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The Horrell Wars: Feuding in Texas and New Mexico

Description: For decades the Horrell brothers of Lampasas, Texas, have been portrayed as ruthless killers and outlaws, but author David Johnson paints a different picture of these controversial men. The Horrells were ranchers, but some thought that they built their herds by rustling. Their initial confrontation with the State Police at Lampasas in 1873 marked the most disastrous shootout in Reconstruction history. The brothers and loyal friends then fled to New Mexico, where they became entangled in what would later evolve into the violent Lincoln County War. The brothers returned to Texas, where in time they became involved in the Horrell-Higgins War. The family was nearly wiped out following the feud when two of the brothers were killed by a mob. Only one member of the family, Sam, Jr., lived to old age and died of natural causes.
Date: June 2014
Creator: Johnson, David
Partner: UNT Press

A Lawless Breed: John Wesley Hardin, Texas Reconstruction, and Violence in the Wild West

Description: John Wesley Hardin! His name spread terror in much of Texas in the years following the Civil War as the most wanted fugitive with a $4000 reward on his head. A Texas Ranger wrote that he killed men just to see them kick. Hardin began his killing career in the late 1860s and remained a wanted man until his capture in 1877 by Texas Rangers and Florida law officials. He certainly killed twenty men; some credited him with killing forty or more. After sixteen years in Huntsville prison he was pardoned by Governor Hogg. For a short while he avoided trouble and roamed westward, eventually establishing a home of sorts in wild and woolly El Paso as an attorney. He became embroiled in the dark side of that city and eventually lost his final gunfight to an El Paso constable, John Selman. Hardin was forty-two years old. Besides his reputation as the deadliest man with a six-gun, he left an autobiography in which he detailed many of the troubles of his life. In A Lawless Breed, Chuck Parsons and Norman Wayne Brown have meticulously examined his claims against available records to determine how much of his life story is true, and how much was only a half truth, or a complete lie. As a killer of up to forty men, Hardin obviously had psychological issues, which the authors probe and explain in laymen’s terms. To Hardin, those three dozen or more killings were a result of being forced to defend his life, his honor, or to preserve his freedom against those who would rob or destroy him or his loved ones. Was he a combination freedom fighter/man-killer, or merely a blood-lust killer who became a national celebrity? This deeply researched biography of Hardin and his friends and family will remain ...
Date: June 15, 2013
Creator: Parsons, Chuck & Brown, Norman Wayne
Partner: UNT Press

He Rode with Butch and Sundance: The Story of Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan

Description: Pinned down by a posse, the wounded outlaw’s companions urged him to escape through the gulch. “Don’t wait for me,” he replied, “I’m all in and might as well end it right here.” Placing his revolver to his right temple, he pulled the trigger for the last time, thus ending the life of the notorious “Kid Curry” of the Wild Bunch. It is long past time for the publication of a well-researched, definitive biography of the infamous western outlaw Harvey Alexander Logan, better known by his alias Kid Curry. In Wyoming he became involved in rustling and eventually graduated to bank and train robbing as a member—and soon leader—of the Wild Bunch. The core members of the gang came to be Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, George “Flatnose” Currie, Elzy Lay, Ben “the Tall Texan” Kilpatrick, Will Carver, and Kid Curry. Kid Curry has been portrayed as a cold-blooded killer, without any compassion or conscience and possessed of limited intelligence. Curry indeed was a dangerous man with a violent temperament, which was aggravated by alcoholic drink. However, Smokov shows that Curry’s record of kills is highly exaggerated, and that he was not the blood-thirsty killer as many have claimed. Mark Smokov has researched extensively in areas significant to Curry’s story and corrects the many false statements that have been written about him in the past. Curry was a cunning outlaw who planned and executed robberies on par with anything Butch Cassidy is reported to have pulled off. Smokov contends that Curry was the actual train robbing leader of the Wild Bunch—there is no concrete evidence that Cassidy ever robbed a train. He also presents new evidence that is virtually conclusive in resolving whether or not Curry was the “unknown bandit” who was killed after robbing a train near Parachute, Colorado, ...
Date: August 15, 2012
Creator: Smokov, Mark T.
Partner: UNT Press

The Mclaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: an O. K. Corral Obituary

