Many history lovers will find this page for one reason, an obsession like mine, for anything, everything Ranger. I thought I would string along all the blogs about our most favorite subject!
The Texas Rangers of Navasota
There was an era when nothing less than Texas Rangers were effective to keep the peace in Grimes County. It all started with Sgt Dibbrell, of Company C, on special assignment from in Alpine Texas... Click on the link to take you there... or keep reading!
Around 13 years ago a neighbor of mine was digging in his yard and found something shiny. Under almost a foot of Texas dirt he found a genuine Texas Ranger badge, a rare and sought-after collector's item, something of historical value, something that would fetch upwards to a thousand dollars or more in some circles. Not only was it a rare captain's badge, but it had the name of the Ranger Captain right on the front of it, that of M. E. Bailey.
M. E. Bailey, a lifelong associate of Ranger Frank Hamer, the City Marshal in Navasota between 1908 and 1911, also had served in Navasota and, as it turned out, had lived in the house, thought to have been built in the mid-twenties, where my neighbor had found the badge. One can only imagine how it ended up in the flower garden. And we can only speculate how it got so deep in the ground. But unaware of the historical importance to local history enthusiasts like myself, the old corroded badge was conveyed, via another neighbor who was a retired State Trooper, to Bob Connell, former interim Police Chief of Navasota and a retired Texas Ranger in College Station, Texas.
Thanks to my friend Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell, the Ranger and the badge recently made a return visit to Navasota, where the old badge had rested for perhaps seventy years. And I got to see it firsthand.
Frank Hamer, Marvin E. Bailey and R. M. "Duke" Hudson joined Company C of the Texas Rangers about the same time, and were receiving their monthly payroll out in Alpine, in far west Texas in 1906.
When Bailey died, Hamer gave a rare interview about his old buddy, where he told the reporter that Ranger Bailey had once captured four Mexican Revolutionary Generals, all at one time, who were in south Texas recruiting for Pancho Villa. It seems he may have been made a Captain for that, but it might also have been his undoing, as there were powers in Austin who were sympathetic to Villa and the Mexican Revolution.
About the same period, the last of the threesome, R. M. "Duke" Hudson came to Grimes County and was elected for two terms as County Sheriff from 1924 through 1928. Hudson carried a letter to whomever might be concerned, endorsing him as a friend and dependable lawman, personally signed by then famous Ranger Captain Frank Hamer. This was as good as an appointment to office in the place where Hamer established his own sterling reputation.
These three Rangers helped to cement the longstanding ties between Navasota and the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had once been based just across the river in Washington on the Brazos during the Republic years. One Montgomery County historian placed a Ranger camp at Navasota, fighting indians before the Civil War. Future Ranger and Arizona lawman Jeff Milton landed here in Grimes County to join his sister in Yarboro after leaving Florida after the Civil War, before answering the call of the west. And there were former and future Texas Rangers in Navasota in modern times as well.
Ranger W. F. Quinn was based here in Navasota in the 1970's. Ironically, amazingly, Navasota Police Chief Bob Werner, a former Ranger Captain, lived right next door to the house where Bailey's Ranger badge was exhumed.
It is not insignificant that both Rangers Werner and Hudson chose to be buried here in Navasota.
Ranger Bob Connell (retired) was a State DPS Trooper here for 14 years, and later served as a temporary Police Chief for the City of Navasota in the late eighties. Ranger Major Bryant Wells, now one of the highest ranking Texas Rangers, also served as a policeman here in Navasota.
So when the bronze sculpture of Frank Hamer comes back and is dedicated as a public monument, it may be the beginning of a Texas Ranger driving tour, right here in Navasota, once the home to eight Texas Rangers, including at least four Ranger Captains. Not to mention the most famous Texas Ranger, TV Actor Chuck Norris, star of Walker Texas Ranger.
Navasota: "Home for Texas Ranger Legends," where you could dig up a badge in your flower bed...
Many thanks to Ranger Bob Connell (retired) for sharing his knowledge, research and artifacts with the Navasota Current. And thanks to the University of Oklahoma for the great pictures!
Sul Ross... (not from Navasota but spent some time in nearby Bryan as President of Texas A&M University!)
As Texans, we have lost our identification with the mystique so commonly attached to our State. The Wild West is as foreign to us as it is to some Japanese tourist. In fact we have much more in common with that person from the other side of the world, than our own predecessors. Your home is full of things manufactured in Taiwan, Korea, Pakistan or Japan, but how many things can you point to and know that they were made in Texas? More specifically, what in your material sphere speaks of the Republic of Texas, or the culture that established your town?
