Texas Hill country of Mason County, bad luck was on the horizon in 1874 when
large numbers of cattle began to be killed or go missing. Before long, a
murderous conflict called the Mason County War, but just as often referred to as
the Hoodoo War, erupted between German immigrants and
Texas born natives. For
years, relations had been tense between the two groups, as during the
the native Texans declared themselves Confederates, while the Germans remained
loyal to the Union.
The trouble began when nine
Texans were jailed on charges of cattle theft. Before a trial could be held,
four escaped and on February 18, 1875, a German mob of about forty men took the
remaining five from the jail. Dragging them to a place near Hick Springs, the
Germans hanged cousins Elijah and Pete Backus and shot a man named Wiggins. A
fourth man named Johnson was able to escape, and help arrived before Tom Turley,
who had also been hanged, died. Though a district court investigated the
incident, nothing came of it.
Full blown war began when
Sheriff Clark sent Deputy Sheriff John Worley to arrest a man named Tim
Williamson for cattle theft. After picking up Williamson, the posse was attacked
by twelve men with blackened faces on May 13, 1875, and Williamson was killed,
allegedly by a German farmer named Peter Bader.
No one was arrested for
Williamsonís murder, and
Scott Cooley, a former
Texas Ranger, and a friend to
Williamson, swore revenge. He soon recruited several men to help him, including
John and Mose Beard, George Gladden, and
Ringo and the men began their retaliation, killing at least 12 men.
blamed Worley for Williamson's death, believing him to have been in collusion
with the ambushers. On August 10, 1875,
Cooley went to Worley's home
where he found the deputy working on his well with an assistant, who had been
lowered over the side. Cooley
shot Worley dead, and the well worker, clinging to the rope, tumbled to the boom
of the well. Cooley then cut
scalped Worley, proudly displaying his prize to the Germans.
and his men then killed Peter Bader, the second man on his death list, before
tracking down murdering another man named Daniel Hoerster, whom they suspected
of having been part of the ambush group. The Germans retaliated by hanging two
of Cooley's confederates, and the murders continued in both directions for the
next year before the
Texas Rangers finally restored order.
Cooley escaped from a posse at
the Llanno River and was thought to have fled into Blanco County where he was
sheltered by friends and died a short time later, supposedly of brain fever.
After many months of violence,
a strained peace returned to Mason County in the fall of 1876, but it would be
another year before everything settled down completely.
Only a few minor gunmen were ever charged, one of
which was Johnny
Ringo, but after spending almost two years in jail, the charges were
dismissed. He would later turn up later in
Arizona to tangle with the likes of
of America, updated June,