BEN McCULLOCH – Texas Hero

by Julia Robb

Ben McCulloch was a hero, but most of us don’t know who he was. Yet Ben McCulloch fought in the Texas revolution (barely missing dying at the Alamo), he fought the Comanches, he was a Texas Ranger, a U.S. marshal and a Confederate brigadier general. B_McCulloch_civ_ACW McCulloch was born in Tennessee in 1811 and David Crockett eventually became one of the McCullochs’ neighbors and closest friends. In 1835, Ben and his brother Henry decided to follow Crockett to Texas. They planned to meet in Nacogdoches on Christmas day. Ben and Henry didn’t get there on time and Ben tried to catch up with Crockett, who had left for San Antonio. But Ben got the measles and Santa Anna got to the Alamo before Ben did. That didn’t stop Ben from fighting. He joined Sam Houston’s army, fought at the Battle of San Jacinto and earned a battlefield commission as first lieutenant. At that point, the revolution was more or less won and Ben began working as a surveyor in Gonzales and Seguin. But Ben McCulloch was a restless man. He soon joined the Texas Rangers and won a reputation as an Indian fighter. In 1839, McCulloch was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. Ben is sometimes criticized for his rifle duel with Reuben Ross. It’s complicated. Alonzo Sweitzer, one of Ben’s political enemies, originally challenged Ben to the duel. But he sent his friend Reuben to issue the challenge for him. Ben told Ross he wouldn’t fight Sweitzer because Sweitzer wasn’t a gentleman. Those were fighting words and, predictably, Reuben Ross took offense and challenged Ben to a duel. This time, Ben accepted the challenge. The two men faced off with rifles, at forty paces, two miles north of Gonzales. Ross shot McCulloch, permanently crippling his right arm. Ross, who seems to have been a good man, sent his doctor to treat McCulloch and expressed his regret at having “to meet so brave a man in a private encounter.” Ross’s gallant behavior didn’t save him. Henry McCulloch shot and killed Ross a few months later. Ross was reported to have gotten drunk and picked a fight with Henry. Robert S. Neighbors, an Indian agent and Texas state legislator, killed Sweitzer in 1841.       Ben quit politics and returned to surveying and fighting Indians.       At the Battle of Plum Creek (fought against the Comanches) on August 12, 1840, Ben commanded the right wing of the Texas army.       The Texans won. walker-creek-navajo-ponies-for-comanche-warriors-by-frank-mccarthy2-2 In February 1842, when the Mexican government launched a raid against Texas and seized San Antonio, McCulloch scouted enemy positions and helped push Mexican raiders back across the Rio Grande. On September 11, 1842, a second Mexican expedition captured San Antonio. Ben again fought, helping to defeat the Mexicans. After helping to defeat the second Mexican invasion, McCulloch remained with a ranger company. That company was part of an army that would (it was planned) invade Mexico. Ben and Henry, however, believed the Somervell Expedition was not well managed and they went home. Good thing too, because the expedition was a disaster and many of the men were killed. After Texas joined the Union, McCulloch was elected to the First Legislature and after the Mexican War began he raised a Texas Ranger company. Ben was soon named chief of scouts for the American army and won great admiration for his reconnaissance into northern Mexico. Leading his mounted infantry company at the battle of Monterrey, McCulloch further distinguished himself, and before the battle of Buena Vista his daring scouting saved the army and won him a promotion as major of United States volunteers. McCulloch returned to Texas at the end of the war and served for a time as a U.S. Army scout In 1849, however, when gold was discovered in California, Ben hightailed it to Sacramento and was eventually elected sheriff. A few years later, friends lured McCulloch back to Texas and he was appointed United States marshal for the Eastern District of Texas. In 1858, he was appointed one of two peace commissioners to treat with Brigham Young (in Utah) and the elders of the Mormon Church. Ben is credited with helping prevent war  between the United States government and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. When Texas seceded from the Union, Ben was first commissioned a colonel and then Jefferson Davis promoted him to brigadier general, the second-ranking brigadier general in the Confederate Army and the first general-grade officer to be commissioned from the civilian community. McCulloch commanded Indian Territory and made friends with the Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, and other tribal peoples. Many a good man died in the Civil War. McCulloch commanded the Confederate right wing at Pea Ridge, or Elkhorn Tavern, and on March 7, 1862, overran a battery of artillery and drove the enemy from his original position. As federal resistance stiffened around 10:30 a.m., however, McCulloch rode forward through the thick underbrush to find the enemy line. He was shot from the saddle and killed. McCulloch was first buried on the battlefield, but his body was removed to the cemetery at Little Rock and reburied at the state cemetery in Austin.  

