Archie P. McDonald
Down and Out in a Nacogdoches Jail
the 1960s, more than forty "western" series dominated prime-time television network
series. One, "The Texan," starring Rory Calhoun in the title role. His character
was named Bill Longley, and he was a character indeed. Calhoun played him as one
the dodge for the law who spent a weekly half hour rescuing someone or righting
some wrong. Old
Bill would not have recognized himself.|
The real Bill
Longley was born in Austin
County, Texas, on a family farm in 1851. The family later moved to Washington
County. The Civil War began before Longley
was old enough to participate but he caught the spirit of the times nonetheless,
and his first scrape with the law involved brutalizing freedmen and women.
claimed at his most notorious stage to have killed thirty-two men, the first in
1868 when he could have been no more than seventeen years of age. At that stage,
his victims consisted mostly of freed slaves, former soldiers, and unfortunates
who crossed his path at the wrong time.
prospected for gold in Wyoming
and joined the U.S. Cavalry, deserted, and spent six months in the guardhouse
before being released to complete his enlistment, at least until he deserted again,
this time successfully.
For several years Longley
lived in Kansas, Texas, and even Louisiana, and his
frequent moves left more corpses behind. Occasionally arrested, he escaped one
sentence in Delta County, Texas, by burning down the county jail.
was captured for the last time in Desoto Parish, Louisiana, by Nacogdoches
County Sheriff Milton Mast, who brought the prisoner to his jail while preparing
to transport him to Giddings to stand
trial for a murder committed there. This time Longley
did not escape.
Marker in Giddings
William Preston (Bill) Longley
(October 6, 1851
- October 11, 1878)
Texas outlaw Bill Longley was from a respectable family,
but his hot temper, his fondness for liquor, and unsettled conditions during Reconstruction
led him to become one of the most daring gunslingers of his day. He was said to
have killed 32 persons before his capture in 1877. Tried for a Lee County murder,
he was hanged in Giddings in 1878.
Before Longley died, he repented and urged others to avoid his example. His grave
was once outside the cemetery
< Longley's Grave in Giddings Cemetery
TE photo, 2000
the trial in Giddings, Longley
was hanged on October 11, 1887, just five days past his twenty-seventh birthday.
Or was he? As with other "legends" of the Old West, rumors emerged that the hanging
had been faked and that Longley
lived for years under assumed names in Louisiana. If so, he himself had reduced
his status at the trial by admitting that he had killed only eight men, not thirty-two.|
One thing is sure. He killed none in the Nacogdoches County jail.
© Archie P. McDonald
Things Historical December
5 , 2004 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association.
Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books
on Texas )