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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Outlaw with two faces

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
In July of 1888, Rupert P. Wright, dressed in rags and one eye blinded by his own hand, pleaded for mercy on a charge of bigamy before an Arkansas judge.

To those who knew Wright, his appearance and demeanor were far removed from the days when he was a prominent newspaper editor, attorney, and aspiring legislator in Little Rock.

But they would soon learn that he was also an escaped murderer, forger, arsonist and jail breaker named Pete Loggins from East Texas.

Born Lewis L. Loggins in 1848 near San Augustine, Loggins moved to Jasper County in 1871, became a printer, studied law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1874.

Seemingly on his way to success, Loggins married, sired three children and was elected county attorney for Jasper County. But he soon returned to San Augustine County to practice law and edit a local newspaper.

Between the late 1870s and early 1880s, Loggins’ law practice and newspaper career prospered and he became well known in East Texas.

But in 1881 his career took a deadly turn when he and a friend, Abe Smith, forged a land document for 1,107 acres near Hemphill. When his crime was discovered, Loggins fled to Arkansas and married again.

On an 1882 trip to Hemphill he was arrested, but set fire to the jail and escaped. When Smith turned state’s evidence against Loggins on the forgery charge, Loggins ambushed him at a sawmill and killed him.

Loggins also became an ally of outlaw Willis Conner and his sons Fed, Bill, Charley, Leander and John, who were indicted for murdering two men in 1883 during a feud over wild hogs.

When the Conners’ trial began, it was transferred to San Augustine on a change of venue and the Conners were placed in jail there. In March of 1885, Loggins helped break Willis Conner and one of his sons from the jail.

Loggins apparently left East Texas in 1885, assuming the name of Rupert P. Wright and became a reporter and city editor for the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock, where he covered the Arkansas Legislature, and made friends with influential politicians.

Wright/Loggins eloped to Searcy, Arkansas, in 1887 with Alice White, a farmer’s daughter. It was his fourth known marriage and his past soon caught up with him when a former wife charged him with bigamy at Searcy.

Loggins fled to Tennessee, but was hauled back to Searcy by a police chief, placed on trial and given a five-year prison sentence. While in the Searcy jail he attempted suicide twice.

In 1892 he was released from prison on good behavior after four years, but was seized by lawmen from Sabine County, Texas, on pending charges of murder, forgery, arson and jailbreaking in East Texas.

Loggins was convicted of murder and jailbreaking in Hemphill, but served only five years at the old State Prison in Rusk, where he studied medicine.

He became a physician and practiced at Willis in Montgomery County, where he was killed in 1905 by a former constable in a fight over a woman.

Pete Loggins remains one of the most intriguing outlaws in frontier East Texas and even his descendants in East Texas remain puzzled about his strange life, the details of his death and his burial site.

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All Things Historical
February 16, 2005 Column
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman is a past president of the association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)
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