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 Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

Yoakum's Soda-Pop War

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
It seems that people will often fight over some mighty ridiculous things. I remember a while back seeing a story, in the Hallettsville paper from well over 100 years ago, where a fellow shot and killed his partner just for playing the wrong domino. People in the old days took things pretty seriously, to say the least.

Not long ago, while researching some old issues of the Halletsville Herald (they spelled Hallettsville with one "t" back then), I came across several articles about two men in Yoakum who were competitors in the manufacture and sale of soft drinks. They both kept cutting prices until it got to the point where neither of them could make a profit and each one blamed the other for the problem.

It was only a matter of time before the competitors, J.N. Fagg and C.A. Pelzer, would have a physical confrontation. Both of the men published their views in the Yoakum Times newspaper and as was bound to happen, they came face-to-face on a city street one day and the fight was on.

The newspaper article described it this way: "The two met on Grand Avenue in front of E. Grieder's Saloon. No sooner did they get in speaking distance till one spoke to the other in a harsh manner, the other responded with his good right arm and a fight was on. Fagg being the heaviest and strongest punished Pelzer severely, striking him heavy blows."

The newspaper reported that Pelzer put up a good fight but Fagg was just too overpowering for him to handle. Like something out of a John Wayne movie, the soda-pop competitors slugged it out all the way down the dusty street until they were in front of John McCarty's Saloon.

It was at this point in the scrap that Pelzer found his wagon and the gun which was concealed under the seat. Fagg, who had anticipated Pelzer going for a weapon, stood in the doorway of McCarty's Saloon and drew his own .45 six-shooter firing twice at his adversary. Both bullets struck Pelzer's wagon but missed him completely. At this point police officers W.P. Davis and Holly Ray placed the two men under arrest.

This ruckus was reported in the August 10, 1899, issue of the Hallettsville paper and after placing the aged article in my files I thought that was the end of the story. But lo and behold, the next paper I researched was the August 17, 1899, edition and there I spotted the headline titled: "Assassinated!"

With that kind of emphatic headline, I had to read on and it didn't take but one paragraph for me to realize that the soda-water boys were at it again. According to the paper: "Yoakum was the scene of an assassination last night. J.N. Fagg, who has been doing a soda water business in Yoakum, is the victim and the assassin, at the time of this writing is unknown."

Fagg was leader of the Yoakum band and was instructing one of his students upstairs over a steam laundry when he decided to go downstairs. Witnesses said that he hardly had time to get downstairs when they heard the bark of a .45 six shooter and someone utter the words, "there now." Again, the story was picked up by the Halletsville Herald from the Yoakum Times. The Yoakum paper ran the piece on August 12.

Although the paper said the assassin was "unknown," it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the killer's identity. And later in the paper I found the obvious; "Deputy Ike Griffith's blood hounds were secured from Shiner and runners were sent to Halletsville," reported the Yoakum Times. "Deputy Smothers reached Yoakum early Saturday morning."

They even brought in bloodhounds from Gonzales. The article stated: "The Shiner dogs took a round-a-bout trail and after taking a circuitous route halted in front of Adam Pelzer's home. This was done twice. The Gonzales dogs did likewise, but lost the track a few steps from Pelzer's home. Pelzer was arrested on suspicion and is in jail here."

So far, I haven't found any information about any trial being held or just what became of Mr. Pelzer but one thing is clear; it didn't take much for a fellow to kill another in the old days, and they would fight for some mighty peculiar reasons.
Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary >
January 24, 2007 Column

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