The Murder Of LaSalle County Sheriff Charles B. McKinney
Texas, the county seat of LaSalle County, lies in the deep brush country of South
Texas, just about 65 miles northeast of Laredo.
Today the main artery in town is I-35, for Cotulla
is directly on the most-used of all NAFTA routes. A little over a hundred years
ago, the main travel artery was the International & Great Northern Railroad. |
It was cold in Cotulla
on the morning of December 26, 1886. Mrs. Galloway, from the now-ghost town of
Twohig, about 8 miles south of Cotulla on the I&GN, arrived at the sheriff's office.
She swore out a warrant accusing one Lorenzo Dow White of the heinous crime of
rape, made worse by the victim being her eleven-year-old daughter. The girl, who
accompanied her mother, verified the accusation. With the warrant in hand Sheriff
Charles Brown McKinney, known as 'C. B.,' and his deputy, S. V. Edwards, known
as 'Pete,' boarded the train for the stop at Twohig.
In Twohig the two
officers were met by 'Bud' Crenshaw and Jim McCoy. Apparently they were friendly,
or at least showed no hostility. McKinney and Brown hired horses in Twohig and
rode toward Crenshaw's home. Crenshaw and McCoy got there first and were waiting.
Each had a Winchester in his hand, but again, displayed no hostility. The sheriff
asked Crenshaw to talk with him, and the two went a little distance away from
the house. The sheriff remained mounted, Crenshaw was afoot. At about the time
the sheriff and Crenshaw began to talk, McCoy asked the deputy for a chew of tobacco.
This was apparently an agreed-on signal. Immediately Crenshaw raised
his Winchester, jammed it under the sheriff's chin, and fired, killing the officer
instantly. As he fell from the horse, Crenshaw shot him three more times. McCoy,
a one-legged man, then raised his weapon and shot the deputy, who had turned at
the sound of the first shot. Deputy Edwards was hit in the back, through one shoulder
blade. The deputy's horse then bolted. McCoy fired again but missed the second
Immediately a 40-man posse was organized to hunt for Crenshaw
and McCoy. The Webb County sheriff was contacted by telegraph. He and four deputies
began to go up the Rio Grande in an effort to cut off the fugitives, who were
believed headed for Mexico.
Sheriff McKinney, 28, married and the father of several children, was buried
December 27, in Cotulla. Apparently the sheriff was well-liked, for the report
says the funeral was attended by "every man, woman, and child of the area."
On December 28 Governor John Ireland authorized a reward of $500 for the
arrest of the two men involved in the sheriff's murder. LaSalle County offered
an additional $500 for each man, and local ranchers matched that with yet another
$500. This made each fugitive worth $1250, a tidy sum in 1886.
Ireland dispatched Captain George H. Schmidt's company of the Frontier Battalion
of the Rangers to Cotulla,
since feelings were running very high. It was very likely there would be a lynching
if the men were captured. The Rangers arrived on December 31 and made camp in
an abandoned building. The town seemed quiet, so after eating supper the men were
given leave to have a drink if they cared to.
As they were on the way
to a saloon, they were startled by three shots. They found George E. Hill on the
floor of John Kerr's store, three bulletholes in his body. He was still alive,
and identified his assassins as Silas Hay and Frank R. Hall. Hay was the sheriff's
father in law, and apparently had some reason to believe Hill was involved in
the murder. Hill denied that vehemently before he, too, died.
days a man named Headly White was arrested and charged with being an accessory
in the murder of Sheriff McKinney. His brother, Lorenzo Dow White, was also arrested
and charged with rape. Headly White was allowed bail, but Judge D. P. Marr denied
bail to the other man.
Crenshaw, also a married man with children, was
given away by an acquaintance who wanted the reward. He camped during the day
near a waterhole deep in the brush, visiting his wife and family at night.
Six Rangers went to the campsite and set up an ambush. When Crenshaw rode
in just after daybreak they covered him with rifles. He immediately opened fire
on the Rangers, who shot him out of the saddle. Three days later McCoy, who had
been hiding in the brush, surrendered, saying "I'd rather be hanged than live
a stray dog's life any longer."
McCoy was tried in San Antonio, there
being no way of getting anything that looked like an impartial jury in LaSalle
County. He was convicted of murder in district court in June of 1888, and sentenced
to hang. His attorneys immediately moved for a new trial, which was denied. They
then filed an appeal, which affirmed the lower court's action. A request for a
rehearing was denied. The attorneys then circulated a petition for clemency, getting
over 2000 signatures. The petition was submitted to the new governor, Lawrence
S. 'Sul' Ross, himself a former Ranger. Ross found no reason to overturn the sentence.
On August 23, 1889, at 11:33 AM, James McCoy was hanged in the LaSalle County
jail. He left a wife and son. On the scaffold, he said "In all my life I never
done but one dirty trick. I helped Sheriff McKinney and Deputy Edwards murder
a Mexican just outside of Cotulla, and we sat down and drank a bottle of whiskey
by the body. I have been murdered by Edwards' testimony. McKinney was sheriff,
but he was not a good man. He led me into wrong; he was afraid of me and deputized
a lot of outlaws as sheriffs. One of them shot my leg off. McKinney had fixed
up the scheme when I was laid up. He said I was a (deleted from original). I have
killed two men but I stood my trial and got clear. Murdering the Mexican was the
only dirty trick I ever done and McKinney helped. His friends have crowded me
so I thought I would tell this. I have not been a good man and I'm sorry. That
is all I have to say."
Exactly what he was talking about, no one in
Cotulla knows to
this day. There were, so far as people could tell, no Mexicans who had mysteriously
gone missing in the county. McCoy gave no indication of where or when the alleged
murder took place, nor where the body might have been put to dispose of it. No
evidence has ever been found implicating Sheriff McKinney and/or Deputy Edwards
in the murder of anyone, Mexican or Anglo.