Hoosegow Holiday

December 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

My musings of the last two days have dealt with the darker sides of Christmas, Texas-style. Christmas in Texas is indeed more than bloody butchery, necktie parties, and shotgunnings in the street. To wit:

About the worst place to pass Christmas, I imagine, is at a funeral parlor with the mortal remains of a loved one. The second worst place, I would posit, is in jail. The jails of today are not the hell-holes of centuries past, but I daresay that at least on Christmas day, jail in Austin in 1883 was a jollier place of good cheer than it is today, in 2012, as the Austin Statesman reported the morning after.

A Magnanimous Citizen.

The prisoners in the county jail yesterday were in receipt of a Christmas treat of such a nature as to make their hearts grower warmer towards the world they are prone to think is hardened towards them in their cold, cheerless cells. It was such a remembrance as serves to keep alive in the minds of humanity the name of John Howard in his prison house philanthropy, and that other name, Charles Dickens, which has served in the great work of prison reformation, to make the name of Howard greater, as it made men regard their erring fellow beings as human, notwithstanding their fallen condition. Mr. Lundberg, the Austin baker, was the one who visited the prisoners yesterday. He gave each of them, about 50 in number, a supply of cake, smoking and chewing tobacco, cigarettes, turkey, bread, etc. This service has been a suggestion of Mr. Lundberg for years. Sheriff Malcom Hornsby furnished the prisoners with a round deal of whisky. To show their appreciation, the prisoners all gave a lusty three cheers for Mr. Lundberg, which made the walls of the jail resound again and the corridors reverberate their vociferous gratitude. It was a kind act on the part of Mr. Lundberg, and one that was very commendable, indeed.

Recorder Johns, as an incident to the holidays, has had rather a larger bunch of drunkards than usual to dispose of, which he did by fining them generally small amounts each to replenish the city exchequer.


A Swingin’ Christmas Party: Texas Style

December 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s something about the Christmas season that brings out the best – and worst – in mankind. Yesterday we celebrated Christmas Eve by recounting the great Austin bloodbath of 1885.

Today we observe the 1883 Christmas Eve “necktie party,” in nearby McDade, that refused to end. (Disclaimer: This is not the whole, true story, just what appeared in the newspapers of the time. Get the whole story by reading the “Wild West” Chapter of Central Texas.)



Three Men Swung Up and a Couple Shot Dead.


Governor Ireland Hurrying Troops to the Scene and More Bloodshed Is Anticipated.

Special Telegram to the Post.

McDade, Tex., December 25 – Last night about 7:30 o’clock, Henry Pfeiffer, Wright McLemore and Thad McLemore were taken out of the saloon here by masked men and carried about a mile in the brush and hanged to a tree. Thad McLemore had been arrested late in the evening on a charge of burglary made by S.G. Walker, of McDade. He was under arrest at the time the masked men took him, while the other two parties happened to be present. Pfeiffer was charged with horse theft in this county. The party that did the hanging was about forty or fifty men, well armed. To-day a party of six men, friends and relatives of the men hanged, came in town and raised trouble with Tom Bishop and George Milton.

A Fight With Guns and Pistols

took place, in which Jack Bailey and Az Bailey were killed, and Hayward Bailey badly wounded, but who escaped. Willie Griffin, a very estimable young man of our town, was shot through the head and mortally wounded by Hayward Bailey, while assisting Milton and Bishop in defending themselves. The five dead bodies of the McLemores, Baileys and Pfeiffer are lying in the market-house, none of their friends having come for them, and it is thought the town will have serious trouble to-night when they do come. It will be several days before the jury of inquest will get through. No further particulars at this time.


The Brenham Grays

Special Telegram to the Post.

