Friday, July 7, 2017

Lawmen & The Killer That Didn't Get Away 1887

Deputy Sheriff Gabriel Leander Pool
Milam County, Texas, was actually first created in 1834 as a municipality of Mexico. After Texas won its independence, it was organized as a county in 1837. Milam County is named for Benjamin Rush Milam who was an early settler and a soldier in the Texas Revolution.

And just in case you're wondering, Milam County has 13 ghost towns today. They are listed as Briary, Bryant Station, Bushdale, Clarkson, Duncan, Gay Hill, Lilac, Nashville, Nile, Port Sullivan, Silver City, Sipe Springs, and Tracy. I hope I didn't leave anyone out which may have joined the ranks of official ghost town.

To give my readers an example of how big cities were back in 1880, the city that ranked as the 9th largest city in the United States was San Francisco with a population of 233,959. The city of Sacramento, California, ranked 90th with a population of 21,420. San Antonio, Texas, ranked 96th in the nation with a population of 20,550 at the time. Of course, the entire population of Milam County, Texas, in 1880 was 18,659. And believe it or not, today it's just under 25,000.

My point is that since Milam County is over a 1,000 square miles big, it was typical of the large areas that lawmen back in the 1800s had to travel by horse. Even today in patrol cars, backup is iffy at best because it's a lot of land area to serve and protect.

This story is about a few lawmen who were gunned down in the 1880s. They may not have become famous, but they certainly showed the bravery that it took to do the job. And yes, this story really does speak to the dangers of the unexpected which is the reality of law enforcement. Yes, a part of that occupation that has not changed.

Milam County Deputy Sheriff Gabriel Leander Pool, was shot and killed on Thursday, April 7th, 1887, about 10-miles southwest of Rockdale. It happened when his posse attempted to arrest a killer by the name of Will Jacobs. Jacobs was the known killer of Guadalupe County Sheriff's Deputy McCoy nearly 120 south of Milam County.

Guadalupe County Sheriff's Deputy Richard "Texas" McCoy was murdered on Monday, May 16th, 1881. Yes, by Jacobs almost six years earlier. McCoy who was 51 year old, was a veteran of the Confederate Army, and he had previously served as a Texas Ranger. He was shot and killed in LaSalle County while searching for cattle thieves.

On the day that he was murdered, Deputy McCoy was riding with several Texas Rangers and a few local cattlemen looking for stolen cattle. An informant told them were to check, and it was there that they discovered about 100 head of stolen cattle. 

The lawmen with the help of the cattlemen rounded up the cattle and took them to a nearby home to temporarily store them. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this. Citizens were usually happy to oblige a lawman who had property that needed to be stored until later when transport for such evidence could be arranged. 

What those lawmen didn't know was that the ranch they choose those cows was owned by rancher Ira Bounds who was actually a notorious cattle thief. Most likely Bounds was the rustler of the cattle that were found. Now before going on, some say that that ranch belonged to Jacobs. My sources say it belonged to Bounds. 

Not knowing that the owner of the place was hiding in the house after seeing the law ride up on his place, Deputy McCoy is said to have asked the owner's wife if they could pen the stolen cattle there until later. Supposedly she agreed and then immediately told her husband what was taking place outside. It was at that time that her husband and his cohort who was Will Jacobs decided that they were going to kill the lawmen. It was then that they quickly setup an ambush. 

Yes, the two were going to dry gulch a number of lawmen at one time. They probably figured they'd and drop their bodies out on the open prairie somewhere. The outlaws must have figured that it would be days or maybe even weeks before they were missed. They also must have figured that by then they'd have alibis or had left the area all together. Too bad most outlaws are dumber than a stump.

As soon as the owner and his cohort were in position, they immediately opened fire on the lawmen who were scattered about moving the cattle toward the corral. Deputy McCoy was opening the corral gate for the cattle when he was shot and killed. It's said that he was the only one killed, and that he probably didn't know what hit him.  

Outnumbered, the lawmen apprehended both Ira Bounds and Will Jacobs. They, along with the body of Guadalupe County Sheriff's Deputy Richard "Texas" McCoy, were taken in. The outlaws were charged with Deputy McCoy's murder.

A newspaper reported that Deputy McCoy was shot and killed in LaSalle County while searching for cattle thieves. The paper reported how the group of lawmen rounded up the cattle and took them to a nearby home to temporarily store them. It also reported how unbeknownst to the lawmen, "the home was owned by a notorious cattle thief."

Now, if you think that they were met by a group of concerned citizens and taken to a nearby tree, you'd be wrong in this case. But you would be right in that that's what was done when such things took place. And yes, there is a big reason why citizens did come together to hang the accused before they got to court. This was a perfect example of why folks did such things. It's called "criminals getting off on technicalities." It happens all the time these days. And believe it or not, it happened back in the Old West as well.

You see, because the informant was a known horse thief himself, a Judge in LaSalle County ruled that the informant's testimony was not admissible or enough to convict the suspects. Fact is, because of that Judge's ruling, all of charges of the murder of Guadalupe County Sheriff's Deputy Richard "Texas" McCoy were dropped. And yes, because of that technicality. killer Will Jacobs would also murder Deputy Sheriff Gabriel Leander Pool of the Milam County Sheriff's Office later

Deputy Pool
Yes, six years after the murder charges were dropped for the killing of Deputy McCoy,  on April 7th, 1887, Milam County Sheriff Andrew Jackson ( A.J.) Lewis and his posse arrived at the home of Will Jacobs. They were there about stealing cattle. Sheriff Lewis' posse was made up of Deputies "Lee" Pool, J. H. Bicket, Barber, and a Constable McCalla.

