Hico, Texas:

The Business Emporium

A Chronological History

by Michael Leamons
(Page 3, 1870-1882)

Is There A Doctor in the House?

Dr. H. A. J. Snellings Capt. "Rube" Segrist
Dr. H. A. J. Snellings & Bro-in-law Capt. "Rube" Segrest

If someone in early Hico had inquired, "Is there a doctor in the house?" for all practical purposes, prior to 1870 the answer would have been, "No." Shortly thereafter, Dr. Henry Andrew Jackson (H.A.J.) Snellings, the first professionally trained physician, came to Hico, where he practiced medicine until his death in 1890.[69] He had attended Southern Botanico-Medical College in Macon, Georgia.[70] (Accompanying Snellings on the move to Hico were his sister and brother-in-law, Captain "Rube" and Mattie Snellings Segrest, whose descendants still possesses the original family homestead.) Although this next physician didn't arrive in Hico proper until 1895, Dr. James Hopkins Wysong, who had studied medicine at Tulane, began his medical career in 1873 in neighboring Bosque County.[71] In June of 1875, Wysong, J. R. Alford and 20 others went before the examining board of physicians in Meridian. Alford obtained his license, practiced medicine for the next 40 years[72] and operated pharmacies in both Hico and De Leon. [73]

The Alford Safe
1850's safe in City Hall vault bought from Alford for $100 in 1903.

"Old Hico" Cemetery

The "Old Hico" Cemetery began when "Rube" Segrest granted permission for burials to be conducted on a portion of his homestead. The earliest known grave, pre-dating the arrival of the Segrests, is that of Wm. W. Sumrall from 1865. The cemetery, now virtually lost among live oak trees, weeds and brush, contains over 150 graves with 98 of them being unmarked.[74] It is located northwest of where FM 1602 crosses Honey Creek and can be visited by appointment with one of "Rube's" heirs.

Hico in 1870

From 1860 to 1870, the county's population had increased by only 244, to 733.[29] The previously mentioned small pox epidemic hadn't helped. Tom Stinnett provides this glimpse of Hico as it appeared when his family arrived in January, 1870: "In those days there were no roads to speak of, we just traveled in the general direction of Hamilton until we got to Clifton, and from there a road led to Old Hico...There were two small stores at Old Hico when we arrived there, which carried a few supplies. Uncle Ike Malone and Faggard and Day owned the stores. A man named Clemens owned a saloon, and 'Rocky' Martin kept a hotel. This hotel consisted of one big log room, with a shed room across the back, and a cabin in the back yard for a dining room and kitchen. Many were the travelers who stopped at this pioneer inn, for it was on the main trail leading to West Texas, and at this time there were many people from the East going West."[FN1][75]

Tom Stinnett family
Tom Stinnet Family courtesy of Great Grandaughter Pat Ross.

Domestic Life

Stinnet provides this glimpse into the domestic life of the time, "...little farming was carried on in the county at the time, the settlers cultivating only small patches of ground. The big problem was fencing the land. We had to go into the timber and cut the rails, haul them in and build the fences. The houses were log cabins with puncheon floors or without floors. Our furniture was very scant and of the crudest kind. The settlers did not have wells for water, but they built their cabins near a creek or spring, some of them carried water for a long distance from the creek. Cooking was done on the open fireplace. Corn bread, jerky beef and coffee was the main diet of the settlers. They could get the corn ground at Iredell, ten miles down the Bosque creek. The nearest flour mill was at Clifton."[75]

Lawlessness and Murder

Stinnet went on to reveal worries over hostile Indians were being replaced with worries over outlaws, "...at times things got rather rough. Several men were killed while we were living there. Father [Capt. Rufus Stinnet][FN2]served as justice of the peace from 1872 until he died in 1894. W. H. Fuller [Patillo's son] was the first deputy sheriff appointed at Old Hico and he and my father were 'the law' for a good many years."[72] According to local historian, Oran Jo Pool, "In the early seventies, the lawless element became so bold that the district judge had to be escorted in and out of Hamilton with armed deputies."[76]

One of those doing the escorting, George Walker White, many years later shared his memories of the first murder in Old Hico. He said that Henry E. Fuller, son of "Uncle" Henry A. Fuller mentioned earlier, killed a man named Nichols or Nicholson, and that Fuller was probably the first one to stand trial for murder in the county. He also said that Fuller was later pardoned by Governor Davis. H. E. Chesley, Jr. offered a similar, but different version of what transpired: "Once [Ault] Ferguson [FN3] was said to be having a fight with one Nichols and getting the worse of it, when Henry Fuller's brother-in-law or of some other relation to Mr. Snell[FN4], shot Nichols off and killed him."[10] Then, there's this January 18, 1872 newspaper account of the affair[77]:

MAN KILLED AT HYCO.---...Edward Nicholson, brother of the late District Clerk of Bosque county, was killed by a man named Webster, at Hyco, Hamilton county, on the night of the 25th ultimo [Dec. 25, 1871]. The difficulty originated...from a misunderstanding in reference to a game of cards---Texas Pacific, Jan 6th."

