has been written over the years about the days of the outlaws
in Texas and the citizens who opposed them during those wild times
of the 1860s and 1870s.
Texas, had its share of violence with outlaws such as John
Wesley Hardin and others like him walking the streets - a situation
that made the local citizens uncomfortable, I'm sure.
wasn't the only place that had to put up with lawlessness back in
those days. Take for example the little Texas town of McDade
over in northern Bastrop
County. Located on Highway 290 about eight miles southeast of
Elgin, McDade was founded
in 1869 in the expectation of the arrival of the Houston and Texas
information found in The Handbook of Texas, the town was named after
James W. McDade. In the early days it was also called Tie Town
or Tie City. It supposedly acquired this name because ties
and logs cut for the railroad tracks were stored at the site.
No matter what
it was called, McDade
was a mighty rowdy place. The first business was a saloon that operated
out of a tent. There a thirsty man could buy a tin cup full of whiskey
for ten cents. When the town was incorporated in 1873, it had a
post office, cotton gin, and a small Baptist church.
In 1879, a school was formed and McDade
was called a "thriving depot town" - the population of the community
had grown to about 150 people. Although you would think that this
place had everything going for it as a law-abiding locale, it was
not to be - violence and vigilante justice soon became a serious
group of outlaws known as the "notch cutters" took up residence
As there was no local law enforcement, the citizens of the town
decided to deal with the bandits in their own way. They hung two
of the outlaws and the bad guys retaliated by murdering two of the
vigilantes. The citizens returned the favor by hanging a third outlaw.
In 1876, the
citizens caught two men skinning a cow that was displaying the brand
of the Olive Ranch. The men were shot on the spot - no questions
asked. Again the outlaws retaliated. About 15 men, supposedly led
by the son of one of the men shot, attacked the headquarters of
the Olive Ranch. Two cowboys were killed and the ranch house was
Again the local
citizens cried out for justice and another group of vigilantes caught
the suspected killers kicking up their heels on the dance floor.
They stopped the dance and drug four men outside and hung them from
the nearest tree. Needless to say, the party was over. This incident
happened in June of 1877.
Paula Mitchell Marks' article in The Handbook of Texas, McDade remained
relatively free of violence for the next five years. But in 1883,
the trouble started again. Two of the locals were murdered and a
third man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A deputy sheriff
investigating the crimes was shot to death in McDade.
So much for law and order - the vigilantes returned to their bloody
work and hung four of the suspected murderers. On Christmas Eve
of 1883, they executed three more suspects. This event led to a
gunfight at a local saloon and three more men died in a violent
barrage of lead.
It has been noted that this was the last occurrence of vigilante
justice in McDade, but other reports indicate that the violence
and gunfights continued until 1912.
the face of all the turbulence McDade
seemed to continue to prosper. In 1884, it had a district school
and a successful broom factory with 10 employees. The Randolph Factory,
a pottery manufacturer, relocated from Bishop to McDade
to be near the clay deposits there. It later became known as McDade
Pottery and it caused the town to gain attention from around the
Robert L. Williams,
owner of McDade Pottery, also invented and patented a charcoal cooker
and this item became a big seller. There were also several coalmines
in the area. The town got a weekly newspaper in 1890, as the McDade
Mentor was founded.
community prospered through 1925, when it had increased its population
to 600. The town had three churches, two doctors, and more new businesses
began to open their doors. By 1930, however, things started to go
bad. McDade Pottery closed at the beginning of World
War II and in the 1950s, the population fell to 220. What had
been a four-block business district was reduced to less than a block.
Today, the once-so-violent
railroad town is a small and tranquil agricultural community best
know for the melons that it grows in the fertile, sandy soil - that
same soil covers the remains of the outlaws and vigilantes - grim
reminders of those rough times in early Texas.
Published with author's permission.