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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Cannonball's Tales"

JACK CROSS, TEXAS KILLER

By W. T. Block

Most Texans of today think of their Lone Star state as having been a haven for killers, fleeing from American justice. And it was true, for if a criminal could cross the Sabine River, it was easy to lose one's self in the vastness of Texas.

Jack Cross was as vicious and cold-blooded a killer as Texas ever produced, but he quickly found it necessary to reverse directions, that is, to flee to Louisiana from Texas jusice.

Cross was living in San Antonio late in 1855 when he got into a argument in a saloon. He killed a man that was unarmed, and was soon locked up, charged with murder. Later he bribed a jailor to let him escape and he fled to Nueces County.

A few weeks later, Cross attempted to hold up a stage coach near Corpus Christi, and he ended up killing both drivers. A passenger had recognized Cross, and soon after he was dodging wanted posters, charging him with murder in both Bexar and Nueces counties.

Hence he decided to flee eastward to escape Texas justice, and luckily for him he was able to become a drover with a trail herd from Calhoun County, bound for the New Orleans market. One warm afternoon late in May, 1856, Cross and the other herd drovers swam their cattle across the Neches River at Tevis Ferry in Beaumont.

Upon reaching Orange, Cross discovered that the frontier village was divided into two armed camps, one of them, about 70 Regulators, being led by Sheriff Edward Glover, John Moore and other allies of several wealthy Mulatto cattlemen. Ironically Jack Cross joined up with about 50 Moderators, who labeled themselves as the "party of law and order."

Unknown to anyone, Sheriff Glover and Moore comprised for 20 years the most successful counterfeiting ring in frontier Texas, making fake land clertificates, silver dollars made of lead, Mexican pesos, and American banknotes that were virtually undetectable.

On the afternoon of June 15, 1856, a few Moderators were in front of the Casino Saloon on Front Street when 2 men, suspected of being Regulators, rode up. Soon Bennet Thomas, believed to be a Regulator, quarreled with Willis Bonner, a Moderator, and killed him in a shootout on Front Street. An hour later, Jack Cross clashed with Burwell Alexander, a Regulator, and shot him through the neck. As a physician, Dr. Andrew Mairs, knelt to tend to his friend's wound, Cross walked up and shot the doctor in back of the head.

Later the Moderators rode north out of Orange and broke into a log cabin, where the surprised Sheriff Glover, John Moore and others were hiding. When the Moderators discovered the "Sabine bogus mint," the strong box where Moore kept his counterfeiting equipment, Moore quickly drew his pistol, but Cross cut him down with a single bullet. When Glover refused to surrender, Cross shot him through the head. Tired of the killings, the Moderators released the other Regulators, upon their promise to cross Sabine River and never return.

Jack Cross then continued his flight eastward to Lake Charles, La., where he quarreled with a prominent citizen named Jake Morrison in a saloon and killed him. Cross was again charged with murder and locked up in the town's loghouse jail. That night, friends of Morrison overpowered the jailor and hanged Cross to a live oak tree limb on the courthouse lawn. Thus, as one old proverb foretold, Cross, who "had lived by the sword, also died by the sword."

W. T. Block, Jr.
"Cannonball's Tales" >

July 10, 2006 column
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