Julia can be reached at her website, at, by email at, and through Facebook. She is also at pinterest. Julia’s three novels, “Scalp Mountain,” “Saint of the Burning Heart” and “Del Norte,” are for sale through and at

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The Ghosts In My Life

by Julia Robb

Reading one of my novels will take you on a ride through a supernatural theme park.

That might seem odd because neither novel is about the supernatural.

Scalp Mountain is an historical novel set on the Texas frontier in 1876.

Saint of the Burning Heart is about relationships between Anglos and Hispanics in 1960’s Texas (and an obsessive romance).

But in Scalp, Texas Ranger Captain William Henry witnesses the angel of death, and in Saint, a character watches his dead parents fight.

My characters experienced these events for one simple reason.

Because supernatural events happen to me.

You can’t separate the writer from the writing.

I’ve told a few people my stories and they say things like, “Well, sweetie, you are a novelist.”

Okay. Decide for yourself because I’m writing three blogs about supernatural events occurring in my life.

The blogs will run on The Heart of Texas Blog for three weeks, beginning today.

My longest brush with the supernatural (time-wise) happened when I was living in a 100-year-old townhouse in Frederick, Maryland (where I was working for a newspaper).

It was a two-story, red-brick job with a front stoop opening on a busy urban street.


For the first three years, everything was quiet.

Then one night I lay in bed reading and heard someone pacing the floor at the foot of my bed and breathing…loudly.

At first, I thought the sound must be coming from somewhere else in the house, or from outside.

Maybe it was a distant condenser, or…I didn’t know.

I explored the whole house; even the dark closets, even under the guest room bed.


I went down to the basement. You had to go outside and down a set of rickety steps to get there and that place was scary at night.

Think cobwebs and dirt floor.


So I walked around the back yard, then the street in front, then put my ear to the wall separating my town house from the adjoining townhouse.


Convinced it was my imagination, I went back upstairs and got in bed.

There you go. The spirit, damn his eyes, began pacing again, and breathing.

This spirit had to be a man.

Do women pace? Do women stalk?Image

I was terrified.

Tucking my head under the covers, I prayed, “God, please make this thing go away.”

It didn’t leave.

One morning I sat in my kitchen eating cereal and that spirit walked right up to me and breathed in my face.

I could hear him. It was disgusting.

Prayer must have worked because after three weeks, the presence disappeared.

But it didn’t leave altogether.

One evening, I had a friend to dinner.

I had a feeling I shouldn’t talk about the ghost, but a good story is a good story so I told my friend about the spirit.

My friend left and I went upstairs to bed.

I was so shocked at what I saw my heart began pounding.

A framed painting, which usually hung beside my bed, sat neatly on the floor, its back against the wall.

The painting was encased in a heavy plaster frame weighing several pounds.

Nothing was wrong with the hanger holding the frame on the wall.

Somebody had taken that painting down and leaned it against the wall, and that person wasn’t me.

My opinion: The ghost wanted me to know he heard me talking about him and yes, indeed, he did live in the house.


One night I was cutting a photo to fit a frame, but was using my manicure scissors because my big scissors were missing.

Bang! The television in my upstairs study clicked on, blaring all over the house.

I hadn’t watched TV for days.

I grabbed an iron skillet and ran upstairs to brain the intruder. Nobody was there. But my big scissors lay on the TV stand.

ImageI’m not sure who was responsible for helping me find the scissors, but I don’t think it was the house ghost.

He never seemed that friendly.

Maybe my guardian angel helped me find the scissors.

I called out, to whoever it was, “Thank you.”

Nobody answered.

Julia’s website is not quite finished, but you can find it at and read about her books. Julia also has written several novels which can be purchased by clicking here.


