new about a Texan's fascination for weird news. |
From the Lone Star State
in 1899, an assortment of weird, mostly fatal happenings - vintage news of the
All in the family…
On Feb. 10 a man died at Eagle Pass
from an asthma attack. Nothing particularly newsworthy about that, sad as it must
have been for his family and friends.
But one week later, the man's 68-year-old
brother, "prostrated by the loss," also died. Presumably such a sudden demise
came from heart failure, but the exact cause is not noted in the newspaper article.
sister of the two deceased brothers, "overcome by grief…took to bed," the article
continued. And four days later, she, too, lay dead.
The family, three of
whom having died in a span of 11 days, "were old settlers of Maverick County."
Why they call it firewater…
If video cameras or cell phones had been
available back then, someone in Rockdale might have captured a scene that doubtless
would have made it to reality TV. Of course, television had been invented yet,
One Saturday evening in March 1899, a resident of that mid-state
town sat on the head of an empty 156-gallon oak barrel on the sidewalk in front
of the Post Office Saloon. The large barrel originally had held an ample supply
of Rose Valley whiskey, but St. Patrick's Day or some other occasion had resulted
in the consumption of its contents.
The man on the barrel surely paid no
attention when an acquaintance, resting an arm on the barrel, lit a cigarette
and casually tossed the match behind him.
The match could have fallen
anywhere, but the smoker made an unintentional hole-in-one, the still-flaming
light disappearing down the barrel's tap hole. That, the newspaper reported, "[ignited]
the accumulated gas caused by the barrel sitting in the hot sun all afternoon."
Both the barrel-sitter and the man with the cigarette found themselves flying
through the air, one of them landing about 12 feet away. Their unexpected special
delivery in front of the Post Office Saloon left both of them lying unconscious
in a heap. A third man who had been near the barrel suffered facial burns and
had his beard singed. Everyone recovered.
Famous last words…
No matter that he would be permanently dropping out of society within a few moments,
a condemned murderer in Harris County wanted those about to witness his execution
to understand that he faced his impending death bravely.
"If any man sees
me tremble, speak out," the soon-to-be-departed yelled out gamely to the throng
surrounding the gallows.
No sooner had the necktie party honoree said
that than someone in the crowd below yelled "I saw it!"
"That's a damned
lie," the man on the platform shouted from beneath a black mask just as the hangman
sprang the trap.
That happened, reporters noted, at 47 minutes and 6 seconds
past noon that March 25.
Prior to his death, the story continued, the
condemned man "never appeared for a moment to lose his nerve or to have any fear
of death and insisted upon it being known by all men that he didn't profess religion
and did not want anyone to think he did."
Though he protested his innocence
right up to the last minute, the man had been convicted of the brutal ax-murder
of a man, his wife and their small child in their Cypress home on July 18, 1898.
The murdered couple's 12-year-old son managed to escape and later bear witness
to the crime.
Almost like winning the lottery…
man living in Davilla, according to the newspaper account, "received notice from
Washington that the French spoliation claims have been granted in the year of
1797. [His] grandfather…who was a wealthy merchant of Philadelphia had Three…ships
and their cargoes confiscated by the French. The…claim amounts to about $32,000."
Back then, $32 K amounted to real money.
Early day Darwin Award
On Oct. 8, 1899 two brothers who had put on a magic lantern
show in Brownwood had almost made it back home to Cameron when one of them had
a very bad idea.
For reasons not explained in the story, along the Little
River about two miles east of the Milam County town, one of the brothers "took
a can containing carbide out of the wagon and carried it to the river, where he
poured water on or in the can, causing it to explode."
The violent chemical
reaction blew the young man 5 feet into the air and he "fell in the edge of the
water a corpse."
25, 2007 column
by Mike Cox|