As I’ve told you, in 1884, Texas citizens who were tired of having their horses stolen organized an Anti-Horse Thief Association and took the law into their own hands by hanging five of the thieves. However, if you think that was the only conflict brewing in Central Texas at that time, you are sadly mistaken.
According to Benjamin Hardy Carlton’s 1938 autobiography, the lawlessness in frontier Texas was such that most small cities and towns were forced to form Citizen Protective Associations. “Most of the leading citizens of each town were members of the association but under the most profound secrecy.”
As an aside here, I will say that it is, of course, these “associations” that have caused many, many small Texas towns to try and hide much of their history because people today have a fear of others knowing that their ancestors participated in these mobs. But once again, I say that history is history…and it needs to simply be left to stand on its own merit, good and bad.
Meanwhile, Carlton tells us that back in the 1880s there was a blacksmith who submitted written permission to join the Citizen Protective Association, and permission was granted. This man, who had to have been a fool, then published a list of the names of every member of the group.
“The next night while home in bed with his family he was called to the door and shot down in cold blood, his body riddled with bullets…”
Because the list had been published, the 150 men who made up the association were arrested and stood trial. Not one was found guilty, of course, and citizens became even more afraid for their lives.
What happened next would be funny if it were not so scary. Apparently, after being forced to stand trial, the members of the association became very divided on how to handle future operations…so divided that they decided to decide the questions with a “war” among themselves.
“Finally, they decided to meet at a designated spot and fight it out between themselves. When they were lined up for battle, several cool heads on each side saw how useless it was…What a terrible calamity it would have been to our little home-loving community had friend shot down friend just for the sake of argument.”
And those of you who know me know that I have at least a hundred remarks I could make here about these men, but I’m going to restrain myself and simply say that there are many people alive today because their male ancestors decided that it wasn’t nearly as good a day to die as they had thought it was when they stomped off to play war.