The Brown Family: When Vigilantism Turns to Outright Murder

Texas Vigilantes

Texas Vigilantes

George Brown, Sr., and his sons, George Jr.,  Andrew and Jesse, along with others, evidently started out as vigilantes in the wild west of Texas, but soon began to abuse the power of justice and went on a murdering rampage over several years before being convicted. George, Jr. and Andrew were eventually hung for their crimes, but not before 14  people were murdered.

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The Gainesville Gazette contains the following shocking narrative: “Monday, Nov. 2d, three men went to the house of the Estes brothers — three bachelor brothers living together — at Post Oak Tavern, Montague county, and there took breakfast, after which the strangers took two of the Estes brothers out and murdered them about one-half a mile from the tavern, and left. The same night, while friends were sitting up with the corpses, the same party that murdered the two brothers returned and dragged the remaining brother out of the house, a distance of fifty yards, and there murdered him. The parties were unknown to the citizens of the country in which the murders were committed. The Estes brothers, report sayeth, bore an unenviable reputation.”

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 12 Nov 1874

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The Denison News contains the following account of a terrible crime: “Wednesday night, the 15th of April, a party of eleven men surrounded the house of a widow woman named Mrs. Morrow, or Marrow, and commenced firing at the building, and through the windows and doors. It is estimated by those in the neighborhood that thirty-five or forty shots were fired, thirty of which it was found the next morning had struck the house. Mrs. Morrow was hit three times, one bullet taking effect in the right shoulder, one struck her in the leg, and the third hit her in the small of the back, penetrating the bowels, which last proved fatal. She lived an hour, or an hour and a half. A physician was summoned, but he could render no assistance. There are two suppositions given to account for the cowardly attack on Mrs. Morrow– one is based upon a rumor that she was cognizant of certain persons having been engaged in stealing horses, and had threatened to expose them; another that she is the only witness of the killing of her husband, which occurred about a year ago. A man who was also a witness was either put out of the way or induced to leave the country not long since. The murderers are still at large.”

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 07 May 1875

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The North-West learns from Mr. Johns that developments have recently occurred in Montague county that implicate a family of Browns, consisting of George and George Brown Jr., Jesse and An?a Brown, living near Red River, as the murderers of Rat Morrow and wife, a man by the name of Bachelor and a Mr. McClain. Some of these murders were committed near two years ago, but no certain clue to the murders had been obtained. Recently some domestic difficulties occurred resulting in one of the Brown’s wives leaving her husband, and threatening to revenge herself for wrongs she has endured by informing the public who were the murderers. This determined the murdering party to protect themselves by putting her out of the way, and one of the number was ordered to kill her. He refusing to obey, became another dangerous element, and was sentenced to a like fate. He flew to the authorities for protection and the secret was out.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 04 Oct 1876

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The Gainesville Gazette gives the following account of the wholesale assassinations which have prevailed for three years in Montague county: Three years ago R?t Marrow and the Brown family and several other parties living near Burlington, in Montague county, on the beef trail, got into a dispute about some cattle, and a short time afterward R?t Marrow was killed. Mrs. Marrow, the only witness to the murder of her husband, had the parties indicted. Threats against her life were made, and finally her house was burned and her body riddled with bullets. Some of the neighbors who took sides with the Marrows, shared similar fates–among whom were the three Easters brothers, who were killed in August, 1874,– Bachelor, whose headless body was found in Red River about a year ago, Kozier, whose body has never been found, but supposed to have been thrown into Red River, and a young man named McLain, killed last spring. Several parties who were witnesses to some of these bloody deeds have been intimidated and driven out of the country, and for this reason it has not been known until recently who were engaged in the murders. The citizens had a meeting a few weeks since, and from their movements a man by the name of Barris became uneasy and made some remarks that caused them to believe he was implicated. In the meantime, he had a falling-out with his comrades, and fearing that for knowing too much he would be put out of the way also, he went to some citizens and told them that if they would protect him he would tell who were the guilty parties, which they agreed to, and he gave the names of quite a number of individuals. Two of whom, Jesse Brown and Geo. Brown, Sen., have been arrested and put in jail; the others are still at large. Barris, who is a relative of the Browns, was also engaged in the murders, but says he was forced to it from threats. Great excitement prevails, and it is feared Barris will also be killed if not closely guarded.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 05 Oct 1876

The Ben Kribbs (Krebs) mentioned below will get his own post. It is quite a spectacular (and not in a good way)  story as well.

