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Texas | Features | Ghosts

The McDow Hole
Page 3

by Bob Hopkins

‹ Page 2

Upon arrival, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; however, no one had answered the door or responded to their calls. A desperate search ensued. Upon entering the cabin, they found no sign of Jenny or the children but did find evidence of some kind of scuffle.

Two chairs were found overturned and a small spot of blood was on the floor. Immediately all had thought the worst and felt that any hope of finding them alive were pretty slim.

Suddenly, the sound of a sob was heard coming from under a bed. The party was quick to find five year old Temple hiding under the bed and scared near to death. The child kept trying to talk but a few broken sentences was all he could utter. He was never able to give a coherent account of what had happen to his mother. By the next morning word had spread throughout the countryside that Jenny Papworth had been killed. Everyone gathered at the Papworth cabin and a search party was quickly organized.

A man by the name of Brownlow, although, there is some question if that was his real name, lived on the Bosque river about five miles from the Papworths. He was called a “coffee cooler”, a name given to the type of man who, during the civil war, found more reason to stay home although he was able bodied enough to fight.

Brownlow was a large obnoxious character that was good at pointing fingers and was known to have a coward’s temper. He immediately blamed the Comanche for the murder or kidnapping of Jenny and the baby; however, there had been no reports of Comanche in the county so many doubted his claims.

Brownlow made such a yelling stink to quickly blame Indians that it raised an eyebrow or two and some of the locals began to suspect him of the deed. The suspicion grew when a quirt, belonging to Brownlow was found near the Papworth cabin. Brownlow said he had been by the day before to ask Jenny about some stray cattle and there was no way to disprove his statement. So the party departed in pursuit of Comanche but no trail could be found nor any sign of hostile Indians.

Two weeks later, Charlie returned to discover his world had crumbled. He was in great despair for many weeks. Charlie was told that Indians had probably taken or murdered his wife and baby. Temple; however, told his father that the man was white and spoke English. Once Charlie was able to accept his great loss, he and Temple tried to return to a normal life in the cabin. Charlie, unable to quiet his mind, began to turn to thoughts of revenge. He too grew to suspect Brownlow. He knew the man’s reputation to be tainted.

Back in those days Texas was a land of the six-gun and ones own justice. Matters went from bad to worse in the region when groups of local men formed committees and became vigilantes attempting to put an end to a rash of horse and cattle rustling. Taking the law into their own hands they often proved more lawless than justified as they raided in the night gathering suspected thieves, hanging them on the spot.

Brownlow knew he was under suspicion and his fear grew. He knew he needed to take the focus off of himself, and soon began to stir up strife in the territory against Charlie Papworth. Brownlow began to spread rumors that Charlie was a horse thief and rustler and should be dealt with.

Most folks refused to believe Brownlow but the seed of suspicion had been planted and began to spread; especially among those new to the region who didn’t know Charlie.

Late one night, about 1867, a vigilante group raided the area, going from house to house near the town of Putnam, dragging men under suspicion out of their beds for their punishment. Near daybreak the vigilantes came upon the Papworth place. Several hooded men drug Charlie from his bed, tied his hands behind his back and forced him to mount a horse.

Temple fought desperately to save his father. The leader wanted to kill the boy as well but the other vigilantes had scruples about killing innocent children and refused to do so. Charlie knew the leader’s voice to be that of none other than Brownlow.

Soon Charlie and six other men were taken down to the big pecan tree near the creek and hanged by the neck one at a time, with Charlie Papworth being the last to be strung up. The light of the morning began to shine and the men made a hasty retreat as not to be seen wearing their hooded disguises.

Immediately, Temple ran to the tree, which was his climbing tree. He quickly retrieved the pocketknife from his father’s pants and cut his father down. After regaining his strength, Charlie cut the other six men down but he was too late. Charlie Papworth was the only one to survive. The very next day, fearing the men would return, Charlie took Temple, borrowed a horse from Mr. Keith and road off to the Oklahoma territory never to return.

Three of the men hanged at the Papworth cabin were thought to be totally innocent of any cattle or horse thieving. It is believed Brownlow selected them in a scheme that would result in the hanging of Charlie Papworth.

Brownlow soon heard that Charlie was alive. In fear for his life he went to the town of Hamilton and in front of the local constable attempted to steal a pair of shoes. He was arrested and locked up for three months. Upon his release he repeated the offense and was again locked up. He did this several times to insure his security in the event Charlie Papworth came looking for him.

It was in the early 1870’s, when Mr. Keith, who lived about four miles from the McDow and the Papworth cabin, allowed his cows to graze over the open land. They would always end up down at the McDow hole in the summer where there was cool water.

Being that Mr. Keith also had the chore of hauling water from the McDow back to his cabin, he and his 13-year-old son decided to stay a few days at the abandoned Papworth cabin to save time while the cattle grazed.

The first night in the cabin, Mr. Keith was awakened by scratching at the front door and the feeling of someone lurking about in the house, but he could find no one. He also experienced a cold chill in the cabin and found that very strange for it was August.

The second night was a night he and his son would never forget. Sometime during the night he was again awaken by the sound of scratching at the front door, he got up to open the door and was not ready for what he was about to encounter. There stood Jenny Papworth with her baby in her arms, he was shocked, and called out her name, “Jenny, is that you?" She then began to scream in horror and then disappeared. Mr. Kieth and his son were terrified and immediately left through a rear window, never to return. ... next page

© Bob Hopkins
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