TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1500 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
Texas Hotels
 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Weird News

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Nothing new about a Texan's fascination for weird news.

From the Lone Star State in 1899, an assortment of weird, mostly fatal happenings - vintage news of the odd:

All in the family…

On Feb. 10 a man died at Eagle Pass from an asthma attack. Nothing particularly newsworthy about that, sad as it must have been for his family and friends.

But one week later, the man's 68-year-old brother, "prostrated by the loss," also died. Presumably such a sudden demise came from heart failure, but the exact cause is not noted in the newspaper article.

The sister of the two deceased brothers, "overcome by grief…took to bed," the article continued. And four days later, she, too, lay dead.

The family, three of whom having died in a span of 11 days, "were old settlers of Maverick County."

Why they call it firewater…
If video cameras or cell phones had been available back then, someone in Rockdale might have captured a scene that doubtless would have made it to reality TV. Of course, television had been invented yet, either.

One Saturday evening in March 1899, a resident of that mid-state town sat on the head of an empty 156-gallon oak barrel on the sidewalk in front of the Post Office Saloon. The large barrel originally had held an ample supply of Rose Valley whiskey, but St. Patrick's Day or some other occasion had resulted in the consumption of its contents.

The man on the barrel surely paid no attention when an acquaintance, resting an arm on the barrel, lit a cigarette and casually tossed the match behind him.

The match could have fallen anywhere, but the smoker made an unintentional hole-in-one, the still-flaming light disappearing down the barrel's tap hole. That, the newspaper reported, "[ignited] the accumulated gas caused by the barrel sitting in the hot sun all afternoon."

Both the barrel-sitter and the man with the cigarette found themselves flying through the air, one of them landing about 12 feet away. Their unexpected special delivery in front of the Post Office Saloon left both of them lying unconscious in a heap. A third man who had been near the barrel suffered facial burns and had his beard singed. Everyone recovered.

Famous last words…
No matter that he would be permanently dropping out of society within a few moments, a condemned murderer in Harris County wanted those about to witness his execution to understand that he faced his impending death bravely.

"If any man sees me tremble, speak out," the soon-to-be-departed yelled out gamely to the throng surrounding the gallows.

No sooner had the necktie party honoree said that than someone in the crowd below yelled "I saw it!"

"That's a damned lie," the man on the platform shouted from beneath a black mask just as the hangman sprang the trap.

That happened, reporters noted, at 47 minutes and 6 seconds past noon that March 25.

Prior to his death, the story continued, the condemned man "never appeared for a moment to lose his nerve or to have any fear of death and insisted upon it being known by all men that he didn't profess religion and did not want anyone to think he did."

Though he protested his innocence right up to the last minute, the man had been convicted of the brutal ax-murder of a man, his wife and their small child in their Cypress home on July 18, 1898. The murdered couple's 12-year-old son managed to escape and later bear witness to the crime.

Almost like winning the lottery…
A young man living in Davilla, according to the newspaper account, "received notice from Washington that the French spoliation claims have been granted in the year of 1797. [His] grandfather…who was a wealthy merchant of Philadelphia had Three…ships and their cargoes confiscated by the French. The…claim amounts to about $32,000." Back then, $32 K amounted to real money.

Early day Darwin Award qualifier…

On Oct. 8, 1899 two brothers who had put on a magic lantern show in Brownwood had almost made it back home to Cameron when one of them had a very bad idea.

For reasons not explained in the story, along the Little River about two miles east of the Milam County town, one of the brothers "took a can containing carbide out of the wagon and carried it to the river, where he poured water on or in the can, causing it to explode."

The violent chemical reaction blew the young man 5 feet into the air and he "fell in the edge of the water a corpse."
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" >
April 25, 2007 column
Books by Mike Cox
Texas Disasters
Order Here
Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast

Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters |
Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs

TEXAS HOTELS | Hotels | Cars | Air | Cruises | USA

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Links
Contributors | Staff | About Us | Contact TE |
Website Content Copyright ©1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: April 25, 2007