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Local History

Mason County Historical Commission
 
 
Todd Mountain historical marker, Indian kidnapping 
 
Marker Location: 2.5 miles south of Mason on RR 1723, then 1 mile southwest on RR 2389 right-of-way.
Marker Text: Named for family of George W. Todd, first Mason County clerk, which was attacked by Indians at this site while en route to Mason in late Dec. 1864. A 12-year-old black servant girl was killed, 13-year-old Alice Todd taken captive, and Todd's wife, Dizenia Peters Todd (b.1826), wounded severely. Mrs. Todd died about 3 weeks later, in Jan. 1865. An older half-brother, James Smith, returned from the Civil War and searched for Alice for several months, but she was never found. Mrs. Todd and the servant girl were buried in unmarked graves, (150 yards southeast).
 
Hermann Lehmann Indian Kidnapping
 
Marker Location: From Loyal Valley take House Mountain Rd. approx. 0.2 miles to Loyal Valley Cemetery cemetery.
Marker Text: German immigrants Moritz and Auguste Lehmann settled along Squaw Creek (4 mi. W) in the 1850s. After Moritz's death, Auguste married Philip Buchmeier on May 16, 1870, two of the Lehmann children, Herman (age 10) and Willie (age 8) were captured by Apache Indians. Willie was released after five days and returned home, but Herman remained with the Apache and Comanche Indians for nine years and became a violent savage. He was returned to his family by U.S. Soldiers in 1878 but maintained his ties to Quanah Parker's Comanche family, into which he had been adopted, for the remainder of his life.
 
Be sure and read his book about his years incaptivty, titled "Nine Years Among the indians. A fascinating read. A copy is on hand in the Bar None Ranch library.
 
 
Fort Mason 1851 – 1871
 
Part of the string of forts established in 1848 to protect westward settlers, the fort was named after Lt. George Mason, who had died at Fort Brown during the Mexican War. Another source says that it was perhaps named after a popular General (Richard Barnes Mason) who died just months before the fort was built.

Established prior to the organization of Mason County, the fort was included inside the boundaries of what was then Gillespie County. From the early 1850 until the early 1860s, Fort Mason’s presence kept Kiowas, Lipan Apaches, and Comanches away from the encroaching settlers.

Although the fort was abandoned for two brief periods, it reached its maximum consignment of troops in 1856 while under the command of
Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston. In March, 1861, the fort became Confederate property.

In time, twenty junior and field grade officers stationed at Fort Mason became generals in the Civil War. Confederates generals included John Bell Hood, Robert E. Lee and six others. Twelve of the twenty became Union general staff. Robert E. Lee was at Mason when he resigned his position in the Union army and shortly became the Commander of the Confederate forces. See Lee's photo in the right column.

The Confederate Army held 215 men prisoner at Fort Mason in 1862 under suspicion of being Union sympathizers. During and after the war, Indian attacks grew more frequent. In late 1866 the fort was re-occupied, repaired and refurbished.

Lawlessness during Reconstruction reached the distant post and instead of bringing order, the post was affected in a most un-military way. Courts-martial were common and desertion was rampant. Cavalry was replaced with Infantry and the post’s last official inspection was January 1869 when it had a skeleton detachment of less than 70 personnel. By the end of March the fort was officially closed. It reopened briefly in 1870 but closed forever in 1871.

The native stone buildings, which once numbered 25 were spirited away (stone by stone) to reappear in town, transformed into residences. In the mid 1970s the pattern was reversed when local citizens rebuilt a former officer’s quarters from the well-used rock.
 
Fred Gibson: Author of "Old Yeller"
 

Fred Gipson (February 7, 1908 - August 14, 1973) was an American author. He is best known for writing the 1956 novel Old Yeller, which became a popular 1957 Walt Disney film. Gipson was born on a farm near Mason in the Texas Hill Country, (just east of the Bar None Ranch) the son of Beck Gipson and the former Emma Deishler. After working at a variety of farming and ranching jobs, he enrolled in 1933 at the University of Texas at Austin. There he wrote for the Daily Texan and The Ranger, but he left school before graduating to become a newspaper journalist.

