Hico, Texas:

The Business Emporium

A Chronological History

by Michael Leamons
(Page 4, 1882-1889)

Hico, Texas 1882
A View of Hico's Main Street

Confederates Come to Town

In 1882, a Confederate Reunion was organized, and in 1895 became an annual event, giving rise to a Hico tradition which continues to this day under the name of the "Old Settlers Reunion."[75] There weren't many Confederate veterans among the early settlers, but there were quite a few among the newcomers. A booklet prepared by Hico News Review Editor, W. Straley, in 1913, titled Soldiers and Their Deeds provides sketches and photos (courtesy of Frank Wiseman) of a long list of Hico veterans . Several were prominent men in the community, one being City Treasurer S. W. Farrow.[16] Over the course of the War, Farrow sent 85 letters to his wife, Josephine. The letters have been preserved and are available for viewing at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas Austin Campus. A transcription of another, rather poignant, war-time letter by Hico Confederate veteran, J. B. Mayfield , was published in a special July 25, 1990 Reunion Memories supplement to the Hico News Review.[144]

S. W. Farrow

United Confederate Veterans
Hico Confederate Veterans, Pat Cleburne Camp #1337[FN1] [16]

Veterans came to the Reunion from surrounding communities, including Captain Battle Fort [10] of Martin's Gap, re-named "Fairy"[FN2], after Fort's 2' 7" tall daughter , when the post office was opened there in 1884. Fairy was a school teacher and according to family tradition, "...once she had to paddle one of the boys and she was having trouble reaching him so the boy lifted her up on a chair so she could paddle him."[145]

Fairy Fort
A diminutive Fairy Fort Felps

"The captain was a brilliant speaker and he always addressed the old Confederate Soldiers' reunion which took place...at the Hico City Park each summer. There were quite a number of the old soldiers living in the area of Hico at that time. Early in the morning of the first day of the celebration those veterans would gather and march in a body from the city to the park..." When Capt. Fort spoke and "...had something good to say about the boys in gray...the band would strike up 'Dixie' and the boys in gray would let out the rebel yell that could be heard throughout the park."[10]

"Buck" Barry Elected State Representative

Col. James Buckner "Buck" Barry circa 1875
Col. James Buckner "Buck" Barry, circa 1875

In 1882, the old frontiersman, "Buck" Barry, Independent Democrat, was elected State Representative of a district encompassing Bosque, Erath, Somervell and Hood counties. Barry observed that, "It was soon evident that some members had ridden hobby horses to the Legislative Hall and could not be induced to dismount and stand on the creed of justice." During the 1883 legislative session, he failed in an attempt to pass legislation outlawing fence-cutting, which was fast becoming a source of controversy.[28] A novel revolving around fence-cutting in Comanche County in 1883, The Wire-Cutters, was published in 1899. It was a precursor to the "western" novels made popular by Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour.

The Wire-Cutters

Another Shooting

Hico, Nov. 20 [1882]. --- Mack O'Brien was killed this evening by his brother-in-law, Frank Hyles. O'Brien's wife had left him and gone to her brother, Hyles, near Hico. The difficulty and shooting occurred in Hyles' house.[146]

Arson at McKinney's Gin

On the night of Monday, Feb 19, 1883, McKinney's Gin, which had suffered some fire damage on the previous Friday night, "was entirely destroyed by fire." It was "thought to be the work of an incendiary."[147]

A Bona Fide Town

On July 28, 1883, the townspeople voted to incorporate with the town limits, being a mile-wide circle with the depot at its center.[148] The first municipal election was conducted on Saturday, August 4th with a mayor, marshal and 5 aldermen being elected.[149] William Henderson was the first Mayor and J. B. Hackett was the first Marshal.[150] The town was growing; unofficial estimates pegged Hico's population at 600 in 1884, 750 in 1885 and 900 in 1886. The 1884-85 Texas State Gazetteer and Business Directory provides a quick glimpse of Hico as it appeared in the months immediately following its incorporation.

Sheep Raisers Beware!

The first sheep were introduced into the area in 1874 by "Holl" Medford. Also, about a decade later when barbed wire became available, he was the first to erect fences. By the early 1880's, sheep raisers began establishing a significant presence in the area. The June 8, 1882, Dallas Weekly Herald reported: "Sheep men are arriving daily and locating ranches in Hamilton County. About 75,000 pounds of wool have been shipped from this station so far. Yesterday $20,000 [almost $1/2 million AFI] changed hands in a transaction here."[151] Conflict emerged when the sheep raisers began fencing in what had been open range for cattle. In addition to Medford, another prominent sheep raiser with Hico connections was M. O. Gleason. Gleason, who served as Mayor of Hico from 1912-1922 , had migrated from Maine to China Spring to Fairy. After fencing in a watering hole on his ranch near Fairy, one night he was confronted by an irate group of cattlemen and told to "...leave the country before daylight."[152] After making the mob aware of his status as a Mason, Gleason was told he wouldn't have to leave. Similar situations taking place in 1883 didn't end as happily.