Brenham, Tex., December 25 – There is considerable excitement here to-night over a telegram from Governor Ireland, ordering the Brenham Grays to report to McDade, in full uniform and equipment, with ammunition, at once. They will leave here in full force on the 11 o’clock evening train. It is reported here by the Giddings operator that three men were hung there last evening by Judge Lynch, and that friends of the victims came to revenge their hanging, and two more were killed dead and one mortally wounded.

Off for the Scene.

Special Telegram to the Post.

Hempstead, Tex., December 25 – The Johnston Guards, commanded by Captain B. E. Bedell, under Colonel A. T. Bedell, of the First Regiment Texas Volunteer Guards, left on the 9 o’clock train for McDade, under order from Governor Ireland, Commander. The Captain and fifteen men go.

DECEMBER 27, 1883



The Beatty Brothers Seek A Difficulty And Find It — A Furious Fusillade of One Hundred Shots.

Special Telegram to the Post.

McDade, Tex., December 26 – The examining trial of George Milton and Thomas Bishop, for the killing of Az Beatty and Jack Beatty on yesterday, is now progressing, the state being represented by the County Attorney and the defendants by Major Sayers.


Az Beatty, Jack Beatty, Charlie Goodman, Burt Hasley and Robert Stevens came into McDade yesterday morning. Az and Jack Beatty went to Milton’s store. Milton being engaged at his desk writing, and Bishop sitting in a chair on the gallery. Milton’s desk is at the rear end of the store. Jack Beatty went up to Milton and began a conversation in reference to what had been rumored as to his brother’s connection with the murder of Deputy Sheriff Heffington three weeks ago, in McDade. It appears that Az Beatty, who was not on good terms with Bishop, made the attack on him and succeeded in forcing Bishop off the gallery, Bishop falling upon the ground, and Beatty on top, both grasping a pistol.


Beatty on top and Bishop under, the pistol was fired and Az Beatty fell back dead. In the meantime Jack Beatty, hearing the report of the pistol, rushed to the front door with knife in hand, Milton following him. Just then Hayward Beatty ran up and fired upon Bishop, the latter returning the fire with effect. Just at this moment, William Griffin, a kinsman of Bishop, came running up to the assistance of Bishop, when he (Griffin) was dangerously wounded in the head and will probably die to-night. When Milton reached the front he began firing, and


It is said that it will be proved that Goodman Hasley and Stevens were shooting at Milton and Bishop from a distance. In all there were from sixty to one hundred shots fired. When the firing ceased it was found that Az Beatty and Jack Beatty were dead, Griffin mortally wounded, Hayward Beatty badly wounded, Stevens and Goodman slightly wounded. Hasley escaped but is supposed to be also wounded. The escape of Bishop from being killed may be considered almost


The Beattys are brothers and Hasley and Stevens are connected with them by marriage. Public sympathy seems to be altogether with Bishop and Milton. Detachments from the Johnston Guards, Hempstead, and Brenham Grays, Brenham, came up this morning and returned the same morning as their services were not needed. County Attorney Maynard and Sheriff Jenkins are here.

DECEMBER 29, 1883

The McDade Rioters

McDade, Tex., December 28 – George Milton and Tom Bishop were placed under a bond of $1500 for the killing of the Beattys. Willie Griffin died this morning at 4 o’clock. Hayward Beatty, Robert Stevens and Charlie Goodman were arrested by Sheriff Jenkins and are in jail at Bastrop. The two former are wounded. The jury of inquest found that Willie Griffin came to his death by a pistol shot fired by Hayward Beatty.

The dam to our tank was cut to-day by our citizens to search for the dead body of a man supposed to be concealed there. The search has not been completed yet. The cause for this was that about six weeks ago a horse bridled and saddled were left hitched to a tree here and no one has ever come to claim him. On that night gambling was known to be going on here, and late the same night pistol shots were heard in town and it was thought the owner of the horse might be in the tank.

Fifty years later, dispute over the hangings and gun battle still simmered, and Jeptha Billingsley felt compelled to tell his version of the tragedy in an article titled “McDade Lynchings Fifty Years Ago Remembered,” published in the Elgin Courier, May 21, 1936.

