According to tradition, the first person buried on Boothill in Dogtown committed suicide. There are four cholera victims interred there also. These occurred in 1869
when the great cholera epidemic devastated the cities of the old South reaching far into Texas and San Antonio which was the
distributing center of this Great Section of Texas.
There are many stories about those who sleep, lonely and forgotten, in this old Boothill cenetery. To sift these stories of the unknown dead from the drifting sands,
has been an almost insurmountable task. Here following in sequence are just a few:
Picturesque characters were always passing through Dogtown or Tilden on the stage coach from San Antonio to Laredo. Of course, most of them walked around the village
while necessary changes were being made with the horses. On one occasion a man wearing a stovepipe hat was going the rounds in the business district when he was observed by several of the hometown
loafers, one of whom was Clabe Young, a gunman in his own right, expert and accurate, but prone to make mistakes. Seeing the stranger at a distance, he told his companions, "I am going to put a hole
through that man's hat. Watch me." He fired, his aim was low and the man was instantly killed. Boothill found another victim seeking rest, peace and tranquility at his journey's end.
Standing in front of the Rockstore and practicing shooting at the big old mesquite trees that grew in the sandy terrain then in the vicinity of the present courthouse
plaza was a favorite past-time of the early visitors to Dogtown. There was an old mesquite tree that grew in the middle of the street just to the right of the Rockstore some 75 or 100 feet away. The
friendly shadows of this old tree was the scene of an assassination back in the late 1860's. A man standing just inside of the Rockstore and behind the left front door gunned down a personal enemy
standing beneath this old tree and Boothill got another tenant.
THE STORY OF THE EXECUTION DAY
About this story: I do not know the names of the participants but I do know the story is true. So we will call one of the men Jim and the other John. They were known
in Dogtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. They were accepted socially in a way and Jim in particular was better known for his horsemanship. Also, he had agreed or contracted to break or
gentle a beautiful horse belonging to Miss May Beall.
Somewhere down the line trouble developed between Jim and John. At a dance on the San Miguel one night John's interest in dancing with the young ladies seemed to
needle Jim to the point to where hostilities broke wide open. Jim called John outside and told him to cut out the dancing or he would kill him and he further ordered him to leave and to leave right
now. John was, however, pretty level headed [not in the] habit of being run off from any place, and he was not about to leave now. This remark and refusal caught Jim off balance. In the presence
of others Jim said, "Very well, when we neet again, or the next time we meet, I am going to kill you."That was no idle threat. Jim meant what he said and John knew it. If and when they met again, one
or the other, would take the "Boothill Road".
A number of days passed, possibly a number of weeks, or maybe a month or so, but the day of execution was on the way, and just where the two would meet, and which one
would be permanently interred in Boothill was the subject of much speculation. Dogtown had witnessed many tragic moments and now another one was sure and certain.
On the day of the execution, John had gone to the Rockstore. He always carried a gun. A number of men were in the store as usual in a frontier town. You can imagine
the conversation: "You reckon it will ever rain again? Cattle are sure getting poor. Grass is scarce and fever ticks are bad." "Yeah, well the frogs were chanting last night, and the old terrapins
are moving about, pretty good sign. Dew was heavy last night and the sun went down behind a cloud." One of the men walked to the front door and spat out a cud of tobacco, and in so doing, looked down
the street. "Say" , said he, "I see Jim coming down the street. He is riding that beautiful horse belonging to Miss May Beall. Sho' is a pretty horse." John
heard him and rushed to the front near the entrance of the store and stood behind the counter where he could see the approaching enemy.
Jim drew rein just outside the entrance and saw John waiting. Reaching for his pistol, he pulled on the reins again and the horse
reared. John shot and the horse fell dead pinning Jim beneath. Jim tried to contact his pistol but his hour of execution had arrived.
The next day the newly dug grave on Boothill was ready. Men, mostly men, were there for the simple service of interment and among
these was John, the man who sponsored the same. A lot of strange things happened in the old days at Dogtovm. Said the Sponsor, "I had nothing against this dead man. I shot to live, and if I had not
shot when I did, I would now have his place at this funeral. I will help you bury him."
And he did.