Part of my goal as a writer and an artist is to keep my culture in touch with…. My culture. The Navasota Chamber of Commerce once adopted a slogan I really liked: “Where Texas is still Texas,” and I was really excited that somebody else appreciated the importance of taking our history and cultural identity serious. Austin wants to keep its weirdness. We should want keep our unique character as well. One way we can establish what that is, and protect our cultural identity, and hopefully some of our material culture as well, is to know the people who forged this community.
I want you to know the essential personalities of this wonderful region, who gave us our specialness. And one of them was Sul Ross, a worthy member of my "Top Ten in Texas" list. Texas' history patriarch J. W. Wilbarger called him the "Chevalier Bayard of Texas." So let me just give you the highlights of the life of this extraordinary Texan. Lawrence Sullivan Ross.
After leaving Iowa, his family had come to Texas just three years after independence was won, in 1839. He was just a baby when they settled up in Robertson County on the Little River near present day Cameron, where they lived in constant fear and harassment from Comanches. The family moved to a more civilized environment in Austin and later moved to Waco.
Lawrence "Sul" Ross was just a boy when he participated in his first skirmish with Indians. He would grow up to become one of the most famous Indian fighters in the West. He began his formal education across the river at Independence, at the first site of Baylor University, then transferred to Wesleyan University in Alabama.
He came home for the summer, and at age nineteen, found himself acting as an impromptu captain of a local militia of 135 Tonkowa and Caddo scouts, when his father fell ill. They were headed to assist the U. S. Cavalry in finding and fighting the Comanches, after numerous atrocities. His father was the Indian agent at the Brazos Indian Reservation, and when he became unable to travel, the Indians eagerly elected the young White brave as their War Chief.
The Indian scouts were more than game and knew right where to find the ferocious and elusive Comanches, and led young Sul Ross and the cavalry unit into a life or death battle inside the very heart of Comancheria, the lair of the legendary Chief Buffalo Hump. Way up in Indian Territory, in the Wichita Mountains, they descended upon 500 or more Comanches, stampeded their horses, and began a five hour battle where Ross took a bullet and an arrow, while retrieving a White captive child. The Comanches were subdued and scattered, but his wounds caused him to beg his comrades to kill him and put him out of his misery. When General Winfield Scott heard of his bravery, he immediately offered him a commission in the Army, but Sul shook off the glory of Indian fighting and went back to finish school.
• After graduation, he learned that no one had claimed the little girl he had risked his life to rescue in the Indian Territory, so he adopted her himself and named her Lizzie, after his bride to be. He got married, joined the Texas Rangers, was elected captain, and by 1860 he was literally ranging under the direction of Governor Sam Houston. He and his Rangers supposedly tracked down Chief Peta Nokona, the scourge of the Llano Estacado, on the Pease river. [ Official and unofficial reports were a bit contradictory, but the public concensus then was that Ross led his rangers and a token detachment of U.S. troops and killed Chief Peta Nokona and many of his braves.] The actual facts seem to have turned out something less than this, but there was no doubt, in the process he solved one of the greatest mysteries in Texas lore, and that was the whereabouts of Cynthia Ann Parker. For twenty- five years she had been the most famous white captive in Texas and was then the great Chief’s wife.
• This made young Sul Ross a veritable Texas giant. Soon he was leading the way in the War Between the States, rising quickly through the ranks, becoming one of the youngest generals in the Confederate States of America.
• At age 26, he returned after the war to farm near Waco. He and Lizzie had eight children, six of whom lived to maturity.
• In late 1873, Sul Ross was elected Sheriff of McLennan County. He hired his brother as a deputy, and within two years had captured over 700 outlaws. One of the more notorious was Belle Starr and some of her gang.
• He served as a delegate to the 1875 Texas Constitutional Convention, where his name and reputation grew rapidly.
• In 1880 he was elected to the Texas Senate as a compromise candidate.
• In 1886 he was elected by a landslide as the 19th Governor of Texas. And then to a second term, overseeing the construction and dedication of the Texas State Capitol building.
• In 1890 Lawrence Sullivan Ross became the first official President of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. We call it Texas A&M. That’s not all, the college had been traditionally run by a faculty chairman and was in desperate straits, even threatening to close its doors, when Sul took over. As soon as he accepted the challenge, enrollment skyrocketed. Understanding well the needs of a military and agricultural school, Sul Ross rescued the Aggies as much as he had Cynthia Ann Parker.