One involved Professor Shelby King, a Baptist minister and principal of Carlton High School who had come from Bosque County, bringing his sheep. While Mr. King was away, after his family had retired for the evening, a mob approached the house informing Mrs. King, "'Those d----d sheep must go by to-morrow night' ....The party then rode out to the sheep-pen, and by way of emphasizing their intentions fired a volley of shots, and left." Mr. King took his flock back to Bosque county. "Another victim of the mob was Mr. John Reilly, who herded his flock near Carleton. They visited him at night, lured him from his house and cruelly beat him with pistols, threatening severe punishment if the sheep were not removed. Then proceeding to his pens with sticks and mallets they brained eighty head of sheep, promising to soon return and finish up his flock. The next day Mr. Reilly abandoned the country, removing to Bosque county. He has laid his case before the British consul at Washington, being a subject of Great Britain, and serious complications are anticipated."[153]

Another incident involved "Mr. E. G. Pendleton, who also resided near Carleton. His herder was blindfolded and about one hundred head of sheep clubbed to death. Their departing warning was that unless the sheep were removed Mr. Pendleton would suffer the same fate in store for them. It is perhaps needless to add that Mr. Pendleton lost no time in transferring himself and property to another locality. Not a sheep remains in the vicinity of Carleton save one flock, belonging to Mr. Cox, a merchant of Hico. They were formerly the property of Young & Cox, and were being removed with the balance when through overtures conducted by mutual friends a compromise was effected, by which they were permitted to return to the range to remain until next spring. The secret of this concession was Young's knowledge of the workings and members of the order. Soon afterwards he sold out to his partner and left the state, fearing assassination." A final incident involved Col. J. H. Holcomb's flock four miles northeast of Alexander. "As the herder was penning them one evening in the twilight, twelve masked men suddenly made their appearance and gave utterance to their stereo-typed threats. The herder bidding them defiance they chased him to the tent, attempting to lasso him, the loop falling just on the edge of the saddle. Several shots were exchanged and the tent riddled with bullets. They promised to return and it has been awaited by the herder with fear and trembling---and an unhealthy looking shot-gun."[153]

"The sheep men recently advertised a meeting to be held in Carleton for the purpose of organizing to protect their interests. On the day appointed the mob was there in force and taking possession of the city hall excluded the little handful of sheep men and proceeded to deliberate...Soon a delegation from Hamilton and vicinity arrived and all having no personal interest in sheep were admitted. These immediately prepared a series of resolutions denouncing sheep killing, promising protection to the owners and requesting the governor to offer a reward for the detection of the offenders." When those present were asked to sign the resolutions, a stampede for the exits ensued. "...the number of signatures obtained did not exceed twenty out of about one hundred and twenty five participants in the meeting."[153] An impassioned plea was made by the Fort Worth Gazette: "Unless the governor of the state will furnish assistance to the men who have been threatened, it will be found that the true and good citizens of that vicinity are too few in numbers to have any influence. The ignorant lawless element is too strong and the county officers too weak or unwilling to do anything in defence of those who are threatened and attacked." [154]

George Holland Medford Camp
"Holl" Medford, far right, with his hands.

Texas Rangers to the Rescue

Someone was paying attention, for just a few weeks after the attack, on September 4, 1883, a "...six foot four inches tall and ramrod straight..."[155] Corporal B. D. Lindsey and five privates of Texas Ranger Company D [FN4] were dispatched from their camp near Uvalde to Hico and Carlton to "...keep the peace between the cattle and sheep men." After conducting an investigation, Lindsey reported, "Two men...said to be of the very best Citizens of the Co., one a deacon in the church...have been arrested and put under bond." [156] In a 1938 interview, an eighty-two year old Lindsey described the trouble in Hamilton County, primarily, as having been a feud between two families who through their quarrelling had divided the county into factions. Lindsey claimed, "The old Rangers won more battles through mediation and arbitration than they did by fighting it out with bullets." So, he had encouraged the principals of the two factions to meet him at the courthouse where they could "shake hands and make up." Then, Lindsey shared the rest of the story, "Well sir, at noon both showed up at the courthouse. For five straight minutes they just chawed their tobacco and glared at one another. I left them alone. Then one stuck out his hand. The other took it. The feud was over."[157] With the violence over,[FN3] it wasn't long until barbed wire had brought an end to Hamilton County's open range.

Texas Ranger Company D Camp Leona, near Uvalde
Camp Leona

1885 Texas Ranger Company
1885 Texas Ranger Company, Corp. B. D. Lindsey bottom-center.

Prohibition Lifted

On December 12, 1883, a majority of the voters in Hamilton County declared against prohibition, resulting in its being lifted on January 28, 1884.[158]

Huchingson Building at 1st and Pecan

A two-story, stone building was being completed on the lot Capt. J. C. Huchingson had purchased at the northwest corner of First and Pecan in March of 1884. That building, the oldest in the downtown business district, still stands.[159]

More Church News

In 1884, the Disciples of Christ (dividing into the Church of Christ and the Christian Church in 1896) established a congregation in Hico. At first the congregation met in members homes, or on the monthly preaching days, like the Baptists and Methodists, they would meet at the school building. Their sanctuary, built in 1886, is now the Hico Activity Center.[FN5] [160] A May, 1884 news report indicated Hico had three churches, "the Methodist, Christian and Baptist" and, that "the temperance council here is a strong one and continues to grow."[161] In September of 1884, William Kercheval Homan, editor of the Temperance Banner and a former Texas State Representative, who was later to become a minister in the Disciples of Christ,[162] came to Hico to promote the temperance movement.[163] The Presbyterians organized a local congregation on October 3, 1884.[164] Although the specific details haven't been discovered, the Episcopalians also established a church during the early years. Their sanctuary was located between Grubbs and Green Streets, about a half block west of the Disciples of Christ building. [165] An 1890 article mentions the presence of a Primitive Baptist Church. It's unknown when that work began or where it was located.[166]

Curious Case of Mayor T. B. Mothershead

Thomas B. Mothershead 1st Mayor
T. B. Mothershead, Hico's second Mayor.