In the 1940s, Gipson began writing short stories with a western theme which proved to be prototypes for his longer works of fiction that followed. 

In 1956, his most famous novel Old Yeller was published, winning the Newbery Honor. The novel achieved enduring popularity thanks to the 1957 Walt Disney Studios film Old Yeller (1957 film). Old Yeller has a sequel called Savage Sam, which also became a Walt Disney film in 1962. Old Yeller was the novel that Gipson considered his best work. Set in the Texas Hill Country in the 1860s just after the American Civil War, the story is about the 14-year-old boy Travis Coates (played by Tommy Kirk in the film) left in charge of the household while his father is away. Old Yeller, a stray dog adopted by the boy, helps in the formidable task of protecting the family on the Texas Ranch. The scene in the book where Old Yeller is attacked by wild hogs was written to have taken place on Salt Branch Creek, which flows near the Bar None Ranch. Other locations near the ranch mentioned in the book are the Bat Cave and the James River. A copy of Old Yeller is found in the Bar None Ranch library. 

 

The "Who-Doo" War 1874-1902

 

The Mason County War, commonly known as the Hoodoo War, was one of a number of feuds 

that developed over the stealing and killing of cattle. As early as June 25, 1874, Wilson Hey, presiding justice of Mason County, wrote Governor Richard Cokeqv requesting that troops be stationed in the county to help deal with cattle rustling.qv Since many of the settlers of the county were Germans,qv there began to be a perception that they were pitted against the American-born residents, and neither group was able to get protection from the cattle thieves. The trouble began seriously when the sheriff, John Clark, jailed nine men on charges of stealing cattle. Before a trial was held, four of them escaped, but a mob of about forty men took the remaining five from the jail on February 18, 1875, led them to a place near Hick Springs, and hanged them. Daniel W. Robertsqv of the Texas Rangers,qv a few of his men, and a group of citizens followed the mob but were not in time to save the prisoners. Lige Baccus and his cousin were dead; Tom Turley was hanged but not dead; a man named Johnson escaped; and the fifth, Wiggins, was shot, and died the next day. Though a district court investigated the incident, nothing came of it. On May 13, 1875, Sheriff Clark sent Deputy Sheriff John Worley to Castell to bring Tim Williamson to Mason to make bond on a charge of cattle stealing. Worley and his prisoner were attacked by twelve men with blackened faces. Though Williamson was not armed, he and his horse were killed. No trial was held for this murder, and a real feud ensued. Scott Cooley, a former Ranger, swore revenge for the death of his friend Williamson. He collected the names of the men he thought responsible for Williamson's death, got together a following of his own-including John and Mose Beard, George Gladden, and John Ringgold-and began a ruthless retaliation that resulted in the killing of at least a dozen men.

One of his early victims was John Worley, who was killed on August 10, 1875, while he was working on his well. It was commonly agreed that Scott Cooley shot him through the head and took his scalp. A number of violent incidents followed Worley's death, and sources disagree over the names and dates. The citizens of Mason sent a petition to Governor Coke asking for protection. A week later John Ringgold and several others are said to have killed John Cheney (Cheyney) as he was preparing breakfast for some strangers at his home. The governor sent Maj. John B. Jonesqv with twenty or thirty men from Company A and ten from Company D of the Texas Rangers to quiet the difficulties. On September 28, when they reached Cold Springs, they found Clark and fifteen to twenty followers, who said they had heard that the Cooley faction was heading that way to "burn out the Dutch." That day Daniel Hoersterqv was shot off his horse in broad daylight as he was passing the Southern Hotel, and Peter Jordan (a friend of Hoerster's) and Gladden were wounded. Jones made an investigation at Cold Springs before he joined Daniel Roberts to attempt to get to the source of the trouble. During a gunfight at Keller's store on the Llano River, Clark and Keller's son wounded Mose Beard and George Gladden. Beard died, but Gladden waMeanwhile, for Cooley and his followers without success and with little cooperation from the community. Jones finally discovered that some of his rangers were former comrades-in-arms of Cooley and was forced to discharge some of them. A few people were eventually arrested, but most of the cases were dismiMajor Jones and his rangers continued to search ssed. No trial in Mason County ever convicted any man of either faction for any of the murders, although some of the men involved were arrested and brought to trial elsewhere. George Gladden, after recovering from his wounds, is said to have killed Peter Barder in Llano County, although some sources say Barder was killed earlier by Scott Cooley. Barder's brother Charles was also killed at some point, supposedly because he was mistaken for Peter. Gladden was eventually tried for murder in Llano County and sentenced to ninety-nine years in the penitentiary, but he was later pardoned after serving some of his sentence. With his supporters among the rangers gone, Cooley fled into Blanco County where he was sheltered by friends; he died a short time later, supposedly of brain fever. After many months of violence, a strained peace returned to Mason County in the fall of 1876. Not until the next year did the county settle down to respectable peace, law, and order. On the night of January 21, 1877, the Mason County courthouse burned, destroying all records relating to the feud.

