Archive for August, 2009

William Smearman Murdered With a Sticking Knife

August 31, 2009
Original Image from

Original Image from

William Smearman, of Huntingdon, was stabbed at a camp meeting near Newton Hamilton on Thursday while quelling a disturbance, and died soon afterward.

Daily Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) Aug 26, 1884

Smearman murdered NYT aug 22 1884 copy

The PDF of the above article can be found HERE


HUNTINGDON, PA, Jan 18 — The case of Curtin McClain, of Orbisonia, this county, who was tried at Lewistown last week for the killing of Wm. Smearman, of this city, at the Newton Hamilton camp meeting last August, the jury at a late hour last night returned a verdict of murder in the first degree. The general expectation was that the verdict would be of a less degree.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Jan 15, 1885


Escaped from Mifflin County Jail.

William Prindle, of Belleville, held for horse stealing; Ben Taylor, a negro, held for disorderly conduct, and two Germans, charged with highway robbery escaped from the Mifflin county jail, at Lewistown, last night. The two first named have been retaken, but the Germans are still at large. Curtin McClain, under sentence of death for the murder of William Smearman, had an opportunity to escape with them, but refused to go.

Daily Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) Aug 13, 1885


Gov. Pattison of Pennsylvania has fixed the 19th of November next for the execution of Curtin McClain, under sentence of death for the murder of William Smearman, in a brawl at a camp-meeting last year.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Sep 24, 1885

scales of justice

McClain to be imprisoned for Life.

The pardon board held a secret meeting on Thursday last, at which the members reviewed the new evidence in the Curtin McClain case, convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged. At noon they decided to recommend a commutation of the death sentence to imprisonment for life. They are all of the opinion that he committed the act, but that it was not done at a time to justify a verdict of murder in the first degree. The action of the board knocks out the decision of the supreme as well as the lower court and the jury.

The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Nov 5, 1885


By Associated Press.

Harrisburg, May 17. The Board of Pardons recommended pardons today for Curtain McClain, of Orbisonia, serving a life sentence in the Western penitentiary for murder; John Kelly, of Susquehanna, voluntary manslaughter; William H. Trout, of Lebanon, larceny; J.C. Fox, Allegheny, misdemeanor; John Keller, Allegheny, larceny.

The board refused to commute to life imprisonment the sentence of Frank J. Krause, of Allentown, and commuted that of William Hinchliffe, of Philadelphia.

Daily Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) May 18,  1900



The deal was closed late Saturday for the sale of the Newton Hamilton camp meeting grounds to the McVey Real Estate Company, for $8,000. The purchase includes the buildings and grove of virgin white oak timber, which will be cut and converted into lumber and the plot of ground sold as building lots.

The plot has been the site of annual camp meetings of the Methodists of the Juniata valley for half a century and was one of the great show places of the valley. In fact it was often a grave question whether the good done at these sessions overbalanced the evil until 1882, when Curtin McClain, of Orbinsonia, killed William Smearsman, of Huntingdon, with a butcher knife in a drunken brawl on the grounds, after which it dwindled to almost nothing. Of late years it has been used chiefly as a summer resort, the cottages being rented for the summer.

Clearfield Progress (Clearfield, Pennsylvania) May 6, 1920



820 North 16th St., Harrisburg, Pa.

Hugh Brown, we are told, obtained a warrant for a tract of land in 1762 upon which the borough of Newton Hamilton is situated, but apparently some attempt at settlement was made shortly as the name of Muhlenberg was given to the locality back in Provincial days. The record shows that after Brown’s death the land then passed to Margaret Hamilton, as she was assessed with sixty acres in 1783. Probably the name was changed to Hamiltonville about this time, then to Newton Hamilton about 1828 when the locality saw boom times by construction of the Juniata Canal. In that year the settlement is said to have consisted of but four log huts, but erection of a number of inns, stores and homes soon followed.

Camp Meeting Grounds Established 1872

A hundred and ten years after Brown’s warrant a stock company was organized with a capital of $16,500 for the purchase of thirty-six acres of land nearby and erection of suitable buildings thereon for the purpose of holding annual camp meetings. Thus the

Juniata Valley Camp Meeting grounds came into existence.

These meetings, which were held for ten days each August, always drew a heavy attendance from all parts of Pennsylvania, and on Sundays excursion trains were operated from such distances as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, when thousands of visitors crowded the village and camp grounds.

Unfortunately, many who came had no thought of attending services held upon the grounds and a lawless and vicious element who became intoxicated, caroused and insulted women and children and defied all attempts to enforce law and order, was always certain to be in town.

Huntingdon Man Was Murder Victim

On August 21, 1884, a group of young men from Orbisonia came to Newton Hamilton under the influences of liquor and continued indulging to such an extent that all became exceptionally boisterous and belligerent. Soon afterwards they were observed starting from the “sheep-pen” (an enclosure built near the station to permit control of crowds in boarding trains) in pursuit of some young fellow who dashed towards the woods in an effort to escape. The young man was William Smearman, of Huntingdon. The cause of the difficulty was never explained fully and subsequent developments showed that Smearman bore an excellent reputation in his home town and had never engaged in altercations of any kind. However, he was apparently overtaken and his lifeless body, found soon afterwards, indicated he had been stabbed to death.

Undeniable evidence was promptly uncovered, pointing to Curtin McClain of Orbisonia as the slayer, and Constable McElhone and Editor B.E. Morrison of Newton Hamilton arrested McClain at his home on the following day. En route to Lewistown, McElhone and Morrison found it necessary to leave the East Broad Top train approaching Mount Union and proceed a short distance along the Pennsylvania Railroad, where an eastbound train was instructed to take them on board, as it was feared McClain would be lynched upon arrival in Mount Union. With the prisoner lodged in jail at Lewistown, Sheriff Garett departed the next day for Orbisonia and arrested three of McClain’s comrades who were implicated in the crime.

The murder of Smearman, occurring upon grounds set aside for religious activities, came as a distinct shock to the people of Pennsylvania as many papers of the state had carried a daily account of proceedings at the camp grounds by reason of unusual interest manifested by their readers. The tragic affair came on the closing day of the season, causing some speculation as to whether the annual event could survive and if the terrible happening would lead directors of the association to announce its abandonment.

McClain Found Guilty; Sentence Commuted To Life Imprisonment

McClain’s trial before Judge Bucher in Lewistown in January, 1885, brought out that Smearman had left a widow and two small children, the youngest but a few months old, and the accused had made a confession which his attorneys tried to have expunged. The district attorney was aided by R.M. Speer of Huntingdon. The jury, after being out many hours, returned a verdict of murder in the first degree against McClain.

A request for a new trial by attorneys Andrew Reed and F.H. Culbertson was refused by Judge Bucher on March 26. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court (the Superior Court had not been created), who likewise refused the appeal in June 1885.

Various attempts were then made to have the Board of Pardons review the case for the purpose of commuting McClain’s sentence to life imprisonment — Governor Pattison had set the date of execution for November 21, 1885 — and in this they were successful.

The following excerpt is taken from the Board’s findings:

“The evidence discovered since the trial and sentence presents a case not free from difficulty, and while the new evidence serves in some degree to raise a doubt as to whether the killing was not in a conflict under great excitement and hot blood, and before reason had sufficient time to resume her sway, it does not raise that character of doubt that if we were sitting as jurors would require us to acquit the prisoner or even to reduce its degree, but on the contrary, the weight of the evidence submitted still leaves us with the belief that the prisoner inflicted the fatal wounds, and that he is a man so reckless of the rights of others as to be dangerous to the peace and order of society. But remembering that we are not to overlook the fact that a refusal by us now to act would consign the prisoner to death, we feel that at such a time and under all the circumstances of merciful exercise of our jurisdiction, to recommend the commutation of his sentence to that of imprisonment for life.”

It will be noted that the Board of Pardons, while finding little to justify commutation for McClain, did not wish to assume responsibility for his execution. Smearman, it was claimed, had struck McClain in the mouth, thereby arousing the latter’s anger which led to the slaying. Such an alibi would have appeared weak indeed against the fact that McClain had purchased the knife which was used to kill Smearman, just the day before in Orbisonia. This fact showed beyond all doubt the vicious intention of the slayer, who deliberately sought a quarrel.

Tragedy Claimed Another Life

The tragedy had claimed the life of another, however. Two months before McClain’s sentence was commuted Henry Smearman, aged 27, died from grief over the loss of his brother. He also resided in Huntingdon and likewise left a young widow and two daughters.