A few more details can be gleaned from District Court records. During its February, 1872 session, "Ault" Ferguson and H. E. Fuller were charged with "assault with intent to murder" and bail was set at $2,000, each. During the May, 1872 session, John Webster and Henry E. Fuller were charged with murder. "Holl" Medford and his brother John were scheduled to appear as witnesses on behalf of the defense. (Not a surprising development since they were married to Ferguson sisters who had a brother, named "Alston". Also, the two Medfords had served in the Frontier Militia with both "Ault" Ferguson and "Uncle" Henry Fuller.) Bail for Fuller was set at $20,000. On February 9, 1873, a jury rendered the following verdict in the Fuller case, "We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree and assess his punishment at 5 years in the penitentiary."[78] The defense gave notice that the matter would be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Justice had been served, but that didn't help Nicholson's infant son or his young, pregnant wife.[79]

"Ault" Ferguson, "A Bad Man"

Young Henry Fuller wasn't particularly careful about the company he kept. One Hamilton County resident described "Ault" Ferguson as, "...a tall, raw-boned fellow with pock marks on his face, and a bad man." Later, "Ault" was credited with shooting-up William Snell and, on separate occasions, murdering a Mr. Tedrick, who had a predilection for gambling, and a Mr. Parsons, who happened to be sitting on a fence at the wrong time.[10] Indicted for the murder of Tedrick on September 20, 1876, Ferguson went on the lam. Making the Texas Rangers' "Most Wanted" list, he was described as "six-foot-tall frame...'spair made'...light complexion, blue eyes, left arm...broken causing it to swing unnaturally...knife scars on the back of his neck and on his face." When it was reported Ferguson was in the vicinity of the Leon River in Hamilton County, on August 8, 1877, Pvt. Samuel A. Henry and three other Texas Rangers were sent in pursuit.[80] "Ault" slipped away and wasn't apprehended until 1892, when a Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff was sent to Arkansas with extradition papers issued by Governor Hogg. Ferguson stood trial, was convicted of murder and sent to the penitentiary where he died a short time later.[10]

Outlaws and Frontier Justice

The following account, as well as a later one describing freighter Ike Malone's encounters with outlaws, can be found in "Ike Malone, Westerner" : "Once several desperados hijacked Ike's freight wagon near Iredell at Johnson's Peak. They stole his team of horses, his money, and his boots. Ike walked barefoot more than ten miles back to town, rounded up a posse, and chased down the bandits near Gatesville. The posse took the men back to Hico and hanged them, then wrapped the bodies in a wagon sheet and buried them in a single grave [in the "Old Hico" Cemetery] some fifty feet from 'respectable people.' Ironically, the bandits have the best grave marker in the cemetery; it prominently bears the names of the owners of the wagon sheet and of those who paid for the marker."[59]

Horse Thieves Tombstone Old Hico Cemetery
Tombstone in Old Hico Cemetery

J. J. "Mage" Smith, whose family moved to Hico from Arkansas in 1874, spoke of another hanging on Gilmore's Creek just west of Carlton involving 3 alleged horse thieves. Per Smith, the 3 were hung on the same limb, and their combined weight caused the limb to sag enough to where the toes of the end man touched the ground. He "...quit kicking, then cut himself free after the crowd left."[32] The survivor later described the harrowing incident in a sworn affidavit: "After the men left I cut one of the men down, he was dead. I wish I had cut the other poor fellow down as he might have lived, but I was scared."[81]

Captain J. C. Huchingson, who also came to Hico in January, 1874, claimed during those early days there were "...many cattle thieves..." and "...there was more booze drunk then than now and there were more drunk men. Rough men would sometimes ride in and 'shoot up the town.' At different times they entered his store and shot up through the ceiling. At that time they knew nothing of the 'parole system.' There was a 'business committee' to take men out and hang them or shoot them if they had committed crime."[7]

Tumult Over John Wesley Hardin

The Huchingson family arrived during a tumultuous period. On May 26, 1874, John Wesley Hardin, the famous gunslinger and a leading figure in the ongoing Taylor-Sutton Feud, had stopped-off in nearby Comanche to celebrate his 21st birthday, race a horse he had recently purchased and visit his parents, the Rev. James and Mary Hardin. A herd of about 1,000 head of cattle that he and his friend, Jim Taylor, had started up the Chisholm Trail from Gonzales had made it to Hamilton County, where it awaited a rendezvous with Hardin before continuing the drive to Kansas. Meanwhile, Hardin's horse won first place, earning him winnings of $3,000 in cash, 50 head of cattle, 15 horses and a wagon. To celebrate, Hardin and his friends went to a local saloon. There, he became involved in a shoot-out with Brown County Deputy Charles Webb, who was killed during the exchange. All hell broke loose. Hardin's brother and two of his cousins were lynched by a mob. Two of his associates were shot to death while sleeping. The herd was confiscated, and its drivers were arrested. Some 500 men, in bands of 50 to 100, were scouring the countryside in search of Hardin, but somehow he and Taylor escaped to Austin.[82]

John Wesley Hardin
John Wesley Hardin

First Round in the Alcohol Tug-of-War

Perhaps the rowdiness previously described by Capt. Huchingson explains why, in 1875, citizens of Hamilton and Lampasas counties, respectively, petitioned the Texas Constitutional Convention for a "local option" to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Their request was granted. It was the beginning of a protracted tug-of-war within the community between "pro" and "anti" alcohol forces, which continues to this day.[83]

In February, 1877, the Granbury Vidette published this humorous account concerning Hico and local option: "The little burg of Hico has acquired a valuable population recently---seventeen doctors and a jackass. The doctors came under a misapprehension that the Local Option law had carried, but no opinion is expressed as to the mission of the jackass."[84]

