December 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

I could write a book about Slippery Jeff Cain, the greatest con artist in Austin history. But if I did, and it was published, would wily Jeff ‘s story interest anyone enough to buy it?

Here’s a biography of him that appeared in the Statesman, that gives just a little taste of this sport’s life. Let me know what you think, positively or negatively, please.

February 23, 1886


He Shakes His Shackles And Slips The Officers.

That incorrigible, nimble witted and alas nimble footed Jeff Cain is no longer in the tolls, having adroitly slipped his shackles, and to the sore disgust of the officer in his charge he was, took leg bail.

Jeff Cain?

Who is Jeff Cain of whom we read so much about? He is a young man of some 18 or 20 summers, decidedly good looking, quick, active, intelligent and prone to fine dress, and a fervent inclination not to do honest labor. This latter, amid all of the vicissitudes of Jeff’s life, and they have been many, he religiously adheres to, come weal, come woe.

He’s a sporting man, is Jeff. He’s a fakir, when times are hard and a “greeny” falls into his clutches, and he has given the officers of this city and county more trouble than any ten men in it, all put together.

Jeff is always in some difficulty or another, and when not in jail is either in the station house or in a high old way which surely leads in that direction and which will inevitably land him square and flat in the penitentiary. There are several indictments pending against him now, and he is under bond to appear at the March term of the district court. He was, and is, in debt to this city to the amount of several fines and the city took charge of and put him in the lock up.

Jeff didn’t like it. He suddenly became contrite and, simulating full and complete repentance, he pleaded to be permitted to work on the streets with the gang. This request was granted, but his well-known cunning and his “tricks that are vain” moved the officers to heavily shackle and ball and chain him.

This was done, but yesterday, true to his slippery nature, Jeff by some means rid himself of his irons, and before the officer having charge of the gang was aware of that, he made good his escape, and up to a late hour last night he had not been recaptured. Verily, Jack is a veritable Jack Sheppard when it comes to escaping from prison and giving the officers the slip.

The following unique letter was received yesterday by Officer Brown from Jeff Cain, who slipped his shackles a few days ago, and escaped from the city chain gang:

Manor, Texas, February 23rd, 1886.

Mr. Henry Brown: Dear sir.

Would you please be kind enough to send those things of mine to me, and oblige, Jeff Cain. One album, one tooth brush, one shoe buttoner, and that saw of mine. Very respectfully. Jeff Cain. You must not be mad with me this time because I never let no one else get away with me. Give Marshal Lucy my regards, and tell him I will be in again when the district court meets. Ask him if you will let me go, if I stay out of town after court.

As ever. Jeff Cain.


Christmas Fireworks, 1876

December 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

“Again the Statesman is called upon to chronicle another killing in this community, and the dangerous wounding of another, the circumstances of which are about as follows:”

Quite a large audience was present at the Capital Theater Christmas night, and a portion of that audience was anything but orderly. Finally some firecrackers were thrown popping to the floor, when Mark Wilson, one of the proprietors of theater and saloon, stepped into the crowd and accused Jim Burditt of throwing the fire crackers and called policeman Allen, who was present, to arrest Burditt and take him out of the room. Hot words ensued and serious trouble seemed imminent. Just as Alan was in the act of arresting Burditt, Ben Thompson came up and said that he would stand good for Burditt. Some lampblack was then thrown in Wilson’s face, and someone cut him with knife, and gave him a clean, deep wound on the left side of his neck. Wilson then started for the bar in one corner at the front of the room and picked up a shot gun and wheeled and fired, but policeman Allen hit the gun, and the shot grazed Thompson’s clothes, entering the wall. Thompson fired several pistol shots at Wilson, one taking effect in his breast, another in the bowels and a third in his arm, and Wilson expired instantly. Charles Matthews, a bar tender, then commenced firing from behind a counter, when Thompson fired upon him, a ball entering one corner of his mouth and ranging down his neck. As a scene of perfect uproar, confusion and screams ensued, the room was filled with smoke and the floor was covered with blood and lampblack, and while one man laid dead and another perhaps mortally wounded, the audience was making a hasty exit out the front and rear of the room. Some burst through the front door and others rushed upon the stage at the other end of the building and went bounding through the scenery.

