ago, television had an abundance of stories about the old West. One of my favorites
was about the adventures of a kindly gunfighter know as, "The Texan." This guy
was my hero and best I remember he always wore a black vest. I guess it was black;
in those days everything on television was either black or white.
recall exactly who starred in the show but I believe it was a guy named Rory Calhoun.
In later years, I was told that the series was based on the life of a Texas outlaw
by the name of Bill
Longley. I decided to do a little research on Mr.
Longley and believe me; his real life was much different than how it was portrayed
on television. Fact is, he wasn't kindly at all.
According to “The Handbook
of Texas Online, ”William
Preston "Bill" Longley was born on October 6, 1851, in Austin
County, Texas. Longley
was a farm boy and was, no doubt, a product of his environment. Like so many other
young men in Texas during that era, he was extremely bitter over the outcome of
the Civil War.
Some of Bill
Longley's experiences were not unlike those of the notorious John
Wesley Hardin. Although Hardin
acquired more fame than Longley,
the latter did his share of killing and terrorizing folks in south
central Texas. Although both men were known to have attacked and murdered
black men, Longley
was also accused of killing a black woman in Bastrop
Longley' loved to brag about his exploits but most of the time he didn't have
actual witnesses to back up his claims. Some historians believe that Longley's
criminal career was just a mixture of actual facts and his boasting ways.
his life, Longley
was apparently somewhat of a drifter. He was a gold miner in the Wyoming Territory
and later joined the Army while in that part of the country. He didn't care much
for the military, however, and soon deserted. The Army caught the Texas drifter
and promptly court-martialed and locked him up at Camp Stambaugh in Wyoming.
Six months later he was released back to his unit, but Bill
just didn't like army life and he deserted again on June 8, 1872.
indicate that Longley
made good his escape from the Army or it could be that they just got tired of
messing with him. After his less than illustrious military career the drifting
turned up in Bell County, Texas.
He supposedly worked as a cowboy in Comanche County where he killed a black man.
continued his killing ways from 1872 to 1877. He killed a man named Anderson supposedly
because he (Anderson) had murdered Longley's
cousin. Anderson was plowing a field when Bill
unloaded a shotgun into him. In 1876 Longley
killed a man named Shroyer in a gunfight. Later, Bill
tried his hand at sharecropping in Delta County, Texas. He was working for the
Reverend William R. Lay. But, as was his habit, Longley
got in trouble again, this time it was over a woman, and local authorities promptly
The Delta County jail couldn't hold Longley;
he started a fire and made good his escape. For some reason, Bill
was angry with the Reverend Lay and murdered him while Lay was milking a cow.
decided to hide out in Louisiana until things cooled off in Texas but the long
arm of the law reached out and caught Bill;
Sheriff Milton Mast of Nacogdoches County, Texas, captured him on June 6, 1877.
was returned to Texas were he was tried, convicted,
and sentenced to hang.
After his capture, Bill
Longley contacted several newspapers to tell of his adventures; he told the
local media that he had killed 32 men. Longley
evidently got religion and joined the Catholic Church while he was awaiting execution.
That event took place before a large crowd in Giddings,
Texas, on October 11, 1878. Just before Lee County Sheriff James Madison Brown
executed him, Longley
said that he had only killed eight men. It seems that even in death, Bill
couldn't get his stories straight.
Rumors were started that Longley's
hanging had been a hoax and that he had gone to South America and later died in
Louisiana. According to “The Handbook of Texas Online,” a search was conducted
between 1992 and 1994 to find his body in the Giddings
Cemetery. The remains were never found but there was evidence that his body
may have been moved to Bell
County, Texas, after the execution.
Star Diary November
20 , 2009 Column
on Bill Longley