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Texas | Columns

The Murdered Sheriff

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

A few weeks ago, Doris and I spent a couple of days at Waco, attending a history conference.

One of the speakers made a presentation on Texas lawmen who died in the line of duty. One of the lawmen--Angelina County Sheriff William Reed (Bill) McMullen-- caught my attention.

McMullen was one of the men who was killed during a feud between the Gilley and Windham families at Homer, the county seat of Angelina County in the 1860s.

The seeds for the feud were sown by two incidents. On August 1, 1865, John D. Windham and Isaac Gilley met on the streets of Homer, exchanged threats and Gilley shot Windham with a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot. Windham recovered from his wounds and Gilley was indicted for attempted murder in 1866.

But that didnít end the feud. In the spring of 1866, Gilley rode into Homer with a Texas flag, hoisted it on a pole on the courthouse square near the Hudiburg Hotel, and dared any man to take it down.

Gilley was addressing the jayhawkers and night riders who were seeking to gain control of the county in an upcoming June election.

Gunfire rang out from the hotel and Gilley and his men took cover as the town square exploded with pistol and rifle shots from the doors and windows of the hotel.

Someone rode for Sheriff McMullen, who was eating supper at his home a mile away. He hurriedly rode into Homer with his son Foster.

As he approached the hotel, he was killed instantly with a bullet to his chest. Eli Windham was also killed.

Seeing that McMullen had fallen, men on both sides scrambled for their horses and rode out of town.

Several wounded men were treated by Dr. W.W. Manning on his store porch. The Gilley gang rode to the home of Dr. D.H.L. Hogg to have their wounds treated.

The instability of the countyís government was worsened by the Homer shootout. In an election on July 25, 1866, voters elected new county officials, and the mood was to kick out the unionists.

Sheriff McMullen, meanwhile, had been buried at Homer Cemetery.

In 1885, after Gilley had fled to Louisiana, he was hunted down and returned to Homer for the murder of Eli Windham. However, he was found not guilty.

On March 12, Gilley cleaned his pistol, loaded it with new shells, placed the barrel under his chin, and pulled the trigger. He died instantly.



Bob Bowman's East Texas July 10, 2011 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers



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