The Babb Gang

In addition to the occasional robbery or murder, there was a bona-fide gang of outlaws operating some 23 miles south of Old Hico, along the Hamilton/Coryell County line, that of "Cherokee" Bill Babb. None of the extant historical record directly connects the gang's activities with Hico, but being so close, their presence must have been felt. As Babb neared death, allegedly he confessed to killing 23 men.[85] He was a man of contradictions. Undoubtedly, he had a wild side and was ruthless in avenging perceived wrongs; however, he was also known for his generosity and for being a man of his word.[86] Babb's and several allied families came to the area in 1859. He served in the Confederate Army and is rumored to have spent time in a P.O.W. camp. Soon after his return, one of his clan, 13-year-old Almond Boyd was killed during a Hamilton County Indian raid.[33] Earlier in this narrative, Babb is the one who used the term, "Totten's Indians."[57] Upon his return from the War, Babb became convinced that during his absence his wife had been cheated and mistreated by neighbors he had trusted.[87] His disappointment festered, manifesting itself in the aggression demonstrated by his gang composed of Bill Ike Babb, his son, Dave Ware, his brother-in-law, Clark Ware, of unknown relation, Jesse Green, his nephew, Jasper Whitley, a hired hand, and John Mayfield, who served in the same unit with Babb during the War.[88] They were a lawless bunch. At about the time of the gang's dispersal, on Christmas Eve of 1879 Whitley murdered a man near the Bosque/Coryell County line in an incident involving whiskey, [89,90] was later arrested and jailed for the incident and ended-up being shot and killed in 1882 by the Sheriff of Bosque County. [91] Jasper's brother, Will Whitley, wanted for train and bank robberies and for murder, was killed by U. S. Marshals in 1888 in Floresville. In 1884, Jesse Green, Babb's nephew of whom it was said, "...he lived in the backwoods [on the Hamilton/Coryell County line] and had no steady occupation to speak of", was lynched, [92] ostensibly, either for stealing a horse or because another man wanted his wife. [93] Although never convicted, many years later Bill Ike and his sons were charged with murdering a man in the Big Bend country. Allegedly, they removed the entrails from a dead steer, sewed the victim's body inside the resulting cavity and, then, buried it.[94]

Bill Babb and Dave Ware
Dave Ware, on left, and Bill Babb

Babb, referred to as "the cattle king of that section", [95] employed his gang in his extensive cattle operations. Also, he opened a general store in Babbsville, located between Jonesboro and Turnersville, just over the Coryell County line from his ranch. He was known for wrestling with his pet bear. [86] (Another Texan of some repute had a pet bear --- Judge Roy Bean. In fact, it may have been the same bear, for when the Babb gang was run out of Hamilton and Coryell Counties, Bill Ike ended-up settling in Langtry, where Bean held court. After Bean's departure, Bill Ike purchased the Jersey Lilly and Bean's other property. Later, Bill Ike's widow donated the property to the State of Texas.) [96] During the mid 1870's, the bank Babb conducted business with in Waco went bankrupt. Faced with the loss of $6,000, Babb met with the errant bankers. He locked the door, drew out his six-shooter and warned the men to pay-up or be killed. Choosing the former, $6,000 in gold was promptly placed in Babb's hands. Legend also has it when the mood was upon him, Babb would ride horseback into the saloons in Waco with six-shooter in hand, demanding service.[86]

Judge Roy Bean's Jersey Lilly
The Jersey Lilly

In 1877 due to an unusually hard winter, Babb experienced $5,000 in losses in his home-based cattle operations and feared that his Callahan County losses might be even heavier.[97] A few months later, perhaps to cover those losses, he sold his interest in a mercantile operation on Hog Creek in Bosque County to his partner of six years, James Theodore "Dorrie" Vaughn, a bachelor.[98] Per one account, there were hard feelings between the two.[99] Three months later, on June 11, 1878, Vaughn, who kept all his money in a safe in the store, was robbed of $3,000 and murdered. Initial speculation was that Babb intended only to rob Vaughn, but that Vaughn must have recognized the perpetrators, necessitating his murder. Either Vaughn was very popular, or Babb was very unpopular, or both, for a newspaper reported that a posse of 300 citizens surrounded Babb's ranch, captured Bill and his gang and delivered them to the Bosque County Sheriff in Meridian, where they were held on a warrant sworn by U. S. Deputy Marshal John Stull, Babb's neighbor and implacable foe. One paper noted, "The arrest...created great excitement in Hamilton county, where his [Babb's] wealth and reputed fierceness had given him great influence." [95] After thirty witnesses had been examined over the course of 5 days, it was "made to appear that Babb, Dave Ware and John Mayfield were sitting up with a sick child of Babb's at the time in question, while Clark Ware was in Coleman county, where he lives, at a dance." Bail was set at $1,000 and was provided courtesy of "Buck" Barry, who was running for State Representative, and Col. W. H. Maples, the executor of Vaughn's estate.[100] Vaughn's brother later published a letter-to-the-editor defending Babb against the charges that he had been involved in "Dorrie's" murder.[98]

Another theory for the murder was advanced implicating Bill Crabtree, a rather unsavory type, and Tom and Mart Horrell of the infamous Lampasas County Horrell-Higgins feud. Crabtree turned state's evidence and testified against the Horrells. After concluding his last day of testimony, on November 28, 1878, Crabtree was murdered by a person or persons unknown. As was observed by one author skeptical of the justice of the Babb Gangs' being absolved, "With him [Crabtree] dead there was no chance for further cross examination or for him to recant his testimony."[99] A few days later on December 7th, a gang attacked the home of "Hi" Stull, John's brother, but were driven off, leaving behind a dead horse recognized as belonging to Babb.[101] The next night, an attack made against John Stull's residence, culminating in the murder of Stull and a guest.[FN5] Speculation was rife that the attacks on the Stulls were Babb's revenge for the warrant that had resulted in his recent arrest.[102] A week after the Stull murder, a group of fifty masked vigilantes stormed the Bosque County jail, murdering the Horrell brothers.[99] Mere coincidence, or was someone tying up loose ends?

