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.”
he was, in the mid-1880s he seems to have made a fair living holding up stage
coaches in the remote stretches of Bandera, Kerr and Uvalde counties. The robberies
began in 1886 and continued unabated for the next two years.
Bold in his
demeanor and adroit with a six-shooter, the robber did his work alone.
a few months ago,” the Dallas Morning News reported on Sept. 25, 1888, “the ‘lone
highwayman’ stopped a stage coach on the Bandera Road, ordered the driver to give
up his Winchester, and then with astonishing complacency rifled the mail bags
and robbed every passenger aboard, not meeting with the slightest resistance from
any of the half dozen commercial travelers.”
Then the outlaw ran into
Elizabeth Gibbons Hay had auburn hair and “skin of satin smoothness.” She lived
with her husband George Hay and two children on their ranch near Bandera.
Married four years, she enjoyed a “happy and prosperous” life keeping house and
“Born on the frontier [in Castroville,
where he father ran a hotel] and…raised on the back of a Mexican mustang,” Lizzie
as a child had been “lithe as a panther and could rope a steer with as much ease
as any cowboy.” Indeed, she helped her husband with the fall branding and spring
About 10 a.m. on September 10, she had been home alone, working
on a mattress in her bedroom, when she heard someone on the front porch. Looking
outside, she saw a medium-sized man with a red handkerchief wrapped over his head
and a piece of black cloth tied across his face. He had sunburned hands and wore
a well-worn pair of shoes, not boots.
“What do you want here?” Lizzie
“It is none of your damned business,” the man replied.
a masked stranger standing on her front porch seemed very much her business.
off that gallery or I’ll kill you,” Lizzie ordered.
The man just laughed.
“You’re a plucky woman,” he said, “but I’ll have what I want in this house or
I’ll burn it down over your head.”
Lizzie grabbed a rifle and threw down
on the man as he walked inside. Holding the weapon barely 18 inches from his heart,
she pulled the trigger only to hear the hammer snap down on an empty chamber.
“Now, damn you, I will kill you,” he said.
“a long, keen-bladed knife,” he slashed at her throat. Lizzie instinctively threw
up her arm and deflected the weapon, but the man struck at her again. Once more
she blocked the thrust, though the point of the knife did cut across her forehead.
Blood running down her face, Lizzie backed up. Turning the rifle around
to use as a club, she swung hard and hit the man on the side of his head. As he
dropped to his knees, she reversed the weapon, levered in a round and pulled the
trigger before he could get up. This time the rifle went off, the bullet slamming
into the man’s upper left chest.
The man screamed, rolled out the door
to the porch, struggled to his feet and ran toward his horse. That’s when the
family dogs attacked him, ripping his jeans.
Blinded by the blood flowing
from her wound, Lizzie frantically searched for another cartridge. Finally finding
another round, she loaded it into the rifle.
“As he was trying to get
on his horse, I wiped the blood from my face with my apron and fired a second
shot… but think I missed…,” she told a journalist who interviewed her in San
Antonio a couple of weeks later.
The wounded man galloped off on small
horse mounted with what looked like a good saddle.
no means of calling for help, the young mother stayed with her children – her
reloaded Winchester at the ready – until her husband and brother came home early
the next morning.
When George arrived to find his shaken wife, her forehead
bandaged, he rode off to get the sheriff. The county lawman returned with deputies,
several Texas Rangers and tracking dogs. The dogs soon picked up a trail. About
two miles from the scene of the assault, the lawmen found the intruder – stone
While the man had no identification on him, he matched the description
of the lone highwayman. As the long ago newspaper story concluded, “The citizens
of Bandera County, and particularly the stage coach drivers and traveling men,
breathe easier now that the lone robber is dead.”
account of Lizzie’s close call appeared in newspapers across the nation, but after
that, the incident seems to have been forgotten.
Lizzie and her husband
would have more children and lived on well into the 20th century. The “plucky
woman” who in defending herself rid Texas of an outlaw died at 74 on Aug. 21,
1942. She’s buried in Bandera Cemetery next to her husband, who had joined her
in death less than six months later.
Cox - February
9, 2012 column
Outlaws | Texas
Small Town Sagas
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