In April, 1884, Thomas B. Mothershead was elected Hico's second mayor. A native of Alabama and a Confederate veteran, in 1880 he resided in McLennan County, and in 1881 and 1882, as a Justice of the Peace, he officiated at 3 weddings there. Also, he was a member of the New Hope Baptist Church in Harrison, some 8 miles southeast of Waco.[167] Now, for the curious part:

WACO, May 16 [1883] ---Tom Mathershead, Green Oliver and G. Walter, white, and Sam Slaughter, colored, have been arrested and jailed here for the burglary of Ashburn's store at Harrison station a month ago. Oliver and Walter were captured at Harrison and Mathershead and Slaughter at Wootan Wells. They robbed the store of some $400 worth of goods, some of which were recovered. The white men are respectably connected. [168]

Another report, correctly identifies Tom's last name as Mothershead and credits him with making the skeleton key by which entry to the store was gained.[169] A year later, how did Mothershead come to be Hico's mayor? Other than his name in the list of mayors in the Revised Ordinances of 1893 and some Hamilton County deed records, no other documents connect him to Hico. The next known account of Mothershead, places him and his wife in Navarro County.

Talented Leadership for the Hico Schools

S. M. N. Marrs, a native of West Virginia and son of a Confederate veteran, had served as associate principal of the Hico schools in 1882, but left at the end of his first term to secure his bachelor's degree at the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio. In 1884, by unanimous petition of the people of Hico, the 22-year-old graduate was called back to head-up the local schools. He brought fellow graduate, J. R. Keaton, a 23-year-old native of Kentucky and son of a Union veteran, along as an assistant. At the end of his first term as principal in Hico, Marrs accepted the job of superintendent of the Stephenville schools.[170] In 1922, after also having served as superintendent in Hamilton, Cleburne and Terrell, Marrs was elected to the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction and was re-elected to that office every two years, until his death in 1932. "He was remembered as a champion of rural and financially weak school districts...He also promoted the mandatory use of English as the basis of instruction in all public and private schools. This, he thought, would 'fortify national unity, promote commercial prosperity, and strengthen individual loyalty.' "[171]

S. N. M. Marrs

Yet More Bloodshed

In 1884, the bloodshed continued with the death of J. W. McKinney, whose gin had been burned-down during the previous year:

Hico, Sept. [should be, Oct.] 31.---J. W. McKinney and J. B. Hamilton, both citizens of this place, had a misunderstanding about former business transactions. They became very angry, and in several instances McKinney pronounced curses against Hamilton and said he would either have the money that was due him or he would kill Hamilton. Finally McKinney, who was under arrest, attempted to draw his knife and was fatally shot by Hamilton. After McKinney fell he said: "Jim, you have killed me." Hamilton replied: "You have driven me to it." Hamilton is under arrest.[172]

Dr. Daniel Pingree's Arrival

Dr. Daniel Pingree wasn't the very first one, but he was among the first of several Yankees to settle in Hico. He had migrated from New Hampshire to Illinois in 1838[173]. While in Illinois, he subscribed to 3 Texas newspapers. In an April 18, 1874 letter-to-the-editor, he spoke of how encouraged he was by the progress being made in Texas, and how he passed his newspapers along to others in Illinois, Iowa and California where they were "awakening an interest in regard to Texas before unknown."[174] After 10 years of analyzing, in 1884 Pingree made the plunge, moving to Hamilton County and purchasing over 3,000 acres astraddle the Hamilton-Comanche County line [175], as well as some river-front acreage in Hico.[176] A low water crossing on the Hico property came to be known as Pingree's Ford. Dr. Pingree built a home near the crossing, [64] where Zach Medford's cabin once stood. It was later purchased by Mayor J. P. Rodgers and named "Star Gables" by his daughter, Thoma. [76] Pingree served as an alderman for 4 years during the 1880's and as mayor from 1890 until his death on Christmas Day in 1900[65]. He stood out from most of the population in more ways than one; in addition to being a Yankee, he was a Universalist, and his brother, who remained in Illinois, was a Universalist minister. [73]

Star Gables
Star Gables

Walnut Springs: Texas Central Maintenance HQ

In 1885, Texas Central Railroad set up maintenance shops and a roundhouse in Walnut Springs, being the only such facility within some 200 miles. Later a company infirmary was established there. In addition to the maintenance staff, many members of the crew providing service to Hico lived in Walnut Springs, although some also lived in Hico.[177] For 16 years, Dr. William E. Hubbert served as the railroad's surgeon in Hico.[178]

Texas Central Locomotive 104 at Walnut Springs
1880's Baldwin locomotive, Engine 104, near Walnut Springs.

Baptist Excursion to Mexico

A group from Hico composed of "[Dr.] H. A. J. Snelling, Prof. S. N. M. Marrs, Prof. Keating [Keaton] and B. M. Davis [editor of the Hico Reporter]" joined many others in Waco on April 15, 1885 bound for Mexico. "The long talked of Baptist excursion to Mexico will leave this city today for Monterey [Monterrey] and Satillo [Saltillo]. The party will be in charge of Rev. Dr. O. C. Pope, editor of the Baptist Herald, and they go to attend the dedication of the Baptist church at Monterey. This is the first Baptist church building ever erected in the Mexican republic. The excursionists expect to be absent two or three weeks."[179]

Fence Cutting

This time the farmers, not the sheep raisers, were the targets of the fence-cutters. On the first Saturday night in May, 1885, fences were cut around the farms of A. A. and H. B. Smith, J. C. Noah, Dr. Culberson, and Mr. Neece. [180]

Baton Passes from Marrs to Keaton

With Marrs' departure prior to the beginning of the 1885 school year, J. R. Keaton assumed the leadership of the Hico schools, a post he held for two years. In 1886, he purchased the Hico Courier, serving the community as both principal and editor. He sold the paper in 1888 and enrolled in Georgetown University in Washington, D. C., where he obtained a law degree. Then, he went into practice in Oklahoma, where he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Oklahoma Territory. He also served as a member of the general council of the American Bar Association. With Marrs and Keaton, the Hico schools were blessed with two young men who proved to be very high achievers.[181]