McClain was taken to the Western Penitentiary with previous assurance by his friends that good conduct would greatly aid his chances for a pardon. The writer is unaware if any such efforts had been made before 1896, when, according to the Pittsburgh Times of January 4, a determined effort was started in McClain’s behalf by James M. Place, a publisher from Harrisburg, who was said to have been a friend of the McClain family.

According to the Times, Place claimed his search for evidence during the intervening ten years disclosed that McClain had not committed the murder; that he was not even in any fight upon the camp grounds; the slayer was a person who had promptly left the country and he (Place) would furnish the name of the guilty one. Place’s statement brought a quick response from Editor Morrison, editor of the Newton Hamilton Watchman, previously recalled who said:

“The statement (Place’s) of McClain is pure fabrication. ****Curtin McClain bought the butcher knife, was seen with the butcher knife in his possession on the steamboat at Newton Hamilton and on or near where the murder was committed. And McClain was proven to be the man who started the fight. Furthermore, McClain confessed to the writer, who was one of the officers that brought him from Orbisonia, that he killed Smearman because he (Smearman) hit him in the mouth. If McClain was put on trial again there is positive proof, by newly discovered evidence, that he was the identical man that committed the cowardly deed, and none other. We trust that the law will be allowed to take its course, regardless of Mr. Place’s efforts to free a cold-blooded murderer.”

Whether Morrison’s outburst served in balking the plan to free McClain is unknown to your chronicler, who made an effort to learn the outcome. However, during a visit to the home of Mr. and Mrs. D.P. Bowman of Orbisonia the past Summer, the closing act in McClain’s career was unfolded.

Pardon Granted McClain

Mrs. Bowman produced a clipping from “The Grit” of May 19, 1900, captioned, “McClain Is Pardoned,” and telling how the prisoner had been granted freedom by the Board of Pardons a few days earlier. “The Grit,” in quoting a special correspondent from Harrisburg said:

“Curtin McClain yesterday had the stigma of murderer removed from him. The Board of Pardons recommended his pardon by the Governor, and the Executive, in response has caused to issue the document that restores this young man to freedom, and to his friends, but alas! not to his aged mother, who firm in her belief in his innocence of the crime of which he was convicted over 15 years ago, had labored and lived in the hope of seeing justice done her son, only to totter to the grave disappointed in the one desire of her life, a few short weeks before the correctness of her faith was made manifest to all the world, and her erring but too severely punished son was released from a felon’s gloomy cell and bidden to walk again in the bright light of the sun, a free man.”

Yes, McClain was freed. James Place and Attorney Culbertson had won another victory for the prisoner through the Board of Pardons. Once could easily sympathize with McClain’s heart-broken mother, but what of the two broken homes in Huntingdon which McClain’s brutal crime had created? In this instance justice did not triumph.

The writer learned from the Bowmans that McClain had gone to some section in Franklin County after his release and nothing further was heard of him.

While the shocking affair left a certain stigma on the Newton Hamilton camp grounds, the management made every effort to have full protection of the camp and a group of guards from Lewistown and Huntingdon was used for this purpose. The annual gatherings apparently lost little patronage as the seasonal visitors continued to tax the grounds and railroad facilities for many years afterwards.

Somewhat curious about McClain’s progress after given his freedom, the writer stopped at the office of the Board of Pardons several months ago. A ledger taken from a vault revealed various steps in the former prisoner’s career from the time of the murder to his release from prison, and here a final line was inscribed, “Granted pardon May 17, 1900,” which concluded all information the office possessed of Curtin McClain.

Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) Dec 8, 1951


If you want to read more about the case: McClain versus Commonwealth, can be found on pages 263-270, in:

Pennsylvania state reports, Volume CX.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania


Cases Argued at January Term, 1885, May Term, 1885, and October and November Term, 1885


According to information found on, after Curtin McClain was released, he lived with his daughter and her family in Cambria Co., PA.  His death record (he died in 1940) states he was a hotel proprietor, one census record lists his occupation as proprietor – confectionery and an earlier one lists labor – hotel.

Judge Roy Bean: The Law West of The Pecos

August 29, 2009

Roy Bean was for ten years in the young days of Texas justice of the peace and coroner of the town of Vinegar Roon, being, as he expressed it, “the law of Texas west of the Pecos.”

He is still living in the town of Langtry, 300 miles west of San Antonio. No man know whence he came. The railroad builders found him away out there on the great desert plains, and when the gamblers and toughs and tenderfeet came along with the first trains and at once proceeded to run the country according to their own notions old Roy Bean declared himself a justice of the peace and boldly announced, “I am the law of Texas west of the Pecos.” It is highly probable that a few people who were in favor of law and order invited the strange character to assume the judicial position and that on account of his desperate courage and fearless judicial demeanor he afterward was appointed to fill the office of justice of the peace.

Early one morning it was reported in the town of Vinegar Roon that a man had fallen from a bridge near the place and that his dead body was lying on the ground close to the water. Roy Bean, as justice of the peace and exofficio coroner, at once summoned a jury. There was no testimony to be taken. The man was a stranger, and it was not easy to determine the cause of his death. He might have fallen from the bridge or he might have been murdered. The coroner searched the dead body, and when he found a pistol in one pocket and $50 in the other he turned to the jury and informed them that in this matter their services were of no value, since it would be necessary for the court to render a verdict without their aid. The court fined the dead man $50 for carrying a pistol and took possession of the money, since the fees of the coroner amounted to just $50, and the body was buried on the lonely prairie at the expense of the county.

Vinegar Roon was named after the most poisonous little reptile that infests the western plains, says the New York Press. It can sting a Gila monster to death in the twinkling of an eye and then turn about and chase a rattlesnake from his den. Chain lightning whisky is no antidote for the poison of the vinegar roon. Roy Bean named the place, and while acting justice of the peace he divided his time between the judicial bench and a roomy saloon and gambling house, where there was none to dispute his authority, for he was sole proprietor.

One fine day a gambler, while in an unusually hilarious mood, sent a pistol ball crashing through the brains of a Chinaman. When the citizens of Vinegar Roon had ceased to celebrate the exit of the Celestial and the funeral solemnities were an affair of the past, the killer was honored with a request to appear at the bar where liquids and justice were dispensed alternately.

The sage who was “the law of Texas west of the Pecos” had evidently devoted some spare moments to the study of his first murder case, for the judgment that was rendered and entered on the docket is certainly without a parallel.

“I have carefully examined the criminal statutes of Texas,” said Roy Bean, “and I find that there is plenty of law to punish one white man for another, but there is no law to punish a citizen of Texas for shooting a Chinaman. In fact, the Chinese are not mentioned in the statutes. The gentleman at the bar stands charged with having shot and killed a Chinaman by the name of Ah Foo. Mr. Ah Foo was unfortunate. He should have remained in his own country. Texas is the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is no place for Mr. Ah Foo or Mr. Ah Sin or Mrs. Ah Sin. Our wise legislators have failed to make laws for the protection of pigtails. Therefore the defendant is discharged, and the costs of this case are assessed against the deceased, Ah Foo, and in case the same cannot be collected in full by the sale of the goods and chattels of the said Ah Foo, or some other Chinaman, it is the order of this court that a copy of these proceedings be made and forwarded to the United States minister in China, and by these presents he is authorized to collect said costs from the emperor of China. The defendant is discharged.”

One day a man with an immense sombrero above his long, tangled hair and an arsenal at his belt appeared at Vinegar Roon, declaring that he had just stopped over to have a little recreation.

“I have been spending a few weeks in San Antonio,” he said, “and my shooting irons were getting rusty.”

After taking a few drinks at the bar he began to berate the mild and feeble qualities of the liquids offered for sale in the infant city.

“Give me a little tarantula juice with a real vinegar roon floating around in it!” shouted this Arizona terror.

“All right,” calmly replied the old behind the bar. “I think we can accommodate you, but you will have to wait a few moments.”

“Well, get up the beverage,” roared the terror, “and I’ll amuse myself during the delay by dropping a few bullets around promiscuously among the lamps and bottles and sich things.”

“As you please,” suavely replied the old man. “I like to see a stranger enjoy himself.”

The terror glanced at the polite barkeeper rather suspiciously, but he never once dreamed that he was talking to old Roy Bean.

Fairly chuckling with suppressed merriment, old Roy went out on the plains only a few steps from his saloon and after turning over two or three rocks he got a big tarantula and a monster vinegar roon. After mashing the heads of the poisonous reptiles he returned to the barroom, entering the door just as the terror with a wild Comanche yell began to rain lead among the bottle and glasses.

As the patrons of the house started through the doors and windows in confusion, old Roy shouted:

“Keep your seats, gentlemen. This infant cyclone will be of sort duration.”