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The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

Gregorio Cortez and his brother Romaldo were working as ranch hands at the W.A. Thulmeyer ranch in Karnes County one day when they saw County Sheriff W.T. Morris and his deputies riding toward them. cortez_alone

It was June 12, 1901, and life for Cortez would never be the same.

Within five minutes Cortez, 25, became a martyr, folk hero and central figure in a corrido (Hispanic folk ballad), one famous to this day.

The sheriff and his deputies, John Trimmell and Boone Choate, were at the ranch searching for a horse thief.

Sheriff Morris questioned the Cortez brothers and Choate acted as interpreter.

But Choate misunderstood several of Cortez’s replies.

When Morris asked if Cortez had recently traded a horse, Cortez replied “no.”

Choate didn’t understand the Spanish language distinguishes between horses (caballos) and mares (yeguas).

Cortez had traded a mare.

Things got heated and the sheriff was convinced Cortez was lying.

When Morris tried to arrest the brothers, Gregorio told the sheriff, “No me puede arrestar por nada” (You can not arrest me for nothing).

Choate thought Cortez was saying, “No white man can arrest me.”

Morris drew his gun.

Romaldo tried to protect his brother by lunging at the sheriff, but Morris shot and wounded Romaldo and then fired at Gregorio Cortez, narrowly missing him.imggregorio cortez2

Gregorio Cortez shot and killed the sheriff.

Then he headed for the Rio Grande.

Hundreds of men pursued him, including several Texas Rangers. A train on the International-Great Northern Railroad route to Laredo was even used to bring in new posses and fresh horses.

Cortez made mistakes. When he sought shelter at a ranch, Gonzales County Sheriff Robert Glover and his posse cornered him.

Shots were exchanged, and Glover and Deputy Schnabel were killed while Cortez made yet another escape.

Schnabel may have been killed by friendly fire.

After three weeks on the run, someone turned him in and the law cornered Cortez at Abrán de la Garza’s sheep camp in Cotulla.

By the time they caught up with him, Cortez had walked nearly 100 miles and ridden more than 400.

He rode two horses to death.

The state of Texas tried Cortez on many different charges and some of the juries, many of which were Anglo, let him go.

And each time he was convicted, the Texas Court of Appeals overturned the verdict.

Cortez could make the fight because his supporters raised money for his legal defense, including for committed lawyer B.R. Abernathy.

But at the last trial, in 1905, Cortez was convicted of killing Sheriff Glover and sentenced to life in prison.

He was sent to Huntsville.americo

Romaldo Cortez died in the Karnes City jail.

In 1913, Texas Governor O.B. Colquitt gave Cortez a conditional pardon and Cortez left Texas to fight in the Mexican revolution.

When he returned, he eventually moved to Anson and died at age 41.

In the meantime, folksong writers were busy.

Because corridos evolve over time, there is no one version of El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez but here are a few typical verses.

They let loose the bloodhound


 They followed him from afar.

 But trying to catch Cortez

 Was like following a star.


..Then said Gregorio Cortez,

 And his voice was like a bell,

 You will never get my weapons

 Till you put me in a cell.


 Then said Gregorio Cortez,

 With a pistol in his hand,

 Ah, so many mounted Rangers

 Just to take one Mexican!

I hope he enjoyed his hero status. He earned it the hard way.

As of 1958, when Américo Paredes wrote With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero, people still sung Gregorio’s song, around the ranch campfires, in the cantinas.

Here’s what Paredes says about the gatherings.

People asked the storytellers what Cortez looked like, and the storytellers said, “Some say he was short and some say he was tall; some say he was Indian brown and some say he was blond..and he looked just a little bit like me.”

Click below to purchase one of Julia Robb’s page-turning historical Texas novels:

Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, eBooks for sale at She can be reached at,,, goodreads, pinterest, twitter, Facebook, and amazon author pages.


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The Voters “can go to hell and I will go to Texas.” David Crockett

by Julia Robb




David Crockett

Don’t call him Davy.

David’s political enemies called him “Davy” to make him seem boyish.

They never convinced anybody.

Dying at the Alamo was just the final scene in David’s dramatic and impressive life.