Upon arrival at the house, the lawmen identified themselves as all lawmen usually do. And in that split second as they did, it was that moment when Jacobs refused to surrender and immediately opened fire from inside the house. Fact is, Jacobs met the posse at the door with a Winchester rifle behind his back and opened fire at once. His first few shots instantly killed Deputy Lee Pool.

The officers then fired on Jacobs, who ran through the house retreating out the back. The officers following and after about 30 shots in all were fired, Jacobs got out the back door and away into the brush. Jacobs was thought to be wounded as he left a trail of blood  behind him. But even with that, his trail soon went sour.

Deputy Barber was struck in the head by one of Jacobs’ bullets and was said to be in critical condition. He wasn't expected to live. Barber was reported to be fatally wounded at the time of the
killing of Pool, but was later said to have recovered. Deputies Bickett and Constable McCally were shot at a number of times but luckily only had several bullet holes through their clothes to show for it. As for the killer Will Jacobs, he got away.  

In 1887, Houston Daily Post reported the following:  

"News was received here this morning of a serious shooting that occurred in the southern part of the county. Deputy Sheriff J. H. Bicket, Lee Pool, Constable McCalla and a Mr. Barber, went out to arrest one Jacobs. Lee Pool was killed, Barber was shot in the head, which may result fatally, Bicket and McCalla were slightly wounded and Jacobs got away after doing up the crowd, though he is said to be badly wounded."

Milam County Deputy Sheriff Gabriel Leander Pool was 27 years old. It is said that he was unmarried, and was survived by his parents and brother. And frankly, Milam County Sheriff A. J. Lewis wasn't going to allow the death of one of his officers to go unanswered. His task was to find Jacobs and bring him to justice.

On April 13th, 1887, Sheriff A. J. Lewis offered a reward for the capture of Will Jacobs -- the murderer of Deputy Sheriff Pool. Right after that, two lawmen arrested four men in the Yegua country on suspicion of harboring Jacobs. The lawmen stated that they had difficulty preventing a local crowd of armed men from lynching the four suspected of killing Deputy Pool. No, citizens didn't take killers lightly back in the day. 

Soon word spread about Will Jacobs as more details started to surface about the killer. It was said that he was "a desperate man" who with the help of friends eluded arrest. Information came forward about how he was wanted in Frio and Gonzales counties for murder. He was also believed to be one of the people who helped convicts on Clay’s farm in Brazos county escape when a Deputy Sheriff L. P. Smith was killed. 

The Galveston Daily News put out a description of Will Jacobs, stating:

"All sheriffs and other peace officers are earnestly requested to keep sharp lookout for Will Jacobs, the murderer of Deputy Lee Pool. Jacobs was recently shot in the right hand and was riding a brown, pacing pony with a Spanish brand, going in the direction of Wilson and Goliad counties, where he has relatives. His face is a little dished and freckled on the face and neck; nearly 6 feet height; weight about 165 pounds; has sandy or red mustache, inclined to be stiff. His hair is light - some describe him having red hair. The coat he was wearing has splotches of blood on it. He carries a Winchester rifle in a scabbard. There has already been a reward offered for his arrest, and it is understood from a reliable source that the governor will offer a suitable reward for him. A. J. Lewis, sheriff Milam county, Texas."

On June 27th, 1887, The Galveston Daily News reported:
"It is believed that Will Jacobs is one of the Flatonia train robbers. He is wanted in this county for murder and a reward of $500 is offered for him. This with other rewards would aggregate $2,450 for his arrest. Jacobs has several alias. He may be identified by a wound in the hand. He has relations and friends in Goliad, Wilson and Frio counties. For further particulars address A. J. Lewis, sheriff of Milam County."

Milam County Sheriff A. J. Lewis
On September 25th, 1887, after months of dogged determination on the part of Milam County Sheriff A. J. Lewis and his deputies, they located and arrested Will Jacobs. They took him into custody and returned Jacobs to the town of Cameron which is the county seat of Milam County.

On May 14th, 1888, there was a small article in a local paper describing the conclusion of this story. It stated that the district court began the trail of Will Jacobs charged with the murder of Deputy Sheriff Lee Pool of Milam County in 1887. The jury returned a verdict finding the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree.

Because the jury somehow came up with the idea that Jacobs did not have premeditation to kill a lawman, even though he went to the door with a rifle, the jury awarded Jacobs ten years in the penitentiary for killing Milam County Sheriffs Deputy Pool. Of course, Jacobs never did pay for killing Guadalupe County Sheriff's Deputy Richard "Texas" McCoy. But frankly, he should have.

And right about now, you're probably amazed that Will Jacobs only got 10 years for killing Deputy Pool. You probably thought that the law was harsher in the Old West. Well, as I said before, that's why citizens committees, yes vigilantes, would tell the law to step aside while they took the guilty to a nearby tree.

While many debate the good and bad aspects of citizens committees, from what I can tell they usually saw a lawman's life as having a great deal more worth than just 10 years in prison. Many believed in that line that one should not cross. And yes, it was an eye for an eye if one did.

Tom Correa

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