In the latter half of the 1870s in Lampasas County, Texas a feud developed between two families, the Horrells and the Higgins. Prior to that, the Horrell brothers, Mart, Tom, Merritt, Ben and Sam, had come to the attention of state law enforcement officers. In early 1873, during a short period when the Texas Rangers had been disbanded by the federal government, the Horrells were involved in a several incidents. In place of the former Texas Ranger force, reconstruction Governor Edmund J. Davis promoted a state police force around 1870 to be positioned in authority over all state-wide and local law enforcement. This was on the heels of the end of the Civil War and the emphasis was to be inclusive of non-white lawmen when selecting officers, though some whites were also hired. This led to race-related conflicts between the officers and the general population in addition to natural conflicts with criminal elements. The Texas Rangers would later be reinstated in mid 1873.
Category Archives: outlaws and crimes
Belle Starr, the famous “female outlaw” was born Myra Maybelle Shirley on February 5, 1848 to John and Elizabeth Shirley in rural Missouri near the town of Carthage. It was a time when bandits, either male or female, were celebrated in some ways. Her family lived on a farm. Reportedly, they were also slave owners in a time when strong attitudes for or against slavery divided residents especially in so-called border states. Her family later sold their rural property and moved into Carthage where they ran the inn and several other businesses. The civil war came and a brother joined the Confederate army and more specifically the controversial outfit known as Quantrill’s Raiders. Her brother Bud Shirley was killed in Missouri in a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops. The economy had generally deteriorated in Missouri because of the war and the Shirleys packed up and moved to near Scyene, Texas, at the time located southeast of Dallas, around 1864.
Sheriff Pat Garrett is best known for having killed the outlaw Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He was born in Alabama in 1850 and moved with his family to Louisiana where they owned a plantation but their business was destroyed by the Civil War and his father died a few years after the war’s end. Fewer people probably know that when he was younger, he spent some time working as a cowboy in the vicinity of Dallas, Texas. He then went on to work on the LS Ranch out in the Panhandle area (now Oldham and Hartley counties).
William Clarke Quantrill was known as a leader of a pro Confederate band of guerrillas during the Civil War. He was born in Ohio in 1837. By the age of sixteen, he had become employed as a school teacher in Ohio. He was from a large family the father of which was reportedly abusive, but who died when Quantrill was still a young adult. Quantrill left home when he was still under twenty and moved to Illinois where he was working in a rail yard. He was involved in an altercation in which a man was killed, with Quantrill claiming self defense, but Quantrill was not charged with the killing due to a lack of evidence. During the rest of the 1850s, Quantrill drifted between jobs and locations winding up in the state of Kansas by the end of the decade. One of his jobs was to capture runaway slaves for bounties, which he was likely doing at the outset of the Civil War. He formed a pro Confederate band of raiders having learned guerrilla tactics in other outfits. His band included Frank and Jesse James, brothers Jim, Bob and Cole Younger, Archie Clement, William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson and other individuals.
On Sunday, October 23, 1960, the Texas Prison Rodeo performance in Huntsville was slated to have a personal appearance by actor John Wayne, in Texas to promote the release of his film “The Alamo” in Houston the following week. Scheduled to appear with Wayne was pop singer Frankie Avalon, who had been cast as the character known as “Smitty” in the film. Wayne’s production was only the fourth of fifty-one film or television projects that Avalon appeared in, but he was at a peak of his career in pop music. The previous year, his recording “Venus” was Number 1 for five weeks. Between 1958 and 1962 between two and three dozen of his recordings hit the Billboard chart. The rodeo arena was expected to be filled to capacity at around 30,000.
A paragraph in a 1939 issue of a newspaper in Decatur (Illinois, not Texas) began “No. 1 Name of the year, so far, is that of Sheriff Smoot Schmid of Dallas, Texas.”
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His birth name was George Kelly Barnes, but he was better known as “Machine Gun Kelly.” George was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1895 and lived much of his early life there. He was in his 20s during the years of Prohibition (1920s and 1930s) when it was illegal to make or sell alcohol products. He became a “bootlegger” who trafficked in illegal alcohol products, and this was a major source of income when he was in his twenties. He was briefly married to Geneva Ramsey when he was about 19 years old. Ramsey and Barnes had two sons, but were later divorced.