Tale of an East Texas Sheriff, late 1800s

Early Massey Family household circa 1980s

G.M.C. Massey (standing, middle left) with family, East Texas circa 1890s

More from the memoirs of my grandfather, G.M.C. Massey:

Another character that I would like to call your attention to is Frank Smart, he was very outstanding to me. When I was a small boy I heard My father talk of him and he thought that Frank was very fine man to know. And when I grew up I was brought face to face with him on several occasions that caused me to be confirmed in the same opinion.

I was in the restaurant there at Quitman one day and Frank came in and order chili Gravy just as hot as they had and he turned that stuff as hot as it was up to his mouth and drank it at once without taking it down from his mouth. Well when got that drank he asked them for another and drank it as he did the other.

Well he was in the hardware business and I soon got to doing my trading with Him. And really he was honest as it is possible. Well I think if a man is honest, he just can’t be any honester (you see you know what I mean). He was sheriff for several years and he was never known to carry a gun, and he always got his man. He just was that way.

And after he was out of the Sheriff’s office: there was a bunch of desperado’s located there in the Sabine Rover bottom and the sheriff went after them, and he just lacked a whole lot of getting them And he sent several Deputies after them and they exchanged several shots with them But they too came back without them. So it was the talk of the two; so Frank Smart spoke up and told them if the Sheriff would deputise him to go and get them, and every body else would stay in town, he would go and get them without a gun.

So that put the Sheriff on the spot, and the Sheriff gave the job to him, and Frank told them not to expect him back too quick, But for nobody to follow him or it would ruin the whole deal. So they waited on Frank for about 18 hours. And of course there was no witnesses to what was done But Frank brought them in and Frank had all of their guns.

Frank said that he went till he sighted them, And he took out his white Handkerchief and waved it at them and they throwed their guns on him and hollowed at them and waved his handkerchief at them. And when he finally got their attention as he wanted it He told them he did not have a gun that he wanted to talk to them.

Then when all was quiet He said for them to sit down there and he would come down there and talk with them. Frank said that he went down there where they were sitting and sat down in their midst and talked to them and told them that if they did not want to go back with him that they did not have to. But that it would the best for them in the long run to go back with him that the longer they put it off the more chances that somebody would likely get killed and if they did not; that they might kill some one and that would be bad And the further they went before they gave up, the worse it would be and He advised them to go in with him and ask the mercy of the court and it would go lighter with them than they could imagine.

And they handed him the guns and come with him.

Granddad wrote 2 accounts of this, as he often did in his memoirs.
Here is the other account, similar but with slight differences:

I often heard My father speak of a friend of his that was sheriff for several years, and he was never known to carry a gun on any occasion, and there was at another time in my memory that there was a band of desperadoes near Quitman and several times the sheriff and his helpers went after them, and failed to get them and it had come to the place that it was a real joke, and the sheriff one day went to this fellow’s place of business, and talking to him about the proposition; and wanted him to advise him of what to do, and this character told him that was a matter that no man can do; every man has his own way that he accomplishes his purpose, and you cannot succeed in my way, and could succeed in your way.

But the sheriff told him that it had him where he did not know what to do, and I want some advice, and I know from what I have heard of you that you know how to do this, and that is why I have come to you. So the old gentleman told him of several cases that had come to this knowledge during his Eight years that he had served in the capacity of sheriff of Wood County, and said that he had never carried a gun and that he would not undertake a thing that caused him to do it. And that sheriff wondered at it, and said that he was at wit’s end that if he could bring them in anyway that he would be glad for him to do it.

So I do not know whether or not that he went without a deputy’s warrant But I do know that he went, and I have heard him tell it several times that when he found them they had already spotted him, and he was in his shirt sleeves, and that it was in the Summer time, and that when he discovered them that he took out a white handkerchief and waved it at them, and that they answered him with waving the hands, and this was in the Sabine River Bottom down there about Mineola.

Then he drew nearer to them and hailed them and told them that he just wanted to talk to them, and that he did not have gun or any other means of persuasive; but that he wanted to speak to them as man to man, and they asked him to come, But warned him that he had better not try anything, and they kept ready for the worst. But he went up to them and Sat down there with them on the log, and began to explain to them the moral side of the problem that they had to solve. And that it was nothing to him; But that it meant a great deal to them if they valued their lives or if they had a family or a mother or a father, or children or any one that they were interested in, and the further they went this way, the further they would endanger their chances of ever getting out of this trouble.

I heard this from his own lips, and he said that finally after an hour or two prevailing upon their better natures that they said that they believed that they were going to go in with him, and so very soon they were on their way to Quitman and to jail for that is where they were put when they were turned over to the sheriff. But the sheriff was let down so low that he could hardly hold up his head. The old sheriff told him to hold up his head that he had done all that anybody could do, that he could not get his man. No one got killed.

And then another thing that I learned of this grand old man. Was that as long as they had whiskey in Quitman that he always took a long toddy every day. But as soon as the whiskey was gone that he always ordered at least two big Chili’s each day, thin, so that he could drink them, and he drank them right down and that was his midday meal, and that was all.

excerpted from the unpublished memoirs of G.M.C. Massey

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About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in anecdotes, Buller, Family, G.M.C. Massey, Memoirs, Texas and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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