• Outside of Sam Houston, no other man has left such an imprint on the life and lore of the Brazos Valley, as Ranger Captain, General, Senator, Governor, and Texas A&M President as L. S. Ross.
"Texas, though her annals be brief, counts upon her roll of honor the names of many heroes, both living and dead. Their splendid services are the inestimable legacies of the past and present, to the future. Of the latter, it is the high prerogative of the State to embalm their names and memories as perpetual examples to excite the generous emulation of the Texan youth to the latest posterity. Of the former, it is our pleasant province to accord them those honors which their services in so eminent a degree entitle them to receive. Few lands since the days of the Scottich Chiefs have furnished material upon which to predicate a Douglas, a Wallace, or a Ravenswood; and the adventures of chivalric enterprise, arrant quest of danger, and the personal combat were relegated, together with the knights's armorial trappings, to the trusty archives of Tower and Pantheon, until the Comanche Bedouins of the Texan plains tendered in bold defiance the savage gauntlet to the pioneer knights of progress and civilization. And though her heraldic roll glows with the names of a Houston, a Rusk, Lamar, McCulloch, Hays, Chevellier, which illumine the pages of her history with an effulgence of glory, Texas never nurtured on her maternal bosom a son of more filial devotion, of more loyal patriotism, or indomitable will to do and dare, than L. S. Ross."
(From "Ross's Texas Brigade")
The first Texas Ranger from Navasota, Jeff Milton’s story is an extraordinary one. Probably one of the most famous lawmen of the west, he was the subject of J. Evetts Haley’s A Good Man With A Gun.Born the son of the Governor of Florida, Jeff Milton became a Texas Ranger and ultimately a famous lawman of the American West, his legend stretching over three states.
Jefferson Davis Milton was born at the outbreak of the Civil War, the son of privilege on a Southern plantation. His father, Governor John Milton, refused to accept the failure of the Confederate States of America and took his own life. Little Jeff was raised by his mother and doting big sisters, and it is easy to imagine his character traits given these circumstances. By the time he was fifteen, he was spoiled, arrogant and restless, with a great deal to prove to himself. The Milton women could not handle him, and one of his sisters thought she could, given a better environment in Texas.
He came to Texas in 1877 as a teenager, eager to see and experience all the wild and wooly West he had read about in dime novels. This was the land Davy Crockett had died for at the Alamo, and where Bigfoot Wallace had fought the Comanches. Where buffalo still ran wild and cowboys lived free on the American plains.
The Wilson & Yarborough Mercantile in Anderson, Texas. This picture is an illustration from A Good Man With a Gun, by J. Evetts Haley.
Young Jeff Milton about the time he left Navasota and joined the Texas Rangers... considerably under-aged.
The magnet of the West for young Jeff was suddenly magnified to an irresistible strength. He began to save back his money to buy himself an "outfit." He would need a good horse, saddle and tack, spurs, lariat and weapons and the leather to hold them.
The cowboy life was lonely and challenging. Often a cowhand was stationed completely in the wilderness, with only his wits and gun to feed himself. And in the midst of this battle for survival he had to put the herd's needs before his own... painting by Russell Cushman
A (good?) man with a gun: Jeff Milton went through several Colt revolvers and had this one custom- made at the end of his career.
Suddenly within a few weeks, Jeff had gone from taking a few bucks at gunpoint from unsuspecting bankers, to swearing an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Texas. You gotta love this country! Where else could men find their hearts and shape their destinies and carve out their legacies in such amazing twists and turns of events?
Acquired in Navasota from Rodes and Owen, this A fork, high-back saddle, circa 1890-1900, belonged to Jeff Milton, and was acquired by J. Evetts Haley for the immense saddle collection at the Panhandle - Plains Museum. Thanks to the late Marcus Mallard, who told me about it, I went to Canyon, Texas and arranged to photograph it.
Jeff, born to be wild Milton had become a fugitive from society and himself, and would be on the run the rest of his life, trying to find that legitimate expression of his trigger finger. He soon struck out for New Mexico, and another fresh start...
Still, Milton was once quoted as saying, "I never killed a man that didn't need killing; I never shot an animal except for meat."
Jeff Milton was known to use a cut-down version of the 1887 Winchester lever action Shotgun... one of the most ominous firearms ever used to bust up rowdy crowds, or in his case, several train robbers trying to heist a Wells Fargo express car in Fairbanks, Arizona territory... He took several of them out and severely wounded, put a tourniquet on his fractured arm and tossed the keys to the Wells Fargo safe out of reach, before passing out. The remaining outlaws took him for dead and only stole a small amount.