Wilson’s vaudeville theater, opened six weeks earlier, was robbing business from Thompson, who controlled the gambling interests in town. Seems many of Austin’s men preferred seeing their queens on stage instead of on the faces of playing cards.

The feeling in this city on December 27 regarding the serious difficulty at the Capitol Theater, Christmas night, was anything but composed and appeased. The friends of the late Mark Wilson, who had been the sole support for a mother and several sisters, openly and severely censured policeman Allen for interfering to prevent Wilson from shooting Thompson, and then, after he had emptied his weapon, for allowing Thompson, unmolested, to use his weapon against Wilson, and then again, for not interfering to prevent the exchanging of shots between Matthews and Thompson, after Wilson had been killed. They even say that Allen, by his conduct, is somewhat responsible for Wilson’s death, and that he either favored or feared Thompson. Quite a number of parties were found yesterday who witnessed the difficulty that had not been summoned before the coroners’ jury on Tuesday, and a warrant, we heard, had been issued for the arrest of Burditt. It was also said that other arrests would be made, and it is probable the examination will be thorough and occupy two or three days. It is a sad thing, here in the capital of a great state, for law abiding citizens so often to be startled and shocked with scenes of blood, but such a deeds can here, as elsewhere, be stopped by the law and the courts if the people will only make up their minds to do it. We repeat, let us have no organization to stop violence by violence, but let every man exert his influence, in favor of moderation, law and order.

That same night, the following gentlemen were elected officers of Hope Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 (to which Ben Thompson belonged) for the ensuing year: President, F.L. Britton; Treasurer, H. Schmidt; Foreman, John Chenneville; First Assistant H.D. Burland. After the election the company adjourned to the restaurant of Mr. H.D. Burland, where a magnificent lunch awaited them, to which due justice was done. The boys remained and partook of the good things until about midnight, and went on their way rejoicing, singing their fire songs “Ding Dong Goes the Bell” and “Rally around your little white truck.” The Statesman was not forgotten, and returned thanks for the treat sent up by the boys. Ben was conspicuous by his absence, holed up at Sheriff Dennis Corwin’s residence, safe from the lynching crowd.

Merry Christmas from the Old Curmudgeon and may your day be better than Mark Wilson’s and mine.

“Sleep in Heavenly Pieces”

December 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

I am in a festive mood this Christmas Eve, so please enjoy with me this beloved, classic Austin Christmas Eve tale, as first told by the Austin Daily Statesman 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 Lucy 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.

P.S., you can visit Susan Hancock’s grave in Oakwood Cemetery. It’s easy to find, somewhere in the middle, south side. Eula is buried in the family plot in the oldest section of the cemetery, the location of which has been lost with time. The other 1885 victims rest in unmarked graves.

So, may all you sleep in heavenly peace. And maybe tomorrow I will tell the tale of Austin’s greatest Christmas Night murder of all. Maybe.

The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Thirteen (The Lagniappe)

December 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the thirteenth day of Christmas (1894): “forty sports a’fighting, twelve worthy jurors, eleven half seas over, mud to the 10th power, nine shades of grey, an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”

(December 25, 1894)


The Austin Police Arrest About 40 Sports for Fighting Last Night.

“With the first approach of darkness last night quite a large number of the youths of the city, the old sports, and the strangers from the forks of the creek began swallowing red water while they twisted their thumbs over their fingers.

“As the hours drifted leisurely by midst the din of a Christmas Eve celebration the individuals in question imbibed more freely, their thumbs were whirled at a more rapid pace and the result was that within a few hours there was no man on earth big enough to lick them. Inasmuch as they were all of the same opinion it was but natural that the matter should be put to a test and the result was fights without number.

“An enumeration of these Corbett [“Gentleman” Jim Corbett, the boxer -ed.] engagements would neither instruct nor entertain the readers of the Statesman, but as a matter of general information it is well to know that up to 1 o’clock this morning the police had swooped in about 40 would-be pugilists, who will now have to answer to the recorder tomorrow morning for their overindulgence.

“Some of these names are well known in Austin, while others represent the worthy sons of toil who fell by the wayside and succeeded in getting into jail. The long and the short of the matter was that the major portion of Austin’s sporting and would-be sporting element was on an enormous jag last night and the police force had their hands full arresting them. They succeeded in scooping in some 40 of these fighters in addition to quite a bunch of gamblers that they captured on East Sixth street about midnight last night while enjoying the pleasure of a game.”

