Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

December 9, 2012

“THE TEXAS FEUD” BY: NEAL MURPHY – DECEMBER 9, 2012

 

 

The first major feud to break out in Texas was born during Texas’ days as a Republic.  For years, a strip of land in East Texas that bordered Louisiana and Mexico had been ignored by the Spanish, Mexican, and Texas authorities.  By the time Texas became a Republic, the swatch of land had developed into a lawless place where land frauds, cattle rustlers, and killings were common.  This area was known as the Sabine Free State, or the Neutral Ground.  The lawlessness spilled over into the adjacent portion of East Texas still under Spanish control.  Even after Spain and the U.S. signed the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819, little changed in regards to the region.  After Texas won its independence from Mexico, the land remained wild and lawless.

In an attempt to control the rampant crime, a group of vigilantes formed and called themselves the “Regulators”.  This group was so extreme in their attempts to stop the crime, another group of counter-vigilantes soon formed to “moderate” the Regulators.  Before long, each faction grew to include sympathizers from miles away, spreading the war, which had been primarily located in just Harrison and Shelby counties, to involve Nacogdoches, San Augustine, and other East Texas counties.

Leading the “Regulators” were two men by the names of Charles W. Jackson and Charles Watt Moorman.  The whole affair began with a dispute between a man named Joseph Goodbread, and Sheriff Alfred George in 1840.  When the sheriff asked for Charles Jackson’s assistance in the matter, Jackson shot and killed Goodbread.  Ironically, Jackson, a former Mississippi riverboat captain, was a fugitive himself from Louisiana..  Arrested for Goodbread’s killing, Jackson was released pending a trial.  Some time later, he organized the Regulators to rid the area of cattle rustling.  Soon afterwards, the Moderators were formed with principal leaders Edward Merchant, John M. Bradley, and Deputy Sheriff James J. Cravens.

On July 12, 1841, Charles Jackson’s trial for the killing of Goodbread was scheduled before Judge John M. Hansford in Harrison county.  Hansford had been a friend of Goodbread, and was a well-known supporter of the Moderator faction.  Jackson’s friends, figuring that the man would not get a fair trial before Judge Hansford, arrived at the courthouse armed to the teeth.  When Judge Hansford saw the armed men, he fled the courthouse, leaving a note for the local sheriff stating, “I am unwilling to risk my person in the courthouse any longer, when I see myself surrounded by bravos and hired assassins.”  The trial ended before it even began.

This, of course, enraged the Moderators, who soon took matters into their own hands.  They ambushed and killed Jackson, as well as an innocent bystander whose name was Lauer.  Afterwards, the violence escalated, when the Regulators burned the homes of two families siding with the Moderators.  Charles Watt Moorman, allegedly a fugitive from Mississippi, now led the Regulators, spreading the reign of terror north into Panola and Harrison counties.  They hung Moderators and drove many others out of the area.  The group soon numbered so many men that Moorman actually considered overthrowing the Texas government and declaring himself the “dictator”.  In the meantime, residents were beginning to live in constant fear.

In October, 1841, Moorman led a party to avenge the Jackson-Lauer killing, surprising the assassins 25 miles north of Crockett, Texas.  They “arrested” the McFadden brothers and all were hanged with the exception of the youngest brother.

In the meantime, articles of impeachment had been filed against Judge Hansford for his failure to bring Jackson to trial.  On January 19, 1842, Hansford left office to escape the impeachment trial and retired on his farm near Jonesville.  Some years later, a mob of Regulators appeared at this house, demanding possession of some slaves that he was holding under a writ of sequestration.  When Hansford refused to turn over the slaves, the Regulators killed him.

In August, 1844, more than 200 Moderators attacked some 60 Regulators near Shelbyville in what became known as the Church Hill battle.  Finally, President Sam Houston had had enough.  Previous to this time Houston had stated publicly, “I think it advisable to declare Shelby County, Tenaha, and Terrapin’s Neck free and independent governments, and let them fight it out among themselves.”  However, at the time Houston was working to annex the Republic of Texas with United States.  He felt that it would be unadvisable to have a civil war taking place in East Texas as this would not help matters.

On August 14, 1844, Houston ordered Travis G. Brooks and Alexander Horton to lead 500 militia into East Texas and make peace between the factions.  Brooks was immediately arrested, held, but soon released.  Exasperated, Houston himself rode to East Texas and set up headquarters in San Augustine to take charge of the battle.  Through his diplomacy of fairness and evenhandedness, Houston was able to get both factions to sign a peace treaty.  Both factions put aside their differences during the Mexican-American War and joined together with Captain L. H. Mobitt’s company of fighters.

Though there was some initial resistance from both the Regulators and the Moderators, the show of force by the Republic of Texas finally put an end to the conflict.  Leaders of both sides were arrested, including Charles Watt Moorman.  Some years later after his release, Moorman was shot and killed in Louisiana in 1850.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: