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The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona

An O.K. Corral Obituary

Paul Lee Johnson

On a chilly October afternoon in 1881, two brothers named Tom and Frank McLaury were gunned down on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona, by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. The deadly event became known as the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and in a quirk of fate, the brothers’ names became well-known, but only as bad men and outlaws. Did they deserve that reputation? The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: An O.K. Corral Obituary explores this question, revealing details of their family background and the context of their lives on the frontier. Paul Lee Johnson begins their story with the McLaury brothers’ decision to go into the cattle business with an ambition to have their own ranch. When they moved to Arizona, they finally achieved that goal, but along the way they became enmeshed with the cross-border black market that was thriving there. As “honest ranchers” they were in business with both the criminal element as well as the legitimate businesses in Tombstone. Another principal in this story was an older brother, William, who set aside his law practice in Fort Worth to settle his brothers’ affairs, and associated himself with the prosecution of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Despite his efforts, the Earps and Holliday were exonerated, and the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” became the opening salvo of a feud that took several more lives. Johnson has interviewed family descendants and mined their sources, government correspondence, and letters that have never before been published to reveal the human lives behind the storied events. For the first time the events of the O.K. Corral gunfight are presented from the viewpoint of the McLaurys, two brothers who lost their lives and reputations, and a family who tried in vain to find restitution.

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Murder on the White Sands

The Disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain

Corey Recko

On a cold February evening in 1896, prominent attorney Col. Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son Henry rode home across the White Sands of New Mexico. It was a trip the father and son would not complete—they both disappeared in a suspected ambush and murder at the hands of cattle thieves Fountain was prosecuting. The disappearance of Colonel Fountain and his young son resulted in outrage throughout the territory, yet another example of lawlessness that was delaying New Mexico’s progress toward statehood. The sheriff, whose deputies were quickly becoming the prime suspects, did little to solve the mystery. Governor Thornton, eager for action, appointed Pat Garrett as the new sheriff, the man famous for killing Billy the Kid fifteen years earlier. Thornton also called on the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, who assigned top operative John Fraser to assist Garrett with the case. The evidence pointed at three men, former deputies William McNew, James Gililland, and Oliver Lee. These three men, however, were very close with powerful ex-judge, lawyer, and politician Albert B. Fall. It was even said by some that Fall was the mastermind behind the plot to kill Fountain. Forced to wait two years for a change in the political landscape, Garrett finally presented his evidence to the court and secured indictments against the three suspects. Garrett quickly arrested McNew, but Lee and Gililland went into hiding. Lee claimed that Garrett merely wanted to kill him with a warrant for his arrest as an excuse. When both men were tracked down at one of Lee's ranches, Lee and Gililland got the best of the sheriff's posse in the ensuing gun battle, killing one deputy and forcing Garrett and his two remaining deputies to retreat. Lee and Gililland would finally surrender months later, under the condition that they would never be in the custody of Sheriff Garrett. The trial took place in the secluded town of Hillsboro. The murders of the Fountains became an afterthought as the accused men, defended by their attorney Fall, pleaded innocence. Missing witnesses plagued the prosecution, and armed supporters of the defendants, who packed the courtroom, intimidated others. The verdict: not guilty. The bodies of Albert Fountain and his young son Henry still lie in an unmarked grave, the location of which remains a mystery. Corey Recko tells for the first time the complete story of the Fountain case and, through extensive research, reconstructs what really happened to them and who the likely killers were.

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The Notorious Luke Short

Sporting Man of the Wild West

Jack DeMattos and Chuck Parsons

Often times the smaller the man, the harder the punch--this adage was true in the case of diminutive Luke Short, whose brief span of years played out in the Wild West. His adventures began as a teenage cowboy who followed the trail from Texas to the Kansas railheads. He then served as a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian wars and, finally, he perfected his skills as a gambler in locations that included Leadville, Tombstone, Dodge City, and Fort Worth. In 1883, in what became known as the "Dodge City War," he banded together with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and others to protect his ownership interests in the Long Branch Saloon--an event commemorated by the famous "Dodge City Peace Commission" photograph. The irony is that Luke Short is best remembered for being the winning gunfighter in two of the most celebrated showdowns in Old West history: the shootout with Charlie Storms in Tombstone, Arizona, and the showdown against Jim Courtright in Fort Worth, Texas. He would have hated that. During his lifetime, Luke Short became one of the best known sporting men in the United States, and one of the wealthiest. He had been a partner in the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, as well as the White Elephant in Fort Worth. He became friends with other wealthy sporting men, such as William H. Harris, Jake Johnson, and Bat Masterson, who helped broaden his gaming interests to include thoroughbred horse racing and boxing. Before he died he would become a familiar figure in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, and Saratoga Springs, where he raced his string of horses. He traveled with other wealthy sporting men in private railroad cars to attend heavyweight championship fights. Luke Short was always a little man dealing in big games. He married the beautiful Hattie Buck, who could turns heads at all the top resorts they visited as man and wife. Jack DeMattos and Chuck Parsons have researched deeply into all records to produce the first serious biography of Luke Short, revealing in full the epitome of a sporting man of the Wild West.