A journalist neighbor of Babb's, Dr. J. B. Cranfill (Cranfill's Gap is named after his uncle), who later started the Baptist Standard, reported, "A reign of terror began with the murder of Stull such as I never witnessed either before or since. Every man in that vicinage who heard a noise around his home at night feared that the same fate was to be visited upon him and his that had befallen Stull and his family. No one burned lights after dark unless they had impenetrable window shades. That entire section of Texas...felt the terrible blight of this calamity. There was not a man...that did not believe Stull had been murdered by Babb and his gang, but no one spoke a word...None of us knew whether Babb would be able to control the courts and officers...later, Babb, his son, Bill Ike, Dave Ware, Jasper Whitely, and some half a dozen others of the Babb clan, were arrested, charged with the Stull murder...Babb and his crowd, on being taken to Gatesville, the county seat, were bound over to await the action of the grand jury. The arrest of the Babbs created great excitement throughout Coryell and Hamilton Counties..." When Babb appeared before the Grand Jury, he speculated that if he and his men were indicted for Stull's murder, his supporters would bring yet more violence and bloodshed to the area. He promised, however, if no indictments were handed down, he and his men would sell their property, gather their possessions and leave the area forever. Initially scandalized, after two days of deliberation the Grand Jury concluded Babb's was the best solution. After returning home, Babb and his men decided they weren't going to live up to their end of the bargain. Their decision resulted in a gathering of some 400 area residents at which a strategy was devised for dealing with the recalcitrant outlaws. A delegation was sent to Babb and his gang, informing them that if they didn't promptly fulfill their promise, "400 fearless citizens would swoop down upon them and exterminate them root and branch." In less than ten days, Babb and his followers lit a shuck for Callahan and Coleman Counties.[90] Babb sold his store to his brother-in-law, John Pancake, resulting in Babbsville being renamed "Pancake." Shortly after the Babbs arrival in their new home, in April of 1879, a tavern keeper in Callahan County was shot and killed by a young man named "Babb" who refused to pay his tab.[103] Another coincidence?

Trading Post Days Left Behind

The population of Hamilton County, including Hico, surged during the 1870's as residents of the Deep South, like the Huchingsons and Smiths, sought to escape the economic and political hardships of Reconstruction. The new settlers brought many more acres into production. During the decade, the population increased almost nine-fold, from 733 to 6,365, and the acreage under production experienced a similar increase.[6]

The Cattle Drives

This period gave rise to the cattle drives so often portrayed in "Westerns," as Texas cattle were driven to railheads in Kansas and, then, shipped to markets in the East. Cattle from Hico were driven over a branch of the Chisholm Trail which exited the county just west of Carlton.[76] According to Stinnet, "That was a cowman's paradise in those days. Grass was knee-high to a man anywhere on the prairie and curly mesquite grass covered the valleys. Great herds of cattle were driven out every year. The young men of the settlement went up the trail every spring and got back home by fall."[75] James Reed, the 10-year-old mentioned earlier in our narrative, was among those going up the trail, "When I was seventeen years old [in 1867], I became a cowboy and I helped to drive many herds of cattle to the northern markets."[10] No official reports of those early drives have been discovered, but one was found in the Galveston Daily News concerning some large ones in the Hico area in 1882:[104]

Hico, April, 26.--- Bishop H. Read leaves to-day with 45,000 head of cattle for Coleman City. They will leave there for Kansas next week with 150,000 head. Wright & Wilson, of Comanche, have also gathered 2500 head in this neighborhood. Wm Hudson, of Bosquet, has started 4500 head for Kansas, and will shortly start 45,000 more. Cattle are pretty well cleaned out about here.

Cattle Trails

Hico in 1877

Adding to the pioneers' many other troubles, in 1877 the county was hit by a freakish weather pattern, "...frosts occurred every month with the exception of July and August. The frost on 10 June, 1877, killed all of the corn crops."[10] Nevertheless, life went on, and growth in the county brought the same to Hico, where, by 1879: "There were three stores of general merchandise operated by Capt. J. C. Hutchingson, W. A. Barkley, and Ike Malone. Barkley operated a drug store in connection with his mercantile establishment; Tom Spafford ran a blacksmith shop; and there was a saloon."[5] John Barbee , Olivia's father, operated a corn mill/cotton gin and Huchingson operated a cotton gin as well.[105] There were "a score or more of neat residences."[106] And, "There was a school building in which church services also were held, and a Masonic lodge was organized [in 1877]." [5] Early records of the Masonic Lodge testify to the alcohol problem in Hico previously alluded to by Capt. Huchingson: "The early years of the Lodge were marred by frequent trials due to the excessive use of liquor."[107] Additionally, the following incident was reported in the August 11, 1877 Dallas Weekly Herald:

"Tom Wood, the efficient bailiff of Hico precinct, succeeded in capturing, after sixteen days chase, on the Tehuacana in McLennan county, one of the thieves, Wesley Roach, who stole Captain R. Stennett's mules and Dr. Atkin's horse, and recovering the horse."[108]

Eclipse July 29, 1878
Pastel drawing by E.L. Trouvelot, Meudon Collection.
Hico in Prime Viewing Corridor for the Great Eclipse of 1878 [109]

School in Old Hico

The school in Old Hico was described by "Mage" Smith as being a simple 28' long, rectangular log building with no windows, a dirt floor and a clapboard door on the west end. There was no fireplace; when a fire was needed, it was built on the floor. There weren't any desks; hewn log benches were provided. George Holland "Holl" Medford hired a teacher for $30 to $40 per month and allowed area children to attend for $1 per month; orphans attended free. Classes usually ran for about three months during the summer. Twenty-five to thirty students within an 8-to-10 mile radius came to Medford's school.[32] Like the Smiths and Huchingsons, Rev. Samuel Rodgers, not to be confused with the Samuel Rogers killed by Indians near Carlton, and his sons J. C. (Job Caswell) and J. P. (John Pierson) came to Hico in 1874. Though Presbyterians, since there wasn't a Presbyterian church in Hico at the time, the Rodgers united with the Baptists. The father preached on Sundays and taught school during the week. When his health failed, J. P. was elected teacher.[76] On July 29, 1878, quite a stir was created during afternoon recess when everything went dark due to a total eclipse . Rodgers, "...thought world coming to end..." and dismissed the students.[32]