J. R. Keaton

Eli Howard Murder

Fort Worth, December 22. [1885] ---News has just been received from Hico, Hamilton county, which tells of the finding of the body of Eli Howard, by some stock hunters. There was a piece of rope around the neck of the corpse, and a similar piece dangling from the limb of a tree near where the body lay. Howard was an inoffensive old bachelor, living near Hico. He was known to carry considerable money on his person. It is believed that Howard was hanged by his companions to make him tell where his money was hidden. They held him up too long, and he died. Great excitement prevails in the vicinity.[182]

According to "old-timer" F. C. Williams, the murder can be traced to Bill Massengill, husband of Eli's sister, Amanda, the young girl who spread the first alarm about the 1867 Indian attack at the Warlene Valley school house. Massengill wanted Eli's money and had someone string-up Eli and burn his feet to get him to reveal its location. Williams said he saw the hole from which the money had been removed.[10]

Giraud House

Another noteworthy event took place in December of 1885, when "...a French gentleman of St. Louis [Paul Masie Giraud] found the countryside between Fairy and Cranfills Gap so much like his native France, that he bought more than 4,000 acres and built what at the time was probably the largest ranch house in the country and certainly the first pre-fabricated house. The walls were 3' X 10' panels, probably made of cypress, which were fastened together by wooden pegs. Some claimed the house was shipped to America from France, while others said it probably came from Chicago or St. Louis. Later the house was sold to M. O. Gleason.[110]

The Universalist State Headquarters

Probably drawn by Dr. Pingree's presence, Universalist Missionaries James and Mary Billings , two New Englanders who had wed in Waco in 1885[183,184], purchased property in Hico later that same year.[185] In 1888, they established All Souls Church; in November, 1889 completed construction of the church building (where the First Baptist daycare now is); and, over a period of years, laid the foundations for a state organization for the sect. Dr. Pingree served as the state treasurer. [186] At times during their travels, the Billings encountered opposition; once, James was even threatened with being tarred and feathered.[183,184] A prolific author, Mary wrote two books, Emma Clermont in 1849 and The Wonderful Christmas Tree in 1882,[183,184] several hymns ,[187] as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles. In a poem published in the Hico Courier in 1887, titled, Prohibition , Mary expressed her staunch opposition to the sale of alcoholic beverages:[188]

"To be, or not to be; that's the question"


So you would prohibit?
What kind of exhibit
Can you make of the cause your are pushing to-day?
Think you it so proper
To put such a stopper
Upon personal liberty? What can you say?

You think you defend it?
You claim this will end it---
The question of drunkenness, suffering and crime;
Think you we believe it?
Are sure we'll receive it?
If you are, you are greatly mistaken this time.

You call prohibition
The only condition
On which public morals or safety can rest?
This crotchety motion,
I'll say to my notion.
Is neither the wisest, the safest or best.

A law made compelling
Free men to stop selling
Poison stuff---not to rats---but to folks great and small.
To my mind, is taking
Their rights, and is making
Oppression and slavery the lot of us all.


Friend, you are mistaken.
The ground you have taken
Is neither the soundest, the wisest or best.
You cannot defend it,
Nor rightly extend it
At gain of the few, and the cost of the rest.

The fair rights of any
Include those of many,
The safety and weal of the public, we know,
And evil permitted,
Or wrong that's committed,
By one, or a few men, for all must work woe.

True liberty, never
In governments, ever
Should be a free license to wreck and to wrong.
The good of the masses
All other surpasses---
O! Why this dread traffic in poisoning prolong?

You surely are willing
To stop men from killing
Each other with weapons of pistol or knife;
You make prohibition
The needful condition
And law, thus insuring both safety and life.

This rule---why not try it---
And straightway apply it
To the traffic that's killing its thousands each year;
Prohibition, declaring
As law, and not sparing
The sellers of poison, through love or from fear.

That same year, Billings wrote a scathing piece about a sign reading "...Compromise Saloon[FN6] ...standing out in large letters over the door of a liquor saloon in our young city."[189] An account of Mary is included in Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History, published in 2012. [190]

Mayor Daniel Pingree Mary Billings
Mayor Daniel Pingree ***Missionary Mary Billings

Not long after the Billings, another family moved to Hico because of Daniel Pingree---that of his niece and her husband, Esther and Joel Fisher of Iowa.[191] Perhaps they, or some of their family had been recipients of the Texas newspapers Pingree had begun distributing back in 1874. In March 1886, Joel purchased a half interest in Hellum's Gin and Flour Mill. Six months later, he bought Hellum's remaining interest.[192] Later, Fisher helped establish the First National Bank, built an opera house and the Midland Hotel, and made numerous other investments in Hico and the surrounding countryside. The continued growth of both the Yankee and Universalist elements of the population set Hico apart from its rural Texas counterparts.

Joel and Esther Fisher Joel Fisher
Joel and Esther Fisher *** An older Joel Fisher

Agitating for a New County

Historically, there's been a certain degree of rivalry between Hico and Hamilton. Per the following report, even in 1886 some had aspirations for Hico as a county seat: [193]

Hico, Tex., Feb. 18.---Since the burning of our court-house at Hamilton, the question of a new county with Hico as county site, is being agitated again. Hamilton county is nearly sixty miles long by thirty miles wide.

The Depot School

Although the majority of the town had moved to the new location by the railroad, the "Hico School" continued holding classes at the former town-site. The first public school at the new town-site was located at the northwest corner of Live Oak and First Streets (behind Ranglers). Under Keaton's leadership, a two-story wood-frame building was built there in 1886. Since there already was a "Hico School", for a while, this one was known as the "Depot School". Classes were called to order by the ringing of a big iron bell, still in use in 1953, some sixty-seven years later[35] (the old school house is long gone).