David Crockett was six-foot and handsome, an expert shot with his rifles (he always named them “Betsey”), a three-term U.S. congressman and an American folk hero who wrote a popular memoir titled A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee.Davy-Crockett1358814911_image_1024w

He grew up in the wilderness, could hit a target at two hundred yards and specialized in hunting bear.

He also fought in the Creek War, serving with the Tennessee Mounted Volunteer Riflemen, and served in the War of 1812.

Because the military failed to provide supplies, David did tend to drift in and out of the ranks while searching for food.

“It was root hog or die,” Crockett said in his autobiography.

Best of all, David was a “truly honest man,” according to biographer William C. Davis, in Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis.

“..there was no true guile in the man. He was exactly as he seemed: He said what he thought and meant what he said,” Davis wrote, later adding, “His conscious demanded he stand for right.”

Crockett himself repeatedly wrote, and said, “Be always sure you’re right–THEN GO AHEAD.”

Although he did exaggerate his backwoods style for the voters, Davis said Crockett “projected a basic and genuine gentility,” and “good cheer.”

Like many other American heroes, David came from a humble background.

He was descended from a Scot family who immigrated to America in the early eighteenth century and settled on the frontier, in what was then North Carolina.220px-David_Crockett

In 1778, David’s grandparents paid for living on the frontier when a Creek, or Chickamauga, war party attacked their farm, killing them, wounding one son and kidnapping another.

Joseph Crockett, David’s father, (who fought in the American revolution) escaped the Indian attack because he was already married and living on his own.

David was born August 17, 1786, in his father’s log cabin, but ran away when he was thirteen and spent years taking care of himself.

That didn’t leave much time for school.

But David was always ambitious and when he returned home, he made a bargain with a local schoolmaster. The teacher would give him reading and writing lessons in return for David’s work.

The arrangement was a success, although Crockett was never a good speller.

When he was twenty, David married Polly Finley and they began farming.

However, the couple was forced to keep moving west because David was both restless and a poor farmer. He had to hunt to feed his family and lost several properties to tax delinquency and debt.

During these endless moves, the couple had three children.

They weren’t destined for happiness. Polly died and it broke David’s heart.

Polly’s death was “The hardest trial which ever falls to the lot of man,” David said in his memoir.

His children would either have to be farmed out to relatives or he would be forced to marry again, David wrote, so he proposed to a widow, Elizabeth Patton.

The couple was not happy and eventually separated.

But, Crockett was good at something other than farming.

Getting along with people was easy for him. They found him charming.

When he was living at the head of Shoal Creek, three miles west of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, his fellow citizens nominated David for Justice of the Peace and the state legislature approved their choice.

After that, he was elected to local offices, then to the state legislature.

Both in the state legislature and U.S. Congress, David proposed laws to help his fellow frontiersmen, especially laws designed to help them obtain ownership of land on which they settled and improved.

A week after taking office in the state legislature, Crockett cast his first vote to relieve heavy penalties on people owing overdue property taxes.

This issue was one with which David could personally sympathize.

Reforming land grant law was another pet issue. He believed a few men were monopolizing the best property.

Crockett did not work well with other legislators. He made “Independence his personal religion, recklessly unmindful that religions have a way of creating martyrs,” Davis wrote.

But by the time Crockett ran for Congress, something new was happening in American culture.

People no longer identified with the founding fathers and wanted to see themselves in a different kind of man; a Western man, a frontiersman, a self-made man.

David Crockett was that man.

First they began calling him one of the “Lions of the West,” then they identified him with the character who trod the stage in “The Lion of the West; or, A Trip to Washington.”

After that, he was the celebrity of the age. David couldn’t go anywhere without being asked for his autograph. A book was written about him, he was invited to speak, he toured the East Coast and was toasted in every town.

Uninvited visitors showed up at his Washington hotel room and he showed them what they expected to see; the frontiersman who could whip his weight in wildcats and ride alligators.

“Well!–they came to see a bar (bear), and they’ve seen one–hope they like the performance–it did not cost them anything any how,” David told a friend, after one such visit.DavyCrockettBarHunter_0

An aspiring author wrote a book about Crockett, but it was so inaccurate that he decided to write his own book to set the record straight (and make some desperately-needed money).

