As the T-shirt says, “Nice people rarely make history,” and unfortunately, this is usually true. Thus it is with the history of Hazel Dell, Texas; the stories that have survived and that have pricked most of our interest are about the bad that Hazel Dell had to offer, not the good.
Today, I am going to roll the calendar back to the year 1949, for it was in the year 1949 that Billy Bob Lightfoot (eventually Dr. Lightfoot) conducted interviews all over Central Texas, trying to gather enough information to write his thesis.
The following is from an interview that he did with Hazel Dell resident Tom Conaway about the Hazel Dell of the “Old West.”
There are a couple of facts (and some spellings) that I might take issue with; however, I am going to give it to you exactly as Mr. Conaway gave it to Lightfoot.
“Hazeldell was founded the year of 1867 by William (Choctaw Bill) Robinson. He was a Baptist minister, and he also put up the first flour mill.
“Old man Jim Mackey, his wife, and four sons: John, Dan, Natt, and Milburn lived about 1/2 mile from Hazeldell. Natt and Dan were connected with a bunch of outlaws and had been stealing horses.
“One night Natt and two strangers came back with 40 head of horses they had stolen, and put them in his dad’s lot. A posse got after them and surrounded the house. They were really having a gun battle. Finally Mrs. Mackey (Natt’s mother) stepped out on the front porch and Natt would shoot from her shoulder. The posse stopped firing because they didn’t want to shoot his mother.
“Finally Natt and the outlaws slipped out the back and got away.
“Two weeks later a mob came to the Mackey home. They took Mr. Mackey and hanged him. Mrs. Mackey begged them to let him go because he hadn’t done anything.
“This episode broke up the Mackey gang. Mrs. Mackey and the two smaller boys moved from Hazeldell
“One night in a saloon in Hazeldell, a big crowd of cowboys had gathered in from the ranches, and were having a big time in general.
Dan Mackey, a tough character, had come in too, and was drinking heavily. He raised a row with my father (George Conaway). Mackey jerked out his six-shooter and shot twice at father, missing him with both shots.
The bartender, George Hogue, who was behind the bar, jerked out his pistol and shot Mackey in the neck, breaking it. Hogue left the county after this but returned 16 years later and was tried and acquitted in this case.
“Another time, two boys came in and broke into a drug store at Hazeldell. Bob Childs was deputy sheriff and took after the boys.
“One of the boys had a Winchester rifle and fired at Deputy Childs three times but missed. Childs succeeded in catching the youths and made the arrests, taking the gun away from the young thieves. Later, they were turned lose.
“A few weeks later one of the boys was hanged on Resley Creek. He was just a tough character, and they wanted to get rid of him.”
*Because of the way I organize this section, I have to choose a date in history. Sometimes I have an exact date, and sometimes I have to get as close to an exact date as I can. If you can get closer to the date of any of these incidents, please feel free to let me know. Thanks!