Hico Cemetery Corporation Formed

On December 8, 1886, the Hico Cemetery Corporation was formed by R. Y. Cox, O. R. Morrison, Daniel Pingree, W. H. Keffer, R. E. Langston and others. The first three were named as trustees. The Corporation was holding pleges for $158 and had plans to buy 5 acres for $100 and use the remainder for improvements.[193] Not long thereafter, the Hico Cemetery was opened.

Drought and Death Take Their Toll

"There was no rain in Hamilton County in 1886, and none in 1887 until August."[10] "These two years, known as the 'dry years' throughout west-central texas were particularly trying." The situation became so acute, the state shipped corn to Hico to be given to those in need. Anyone receiving the corn, however, was required to take an oath confirming his poverty. Because they couldn't bring themselves to take the oath, most of the area's proud, self-reliant farmers refused the corn.[64] Circumstances during "the dry years" were made even more difficult when "...an epidemic of pneumonia...took away many of the prominent citizens of this and adjoining counties."[7]

The Daring Rube Burrow Gang

On January 28, 1888, Hico readers of the Fort Worth Gazette learned that a nearby neighbor, one Henderson Brumley of Alexander, only 12 miles west of Hico, had been arrested three days before in connection with a series of recent train robberies. News of the arrest had been suppressed to give law enforcement officials an opportunity to round up other members of the gang.[195] On February 3rd, the Gazette went on to report that Jim Burrow, the last member of the gang had been arrested. The gang was led by Jim's brother, Rube. The newspaper noted how, "The Burrow brothers have made a bad record, and are known throughout the United States as a dangerous and desperate pair. They...have led in several of the most daring exploits in the criminal history of the country. In deeds of daring they come next to the notorious James brothers."[196] The two Burrow brothers were from Alabama, but had come to Texas to work some land their uncle, Joel Burrow, owned near Alexander. The Burrows' gang originally included Rube and Jim Burrow, Henderson Brumley[FN7][197] (a neighbor and former member of the area's Frontier Rangers)[198]and Nep Thornton (married to Rube's wife's sister).[199] They robbed their first train on December 1, 1886 at Bellevue, located between Fort Worth and Wichita Falls. After a rendezvous in Alexander, the gang, joined on this one foray by Harrison Askey, rode horseback to Gordon where they robbed another train on January 23rd. The Burrow boys were reported to have used $800 of their ill-gotten gains to buy a farm just west of Alexander on Cottonwood Creek. On June 4, 1887, the gang joined by new member Bill Brock, recruited while farming for the Burrows, robbed a train in Benbrook. The engineer, who had been on duty during the previous robbery, asked, "Well Captain, where do you want me to stop this time?"[197]

Rube Burrow Jim Burrow
The Burrow Brothers, Rube (left) and Jim (right)

After a reprieve, the gang (minus Thornton and Brumley) struck again, this time at a small station in Arkansas, some 30 miles north of Texarkana. Unfortunately for the gang, while fleeing pursuit, they left a couple of raincoats with the mark "K. W. P." and a hat labeled "Dublin, Texas". The railroad called in some Pinkerton detectives who followed the trail to Dublin. It proved a dead end, as the firm where the hat originated had sold hundreds of them that season. Scouring the area, the detectives found a clerk at a retailer in Alexander who identified "K. W. P." as his firm's cost mark. The clerk said that coats like those presented to him had been sold to local resident, Bill Brock, and a companion of his from Alabama. On December 31, 1887, Brock was arrested at his home outside of Dublin. Brock "spilled the beans" on his companions, leading to the arrest of the Jim Burrow on the 22nd (Rube managed to escape) and Henderson Brumley on the 28th. Regrouping, Rube recruited Leonard Brock (no relation to Bill), who had formerly worked for Rube as a cowboy. Jim Burrow fell ill while imprisoned in Texarkana and died on October 5, 1888. On December 15, 1888, Rube and his new partner robbed a train in Duck Hill, Mississippi. The conductor and one of the passengers opened fire on the robbers. The passenger was shot and killed. This caused quite a stir: "The whole country was electrified with horror at the brutal murder of a passenger on one of the great trunk lines of railway, in one of the most populous districts of the South, by train robbers..." Rube staged two more robberies, the last single-handedly, before being shot and killed on October 9, 1890. Leonard Brock, captured prior to Rube's death, committed suicide while preparing to stand trial for the murder at the Duck Hill heist.[197] Rube Burrow "held up 8 trains in 4 states as compared to maybe five total robberies by the James-Younger Gang, the three of the Dalton Gang, and perhaps four by Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, and the five committed by Sam Bass,"[199] prompting one author to ask, "So will someone please explain why the songs, poems and movies are all about Jesse James, Sam Bass and Butch Cassidy? ...why not Rube Burrow?" To which, one local historian replied, "He needed a good press agent."[200]