The next instant the terror found himself standing on his head and his weapons were falling upon the floor. Mr. Bean held the amazed man in that position until an accomplished bartender had filled a large beer glass with pure alcohol, and then he reversed the terror as if he had been handling a toy.

“Now, look here, stranger,” said Mr. Bean, in tender but deceptive tones, “you have been finding fault with the quality of my whisky and you have seen proper, to satisfy your fastidious taste, to order a peculiar drink which I have taken the trouble to prepare for you.”

The terror turned his white face toward the bar, and when he saw a tarantula and a vinegar roon floating about in a tumbler of alcohol he uttered a groan of distress and his knees began to tremble.

“There is the peculiar drink and trimmings that you ordered, young man, and my name is Roy Bean,” said the old man, as he pushed the trembling terror toward the bar.

The amazed and thoroughly alarmed stranger found voice enough to beg for mercy.

“Drink every drop of it or I will break your neck,” said Judge Bean.

The poor devil gulped down the awful mixture and with a scream of terror sprang out into the street. He “hit the earth a-running,” and he never slackened his speed until the town of Vinegar Roon was far behind him. It is supposed that the man’s stomach instantly rejected the fearful poison, for he lied to tell of his experience in Vinegar Ron, though he said there was not gold enough in the world to hire him to revisit the place.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Oct 6, 1900


What the Newspapers Throughout Texas Are Talking About.

The Uvalde News says:

Last Monday Harry Webb, one of the Southern Pacific barge men, to amuse himself brought crackers to feed Judge Bean’s immense bear. The animal would come to the end of the chain, receive a cracker and turn a somersault, to Mr. Webb’s infinite amusement. Judge Bean finally remonstrated, telling the man to go out and “monkey with the donkeys,” as they wouldn’t hurt him. Mr. Webb bought another dollar’s worth of crackers and fed the long-eared animals for a time, but protested there was no fun in that and returned to Bruin, who, no doubt, was feeling injured. Finally a cracker was dropped and Webb stooped over to pick it up. The bear thought he intended taking it away from him and reached over with his mighty paw, caught the man back of the head, and pulled him into the ring. He tore the man’s scalp off, from neck to crown, as cleanly as an Indian could have done it, and was proceeding to further deeds of destruction when Judge Bean, attracted by the victim’s frantic yell, uttered a war whoop and landed directly on the bear’s back. The animal knew his master and cowed instantly.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jul 27, 1891


A Judge Arrested for Smuggling

SAN ANTONIO, Tex., Aug. 24. — Judge Roy Bean, of Langley, has been arrested for smuggling. It is alleged that he has been concerned in running horses from Mexico into the United States. He is one of the most celebrated characters of the frontier, and has been justice of the peace for many years. He has been accustomed to enforce his ruling with the six-shooter. Once when justice of the peace in Bexar county he sentenced a man to death by hanging for horse stealing, and the criminal would have hanged if not for the intervention of the officers from San Antonio. Bean is 60 years old and wealthy.

Mitchell Daily Republican (Mitchell, South Dakota) Aug 24, 1891


Judge Roy Bean Disposes Of a Big Docket.

Langtry, Tex., May 19. — Judge Roy Bean, chief justice of the district of Vinegaroon and the hero of many a thrilling border experience in court and camp, has recently been entertaining Judge Falvey of El Paso, whom he enlightened as to the practical and effective methods of dealing out justice in his jurisdiction. Judge Bean had no long before had as a guest Hon. H.C. Carter of San Antonio, to whom Del Rio lays claim because he embarked upon his professional career there and was at one time county attorney, making a splendid record as a successful and able lawyer.

When Judge Falvey came down from El Paso, Judge Bean met him not far from the seat of justice at Vinegaroon, escorted him to town and invited him to occupy a seat on the bench with him as he was about to open court. Judge Falvey accepted the invitation with expressions of pleasure, and court was opened in due and solemn form.

The first case called was one in which a man had made an affidavit charging another with shooting at him with a pistol, the bullet missing affiant’s head barely an inch. Judge Bean remarked that he had seen the two men drinking together during the morning with every indication of good will toward each other and asked:

“You are friends, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” replied the man who had made the affidavit.

“Then I fine you $50 each,” firmly announced the judge.

“But, my dear judge,” interrupted Judge Falvey, “this man is charged with a penitentiary offense.”

“That’s all right,” responded the court.

“All we can do with these fellows here is to fine them. IF I was to send them up to Fort Stockton it would require a journey of 200 miles by rail and 60 miles more by land and it would bankrupt the county to feed them. The fine assessed by this court will stand.”

The next case was that of a man brought in by Sergt. Lindsey, charged with having “rolled” another.  Judge Bean, thinking perhaps Judge Falvey would not understand the expression “rolled” called on the sergeant for an explanation. The sergeant gave it, saying that the term “rolled” meant that a man caught asleep or too drunk to take care of himself has his money and valuables taken out of his pockets or off his person. It was the border term for theft from the person. The prisoner in this case, he said, had taken two $20 bills and some silver from his victim’s pockets and the bills were produced and laid on the judge’s table as incriminating evidence.

Judge Bean demanded of the prisoner to tell what he had done with the silver and the latter replied that he had spent it on the guard.

“Then,” said the cort, “I fine you both $10 a piece and if I catch you around here within two hours I will feed you on bread and water and chain you to a stake.”

“This man is also guilty of a penitentiary offense, judge,” said Judge Falvey, who had listened closely to the proceedings.

“I can’t help that,” returned the chief justice, “that is all the way this court can be run.”

While Judge Falvey was sitting with Judge Bean he saw some 15 or 20 cases disposed of in like manner and when he told the people there, referring to his visit at Vinegaroon,

“Gentlemen, you have the right man in the right place.”

It is said that in reading closely Judge Bean’s famous decisions is to be attributed in a large degree the success achieved by Attorney Carter in his profession and by the way, it is said, note of these decisions has ever been reversed. Though, possibly that is due to the fact that the dispenser of justice at Vinegaroon never allows appeals from the decisions of his court.

Judge Falvey asked Judge Bean if the report was true that he allowed no appeals and the answer given by Judge Bean was that no appeals were granted because all the contractors in that vicinity were transients; all their personal effects and chattels were mortgaged and they could not give a solvent bond as required by law when appeal is taken.

When the evening’s session was over, Judge Bean escorted his guest to Eagle Nest, a string band leading the way and enlivening the journey with soft music. That night the judge gave a dinner at his saloon at Eagle Nest in honor of his visitor and things were made pleasant all around.

THE SAN ANTONIO DAILY EXPRESS (San Antonio, Texas) May 21, 1899


Once Proud Seat of “Law West of Pecos” is Now Crumbling Ruins.


Town’s Name, Eagle’s Nest, Vanishes From Map and Only Memory Remains of the Judge and His Rulings.

San Antonio, Tex. — With its foundation posts wobbling like old men’s legs, its floors showing ugly gaping holes, its porch roof shorn of the last lingering board, scraggy bits of what was once white paint hanging to the outer walls, and its door banging to a single rusty hinge — at Langtry, Tex., once known as Eagle’s Nest — what remains of one of Texas’ most famous old landmarks is succumbing to wind and rain.

It is the once proud seat of the “Law West of the Pecos” — the old home and saloon and throne where, not so many years ago, Judge Roy Bean lived and reigned supreme as dispenser of justice and red eye liquor, and dared the world to interfere with his game.

But since Judge Bean went away there had been a great change. Perhaps it is just as well that he “cashed in” — as he himself probably would express it — before the days when nowhere in the whole of Texas can the traveler find a drop to drink.

In the “Good Old Days.”

Many humorous and many semi-tragic stories regarding Judge Bean have been handed down by friends and relatives, many of whom are living in or adjacent to San Antonio today. It was in a day when enforcers of the law were few and far between, and when the men with the quickest trigger finger and the steadiest nerve were monarchs of a large portion of what they surveyed.

Bean was justice of the peace of precinct No. 6 and the ranking representative of the law for hundreds of miles north, south, east and west of him. Equipped with a copy of the statutes of Ohio of the vintage of 1885, a sense of fair play, and a strong conviction of what the law should be even though it were not so written down in the books, he put up his sign:

Judge Roy Bean,
Justice of the Peace,
Law West of the Pecos.

In addition to being chief magistrate over everything “West of the Pecos,” Judge Bean conducted a thirst-quenching emporium typical of the day. The saloon was in the hall of justice, and from behind the bar came the voice of authority backed by a brace of perfectly good six-shooters.

Judge Bean’s “Law.”

Two Mexican men and women walked into Judge Bean’s court one day and informed him that they wanted a change; that they wanted to swap helpmeets. The judge made diligent inquiries of each of the four, found all to be of the same mind, charged each of the men $15 and a dozen bottles of beer and called it done.