Description: On a chilly October afternoon in 1881, two brothers named Tom and Frank McLaury were gunned down on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona, by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. The deadly event became known as the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and in a quirk of fate, the brothers’ names became well-known, but only as bad men and outlaws. Did they deserve that reputation? The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: An O.K. Corral Obituary explores this question, revealing details of their family background and the context of their lives on the frontier. Paul Lee Johnson begins their story with the McLaury brothers’ decision to go into the cattle business with an ambition to have their own ranch. When they moved to Arizona, they finally achieved that goal, but along the way they became enmeshed with the cross-border black market that was thriving there. As “honest ranchers” they were in business with both the criminal element as well as the legitimate businesses in Tombstone. Another principal in this story was an older brother, William, who set aside his law practice in Fort Worth to settle his brothers’ affairs, and associated himself with the prosecution of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Despite his efforts, the Earps and Holliday were exonerated, and the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” became the opening salvo of a feud that took several more lives. Johnson has interviewed family descendants and mined their sources, government correspondence, and letters that have never before been published to reveal the human lives behind the storied events. For the first time the events of the O.K. Corral gunfight are presented from the viewpoint of the McLaurys, two brothers who lost their lives and reputations, and a family who tried in vain to find restitution.
Date: June 15, 2012
Creator: Johnson, Paul Lee
Partner: UNT Press

Vengeance Is Mine: the Scandalous Love Triangle That Triggered the Boyce-sneed Feud

Description: The 1912 Boyce-Sneed feud in West Texas began with a torrid sex scandal at the core of a love triangle, featuring Lena Snyder Sneed, the high-spirited, headstrong wife; Al Boyce, Jr., Lena’s reckless, romantic lover; and John Beal Sneed, Lena’s arrogant, grim, and vindictive husband, who responded to Lena’s plea for a divorce by having her locked up in an insane asylum on grounds of “moral insanity.” The chase was on after Al rescued Lena from the asylum and the lovers fled to Canada. That’s when the killings began. No one who knew the vengeful John Beal Sneed doubted for a moment that he would go after his wife’s lover with lethal intent. Frustrated by Al’s escape to Canada, Sneed assassinated Al’s aged and unarmed father, Colonel Albert Boyce, a wealthy Amarillo banker and former manager of the huge XIT Ranch in the Panhandle during the late nineteenth century, who had been defending his son against Sneed’s legal machinations. Newspaper headlines predicted the upcoming murder trial would be the “greatest legal battle ever fought in Texas Courts.” Sneed’s well-paid legal team first earned him a mistrial. While awaiting his second trial, Sneed ambushed and killed Al Boyce, Jr., who had foolishly returned to Amarillo and was shot in the back, with witnesses present, while walking the main street. Sneed was acquitted in his second trial for killing the father, and later acquitted for the killing of son Al Boyce, Jr., as well—his legal team skillfully invoking the self-help justice of the unwritten law defending one’s marital home. Bill Neal, attorney and writer, tells the full story of this sordid affair with special analysis of the trial tactics that were so carefully crafted to resonate with the jurors of this era and ensure Sneed’s acquittal.
Date: July 15, 2011
Creator: Neal, Bill
Partner: UNT Press

Bloody Bill Longley: the Mythology of a Gunfighter

Description: William Preston “Bill” Longley (1851-1878), though born into a strong Christian family, turned bad during Reconstruction in Texas, much like other young boys of that time, including the deadly John Wesley Hardin. He went on a murderous rampage over the last few years of his life, shotgunning Wilson Anderson in retribution for Anderson’s killing of a relative; killing George Thomas in McLennan County; and shooting William “Lou” Shroyer in a running gunfight. Longley even killed the Reverend William R. Lay while Lay was milking a cow. Once he was arrested in 1877, and subsequently sentenced to hang, his name became known statewide as an outlaw and a murderer. Through a series of “autobiographical” letters written from jail while awaiting the hangman, Longley created and reveled in his self-centered image as a fearsome, deadly gunfighter—the equal, if not the superior, of the vaunted Hardin. Declaring himself the “worst outlaw” in Texas, the story that he created became the basis for his historical legacy, unfortunately relied on and repeated over and over by previous biographers, but all wrong. In truth, Bill Longley was not the daring figure that he attempted to paint. Rick Miller’s thorough research shows that he was, instead, a braggart who exaggerated greatly his feats as a gunman. The murders that could be credited to him were generally nothing more than cowardly assassinations. Bloody Bill Longley was first published in a limited edition in 1996. Miller separates fact from fancy, attempting to prove or disprove Longley’s many claims of bloodshed. Since the time of the first edition, diligent research has located and identified the outlaw’s body, the absence of which was a longstanding myth in itself. This revised edition includes that part of the Longley story, as well as several new items of information that have since come to ...
Date: March 15, 2011
Creator: Miller, Rick
Partner: UNT Press