Rube Burrow Casket
Rube Burrow in death

The Legend of McDow Hole

The Burrows' did have a reputation in Erath County. That may be why they were associated with the Legend of McDow[FN8] Hole, the area's most popular ghost story. The two brothers are said to have taken a $200 bet that they couldn't spend the night in the haunted Papworth cabin at McDow Hole on Green's Creek, just outside of Alexander. As the story goes, the brothers are said to have shot up the cabin after being confronted by the ghost of Jenny Papworth. They lost the bet. The details of the encounter are said to have been revealed by Jim Burrow while on his deathbed in Texarkana. The details of the legend date back to the summer of 1855 when a young family living near McDow's Hole were murdered and mutilated by the Comanche; their remains were buried on the premises. Some five years later, Jenny Papworth, her husband, Charlie (a relative of the McDows), and a son Temple settled in the same area. In 1862, Jenny gave birth to their second child. In 1865, asking neighbors Jim McDow and Bill Keith to keep an eye on his family, Charlie left to pick up some furniture he had inherited which had been shipped to Texarkana, the nearest railhead. While he was gone, his wife and infant child were murdered. Neighbors found Temple hiding under a bed, too terrified to speak of what had happened. Suspicion fell on a neighbor named Brownlow. To divert suspicion, Brownlow spread rumors about Charlie being a horse thief and cattle rustler. In 1867, vigilantes hung Charlie and five other suspected thieves. Temple saved his dad's life by cutting him loose. The two fled the country. In 1885, while on his deathbed, Brownlow confessed to killing Jenny and her baby and throwing them into an old well. In the 1930's, Green's Creek changed course, exposing an old well in which a child's ring and some buttons were found. Jenny's ghost is said to have appeared to many. In the early 1870's, it appeared to the neighbor, Mr. Keith, and his son when they stayed at the abandoned cabin. Three years later, Charlie Atchinson moved into the cabin, and later was found dead, apparently of fright. When the railroad came through the area, crews reported seeing a ghost on the tracks. Over the years, many more sightings were reported. The stories surrounding McDow Hole were originally recorded by Joe Fitzgerald of Stephenville and were later re-told by his daughter Mary Joe Clendenin.[201]

An Impostor Nabbed

Waco, Tex., February 23 [1888] ---Last Sunday a young man arrived in the city and registered...as T. J. Woods of Morgan. Next day he called at the establishment of Tripis & Kemendo...[who] were pleased to meet Mr. Woods, as he is a good customer of theirs, although they had not been personally acquainted with him. Mr. Woods...[ordered] lemons and saloon sugar, tobacco and cigars to the extent of $110...He then went to Goldstein & Migel's and bought a suit of clothes...and the young man, after arraying himself, ordered the latter purchase put in the package with the suit...and expressed it to Hico addressed to T. J. Woods. He called on several business men, and borrowed small sums here and there, and this morning he pawned his new overcoat. Meanwhile the goods he had purchased and ordered to Hico arrived there, and Mr. T. J. Woods, a responsible Hico saloonist, wired, refusing to receive the goods, sayning he had not ordered them...the purchaser in the name of T. J. Woods was arrested...the sheriff's department, are satisfied that the young man is not T. J. Wood of Hico, but several persons insist that he is truly the Hico Woods. Whether he be Dromio of Ephesus or Dromio of Syracuse, he is in jail tonight.[202]

As the case developed, it was asserted that the prisoner was Wood's brother, but Wood denied it. In the interim, the man remained behind bars. After two weeks had passed, "Messrs. Mims & Son's of Duffau, who were in Waco on business went to the jail and identified the man as J. A. Woods[FN9] the brother of T. J. Woods of Hico. They say he went by the name of Brocks at Hico."[203]

Andrew J. Woods Thomas J. Wood
Andrew J. Woods (The Wood Brothers) Thomas J. Wood

Another Medford in Trouble

Hico, Tex., March 12 [1888] ---Albert [Holl's brother, John Albert, the Indian hunter] Medford, a rather noted character in this section, was arrested Sunday morning on the charge of theft of $10 from the pockets of a drunken Irishman. They were occupying the same bed at a restaurant. Medford returned $5 of the money to the Irishman. Medford was locked up to await examining trial before Justice Stennet.[204]

Yankee Veteran Elected Mayor?

In 1888, in an unusual development for a community which had displayed such strong secessionist sentiments and where at least two previous mayors (Mothershead and Huchingson) had been Confederate veterans, F. H. Snider, a veteran of the Union Army, was elected Mayor. A native of Ohio and son of French immigrants, Snider arrived in Texas sometime prior to his 1875 Victoria County marriage. His bride, Mary Blossman, contributed an exotic flair to the union. Her mother, Elena Reyes Blossman, a published poet and descendant of explorer and conquistador, Ponce de Leon, was a member of an aristocratic family in Spain. Mary's great-grandfather, Felix Maria Samaniego, had been a "...poet whose books of fables for schoolchildren have a grace and simplicity that has won them a place as the first poems that Spanish children learn to recite in school." By 1880, the Sniders were living in Hamilton County. They, then, moved to Canadian where F. H. operated a real estate, insurance and investment business. Ostensibly, he returned to the Hico area to sell some property. While in Hico, he was elected Mayor, bringing an abrupt end to his sojourn in Canadian. While plying his trade in Hico, he served two terms as Mayor. By 1894 he had left Hico for good, having set-up shop in Ardmore, Oklahoma.[205]

F. H. Snider Letter
F. H. Snider letter, before he was Mayor, on location for a cemetery.

Murder at Wood Brothers' Saloon

From the front page of the February 6, 1889, Fort Worth Daily Gazette:

HICO, TEX., Feb. 5 About 8:30 o'clock last night James Richardson and John Reed [who appears to have been Preacher Isaac's son] met in Wood Brother's Saloon and at once began to discuss a recent settlement about which there was some misunderstanding. They were the sole occupants of the rear room in the saloon. While Tom Wood,[FN10] the bar tender and two others were at the bar in the front, suddenly a pistol shot rang out from the back room, and immediately Reed rushed through the front door holding in his hand a smoking pistol. Richardson was found lying on his face with blood spurting from a wound in the temple. Reed has not been captured, but several are searching for him.[206]