Ranger Frank Hamer
It was great when a friend showed me the October, 2011 American Rifleman Magazine, to see that Texas Ranger legend Frank Hamer is slowly but surely getting the recognition he deserves. It may be ironic then that people here in Navasota still refuse to recognize him. Perhaps now we have a chance to change that.
Since I have begun to meet many tourists who visit Navasota at our blues museum, I have run into at least two writers working on books about this real life hero. Hal Herring is one of them, and he has already published a chapter about Hamer in his book called Famous Firearms of the American West. Currently planning a book on three of the Hamer brothers who served as Rangers, Herring writes that Frank Hamer “was among the most ferocious and dogged lawmen of any age, in any nation.” Like the American Rifleman article, the focus of Herring’s chapter was on the famous lawman’s marksmanship and weaponry, which was second to none. But I’ll bet nobody ever does an article about his feet, even though eye-witnesses insisted he used them much more often to subdue lawbreakers.
There have been numerous accounts of Frank Hamer’s life, but none offer more intimate and interesting details than those gleaned by Glen Alyn from Mance Lipscomb. In an excruciatingly detailed and faithful biography of the famed Texas bluesman called I Say Me for a Parable, Alyn concentrated a whole chapter around the relationship between young Mance and his idol, the young Marshal who came to clean up the town, whom he remembered as “Charlie Hayman.” Mance was getting along in years and was depending on the memories of his youth, around the turn of the Century, and consistent with the book, he recalled names and dates through a muddy lens. Referring to Hamer and his deputy Bailey, Mance consistently dubbed them “Hayman” and “Bailiff.”
He was quite possibly offering a little protection according to Alyn, from those who might not approve. Mance considered the big Texas Ranger as a close personal friend, and it is possible that he knew that any kind remarks he might have about the Ranger, even in the 70’s, might have put him in a bad light with many racist whites. And Alyn saw firsthand that they were still a formidable reality, in Mance's part of the world.
Still, the size, temperament and talent that Mance described in detail could be no other than Frank Hamer. Frank Hamer was indeed a Texas Ranger before he came to Navasota in 1908. Appeals from citizens and the Navasota City Council got action from the Governor who sent for the best Ranger available. Although Mance recalled that he was just nine years old, he was more likely around 11, when his mother released him from the cotton fields to drive the buggy for “the baddest man ever been here.”
In this case bad meant good, as Mance told how the Marshal checked on planters to make sure they were not abusing their field hands, and treatment of blacks improved. When one nosey farmer teased Hamer about hiring Mance when he should have been working in the fields, the Marshal was quick to intimidate him into apologizing. Mance quoted the Marshal in his own, somewhat colorful dialect... “He doin' what I want ‘im ta do, and he aint gonna plow til he quit driven roun’ an openin’ these gates fur me.”
Mance remembered how they would stop sometimes and just listen to the cotton pickers as they sang, and sometimes they put on quite a show. Once when a cotton planter came out to see what was going on, Hamer gave him notice… “Landowner, how you treatin’ these fellas?” ( Mance spoke again in his own dialect…) ”An you know all this lynchin'? An all this colored beatin’s? Knockin’ em in the head? You know, I come here to stop all that…”
Mance told Alyn in detail how the Ranger used his feet when a suspect might slow down on the way to the jail… “He’d kick ‘em from here yonda to yo car. He’s a big man enough to do it. Strong enough to do it… When you git tired of him kickin’ you, why, you done got to the jailhouse. He’ll let you rest awhile from here to that car. Turn around an’- he was a man, he could kick you down. But if he hit ya, he knock you down. .. One lick, you goin’ down…”
Mance spoke of these incidents like it was a daily affair, something he had witnessed countless times, and quoting Hamer again as he finally brought a criminal to the jail door, “Well, git in…. I said git in! I done kickt you all the way up here. I don’t wanta kick you in the jail. I want you ta walk in there free.”
“Then he go down the street, whistlin’. Lookin’ for somebody else…”
One can easily see old Mance smilin’ as he declared “…Man, he was the purdiest white man I ever laid eyes on… He had the eyes of a eagle. .. he could shoot a gun better’n inybody ever been in this county…”
Hamer, then only about twenty four years old, had already been in several life or death shoot-outs with dangerous killers, and had busted numerous cattle rustlers. But from Lipscomb's account, he far preferred to use force without using guns. Hamer had already done his share of killing, and avoided it if he could. For two years, he kept the little black boy entranced with his recollections of chasing cattle rustlers and banditos.
