See No Evil, Speak No Evil, A History of Mob Violence in the Texas Heartland, 1869-1904 is the title of Ross McSwain’s newest book.
The San Saba County Historical Commission invites the community to hear Mr. McSwain on Tuesday, January 6th at the Rylander Memorial Library. His talk will begin at 1:00 p.m. and be followed by the book signing.
Mr. McSwain’s book deals with vigilante violence in the post civil war era. Prior to the 1880s, a vast area of Central Texas was outlaw country by unanimous consent. Because of the isolation of the area during and after the Civil War, this large region became infested with desperate criminals: cattle rustlers, horse thieves, murderers, army deserters, carpetbaggers and jayhawkers.
Law enforcement was scant at best. In the few organized counties that existed then, sheriffs and constables were content to let these lawless people alone. The sheriffs thought it better “to isolate the disease than to scatter it,” said historian Flora Bowles.
Violence gripped the area for decades, and from this fertile ground emerged some of the west’s most deadly gunmen. As civil law vanished, community leaders resorted to other methods of bringing law and order to their towns and counties. Thus, vigilante committees were organized. Soon, other kinds of groups like the “Honest Man’s Club” and the “Trigger Mountain Mob” were formed. Before law and order was restored by the Texas Rangers, up to 100 or more persons would die at the end of a rope, midnight shootings, ambushes and other kinds of mayhem, and hundreds of families would be driven westward to escape the violence.