In 1878, the old log school house was replaced with a wood-framed one. James Jeremiah "J. J." Leeth, who had settled in the area in 1876, shared memories of the undertaking with the Hico News Review: "I was employed to haul lumber for the school house, church and Masonic lodge at Old Hico from Fort Worth. I took two wagons in the month of August, 1878. We had to travel very rough roads all the way. I was loaded with 24-ft. lumber - the roads being crooked I had to unload and reload to get by short turns."[110]

Ike Malone G. H. Medford
Deacon Isaac "Ike" Malone*******George Holland Medford

Shameful Vigilantism

The following report about a robbery in Hico was published in the December 29, 1878 edition of the Galveston Daily:

Waco EXAMINER, Dec. 27: On the night of the 23d inst., two men entered the house of Mr. Isaac Malone, near Hico, Hamilton county, and while one held a pistol on the inmates, Mr. Malone and family and Mr. Wm Fulcher, the other proceeded to rob it of thirty dollars cash and some jewelry [a gold ring]. After robbing the house the two men mounted their horses and rode away in the direction of this city. Fulcher mounted his horse soon afterwards, and following them arrived in Waco yesterday morning. Justice Davis issued a warrant for the arrest of Ike Parker and George Barker, who had been identified as the robbers, and constable John Williams and marshal Moore executed it, arresting the parties in a saloon in East Waco. Parker and Barker are a pair of scalawags, who have been hanging around Waco, playing sharp games and swindling people for several weeks past. They are now safe in jail, and will be sent to Hamilton county to be tried for robbery.[110]

Hamilton County Constable Barron escorted the prisoners from Waco to Hico.[111] What happened next was described in the January 10, 1879 edition of the the Brenham Weekly Banner:

---A terrible tragidy [tragedy] has been committed by a mob at the town of Hico in Hamilton county. Constable Barron had in charge two men, Ike Parker and Geo Barker, charged with robbery. The constable placed the prisoners under guard to await trial. During the night seventy-five men came upon the guard placing them under arrest marched them off while others shot the prisoners to death as they lay in bed. The mob then went away as quietly as they came.[112]

"Hico citizens placed the bodies on display for several days so people who came from miles around could 'view the end of a life of crime.'"[32] The following, rather bizarre account of Medford's shed and it's ghosts was published in 1882 in the Hico Times, the town's first newspaper:[113]

A Haunted House In Hamilton County
Where Several Men Had Been Killed

In Old Hico is a house in which, at different times within the past 30 years, some six or seven men have been killed for divers offenses. The house, which is known as "The Slaughter pen," is situated on the farm of Mr. G. H. Medford, and occasionally some renter moves into it, and also moves out in haste, and the house is rarely occupied it is said the place is frequented by the restless and disembodied spirits of the man whose material existence was so suddenly terminated there, and the result is edifying only at a distance and in broad daylight. The parties whose mortal coils were shuffled off forgot, on the spur of the moment, to remove their boots, and they therefore, make a great deal of unnecessary noise in their midnight peregrinations, and are anything but seemly and fastidious ghosts. They also seem to be on unfriendly terms with each other, and their bickerings are so open that the neighbors have noticed it and deprecate the lack of secresy that the skeleton in the closet observes. The last addition to this select circle of ghost were two gentlemen who about two years ago, stole some money from old Mr. Isaac Malone. They were found in a barbershop in Waco and brought back and placed in this house. During the night, while chained together near the fireplace, their spirits escaped to another world. Since then these two ghosts have seemed rather "stuck up" to the other ghosts, probably because they were clean- shaved and wander off to themselves, clanking the chain to irritate the other low-down ghosts. We've noticed that fresh shaved ghost always act this way. The old ghosts retaliate by driving these two away, as, having branded the wrong yearlings only, they cannot associate with ghosts who steal. Because of these quarrels it is very disagreeable to remain in the house at night. The last occupant moved out two weeks ago, because, as he told Hol Medford, a barrel of pistols had been thrown into the house and all fired off at once; he didn't mind the ghost, but he said the pistols were really dangerous. He was an Englishman and hadn't got the hang of Texas ghosts.

(Based on his research on Ike and Old Hico, descendant Steven Malone has published a historical novel, Sideshow at Honey Creek, as an e-book .)

Barbee's Flour Mill

In March of 1879, John Barbee contracted with J. E. Terry of Hamilton for the construction of a flour mill.[114] His timing wasn't the best. Probably due to the town's relocation, the mill was never completed.