Merry Christmas, Guy Town style, y’all.

The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Twelve

December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the twelfth day of Christmas (1883): “twelve worthy jurors, eleven half seas over, mud to the 10th power, nine shades of grey, an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”


The case in the district court against Francis Lawrie, Tom Conley, and George Wallace, charged with outraging little Joe Gibson ended this day. Lawrie and Conley were convicted and sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary.

“Served them right. A man low enough to be guilty of such a crime is not fit to be at large in respectable society,” the Statesman scolded.

Wallace had made a statement admitting his guilt, and entered a conditional plea of guilty; if the court of appeals held good the indictment, Wallace would plead guilty.

“This admission of Wallace is of more value than would have been his conviction, establishing, as it does, the truthfulness of the unfortunate boy, who, by the way, has so demeaned himself as to receive the confidence and regard of those who have been brought in contact with him. Our information is said he has shown himself to be, while poor and among strangers, a manly, honest little fellow,” the Statesman said in relative praise of both Wallace and the poor boy.

In mid-October, Wallace, Conners, and Laury committed an “unnatural crime” upon little Joe They caught and thrust him into an empty freight car in Guy Town’s railroad yard, and then all of them, in turn committed, the indecent crime. When they released Joe, he sought the police, and finding Officer Howe, told him his story, and that officer, in company with other policemen, found the men and took them into custody.

“If the story of the boy is true, they ought to be most severely dealt with,” the Statesman pronounced at the time, in effect, placing the burden of proof on little Joe, something unthinkable these days.

And with this story of outrage and indecency, the Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas end.

But I might just make it a baker’s dozen. Stay tuned tomorrow.

The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Eleven

December 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the eleventh day of Christmas (1888): “eleven half seas over, mud to the 10th power, nine shades of grey, an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”

Standing under the glare of a great arc light just before midnight in that portion of the city traversed by West Fourth street, an officer said to a reporter:

“That’s a hard place over there.”

“Over where?”

“There, where you see that light,” and he pointed to a two-story brick, on the ground floor of which is a saloon. “That is about the hardest place in this city, and it requires constant watching. You had better go over there and take a look at the ranch.”

It was a dreary night with a drizzle and heavy mist filling the atmosphere, while the great arc light cast a baleful glare over the entire neighborhood. Very few people were out even in that quarter of the city where humanity, ever restless, tirelessly tramps through the brooding darkness or in maddened revelry battle against it in dive or brothel. No sleep for weary eyes; no comforting rest for weary hearts in that quarter of town when the shades of night gather.

The building to which the reporter had been directed is a two-story brick, known in the lingo of the neighborhood as the “Devil’s Eyebrow.” The name is appropriate, for it arches over and shadows eyes that see nothing but iniquity in all its horrid deformity. In front of the building on the sidewalk a group of men and women engaged in conversation in which oaths and slang largely predominated. They gave way as the reporter neared the door, and an ominous hush fell over the crowd. They were sizing up the newcomer to see if there was a chance to rope him in for the drinks.

On the inside the atmosphere was reeking with the fumes of stale beer, whisky, tobacco smoke and the odor from damp and dirty clothing. There was a motley crowd of whites and blacks, men and women, in the bar room, while from a rear apartment there were sounds of many voices.

Thither the reporter wended his way, and looking in he saw a hardened crew of blear eyed men and assertive negro and white women of the lowest and most abandoned type. Nearly all were half seas over, and there was a suspicious odor of the fumes of opium permeating the room. They paid no attention to the reporter. In that room the visitor must make the advances, and woe be unto him if he advances too far.

The inmates of the room were scattered here and there, some standing, some sitting, and some leaning against the wall. Some were drinking beer and all had been. The reporter stood by the door and listened to the conversation a few moments. It was horrible. Incomparable, overwhelmingly horrible. Not a word, not a whisper, not a move that betokened even a faint trace of the higher emotions and feelings that move upon the human heart.

It was hell.

The reporter, tired of the scene, passed out of the building and on the sidewalk met two girls coming from a saloon hard by.

“What shall we do?” said one.

“I don’t know,” said the other, and she ripped out an oath or two.

“We can’t let her starve. I won’t let her starve. I’m going to take her to my room.”

