Much has been written over
the years about the days of the outlaws in Texas and the citizens who opposed
them during those wild times of the 1860s and 1870s.
Texas, had its share of violence with outlaws such as John Wesley Hardin and others
like him walking the streets - a situation that made the local citizens uncomfortable,
Gonzales wasn't the only place that had to put up with lawlessness back in those
days. Take for example the little Texas town of McDade over in northern Bastrop
County. Located on Highway 290 about eight miles southeast of Elgin,
McDade was founded in 1869 in the expectation of the arrival of the Houston and
Texas Central Railroad.
to information found in The Handbook of Texas, the town was named after James
W. McDade. In the early days it was also called Tie Town or Tie City. It supposedly
acquired this name because ties and logs cut for the railroad tracks were stored
at the site.
matter what it was called, McDade was a mighty rowdy place. The first business
was a saloon that operated out of a tent. There a thirsty man could buy a tin
cup full of whiskey for ten cents. When the town was incorporated in 1873, it
had a post office, cotton gin, and a small Baptist church.
In 1879, a
school was formed and McDade was called a "thriving depot town" - the population
of the community had grown to about 150 people. Although you would think that
this place had everything going for it as a law-abiding locale, it was not to
be - violence and vigilante justice soon became a serious problem.
A group of outlaws known as the "notch cutters" took up residence in McDade.
As there was no local law enforcement, the citizens of the town decided to deal
with the bandits in their own way. They hung two of the outlaws and the bad guys
retaliated by murdering two of the vigilantes. The citizens returned the favor
by hanging a third outlaw.
1876, the citizens caught two men skinning a cow that was displaying the brand
of the Olive Ranch. The men were shot on the spot - no questions asked. Again
the outlaws retaliated. About 15 men, supposedly led by the son of one of the
men shot, attacked the headquarters of the Olive Ranch. Two cowboys were killed
and the ranch house was burned.
the local citizens cried out for justice and another group of vigilantes caught
the suspected killers kicking up their heels on the dance floor. They stopped
the dance and drug four men outside and hung them from the nearest tree. Needless
to say, the party was over. This incident happened in June of 1877.
to Paula Mitchell Marks' article in The Handbook of Texas, McDade remained relatively
free of violence for the next five years. But in 1883, the trouble started again.
Two of the locals were murdered and a third man was beaten, robbed, and left for
dead. A deputy sheriff investigating the crimes was shot to death in McDade.
So much for law and order - the vigilantes returned to their bloody work
and hung four of the suspected murderers. On Christmas Eve of 1883, they executed
three more suspects. This event led to a gunfight at a local saloon and three
more men died in a violent barrage of lead.
It has been noted that this
was the last occurrence of vigilante justice in McDade, but other reports indicate
that the violence and gunfights continued until 1912.
In the face of all the turbulence McDade seemed to continue to prosper. In 1884,
it had a district school and a successful broom factory with 10 employees. The
Randolph Factory, a pottery manufacturer, relocated from Bishop to McDade to be
near the clay deposits there. It later became known as McDade Pottery and it caused
the town to gain attention from around the state.
L. Williams, owner of McDade Pottery, also invented and patented a charcoal cooker
and this item became a big seller. There were also several coalmines in the area.
The town got a weekly newspaper in 1890, as the McDade Mentor was founded.
The little community prospered through 1925, when it had increased its population
to 600. The town had three churches, two doctors, and more new businesses began
to open their doors. By 1930, however, things started to go bad. McDade Pottery
closed at the beginning of World War II and in the 1950s, the population fell
to 220. What had been a four-block business district was reduced to less than
the once-so-violent railroad town is a small and tranquil agricultural community
best know for the melons that it grows in the fertile, sandy soil - that same
soil covers the remains of the outlaws and vigilantes - grim reminders of those
rough times in early Texas.
Published with author's permission.