Old Hico Gin
Last remnants of Old Hico, the Barbee Mill. In 1938-1939, the stones were used by the WPA to build a gym for Hico ISD.[76]

An Archeaological Find

This clipping from an area newspaper documents the discovery of artifacts in Old Hico during the summer of 1879: "Mr. J. C. Huchingson, of Hico, informs us that parties employed in digging a well in his yard recently discovered at a depth of thirty-two feet from the surface, imbedded twenty-eight feet deep in solid rock, a petrified ear of corn and a bone resembling the collar-bone of a human being, both of which looked perfectly natural and in a perfect state of preservation. ---Bosque Co. Blade."[115]

Young John Gaston Barbee

Old Hico Ends in One More Tale of Violence

The last tale of Old Hico began with a quarrel between John Barbee and his son, Jim. One account claims Jim pulled a butcher knife on his father. In any event, young Jim left home and ended-up working in the Panhandle for the Jingle Bob Cattle Company (the name of Chisum's operation after it moved to New Mexico). He and another young cowboy, Jim Harkey, shared a cabin. Both came-in early on New Year's Day of 1880 and were loafing around the cabin. Upon learning of the episode with the knife, Harkey began "chiding" young Jim. Perhaps that gave rise to what followed. "Jim [Harkey] started to fix something to eat, and he was singing 'Yankee Doodle'. Barbee told him that anybody who would sing a song like that was a d----d fool. Jim thought Barbee was joking, so he said, 'You're a liar, that's a d--n good song.'" Barbee responded by shooting Harkey. Returning fire, Harkey killed Barbee. Two freighters, who had just arrived, witnessed part of the altercation. After telling them about the shooting and what to do with his possessions, Harkey died. The freighters cut a wagon sheet in half and buried both men. Upon learning of his son's death, John retrieved the body for burial in the Barbee family cemetery.[116]

The Railroad: A Game Changer

On May 31,1879, the Texas Central Railway Company was awarded a charter to build a new line from Ross Station, near Waco, to Cisco. Officially referred to as the "TC", the line was eventually dubbed the "Tin Can". [117] The TC was racing against the Texas Pacific Railroad to be the first to build a line to Cisco, to gain control of the gateway into West Texas.[118] In 1880, as the tracks were being laid, "Because there was no community center along the right-of-way in Hamilton County, the officials of the Texas Central Railway Company proposed to the people of Hico that they move their places of business and relocate their town two miles west on the railroad. The townspeople discussed the advantages [telegraph service would also be coming in with the railroad] offered by the new location and accepted the proposition."[76] The railroad followed the Bosque River, so the 171.5 acres the TC purchased from "Holl" Medford for the new town site[119] (part of the Shubal Marsh property) was adjacent to both, a fact which would figure prominently in later events. By the time the TC had passed north of Gorman, it learned that the Texas Pacific had won the race.

Railroad tracks being laid through the area.

Railroad Water Tower
Railroad Water Tower West of Town Near the Bosque River Bridge [64]

The significance of the coming of the railroad is easily lost on generations which have grown-up with paved highways, fast-moving automobiles and 18 wheelers. Old Hico was so very isolated! As has been observed previously, in the early years "...there were no roads to speak of".[75] An article about freighter John Joseph Applewhite of Hamilton reveals, "There was a freight line of four wagons of four mules each, and sometimes the roads were so bad that it took from 3 to 5 days to make the 22 miles to Hico. The heavy loaded wagons would stick in the mud and often it took eight horses to pull them out."[120] Lusk Randals indicated it took 3 1/2 hours to haul a wagon-load of cottonseed the ten miles from Fairy to Hico; 2 1/2 hours to make the trip by buggy; and that one of the roads around Fairy was impossible to travel in muddy weather.[121] Without a doubt, the railroad, with its fast and dependable means for transporting freight and passengers between Hico and every other depot on the national rail network, was a game changer.

The Beginnings of Present-Day Hico

On November 11, 1880, a tent was set-up, maps were posted and gambling tables were laid out as the TC began a 4-to-5 hour long auction of the lots in the new townsite.[5] Forty-six lots were sold, bringing in a total of $3,600 ($88,000 Adjusted for Inflation [AFI]).[122] The first lot (at the northwest corner of Pecan and First Streets)[123] was sold for $155 ($3,800 AFI), to J. C. Huchingson and Brothers.[5] Capt. Huchingson, at times referred to as the "Father of Hico" , built and opened the first store in New Hico, served on the School Board, on the City Council and two terms as Mayor. In addition to all of his civic and business contributions, perhaps the fact he and his wife raised their own 8 children as well as 17 orphans contributed to his "fatherly" image.[FN6][124] Others followed Huchingson's lead, and the town began taking shape. Within a year, the population had grown to 500. [29]

The Hico Depot

Capt. Huchingson 1859 Capt. Huchingson 1907
"Father of Hico" Capt. J. C. Huchingson in 1859 and 1907. [16]

Only Five Months Along

As reported by the Hico Times, the town's growth over its first five months was simply astonishing: "No town in Texas has made the same amount of improvements in the short space of five months. Besides other minor improvements, two two-story large frame hotels, and three dry goods and grocery stores, one hardware and furniture store, one millinery store, one drug store, two grocery stores, two saloons, and saddle and harness shop, two restaurants, two blacksmith shops, one house and sign painter shop, one carpenter and undertaker shop, one beef market, one high school and one private, seven or eight boarding houses and one newspaper."[125]

Depot School rev
The Original Hico Schoolhouse

The same article also provided these insights into the local economy: "It [Hico] is the shipping point for the towns of Bluffdale, Hamilton, Duffin, Carlton, Gentry's Mill, Indian Gap, Stephensville, Potsville, Center City and William's ranch...Our farmers raise cotton, corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, onions and vegetables of all kinds."[125]

Hellums Cotton Gin and Flour Mill

In June, 1881, not long after the above progress report was published, J. D. Hellums purchased property on the north side of the Bosque and on the east side of Elm Street. In short order, he constructed a cotton gin and flour mill, a boon to the local economy for years to come.[126] Although the date of construction is unknown, at some point a spur made its way from the main railroad (in the vicinity of the present Texas New Mexico Power Company Substation) to the mill. Concrete grain elevators built many years later, stand as silent reminders of this chapter of Hico's history.

