BREAKING UP THE LAWLESS ELEMENT IN TEXAS - Major W. M. Green, Texas Ex-Rangers' Association
From Hunter’s FRONTIER TIMES Magazine, May, 1924
I first saw the light in January, 1854, near Peach Tree Village, in Tyler county, Texas. My parents moved to Hill county in 1855 and to Johnson county in 1856, where my mother died in 1859, and father died at Little Rock, Arkansas in 1861, so like Uncle Dick Sullivan,I know what the life of an orphan is. In February, 1874, I went to the little town of Comanche and joined Captain M. R. Green's company of Rangers, but as soon as Richard Coke became Governor of Texas we were disbanded. In May of that same year I enlisted in Company A, Frontier Battalion, commanded by Captain John R. Waller of Erath County.
A little digression here will more fully explain some things that I shall mention later. There was a notorious gang over the line of Comanche and Brown counties, but making their headquarters in the latter county, and this gang seemed to take great delight in coming over in Comanche and "painting the town red," as they termed it. In the course of time the good people of Comanche became weary of this sort of thing and determined to put a stop to it. Fair warning was given these lawless characters, but they did not seem to realize that the slumbers of a sleeping lion was being disturbed, and they came once too often. Marshal Jeff Green was on the job, and in trying to quiet things he was forced to use extreme measure with the result that one member of the gang, Charlie Davis, was killed and Jim Beard ran a narrow risk and got out of town alive, it being reported afterwards that he had several bullet holes through his clothing.
After this Charlie Webb, a deputy sheriff of Brown county, arrested Jim Baird and Jim Buck Waldrip and they were sent to the penitentiary for stealing cattle. So by reason of these acts Jeff Green and Charlie Webb were slated to be killed.
Along about the first of May, John Wesley Hardin and Jim Taylor, from down on the Guadalupe river, made their appearance in this region, then came others from Corsicana, including the Dickson boys, the two Anderson boys, and Alex Barekman. It seemed that none but Hardin and Taylor knew just what their mission to Comanche was but it is supposed they came to get with the leaders and to be protected from charges then opening against them at Corsicana. This gang laid plans to get Green and Webb because of the killing of Davis and the conviction of Beard and Waldrip. However, Jeff Green's friends had their ears to the ground and their eyes on the indicator, and kept him warned of the gang's movements and intentions. They persuaded him to keep close about home, and to give the gang no advantage whatever. He very reluctantly heeded their admonitions and I have always said that in doing so it was one of the bravest acts of his life, for he was an absolute stranger to fear and would not have hesitated to engage the whole gang in combat, but his friends knew that it would be suicide for him to undertake to discharge the functions of his office under the circumstances and they intervened to await a more opportune time for action. The gang, in order to get Charlie Webb over from Brownwood, matched a horse race between the Dickson Colt and the "Old Squaw," two noted horses to be run at Comanche on the 28th of May, 1874. The race had been pretty well announced and quite a number of men from Brownwood came over to see it, among them being Charlie Webb, This was just what Hardin and his gang were hoping for. The race came off in the afternoon, but I do not remember which horse won. Red liquor flowed freely all day, and betting ran high. The race over and all went to town and the usual tippling was being indulged in until late in the evening, and it seemed that the day was going to pass without anything out of the ordinary happening. Suddenly the familiar crack of the Smith & Wesson 44 and the colt's 45 rang out on the evening breeze to herald the tidings of a murder most foul. When the smoke had cleared away Charlie Webb lay dead on the street in Comanche, the victim of John Wesley Hardin, JimTaylor and Bud Dickson. After the killing the outlaws scampered away laughing about how they had shot their victim. Charlie Webb was a good citizen and one of the best and bravest peace officers in West Texas. Alex Barekman, Jim Anderson, and Tom Dickson were promptly arrested , but Barekman made his escape during the night.