When a state official from Austin on a flying visit to “Eagle’s Nest” complained to Judge Bean that he was exceeding his authority, explaining that divorces should be passed up to a higher court, Bean alleged to have retorted:

“Why, say! Have I ever butted into your affairs? These people wanted to sway, they paid me for changin’ ’em around, they’re livin’ together pu’fectly happy, an’ nobody ’round here has complained. You go on back to Austin an’ handle your courts like you want to, but this is out o’ your jurisdiction.”

THE IOWA CITY DAILY CITIZEN (Iowa City, Iowa) Dec 22, 1919

Judge Bean Incident heading1911
To J.W. Schofield, city salesman of A.B. Frank % Company, belongs the distinction of having served as clerk in “Judge” Roy Bean’s court when “Law west of the Pecos,” had application to all classed of cases, civil and criminal, and the “Judge” power to render judgment extending all the way from the imposition of a petty fine, to the pronunciation of the death penalty.

The honor is not to be lightly construed. Mr. Schofield is the only person known to have officiated in the dispensation of justice in the most unique court in the history of judicial procedure. It was in every sense a high honor, for Judge Roy Bean, as was becoming his unusual prerogative, alone and unaided administered the “law” of his court. But the case under consideration was one in which the defendant threatened an appeal in the event the case went against him. Under the circumstances Judge Bean thought best to comply with the wishes of the attorney for the defense and Mr. Schofield was appointed to act as clerk.

Business Rivalry Cause.

The case was the result of the rivalry which existed between Judge Bean’s saloon and that of J.P. Torres.

In the spring of 1893, Mr. Schofield visited Langtry in the capacity of drummer of one of the San Antonio houses. D. Hart, a prominent sheepman of West Texas was preparing at the time, to pay off 200 or more sheep shearers who had been engaged to shear the animals. In anticipation of reaping some of the benefits of this spurt of prosperity, Judge Bean had laid in an extra stock of beer and whiskey. His rival was no slow to follow his lead.

The Mexican shearers arrived, and went in droves to the “Jersey Lily,” Judge Bean’s saloon. Satisfaction spread over his face as he looked over at the almost empty place of his rival.

Stealing a March.

But Torres was not easily outwitted. He had a partner running a saloon with a dance hall in connection at Flanders, the point where the railroad gang engaged in the construction of the Pecos bridge was camped. Torres dispatched a messenger to him with instructions to bring the dancing girls at Flanders to Langtry, accompanied by the orchestra. The move was not known to Judge Bean, if it had been, an injunction restraining Torres from bringing the women and the music to his place would have been issued immediately.

Soon after the arrival of the dancers, strains of music issued from Torres’ place to the accompaniment of shifting feet. The crowd of Mexicans in Judge Bean’s saloon, one by one, raised their lips from the glasses, and in crowds departed to the scene of revelry.

Judge Bean scratched his head and called for his friend, Mr. Schofield.

Not in Accord With Law.

“Now look here, Schofield, it ain’t in keeping with justice that all this amount of beer I have imported for this occasion should go to waste,” he said. “It ain’t economy, and it ain’t accordin’ to the statutes of the State of Texas.”

“I’ll just pull Torres for conducting a disorderly house. There are more ways than one of doing business,” he said, while deputizing several cowpunchers to arrest Torres, and bring him before the honorable court of the law west of the Pecos.

Following the arrest of Torres, his place was closed down, and the shearers returned to the “Jersey Lily,” while the case of the State of Texas versus J.P. Torres, was duly docketed and called for trial.

Threatens Appeal.

Mr. Cunningham, inspector of customs, stationed at Langtry, appeared for the defendant, and demanded a jury. He also informed Judge Bean that in the even the case went against his client in the lower court an appeal would be taken. He was in turn informed that the decisions of Judge Bean’s court were conclusive and final and no such thing as a appeal had even been heard of. Mr. Cunningham insisted that the appeal would be taken, and Judge Bean called on Mr. Schofield for assistance.

In making the appointment, Judge Bean said, “I’ve got to have you for a clear, because there ain’t anyone around here can write.”

While Mr. Schofield agreed to serve as clerk, his intentions were to leave on the night train. Just as he was in the act of boarding the train, however, a ranger stepped up to him and asked if he had not been appointed to act as clerk. Mr. Schofield admitted that such was the case. Upon this the ranger then told him that he had better remain and perform his duties. Mr. Shofield agreed with the ranger when he caught sight of two bit six-shooters that looked like business.

The Trial.

In the morning the case was called for trial.

Mr. Cunningham, having a smattering of law, got the best of the argument, and put Judge Bean to rout on several legal points. Whenever the judge was unable to reply to the sallies of Mr. Cunningham, he would hold up the only law book he had, which was a statute of the state, and say:

“If what you say is the law, and is in the book, and ain’t a good law, then I’ll tear it out of the book.”

Mr. Schofield who was busily engaged in performing the usual duties of the clerk, in addition to taking and subscribing testimony, realized that the case was going against the judge. In the end the jury disagreed and it being impossible to secure another, the case was dropped for the time being.

A year later Judge Bean, on a visit to the city, met Mr. Schofiled, who naturally, was still greatly interested in the case.

Judge Bean Won.

“Well I finally got the best of Torres,” he told him.

“A jack-leg lawyer turned up in Langtry broke some time ago, and in discussing the case with him, I found out that Cunningham had no right to practice law. The lawyer told me if he did not have a license he had no right to defend Torres. After that things looked easy. I called on Torres and told him that I had him. The thing I sprung on him was, that I had discovered that Cunningham did not have a license to practice law, and therefore his action in defending him was illegal and contrary to the constitution of the state and the United States, and if he wanted to plead guilty, it would cost him $25, but if he did not, then I would try him again and stick him the limit. Torres came across and paid the $25.”

Judge Bean had at this time run afoul of the real law, by giving divorce degrees to two Mexican hombres in order that they might exchange wives. In discussing the case, Judge Bean gave expression to an axiom which he alone has ever been able to understand, “Law,” he said to Mr. Schofield, “is the true dispensation of justice.”

Hitting a Snag.

“The two Mexicans,” he explained, “appeared before me and secured a license to marry. I issued the license and married them. About four months later the same men came to me again and said they wanted to be divorced so that they could exchange wives. They said that in marrying they had married the wrong women, and had now concluded that their difficulties could be solved by being divorced and re-married. I granted the divorce, and swapped the wives around for them.

“It was not long after this that the county judge at Fort Stockton got wind of the proceedings and called on me at Langtry.

“He informed me I had exceeded my authority, and that he would be compelled to arrest me and take me to the jail at Fort Stockton. I finally succeeded in getting the judge to remain over night in Langtry, and knowing he was fond of playing poker, I sent out for some of my boys.

“The judge had about twenty dollars with him, which he soon lost. Of course, I supplied him with money from time to time, and when daylight came the judge owed me about $500.

“He called for his horse and rode away without mentioning anything more about the criminal proceedings against me for granting the divorce, and I did not remind him of the money he had borrowed from me. After he had gone, the boys came around and gave me back my money.”

“Texas certainly lost a unique character by the death of Roy Bean, some three or four years ago, ” said Mr. Schofield.

THE SAN ANTONIO LIGHT (San Antonio, Texas) Nov 26, 1911

Judge Bean jersey lilly pic1 1934

Famed Pecos Judge Shocked S.A.

For 20 years before he became law west of the Pecos, the famed Judge Roy Bean shocked San Antonio with sensational scandals and gave his name to part of the south side.

South of Concepcion park along Flores, where the colorful adventurer played Robin Hood to his friends and reveled in comic glory, became known as Beanville.

His escapades kept the courts busy but his legal footwork was so expert he was never convicted on any charge brought again him. Finally, a harried friend paid him to leave town and stay away.


The portly man with a heavy black beard came to San Antonio during the Civil was and made a quick fortune running the union blockade by smuggling cotton to Mexico.

Deciding German and American society was too formal for him, Bean donned a sombrero and moved to the west side in 1866, squatting in a shack on San Pedro creek.

After a run of bad luck his creditors attached his hauling equipment and the sheriff prepared to sell it. Feeling the pinch in his pocketbook from lack of wagons, Bean simply stole his equipment back and the case was closed without further action.


Bean’s unwilling landlord then ordered him to pay back rent for the shack or move out. Bean refused and went to court again. After months of legal stalling, the owner gave in and compromised by moving Bean’s belongings to another house, giving him a jug of whisky and paying him $3000 for inconveniences.

Bean then moved to S. Flores and the area took the name of Beanville. Pundits called it Dogtown because of the extreme poverty of the residents and because all the curs on the south side were starving to death.

