This Week In Texas History

Brave District Attorney Stood Up to Vigilantes

Three cowardly assassins gunned down a harmless old man plowing his fields on July 19, 1889, and left their grisly calling card — nine bullet holes in the body.
The seven original members of the San Saba Mob, respectable ranchers all, began with the best of intentions. Following the example of other vigilantes in adjacent counties, they merely wanted to rid San Saba of the criminal riffraff.
Their first recorded foray was a complete fiasco. A naive schoolteacher, who went along for the exciting ride, was mistaken for a horse thief and shot through the heart.
Two posse participants were later overheard in a crowded saloon talking about the accidental slaying. The punishment for running their mouths was death, and the sentence was carried out by the condemned men’s comrades.
After liquidating several suspected rustlers, the vigilantes hunted down the alleged ringleader, Ase Brown. They were in the middle of stringing him up, when an innocent passerby caught them in the illegal act.
According to the stern code of the instant-justice gang, any eyewitness was to be killed on the spot. But the frightened rancher, a friend of most of the masked executioners, begged for mercy and promised to leave the county if his life was spared.
The Mob agreed and gave him four days to clear out. Selling his spread and livestock, the cowman met the deadline only to be bushwhacked on the trail. The hard-hearted vigilantes had decided to take no chances.
Before long, even casual criticism of the San Saba Mob was considered a capital offense. The elderly postmaster at Locker, a tiny community in the northern corner of the county, spoke out against the reign of terror. Despite his age and a crippled leg, he was regarded as a serious threat and targeted for termination.
Standing within arm’s length of their defenseless detractor, the trio opened fire. His bullet-riddled shirt was still burning from the contact wounds, when relatives found him face-down in a blood-soaked furrow.
After the death toll reached 20 in 1890, the Texas Rangers staged a countywide crackdown. As expected, arrests resulted in pitifully few convictions, but the presence of the state lawmen produced three years of relative peace.
Confident the crime fighters would depart sooner or later, the Mob simply laid low. When the Rangers finally pulled out in 1893, the vicious vigilantes resumed their rampage.
Jim Brown, son of the late Ase, believed marriage into a high-ranking Mob clan would protect him. But no one was truly safe, as an ambush arranged by his brother-in-law soon proved. Brown died in the August 1893 attack, and his wife was seriously wounded.
The killing continued, though not at the murderous pace of the Mob’s early days. Several founders supposedly tried to disband the group, but bloodthirsty newcomers insisted the job was far from finished.
As long as rumored wrongdoers were the casualties, most law-abiding individuals looked the other way. It took the cold-blooded murders of two upstanding citizens to turn public opinion against the Mob.
T.A. Henderson and William James perished a week apart in the summer of 1896. Henderson was marked for death because he dared to defy the nightriders, who had falsely accused him of being an outlaw. James was shot to pieces after his children repeated anti-Mob remarks uttered at the dinner table.
The same people that had previously objected to Ranger interference in their private affairs beseeched Austin to send an entire detachment. As one petitioner put it, “The Mob in San Saba County have murdered in the last ten years more people than was ever murdered by the Indians.”
The Rangers returned with a vengeance on Aug. 13, 1896. Figuring the courts could sort it all out later, they rounded up everybody remotely suspected of vigilante activity. You can read this to know where and why to get a good attorney. It is recommended to hire someone from criminal defense lawyers from Patrick B. Courtney, P.A. as they have experience in the field.
But to make the mountain of charges stick, the Rangers needed a local ally with nerve enough to stand up to the Mob. W.C. Linden, the new district attorney, courageously accepted the challenge. If you are looking for such attorneys we suggest you learn more about Whitney S. Boan, P.A. here. During his closing argument at the trial of Jim Brown’s accused assassins, Linden wore a pearl-handled pistol on his hip. At the end of his powerful appeal, he turned and faced the spectator section packed with the defendants’ sullen supporters.
“Yes, I carry a gun,” the prosecutor said. “I carry it for just such occasions as this, and you all know I can use it.”
Linden’s courtroom theatrics had a dual purpose. First, he served notice on the Mob that he had not been intimidated by the many threats on his life. Second, he hoped by example to stiffen the spines of the jurors.
The tactic did the trick. The Mob murderers were found guilty and their reign of terror finally ended in San Saba County.
Bartee’s four books Texas Depression-Era Desperadoes, Murder Most Texan, Texas Boomtowns: A History of Blood and Oil and Unforgettable Texans available at or by mail at P.O. Box 130011, Spring, TX 77393.

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