THE JOHN SMITHWICK STORY
In the quiet solitude of a late summer night in the year 1870, a tragic murder that had far reaching repercussions left old Dogtown all "shook up", and
brought mixed emotions and conflicting sentiments to the peace loving citizens of the frontier village. A young man by the name of John Smithwick found the end of his road leading to Boot hill
This young man was, as I understand, "in bad" with the law and knew probably too much on some other parties who brought about his liquidation. After his arrest, he
was brought to Dogtown and was being guarded in a tent somewhere in the neighborhood of the present Humble Station awaiting transportation and further instructions from the sheriff's department in
Oakville. McMullen County at that time was still attached to Live Oak County for judicial purposes. The guard on duty was a young man who in recent months arrived in Dogtown from the coast
A casual acquaintance about whom the guard knew very little of his reputation, came by the tent that night for a few words. After considerable time had passed, the
visitor seemed to have gained the confidence of the young guard who asked the visitor if he would stand guard duty while he went to the home of his cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Martin, for a "coffee
break". Daylight at that time was hours away and the Martins only lived a block or so away. The coffee, hot and steaming, was forthcoming in a jiffy and the young guard proceeded to drink his
But if the coffee break was the opportune moment the young guard wanted, the opportunity to guard the prisoner was just what the casual visitor to the tent wanted.
The coffee break for the young guard broke wide open when gunfire was heard in the direction of the tent where the prisoner was being guarded. The young man, sensing danger to the prisoner, raced out
of the home toward the tent saying as he left, "I should not have left Smithwick with that man." Mrs. Martin followed part of the way when she heard the gunman tell the guard when they met, "I just
killed Smithwick, l had to do it." Then the gunman disappeared in the night. Tension and consternation rose high in Dogtovm next day as circumstantial evidence pointed an accusing finger at the young
The killer, the casual visitor to the tent, prior to the coffee break, steadfastly denied his guilt placing the blame on the guard. The killer even denied he visited
the tent that night.
Now it so happened that the gunman had rooms for himself and his wife in the same Martin home which was situated on the banks of the Frio River just west of the
present Courthouse. Late in the night of the killing of Smithwick, the killer came to his room and began telling to his wife in tones much louder than he suspected, and Mrs . Martin, who was unable
to sleep following the excitement of the killing, heard him say to his wife that it was he who killed Smitchwick.
In the 14th District Police Court that followed soon after the Smithwick killing, the Grand Jury of Live Oak County indicted thirteen of the prominent citizens of
Dogtown for the slaying and placed them under bonds ranging from One Thousand to Ten Thousand Dollars. The Grand Jury seemed as badly confused as was the sentiment that pervaded Dogtown. The real
killer was also indicted but according to the records was never placed under bond. However the Grand Jury, to the contrary, the family of the slain man was not confused nor was it misled by court
action. In February, next year, all indictments against the killer was quashed. He was dead. In a little gambling house in Oakville, a poker game was in progress one night soon after the killing in
Dogtown. Among those present and not playing , was a Mexican who lived in Tilden many years, Joe Cantu. The killer of Smithwick was sitting at the table with his poker chips when a man slightly
extended his hand through a partly open door and shot the killer in the back of the head, killing him instantly.
This killing should have terminated the John Smithwick story. But the indictments of the other citizens of Dogtown had to be cleared from the court records of Live
Oak County. In the trial that followed, Mrs . Martin went on the stand and told her story in a quiet but understandingly way. Her testimony, earnestly yet humbly told, was convincing. The case was
THE SAGA OF THE THREE G's
Perhaps the most famous of the notorious outlaws interred in Boothill cemetery is Dick Gossett. Brother Malachi and their companion, Tom Green, missed the honor. They
were of the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr . Hyde type . With the inhabitants of Dogtown, they were friendly, congenial and sociable. They seemed to avoid all trouble in the neighborhood, but if they met up with
a Mexican or Mexicans along the stagecoach route between Pleasanton and Dogtown or Dogtown and Fort Ewell, it was too bad for the Mexicans if they were riding a good horse or a good saddle that was
worth in the taking. These items were appropriated at once and the owners summarily shot if resistance was offered.
They made periodical visits to the gambling hall at Fort Ewell. Malachi was perhaps the more picturesque of the three and perhaps the most vicious. He was both a
flambouyant and sinister blonde. Fair indeed, he was, so fair the the deep sun tan gave him the appearance of a pallid jaundiced creature freckled with blotches, pale blue eyes. His bushy red hair
grew long and unkept, while he sported a flaming red-handled mustache that shaded a fine set of smooth white teeth. Out of his untrimmed ears the hair grew very much on the order of the flying red
horse signs along our highways, and from his nostrils the stiff wiry bronzed hairs grew downward and backward like the violent and venimous fangs of an embattled rattlesnake. Malachi was tough. He
was the instigator of their forays along the Laredo road but he was not the fastest on the draw nor the deadliest killer.
