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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

The Legend of
Campbell’s Branch

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
If you leave Hallettsville traveling on FM 957 towards Breslau, you will cross over a small creek named West Campbell Branch – known as just plain “Campbell Branch” to most folks. Recently, I was doing my weekly routine of researching the microfilm files at the Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville when I came across a fascinating story, from 1944, about the legend of Campbell’s Branch. I was unaware that Campbell Branch had a “legend” surrounding it, but evidently it does.

The following article is by Lillian Malec and it seems to have been written in response to an earlier story by Dorothy Sieber. Perhaps some of the old timers in Lavaca County can recall this story – maybe “the legend” has been passed down over the years. Anyway, it makes for some interesting reading and the unedited version is presented here.

“The Legend of Campbell’s Branch” –
Based on True Facts.

By Lillian Malec
The Lavaca County Tribune – June 2, 1944


Miss Dorothy Sieber’s story, “The Legend of Campbell’s Branch,” aroused no little interest. This, especially among the old-timers. Miss Sieber with undoubted talent wrote it as a legend. But this legend is based on real facts, as this reporter finds in a personal interview with the sister of Nancy Kerr who is still living. The name is really Curry, not Kerr.

“To start with,” Miss Curry explained, “the name of my sister, who was murdered by the Campbell boys, was not Nancy. I am Nancy Curry. Her name was Sarah, but we called her “Sallie.”

“It all began on the last day of May back in 1878. I remember it well, because I was ten years old at the time, just five years younger than Sarah. Sarah, dressed in a red worsted gown with black ruffles, told her mother that she was going to visit with her grandmother, who lived south of town. That was the first lie Sarah ever told her mother, for she was really going to meet the Campbell boys. Then, with Tucker, Stewart Campbell and a third man she started out towards Flatonia. But she never reached her destination. Somewhere between Moulton and Flatonia, the three men riddled her with bullets from head to foot, and after scalping her, hung her from a tree. Then they hid her broken body beneath a heap of wood and logs, and left her there to rot.

“It was nine days later when two small boys, who were searching for some hogs saw a buzzard fly up from a spot nearby. Thinking the hogs could be found there, the two boys walked in that direction, and in a clump of dense woods, they stumbled upon the body, or what was left of the body, of Sarah Curry.

“Meanwhile, when asked about the Curry girl, the Campbell boys claimed they had left her in Flatonia. But Mrs. Curry, the girl’s mother, knew that something had happened to her daughter, for Sarah had promised to be home before dark on the day she disappeared. The high sheriff, Jim Bennett, was suspicious of the Campbell boys too, so when Tucker rode into town one night, the sheriff and his brother placed him under arrest for further questioning. Then Mrs. Curry, determined to know what had become of her daughter, made up her mind to ride on horseback to Flatonia to see if Sarah were really there, as the Campbell boys had claimed.

“The sheriff, feeling uneasy about the safety of Mrs. Curry’s traveling alone, accompanied her to Flatonia with a number of his men. As they were returning to Hallettsville, after Sarah was nowhere to be found in Flatonia, the sheriff caught sight of a rider galloping swiftly away on his horse. ‘You see,’ he told Mrs. Curry, ‘I had a feeling that you weren’t all too safe. That man riding away over there is Stewart Campbell. He was aiming to ambush and kill you on your way home, until he saw that you weren’t alone.’

“A few days had passed, when Stewart, pretty frightened by now, came riding into town. But before he knew what had happened, the sheriff and his posse confronted him with guns in hand, and took him to jail. Although it looked hopeless for the Campbell boys, they weren’t licked yet. Steward sent for General Bagby to come and plead his case. The general was blunt and straight to the point, and he told Stewart, ‘If you can bring Sarah Curry back home the way she was when she left, I’ll defend you.’ ‘I can’t, replied Stewart, ‘she’s dead.’ Then the general roared, ‘Well then you’ll hang, man!’

“And that’s exactly what happened to Tucker and Stewart Campbell. They were hung near Peach Creek by a group of men from this community. It wasn’t so easy with the third man though. He tried to make a run for it, but the sheriff caught up with him near the Mexican border, and he was hung on the spot.

“Sarah was buried somewhere near Moulton, and the graves of the Campbell boys can be found in the old City Cemetery here,” said Miss Curry, concluding her story. Miss Curry is now in her seventy-sixth year, but her memory is still fresh with happenings of by-gone days. She lives in a small two-room house near Moore’s Swimming Pool, and can be seen walking to town for her daily needs during the week.

© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary December 9, 2010 Column
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