The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas

Synopsis

The Sutton-Taylor Feud of DeWitt, Gonzales, Karnes, and surrounding counties began shortly after the Civil War ended. The blood feud continued into the 1890s when the final court case was settled with a governmental pardon. Of all the Texas feuds, the one between the Sutton and Taylor forces lasted longer and covered more ground than any other. William E. Sutton was the only Sutton involved, but he had many friends to wage warfare against the large Taylor family. The causes are still shrouded in mystery and legend, as both sides argued they were just and right. In April 1868 Charles Taylor and James Sharp were shot down in Bastrop County, alleged horse thieves attempting to escape. During this period many men were killed "while attempting to escape." The killing on Christmas Eve 1868 of Buck Taylor and Dick Chisholm was perhaps the final spark that turned hard feelings into fighting with bullets and knives. William Sutton was involved in both killings. "Who sheds a Taylor's blood, by a Taylor's hand must fall" became a fact of life in South Texas. Violent acts between the two groups now followed. The military reacted against the killing of two of their soldiers in Mason County by Taylors. The State Police committed acts that were not condoned by their superiors in Austin. Mobs formed in Comanche County in retaliation for John Wesley Hardin's killing of a Brown County deputy sheriff. One mob "liberated" three prisoners from the DeWitt County jail, thoughtfully hanging them close to the cemetery for the convenience of their relatives. An ambush party killed James Cox, slashing his throat from ear to ear-as if the buckshot in him was not sufficient. A doctor and his son were called from their home and brutally shot down. Texas Rangers attempted to quell the violence, but when they were called away, the killing began again. In this definitive study of the Sutton-Taylor Feud, Chuck Parsons demonstrates that the violence between the two sides was in the tradition of the family blood feud, similar to so many other nineteenth-century American feuds. His study is well augmented with numerous illustrations and appendices detailing the feudists, their attempts at treaties, and their victims.

Excerpt

Bill Sutton stepped down from the hack first, and then helped his pregnant wife Laura, holding her arm gently. She was now in her early months, strong, smiling, and confident, but to loving husband Bill she was delicate and fragile, and he was more than ordinarily concerned about her. Good friend Gabe Slaughter, fellow cattleman and friend John N. Keeran, and Ed McDonough also descended from the conveyance, glad to have their feet back on the ground. Then the group walked together up the gangplank. Before them in Lavaca Bay, the steamer Clinton gently rocked in the waters.

Bill Sutton had grown weary of always watching his back trail; he was tired of being a target for the Taylors and their friends. Too many men had been shot down or strung up to dangle on a tree limb until death stopped their struggles. Brother Jim Sutton had already left the country, maybe even had already forgotten about the violence of the feud with the Taylors. Bill now wondered why he had not left as well.

With Laura four months pregnant, he now had no real reason not to leave. A trip from Indianola to New Orleans, up the river and then another leg across Missouri to Kansas City would be what he needed to get his mind off the feud. As a cattleman, he had already hired good men to drive his herds up the trail overland. He would meet them in Kansas, settle accounts, and possibly consider remaining there away from . . .

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