The temporarily wealthy Bean next created a society sensation by marrying Virginia Chavez, a descendant of on of San Antonio’s original Canary island families. He settled down to a quiet married life for a few months, but was soon back in court.


In 1867 his wife charged him with assault. She said he came home drunk, took a flaming stick from the fire, chased her out of bed and burned her backside severely.

The case rocked society and Bean got a change of venue to Boerne. At the trial he demanded his wife show the jury her scars, and when she refused the judge dismissed the case.

Bean next turned woodsman. He was hired to keep poachers off a lumber mill’s property, but made more money selling to a competitor on the side.

When the deception was uncovered, he became a dairy farmer. He bought a herd of milk cows on approval, but because of a drouth they starved to death.


Butchering was his next vocation. Bean hired boys to steal stray horses and cows and peddled the meat from door to door. He opened a saloon on the side and went broke in both enterprises.

His last venture was a return to freighting, but he killed a man in a duel in Mexico and closed shop again.

A posse of deputy marshals camped in Beanville in 1875 and convinced the 56-year-old man he should seek his fortune in the wide open west. He lacked the money to go, but a neighbor, who wanted  to be rid of him, bought his worthless business just to get him to leave.


As a parting gesture he made a southsiders promise to keep the name of Beanville and departed from San Antonio saying:

“They say there’s no law west of the Pecos. Well, there’s too much law around San Antonio.”

He settled at a railroad construction camp called Vinegarroon and opened a tavern which he advertised widely in south Texas. In 1882 he was made a justice of the peace and began his climb into legend as a judge, a sportsman and platonic friend of Lily Langtry.

SAN ANTONIO LIGHT (San Antonio, Texas) Oct 24, 1954

Judge Bean Lillie Langtry pic 1934


Law West of the Pecos

By EVERETT LLOYD (excerpt from chapter two)

Contrary to general belief, Roy Bean was not personally acquainted with the celebrated English actress, Lillie Langtry, and she did not visit the town supposed to have been named in her honor until after Bean’s death. That he had a long-distance admiration for her, and even wrote to her and received a reply, we know from the statements of the famous beauty in her autobiography.

The most plausible explanation of Bean’s admiration for Lillie Langtry is that at the time she was a world celebrity; her picture and stories of her triumphs and love affairs were in every newspaper; and the station of Langtry having already been named, it is more than probably that Bean in a spirit of levity and partly as a hoax, informed her that he had named his town in her honor, and it was natural that she should feel flattered. A few years later when the opportunity came during one of her American tours, the citizens of Langtry being aware of Bean’s fancied or pretended acquaintance with the great actress, and having heard him read her reply to his letter, invited her to pay the town a visit on her way to California and she accepted.

Amarillo Daily News (Amarillo, Texas) Aug 1, 1940

Famous people in the photo above include Judge Roy Bean, Wyatt Earp, Butch Cassidy and Teddy Roosevelt.

Epitaphs: Politics and Booze

August 26, 2009

Nathaniel Grigsby was a friend of Abe Lincoln.  He is probably spinning in his grave these days, screaming, “I told you so!”

The Tombstone Inscription Willed by an Ardent Republican.

At Attica in the little burying ground is the grave of Nathaniel Grigsby. He died in 1890 and was a man of much ????. He had a war record, serving as second lieutenant in Company G, Tenth Indiana cavalry. Grigsby was a ardent Republican. He stood by the G.O.P. at all times and even in death. This epitaph is on his tombstone:

Through this inscription
I wish to enter my dying
protest against what is
called the Democratic party.
I have watched it closely
since the days of Jackson
and know that all the mis-
fortunes of our nation have
come to it through this so
called party. Therefore be-
ware of this party of treason.

Grigsby’s heirs did not want this inscription to go on the tombstone, but the lawyer declared that the will provided that it must be used, and the family had to agree. But the inscription is headed with a line that Grigsby’s will made the epitaph mandatory.

Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) Jan 22, 1909

Other random epitaphs:



He’s left this world of pain and strife
And reached the other side.
He held an office all his life,
Resigning when he died.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Sep 17, 1897


Bill Boozer’s taken his last drink,
He had his share on earth, we think.
His end was sad, alas, alack;
The clove he swallowed was a tack.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Jun 12, 1924

The Burning of Petroleum Centre aka “Sodom and Gomorrah”

August 24, 2009
Petroleum Centre - Washington St. - 1868 (Image from

Petroleum Centre - Washington St. - 1868 (Image from

Destructive Fire at Petroleum Centre — The Upper Half of the Town in Ashes.

Shortly before midnight Thursday night, the citizens of Petroleum Centre were startled by the cry of fire, and upon going to the stree, flames were seen upon the north side of Washington street, in the vicinity of the Buffalo House, an hotel building, but unoccupied. A pretty stiff breeze was blowing, and before the fire engines, or even many citizens had assembled, the Buffalo House (which was the place at which the conflagration originated) was one sheet of flame, which was swiftly and surely creeping towards the upper end of the town. Those who supposed the fire would be confined to the locality where it started, were soon undeceived, for the wind, which was varying, suddenly changed, and in a few moments the buildings upon the opposite side of the street were in flames, which spread rapidly in a westerly direction.

It then became apparent that nearly the entire western portion of the town would be destroyed, though fortunately the progress of the devouring element was stayed near the place of starting by the efforts of the citizens, who tore down one building, and by hard work prevented any further destruction down the street, or towards the more densely populated portion of the town.

The scene that ensued during the three hours was fearful and baffles description, and though this was the fourth time that the same locality has been burned over, those who have witnessed the previous destruction of property in this vicinity, say that never before was there so little property saved, nor so complete a sweep of everything that would burn, combined with desperate attempts to save at least something from the flames, as upon the present occasion.

The buildings which were of wood, were nearly all old, and of a highly combustible nature and it was but a few moments after the flames had caught before the entire structure was a blaze of flame, from which it was impossible to save anything. Furniture and property of every description was brought out into the street only to be shortly after consumed by the flames from which it was a moment saved.

Several of the buildings were occupied as concert saloons or brothels, and the “soiled doves” were seen fluttering about in the lurid light of the flames, in [dishabille] or resembling Wilke Collins’ “Woman in White,” though their only anxiety seemed to be to save their wardrobes and trunks which was through the kindness of acquaintances generally effected.

The American hotel which stands near the western end of Washington street, )and which has twice before narrowly escaped destruction), was fortunately saved by the aid of wet blankets, and the wind which at this juncture shifted sufficiently to carry the flame across the street and in an opposite direction, and shortly afterwards the fire was arrested near the upper end of town and near Second street.

The following list comprises the names of property owners and the loss, together with insurance, so far as could be ascertained:

W.B. Davis, Petroleum Centre House and furniture, loss $3,500; no insurance.
E.W. Bailey, building, loss $500.
J.W. Thompson, building, loss $1,400; insured for $600.
H.C. Machter, building and stock of groceries, loss $4,100; insured for $2,000.
Delia Yorrick, building and groceries, loss $1,000.
G.R. Kemp, building, loss $800.
Owen Gaffney, building and stock of liquor, loss $5,000; insured for $1,000.
Nellie Robinson, Queen City Hotel and [Maison de Joi(jot?), loss $1,800; no insurance.
J. & M. Barrett, building and liquors, loss unknown.
Sweeney & Collins, liquor store, loss unknown.
Ellen Donnegan, furniture store and pawnbroker’s shop, loss $3,000; insured for $1,800.
M. Souble, building, loss $600.
George King, meat market, loss $1,600; insured for $600.
David Ham‘s building, loss $1500; insured for $1,000.
J.M. Schultz & Co., grocers, building and stock, loss $1,400; insured for $300.
Michael McGee, building and fish market, loss $900.
John Glenn, building and shoe shop, loss $700.
Wm. Lee, building and news room, loss $400.
Mrs. T. Maloney, building, loss $1,000; insured for $500.
Johanna Collins, building, loss $400.
F.W. Barker & Co., stock of groceries, loss $1,700.
Mary Beck, building, loss $300.
W.H. Casey, building, loss $450.
Eliza Jane Riel, building, loss $500.
Mary A. Sargent, building, loss unknown.
Adam Fisher, building, loss $250.
Lizzie Brown, building, loss $300.
Ellen Donnegan, building, loss $400.
E.P. Sweeney, building, loss $600.
L.M. Sternberg, building, loss $1,200.
John Freel, building, loss $600.
Mary M. Smith, two buildings and saloon, loss $1,000.
Michael Freel, building and grocery, loss $500.
W.J. Bennett, building and stock of groceries, loss $900.
Ellen Donnegan, building, loss unknown. [did she have two, or is this a repeat?]
J.F. Hanna, machine shop, loss $4,000; no insurance.
John Ulmer, building, loss $700.
John Marvin, tenant, loss $700 on furniture.
L.A. Davis, building and billiard rooms, loss $1,000; insured for $300.
L.A. Hughes, building and billiard parlors, loss $2,500; insured for $1,200.
H.B. Aldrick, Buffalo House, not occupied.
Louis Riel, bowling alley, loss, $400.
Benj. Sabins, concert hall, loss $900.
E.W. Bailey, building, loss $400.
James Rutherford, hardware store, loss $9,000; insured for $3,000 in Williamsport and Cumberland Valley Companies.
Deckert & Evans, bulding torn down.