There were a good many folks in town that Christmas Eve, doing their last minute trading, drinking, etc. As I was going home that night, a little past sundown, two men invited me to go with them to the Christmas Tree at Oak Hill [a nearby community located where Camp Swift is now], but I declined, saying I would have my Christmas at home. The men evidently didn’t get off as early as they planned because one of these men was among those hanged that night. Next day when I got to town I was told that a “Committee” of some 80 men or more had gone to Oscar Nash’s Saloon and had called out the three men they wanted. … victims and had trooped out of town with them to about a mile away; they stopped near a branch under a big tree — I believe it was a blackjack — and in a short time the lives of these three marked men were snuffed out. It was not until this Christmas Eve hanging that the Vigilance Committee finally “got” one of the men who had participated in the attack on Allen Wynn.

McDade, on that Christmas morning, presented a group of people with set faces. The action of the committee on the previous night began to be broadcast, and those who would dare arrived and came in to get particulars. The bodies were still hanging from the tree where they had been strung — waiting for the Sheriff from Bastrop to come and handle the matter. About the middle of the morning, Deputy Sheriff Sid Jenkins, Will Bell, and H. N. Bell arrived, and a large crowd of us went along to witness the proceedings, Sheriff Bill Jenkins arrived later in the day. I was in the crowd and helped cut the ropes the men were hung by — I knew all three of these men pretty well and the sight of them with their twisted faces and the nooses hanging at different angles about the victims’ necks was about the most gruesome thing I have ever witnessed — I don’t ever want to see anything like that again.

What Jeptha Billingsley neglected to say is that he was obligated to cut the ropes because he was friends of the people that were hanged and they wanted to teach him a lesson. Mr. Howery and Preacher Fleming also had to help or get shot. Preacher Frank Fleming, being a Baptist minister, was in between the two sides.

Deputy Sheriff Sid Jenkins and Will Bell returned to McDade to get a wagon to take the bodies of the hung men, while constable Scruggs, Deputy Sheriff H. N. Bell and Joe Simms stayed with the dead bodies. The wagon to carry the dead bodies arrived in about one hour. The wagon belonged to Jack Nash and was driven by Pat Murphy. At the arrival of the wagon, Pat Murphy viewed the bodies, exclaimed, “Bejesus, if Thad had been one foot higher, he would have been a living man yet.” The hands of the men hung were tied behind them, and a loop had been slipped around their necks — they were strangled to death.

Before these bodies were brought to town, however, three brothers belonging to the notch cutters gang arrived from their home in the country and went to Milton’s store. Tom Bishop sat on a bench outside on the store gallery, and one of the boys stopped to talk to him; the other two went inside where Milton was. The one outside said, “Some folks in this town are accusing some folks of things they didn’t do,” and kinda stepped closer to Bishop; the latter whipped out his gun, but the young man grabbed for it, and in the scuffle, the gun went off and struck him in the thigh of the leg. He ran; but in the meantime Milton had ordered the other two brothers out of the store because of remarks they made, and almost at the same time, the shot was heard outside. The boys rushed out to assist their brother, and Milton grabbed his ever-ready gun behind the door. Immediately, the bullets began to whiz, and shots were fired right and left. Two of the brothers were killed — one had his head shot off –and the third, though wounded, made his escape but was later captured and was taken into custody and was placed in the county jail by Sheriff Jenkins when he returned to Bastrop that day.

A third man was shot and killed that day. His name was Griffin and he was a brother of Mrs. Black, who lived in McDade. When he heard the shots fired that morning, he ran out of Milton’s saloon, and endeavoring to separate the combatants in the melee he was shot. He was immediately rushed to the home of Mrs. Black. His brother, upon hearing of the young man’s death, came to town and brandished a pistol in the air, declaring he was going to kill everybody in sight for the foul murder of his brother, but somehow friends subdued him and no further killings took place at that time.

