The England Family Murders

texas-state-pen

Ben Krebbs/Krebs/Kribbs/Cribbs was mentioned in one of the news articles posted in “The Brown Family: When Vigilantism Turns to Outright Murder posted on Dec. 30, 2008.  This is a tragic story, in more ways than one, which will become apparent in the follow-up post to this one.

Here are the initial news articles about the murders and convictions:

MONTAGUE COUNTY.
There were seven persons murdered six miles south of the town of Montague on Saturday night by parties in disguise. The persons murdered are Rev. W.G. England, his wife, a step-daughter and four step-sons. They were murdered with knives. The opinion prevails that they were murdered for money, as the family was known to be well off, having just completed a fine house. Mr. England was a Methodist preacher. The mother was shot but still survives at last accounts. No cause has yet been heard for the fiendish outrage. The family once lived in Grayson county.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Sep 2, 1876

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MONTAGUE COUNTY.
The particulars of the fiendish murder of a whole family in the Montague county were printed in the News last week. Mrs. England has since died, but stated before her death that Ben. Cribs, a neighbor, was one of the murderers. He has been arrested, but bitterly denies the charge. The excitement is high, and it is thought Cribs will be lynched.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Sep 5, 1876

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The Decatur Tribune very truly says:

The good people of Montague county deserve credit for not lynching the murderers of the England family. For black-hearted fiendishness that certainly far outstripped any crime which has ever been committed in this country, and the proof was positive, yet the people preferred to permit the law to assert her supremacy. All praise is due the people of that county for their action in the matter. County Attorney Matlock, as soon as he heard of the murder, repaired to the scene and was not long in taking in the whole situation, had the guilty parties arrested and used his official and personal influence to prevent violence.

This wholesale assassination exceeds anything ever known in Texas for atrocity, excepting the acts of the Indians.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Oct 6, 1876

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MONTAGUE COUNTY.
Ben Kribbs, charged with being the principal in the murder of the England family, an account of which a few months ago, was put upon trial at the recent session of the District Court of Montague county, and found guilty of murder in the first degree and his punishment assessed at death. Preston and Taylor, also indicted with Kribbs for the same foul murder, succeeded in having their cases continued to the next term of the district court, when it is confidently expected they will meet the same fate of their dastardly leader. The defendants were represented by Griggsby & Willis, and the State by F.E. Piner, of Denton, and Mr. Matlock, County Attorney of Montague county.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Nov 30, 1876

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…Captital Conviction…
(Special Telegram to the News)
SHERMAN, Feb 17. — Kribbs, who murdered the England family, of husband, wife, son and daughter, in Montague county, Texas, in 1876, has just been convicted of murder in the first degree in Cook county district court, where the case was taken on change of venue, and will swing in a short time. The jury were out only twenty minutes. The criminal is described as a small, sunken-eyed, shallow-pated and hardened-looking wretch.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Feb 18, 1879

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Important Cases Affirmed.
The court of appeals yesterday affirmed the judgement in the James Preston and Ben Krebs cases, for the murder of the England family in Montague county on the 26th day of August, 1876, A full statement of which was published in the News at the time. On the trial of this cause a change of venue was granted to Cook county, where the appellants, together with Edward Taylor, were convicted of murder in the first degree, and the death penalty assessed on Preston and Krebs, while Taylor was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. On appeal to the court of appeals the judgement in Taylor’s case was affirmed, but in the case of Preston and Krebs it was reversed and remanded. On a new trial in the same county they were again convicted of murder in the first degree, and the death penalty assessed, which judgement was yesterday affirmed, and will be carried out unless the governor interferes. The family murdered by them consisted of four persons– the old man, his wife, a daughter and son, the latter of whom was to have been married in three days. So far as the record shows, this murder was wholly unprovoked.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Feb 15, 1880

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Krebs and Preston En Route to Huntsville
(Special Telegram to the News)
DENISON, April 29.– Calhoun, agent for Cunningham & Ellis, lessees? of the state penitentiary, arrived in this city on the 11 o’clock train from Gainesville, with Krebs and Preston, convicted of the murder of the England family. They were placed in the city jail until 8 p.m., when Calhoun took them to the train of the Houston and Texas Central, and left with them for Houston. It is said that a large number of persons from Montague county arrived in Gainesville a few minutes after the train left, and it is supposed their intention was to lynch Krebs and Preston. The indignation of the people of Montague, the county where the atrocious murder was committed, and also in adjacent counties, at the commutation is intense, and mainly directed against judge Carroll. Your correspondent interviewed the prisoners while in the Denison jail. Krebs is 52 years of age, a native of Switzerland, and has lived on the frontier for more than thirty years. Preston is 56 years of age, a native of Tennessee, and had only been in Texas a few years when the murder was committed. Both are emphatic in their declarations of innocence. Preston seemed to be well pleased with the commutation, while Krebs says the governor did not do him any great favor, as he would much prefer to die than stay in jail the balance of his life.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Apr 30, 1880

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Bendicht Krebs and James Preston–convicted for the massacre of the England family in Montague county, on the 25th? day of August, 1876….
The death penalty in the case of Krebs and Preston was commuted on the 24th instant by the governor to a life term in the penitentiary.

THE SENTENCE

was the most solemn and impressive scene ever witnessed in the courts of the state. The court-room was crowded with spectators– many ladies being amongst the number. The three doomed prisoners–one in the hey-day of manhood, and two past the meridian of life– were led into court, heavily ironed, and seated in front of awe-impressing? judge. The court having solemnly recited a brief statement of the proceedings in their several cases, addressed James Preston and asked him what he had to say why the extreme penalty of the law should not be pronounced against him. The prisoner, rising from his seat, spoke deliberately as follows:

“I am fully sensible that I can say nothing now that would be effective, but I can not permit the opportunity to pass without saying that I know I am innocent, and that though my life is forfeited, I thank God that this conscious knowledge of innocence can not be destroyed.”

Taking his seat, Krebs was next addressed with the same question. He arose and, with a tremor of emotion in his voice, said:

“It is true that I have been legally convicted. I would like to say much on the subject, but will not now do so, because I am not so familiar with the language as to make myself correctly understood. Besides that infirmity, I know that what I should say would not abate? the sentence of the law. I see a large company here present, and I want to say to the court, in the hearing of the country, that I am not the murderer of the England family, and that the perpetrators of that crime are not here.”

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 1, 1880

Are Preston and Krebs lying to save their skin, or telling the truth?

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2 Responses to “The England Family Murders”

  1. heather Says:

    im trying to do reasearch on this particular event in history, but im unable to find any reliable facts on it, are there any particular sources i could use for help?

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