That’s when David wrote his Narrative, which was the most popular book of the time.

After that, however, Crockett’s life went downhill.

His constant attacks on Andrew Jackson wore thin. David called him “King Andrew.” And he just got tired. He was never cut out for politics.

Then Jackson went after him in the 1835 Congressional election, supported an opponent against him, and David lost by 252 votes.

That’s when David said to hell with the voters, he was going to Texas.

He took his rifle, his fiddle and a few friends, and headed west.

According to one letter writer, when David stopped in Texas towns, people sensed he would not be seen again.

Crockett was himself prophetic in a letter he wrote to his daughter, “Do not be uneasy about me I am with my friends,” he wrote.

“I am rejoiced at my fate.”



Click below to purchase one of Julia Robb’s page-turning historical Texas novels:

Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, eBooks for sale at She can be reached at,,, goodreads, pinterest, twitter, Facebook, and amazon author pages.






Jack Hays and The Wild Texas Rangers

by Julia Robb


In 1840, Texas Ranger Captain Jack Hays and twenty of his men tracked down two hundred Comanches herding stolen horses.37-Jack-Hays

Hays said, “Yonder are the Indians, boys, and yonder are our horses. The Indians are pretty strong. But we can whip them. What do you say?”

The Rangers charged, killed the Comanche leader and the rest of the warriors ran.

That’s a typical Ranger story.

The nineteenth century Texas Rangers were special to Texas and there’s a reason.

The Rangers were quick-shooting, hard-drinking, brutal, aggressive men, “just this side of brigands and desperados,” who fought a “war to the knife,” according to S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon.

In other words, they were just what Texas needed when the Comanche, Kiowa and Kickapoo were besieging us on every side.

The Rangers were also self-sacrificing.

Not only did they fight the tribes, they also fought Mexican soldiers (in two different wars), Mexican bandits and Anglo outlaws, while having to supply their own food, weapons, equipment and horses.

Rangers carried one rifle, two pistols, a knife and one blanket.

In time, Texas paid each ranger $30 per month.

Rangers also slept fully clothed in case they were forced to jump from their bedrolls and fight.

Texans organized the Rangers in 1835, and the new military waged all-out war against the tribes, especially during the 1839 Cherokee War in East Texas, the Council House Fight in San Antonio, in March 1840, and the (victorious) Battle of Plum Creek, against 1,000 Comanche warriors, in August 1840.

By 1841, the Rangers had undermined, if not broken, the tribes’ power. Comanches were still a threat, but the frontier was advancing west.

Things changed in 1861.

So many men left Texas during the Civil War, to fight for the Confederacy (including the Rangers), the tribes again ruled the plains.

Wilderness reclaimed whole parts of Texas because the Comanche had either killed the settlers or used fear and fire to push them out.

And the reconstruction government (1865-1870), did not allow the Rangers to operate, instead forcing a state police force down Texas’ throats.

State police were not effective against Comanche, and were highly unpopular–they were renowned for killing suspects without benefit of trial, particularly when those suspects were former Confederates.

By 1874, Texans were desperate for help against the Comanche and legislators again funded the Rangers.

Good move. The “Frontier Battalion,” about 450 men, fought in fifteen Indian battles.

After U.S. Fourth Cavalry Commander Ranald Mackenzie and his troopers, and the Rangers, were through with the Comanche, the tribe agreed to remain on the Fort Sill, Oklahoma, reservation.

The Rangers also “thinned out” more than 3,000 Texas desperados, including bank robber Sam Bass and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin.

Rangers were also ordered to end several frontier feuds–which they did.

The Rangers have occasionally committed wrongs, as organizations are full of imperfect human beings.

Accusers have charged the Rangers with racial prejudice; of not always giving Hispanics and African-Americans the benefit of the doubt.

That probably happened.

A folk song originating in South Texas tells the story of Gregorio Cortez Lira, who killed a Texas sheriff.

The sheriff had it coming and Gregorio was brave, the song says, adding “Don’t run, you cowardly rangers, from just one Mexican.”

The history of the world is bathed in blood and injustice, and organizations usually mirror culture.

But the Rangers came through for Texas when Texas needed them, and I, for one, am grateful.