The real hunt now began. Company A had been sworn in on the 25th of May, one half at Stephenville and the other half at Comanche. Our company was quickly mobilized at Comanche and camped on the public square. Major Jones was at Corsicana, and did not get to Comanche in time to take part in the work. We had no guns, but the officers secured what arms they could to use until our needle guns were sent up from Austin. Bud Dickson was captured the second day after the killing, and that left the two, Hardin and Taylor still at large. They were seen almost every day by citizens and several times the rangers exchanged shots with them, but as there were but few horses in the country equal to those of the outlaws it was impossible to get close enough to kill them with six-shooters and shotguns. Barekman and Ham Anderson were in hiding but were not seen for several days. Hardin and Taylor's favorite hiding place was in the Big Thicket, ten miles north, and at Round Mountain about the same distance northwest of town, the two places being five or six miles apart. When the Rangers got too hot for them at the Big Thicket they would pull out for the mountain. The chase had not gone on many days until the people saw they had to put Hardin's father and brother under guard. On one occasion a sheriff's posse ran onto Barekman and Anderson and captured their horses and saddles, but failed to get the men. Three or four days later, however, they were found in the eastern part of the county and killed. By this time Hardin and Taylor had not been seen for several days, and it was believed they had left the country.
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Soon after the killing of Barekman and Anderson a crowd of about forty men came at a late hour one night and took Hardin's brother, Joe G.Hardin, Bud and Tom Dickson from the guards and hung them. Dr. Brockers, who had been arrested, was not molested. The sheriff of Hamilton county had six men who had been arrested and about 2500 cattle from DeWitt county. So a detachment of Rangers were sent to Hamilton for them and brought them up to Comanche a few days later. About this time a detachment brought in Bud Galbraith and one Hickey wanted in Bosque county. They had been captured in Lampasas county. When the deputy sheriff of Bosque county came for them a detachment of Rangers was sent with him to Meridian. Galbraith pretended to be sick on the way and the officer, whose name was Pierson, secured a wagon, and putting his own and Galbraith's horse to it, arranged for Galbraith to lie down in the wagon behind the seat. The Rangers with Hickey on horseback out traveled the wagon and soon passed out of sight. Galbraith saw his chance and sprang upon Pierson and killed him with his (Pierson's) pistol, and made his getaway by taking the horse from the wagon and riding off.
The day after Pierson left Comanche with Galbraith and Hickey, Sergeant Atkinson with a detail of twelve Rangers, including myself, left Comanche for Austin with seven members of the Hardin and Taylor gang, including the six men brought up from Hamilton and the old doctor previously mentioned. Our sergeant was a good fellow, but was fresh from the States and knew but little about Texas outlaws. Leaving Comanche we had to travel a bridle way for more than a day, and the sergeant conceived the idea of tying the horses of the two worst men, White and Taylor, together in order that they might not escape. All went well until we had to cross a deep ravine. When these two horses got to the bottom of the ravine they could do nothing but spin around. I was instructed to go down and get them out, and after working at the task for some time I found that the sergeant and I differed very much as to how to handle the situation. But I was permitted to have my way and untied the horses and we rode out of the ravine with ease. I thought the matter was closed, but not so, for the sergeant turned to me with a sarcastic smile and said, "Now that you are so d—d smart, you may tie White to your saddle for the rest of the way," not knowing that he conferred upon me a very great honor. White was about thirty years of age and one of Hardin and Taylor's most dangerous men. Those fellows were all of the man-killing type, and White had been placed in my hands (I, a mere boy of 20 years) for safekeeping! On the way to Austin we stopped for a night at Liberty Hill and tried to get the constable at that place to take charge of the prisoners, but we were told that those fellows had friends around Liberty Hill and if they heard of us we would have trouble with them before day. We went to a hardware store and purchased locks and chains and strung them like fish, then put them to bed on a porch in front of the store building.