The shooting of these two gangmen took place right there by Milton’s store, and after the smoke cleared the bodies were picked up and placed in one of the stores where they lay for some little time awaiting the arrival of relatives to claim their bodies. The bodies of the three hanged men were also later brought into town, and if I recollect correctly they were brought to the same store where the other two bodies were. I don’t recall that they stayed there any length of time; but certainly they and none of the five dead men were “lying on the depot platform.” The curious of course — and most of us are, stood around and viewed the bodies and talked over the previous night’s and the morning’s happenings. Nobody was anxious to have more killings, innocent or otherwise, in the little town when the friends of the deceased would come for their dead ones, so the bodies, all five of them, were moved some distance away from the stores, and there they remained until the relatives came to take away the remains. I happened to be present when the wife of one of the brothers arrived. They lived quite a piece out in the country, and it was some little time before she came. She knelt down sobbing beside the dead form of her husband and prayed one of the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard.

For some days thereafter the residents of McDade lived in a tension. Parents would not let their children out of their sight, and some folks deliberately left town, to be gone until matters had been cleared up. Louis Bassist, who lived in Elgin, was one of the latter. He had been in this country only three months, and the gruesome tales and things he heard tell of, and the constant sight of quickly whipped out guns and pistols filled him with a feeling that is indescribable. Such wild and “uncivilized” life was so new and strange to him after being accustomed to the strict military conduct of the citizens in the city he had lived in while in Germany, that he was at a loss as to what to do about it all. At any rate, he took the first train out of McDade that Christmas Day, and went to Elgin where he stayed a week before venturing back to resume his work in the P. Bassist Store.

People who were at all subject to superstition were sure a curse was on the town and its inhabitants, and that the ghosts of the dead men would be certain to put in their appearance. That night a lady living near the house in which the five dead bodies lay, became very sick, and her husband called to Sam Billingsley, who lived nearby and asked him to fetch the doctor — folks had no telephones there at that time. Sam lived until recently in McDade, and was always a man who was willing to aid a friend or a neighbor; so with some trepidation he agreed to go. It was necessary to pass the “death house” on that cold bitter night, and Sam’s heart involuntarily beat violently. Instinctively, he looked toward the house, and what should he see but a waith-like form enveloping the full height and width of the open doorway.

Needless to say, Sam’s footsteps quickened and later when returning with the doctor, he kept as far away from that building as he could. He wasn’t sure whether or not he had seen a departed spirit of any of the five desperados or the one innocent victim of the previous night-and-day’s melange. Next day however, the ghost visit was explained. A huge dog with broad white chin and breast was observed in town, and he was recognized as the animal belonging to one of the slain brothers. It was this dog who was keeping vigil the night before beside his dead master’s body.

The “necking party” quieted things down around McDade for several years and people could carry on business without fear of hold-ups. 


December 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

1885 was Austin’s most terrifying year, thanks to the string of murders commonly, though incorrectly, referred to as the “Servant Girl Murders” that year, and thought to have been committed by some – still unidentified to this day — proto-Jack the Ripper. Some people of that day even believed that London’s Jack the Ripper learned his trade in Austin in 1885. Well, the victims were not all servant girls, and they certainly weren’t committed by the same person, or in the same way. But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

Although no one knew it at the time, the succession of mayhem ended on Christmas Eve, 1885, with hatchet jobs on the elderly Mrs. M.H. Hancock, and the lusty, young Mrs. James (Eula) Phillips. Here’s how the Austin Statesman reported the events on Christmas morning.

December 25, 1885


Last Night’s Horrible Butchery.

The Demons Have Transferred Their Lust for Blood to White People.

Between 11 and 12 o’clock last night, while a Statesman reporter was engaged in conversation with City Marshal Lucy, at Martin’s shoe store corner, Private Watchman Wilkie came up very hurriedly and speaking to Captain Lacy said:

A woman has been chopped to pieces down on East Water street. Go down there.”