Richardson's daughter, Mollie, one of four children at home, appealed to a cousin in Tennessee to help find her father's murderer. She bemoaned, "...the oldest boy is just nine yrs old we don't know what is to become of us all."[207] The case went cold until an arrest was made as reported on the state news wire on December 31, 1891:

--Sheriff J. T. Newman of Sweetwater, arrested a man here Sunday for carrying a pistol who is suspected of being on the dodge, and who admits he killed a man named Richardson at Hico...about three years ago. He has every appearance of being a very desperate man.[208] On December 4, 1892, a Hamilton County jury found Reed guilty of second degree murder and sentenced him to 10 years in the penitentiary.[78]

Wool Becomes a Leading Industry

From unwanted innovation to leading industry, this 1889 Fort Worth Daily Gazette report documents the rise of Hico's wool industry:

HICO, TEX., July 3 - Hico is a wool market of considerable importance. Buyers are here every year from St. Louis, Boston, Galveston, Fort Worth, Waco and other points to buy wool massed for the market. Our shipments are 321,000 [lbs.] against 185,000 for last year. This and adjoining counties are well adapted for sheep raising, which is rapidly becoming one of the leading industries of this county.[209]

The progress being made by the town can be seen in the 1890-91 Texas State Gazetteer and Business Directory, with its snapshot of business conditions in the latter half of 1889, especially when it is compared to Hico as it was portrayed in the 1884 version of that directory.

The Depot & Wells-Fargo Robbery

Eighteen eighty-nine wasn't exactly a banner year for law and order in Hico. On November 8th of that year, nine months after the Richardson murder, both the Houston & Texas Central railroad depot and the Wells-Fargo express office were robbed, as reported in the Galveston Daily News:[210]

Hico, Tex., Nov. 9. --- Last night about 7 o'clock two men disguised with false whiskers and mustaches entered the office of the Texas Central depot at this place, and immediately covering Mr. Harris, the agent, and B. F. Yates, his assistant, with cocked revolvers, demanded that they turn over what money there was on hand, which amounted to about $500, $200 of which belonged to Mr. Harris.

After securing the money the robbers compelled Messrs. Harris and Yates to accompany them to the banks of the Bosque, some 300 or 400 yards away. Here the robbers gagged them and tied them to a wire fence. This being done they got into a buggy that was hitched near by and drove away in the direction of Alexander. Mr. Yates succeeded in extricating himself and soon released Mr. Harris from his uncomfortable position. They at once gave the alarm and Officers Fuller and Hooper with a posse started in pursuit. Up to this time (9 p.m.) nothing definite can be learned as to who the parties are.

It didn't take long for the authorities to identify the culprits as Alf Rose and his half-brother, John Caudle, who "...had served several years as a deputy sheriff [in Erath County], and was noted as a trustworthy, reliable and brave man."[211] Erath County Sheriff N. S. Shands provided a detailed description of the men (including Caudle's habit of saying, "It's just like this..."), their horses and firearms; reported that they had been seen in Pontotoc in Mason County and were believed to be headed toward Del Rio and the Texas-Mexico border; advertised the $300 reward offered by Wells Fargo for the arrest of the brothers; and promised, "I will pay any officer any reasonable compensation for his work if he will arrest and hold them and telegraph me. If they can be located in Mexico I will get requisition and pay for all services rendered."[212] A few days later, he published this notice:[213]

Caudle and Rose

l to r Sheriff Gilbreath, Deputy John Caudle and Jailer Will Chaney
L to R, An earlier photo of Erath County Sheriff John Gilbreath,
Deputy John Caudle & Jailer W.H. Chaney

Both men were caught and brought to trial. On May 22, 1890, before the state finished presenting its case against Alf, both pleaded guilty as charged.[214] Both were citizens of Erath County, were sentenced to 15 years in the penitentiary.[215] and were pardoned by Governor C. A. Culberson on Sept 17, 1897.[135] John died two years later of an accidental gunshot wound when a gun fell from his pocket and discharged.[216]

Hico's First Bank

In 1888, investors Jerry S. Dorsey and J. S. Moss of Columbia, Missouri had been informed by Dallas banker, J. Tennison, that "...there was a good opportunity for a bank in a new field at Hico." After making a trip to Hico to consult with local businessmen and lining-up substantial financial backing from Missouri investors, the two men decided to move forward.[76] The results were reported in this May 24, 1890 issue of the Fort Worth Dailey Gazette:

HICO, TEX., May 23 - The First national bank of Hico was formally organized to-day with capital stock of $50,000. Following are the officers elected: R. Y. Cox, president; R. A. Dorsey, vice-president; and J. S. Moss, Jr., cashier: R. Y. Cox, R. A. Dorsey, O. R. Morrison, A. L. Phillips, E. F. Weaver, Joel Fisher and A. F. Sellers, directors.[210]

The bank, originally located in the first floor of the Midland Hotel Building, in 1964 moved to a new location at the southeast corner of North Pecan and Second Streets where its successor, Mills County State Bank continues to operate.[64]

[FN1]Following are the names of those in the group photo found in Soldiers and Their Deeds. Top row, left to right: Michael H. Williams, Alexander Walker, George W. McAnelly, John M. Waller, Samuel William Farrow and James Henderson Slaughter. Bottom row, left to right: Archibald "Archie" Mackey, Littleton Marshall Sawyer, Ben Randals, Thomas Howell Green, James Calvin Huchingson and Alexander Livingston Maxwell. Other Hico area men listed in the book, but not included in the photo, were: David Jasper Brown, John T. Burnett, William M. Connolly, Joseph S. Cooper, John Alexander Cozby, Henry Clay Cunningham, John Macklin Fewell, William M. Grubb, George W. T. Hall, Jesse Darnell Hellums, Martin Hudson Jones, Rev. Thomas Benton Lane, George Wilson Latimer, John Baylis Mayfield, Joe Thomas McFadden, David Oliver Newton, Samuel Padgett, Reuben Phares, Lewis Powell, Abraham B. Rainwater, Henry Ashton Rogers (son of Samuel Rogers killed by Indians near Carlton), Napoleon Bonaparte Ross, Grandison Comadore Russell, John Lafayette Sellers and Daniel T. Stringer.[16]