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
Ben Kribbs, the principal in the terrible murder of the England family in Montague county, has been tried and sentenced to death. The jury were out only five minutes. He appealed…..Geo. Brown, murderer of Robert S. Morrow, three years ago, has been sentenced to be hung, but also appealed.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 23 Nov 1876

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The sheriff of Montague county, assisted by twelve rangers, brought down six Montague county prisoners to Gainesville last week, and lodged them in the Gainesville jail for safe keeping. The prisoners are all charged with murder, two of whom — Cribs and Brown — have been tried, and found guilty of murder in the first degree. They are waiting the decision of the Appellate Court.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 21 Dec 1876

COOKE COUNTY.
Gainsville Gazette: From Mr. J.D. Taylor we received the following list of prisoners now confined in our county jail: From Denton–T.E. Bailey, charged with theft; John Russell, arson; A.G. Hall, theft; D.B. Deason, forgery; C.F. Mack, theft; Wm. Lunsford, theft; Geo. McDonald, (col.) assault. Montague County — Geo. Brown, A.J. Brown, Jessee Brown, Jessee Brown Jr., L.P. Preston, B. Kribbs, murder. Cooke County — J.G. Swaggerty, assault to murder; J.W. Roberson, murder; B.A. Cameron, swindling; Joe Johnson, J.W. Hughes, J. Robertson, Charles Shole, theft; W.D. Brown, assault to murder; Frank Widener, aggravated assault; J.A. Carrol, arson; Frank Kidd, drunkeness. Clay County — John Reed, Charles Holder, (col.) murder.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 11 Jan 1877

DENTON.
Monitor The court of appeals having affirmed the decision of our district court in the George Brown and Andrew Brown cases, those murderers will be hanged in Denton. They were charged with committing several murders in Montague county, but got a change of venue to Denton county.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) 04 Jun 1879

A final account(s) will follow this initial post, and will give lots of details about the various murders and the fates of the accused and convicted. The article is a long one, so I may break it up into more than one post.

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6 Responses to “The Brown Family: When Vigilantism Turns to Outright Murder”

  1. Kathy Says:

    how do I get the fnal accounts as detailed in the last paragraph?

  2. mrstkdsd Says:

    Did you read this post?

    The Brown Brothers: Execution Day

    https://yesteryearsnews.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/the-brown-brothers-execution-day/

    I think that is the follow-up I was referring to when I posted this.

  3. Kelly Says:

    Wow! And Whew! Thank goodness Andrew didn’t have his wife Elizabeth J. Brown nee Hart killed or I wouldn’t have gotten to read nor type this.
    I’ll be sticking all these “leaves” on his branch, thank you very much and nice job getting the info out there. :0)

  4. Sandie L Prater Says:

    Hello, would you happen to know which town in Montague County this happened in ? I have had a family story passed down to me that matches this pretty closely. They lived in Burlington in 1875. The town’s name was changed to Spanish Fort in 1877. My Great Grandfather died there June 2 1875 from someone coming into their home in the middle of the night to rob them. My Gr. Grandfather fought with the man and the man shot and killed him but his wife grabbed a shotgun and shot and killed the robber. I have been trying for many years to prove this story but not finding to many newspaper stories from this area from 1875. This town did not get a newspaper until 1889. Any advice or direction you could point me in would be greatly appreciated. I am taking a road trip to Spanish Fort, Montague Co. TX this weekend. This town is located about a mile from the red river and was the last town before crossing into Indian Territory on the Chisholm Trail. So the cowboys would come into town for a night of drinking and woman before hitting the trail again. It is a Ghost Town now, but there are some head stones still there that I want to get pics of and some i want to look for to see if i can find where that ol grandpa is buried.

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