Deputy U.S. Marshal M.R. Boss Greene Is Murdered

True historians struggle on a daily basis to write the facts; they also try extremely hard not to rewrite history. However, since none of us has a time warp to transport us back into the past, there are times when we just get some things wrong.

For years I have written about the killing of Deputy U.S. Marshal Boss Greene, and I thought that I was as close to the truth as it was possible to come. Then, in an old Bible someone found the article that was written in the Comanche Chief the week Boss was killed. While I am not convinced that the paper has the story completely correct since sensational stories are seldom told correctly the first time they find their way into print, I bow to the Chief having been much closer to the incident than I. The following is the end of the story for Boss Greene as well as I can piece it together:

After losing the trail of Joe Horner in 1876, Boss Greene returned to Comanche. On May 11, 1877, Dee and Jim Bailey, from somewhere near Evant, Texas, came into Comanche and the surrounding area and passed what I believe were allegedly counterfeit coins. For years I have written that it was a Mr. Moore who blew the whistle on the boys but according to the newspaper, it was a Mr. Hill.

The following is my original writing. We will insert the name Hill for Moore.

Boss Greene and Hill tracked the Bailey brothers and overtook them about twelve miles southeast of Comanche, near the small town of Fleming, Texas.

Boss handcuffed the brothers (making the mistake of handcuffing them with their hands in front of them so they could ride), and on the way back to Comanche they stopped at the John Pettit ranch, possibly for water.

Dee Bailey was able to get his hands on a firearm, and he shot Boss.

Hill fled, and the Baileys escaped. Mrs. Pettit witnessed this. Not being large enough to get Greene into the house by herself, Mrs. Pettit rolled Boss onto a quilt and dragged him into her home where he died the next day, May 12,1877. (Many accounts say that she only dragged Boss as far as the large front porch.)

It was some years later that the Bailey brothers were captured in Bell County. They were brought back to Comanche and put in the Comanche County Jail which was located just east of 217 North Houston Street.

Someone in Bell County made bond for the brothers, and they were due to be freed on bond the following day.* That night a mob of Comanche citizens took the Baileys out of jail and carried them to the Oak Wood Cemetery where Boss Greene was buried. Here the brothers were stripped and their clothes were placed on Greene’s grave. The Bailey brothers were then hung from a tree.

It is believed that their bodies were left hanging there until their mother cut them down herself and carried them by wagon back to be buried in Evant, Texas.

 Green Street (across from the cemetery to the south) was named for Boss.

*The Bailey brothers had a relative named Frank Gholson from Hamilton County. Gholson was a Texas Ranger, and it is believed that he is the reason that the brothers were able to stay free so long after Boss Greene’s murder. It is also suspected that this Texas Ranger is the one who posted the boys’ bail in Bell County.

________________________________________________________________________

How it happened according to the Comanche Chief:

“What must be thought of the man who will desert a murdered companion, leaving him to expire, without an effort to save him? It was done when Boss Greene was murdered last Saturday.”-Chief

 Killed while Discharging His Duty

“Again has the dark shadow of crime fallen upon our community, and another good man is the victim.

“On Saturday last, two men who afterwards proved to be Dee and James Bailey, horse thieves [I’ve not verified this.] passed _____ seventy five cents in counterfeit coin upon a man named Hill, living about two miles northwest of town, in payment for a nights lodging. They then came into town, and after paying several more pieces of it out for articles purchased by them left here, going in the direction of Old Cora.

“Shortly after they had left, Hill having detected the character of the coin, came into town and reported them. Deputy United States Marshall M.R. Greene immediately arming himself, started at once in pursuit of the parties accompanied by the man Hill.

“About ten miles from town, near the residence of Mr. J.P. Pettit, the counterfeiters came to a halt and dismounted, intending to give themselves and their horses rest. Here Mr. Greene came up with them, and succeeded in putting them under arrest and getting possession of the coin, about ten dollars, failing, however, to secure the Winchester rifle belonging to one of the party. The pistol taken from the other was in the possession of Hill, who it seems did nothing to aid Greene in arresting or holding the prisoners.

“The horse which Greene was riding, being difficult to manage, one of the prisoners succeeded in getting hold of the gun, and made resistance. Shots were exchanged; Greene fired once, and the other parties twice, one of the balls from the prisoner’s gun striking Mr. Greene under the right jaw and ranging upward, to the cheekbone.

“He fell from his horse bleeding profusely, and the parties made their escape, Hill making no attempt to stop them or even to render Greene assistance; but on the contrary, leaving in great haste, and returning by a circular route to town.

“Greene was too badly wounded to regain his feet, but crawled some distance towards the house, calling for help, which soon came from the noble wife of Mr. Pettit and two other equally brave women, who as soon as they could get together, came to him, there being no men close by. By these kind hearted ladies he was carried into the house, and Mr. Cox, who shortly afterwards appeared, came at once to town for a physician, and to notify the official authorities.

“Dr. Tucker was in attendance as soon as he could reach the house, but Mr. Greene had lost so much blood that his recovery was deemed doubtful at best, and, though he received careful medical attention and nursing, his spirit passed away about 7:30 o’clock in the evening. His remains were brought to town Sunday and interred in the town cemetery in the presence of a large concourse of friends.

“In this instance a good, brave man has fallen a victim to the prevailing crime. Perhaps there is no citizen of Comanche to whom a deeper debt is owed for its freedom from the lawlessness and crime which have cursed so many portions of the State, than to M.R. Greene. He never hesitated when the peace of the community or the county was threatened, nor did he ever falter in the execution of any duty.

“Brave and manly in every trial, he was respected by all good men, and feared by those who had crimes to answer for. As a man he had faults as all men have, but his virtues were of that character which greatly overbalanced them. Generous and brave, he was popular with all who knew him well, and nobody can charge him with ever having hesitated to stand by a friend under any circumstances…”-Chief

Boss’ brother Jeff signed for burial expenses.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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3 Responses to Deputy U.S. Marshal M.R. Boss Greene Is Murdered

  1. Becky Breazeale Risor says:

    Hello Fredda,
    I enjoyed reading your post on Boss Greene & The Bailey Boys. Dee Bailey was my Great Great Grandfather. Needless to say this story has been a source of family story & lore for a long time. Interestingly enough though we knew the story, we didn’t really find out that he was out GG Grandfather until my Grandmother passed away. In the later years of her life (she was 100 when she passed) she had become interested in geneaology. I inherited her research and have many pages of information concerning Dee & James including several newspaper articles about their hanging. I would like to note that it was Dee’s wife Hulda that came to bond them out.

    • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

      Becky, would you be willing to share your info? We are working very, very hard on our family history section in the museum, and I would love to include yours. Email fredda@texansunited.com and we will visit about it. I taught this story for years simply because it grabbed my heart. There are a few hundred people who can probably still quote it verbatim! :)

  2. Missy Jones says:

    The Mrs. Pettit named in this story was Catherine Cox Pettit. She was a sister to my grandfather, Cornelius Nicholas (Nick) Cox. I am sure that most of the Pettit’s listed in the telephone books in this area are her descendants. Namely, Paul, Jack, and many others. Missy Jones

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