Southern, Protestant, White, Democrats

Slave labor wasn't used much by the first settlers, so there weren't many blacks in early Hico. The population was primarily southern, protestant, white and democrat; the latter two being affirmed in 1881 by the Hico Times: "There are resident within the borders of Hamilton county only four negroes...There is only one Republican vote cast in the county. The two facts may or may not go together."[127] A history of the Texas Rangers attributes the continued absence of blacks to the work of a "...mob dedicated to running out all blacks and sheepmen." It goes on to observe how a mob that surfaced in neighboring western counties "...as early as 1884...displayed all the hallmarks of a mob that since the late 1870's had cowed...Erath, Comanche, Hamilton and Lampasas" counties[128]. "Mage" Smith recounted how, in 1886 hotel operator "Mrs. J. W. Stovall was told by a mob of people in Hico to get her negro cook out of town before noon. Mrs. Stovall took the negro woman to Iredell in a buggy to catch the train for Waco."[76]

The First Churches

In 1881 the Baptists and the Methodists organized congregations in Hico. Elder L. B. Hickman (Methodist), mentioned in the next account, and Deacon John C. Huchingson (Baptist), brother to Capt. Huchingson, helped begin the respective works. Initially both congregations met in the old wood-frame school house east of Walnut Street, somewhere between First and Second Streets. In 1884, the Baptists began constructing a sanctuary on the property where their current building stands. It blew over before construction was completed. Another, more successful attempt was made in 1886. To accomodate special services conducted by Evangelist R. R. Raymond during the summer of 1885, the Methodists constructed a brush arbor. Then, in 1887 they built a sanctuary just east of where their current stucture is located.[FN7][129]

Northern Men Welcome

According to a report in the Cleveland (Ohio) Leader, John Edson Briggs, of Washington, who along with Dr. Robert Stoddard, of Connecticut, was establishing a homestead northeast of Hico on the Bosque County line, was accosted, stripped and beaten by a howling mob of over 200. The improvements the two had made to their homestead were destroyed and their sheep were stampeded and many were killed. The Leader attributed the incident to "Southern vindictiveness toward Northern men" and warned, "They permit Northerners to come among them and invest their capital, and when their money is all invested they are driven away by the deadly bullet, or are foully murdered. This story of outrage and wrong should teach Northern men to keep themselves and capital at home."[130]

Hamilton County resident G. R. Freeman rebutted the Leader's account, saying that Briggs had been whipped, but wasn't otherwise mistreated. He claimed two causes contributed to the incident. First, Briggs and Stoddard had located their sheep pens where they drained into the spring of "Parson Hickman, a well-known and highly respected minister of the gospel". When asked to move the pens, they refused. Second, Briggs had offended his neighbors by declaring that, "the women of the country were not virtuous."[130] Freeman continued his rebuttal by including a letter from C. S. Doubleday, from which the following excerpts have been taken:

"I came to Hamilton county five years ago from the State of New York, and without reserve, let it be known that I had been a soldier in the Union army during the late civil war. I have met with as uniform kindness at the hands of the people here as I ever received elsewhere. Having an abundant opportunity to learn their disposition toward Northern men, I can say they welcome all new settlers to the county, from whatever clime or latitude they come; and...that men are banded together in Hamilton county to drive out Northern men, is palpably false and so absurd in view of the notable welcome always extended to Northern men here, that no man at all acquainted with the real character of these Hamilton county people could be made to believe it." Doubleday went on to identify some two dozen Northern men living in the county, including M.O. Gleason, H. B. Smith and J. W. Broummett of Hico, who could substantiate his claims.[130]

Duffau Mineral Wells

Around 1882, mineral wells were discovered not far from Hico, in the Duffau community. For a few years, the area was home to a booming resort business. Hico had the nearest depot, so those travelling by rail passed through the city as they sought out the curative mineral waters described in this report from the Dallas Daily Herald: "The water has been analyzed and is found to contain valuable medicinal properties, being a specific for the cure of rheumatism, cancer, scrofula, sore eyes, paralysis, indigestion, constipation, female complaints, and all blood diseases. Visitors are here from all sections of the country, and many wonderful cures have been performed by use of the water."[131]

"Local Option" Too Late for Alexander

It's unknown whether there was any connection to the organization of the churches, but a December, 1881 newspaper report indicated that "local option" had been approved by area voters and that one saloon man was planning on closing-up, while the other would be carrying the matter into the courts.[132] About the middle of March, 1882, before "local option" had gone into effect, a stranger named "Alexander" had come to town and was frequenting one of the saloons. Discovering the stranger had money, "Holl" Medford's oldest son, Bunton, had asked for a loan. "Alexander refused, and shortly thereafter was solicited again. He refused a second time and then Medford called him out behind the bar-room, and then told him if he did not loan him the money he would force him to. Alexander still refused and Medford, picking up a piece of plank struck him over the head several times. The man was picked up unconscious in the yard, but came to in a short time and nothing was thought of his wounds..." A few days later, however, when Alexander was found dead, it was discovered the blows had badly fractured his skull.[133] Bunton was arrested, with bail being set at $5,000.[78] He was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 5 years in the penitentiary,[134] but was pardoned by Governor John Ireland on Dec 17th, 1885, after having served only half his term.[135]

Had Alexander delayed his trip to Hico by a month, it's possible he would have escaped harm. According to an April 19, 1882 report in the Waco Daily Examiner, by then, alcohol sales had been suspended: "The Hico Times defines local option as a 'devilish long time between drinks.' It is hardly necessary to explain that local option is in force at Hico."[136] In May, T. J. Wood (not the previously mentioned bailiff) was charged with selling liquor in violation of the local option law (records of this case were also lost to the fire).[78] The matter continued to be an issue and was put to the voters; again, on June 8,1882; "local option" prevailed. It was reported that some in Hamilton were going to contest the election as every vote recorded in Hico was for prohibition, whereas county-wide, the measure carried by only 54%.[137] Another election was conducted in September, and prohibition carried county-wide by 100 votes. [138]

Arsonist Targets Wood's Saloon?