They were talking about a waif from a far away city who had just reached town penniless and sick. In all this city there was no place for such. No helping hand save that outstretched by her sisters in iniquity. A sad comment on the civilizations of the day.

“Will it always be so?” mused the reporter as he thought of this waif and hundreds and thousands like her, who have not where to lay their heads when heart-weary and yearning for a better and a holier life.

The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Ten

December 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the tenth day of Christmas (1893): “mud to the 10th power, nine shades of grey, an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”


The young people living in and about Fiskville (about six miles north of town) had congregated that night for the purpose of enjoying a Christmas dance. News of the affair was in some way communicated to two of Austin’s gay and festive young men and they at once concluded to go out and partake of the fun. They were not content to go alone, but hired two buggies and went down to Guy Town, where they secured two fine looking damsels of easy virtue as partners.

As soon as the quartet reached the scene of festivities the Fiskville boys recognized the two rent girls, and vice-versa, and at once proceeded to make life interesting for the big city intruders. They placed the two joyous filles in one buggy and started them back toward the First ward. The Fiskville boys treated their gentleman partners to a different fate. Close by was a pond filled with the muddiest kind of muddy water. The Austin boys were hustled and thrown into the pond, clothes and all, after which their buggy was returned to them and they headed for home, a very crestfallen pair.



The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Nine

December 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the ninth day of Christmas (1868): nine shades of grey, an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”

It was the Saturday before Christmas, 1868, and a local reporter wrote:

We must spend a month of these Saturdays before they will lose the gloss of novelty. Congress Avenue is literally blockaded with vehicles of every conceivable model; and at every available point stand regiments of saddle horses hitched to posts, railings and trees. In passing through the labyrinthine crowds we hear German, Swedish, Spanish and the rich brogue which so charmed Gen. Scott when hankering for Irish votes. The shops are thronged with eager customers who seem to be flush with money, and the din at the restaurants and saloons is something to hear. For an “oppressed people,” this is a hopeful time.

Another feature of the show is suggestive – that is, the free intermingling of colors without misunderstanding. Snowy white and sooty pass and repass without misunderstanding. Mexican women with the complexion of a new jockey saddle, with children of sufficiently lighter shade to suggest the bugbear of miscegenation, seem perfectly at home. Austin is a cosmopolitan city, albeit on a small scale; but why should this peculiarity display itself with more perspicuity on Saturday than on any other day of the week?

It’s like Iggy Pop wrote more than 100 years later, in “Mixing the Colors.”

Out on the edges they’ re mixin’ the colors
Some they don’ t like it but me I don’ t mind
In every city they’ re mixing the colors
Different shades for the whole countryside.

The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Eight

December 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the eighth day of Christmas (1885): an 8% solution, seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”

On the eighth day of Guy Town Christmas 1885, the Daily Statesman asked, “Is cocaine a poison?”

The use of all kinds of anesthetics was dangerously general among all ages in Austin and the rest of the country, principally alcohol, morphine and chloroform. Even colicky little babies got spoonfuls of “soothing” morphine-based syrup. Medicines mostly just dulled or relieved pain, rather than curing anything.

And then along came cocaine. All other anesthetics paled before its intense power to relieve pain. It would not make an appearance in Austin for another five or six years, yet “Very little is yet known of it and it should never be taken unless under the immediate supervision of a skillful physician,” the wire-service story published in the Daily Statesman warned. Dr. Robert Ogden Doremus, physics and chemistry professor at College of the City of New York, had declared that the cocaine habit was surely superseding the morphine habit among the fashionable anesthetic inebriates. Cocaine was preferred because of its more direct effect.

At the beginning of 1885, Dr. Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow of Vienna, Sigmund Freud and others were touting cocaine as a cure for morphinism, alcoholism, and similar habits. Administered in doses of from one-twelfth to one-fourth of a grain, dissolved in water and hypodermically administered, cocaine was said to cure these addictions within ten days.

While Freud relied on his 7% solution, an 8% cocaine solution was used to prepare patients for ear, nose and throat surgery and during tooth extraction, sometimes with fatal results.

Fleischl-Marxow died a morphine and heroin addict in 1891, about the time cocaine first appeared in Austin; his cocaine addiction cure hadn’t worked.