The brother Dick was very much the opposite, a man of intelligence and charm, handsome and versatile. He came to Dogtown with a party of deserters from the
Confederate army in 1864. Malachi followed later. The rest of the party of deserters who came with him returned shortly thereafter, but Dick remained. He proved himself a hero in several daring
exploits against the Indians and the Mexican hide-skinners and naturally gained the confidence of the local residents. It is said in talking with him, you could never realize he was a killer of not
less than 25 human beings. He was courageous in spite of his murderous complex.
By the mid-sixties Dogtown had attained the status of a permanent village. Besides a store, a saloon was always crowded. So many
different characters had followed the road to this wilderness, the saloon was the popular way station for drinking, gambling, and roadism, unrestrained, unrestricted, and uninhibited. Shoot-em up was
a popular pasttime and that not only meant the big old mesquite trees growing nearby but many of the drunken, brawling characters themselves who found their last resting place in Boothill cemetery
conveniently established nearby.
But with Dogtown as their focal point for their gambling enterprise, the Gossett brothers and Tom Green traveled back and forth to
Fort Ewell to gamble and fight if necessary with any man or Mexican travelling that way or who might be loafing around old man "Pegleg" Stewart's combination trading post and saloon. They looked the
part of the prevailing outlaw and the gambling profession they followed. Like some of the racketeers of the 1930 era, they hit the jackpot for a long while and then the day of judgment
In December, 1868, the Gossett brothers and Tom Green were headed east whence they came for Christmas. After crossing the San Miguel
Creek north of Dogtown, they overtook three Mexican peddlers who had just stocked up with plenty of sombreros, clothing, saddle blankets, shoes and what have you. Well, those peddlers were at the
wrong place at the wrong time. Dick and Tom and Malachi dispatched them in their customary fashion, helped themselves and continued their journey. The local frontiersmen buried these Mexicans, but
later their relatives came back for their bodies.
In February, 1869, these outlaws returned to Dogtown just about the time news arrived by stage that there was some choice gambling to
be had in Fort Ewell and the trio which included Tom, Dick and Malachi prepared to go down for a fling. Knowing that sooner or later the Mexican element would gang up on them, friends advised against
the trip but to no avail. They went, they gambled, and they shot to kill.
Then followed a gun battle that made the old OK Corral fight in Tombstone, Arizona, in later years, look like comic opera. At least
five Mexicans were killed and an undeterminate number wounded, but Dick Gossett was perhaps the first casualty. He met his death wound when he undertook the first kill. In reaching for
his pistol, Dick's draw was obstructed by something in the scabbard or holster, and the Mexican got the first shot and started to run. Dick was too quick on the draw and even then shot him dead.
Malachi and Tom kept the fireworks going. The situation in the aftermath of the battle for Malachi and Tom grew critical and desperate. They knew they had to leave at once, but how were they to bring
along Dick, who was fast suc-cumbing to his wound. Dick knew he was definitely a problem now and begged his brother and Tom to leave him there to die. Nothing he claimed could help him now.
Evacuation was imperative for the Mexicans would return in the shadows of darkness and slay them all.
But Malachi Gossett and Tom Green were not about to leave the dying brother to save their own lives. So they fashioned a blanket into an improvised stretcher,
suspended between two horses, and proceeded across the prairies and brush country toward Dogtown forty miles away. A more strange looking caravan never moved across those interminable prairies.
Slowly and painstakingly they rode along with death stalking them at every step. The weather was warm, too warm for February, and as the sun rose higher in the flaming skies, tell-tale clouds peeping
over the far northern horizon told them there was more trouble ahead. The outlaws knew that if they could arrive in Dogtown before the blustery norther blew in, Dick might have a chance to survive.
If it was too hot now, it would be too cold on the morrow. Too little and too late was the drinking water situation they now faced with the desperately wounded man. They had hoped to find some fresh
water at Green branch, but they had forgotten on their way down to Fort Ewell to look for any and there was none at the crossing or thereabouts.
Their next chance would be little lakes in the Mule Creek valley, but they passed there in the night and neither observed nor cared at the time they were so anxious
to arrive at Fort Ewell. When they reached Mule Creek with their quarry, the little lakes were dried up and caked over. The situation was truly desperate. The horses were tired and weary, water was
gone, and Dick Gossett was fast going the way of all mankind and the way most outlaws are destined to go. He never lived to see Dogtown again. He was buried with little ceremony in the outlaw corner
of Boothill. His boots were part of his shroud.