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The Sutton-Taylor Feud

The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

Chuck Parsons

The Sutton-Taylor Feud of DeWitt, Gonzales, Karnes, and surrounding counties began shortly after the Civil War ended. The blood feud continued into the 1890s when the final court case was settled with a governmental pardon. Of all the Texas feuds, the one between the Sutton and Taylor forces lasted longer and covered more ground than any other. William E. Sutton was the only Sutton involved, but he had many friends to wage warfare against the large Taylor family. The causes are still shrouded in mystery and legend, as both sides argued they were just and right. In April 1868 Charles Taylor and James Sharp were shot down in Bastrop County, alleged horse thieves attempting to escape. During this period many men were killed “while attempting to escape.” The killing on Christmas Eve 1868 of Buck Taylor and Dick Chisholm was perhaps the final spark that turned hard feelings into fighting with bullets and knives. William Sutton was involved in both killings. “Who sheds a Taylor's blood, by a Taylor's hand must fall” became a fact of life in South Texas. Violent acts between the two groups now followed. The military reacted against the killing of two of their soldiers in Mason County by Taylors. The State Police committed acts that were not condoned by their superiors in Austin. Mobs formed in Comanche County in retaliation for John Wesley Hardin's killing of a Brown County deputy sheriff. One mob “liberated” three prisoners from the DeWitt County jail, thoughtfully hanging them close to the cemetery for the convenience of their relatives. An ambush party killed James Cox, slashing his throat from ear to ear—as if the buckshot in him was not sufficient. A doctor and his son were called from their home and brutally shot down. Texas Rangers attempted to quell the violence, but when they were called away, the killing began again. In this definitive study of the Sutton-Taylor Feud, Chuck Parsons demonstrates that the violence between the two sides was in the tradition of the family blood feud, similar to so many other nineteenth-century American feuds. His study is well augmented with numerous illustrations and appendices detailing the feudists, their attempts at treaties, and their victims.

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Vengeance Is Mine

The Scandalous Love Triangle That Triggered the Boyce-Sneed Feud

Bill Neal

The 1912 Boyce-Sneed feud in West Texas began with a torrid sex scandal at the core of a love triangle, featuring Lena Snyder Sneed, the high-spirited, headstrong wife; Al Boyce, Jr., Lena’s reckless, romantic lover; and John Beal Sneed, Lena’s arrogant, grim, and vindictive husband, who responded to Lena’s plea for a divorce by having her locked up in an insane asylum on grounds of “moral insanity.” The chase was on after Al rescued Lena from the asylum and the lovers fled to Canada. That’s when the killings began. No one who knew the vengeful John Beal Sneed doubted for a moment that he would go after his wife’s lover with lethal intent. Frustrated by Al’s escape to Canada, Sneed assassinated Al’s aged and unarmed father, Colonel Albert Boyce, a wealthy Amarillo banker and former manager of the huge XIT Ranch in the Panhandle during the late nineteenth century, who had been defending his son against Sneed’s legal machinations. Newspaper headlines predicted the upcoming murder trial would be the “greatest legal battle ever fought in Texas Courts.” Sneed’s well-paid legal team first earned him a mistrial. While awaiting his second trial, Sneed ambushed and killed Al Boyce, Jr., who had foolishly returned to Amarillo and was shot in the back, with witnesses present, while walking the main street. Sneed was acquitted in his second trial for killing the father, and later acquitted for the killing of son Al Boyce, Jr., as well—his legal team skillfully invoking the self-help justice of the unwritten law defending one’s marital home. Bill Neal, attorney and writer, tells the full story of this sordid affair with special analysis of the trial tactics that were so carefully crafted to resonate with the jurors of this era and ensure Sneed’s acquittal.

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