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Written in Blood

The History of Fort Worth's Fallen Lawmen, Volume 1, 1861-1909

Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster

Publication Year: 2010

In 2009 Fort Worth unveiled an elaborate, million-dollar memorial to its fallen police and firefighters going all the way back to the city’s beginnings in 1873. Fifty-eight of the ninety-five names on the memorial were policemen. Written in Blood is a more inclusive version of that idea because it covers more than just members of the Fort Worth Police Department; it includes men from all branches of local law enforcement who died defending law and order in the early years: policemen, sheriffs, constables, “special officers,” and even a police commissioner. Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster tell the stories of thirteen of those early lawmen—an unlucky number to be sure. They range from Tarrant County Sheriff John B. York through Fort Worth Police Officer William “Ad” Campbell covering the years from 1861 to 1909. York was the first local lawman to die—in a street fight. Campbell was last in this era—shot-gunned in the back while walking his beat in Hell’s Half-Acre. Co-authors Selcer and Foster bring academic credentials and “street cred” to the story, explaining how policemen got (and kept) their jobs, what special officers were, and the working relationship between the city marshal’s boys and the sheriff’s boys.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii

So many people to thank, so few words in which to do it! There's a rule of thumb in history: the bigger the book and the more footnotes, the more people there are to thank. That includes colleagues, collectors, librarians, archivists...

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Introduction to Volume I

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pp. 1-12

The lawman is a mythic figure in Western history distinguished from mere mortals by the badge on his chest. It was that badge, not the gun he carried, that separated him from other men. Most men carried guns; few were defenders of law and order. The symbolic importance of the badge...

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Part I. The Frontier Years (1861-1888) and Introduction

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pp. 13-20

Before the first cattle drive came through, before there was even a town worthy of the name, Fort Worth marked the frontier where civilization ended and "the West began." There was a community around the fort as early as 1853, but law and order was slow in coming. For the next twenty years...

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CHAPTER 1 Sheriff John B. York (1861-1888)

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pp. 21-35

Tarrant County's first sheriff was Francis Jourdan (sometimes Anglicized to "Jordan"), elected in the first countywide elections on August 5, 1850. Since the little community of Fort Worth would not get its first town marshal...

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CHAPTER 2 Deputy Marshal Christopher Columbus Fitzgerald (August 25, 1877)

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pp. 36-52

The second local peace officer to die in the line of duty was Christopher Columbus Fitzgerald, mostly remembered as C. C. Fitzgerald, who joined the little community on the Trinity after it was incorporated as a city in 1873. Far removed from...

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CHAPTER 3 Deputy Marshal George White (August 2, 1879)

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pp. 53-71

When is a police officer justified in using "deadly force"? Today that question is a weighty legal and ethical issue. In nineteenth-century Texas the answer was simple: an officer's decision to draw his weapon was circumscribed only by his own good judgment. There are always two sides to every question, and this one is no different...

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CHAPTER 4 Deputy Marshal William T. Wise (October 2, 1884)

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pp. 72-87

Five years passed before another local officer died in the line of duty. Once again the case involved a question of jurisdiction: What business does a Fort Worth deputy marshal have joining a Mississippi manhunt? That deputy marshal was William...

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CHAPTER 5 Deputy Sheriff Dick Townsend (April 3, 1886)

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pp. 88-116

April 3, 1886, was the single bloodiest day in Fort Worth law enforcement history. Three officers were shot down, one of whom died. The injuries of the others certainly shortened their lives. The fact that the "enemy" was the Knights of...

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Part II. Black and White Justice (1889–1909) and Introduction

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pp. 117-132

The report of the Kerner Commission investigating racial violence in America in the 1960s pointed the finger at the nation's police as one of the main causes of that violence. If the Kerner Commission had been transported back to Fort Worth at the turn of the century, they would have found race to...

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CHAPTER 6 Police Officer Lee Waller (June 30, 1892)

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pp. 133-172

Lee Waller was a typical nineteenth-century Western lawman: a farm boy who did not care that much about the law but did want something better out of life than being a dirt farmer. He took a round-about route to police work...

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CHAPTER 7 Police Officer Andrew J. Grimes (May 12, 1902)

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pp. 173-188

The day after Lee Waller was shot, while he was still fighting for his life, another Fort Worth Officer, J. J. Garrett, told a Gazette reporter, "About the only thing going on in the criminal world is killing policemen." It certainly...

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CHAPTER 8 Special Officer John D. Nichols, Jr. (December 22, 1906)

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pp. 189-200

Not every officer who died in the line of duty was a regular officer. Special police and special deputies were also duly commissioned lawmen who laid their lives on the line to defend law and order. John Nichols was the first "special officer" in Fort Worth history to die in the line of duty...

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CHAPTER 9 Police Officer Hamil Scott & County Attorney Jefferson McLean (March 22, 1907)

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pp. 201-226

After the death of John Nichols, public indignation over the Acre reached new heights. It was a blight on the city and the site of at least two dozen murders over the years. The gamblers seemed the particular objects of the public"s fury. The man who was the instrument of that fury was...

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CHAPTER 10 Police Officers Dick Howell & Oscar Montgomery (April 11, 1908)

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pp. 227-262

The deaths of most of the officers in these pages were the direct result of being assaulted in the performance of their duties. It is not that simple with Dick Howell and Oscar Montgomery. Both men were severely wounded in the line of duty and in fact given up to death, but they were too tough...

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CHAPTER 11 Police Officer William Addison Campbell (August 12, 1909)

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pp. 263-288

Not until 1908 did the Fort Worth Police Department finally get around to drawing up a list of qualifications for men seeking to join the force. With the sweep of a pen, a new era had dawned. Henceforward, all would-be policemen must be between the ages of 25 and 45, able to read and...

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Conclusion: The End of the Trail

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pp. 289-293

By 1909 the Progressive era was running at full tide. Reformers angling for a thorough house-cleaning of American society did not overlook law enforcement. There was a new emphasis on professional standards, on modernizing...


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pp. 294-344


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pp. 345-356


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pp. 357-375

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413496
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412956

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 51 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010