Following is an account of arson in downtown Hico on April 15, 1882:

Hico, April 17. --- At 4:20 Sunday morning the store building of Mr. Oldham was discovered burning. The alarm brought together citizens, who succeeded in putting out the flames, which were confined to the roof...The postoffice was also in the building. A heavy frost on the roof and no air stirring saved the entire block. The loss is covered by insurance. The fire was the work of an incendiary, kerosene being profusely thrown over the side of the building and scattered on a wagon, on which the scoundrels took to reach the roof. Matches were abundant. The fire was set at the lower part of the roof, near the stovepipe, to make it appear as having caught from the stove. Suspicions rest on no one, as Mr. Oldham has no enemies, as known. A building close by, belonging to J. D. Woods, containing about $100 of liquor, may have been the real object of the fire."[139]

Granite Quarry?

The article which reported the Woods' fire also mentioned how, "Efforts are being made to open the quarry containing deposits of English granite near this place. They were sampled by the Texas Central Company."[139]

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Only three months after Alexander's murder, another was committed in a case of mistaken identity: [140]

Hico, June 22 [1882] ---J. McCrary, who shot and killed Ralph Moeller, two miles south of this place, Sunday was discovered and held by a citizen, Wednesday night, near the scene of the killing, and is now in the jail. A young man named Scrivner had been joking him Saturday, but the quarrel was settled. Sunday afternoon, just at dusk, Scrivner and Moeller were standing at the stove cooking, dressed exactly alike, and McCrary got the shot-gun loaded with buckshot, and going to the door, waited a minute, as if to distinguish the two, and fired. He afterward helped to place Moeller on a bed, saying he intended to kill Scrivner.

McCreary was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in the penitentiary.[134] He died while in prison on December 7, 1884.[135]

[FN1]Stinnet provided the following list of early settlers: "...the Faggards, John Barbee, Mrs. Taylor, [most likely, the widow Isabella Taylor, daughter of Zachariah Medford, who later married Sol Boykin] Uncle Sol Boykin, the Medfords, Andersons, Malones, Bill Oats, the Deatons, Fulchers [James and Sarah], Fullers, Fergesons, Martins, Days, Montgomerys, Reeds, John Alford, and about two years later the Haile and Morrison families came in. There may be some other names that I do not remember now."[75] Not much change from the 1860 list. One family which should be added to the list is that of widow Naomi Sumrall. In the 1870 Bosque County Census, her name is listed next to the Fergusons and near those of the Fulchers and Widow Taylor. Her husband was buried in the cemetery on Honey Creek near Old Hico.

[FN2]"Captain Rufus Stinnet, a fairly well-to-do merchant and farmer, moved here with his family from Cameron, where he had been engaged in the mercantile business and had served as Sheriff of Milam County one term after returning from four years of the Civil War."[137] Stinnet "...bought 200 acres on the Bosque just below the juncture of Hone Creek, about one mile east of Old Hico."[75] In 1874, Stinnet built a two-story rock house on a hilltop overlooking the Bosque River. In January, 1877, Stinnet's first wife died. He then married Margaret Hyles and moved to Hico, selling his farm to Elijah Goodnight, brother of the famous cattleman, Charles Goodnight.[141]

[FN3]It's not easy determining which "Ault" Ferguson committed the crimes in Hamilton County. The Ferguson sisters who married into the Medford family had a father, brother, cousin and nephew, all named Alston Ferguson. The nephew was the son of their brother, Joseph, and his wife, Mary Reed, daughter of Dr. William Reed. Genealogical records indicate their father and nephew died prior to the Hamilton County crimes and their cousin wouldn't have been old enough, so by process of elimination it appears the "bad man" was their brother.

[FN4]Henry E. Fuller and William Snell were married to daughters of Daniel "Rocky" Martin, Hico's hotel proprietor in 1870. Later, it was alleged that a witness in the State's murder case against T. J. Wood was kidnapped and hidden at Rocky's place by W. H. "Bill" Fuller (Henry's first cousin, the law at "Old" Hico for a while and, later, proprietor of Hico's Fuller Hotel.) [10]

[FN5]It's odd, if John Stull was a Deputy U. S. Marshal as claimed, that a contingent of federal officers didn't show up to pursue his murderers.

[FN6]The orphans weren't listed with the Huchingson family on census records, but an old plat indicates there was an "orphan asylum" in Hico at the northwest corner of College and Mesquite. William and Abbie Marsh Grubb donated an acre of land at that location to the Buckner Orphan Home of Dallas sometime prior to October, 1892.[142] The following ad in the September 6, 1891 Fort Worth Gazette suggests an orphanage may have been active in Hico during that time: "HOUSEKEEPER - Wanted, a lady of refinement to act as housekeeper for five orphan children. References required. Merchant, Box 69, Hico, Tex." Rather than raising them in their home, perhaps the Huchingsons helped raise orphans at an orphanage. [143]

[FN7] The Baptists were said to have built another sanctuary prior to 1900. Based on an analysis of Sanborn Fire Maps, it appears the structure was built between 1893 and 1898. That structure served the congregation until 1963, when the current sanctuary was built. The Methodists built a new sanctuary in 1902. During a remodel in 1954, the exterior was bricked.[64]

Continued on Page 4

Page 1, Intro........
Page 2, 1854-1869
Page 3, 1870-1882
Page 4, 1882-1889
Page 5, 1890-1899
Page 6, 1900-1908
Page 7, 1908-1932
Page 8, 1933-2011



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