The town of Comanche, Texas was rocked by yet another murder of one of its citizens in 1880; however, the deed didn’t happen in Central Texas, but rather in Kansas. Apparently, the west wasn’t terribly safe anywhere in 1880.
William H. Stephens* left Comanche in May of 1880 in order to push a herd of cattle belonging to his brother, J.D. (John) Stephens, and Judge Fleming to market. Going with him were Comanche’s John Bailey Nabers and James Dudley Sherrill.* As was common for the day, somewhere along the way Stephens hired a man who claimed his name was Smith. (Later proven to be Padget or something similar)
The cattle were sold in Kansas and were being delivered at the time of the murder. Apparently Stephens and the man using the name Smith had some type of verbal exchange. Stephens turned and rode off, and Smith rushed up behind him, shooting him at point blank range in the back. Stephens died immediately, and Smith was chased and captured by other hired hands; he was taken into custody in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Bailey Nabers and Dudley Sherrill, both of Comanche, were with Stephens and witnessed the murder. They returned home to Comanche only to have to leave Comanche to return to Fort Smith in late October in order to testify at the trial; however, upon arrival, the trial was postponed until the next court term.
Can you even imagine what a hard trip it was in 1880 to have to return home without getting the job done?
The case finally came to trial in February, 1881.
Of course, as usual, there was made a young widow and a fatherless child by the senseless deed, which is just another example of the suffering in this frontier land.*I believe I am right in telling you that William Henry Stephens married Margaret “Maggie” Wright in 1878. She was the daughter of the man known as Captain Jack Wright by people in Comanche, Texas and his wife, Sophronia Ann Cox. Bailey Nabers and Dudley Sherrill are both buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.
Read more about Jack Wright…