Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Old West: Texas - The Horrell Brothers


The Horrell Brothers were also referred to as "The Lawless Horrell Boys."

All in all there were five brothers from the Horrell family of Lampasas County, Texas.

All outlaws of the Old West.

They committed numerous murders over a five year period before four of the brothers were finally killed in different incidents.

Although itself resulting in relatively few deaths compared to other feuds, the brothers are probably best known for the Horrell-Higgins Feud.

However, besides the feud, starting in 1873, the brothers went on a killing spree during which time they killed two lawman in New Mexico, one white and the other Hispanic.

Then they went on to kill eleven Hispanic men along with wounding one Hispanic woman before they were done. Yes, it was considered an Racially motivated killing spree. Even in the Old West, there were such things.

How bad were these brothers? Well, it is said that the brothers had killed five lawmen prior to that spree in Texas.
Imagine that? Five lawmen get killed and these bad guys still ran around to spread more evil.

The Horrell and Higgins families had both settled in the Lampasas County area several years before the American Civil War.

By all accounts, the two families got along well for over a decade. However, by the early 1870s, the Horrell boys, Mart, Tom, Merritt, Ben and Sam were involved in numerous lawless activities.

You've heard of the James boys and the Youngers, well neither were as deadly as the Horrell brothers.

By January 1873, Lampasas County Sheriff Shadrick T. Denson attempted to arrest two brothers, Wash and Mark Short, but was impeded by the Horrell brothers, which resulted in a gunfight with Sheriff Denson being shot and killed.

The county judge appealed to Governor Edmund J. Davis for help. This prompted the Texas State Police to dispatch a number of lawmen to settle things down.

On February 10, 1873, Governor Davis issued an order prohibiting the carrying of firearms inside town limits of Lampasas, Texas.

That's right, Gun Control from the Governor himself. Of course even back then they found out that when law abiding citizen lose the right to carry a gun - only the outlaws have them.

Seven Texas State Police Officers arrived shortly thereafter, under the command of Captain Thomas Williams.

On March 14, 1873, state officers Wesley Cherry, Jim Daniels, and Andrew Melville arrested Bill Bowen, a brother in law to the Horrell brothers, for carrying a firearm.

The officers then entered Jerry Scott's Saloon with Bowen in tow.

After a verbal exchange with the Horrell brothers, who were inside the saloon, a gunfight ensued leaving four officers dead, including Captain Williams.

Captain Williams shot and badly wounded Mart Horrell, and Tom Horrell was also wounded.

Following the gunfight, several more state police were sent to the county.

Mart Horrell and three friends were quickly arrested and taken to the Georgetown, Texas jail. However more than thirty friends soon broke into the jail and freed them.

The brothers fled to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where Ben Horrell quickly befriended Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Gylam.

On December 1, 1873, Sheriff Gylam and Ben Horrell rode into Lincoln, New Mexico and began drinking, visiting several brothels and saloons before discharging their firearms in the street while drunk.

Constable Juan Martinez demanded they turn over their weapons, and they complied, but were not arrested.

Soon afterward, they had acquired more pistols, and again were shooting, this time inside a brothel.

When confronted by Constable Martinez yet again, Ben Horrell shot and killed Martinez, and he and Sheriff Gylam fled.

Other lawmen caught up with them before they were able to leave town, and killed them both.

The Horrell brothers retaliated by killing two prominent Mexican ranchers, resulting in newly appointed Sheriff Alexander Hamilton Mills gathering a posse and hunting them down.

After an intense standoff outside Lincoln, the posse left and the brothers escaped.

On December 20, 1873, the brothers stormed a Hispanic celebration in Lincoln, killing four Hispanic men and wounding one Hispanic woman.

Again they were pursued, but evaded capture. Shortly afterward, Edward "Little" Hart, a friend to the Horrell brothers, shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Joseph Haskins due to the latter having married a Hispanic woman.

Less than a week later, the brothers and their friends came into contact with freight wagons just outside Roswell, New Mexico, maintained by five Hispanic men, all of whom were killed by the brothers.

Now enters John "Pink" Higgins

By early February, 1874, the brothers had returned to Lampasas, but found they were no longer welcome.

And by that time, they were no longer viewed as simply fun-loving cowboys - but instead as outlaws and killers.

The brothers were arrested for the murders of the lawmen in Lampasas, but due to a local jury hearing the case - they were acquitted.

Shortly after their acquittal, John “Pink” Higgins accused the Horrell brothers of cattle rustling.

The brothers were arrested, but again due mostly to a local jury hearing the case, they were acquitted.

Although things were tense between the two families, no actions were taken by either side until January 22, 1877.

On that day, while in the Wiley and Toland's Gem Saloon in Lampasas, John Higgins shot and killed Merritt Horrell in a gunfight.

The three remaining Horrell brothers vowed they would take revenge against John Higgins, his brother in law Bob Mitchell, and friend Bill Wren, voicing this publicly on several occasions.

On March 26, 1877, Tom and Mart Horrell were shot and wounded during an ambush, but both survived.

John Higgins and Bob Mitchell were being sought for the Merritt Horrell gunfight, and both surrendered shortly after the ambush to Texas Ranger Captain John Sparks, best known for his earlier 1876 capture of gunman Billy Thompson.

Both men posted a $10,000 bond and were released.

The local courthouse was burglarized shortly thereafter, with several records stolen including their bonds.

The shooting of Merritt Horrell was later ruled self defense, and the charges dropped.

Lampasas Square Shoot Out & John Higgins

On June 7, 1877, John Higgins, his brother-in-law Bob Mitchell, Bob's brother Frank, Bill Wren, and another brother-in-law Ben Terry, all rode into Lampasas.

The Horrell brothers and several friends were already in town that day, gathered at the square.

It is unknown who fired first, but it is believed that someone within the Horrell gang opened fire on the Higgins faction.

When it was over, Bill Wren had been wounded, Frank Mitchell had been killed, and Horrell faction members Buck Waltrup and Carson Graham were killed.

Texas Rangers descended on the town only days later.

All three Horrell brothers were arrested, and Texas Ranger Major John B. Jones acted as a mediator between the two sides to calm matters.

Less than one year later, Mart and Tom Horrell were arrested in Meridian, Texas for armed robbery and murder.

While confined to the local jail, a few vigilantes broke in and shot them both - killing them instantly.

Although never proven, it was speculated that John Higgins was involved in the murders.

Sam Horrell was now the only remaining Horrell brother, and he moved his family to Oregon in 1882 before finally settling later in California. He died there in 1936.

John "Pink" Higgins was viewed as a local hero, and he's often credited with bringing down the Horrell Brothers and their murderous gang.

He later worked as a range detective, and developed a considerable reputation as a gunman, and in September, 1877, Higgins killed cowboy Ike Lantier, whom he caught stealing cattle, after Lantier drew on him.

That shooting was also ruled self defense.

On October 4, 1903, already an old man to those standards, John Higgins killed gunman and former lawman Bill Standifer in a gunfight.

Standifer had threatened John Higgins' son Cullin who was a local district attorney, and dad wasn't going to stand for it.

John "Pink" Higgins died on December 18, 1914.

At the time of his death, he was known to have killed at 14 men in gunfights.

Yes, in reality, that's more than Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp combined.

He was one tough hombre, just ask the Horrell brothers.





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