Friday, April 9, 2010

The Mason County War

Range wars are part and parcel of the west. So why is an Arizona boy interested in the Mason County War (also called the Hoodoo War), which took place in Texas?


That’s where we first learn of Johnny Ringo.

Both sides in the war thought they were in the right. And throughout the fighting, no one was ever arrested. Dan Roberts, who led Texas Ranger Company D, said of the feud: “The reason that no arrests were made can only rest on hypothesis, and that is: the men supporting civil authority, needed no arrest, and those opposing it, urged equal claims of being right, but would not submit their grievances to law.”

According to historian Dave Johnson, the origins of the war were diverse and obscure . . . but the primary cause was greed over cattle. This was exacerbated by the friction between German immigrants and “American” residents of the county.

The Germans (18% of the population was “foreign born” in 1870), for the most part, had been loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and thus escaped much of the carpetbagging reconstruction tyranny of Governor E.J. Davis’s administration. This alone caused animosity.

The blood feud that backgrounds the Mason County War began with the shooting deaths of Tim Williamson on May 13, 1875, and Moses Baird on September 7, 1875.

And the death count kept climbing.

An young (20 years old) ex-Texas Ranger named Scott Cooley was the adopted son of Tim Williamson. Several men joined Cooley in his feud, including Johnny Ringo, as he tried to avenge his adoptive father.

In the 12-month period between February 1875 and January 1876, eleven men died in the Hoodoo War.

As the killing proceeded, Cooley and Ringo were arrested for threatening Sheriffs John Clymer and J.J. Strickland. They moved from county jail to county jail until a gang of cohorts broke them out of the Lampasas County jail in February.

Cooley soon died of brain fever (nothing to do with incarceration) and Johnny Ringo rode for Tombstone.

Read up about the Mason County War here.

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