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 were put to the sword afterward.
The accounts of Santa Anna’s ruthlessness at the Alamo spurred the passion of Texians and allies from the United States. Under the battle cry “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” the ragtag Texian army defeated Santa Anna and his troops at the Battle of San Jacinto six weeks later.
Image: 1854 drawing of the Alamo as it looked then, artist unknown
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 the couple ran off to Canada.
Incensed when kidnapping charges were dropped, Sneed upped the ante: In early 1912, he murdered Boyce’s unarmed father in the lobby of a Fort Worth hotel. Widely publicized court proceedings ended in a mistrial, spurring a mob of Boyce supporters to storm the courthouse and kill four men. Sneed’s father was the next to go, in an alleged murder-suicide.
Although John and Lena Sneed reconciled in mid-1912, he could not let the insult go: Wearing a disguise, he shot and killed Boyce in broad daylight on a Fort Worth street and then surrendered at the county courthouse. Juries later acquitted Sneed of all charges, calling the killings justifiable homicide. Body count: eight.
Click the image below to read the New York Times report from 1912. You don’t see reporting like that anymore!
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 the motto “Who sheds a Taylor’s blood, by a Taylor’s hand must fall,” the Taylors retaliated by killing two Sutton allies. Mob violence, ambushes, prison breaks, and lynchings ensued. Sutton himself was gunned down while attempting to board a steamboat and high-tail it out of the area.
Numerous attempts at peacemaking failed until Texas Ranger Captain Leander McNelly and his Special Force put a stop to the violence. Body count: at least 35.
The image is Creed Taylor, ca. 1890. He lived a long life.
The photograph above depicts the notorious Storyville redlight district on New Orleans’ Basin Street. Except for the saloon in the foreground, the rest of the buildings are brothels. It was along this row that Mary Jane Jackson plied her trade…and practiced serial murder.
A New Orleans prostitute with a violent temper, Jackson was a relative anomaly among female serial killers. Described as a “husky,” universally feared woman, she physically overpowered her adult-male victims. Nicknamed Bricktop because of her flaming-red hair, between 1856 and 1861 Jackson beat to death one man and stabbed to death three others because they called her names, objected to her foul language, or argued with her. Sentenced to ten years in prison for the 1861 stabbing death of a jailer-cum-live-in-lover who attempted to thrash her, 25-year-old Jackson disappeared nine months later when the newly appointed Union Army governor of New Orleans issued blanket pardons and emptied the prisons.
A member of the notorious Bloody Benders of Labette County, Kansas, beautiful 22-year-old Kate Bender claimed to be a psychic. In 1872 and 1873, she enthralled male guests over dinner at the family’s inn while men posing as her father and brother sneaked up behind the victims and bashed in their skulls with a sledgehammer or slit their throats. Among the four Bender family members, only Kate and her mother were related, though Kate may have been married to the man posing as her brother. When a traveling doctor disappeared after visiting the Benders’ waystation in 1872, his brother began an investigation that turned up eleven bodies buried on the property.
The Benders, whose motive was robbery, disappeared without a trace. A persistent rumor claims vigilantes dispensed final justice somewhere on the Kansas prairie.
The last major Old West set-to in Texas took place in Fort Bend County, near Houston. The liberal-Republican Woodpeckers, mostly former slaves, swept the county election in 1884. The conservative-Democrat Jaybirds, primarily white former Confederates, opposed such unconscionable behavior for racist reasons. After Woodpeckers swept every office again in the 1888 election, retaliatory violence on both sides resulted in the deaths of several people.
During the Battle of Richmond—a twenty-minute gunfight inside the county courthouse in August 1889—four men, including the sheriff, were killed. The Jaybirds won the fracas, and with the assistance of Governor Sul Ross’s declaration of martial law, seized control of county government. Jaybirds forcibly ousted every elected Woodpecker and proceeded to disenfranchise black voters until 1953, when the Supreme Court put a stop to the whites-only voting shenanigans.
Intermittent Jaybird-Woodpecker violence continued until 1890, when a white Woodpecker tax assessor, accused of murdering a white Jaybird leader who was his political opponent, was gunned down in Galveston before he could be tried for the alleged crime.
(Image: Fort Bend County courthouse where the gun battle took place)
The only time in history Texas Rangers surrendered happened in the tiny town of San Elizario, near El Paso.
An increasingly volatile disagreement over rights to mine salt in the Guadalupe Mountains began in the 1860s and finally boiled over in September 1877. A former district attorney, who tried to lay claim to the salt flats, rather flagrantly murdered his political rival, who had insisted the flats were public property and the valuable salt could be mined by anyone. The dead man’s supporters, primarily Tejano salt miners, revolted.
A group of twenty hastily recruited Ranger stand-ins rushed to the rescue, only to barricade themselves inside the Catholic church in a last-ditch effort to keep the instigator alive long enough stand trial. Five days later they admitted defeat and surrendered to the mob, who killed the accused murderer, chopped up his body, and threw the pieces down a well. Then the rioters disarmed the Ranger puppies and kicked them out of town.