Instantly, Marshal Lucy and the reporter took the first carriage at hand and were driven quickly to East Water street, where the foul and bloody assault had been committed. The victim of this murderous, diabolical, hellish attack, is a white lady, the wife of Mr. M.H. Hancock, an elderly man and a mechanic.

When the reporter entered the premises, he found doctors Burt and Graves dressing the ghastly wounds in the head of the unfortunate victim. The skull was fractured in two places, and blood was coming from both ears. Her groans of agony were piercing, and with what seemed to be her expiring breath, cupfuls of blood were emitted from her mouth.

The reporter questioned Mr. Hancock, and from him but a distracted, disconnected narration could be obtained. He said that his daughter had gone out to a Christmas eve party, somewhere in the neighborhood, and as they were not expected to be out late the doors were left unlocked.

Something woke him up, when he suddenly realized the fact that his house had been robbed. Feeling for his clothes, he discovered that his pants were gone. Getting up, he went to his wife’s room, in the east end of his humble cottage, which was lighted by the full glare of the moon; when he was almost paralyzed by the sight of clots of blood on the bed, and his wife no where to be seen. The room presented every appearance of a robbery having been committed. He went out at a back door and going to the rear of his premises, he saw his wife, lying prone upon the ground, weltering in a pool of blood.

Picking her up, he started back to the house, all the time calling his neighbor, Mr. Pereinger, for help.

Obeying the distressing summons, Mr. Pereinger hastily dressed himself and crossing his own yard into that of Mr. Hancock, he saw the old man lying across a wooden walk, with his bleeding and mangled wife in his arms. Mr. Pereinger assisted Mr. Hancock to carry the butchered wife and mother into the parlor, or sitting room, and in a few minutes afterwards, Dr. Burt arrived and was speedily followed by Dr. Graves.

Owing to the excited state of mind in which marshal Lucy and the reporter found the people who had assembled at Mr. Hancock’s premises, it was almost next to impossible to collect anything like detailed data.

With a coolness and precision that denote the courageous officer, Marshal Lucy gave his orders, and he himself at once set about trailing the murderous villains who had perpetrated the hellish deed. The city’s blood hounds were brought to the house and given a start in the direction in which Hancock said he saw two men jump the fence.

The dogs worked all right, for a short while, but not at all satisfactory to the officer (Uncle Dick) who handled them, when they were brought back and given another start, and when the reporter left the premises, they were apparently working well, taking a trail which led in a westerly direction, or up the river.

The weapon used was an old axe, which was taken by officer Johnson, and is now at the police station.

While still gathering notes, absolutely kneeling by the side of the evidently dying lady, a shrill voice from the street cried to the reporter that another murder had been committed in the second ward, on the premises of Mr. James Phillips. Quickly as possible, the reporter went there.

Terrible as was the murder of Mrs. Hancock, a still more appalling horror awaited the police officers. Mr. James Phillips, architect and builder, well known in this city, who resides at No. 312 W. Hickory street, near the heart of the city. The residence is a one-story house, with an L extending to the south and towards Hickory street. Between the L and the main building, which contains several rooms. There is a kind of platform or covered veranda connecting the two wings. A small room in the L was occupied by Mr. Phillips’ son, James Phillips, Jr., and his wife, Mrs. Eula Phillips. Last night Mr. Phillips and his wife and little child retired to bed as usual. Sometime past midnight the household was awakened and their attention was attracted by Mr. Phillips, Jr., in calling for someone. The door of the room, which opened out onto the covered veranda, was found open.