The Johnson-sims Feud: Romeo and Juliet, West Texas Style

Description: In the early 1900s, two families in Scurry and Kent counties in West Texas united in a marriage of fourteen-year-old Gladys Johnson to twenty-one-year-old Ed Sims. Billy Johnson, the father, set up Gladys and Ed on a ranch, and the young couple had two daughters. But Gladys was headstrong and willful, and Ed drank too much, and both sought affection outside their marriage. A nasty divorce ensued, and Gladys moved with her girls to her father’s luxurious ranch house, where she soon fell in love with famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. When Ed tried to take his daughters for a prearranged Christmas visit in 1916, Gladys and her brother Sid shot him dead on the Snyder square teeming with shoppers. One of the best lawyers in West Texas, Judge Cullen Higgins (son of the old feudist Pink Higgins) managed to win acquittal for both Gladys and Sid. In the tradition of Texas feudists since the 1840s, the Sims family sought revenge. Sims’ son-in-law, Gee McMeans, led an attack in Sweetwater and shot Billy Johnson’s bodyguard, Frank Hamer, twice, while Gladys—by now Mrs. Hamer—fired at another assassin. Hamer shot back, killed McMeans, and was no-billed on the spot by a grand jury watching the shootout through a window. An attempt against Billy Johnson failed, but a three-man team shotgunned the widely respected Cullen Higgins. Texas Rangers and other lawmen caught one of the assassins, extracted a confession, and then prompted his “suicide” in a Sweetwater jail cell.
Date: August 15, 2010
Creator: O'Neal, Bill
Partner: UNT Press

The Deadliest Outlaws: the Ketchum Gang and the Wild Bunch

Description: After Tom Ketchum had been sentenced to death for attempting to hold up a railway train, his attorneys argued that the penalty was “cruel and unusual” for the offense charged. The appeal failed and he became the first individual—and the last—ever to be executed for a crime of this sort. He was hanged in 1901; in a macabre ending to his life of crime, his head was torn away by the rope as he fell from the gallows. Tom Ketchum was born in 1863 on a farm near the fringe of the Texas frontier. At the age of nine, he found himself an orphan and was raised by his older brothers. In his mid-twenties he left home for the life of an itinerant trail driver and ranch hand. He returned to Texas, murdered a man, and fled. Soon afterwards, he and his brother Sam killed two men in New Mexico. A year later, he and two other former cowboys robbed a train in Texas. The career of the Ketchum Gang was under way. In their day, these men were the most daring of their kind, and the most feared. They were accused of crimes that were not theirs, but their proven record is long and lurid. Their downfall was brought about by what one editor called “the magic of the telephone and telegraph,” by quarrels between themselves, and by their reckless defiance of ever-mounting odds. Jeffrey Burton has been researching the story of the Ketchum Gang and related outlaws for more than forty years. He has mined unpublished sources, family records, personal reminiscences, trial transcripts and other court papers, official correspondence and reports, census returns, and contemporary newspapers to sort fact from fiction and provide the definitive truth about Ketchum and numerous other outlaws, including Will Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, and ...
Date: August 15, 2009
Creator: Burton, Jeffrey
Partner: UNT Press

The Sutton-taylor Feud: the Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

Description: The Sutton-Taylor Feud of DeWitt, Gonzales, Karnes, and surrounding counties began shortly after the Civil War ended. The blood feud continued into the 1890s when the final court case was settled with a governmental pardon. Of all the Texas feuds, the one between the Sutton and Taylor forces lasted longer and covered more ground than any other. William E. Sutton was the only Sutton involved, but he had many friends to wage warfare against the large Taylor family. The causes are still shrouded in mystery and legend, as both sides argued they were just and right. In April 1868 Charles Taylor and James Sharp were shot down in Bastrop County, alleged horse thieves attempting to escape. During this period many men were killed “while attempting to escape.” The killing on Christmas Eve 1868 of Buck Taylor and Dick Chisholm was perhaps the final spark that turned hard feelings into fighting with bullets and knives. William Sutton was involved in both killings. “Who sheds a Taylor's blood, by a Taylor's hand must fall” became a fact of life in South Texas. Violent acts between the two groups now followed. The military reacted against the killing of two of their soldiers in Mason County by Taylors. The State Police committed acts that were not condoned by their superiors in Austin. Mobs formed in Comanche County in retaliation for John Wesley Hardin's killing of a Brown County deputy sheriff. One mob “liberated” three prisoners from the DeWitt County jail, thoughtfully hanging them close to the cemetery for the convenience of their relatives. An ambush party killed James Cox, slashing his throat from ear to ear—as if the buckshot in him was not sufficient. A doctor and his son were called from their home and brutally shot down. Texas Rangers attempted to quell the ...
Date: February 15, 2009
Creator: Parsons, Chuck
Partner: UNT Press

John Ringo, King of the Cowboys: His Life and Times From the Hoo Doo War to Tombstone