In addition to the above list of several small buildings and barn were also destroyed, making a total of about sixty buildings, including one that was pulled down to prevent the spread of the flames. There was comparatively little insurance upon the property destroyed, as will be seen by reference of the value of the property destroyed is $65,000.


Never before in the history of all the towns in the oil region that have suffered at times from the fire fiend, was there so complete destruction as that which marked this last burning. An eye witness says that, when the fire was at its height, the scene was terrible, yet interesting; the roar of the flames, the showers of sparks, the crowd of people trying to save property, the “scarlet women” and their followers dusting out, made, altogether, a scene worthy of Dore’s pencil.

Many of the buildings that were saved were covered with mud, which is about the only good use this peculiar product has ever been put to in the oil region.

The morning after the fire the upper end of Washington street presented a gloomy and desolate appearance, a space of several acres in extent, being covered with burnt and smoking ruins, with charred timbers protruding at short distances, like blackened tombstones. The stoves in most of the buildings were but little injured by the fire, and were seen in every direction upright and apparently ready for use. A safe in Owen Graffney’s liquor store was found in the cellar the following morning and opened but the contents, including seven hundred dollars in greenbacks, was badly burned, though the money has been sent to Washington, where perhaps under the skillful manipulation of the “Government money members” it may yet be made redeemable.

There was a general rush from Titusville yesterday, to the Centre to view the scene of the fire, and upon the return of the four o’clock train one-hundred and  twenty tickets were taken up from the Centre alone, to points up the creek. The fire originated in the Buffalo House, which as previously stated, was unoccupied. It is supposed to have been the work of incendiaries, and strenuous efforts are being made to ferret out the guilty parties. Had the wind been in an opposite direction the best and most densely populated portions of the city would have been destroyed, as it is, however, with a few exceptions, the part “scorched” was of little benefit to the town.

We are indebted to the editors of The Daily Record, and Mr. McWalters of the Central Petroleum company for many facts and figures relating to the fire and losses.

TITUSVILLE MORNING HERALD (Titusville, Pennsylvania) Mar 11, 1871

MR. C.M. MORSE, of Oil City, writes us an explanatory letter concerning his report that characterized Petroleum Centre as “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and conveyed the intimation that the inhabitants of that borough had been visited by a fire-fiend as a penalty for their transgressing.

The article was published in the leading editorial column of the other paper, but in the next issue the editor repudiated all responsibility for the libel on “the good people of Petroleum Centre,” and declared that the account was “sent to the office by a private hand, and at so late an hour as to preclude corrections. Mr. Morse asserts that he handed his manuscript to a reporter of the paper, with particular instructions to have it carefully revised (as it had been written hurriedly) and corrected.

This the reporter promised to see to, and fulfilled his pledge, for the article appeared the next morning with various alterations, but still retaining the obnoxious paragraph. Mr. Morse resents the attack upon himself as a very unworthy attempt of the editor to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders by unjustly throwing it upon the reporter. The communication was received at too late an hour for publication, but we have given the material points as a matter of justice to the young gentleman, who has no other medium for his vindication.

TITUSVILLE MORNING HERALD, (Titusville, Pennsylvania) Mar 15, 1871


Here is an interesting link referencing the seedier parts of the Pennsylvania oil region from Petroleum

The California Gold Rush – part 3 – Emigrant Train

August 24, 2009

High Lights of History – The Emigrant Train






Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Jul 27, 1927

California Gold Rush – part 2 – The Forty-Niners

August 22, 2009







Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Jul 26, 1927

The California Gold Rush – part 1

August 21, 2009

High Lights Of History was an educational comic series (by James Carroll Mansfield) published for children in the Davenport Democrat and Leader and many other  newspapers during the 1920s and 1930s.


High Lights of History — The California Gold Rush






Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Jul 25, 1927

Mischief Suggested By A Popular Song

August 11, 2009

Rain Barrel 1

Rain Barrel 2

Rain Barrel 3

Rain Barrel4

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jul 7, 1895

This cartoon caught my eye because I used to sing a version of the song being referred to above, albeit a more modern version. I hadn’t realized the song was so old, so I did a Google search and found the following:

From Google Answers:

The original song was entitled “I don’t want to play in your yard”, and was written by Philip Wingate and H.W. Petrie in 1894.

Posted by expertlaw-ga.
**This person also posted links to several other versions. (only the first two links work)

Here is the refrain from the original, and a link to the complete lyrics:

I don’t want to play in your yard,
I don’t like you anymore,
You’ll be sorry when you see me,
Sliding down our cellar door,
You can’t holler down our rainbarrel,
You can’t climb our apple tree,
I don’t want to play in your yard,
If you won’t be good to me.

NOTE: If you click the right most “melody” link (there are three melody links in the upper left corner) on the lyric page linked above, you can listen to the melody.

The Fourth Notch: A Tale of Moonshiners and a Revenue Officer

August 7, 2009

When I first ran across this story, I was searching for news articles about the murder of Marshal William D. Kellett, and seeing his name mentioned, I figured this would be a news article of some sort.  It turns out that is is probably more of a dime-novel type story, printed in the paper.


A “Close Call” for a Smoky Hole Victim.

About the middle of last December Deputy United States Marshal Kellett was murdered by moonshiners in the mountains of North Georgia. An account of his killing, published in a New York newspaper, said that another notch was cut in the big poplar that guards the entrance to Sleepy Cove, the retreat of the outlaws, making five in all, each significant of the death, at the hands of the illicit whisky makers, of a revenue officer. Now, I was until recently a revenue officer, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that no one is better acquainted with Sleepy Cove and that big poplar than myself. I knew well three of the poor fellows whose epitaphs stand gaping there, silent but awful warning, to all who disturb the lawless men of that lonely cove; the fifth notch is for Kellett, but for whom the fourth was cut seems still to be a mystery to the surrounding neighborhood. Moonshiners seldom make mistakes in their matters of murder, but in this instance I think they have lost their reckoning. That fourth notch was cut for me. I saw it done, with death staring me in the face. It is possible that the outlaws still believe my bones are bleaching on the damp ground in Smoky Hole.

When notch number three was cut there was a great stir in North Georgia. Country people were wild with excitement. Revenue men riding through the mountains had a sort of itching in the back, and were inclined often to turn in the saddle. We laid the murder of W—– at the door of the notorious Cap Hawkins, the daring leader of a fearless band of outlaws in the Cohutta mountains, and as soon as possible we were on his trail with a good pack of bloodhounds. The scent was cold, and when we had penetrated some eight miles into the range the dogs became disheartened. After circling round us time and again in search of the trail they gave it up, and we were forced to retreat without having accomplished any thing.

It was dusk when we got out of the deep woods, and we began to look about for a place to stay for the night. A log cabin of two rooms was not inviting, but the old crone who came to the door said that she could provide for one of the party, and that the others might find accommodations at another cabin a mile down the road. In some way it was arranged that I should stay at her house, and join the party next morning. She made me as comfortable as possible. For supper I had pure corn bread and molasses, with a great tin cup of something hot called coffee. While I ate she smoked a clay pipe, sitting in the chimney corner with her legs crossed and her foot swinging incessantly. When she spoke to me, which she did oftener than I liked, I could not help feeling that she was trying to pump me. She wanted to know entirely too much about the moonshiners and the revenue men, and before I had finished my meal she made me look upon her with suspicion. Once or twice I alluded to her family, for I thought it strange that she should live alone, and even went so far as to inquire about her husband, and ask when he would be at home. She replied evasively, and all I learned was that her old man and three grown boys were up on the mountain tending crops. It did not require much exercise of my imagination to determine what kind of crops they were tending. In thinking of them my hand went instinctively to my trusty revolver, and the touch of the cold steel braced me up. I wondered how the men were getting on down at the other cabin, and if they could hear a pistol shot that far off.