JackHaysStatueSanMarcosTX211JRJack Hays’ Statue in San Marcos


Click below to purchase one of Julia Robb’s page-turning historical Texas novels:

Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, eBooks for sale at She can be reached at,,, goodreads, pinterest, twitter, Facebook, and amazon author pages.



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When Congressmen Carried Guns

by Julia Robb

In 1832, Sam Houston stood in the U.S. of Representatives, on trial for attacking Ohio Representative William Stanbery.

It was a headline trial. Sam Houston, a six-foot-two, good-looking Tennessean, was already famous.220px-SHouston_2

While Houston defended himself, a woman in the balcony threw him a bouquet of flowers and cried “I would rather be Sam Houston in a dungeon than Stanbery on a throne.”

We think we know about Sam Houston; general of the Texas armies, hero of San Jacinto, president of the Republic of Texas, senator of Texas, governor of Texas.

But Sam Houston was bigger than life and most people don’t know half the story.

Let’s start with his congressional trial.

While Stanbery was attacking Andrew Jackson’s administration, during a house speech, he accused someone in the administration of fraudulently giving Houston contracts to distribute food to Indians.

At the time this supposedly happened, Houston was Indian subagent in Tennessee.

Houston found out about Stanbery’s statement.

It was then against the law to physically attack congressman for statements they made on the House floor.

Houston, a former Tennessee congressman himself, knew this.

But when the two met on a Washington street, Houston ignored the rules and beat Stanbery with his cane.

During the fight, Stanbery pulled a gun and tried to shoot Houston in the chest.

Houston’s life was saved when the gun misfired.

After listening to Houston’s ringing self-defense, members voted to reprimand him.

The vote:106 to 89.

Houston’s life was filled with danger.

He fought in the war of 1812 and was twice wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in Alabama.

In 1826, when he was a Tennessee congressman, Gen. William White challenged him to a duel. The two men squared off at 15 paces and Houston shot White in the groin.

White thought he was dying and supposedly made amends with Houston while he lying on the ground. White survived.

Houston was a romantic and eventually fell in love with Eliza Allen, daughter of a wealthy Tennessee family.

Sam was 35-years-old. Eliza was 19.

The two were married in January, 1829.

Eliza left him three months later.

Nobody ever knew what happened.

Separation and divorce were huge scandals in the nineteenth century, particularly if the husband and wife were well known.

And Houston was governor of Tennessee.

America couldn’t talk about anything else but the marriage. Houston fans and biographers are still talking about it.

Houston said he would not “take up arms” against a woman, resigned as governor, and fled to the Cherokees, whom he had lived with as a boy.

The Cherokees called him “The Raven,” but also called him “Big Drunk,” as he apparently went on a years-long binge.

Sam eventually sobered up and left for Texas.

When Santa Ana invaded and Houston was asked to lead the miniscule Texas army, Houston urged Texans to fight: “Be men, be free men, so that your children may bless their father’s name.”

Houston was badly wounded at San Jacinto, but Texas carried the day.

Houston eventually married Margaret Lea, who reformed him. He was baptized in Rocky Creek, two miles south of Independence.al12

A friend wrote Houston and said he supposed Houston’s sins were all washed away when he was baptized.

In his reply, Houston said, “I hope so, but if they were all washed away, the Lord help the fish down below.”

This is Houston’s greatest deed: He refused to lead Texas out of the Union and resigned as governor rather than doing so.

He warned Texans the Confederacy would lose the fight and it would be a ruinous, bloody war.

“Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming….Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of the bayonet..”

Houston died, brokenhearted, in 1863.

His last words were “Texas, Texas, Margaret.”



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Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, eBooks for sale at She can be reached at,,, goodreads, pinterest, twitter, Facebook, and amazon author pages.

Texas Feuds flourished on the lawless frontier: The Regulators and the Moderators and The Mason County War.

On Nov. 13, 1843, Peter Whetstone walked from a store located on the square in Marshall, Texas and met his death.

Whetstone donated the land Marshall was built on.

Didn’t help.

A “Regulator” leader who believed Whetstone was a “Moderator,” followed him outside and shot him in the back.

Whetstone–one of my multiple-great uncles–entered the record book.

