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Lady Killers: Ellen Etheridge

During the first year after her 1912 marriage to a millionaire farmer, 47-year-old Ellen Etheridge poisoned four of his eight children. She attempted to kill a fifth child by forcing him to drink lye, but the 13-year-old boy escaped and ran for help. A minister’s daughter, Etheridge confessed to the killings and the attempted murder,…

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Wild West Feuds: Brooks vs. McFarland, 1896-1902

Although most of the violence took place on Oklahoma land belonging the Creek Nation, an attempt to rob a former Texas Ranger started the fight. After the former Ranger killed would-be robber Thomas Brooks, family patriarch Willis Brooks accused neighbor Jim McFarland of planning the unsuccessful crime and then tipping off the Ranger. Not disposed…

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‘Remember Goliad!’

Though the most infamous by far, the Alamo wasn’t the only massacre during the Texas Revolution. On March 19 and 20, 1836, two weeks after the Alamo fell, Col. James Fannin and a garrison of about 300 Texians engaged a Mexican force more than three times as large on the banks of Coleto Creek outside…

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“Gone to Texas”

GTT came into use as an abbreviation for “gone to Texas” in about 1820, when folks starting heading for greener pastures in the Mexican province after losing everything in the financial panic of 1819. As they abandoned their homes, families painted “GTT” on their doors or hung signs from fenceposts so often that the initialism…

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Famous Last Words: Capt. William J. Fetterman

Capt. William J. Fetterman overestimated his abilities and severely underestimated his opponent when he told his commanding officer “Give me eighty men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux Nation.” Later that day, an hour after leaving Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming Territory, Fetterman disobeyed his commander’s order and crossed the two-mile point beyond which…

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Texas Feuds: Reese vs. Townsend, 1898-1907

The Reeses and the Townsends got crossways over politics. U.S. Senator Mark Townsend, the Boss Tweed of Columbus, Texas, withdrew his support from incumbent sheriff Sam Reese and threw his considerable political clout behind Reese’s former deputy, Larkin Hope, instead. When Hope ended up on the wrong end of a broad daylight assassination in downtown…

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Texas Feuds: Lee vs. Peacock, 1866-1871

Only Arizona’s Pleasant Valley War, which took the lives of twenty to fifty men between 1887 and 1892, outstripped the Lee-Peacock feud of northeast Texas. The fandango grew out of lingering animosity over the Civil War. Confederate veteran Bob Lee butted heads with an organization of Union supporters. In response Lewis Peacock, the leader of the…

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Remember the Alamo!

On March 6, 1836, the fortified compound Misión San Antonio de Valero — better known as the Alamo — fell after a 13-day siege. In the 90-minute final battle, Mexican Presidente y Generalisimo Antonio López de Santa Anna lost 400-600 of the approximately 2,000 soldados under his command. One hundred eight-five Texian defenders died during the battle or…

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Texas Feuds: Boyce vs. Sneed, 1911-1912

Wealthy ranchers John Beal Sneed and Albert Boyce, Jr. came to blows over Sneed’s wife. After more than a decade of marriage and two children, in 1911 Lena Sneed admitted to having an affair with Boyce and asked for a divorce. Sneed straightaway had her committed to an asylum. Boyce rescued the damsel in distress, and…

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Creed Taylor, ca. 1890

Texas Feuds: Sutton vs. Taylor, 1866-1877

Dewitt County Deputy Sheriff William Sutton set off the longest-lasting and most widespread feud in Texas history when, in three separate 1866 incidents, he shot and killed three members of former Texas Ranger Creed Taylor’s family. In 1867, two more Taylors died while Sutton was attempting to arrest them on a minor charge. After adopting…

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