Hangings On The Texas Frontier
By the early 1870s, some settlers had been living on the Texas frontier for almost twenty years, and they were tired. They had seen drought and famine; they had buried their babies, fought Indians and a Civil War, and somehow dug a life for themselves and their families out of frontier dirt.
When the outlaw element began to move into their communities, it was simply the last straw, and frontier men saw the need to take the law into their own hands.
Now, before I go any farther, I have to be sure that I do not mislead you. My research does not lead me to believe that the citizen mobs formed in Brown, Comanche, Erath, Hamilton, and other frontier counties always consisted of upstanding citizens who were just trying to protect their families and their communities, not at all. There were men who joined these mobs for all kinds of reasons, and we must always keep in mind that there were mob members who were often just as wicked as those they killed.
In 1872, the town of Comanche was larger than Brownwood; however, there was no jail in Comanche, and there would not be one for a few years yet to come. On about October 10, 1872, Deputy Sheriff J.D. Windham of Brown County arrested a man named T.D. Reynolds for murder.
Although I am not sure why, Deputy Windham brought his prisoner to Comanche and left him in the custody of the sheriff, saying he would be back to get him when he had the proper paperwork.
Before Windham returned, two more men (Mason and Roberts) were arrested by Comanche County citizens for stealing horses. Since there was no jail in Comanche, the men were chained together, and I assume kept in a downtown building with a guard.
Eventually, Deputy Windham returned to Comanche to get his prisoner and take him to the jail in Stephenville where he would await a hearing. Supposedly, Windham purchased thirty-six feet of rope while in Comanche, and on the night of October 20, 1872, Windham and several other men left to take all three prisoners to Erath County even though there had been no legal hearing for Mason and Roberts.
With Deputy Windham were William Davenport and Tom Saskee of Comanche County, Misters White and Chestnut of Erath County, and several others. Windham drove the prisoners in a wagon while the other men rode their horses. It was said that at least some of these men were drinking heavily before they left the town of Comanche, but I have no way of knowing if that is actually true.
All I know for sure is that all three prisoners were found the next day hanging from a tree about six miles out of Comanche. Deputy Windham and the others claimed that a mob had rushed out of the brush and taken the prisoners from them.
At the inquest it was decided that Windham’s group was telling the truth. The three men were buried; however, they were buried so shallowly that the wolves were able to have a feast off of their bodies.
These were hard, hard days in our part of the world here in Central Texas.