The Mason County Museum

The Mason County Museum displays a wonderful array of memoriabilia related to the colorful history of Mason County.  The displays are housed in two different buildings; The Museum on the Square contains approximately 4000 square feet of display space and is arranged in a user-friendly time line starting with the early geology of the area and ending in current practices in agriculture.  The second musuem building, located two blocks south of the Courthouse, contains the bulk of the Museum's collection.

 

by Mike Cox

A complicated tale with a lot of twists (some at the end of a rope), .... a cattle theft problem that quickly morphed into vigilantism and finally into an ever-escalating quest for revenge.

 

After nearly 130 years, folks in Mason County have finally started talking about the Hoo Doo War.

The Hill Country county has some of the prettiest rural cemeteries in Texas, and back in the 1870s, it wasn't hard to get buried in one. Twelve to 14 people died violently - some scalped and mutilated - in a feud that was one of the more vicious in Texas history. At the time those deaths occurred, the county had little more than 1,000 residents. Excluding women and children, who in the case of this feud seemed exempt from harm, the mortality rate from this epidemic of violence was on the order of 1 out of every 60.

"No one in the first generation after it ended ever talked about it," recalled Mason resident Julius DeVos, one of several independent historians who has spent a considerable amount of time trying to tie down the details of the bloody story. "If anyone asked about what happened, what they would hear was something like, 'The trouble's over, let it die."

The trouble's been over for a long time, but only in recent years have descendants of people who lived in Mason County during the war begun to openly discuss what happened. Seven panelists - some locals, some from as far away as Indiana - recently participated in a symposium in Mason on the Hoo Doo War.

As historian Chuck Parsons pointed out, a writer of Western fiction could get a dozen movies out of the Hoo Doo War story. It's a complicated tale with a lot of twists (some at the end of a rope), but it boils down to an effort to deal with a cattle theft problem that quickly morphed into vigilantism and finally into an ever-escalating quest for revenge. Another major component was a cultural clash between those of Anglo and German heritage.

One of the first things anyone who hears about the war asks is what the term "Hoo Doo" means. The answer is easier than other questions connected to the conflict. Hoo doo is an old term often applied in the 19th century to members of a vigilante committee. It also is said to have a relation to voodoo and the bad luck that can come with it. In some parts of Texas, blacks applied the name to Ku Klux Klan members.

Others say that hoo doo is a play on words, a shortening of "who done it?" But that's a more modern term and not likely the origin of the name given the Mason County disturbances. That, incidentally, was what Texas newspapers tended to call the trouble, if not the Mason County War.

Whatever it was called, the feud - in reality a small civil war - was well known across Texas at the time.

"Law and order once more prevail in Mason county," one newspaper correspondent wrote late in 1875, tongue in cheek, "almost as completely as it does down in DeWitt County - that is to say, that the people are shooting each other with renewed energy."

What finally ended the war is another good question. The Texas Rangers, despite their reputation, did not have much luck as peacekeepers in Mason County. The state officers also had a lot of trouble finding one of the wanted participants, a former ranger.

It took the violent deaths of the most enthusiastic participants, or their

Mike Cox

 

Above: Robert E. Lee
 
 
 Above: Johnny Ringo
 
 
   Above: Scott Cooley: Lawman and Outlaw
 
 
 
 
 
Above: Fred Gibson, author  
 
 
 
 
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