TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP : : SEARCH SITE
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Vigilantes were the law in frontier towns

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The military post of Fort Griffin was established by the U.S. Army in July 1867 along the banks of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. Named for General Charles Griffin, the site was deemed necessary to protect settlers from Indians and several outlaw bands operating in the area.

Later, it also served as a supply depot for the southern expeditions sent to the Great Plains during the Red River wars.

With the huge southern herd of buffalo ranging in the area, the new garrison gave protection to large numbers of hunters migrating down from Kansas where the Republican herd had been decimated. Proceeds from sales of hide and meat hunting, the garrison payroll of Fort Griffin and additional money spent by trail herds moving north to Kansas brought gamblers, criminals, shady ladies and bunko artists by the droves into the new town.

This so-called civilization settled in a nearby ramshackle town called "The Flats" made up almost entirely of saloons and bordellos. Many occupants lived in tents and dugouts and every form of lawlessness known existed within its city limits.

The military had no jurisdiction over civilians and there was simply no law available because the town was not organized enough to collect taxes for salaries for lawmen. Crime ran rampant, and citizens finally saw something had to be done.

As happened in so many lawless boom towns of the West, the only answer seemed to be a citizen's committee to take control. No matter the title, all were eventually called vigilantes. In Fort Griffin, the violence grew to the extent a vigilante group called the OLM, or Old Law Mob, was formed. The group's members met, made up a list of the undesirables, posted it in saloons, told those on the list to leave town or suffer the consequences. After a short waiting period those listed and still in town were simply captured, shot to death or hung from the nearest tree with the letters "OLM" printed on the bodies for all to see.

As expected, crime rates dropped drastically and calm reigned. Suddenly, almost overnight it seemed, the buffalo herds were gone, the Indians were forced to leave to hunt food, which left little for the military to do. A railroad came to the area bypassing Fort Griffin many miles to the south and the trail herds now diverted to new loading pens in Abilene.
Ruin of the former jail in The Flat, TX
Jail ruins in The Flat
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008
The military closed the fort, selling the premises to the public. The good citizens of the town worked hard but failed in their bid to become a county seat of the newly formed county. Slowly but surely, the old boom town faded away, with the last store closing in 1950. Today, only foundations and ruins remain of this once-rowdy metropolis, home to the unlawful element of the Texas frontier.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" July 14, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
Related Stories:
Texas Outlaws
The Flat, AKA Fort Griffin, Texas
Bison Herd by Linda Kirkpatrick
 
HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | TEXAS HOTELS
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | HOTELS | USA | MEXICO

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: July 17, 2008