"No Gallows" by
names of some East Texas towns can be downright confusing. And much of the confusion
arises from mispronunciations which, during the passage of time, have become actual
Take, for example, the name Nogalus Prairie in Trinity County.
lore suggests the name originated when two horse thieves were hung from the branch
of a large tree because the community had "no gallows."
While a morsel
of truth may lie in the story, Clell Davis of Trinity County helped shed some
light on the community's real origin.
community was originally named Nogales Prairie because of the walnut and
pecan trees that grew there when Texas was still a province of Mexico and Spanish
families lived in the area. Nogales is Spanish for walnut and sometimes pecan.
When the first European settlers came to the area, they spelled the name
like it sounded, and Nogales became Nogallis. The first post office opened in
1858 as Nogallis Prairie. In the late 1800s, it was sometimes called Logallis
Prairie, but in 1894 the post office was known as Nogalus Prairie.
less than John Wesley Hardin, the preacher's
son and outlaw who spent a lot of time in Trinity County, mentioned the name in
his autobiography, "The Life of John Wesley Hardin."|
and killed a former slave near Moscow
in Polk County in the fall of 1868 and was on the run from federal reconstruction
His brother Joe was teaching school "on Logallis Prairie, about
twenty-five miles north of Sumpter" and John Wesley fled there.
also told him that federal troops were coming to arrest him, Hardin waylaid and
killed three soldiers in a bed of a deep creek. He buried the bodies in the creek
bed about 100 yards from where the fight occurred.
55 years ago, as a young boy growing up at Nogalus Prairie, Clell Davis was walking
along a creek bed and found some bones. "That night at supper, I told my father
about it, and he told me that his grandfather, Alexander Davis, told him that
back in the l800s, a man shot three men and buried them near the creek bed," said
"The story really got my attention, but for some reason I never
went back to look for the bones and, after 55 years, I had almost forgotten about
it until I read Hardin's book," said Davis.
Today, however, the creek
has been dammed and a pond covers the site. "A short distance from there, you
can see the old roadbed where it used to cross the creek, and I believe this is
where John Wesley Hardin shot the Union soldiers and where they were buried,"
As far as hangings are concerned at Nogalus, there were a
number that occurred in the vicinity during and after the Civil War. During that
time, a large group of Civil War deserters were camped in the community when they
were chased down and hung from convenient tree limbs.
From the 1840s to
about 1900, Nogalus Prairie was a "fair sized community," said Davis. From 1900
to 1918, the community had a Methodist church, several stores and saloons, a cotton
gin, grist mill, and a Woodmen of the World lodge.
The post office closed
in 1920 and today Nogalus is mostly a dispersed rural community. Its last population
figure in 2000 was 106.