We arrived in Austin on Sunday evening, expecting to be relieved of our charges Monday morning and start back to our company at Comanche, but were held there until Wednesday, guarding our prisoners in the office of the Kingsbury Hotel. During this time it had become known by some friends of the outlaws that they were prisoners in the hands of the State Rangers at Austin, and five or six of them came in to see the prisoners and were permitted by the sergeant, over the protest of some of the boys, to talk to them privately. It is evident that a plot was entered into at that time, as the reader will see later, to trap the Rangers. The presence of these friends of the outlaws was reported to General Steele and Governor Coke, and the report was put out on Tuesday that we would leave Austin at four o'clock Wednesday morning for Cuero, on the train. It was thought this would disconcert the gang, but instead we were ordered to leave Austin at one o'clock Wednesday morning on horseback. We had breakfast about fifteen miles out of Austin. As we nooned that day we saw three of those fellows pass on the stage, and we then knew they had kept strict watch on our movements at Austin and were depending on the prisoners to carry out their part of the plot. Before leaving Austin Governor Coke gave us a bit of advice which may seem strange to some of the younger set that the governor of the state would do such a thing, but Governor Coke was a real man and he understood the conditions. He instructed us to use every precaution and if there was an effort made to take our prisoners from us that we should kill them (the prisoners) and then do the best we could for ourselves.
We were on the lookout all the while for we knew that Hardin and Taylor had about forty men altogether, and we could account for only twelve of them. We stopped a little early Thursday evening as one of our boys, Dave Hudson. was sick, and by the time the sun went down supper was over and all bunks made down. We always had the prisoners to make their beds side by side so closer watch could be kept over them during the night. When we began to drag up our saddles for pillows Dave Hudson found that his two six-shooters had been removed from their holsters. On account of being sick he had taken them off and swung them to the horn of his saddle. The prisoners had all gone to bed by this time, and of course knew nothing of the discovery that the two guns were missing. The bunks were about thirty yards from Hudson's saddle. The boys quickly put the prisoners under cover with their needle guns and made them get up, and found the pistols under the pillows of White and Taylor. We made them all go back to bed and the boys were instructed to kill any of them that raised up without first calling the guard, and they were told that it might be best to not roll over too often.
Everything went well until noon Friday. The prisoners had all morning been pleading with the sergeant to cross the Guadalupe river at a ferry twenty miles above Clinton and go down on the west side. We nooned at the ferry after crossing the river. As some of the boys were cooking dinner two negroes, an old man and a boy, came along and Fayette Oxford and myself began questioning them as to whether they knew any of the men in our crowd, and we found they knew all of the prisoners, but none of the rest of us. We told the old negro we had these men as prisoners and were taking them to Clinton, and that they had told us the nearest and best route was down the west side of the river. The negro then told us that it was "des seben miles ober dar to John Wes Hardin's headquatahs." We reported to the sergeant what the old negro had told us and informed him that we would not go down the west side of the river. We made it into Clinton about nine o'clock Friday night, but before we got there, however, Taylor made a pass to get away, but failed. We had to cross the Guadalupe at Clinton and when we arrived at the bridge it happened that I was in the lead with my man, White. It was getting pretty dark and when I left the bridge—started up the bank I rode right into 200 men before I knew there was a man over there. I was not scared, but my spurs just kept rattling. I called for the sheriff and found he was standing near me, and he spoke very low and asked where the prisoners were. Very quietly he took the prisoners from their horses and put other men on them, then called out loudly for us to take them to the hotel for supper. We turned to the right and went up the river about 300 yards to the hotel with all the crowd following, thinking we had the prisoners, but by the time they had discovered the ruse the sheriff had a strong posse placed. We had a good night's rest and our horse's fared well Saturday. On Saturday night we were called upon to help protect the prisoners, which we did. We were informed by several men that when we left they would hang those outlaws. We departed from Clinton Sunday morning, and when we reached Austin we were told that the threat had been made good—that the prisoners were hanged Sunday night.
A few days later we reported to Captain Waller at Comanche and moved up near Carter's ranch on Big Sandy in Stephens county, twenty miles north of where the town of Cisco now stands where we put in our time chasing the redskins.