A Father’s Revenge – Amarillo 1920

Calmly sitting. Patiently waiting.
G J Gilbert relaxes on a bench in the lobby of the Potter County Courthouse. He isn’t distracted by hustle and bustle of business being conducted.

Calmly sitting. Patiently waiting.
Deputy Sheriff T F Cobb escorts a prisoner towards the courtroom. G J Gilbert watches their approach, watches as they pass.
Calmly sitting. Patiently waiting.
Four shots explode, sending the prison face down on the tile floor, killing him instantly. G J Gilbert is holding a smoking 45 caliber revolver.
Calmly sitting. Patiently waiting.
Deputy Cobb arrests G J Gilbert without any resistance.
The prisoner, James Louis Pierce, had been on his way to court, charged with a statutory offense against the 12-year-old daughter of G J Gilbert.

**Sources:  Dallas Morning News, 18 Sept 1920.  Dallas Morning News, 19 Sept 1920

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Murderous Mother In Law 1871

Bryant Little had every reason to hate his mother in law, or he would have if she hadn’t killed him.

Little fell in love with Alice Dickerson and they married in 1871 in Lamar County, Texas.  Alice’s mother, Nancy J Dickerson was against the union and despised her new son-in-law.  Nancy was a formidable woman, standing over six feet tall and possessing a masculine appearance.

Not long after the nuptials, Nancy persuaded her daughter to leave her new husband and return home.  Contact between Alice and Bryant was forbidden.  during this forced separation, Alice gave birth.  Upon hearing of the arrival of his child, Bryant went to the Dickerson home demanding to see his wife and newborn.

Mrs Dickerson refused him entry.  Little retreated, but tried again a short time later to enter the back door of the home.  He was met by an old Army musket in the hands of his mother in law.  She told him she intended to blow his brains out if he took another step.  Little ignored the threat and pushed his way inside.  As he passed Mrs Dickerson, she fired the old musket, killing him instantly.

Nancy Dickerson was immediately arrested. During the preliminary hearing the court granted bail.  Once released from jail, Dickerson fled to California.

Eight long years passed before justice was secured for Bryant Little’s untimely death.  In 1878, Nancy Dickerson returned to Texas, this time to Arlington.  She was shocked when Sheriff Gose arrived from Lamar County and arrested her.  Sheriff Gose loaded his prisoner on the 10:00 train to Paris 16 April 1878 for Dickerson to finally answer for her crime.

Shootout in Spanish Fort, Texas

In the heat of Texas summers, tempers tend to rise as quickly as the temperature.  Perhaps it was the heat that ignited temperaments causing a shootout in Spanish Fort, Texas.

On a sultry June afternoon in 1896, City Marshall Jeff Owens, apparently fed up with his job, resigned his position.  He announced to an acquaintance, G G Horton, “this town has no more marshal than a rabbit.”  Owens then walked into the drug store.  Theopolis Lee Pemberton overheard Owen and followed him to the drug store.  Pemberton reached the building, leaned against the door frame and peered inside. Local physician, Dr Crain, exited the building, Pemberton entered a few moments later.

A shot rang out from the interior of the drug store.  Pemberton stumbled back out of the building, his cocked .38 Colt in his hand.  As the town folks started toward him to render aid, another shot blasted from the building.  Owens had fired two shots from his .44 Winchester.  The first bullet slammed into Pemberton’s chest just below his heart.  The second passed through his hat.

As he lay bleeding in the street, Pemberton said, “He has killed me.”  The doctor was summoned and Pemberton was moved to his home to spend his last moments with his pregnant wife and five small children.  He succumbed to his injuries within two hours of being shot.

Owens voluntarily surrendered and was placed in the Montague County jail.  Four months later, Mrs. Pemberton gave birth to a son, naming him Lee after his father.

It isn’t known what sparked the dispute, but witnesses within the drug store testified that upon seeing Pemberton enter the building, Owen shouted, “Lee Pemberton, you damn son of a bitch, I am going to kill you.”  And that he did.

Source:  5 June 1896 Dallas Morning News

Swink in the Drink – An 1885 Murder Mystery

The discovery of a body floating in a pond on 30 May 1885 led to quite a mystery.  The pond was located on land belonging to the Texas and Pacific Railroad near Fort Worth, Texas.  The bloated remains were loaded on a skiff and brought to shore.  The body was of a man approximately 40 years old, heavy set with sandy hair and mustache.  He was tentatively identified as C H Swink from Doylestown, PA due a collection of letters he carried addressed as such.  The letters were signed H H Swink of Temple, Texas.  It was quickly determined that the cause of death was most likely a gunshot wound.  Robbery was quickly eliminated as a motive, he had $52 dollars and watch and chain in his pockets.

The authorities contacted H H Swink of Temple, who was able to identify the victim as his brother, C H Swink, but could offer no insight as to why his brother met such an untimely death.  H H Swink told the investigators that his brother left Doylestown on the 24 May on his way to Temple, Texas.  The only other information he could provide was that C H had taken the wrong train out of Saint Louis, and had not been heard from since.

Robbery having been ruled out, other motives were explored.  Not having any ties in Fort Worth it is unlikely that his death was the result of a long standing feud of any sort.  He also had not been in town long enough for a matter of the heart to be at the root of the trouble.

The police presented three theories, each a little more far-fetched that the last.  One theory was that he committed suicide.  Being so homesick and distraught by the late running trains, he walked to the bank of the pond, shot himself and fell into the water.  The next option was that he was murdered.  The sounds of gunshots followed by splashing noises were reported to the police around 3:00 am on the morning that Swink was found.  The last theory is as much a mystery as the death of Swink itself.  The police suggested that his death was accidently caused by a self inflicted gunshot.  They supposed that Swink had been sleeping at the train station, thinking that someone was trying to rob him, pulled a gun, and fired at two men.  Due to the angle of his gun in his prone position, Swink  shot himself in the process.  According to this theory, Swink then fled the depot, running along the tracks, became weak from blood loss and tumbled into the water.

One newspaper account states that two men were shot at the depot, John Hayword and Charles Turnboe.  It also reports that a gun was found near the depot door, the caliber matching the eight bullets found in Swink’s pockets.

The only other information I have been able to find at this time (and none of it is relevant to solving the mystery) is that C H Swink was buried in the Hillcest Cemetery in Temple, Texas.  The gravestone listing his birth and death dates simply as 1855 -1885.  That his brother Hoarce H (H H) Swink owned $30,000 worth of real estate.  H H Swink is listed as being in the insurance and real estate business in the 1909 Temple City Directory.

Sources:

  • Dallas Weekly Herald 4 Jun 1885
  • Findagrave.com
  • Ancestry.com
  • 1909 Temple City Directory