The pillows and bed clothes presented a horrid spectacle, being literally saturated with blood and the sheets reddened with gore. Phillips lay on his right side, with a deep wound just above the ear made with an ax which lay beside the bed. Mrs. Phillips was not there, but her child remained all besmeared with blood, but unharmed. Search was immediately initiated for the missing woman. A trail of blood, still fresh on the floor of the outside verandah, was followed out into the yard, and in the northern part of the enclosure, a few feet from the fence, and at the door of the water closet, Mrs. Phillips was found dead.

The body was entirely nude, and a piece of timber was laid across the bosoms and arms, and evidently used for the most hellish and damnable purpose. The hands were outstretched and a great pool of blood, still warm and scarcely coagulated, stood in a little trench, into which the life current had flowed down from the unfortunate victim.

The body had been dragged from the room, but whether Mrs. Phillips was killed in the room, or, as the elder Mr. Phillips thinks, she was awakened by the assault on her husband and attempted to escape, cannot be determined. It is believed, however, the assassins stifled her voice, and that she was still alive when dragged into the yard where she was outraged and then the last and fatal blow delivered.

The position of the body indicated that the devilish act was perpetrated with the assistance of a second party, as both hands were held down by pieces of wood, in which position the fiends left their victim and in which she must have died.

The elder Phillips stated that while this most horrible crime was being committed everything was as silent as usual. No cutury seems to have been heard, so skillfully did the inhuman butcher or butchers carry out a crime worthy of the imps of hell.

Phillips, the wounded man, was seen a short time after this awful and infernal crime. A physician was present and had given him a soothing potion, but stated he had not investigated the wound and could not say whether the skull was fractured or not. When asked if he knew who struck him, Mr. Phillips deeply groaned, and said he did not. It is believed his wound is serious, if not fatal. The wound of his dead wife was also to the head, and evidently with the same axe with which he had been struck. At the late hour at which this is written it is impossible to give the full details of this appalling assassination.

Merry Christmas, y’all, and be thankful that you aren’t living in the “good old days.”

Ave Cedar! Nos sternueri te salutamus!

December 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hail Cedar! We who are about to sneeze salute you!

What is Christmas in Austin without cedar fever? This year it arrived about a week before, on the heels of that blustery cold front, the first real cold front of the season. Sometimes we are luckier and we begin the glorious new year with dry itchy eyes, runny noses, sore throats, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, sinus headaches, and a general malaise.

cedarCedar fever has been around as long as Austin has, but it was about 1926 when scientists finally figured out what caused it. In 1928 the Hay Fever Committee of the Chamber of Commerce campaigned for a city ordinance requiring all male cedar trees within the Austin city limits to be cut down. The committee believed that this grandly scaled exorcism would go far in relieving the suffering of victims. The committee ended its campaign when the Travis County Medical Society declined to endorse the proposed ordinance. UT’s Texas Ranger humor magazine offered its own unique humorous take, drawn by Joe Ernest Steiner, younger brother of Buck Steiner (owner of Capital Saddlery and bootmaker Charlie Dunn’s boss) and the most prolific college humor magazine cartoonist of his epoch.

A Thousand Causes for the Act, A Thousand to Restrain

December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday was fall-term graduation day at UT. Our daughter, Samantha, graduated (with high honors) along with nearly 400 others from the College of Liberal Arts. It was a happy, even giddy, day for thousands of students, parents, siblings and extended family. Perhaps it’s because I have been reading Jesse Sublett’s superb novella noir, Grave Digger Blues, but in the midst in all the rejoicing, somehow I am reminded of UT’s first suicide, a brilliant young law student who killed himself just a couple of weeks before his graduation, fall term, 1890. Such a tragic waste of a young life with so much promise. It makes me that much more grateful to have a graduate daughter with a sense of purpose, direction and self-discipline.

November 25, 1890



A Day Off and Heavy Losses at the Gaming Tables Wreck His Mental Powers and Lead to the Terrible Act.


