The Sutton-Taylor Feud
The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of North Texas Press
Series: A. C. Greene Series
List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Sutton-Taylor Feud
Bill Sutton stepped down from the hack first, and then helped his pregnant wife Laura, holding her arm gently. She was now in her early months, strong, smiling, and confident, but to loving husband Bill she was delicate and fragile, and he was more than ordinarily concerned about...
1. The Taylors and the Suttons—Texas Pioneers
During the tumultuous days following the Civil War, Reconstruction and its aftermath, and into the decade of the 1870s, some considered the Taylors as outlaws, but although several were fugitives from the law, the Taylors in truth were Texas pioneers. Grassroots historian...
2. Homicides and Private Quarrels
Hays and Doboy Taylor, the sons of Creed, were the first of the Taylors to be involved in difficulties with the occupying Federal forces. Anyone associated with them naturally became part of the “Taylor gang,” although the Taylors certainly never considered themselves a gang. We...
3. A Killing in Clinton
Richard H. Chisholm was the first permanent settler in the area that became DeWitt County, establishing a home there in January 1829. Soon other settlers moved in and a settlement grew on the west bank of the Guadalupe River, five miles southeast of the present site of Cuero, today...
4. The State Police—“Murder Most Foul”
Special Officer C. S. Bell sought out Helm knowing his special abilities in dealing with so-called desperadoes. In late April 1869 Bell left Austin in pursuit of an escaped convict, James W. Weaver. He first proceeded to the plantation of Helm’s father-in-law, named Crawford, some “twenty miles...
5. Rampant Killings
The man who made a huge difference in the events of the feud entered onto the stage in 1871. He was John Wesley Hardin, the second-born son of Rev. James G. and Elizabeth Dixon Hardin, and he was named for the founder of Methodism. Born on May 26, 1853, in Fannin County, he...
6. Treaties of Peace
July of 1873 was deadly for the followers of William E. Sutton, as Cox, Christman, and Helm all fell before the guns of the Taylor party. Clearly, John Wesley Hardin’s expertise in planning and executing ambushes had produced positive results. Historian Robert C. Sutton Jr. believed that it...
7. McNelly and the Rangers Arrive
The June lynching of the three young men in Clinton, as well as the double killing of William E. Sutton and companion Gabriel Webster Slaughter on the deck of the Clinton in March, brought statewide attention to the feud. The death of Sutton should have marked the end of the feud, allowing...
8. Bloody 1875
In spite of McNelly’s good work in DeWitt County, he received criticism from some, and surprisingly from Sen. B. J. Pridgen. The senator had written to Governor Coke asking for Rangers to protect him and his family. The governor turned the note over to McNelly who responded on...
9. Last Killings
The triple killing of the Taylor men—Jim Taylor, Mace Arnold, and A. R. Hendricks—perhaps caused many people of DeWitt County to breathe a sigh of relief. The leaders of both factions were now dead; many of their followers were either dead or had left the country. In spite of Bill...
10. Prisoners and Trials
In the nineteenth century the average newspaper had relatively free rein as to what to print. Inaccuracies and halftruths could be printed as fact, and the correspondents who simply signed their names as “Justice” or “Pidge” or “Citizen” could fearlessly write what they believed or pleased with...
11. With the Smoke Cleared
After the pardon of David Augustine, perhaps the citizens of DeWitt County felt it was safe to say that the Sutton-Taylor Feud was finally over. The Brassells had been long buried; their accused slayers had endured their trials at no doubt great expense. Some participants had sold out...
Epilogue: All Is Forgiven
Although Jim Taylor’s two friends who died with him received little recognition, a special event occurred in 1988, which provided some degree of fame. On July 10 of that year, at the Taylor-Bennett Cemetery just south of Cuero on Highway 87, the graves of A. R. Hendricks and Mason...