The Regulator–Moderator feud was the bloodiest in American history and Whetstone was one of the victims.

Most Americans have heard about the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoy’s.

Only ten men were killed in the Kentucky shootouts.

More than thirty men were killed in the Regulator–Moderator war, and it took Sam Houston and the Texas militia to stop the bloodshed

Sudden Death


While it remained a frontier, Texas was a brutal place where sudden death swept men away like tornadoes.

Nobody met in the street and drew their guns. This wasn’t dueling.

Men shot each other in the back, or suddenly pulled on each other after a few harsh words, then the loser’s friends went looking for the winner.

Mobs corralled suspected lawbreakers and lynched them from trees, telegraph poles and even railroad bridges.

But the feud was worse than other kinds of violence because it involved so many people.

Texas had many feuds, but the Regulator–Moderator war and the Mason County War were two of the most lethal.

Regulators versus the Moderators

The Regulators organized in Shelby and Harrison Counties, in East Texas, in 1841, to supposedly stop wide-spread stealing and killing.

But the Regulators killed anyone they even suspected, or had a grudge against, so the Moderators organized to stop the Regulators.

For almost four years, both sides lynched each other, ambushed each other (as with the Whetstone killing), and met in pitched battles.

Neither side was scared of the other. A judge and a sheriff were murdered, as was Robert Potter, a sitting senator for the Republic of Texas.

In March,1842, a posse of Regulators descended on Potter’s cabin, on Caddo Lake, and when Potter ran to the lake and jumped in, the Regulators waited until he surfaced and shot him to death.

Law enforcement could not stop the killing because it was “barebones,” according to Bill O’Neal, Texas State Historian.

Prominent citizens finally wrote Houston and begged for help, so Houston traveled to San Angustine in August, 1844, and issued a “Letter to my Countrymen.”

The letter was a veiled threat which ordered everyone involved in the feud to return home so “as will render it unnecessary to have recourse to such measures as would be as unpleasant to myself as they would be indispensable to arrest the unhappy conditions of things…”

The violence stopped (for the most part) and the militia arrested the feud’s leaders. Militiamen also occupied Shelby County.

Houston visited the arrested men at the San Augustine courthouse, and talked to them “as a loving father would talk to a lot of bad boys who had been quarreling among themselves,” according to Sandy Horton, a witness.

After paying bail, the leaders were allowed to return home.

The Mason County War

The Mason County War was a little more straightforward.

On May 13, 1875, Deputy John Worley arrested Tim Williamson and charged him with cattle rustling.

Twelve men with blackened faces attacked Worley and his prisoner and Williamson was killed.

Scott Cooley, a former Texas Ranger, then farming in Menardville, swore revenge for  ImageWilliamson.

The two men were close friends and Williamson was also Cooley’s sometime employer.

Cooley recruited friends to help and began gunning down men he believed responsible for Williamson’s death.

Cooley and his partisans killed from ten to twelve men, including John Worley.

Cooley shot Worley while he was working on his well, and scalped him, according to James B. Gillett, author of Six Years with the Texas Rangers.

The Mason County sheriff was so terrified he left Mason, never to return.

A portion of my novel, Scalp Mountain, is based on some Mason County War incidents.

Finally, state officials ordered Texas Ranger Major John Jones and Company D (forty men) to find Cooley.Image

But many of the Rangers had served with Cooley and did not want to arrest or kill him, and some actively helped Cooley evade arrest.

Finally, Jones gathered his men in ranks.

Jones asked that every man who could not, in good conscious, search for Cooley, to leave the rangers. He would give them honorable discharges.

Fifteen men stepped forward and asked for a discharge.

Some of Cooley’s co-conspirators were captured and sent to prison.

Cooley was jailed, but escaped, and soon died from “brain fever.”

This was the Texas frontier, a brutal place where more than one man boasted “I’ll die before I run.”

We live in culture that was born in defiance during the Texas revolution and continued that defiance during the Civil War.

We are a people who were punished by fire and atrocity during the Comanche wars.

We boiled in blood during endless frontier violence.

This is not a good thing, nor a bad thing.

But it’s who we are.

Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, both e-books. She can be reached at, at, at, at, at Pinterest and Goodreads.


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