news does not have a particularly long shelf life, but some tidbits from old newspapers
stand the proverbial test of time very well indeed. Herewith some examples: |
early on had a reputation of being a bit wilder and woollier than other states.
Reflecting that, the Nashville Daily American reprinted a short article from the
Galveston News with this ho-hum headline in small type: “More Bloody Work in Texas.”
The April 3, 1879 story from the Tennessee newspaper reported a “shooting
affray” in “Stevenville” (Stephenville)
in Erath County on March 30.
“Messrs. Ross, Keith and Robinson, while
attempting to serve a writ of arrest on one Hollady, were shot and killed, and
three others wounded. Another fight followed, resulting in the death of two others.”
five dead. By way of comparison, the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone
claimed only three men.
The bad guy in the Stephenville
dust up, identified in the next sentence as “Holladay,” had barricaded himself
in a house along with his followers and so far “repulsed all efforts to arrest
John Henry Holliday, better known to history as the nasty-tempered
dentist named “Doc,” had spent time in Texas from 1873 to 1876, but he wasn’t
the “Hollady” involved in the “bloody work” at Stephenville.
Must be something in the water at Stephenville.
Another character that made the news way back when was a 30-year-old character
known as No Armed Jack, who got caught in Erath County with horse flesh belonging
to someone else.
to the Aug. 14, 1882 Marion Daily Star in Ohio, Jack Hall, “alias No Arm Jack”
had passed through Dallas en route to Stephenville in the company of a U.S. marshal
following his arrest in the Choctaw Nation (in present Oklahoma.)
had escaped from the Erath County jail after being sentenced to a decade in prison
for horse theft.
“Both his arms are off above the elbow, having been crushed
in a sugar mill when he was a child, but the bones grew out several inches from
the flesh, and their surfaces are rough like corncobs, and Jack writes a beautiful
hand by holding a pen beside his chin and pressing the protruding bone against
it,” the Ohio newspaper reported. “He shoots a pistol or firearms expertly, and
manages a horse as well as the average two-handed man. The height of his ambition
appears to have been stealing horses successfully.”
the journalistic fashion of the day, the scribe who got paid to hang around the
Capital City’s train stations and hotels never saw his name in print.
the Driskill Hotel, then Austin’s
newest and finest overnight accommodation, a reporter for the Daily Statesman
approached Dallas attorney John R. Pettison to see if he knew anything worth telling.
The lawyer didn’t have a story to go with it, but he did have a copy of an interesting
old will, which the journalist transcribed in a day long before photocopiers:
“I, [left blank],
of the County of [blank], in the State of Texas, being weak in body but of sound
mind and understanding, taking into consideration that all men are mortal and
must sooner or later depart this life, I do make and ordain this my last will
and testament in the following manner.
“First, it is my will that my wife, Martha, do have the household and kitchen
furniture which we occupy, with two beds and bedding to be at her disposal, with
one-fifth of the product of the farm I know live on for her support, with two
cows which we now have, with the privilege of raising the young ones to supply
this place, the cattle to be kept free of charge, with the wool of six sheep of
her own choosing yearly. I allow her as much fruit off the place as she chooses
for her own use. I allow her to raise poultry for her own use with the privilege
for them on the farm. I allow her the use of the cooper and wash kettles when
she likes. I also allow her $50 to be paid soon after my decease, the house I
occupy to be made comfortable.”
whirling funnels of high wind Texans keep an eye out for each spring used to be
known as cyclones, not tornadoes.
Whatever they are called, they are capable
not only of wreaking terrible destruction, but doing things than can only be called
weird. Take, for example, what happened to John Zimmerman’s mule.
who lived near Emory, in Rains
County, told the Rains County Leader that a cycle had hit his place, picking up
one of his mules and carrying it whirling through the air for a hundred yards.
the tornado set the animal down, the May 30, 1913 article continued, it “stood
bewildered for a few minutes, then ran to a wooden pasture nearby, braying loudly.
Since then the animal has not been seen.”
© Mike Cox
21, 2009 column
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