio on $3000 bond. Though it escaped the attention of at least the Dallas newspaper, Newman apparently won acquittal in the killing, probably on the grounds of self defense.

A little more than a year after the Comstock shooting, newspapers readers learned that west-bound SP passenger train No. 20 had been robbed around midnight on Dec. 20, 1896 near Cow Creek less than a mile west of Comstock.

After gaining everyone’s attention with the firing of numerous pistol rounds, three men tied up the train crew and took about $70 from what railroad express officials referred to as a “local” safe. The robbers had been unable to open a larger, trans-continental safe equipped with a timer lock.

The robbers rode off “to the hills” and the train continued its run. As soon as word of the holdup reached the sheriff, he formed a posse and took up the trail. The next day several Texas Rangers also rode out in search of the outlaws.

Thanks to ranger Thalis Cook, an expert tracker, the state lawmen made short work of the case. By Dec. 27 they had four men in custody: Newman, Frank Gobble, Alex Purviance and Rollie Shackleford.

Justice moved quickly in those days. The following March, Purviance, described as in “a dying condition with consumption [TB]” entered a plea of guilty and got five years. A month later Shackelford also copped a plea for five years. What happened to Gobble’s case seems not to have made the public prints, but on Oct. 26, 1897 Newman got acquitted.

Having beaten the rap twice, Newman apparently saw no need to reform. But his good fortune would not hold the next time he got in trouble.

The story continues - Part II

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
May 26, 2008 column

Related Topics:
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