Saturday afternoon he was seen more than once by a reporter and he was slightly under the influence of liquor. That afternoon at about three o’clock, with a friend, he visited a prominent jeweler and purchased a diamond ring and a diamond stud, paying for the same $165 each, the payment being made by a check on B.W. Bonner of Lufkin for the sum of $330. Sunday afternoon the community was shocked by the report that Bonner, a student in the law Department of the University, had committed suicide by taking either laudanum or morphine.

Leaving the jeweler’s with his gems he continued to drink, and at three o’clock Sunday morning, shorn of his costly jewelry and plucked of all his money, he was considerately loaded into a hack and sent to his boarding house on San Marcos street, where he went to bed.

The Sleep of Death.

At about 9 o’clock Sunday morning, Mr. T.O. Martin, his room mate, awakened him and asked him if he wanted breakfast, but he only mumbled out a few words and turning over dropped off to sleep. Mr. Martin went down to the breakfast table and when he returned again woke him up and asked if he wanted breakfast, but he said no. Mr. Martin then left and came downtown, where he got his mail, and returned to his room, where he found Mr. Bonner sitting at a table in his night clothes writing.

It was now about 10 o’clock.

Mr. Martin sat down and began writing and a moment after Mr. Banner quit writing, got up from the table, dressed himself and started out of the room. He stopped, however, at the door, and returning to Mr. Martin, said, “Have you got half a dollar? I want to mail some letters.”

Mr. Martin gave him a dollar and he went out. In about an hour he returned and passing Mr. Martin, who was seated on the gallery, he went into his room. In about fifteen minutes Mr. Martin went into the room, and picking up a notebook started out again.

Where are you going?” asked Mr. Bonner.

Back to the gallery,” Mr. Martin replied.

Mr. Martin noticed that Bonner spoke hoarsely and looked sleepy, but attributed it to his being up late the night before.

Shortly after reaching the gallery, Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Hood, university students, joined Mr. Martin, and all three went into the room, where Bonner was lying on his bed. He raised up and Mr. Martin introduced Mr. Kirkpatrick to him, after which Bonner, who have seemed to be very drowsy, laid down.

About this time the little son of Mrs. Graves, the land lady, came in and said to Mr. Bonner, “I went to see Doctor Willard, but he was not in, and won’t be back for an hour. Did you see him?”

No,” Bonner replied.

The boy then left, and Bonner dropped off to sleep.

Martin, Kirkpatrick and Hood went out on the gallery, and remained there talking until about 10 o’clock, when the visitors left, and Martin returned to his room, where he found Bonner sound asleep and snoring heavily.

In about twenty minutes Mr. Hertzberg, a student, came into the room, and he noticed the heavy breathing and snoring of Bonner and spoke about it to Mr. Martin. Mr. Hertzberg took a seat and he and Martin engaged in conversation, and some time after both noticed that the heavy snoring of Bonner suddenly ceased. Mr. Martin suggested that Bonner had fallen into a peaceful sleep, but Mr. Hertzberg was suspicious and got up and went to the sleeper’s bedside.

Bonner was dead.

Mr. Hertzberg at once raised the alarm and Mr. Martin felt Bonner’s pulse and over the heart. But life was extinct. Doctor Wooten was hurriedly called in, but his services were not needed. Bonner was cold in death.

Some Letters.

Four letters, evidently written during the morning, when Mr. Martin went down to the post office, were found on his table. One was addressed to his landlady, Mrs. Graves, kindly thanking her for past favors. One was addressed to Mr. Martin, and contained a check for $2 he owed him. One was for Mr. Brooks, a student, requesting that he draw on Mr. B.F. Bonner for the amount due him. The fourth was addressed to his brother, Mr. B.F. Bonner, of Lufkin. Under the table on the scrap of paper bearing no address or signature were these words: “There are a thousand causes for the act, there are a thousand to restrain – may God help and protect you.”

A photograph was found in one of his pockets on the back of which were the words: “Good bye, brother.”