As Mance gathered a lifetime of lawman stories, the youngster also got out of hard labor as he drove for Marshal "Hayman," and as he fetched for him and set up his shooting targets and opened gates and generally tormented the jealous white folks for two years. Mance remembered “Charlie Hayman” as a generous boss, who even indulged him. Although many people might make assumptions about Frank Hamer’s attitudes towards race, according to Mance Lipscomb, he was not the typical Texas lawman, in fact its antithesis.
Hamer was born in a west Texas family of German immigrant stock, and Germans had little patience for the racial injustices of the South. But Mance shared another reason as he is quoted in Alyn’s book, quoting the young Ranger…
“Now look. A colored man was the best friend I ever had in my life. Listen, I don’t want ya’ll ta be mistreatin’ these colored folk. Cause I been a Ranger. A colored man pickt me up, while the Carr boys shot me down. Shot my guts out, and left me layin’ there. An a colored man come along, and my guts was hangin’ out. An’ toted me, an rested, and carried me to a hospital,. An’ let 'em wash that sand off my guts, and sewed me up, and I’m livin’ today… I want y’all to be surer than hell respect ‘em.”
Hamer was remembered as an equal opportunity enforcer. Once, according to Mance, a white woman begged for the Marshal to let her husband out of jail so he could sleep in his own bed and Hamer refused, saying he had to stay in jail all night. The woman said the Marshal was mean, and insisted her husband was after all, a white man! And deserved to be treated as such.
Lipscomb must have cherished what the young Marshal said next, for the rest of his life: “Yeah, that’s what’s a madda with this town: White. I’m a white man, but I’m doin’ my job. He kin come out in the mownin’. But he caint git out with no amount of money that you offer me. Cause money don’t buy me. I’m already bought, to take this here position. Now you come down in the mownin’ bout nine O'clock, I might let im out fur nothin’. But he gonna be in there til tomarra.”
Lipscomb gave Marshal Hamer credit for leveling the playing field for blacks. “Boy, he cooled that town down. Po colored folks was scared ta meet white folks on the street… ‘bout bein’ around ‘im, cause they was white and they was niggas, they don’t wanta touch up against no white folks. But them white folks commenced to letting the colored folks git by. Give some room fur them. But wadn no room fur nobody but whites until he come there… Man, not nary another colored man was lyncht after he tuck the job bein’ a Ranger there.”
It is impossible to gauge the impact this friendship had on either person, but it must have given Mance hope and inspiration, and the heart to sing his songs, no matter the fear of reprisal. Marshal Hamer had been the first ray of hope since the White man’s Union had murdered several black elected officials in 1900 and seriously wounded and ran their popular white Sheriff off for good. Soon a cunning underworld started to conspire against the young Marshal, making threats and even trying to assassinate him, as they had done uncooperative lawmen in the past. After three butt-kicking years taming Navasota, Hamer wisely took a new job in Houston, where he eventually wore out his welcome with the corrupt bankers there.
He soon exposed their thinly veiled murder for hire racket, inadvertantly created while trying to shut down Houston bank robbers. Hamer proved that bounty hunters were setting up stooges and killing them to collect the generous rewards.
Regardless of the odds against him, Frank Hamer stood up time and time again for what was right. He was sent as a Ranger all over the state, wherever there was big trouble. Oil boom towns were his specialty, and he made a lasting impression at Mexia, Borger, and other hot spots where organized crime brought in bootleggers and prostitutes and gambling dens. The no-nonsense west Texas cowboy always seemed surprised when certain "special" segments of society demanded special consideration. To Hamer, the law was the law, and anybody, no matter how rich or powerful or white they were, who broke the law, was merely a lawbreaker, and treated as such.
This dangerous objectivity, especially racial objectivity, was later demonstrated when Captain Frank Hamer was serving Texas on the Mexican border. Texas based gun-runners had convinced Austin politicians that illegally selling arms to bandit Pancho Villa was a necessary, if not profitable evil, and soon the Rangers were getting suggestions through the grapevine to put on the correct show, but to leave those helping the Mexican Revolution alone. But Hamer told his men to enforce the law. Next Hamer saw most of the men he had gradually reassigned, to other parts of Texas. He was left almost to himself to police thousands of miles of west Texas trails, which were becoming a network of contraband traffic.