Description: Few names in the lore of western gunmen are as recognizable. Few lives of the most notorious are as little known. Romanticized and made legendary, John Ringo fought and killed for what he believed was right. As a teenager, Ringo was rushed into sudden adulthood when his father was killed tragically in the midst of the family's overland trek to California. As a young man he became embroiled in the blood feud turbulence of post-Reconstruction Texas. The Mason County “Hoo Doo” War in Texas began as a war over range rights, but it swiftly deteriorated into blood vengeance and spiraled out of control as the body count rose. In this charnel house Ringo gained a reputation as a dangerous gunfighter and man killer. He was proclaimed throughout the state as a daring leader, a desperate man, and a champion of the feud. Following incarceration for his role in the feud, Ringo was elected as a lawman in Mason County, the epicenter of the feud’s origin. The reputation he earned in Texas, further inflated by his willingness to shoot it out with Victorio’s raiders during a deadly confrontation in New Mexico, preceded him to Tombstone in territorial Arizona. Ringo became immersed in the area’s partisan politics and factionalized violence. A champion of the largely Democratic ranchers, Ringo would become known as a leader of one of these elements, the Cowboys. He ran at bloody, tragic odds with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, finally being part of the posse that hounded these fugitives from Arizona. In the end, Ringo died mysteriously in the Arizona desert, his death welcomed by some, mourned by others, wrongly claimed by a few. Initially published in 1996, John Ringo has been updated to a second edition with much new information researched and uncovered by David Johnson ...
Date: June 15, 2008
Creator: Johnson, David
Partner: UNT Press

Murder on the White Sands: the Disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain

Description: On a cold February evening in 1896, prominent attorney Col. Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son Henry rode home across the White Sands of New Mexico. It was a trip the father and son would not complete—they both disappeared in a suspected ambush and murder at the hands of cattle thieves Fountain was prosecuting. The disappearance of Colonel Fountain and his young son resulted in outrage throughout the territory, yet another example of lawlessness that was delaying New Mexico’s progress toward statehood. The sheriff, whose deputies were quickly becoming the prime suspects, did little to solve the mystery. Governor Thornton, eager for action, appointed Pat Garrett as the new sheriff, the man famous for killing Billy the Kid fifteen years earlier. Thornton also called on the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, who assigned top operative John Fraser to assist Garrett with the case. The evidence pointed at three men, former deputies William McNew, James Gililland, and Oliver Lee. These three men, however, were very close with powerful ex-judge, lawyer, and politician Albert B. Fall. It was even said by some that Fall was the mastermind behind the plot to kill Fountain. Forced to wait two years for a change in the political landscape, Garrett finally presented his evidence to the court and secured indictments against the three suspects. Garrett quickly arrested McNew, but Lee and Gililland went into hiding. Lee claimed that Garrett merely wanted to kill him with a warrant for his arrest as an excuse. When both men were tracked down at one of Lee's ranches, Lee and Gililland got the best of the sheriff's posse in the ensuing gun battle, killing one deputy and forcing Garrett and his two remaining deputies to retreat. Lee and Gililland would finally surrender months later, under the condition that they would ...
Date: May 15, 2007
Creator: Recko, Corey
Partner: UNT Press

The Mason County "Hoo Doo" War, 1874-1902

Description: Post-Reconstruction Texas in the mid-1870s was still relatively primitive, with communities isolated from each other in a largely open-range environment. Cattlemen owned herds of cattle in numerous counties while brand laws remained local. Friction arose when the nonresident stockmen attempted to gather their cattle, and mavericking was common. Law enforcement at the local level could cope with handling local drunks, collecting taxes, and attending the courts when in session, but when an outrageous crime occurred, or depredations in a community were at a level that severely taxed or overwhelmed the local sheriff, there was seldom any other recourse except a vigilante movement. With such a fragile hold on civilization in these communities, it is not difficult to understand how a “blood feud” could occur. During 1874 the Hoo Doo War erupted in the Texas Hill Country of Mason County, and for the remainder of the century violence and fear ruled the region in a rising tide of hatred and revenge. It is widely considered the most bitter feud in Texas history. Traditionally the feud is said to have begun with the intention of protecting the families, property and livelihood of the largely agrarian settlers in Mason and Llano counties. The truth is far more sinister. Evidence shows that the mob was contaminated from the outset by a criminal element, a fact the participants failed to recognize. They believed they were above the law. They were not above vengeance. The feud began in 1874 with the rise of the mob under Sheriff John Clark, but it was not until the premeditated murder of rancher Timothy Williamson in the spring of 1875, a murder orchestrated by Sheriff Clark, that the violence escalated out of control. His death drew former Texas Ranger Scott Cooley to the region seeking justice, and when the courts ...
Date: February 15, 2006
Creator: Johnson, David D.
Partner: UNT Press