Mr. Bonner was a brilliant young man and popular with all who knew him. He was a nephew of Col. Tom Bonner of Tyler. He was about 24 years of age and would have graduated from the law department this term. He has been drinking more or less of late and frequented the gambling rooms when under the influence of liquor.

Saturday night he lost heavily at cards and it is stated borrowed from a sporting man named Dennis $150, giving as security the diamonds he purchased during the afternoon. This money he lost and he was kindly sent home as has been stated. Justice Fisher held an inquest and his verdict is in accordance with the foregoing. Exercises were suspended at the University yesterday, and a mass meeting of the students was held at 11 o’clock. The remains were forwarded to Lufkin last night.

These Are the Terms that Try Men’s Souls

December 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Back in the day,” “The Cloud,” “Kind regards”: these are among the words and phrases trying men’s (and women’s) souls these days – well, at least trying the Old Curmudgeon’s soul. They come, they go, and some stay forever. The introduction of new words in our language is a phenomenon previously explored by the Old Curmudgeon in the Blunderbuss. It is not always easy to affix the blame on the person who introduced these literal plagues into our lingua.

The ubiquitous term, “Dust Bowl,” hardly grates upon the ears as do the aforementioned “combo-ggravations,” but we do know exactly when it entered our consciousness. On April 14, 1935, the day known as “Black Sunday,” 20 of the worst “black blizzards” occurred throughout the Dust Bowl, causing extensive damage and turning the day to night. Witnesses reported they could not see five feet in front of them at certain points. The term Dust Bowl was first used in print the next day to describe this storm by Associated Press reporter Robert E. Geiger.

Like AIDS, “Back in the day” has been lurking about for decades (in the occasional book since the early 1940s), but did not surface into the public consciousness until about the time AIDS did, in the 1980s. H. Samy Alim, an anthropologist and sociolinguist at UCLA, suggested to William Safire that the expression may have been popularized by the rapper Ahmad’s 1994 album and title song “Back in the Day.” A bit of googling by the Grammarphobia blog, however, indicates that the expression was well established by the late 1980s, years before Ahmad’s album was released. Researchers have been able to pinpoint “Ground Zero” for the AIDS explosion in the U.S. But for “Back in the Day”? At least one person pins the blame on Eddie Murphy – or was it Richard Pryor? He doesn’t remember. But what does it matter who is to blame? Like AIDS, “Back in the Day” seems here to stay.

The concept of “The Cloud,” that is, “cloud computing.” dates back to the earliest years of computing. But the first scholarly use of the term “cloud computing” was in a 1997 lecture by Ramnath Chellappa of the University of Texas. Cloud computing reached the public consciousness around the year 2007, when the Google Docs service went mainstream. And now, every computing industry magazine I read is as infested with “the cloud” and “cloud computing” as a fresh cow pie with flies.

No one seems to have a clue as to the fiend(s) who popularized the use of “Kind regards,” but its use is, I suppose, preferable to the closing salutation, “Warm regards.” If revenge is a dish best served cold, why do we not have “Burning regards,” “Scorched regards,” “Hot to trot regards,” “Torch song regards,” “House afire regards,” “Tepid regards,” “Lukewarm regards,” “Chilly regards,” or “Frigid regards” to pin point our true feeling for the addressee?

“Demoted” and “Nationals” are two words so engrained in the English language that it is hard to imagine life without them. I myself throw them about in conversation with uncaring impunity. But there was such a time, and it is still within the memory of the smallest handful of the living amongst us, when we lived quite happily without them. On June 1, 1914, the El Paso Herald observed, “Every once in a while, a new word arrives and learning to like a new word comes a bit hard. The latest new word is “demoted” for “unpromoted” or “put back.” Two weeks ago one had hardly heard of it and now it comes up every day at supper time. Last winter it was “nationals.” At first one left the word to newspaper editors and employees of the state department entirely, but now everybody uses it and it feels quite good on the tongue.”

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