When the old woman had shown me to my room she returned to her chimney corner and her pipe and her foot swinging. My bed was an old-fashioned one, with ropes for springs and bear skins for mattress and cover. I didn’t undress, but crawled just as I was between the skins, and lying on my back, thought I should not do much sleeping. When my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and wandered aimlessly over the open ceiling, I saw something about the size of the bed hanging directly over me. It seemed to swing slowly back and forth. I stood up and touched it, examined it as minutely as possible, and again lay down. It was nothing but three or four bed quilts stretched across two boards supported at the ends by short ropes. IF it grew colder in the night I would reach up to them for more cover.

I intended to stay awake, but must have been nearly asleep when a creaking noise aroused me. The next moment it was repeated, and the quilts above me descended rapidly. IT flashed upon me that I was in a trap. Drawing my weapon, I attempted to spring out of bed, determined to sell my life dearly, but as I straightened up the quilts covered me, and before I could throw them off strong hands were at the corners. It seemed as if a ton weight had fallen upon me and doubled me up. My head was bent so close upon my breast that I thought my neck would break. My breath came short and fast.

With a frantic struggle I cocked my pistol and placing the muzzle close against the quilt I pulled the trigger. I fired at random, trusting that fate might guide the ball into the heart or head of some one of my cowardly assailants. The concussion was awful in that narrow space. The smoke filled my eyes, nose and ears; the shot rang through my brain; I felt that my last hour had come. My God, how I suffered! I remember a derisive laugh that seemed to come from another world, then something heavy struck me on the head. When I recovered consciousness I was lying on my back in a jolting wagon, with my hands and feet securely bound. The pale blue of the sky above me and the hazy outlines of the treetops reaching overhead told me that day was breaking.

“Wal, Kurnel, air ye come roun’ all right?” said a deep voice at my head. Raising my eyes, I saw leaning over me the grizzly face of the outlaw, Cap Hawkins. He broke into a wild laugh at my look of astonishment.

“Didn’t spect ter see me this mornin’, did ye, Kurnel?” he said, tauntingly. “Whar air yer dogs? — ha! ha! — an’ yer horses? — he! he! — an’ yer haw! haw! ho! — an’ yer repytation? Aw, Lordy! Say, Kurnel, whar air ye a-takin’ me this mronin’? Air ye a-goin’ ter lock old Cap Hawkins up agin?”

His laughter echoed through the woods and sounded fiendish as it came back from the mountain side. I knew Cap Hawkins well. Lawless as he was, there was in his composition a certain wild chivalry peculiar to these men of the mountains. Brave as a lion, he had an unbounded admiration for courage in others, cunning as a fox, he respected a man who could out do him in craftiness. Knowing this, I determined to assume a bold air and affect a supreme indifference to my fate, whatever that was to be.

“O, Cap, dry up,” I began, winking slyly at him. “Don’t firghten the revenue men; they’ll be after you again.”

Again he roared as if he would split his sides over the joke. He was immensely tickled.

“Say your prayers, Cap,” I continued, “It’ll be a long time before you see daylight again.”

“Whut air ye adrivin’ at, Kurnel?” he asked, seriously, casting his eyes about him. My shot had missed, but I kept firing.

“Well, you see, Hawkins, now that I’ve got you in my power I’m going to put you out of the way for good. You come along with me to the Cove. There’s a warm hole in the side of the mountain in which you can spend winter, board and lodging free. Come, brace up, Cap; when you see how comfortable it is in there you’ll want to lease the place for life.”

The outlaw made no response to my random talk, nor did he laugh as before. Something seemed to worry him, for he fidgeted about, scratched his uncombed head and ran his bony fingers through his grizzled, tangled beard.

“Look a-hyar, Kurnel,” said the moonshiner, leaning close to me and boring into me with his black eyes “air ye ever been thar?”

“There? Where, Cap?”

“That thar hole ye air a-goin’ on about.”

“Why, of course, don’t I know every hole and crag in the Cohuttas?”

“Then that settles it, I ‘lowed ye war jokin” Waw Patsy, waw Suck, wawp.”

He reined up his horses and stopped the wagon. Taking up an axe he landed it to some person on the ground and said a few words which I did not understand. I tried to raise myself to look out, but fell back helpless, full of sharp, shooting pains. My joins refused to bend, my neck creaked when I tried to turn my head, and the struggle of the night came back to me like a horrible apparition. At the first sound of the axe Cap Hawkins put his arm under my back and forced me to sit upright.

“Cobe air a-cuttin’ yer tombstone, Kurnel, an’ I ‘lowed ye’d like ter git a last look.”

To the right of the wagon stood a giant poplar lifting its shaggy top three hundred feet above the road. In its trunk were three gaping wounds, and a moonshiner in broad hat and big boots was cutting a fourth. Two ill-looking men stood near, their guns in their hands.

“Kurnel,” continued my guard, “do ye want ter write yer epertaph?” The men laughed at their chief. “Them other three Revies didn’t git nary chance ter write theirn. Boys, air any o’ye got a pencil?”

Too well I knew the meaning of that notch from which the sappy chips were flying. My heart quivered as the axe ate its way into the soft wood. My face must have reflected my thought, for the outlaw, giving me a gentle push, sent me on my back.

“Lay down, Kurnel, an’ don’t git so allfired skeered,” he said. “That air mighty comf’table hole up in the hills — board an’ lodgin’ free.” And quoting my own words, he fairly made the welin ring with his coarse laughter.

“Surely you don’t intend to murder me, Cap?”

“That air jest about it, I reckon, Kurnel. Ye air cross the dead line, an’ yer epertaph air done been writ.”

Before I could say more his three companions climbed into the wagon beside me. Clucking to his horses he drove on at a trot through the pass, and as the sun rose over the mountain we entered the precincts of Sleepy Cove. It must have been after ten o’clock, yet into that lonesome spot the sun was just beginning to pour his rays.

By two p.m. he would disappear behind the jagged cliff that formed the western boundary of the retreat, and the long twilight would set in with its spectral shadows chasing each other in the dark wood. Often had I heard the country folk talk with bated breath of the horrors of Sleepy Cove. Goblins, they said, dwelt in the mountain caves, coming forth at dusk to frolic with the fearless moonshiners, and dancing at midnight upon the slippery crags. Ghouls, armed wit the bones of murdered men, kept nightly vigil at the narrow pass, and if any human being approached from the outside they gathered around the giant poplar and beat upon the bark till the frightened man disappeared in the direction whence he came. No man but the moonshiners had ever been known to come from Sleepy Cove alive, consequently one ever voluntarily entered that wild, uncanny place.

These thoughts were passing through my mind when suddenly the wagon stopped, and the four men threw themselves into attitudes of attention, grasping their guns and casting furtive glances at each other. Straining my ear I thought I heard the faint yelp of a hound. Captain Hawkins lashed his horses into a gallop, and we sped on for half a mile, stopping again in the shadow of a cliff. At their leader’s order two of the men lifted me out of the wagon, and half dragged me to a spot where the earth formed a kind of bench against the rock wall. Placing me on the ground they began prying at boulder which gradually yielded to their hand sticks, rolled over on its side, exposing a hole in the cliff. Into this they dragged me for some twenty feet, and tossed me on a bed of leaves. Then one of the men brought in some food, and another water, and another wood. I turned to the outlaw leader and asked how long he intended to keep me prisoner. He laughed at the question, but made no reply. Going to the cave’s mouth he peered steadily out, listened awhile, and came back to me. There was an ominous glitter in his eyes. It looked like murder. My God! Was he going to bury me alive? I begged him to shoot me, cut my throat, hang me, anything but leave me there to starve. But he paid no attention to my appeals.

“Et ye air ‘live when I get back, Kurnel, ef I git back,” he said, “why, me an’ the boys mought put a leetle lead in your carcass. Ye may hev camp’ny ‘fore night, enyhows. The Revies air after us hotter n demnition blazes. They air done cross the dead line. Hyar the moosic, Kurnel?”

“I hope they’ll give you all you deserve, you cold-blooded murderer,” I said, wishing that I could throttle the villain.

“Now, Kurnel, don’t get out o’ sorts. It air mighty comfortable in hyer — board an’ login’ free. Boys, air ye ready? Them hounds air pickin’ us up. Light the fire, Cobe. Kurnel, hyer air a knife ter cut yer loose arter we leave ye. Don’t git skeered o’ the ghosts, an’ ‘member ye air mighty comf’table, mighty comf’table — board an’ lodgin’ free; and yer epertaph air down on the big poplar. Good-bye, Kurnel.”