[FN2]Tradition has it that in the 1860's James Martin was killed, in what is now known as Fairy, by Indians and was buried in the gap near the present day Community Center, resulting in the name "Martin's Gap." Capt. Fort came to the area in January, 1879. At that time, according to one old-timer, "...there were no houses between Fairy and Honey Creek. In Fairy, there was one log house, occupied by Captain Battle Fort, and two log houses between Fairy and Iredell." Accounts of Fairy Fort's size vary. The most conservative estimate is that, "...she probably never reached 48 inches in height and no more than 60 pounds in weight."[110]

[FN3]Incidentally, Texas Ranger Walter L. Hooker, 1869-1894, who died in the line of duty, is buried in Hico.[217]

[FN4] Though the violence came to an end in Hamilton County, such wasn't the case in some of the surrounding counties. Thomas Sellman, whose in-laws lived near Hico, was killed by a neighbor who objected to his fence. The matter was reported in the September 3, 1886, San Saba News: "Fatally Stabbed. On last Monday Jack Foster attempted to cut and pass through the west string of Tom Sellman's pasture fence. Mr. Sellman happened to be in sight and went to remonstrate with him. Foster instantly drew his knife and stabbed Mr. Sellman several times about the left shoulder and arm, causing him to bleed to death before a physician could reach him. Mr. Sellman was a worthy man and a law abiding citizen and his death is much regretted by all. He will be buried at Hico, Hamilton county, Texas. Foster is now under arrest, but in good spirits, claiming to have done the deed in self-defense."[218] The killing was "...determined to be self defense under suspicious circumstances, as there were no reliable witnesses and the truth was hard to determine."[219] After his death, his widow moved to a home on Avenue B which the Sellman family owns to this day.

[FN5] Originally the Disciples of Christ building was constructed with a double-door entry in the center of the south end of the building, under the bell tower. Later, the south end of the building was extended and a porch was added. Later still, the bell tower was damaged and removed. The old church bell was relocated to the yard of a residence at the far south end of Hemphill Street. In 1890, the Presbyterians constructed a building on the lot where the two story, stone Opera House Building now stands. Prior to 1895, the building was relocated to where the Church of Christ now stands. After their split with the Christian Church over the issue of musical instruments, in 1896 the Church of Christ constructed a one-room church building on land donated by John White in the north part of town, near Jack Hollow (at the southeast corner of the intersection of Star and Sixth Street).[220] After having been abandoned by the Presbyterians, in 1939 the Church of Christ purchased the building that congregation had been using. Then, in 1967 that building was torn down to make way for the brick structure which is now home to the Church of Christ.[160]

[FN6] In an article about Richard's murder, the saloon in which he was murdered was identified as the "Compromise Saloon." Since we know he was murdered in Wood Brothers Saloon, the two must have been one and the same.[221]

[FN7] Although implicated in the robberies by the testimonies of both Harrison Askey and Bill Brock and tried three times, Brumley was acquitted of all charges. Brumley's wife, Louisa Jane, was a member of the Dublin area Keith family, which was connected with the account of Peter Johnson and the Legend of McDow Hole. 5 Brumley's son, Paul Henderson Brumley, is buried in Hico.[222]

[FN8]A McDow family did live in the Green's Creek area, near present-day Alexander. The family experienced several tragedies. Nathan McDow and one of his sons, possibly Francis, were killed by Indians near McDow's Hole in 1865 or 1868. On October 25, 1872, five men being held in the Erath County Jail for horse theft were seized by vigilantes. Some escaped. J. B. McDow and another man didn't and were hanged. One report indicates the hanging occurred near McDow Hole.8[223]

[FN9]A. J. Woods and his brother were both from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A. J. came to Hico in 1885 and married John Quincy Anderson's daughter, Ella, on March 21, 1889, about a year after being jailed for impersonating his brother.[64]

[FN10] Some 2 1/2 years later Tom Woods, himself, was involved in a murder: DUBLIN, ERATH COUNTY, TEX., Oct. 30[1891] --- Frank Craig was killed by Tom Woods in a back room of the latter's saloon yesterday afternoon. It seems no one was in the room at the time the difficulty occurred except the two men. Woods used a knife. It is not known if Craig had any arms except a beer bottle picked up during the struggle. Craig was cut in several places. He lived about tow hours, but was unconcious from the time he fell, one of the cuts having severed the carotid artery in the neck. Woods surrendered at once and is now in the hands of the officers. The grand jury is now in session, and the matter will be investigated at once. Both were men of families and have lived here for some time. This is the first killing that has ever occurred in our town. [224] Now, for the rest of the story, "It was Tom Woods...saloon keeper at Hico, he said killed Craig in Erath County. He was up for trial and Mr. Williams said he and Bill Fuller kidnapped the main state witness and took him to Rocky Martin's and kept him. They helped put Collin George in office as district attorney. They went to him and told him 'Our friends come first and last and all the time,' and wanted him to let him go. George told him. 'You oughtn't to ask me to do that.' He asked them twice if they had killed the witness when he didn't show up. Later Woods was tried and sent to the penitentiary and was pardoned out. Said he had a letter from him. They got him pardoned. All they would say was that Craig needed killing. His bar tender wouldn't tell a lie and evidently his evidence was against him, and was the reason they kept him away at the first trial."[225]

Continued on Page 5

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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