The resourceful Captain Hamer just shrugged it off and crossed the Rio Grande. Soon the legendary Ranger was working in cooperation with the Mexican police, who were more than glad to have his talent and help. Hamer constantly used creative solutions to fight crime, and later this flexibility came in handy in getting Mexican cooperation in foiling "The Plan of San Diego," a Mexician born conspiracy to recapture the American Southwest. In 1920 he was photographed along with his men for a magazine article, once again working with Mexican authorities, this time to curb the bootlegging of Mexican liquor into south Texas.
Over and over, Frank Hamer fought some of the most dangerous and powerful underworld cartels in Texas. If criminals despised him, the corrupt and powerful loathed him. In his controversial career, Hamer was known to challenge governors, bankers, even other policemen, if they were hindering or breaking the law.
But the Sherman riots of 1930 are probably the most telling about Frank Hamer’s race convictions. The County Seat of Grayson County, Sherman was the scene of one of the most outrageous race conflicts in American history. The May, 1930 Literary Digest called it a "wild orgy of venomous hate and frenzied violence..." A black man named George Hughes had been arrested and charged with rape of a white woman. He denied raping her, but had confessed to her assault, over wages owed him, and when the trial required his victim to be brought into the courthouse on a stretcher, the crowd outside became violent. Soon the word got out, and a huge vigilante mob formed outside of the courthouse. In their minds there was no need for a trial.
As usual, Ranger Captain Frank Hamer was sent into the most dangerous and unpredictable situations. He and three other Rangers discreetly entered a pot of heated tempers that was about to boil over. Advising the Judge to get a change of venue, Hamer and his few men braced themselves to keep the peace. Mance Lipscomb quipped that he was a true PEACE officer, and most others were just piece officers.
True to his character, Hamer once again found it necessary to stand against the growing tide. Unfortunately, the locals overheard the discussion about changing venue, and decided to act very forcefuly before their prey was snatched beyond their reach. A large mob broke down the double doors in the hallway Hamer and his Rangers drew their guns down on the crowd as they tried to overtake the courtroom. They were able to bluff the crowd outside, temporarily, at the point of their guns and the use of tear gas.
After the halls were cleared of troublemakers, the court tried to proceed, a fatal mistake, to allow the judge to affix punishment. But the crowd came back like a tsunami, and the jury had to be dismissed, and the Rangers began to use tear gas once again to repel the rioters. When this did not work, and more Shermanites rushed up the stairs, Captain Hamer fired his shotgun, wounding two men, according to his own reports. This seemed to make the vigilantes more afraid of the Rangers, who had been rumoured to be under orders from the Governor not to fire on civiliians. Frank Hamer settled that question.
Hamer and his men took position inside the second story of the courthouse, outnumbered 500 - 1. They had to continuously threaten the mob, and pushed them back again with tear gas. When one leader of the mob announced that he was coming up to get the prisoner, Hamer told him to do so any time he felt lucky, but that if they came up the stairway one more time, there would be many funerals in Sherman. Still the rioters beat on the doors and climbed through the courthouse windows. The suspect had been locked away, by order of the Judge, in a large steel safe in the County Clerk's office to protect him in case the Rangers were overtaken. When a throng of men once more busted through the doors of the courthouse, the Grayson County Sheriff and his deputies fled, and Hamer and his men fired their guns, once in the air, warning the mob to get back. This was a moment of truth...
But the moment did not last long. Hamer and his men were finally forced to leave their post when Sherman youths threw rocks through the windows and spread gasoline and sent the first floor up in flames. The Shermanites burned their own courthouse down, in retaliation for not having their way. And they finally got what they wanted.
This is one of very few times, perhaps the only case in American history from this era, when white police stood up to, and fought off white people in defense of a black prisoner. Later, the Rangers regrouped, and Captain Hamer phoned the Governor's office. As he tried to place his call, he even heard the phone operator speaking satisfaction that the courthouse had been torched. Meanwhile the charred lifeless body of George Hughes was extricated by cutting torches and dynamite and dragged through the city and hung, followed by perhaps 2,000 (some reports said 5000)onlookers. Sherman was one town that would not ever be tamed... except perhaps by its own shame.
When, in other similar instances lawmen stepped aside rather than draw the wrath of a Texas lynch mob, Frank Hamer was impartial and steadfastly professional. And yet, this great man, respected by Hollywood western stars, historians and the people he defended, has never been honored by the erection of a statue commemorating his stellar service. If there ever was a man, black or white, that was the vanguard in the last Century for equal justice under the law, and the impartial enforcement of law and order, with authentic first hand sources to prove it, it was our own town Marshal, Frank Hamer, whose story is yet to be told. And it started right here in Navasota.