The outlaws were already placing the bowlder in position, and when Cap Hawkins had squeezed his way out the rock was rolled into the opening. With a crunching sound it settled into place, and I was a prisoner in Smoky Hole. I listened for the baying of the hounds, hoping that they had tracked me to the cave, but not a sound penetrated the door of my prison. The fire burned briskly, and Smoky Hole glowed in the light of the blazing pine-knots. It was the work of a few minutes to cuts my bonds with the knife the outlaw had given me, and then I took an inventory of the contents of the cavern.

The place had evidently been fitted up for the illicit manufacture of “mountain dew” and “tanglefoot” and “red rye,” for there were the worn-out copper still, the worm, the mash-tub, jugs and flasks and other apparatus of the moonshiner. The cave was about the size of a railroad box car, except that the roof was higher and more arched. I jabbed my knite into every square foot of the walls. They were of solid rock. In a vain, mad effort to roll the bowlder from the entrance, I drew the blood from my shoulder. It was all of no use. Unless help came to me from without my doom was sealed. A dull, heavy feeling came over me and I sat down near the fire. The confined air was getting close. Suddenly, on looking up, I was appalled at the discovery of a new danger. The roof of the cavern was no longer visible. The dense black smoke of he pitch pine, unable to escape, was banked above me like an ominous cloud, ever growing denser and blacker and descending steadily, remorselessly upon me like a veritable shadow of death.

Already the asphyxiating gases were causing my brain to whirl. I crawled to the fire and stamped upon the blazing knots until every spark was extinguished, but they continued to send up their stifling smoke. I could feel it ascending, hot and pitiless. Falling flat upon the ground I saturated my coat sleeve with the water the outlaw had left me, and placing it against my mouth secured a few full breaths of strained gas. But they gave me little respite. The high p—–ce of the atmosphere —– my —- swell almost to bursting, my hands and feet were benumbed, and I was soon unable to move a muscle. Then I longed for death.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion, followed by a falling of loose earth and rock and a rush of air. A faint ray of light appeared in the corner of the cavern over the still, growing broader and stronger as the smoke cleared away. With life and strength renewed, I made my way to the opening, where I drank in the fresh air with a swelling heart and a lighter conscience than I had ever hoped to possess. The explosion had torn away some rough masonry with which the moonshiners had stopped up a fissure in the rock. It never occurred to me in my investigation of the cave that there ought to be some way of exit for the smoke of the still. But everything was plain enough now. I had found the chimney, and it was my determination to use it to advantage. In a moment, forgetful of pains and bruises, I was climbing for freedom. It was a tight squeeze now and then, but I made rapid progress, and felt so good over my prospects of escape that I wanted to shout. But prudence restrained me.

Soon the rocky sides of the chimney gave place to wood, and the opening changed from flat to round. Still I climbed on, my spirits rising with my ascent. My progress was made comparatively easy by the imitation of Brer Rabbit’s methods of climbing a stump hollow — that is, by bracing my back against one side of the chimney and my feet and hands against the other. But the opening grew tighter and tighter, like an inverted funnel, and still the top seemed a long way off. I must have climbed some thirty feet in all, when I stopped to rest, propping my foot against a knot-like projection, which, suddenly breaking off, left a hole through which the daylight streamed. Then, for the first time, it flashed upon me that I was in a hollow tree. A glance through the knot-hole proved this to be the case, for there was the ground ten feet below me — the bench of earth I had noticed when the outlaws were making ready for my incarceration.

Escape now seemed certain. The wall of my prison was only two inches thick, and though the wood was dry and hard from age and exposure to smoke and heat, my knife was soon at work enlarging the knot-hole. As this faced the Cove, I could keep a lookout for the moonshiners and stop cutting at the first suspicious noise. Night soon set in, and with the darkness there came peculiar sounds from cliff and woodland. But I paused not to think of ghoul or goblin. It would have taken something far more terrible than ghostly warning to check the steady going of my knife in the weary hours that followed the sunset, for I hope to turn my back on Sleepy Cove ere the dawn of another day. But when the sun rose my task seemed not nearly done. The knife was dulled and my strength had slowly ebbed away.

The baying of a hound reached me. It was repeated, and in a moment the thrilling music of the pack waked again and again the sleeping echoes of Sleepy Cove. Nearer and nearer it came, until a dozen fine bloodhounds burst through the underbrush and dashed up to the bowlder at the entrance to Smoky Hole. Then opening again, they sped away on the cold trail of the moonshiners.

“Dan, here Dan, down, sir!” I shouted to the leader with all my might. The obedient brute, reconising my voice, dropped to the ground. I called him to me, and soon the entire pack was barking playfully at the roots of my novel prison, rejoicing, no doubt, at having treed their master. Hearing a well known signal in the woods, I answered it, and one by one five of my friends crept cautiously up to the cave, carbines in hand. When I spoke to them from my porthole, there was a broad smile on every face. An axe was procured, and, while four of the men guarded against surprise, the fifth cut a window in my jail, though which I crawled, having been a prisoner for nearly twenty-four hours.

When we reached the big poplar that guards the pass to Sleepy Cove, I fastened in the fourth notch a piece of paper bearing these words:

“Cap Hawkins, beware!” The Colonel is on your trail! Go, look for his bones in Smoky Hole!”

Cleveland Leader.

Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) Feb 4, 1887

Bicycles and Bloomers

August 6, 2009

Bicycle Bloomers1894cp


We do not speak in disparaging tones when we say that a woman who wears bloomers has loose habits.

— Syracuse Post.

The queen of Spain now knows what pain
And woe and ruth are like.
No legs has she; and so, you see,
She cannot ride a bike.

— New York Recorder.

“Woman is still far from her ideals.”

“Oh, I don’t know. We don’t wear them as loose as we did.”

— Detroit Tribune.

There’s a bicycle girl in Weehawken
That has set all the neighbors to tawken;
This feminine biped
Wears bloomers bright striped,
And red is the shade of her stawken.

“I hear,” said the cheerful idiot, “that they are talking of revising the costume of the Goddess of Liberty.”

“And what will it be pray?” asked the typewriter boarder, who has a wheel.

“Red, white and bloomers,” said the cheerful idiot. –Indianapolis Journal.

Bobbie — Say, fellers, let us holler “Rats!” as that woman passes.

Freddie — What’s the use? Don’t you see she has bloomers on? — Judge.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jun 16, 1895


There were more bloomers out on bicycles in this city yesterday than ever before and fewer accidents. The new woman is rapidly ceasing to be a public danger.

— New York Evening Sun.

It is only a reversal of condition. The society girl wears bloomers on her bodice and the bicycle girl wears sleeves on her pantaloons.

— Nashville American.

“I don’t for the life of me see how you can uphold bloomers,” said the conservative man.

“I supposed not,” said the fluffy girl. “The suspenders fad has been out of date more than two years.”

— Indianapolis Journal.

Bicycle bloomers should be proud of the sensation they have created. They appear as topics of earnest discussion on the lecture platform, in the club, and even in the pulpit. And the agitation is still growing. Not the silver question itself has more hopelessly divided families, separated friends and made sworn enemies than the now end-of-the-century theme — the bicycle bloomers.

— Baltimore American.

“Do you keep bloomers to rent?” she asked, as she sailed into the fashionable dressmaker’s on Fulton street, yesterday.

“No,” said the polite saleswoman, “but we keep materials for repairing rents in bloomers. Have you –”

But she was gone.

— Brooklyn Eagle.


“Mother, may I go out to bike?”

“Yes, my darling daughter.
But when you reach the Schuylkill pike
Don’t tumble in the water;
For if you do you’ll get a fall,
With a melancholy thud.
And then yourself, your bike, and all,
Will be a was of mud.”

— Philadelphia Inquirer.

The bloomers or the knickerbockers of the lady bicyclist of the period present a neat and tasteful appearance. To say that the wearers look like men is unadulterated nonsense. The men who say so themselves disprove the assertion by the very fact that they denounce them and stand on the street corners, as too many of them do, leering and sneering at them as they pass. If they looked like men, these cheap and nasty fellows would not waste a minute looking at them.

— New York Recorder.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jun 19, 1895


Pity the blind. hey have never seen the bloomer-clad woman on a bicycle.

–Sonerville Journal.


To a Bicycle Girl:

Whenne on two rims of stele this maid doth go,
Within my hedde I fele
A whele

— Washington Star.


When money for a modish gown
The modern maid desires,
She has a scheme that’s sure to down
The most unkind or sires.
Should he refuse, she does not pout,
Nor into weeping go,
But knocks him quite completely out
With: “I’ll wear bloomers. So!”

— Detroit News.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jun 30, 1895

Probable Reason 1897

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) May 30, 1897


Previous posts about bloomers:

Amelia Bloomer, Dress Reform and Bloomers

No Fillings for the Whangdoodle in Bloomers