In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ix Foreword Following the Civil War, the citizens of Texas entered unsettling times as Reconstruction turned their routine world upside down. Elected officials were thrown out of office and replaced by political appointees who included a mixture of men ranging from competent to outright inept individuals. Slavery was abolished, but Texas citizen and newly freed slave alike were excruciatingly ill prepared for this new modus vivendi, leading to considerable conflict and violence that continued well into the next century. The infrastructure of government no longer provided the stability that had allowed farmers, ranchers, merchants, and professionals to thrive and prosper as they had prior to the war. Once Reconstruction ended in 1872, communities had to begin from scratch in building a new infrastructure, finding competent public servants to work effectively under a new system and new laws. Add to this that Texas in the mid-1870s was still relatively primitive and communities were somewhat isolated from each other. The train was only now beginning to make inroads to meet statewide transportation needs, and the telegraph was a fragile line stretching from one point to another in order that communities could talk to each other. Further, Texas also had an unsettled frontier on its western fringes, where the Indian was still a very real threat and reports of murder and depredations almost a daily occurrence. Even though Texas was restored to its place in the federal Union, the military presence of the United States in Texas was only now being beefed up to actually contend with not only the Indians, but also Mexican raiders who regularly plundered from across the Rio Grande. Certainly the mid-1870s were an uncertain time as the state grappled with getting back on its feet, and the strongest quality available to local communities to insure survival in the interim was that of self-sufficiency. There was no effective law enforcement capacity at the local level that could cope with much more than handling the local drunks, collecting taxes, and attending the courts when in session . Thus, when an outrageous crime occurred, or depredations in a community were at a level that severely taxed or overwhelmed the x Foreword resources available to the local sheriff, there was seldom any other recourse except to resurrect a vigilante movement. News reports in Texas throughout the 1870s are replete with accounts of mobs stepping in to administer summary justice in place of the established system . Accused prisoners were forcefully taken from jail cells, sometimes with the connivance of local officials, and hanged, shot, beaten, and burned. Most of the time they were probably guilty—sometimes they weren’t. With such a fragile hold on civilization in these communities, it is not difficult to understand how “blood feuds” could occur—and occur they did. Although sometimes the origins of a feud are hard to pin down, often it was the perception by one group of people that it had been wronged by another group of people, and one thing generally led to another until killing was routinely taking place. Texas experienced feuds all over the state, especially in its central part. The late Dr. C. L. Sonnichsen ventured into these areas in the 1930s to dig out first-person accounts of the feuds—a gutsy thing to do since bad feelings stemming from those feuds were still simmering and such details were nothing to discuss with a total stranger—leading to probably the best works on feuds. The better-known and probably bloodiest feuds were the SuttonTaylor affair in DeWitt and Gonzales Counties, and the Mason County War, which spilled over into Burnet and Llano Counties. Both feuds accounted for a considerable body count, and occurred about the same time. It took the intercession of the newly reorganized Texas Rangers to confront the violence and to help reestablish some modicum of domestic tranquility. In fact, it might even be said that Ranger involvement in these feuds helped cement the reputation as a tough, unyielding law enforcement agency that it enjoys today. The end of these feuds also essentially marks that approximate point in time when the social controls of a civilized society once more took hold in Texas, and the gunfighter and mob more likely to be held accountable for their crimes. No longer could lynchings and assassination be committed with as much impunity as before—although they did continue to occur. In the wake of his successful research into the life of Mason...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.