A bill was being prepared by the New York Medical Society that 1885 Christmas for submission to the state legislature providing for the addition of coca to opium and other drugs forbidden to be sold except on physicians’ prescriptions, the Statesman announced that same eighth day.

Cocaine had been generally adopted into medical practice as a local application to produce insensibility, and its success for that purpose had led to a promiscuous and very hurtful use as a swallowed exhilarant. So great had the demand for it become that, in the form of chewing paste, most drug stores sold it. These preparations were usually put forward as composed of the green leaves of the coca plant, with a slight impregnation of lime, making just such a cud as that which the Indians of Peru chewed to relieve their fatigue and exhaustion. Many New Yorkers had become victims to the coca habit through substituting the drug for tobacco or alcohol, than either of which doctors declared more deadly.

Cocaine made its debut in Austin about 1891 or ’92; on August 16, 1892, shortly after 2 o’clock in the afternoon a dusky Guy Town damsel overdosed herself with morphine and cocaine (the same destructive “speedball” that killed John Belushi and River Phoenix) and came near “climbing the golden stairs.” The timely arrival of medical aid saved her, however, and she continued to enjoy life as theretofore, to the consternation of Austin police. Could she have been Cocaine Mattie? Emma Tweedle? Molly Hanson? All  were denizens of Guy Town and Austin’s most outrageous first crop of cokeheads.

At 11 o’clock August 18, 1894, Cocaine Mattie was arrested and carried to the police station. On the road she screamed and rent the air with language most fane and profane. After being placed in a cell she quieted down and no more was thought of her until about 8 o’clock when she was found to be dead. The doctor said she had been dead four or five hours when discovered. She was laid away unwept for but not unpitied.


The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Seven

December 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the seventh day of Christmas (1878): seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”


Ben Thompson as a Man of Peace — He Appeals to the Courts –He is a Reformer — He Would Correct Bacon’s Philosophy.

 Ben Thompson was Austin’s most notorious gambler and gunslinger in the years after the Civil War. Although feared as a killer, Ben shot out far more streetlights in Guy Town than he did men. He was elected City Marshal in 1880 and died in a San Antonio gunfight in 1884.

Bulldozing, pistol whipping and the occasional bullet weren’t his only weapons. He used  libel, at least once, as the Daily Statesman described on December 19.

 He isn’t a hog, but they call him John C. Bacon, and Ben Thompson is after the swine and he is most unwilling to come to Austin. But Ben says he will fetch him, and come he must and will.

 This Baconian philosopher was sick in this city and cared for by the printers. They supplied him medicines, paid his doctor’s and board bills, and he went away, never once recognizing by word or deed the generosity of the toiling typos. Not only this, but the hapless wretch wrote a letter from Austin that was printed in San Antonio in which Bacon grew hot and sputtered, and grease spots were made upon the character of Austin, its mayor and State Fair, and upon the fame of Ben Thompson.

 Thompson was pronounced a murderer of the Bass-Longley sort and assassin who amuses himself when drunk by shooting out the lights of the theater and by other like innocent little feats calculated to render life cheerful in the capital. No sooner did Ben Thompson get a copy of the San Antonio sheet containing this diatribe upon his virtues than he concluded to go after John C.’s bacon. Ben sued for libel.

 It is funny of Ben Thompson to invoke the law to protect his fame, but he is a pious, good citizen now and says he will nevermore strike till stricken, and he intends to make an example of Bacon. Ben’s first writ sent over to San Antonio failed to stick. There was no seal appended and Bacon greased a lawyer who got him off by habeas corpus.

 But Ben never gives up the ship and the oleagenous Bacon is not sleek enough to slip through Ben’s nimble fingers. Another writ for Bacon’s arrest will be apt to fetch him and then we are to have a rousing trail even here in Austin.

 The San Antonio Courier, the special defender and organ of its correspondent, Bacon, pronounces the prosecution malicious, but the end is not yet, and Bacon is not in Austin, simply because the magistrate that sent for him did not know how to prepare the papers.

 Ben wants Bacon. He is hungry for him. Ben loves Bacon. He is going to chaw Bacon, and Bacon must grease the lawyers while Ben gets even. Bacon talks about suing his captors in San Antonio for false imprisonment. Ben Thompson, as a Quaker, is the individual Bacon has to deal with, and not with the petty constables of San Antonio.

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