Malachi Gossett and Tom Green were much concerned with the passing of brother Dick. They rather believed something would be done to them sooner or later, but they did
not fear any immediate reprisals. As long as they kept away from "Pegleg" Stewart's place at Fort Ewell, there would be no immediate reprisals they reasoned. After the fuss and turmoil of the late
gun battle, the smoke would clear up, and they would proceed further with their gambling enterprise. They still held the friendship of the local citizens of Dogtown. The big hearted frontiersmen
permitted them to come to their homes. After all, as far as they knew, they had only killed Indians and Mexicans, and the memories of the late war of the Texas Revolution, the Alamo and Goliad, were
still fresh in the minds of these hospitable folk.
But Malachi and Tom were wrong in their reckoning. The main body of the Mexicans shot up in the battle of Fort Ewell rode on to Laredo and there engaged the
attention of one Captain Benevides. An Ex-Confederate he was, but just what part he played in the post-war law enforcement in the Brush Country, I do not know. But shortly thereafter he
appeared in Dogtown with a posse of some 200 Mexicans. Malachi and Tom had stopped by the home of Billy Franklin that day for coffee. I have heard a number of versions of this event, but I like the
one I am quoting best. Immediately the outlaws barricaded themselves in the home with Mrs Franklin, her 8 year old daughter, Clarissa Evans, a child by a previous marriage, and the wife of a
neighbor. Captain Benevides took Billy Franklin and his brother, Jinsey, and tied them to a mesquite tree just outside the yard. Part of the posse advanced further into the town and took Rufus
Holland and James Lowe, the elder unto custody, but did not tie them up.
Back at the Franklin home, Malachi Gossett and Tom Green were finally bayed by the men they despised and hated so much. Captain Benevides was firm in his demand. He
merely stated his business that morning was to get the outlaws and not to harm anyone else. Malachi Gossett wanted to shoot it out vvith the posse. He begged the women to agree to load his guns for
him and he would do the rest. But the captives outside reasoned otherwise. Billy Franklin knew his wife and daughter and the neighbor's wife would be slain.
The Captain was adamant in his demands and his ultimatum to the outlaws was unconditional surrender or he would apply the torch to the house and that would include
the innocent ladies and the little girl. However, he gave the usual promises to give them a fair trial if they surrendered and forgot them just as quickly. The two Franklins were released from their
tie-up. The Mexicans moved southward with Gossett and Green. They did not tarry long. About two miles out of Dogtown, the captives were given an opportunity to flee. It has been told that Malachi
Gossett, courageous in death cursed his captors and told them to shoot him between the eyes, "I fall with my face to my enemy", were his last words. Green started to run. Both were summarily executed
and administered the same justice they had meted out to so many Mexicans. Several days later the neighbors banded together and followed the trail of the posse and found the two bandits with their
bodies riddled with bullets. They buried them there on the banks of a smallcreek, and thus they were denied the honor of interment on Boothill.
Nearly a century has passed since those eventful years. Years come and go and the seasons change. But when the frugal moon casts only a wan light over the brooding
darkness in the Frio Valley below, a ghostly apparation arises from the shifting sands of Boothill and sits forlorn and alone among the rock sepulchers. Always waiting, always watching, always gazing
at the friendly stars that once guided the nocturnal journeys to Fort Ewell and back again to Dogtown, and perhaps always wondering why Brother Malachi and Tom Green never returned. Waiting, waiting,
until the pre dawn trade-winds stir the shifting sands and the ghostly specter returns to the dust as it were, unwept, unhonored, and condemned.
Such is the Saga of the Three G's.
THE SAMUEL WILLIAM McCREERY STORY
In the Nueces watershed, the spacious prairies, alternately lush and green, brown and sere, according to the rainfall, shared equally the fertile lands with the chaparal thickets of the Brush
Country. Here the pioneer found every characteristic or element of peace and contentment, of security and happiness. But that was in the middle years of the 1870's when the wide open spaces were
unfenced. As soon as the ranges for sheep expanded, cattlemen grew hostile toward the sheepmen and little undeclared wars broke out in thls frontier country.
A sheepman from Corpus Christi, Samuel William McCreery by name, settled in the Mule Creek valley near its confluence with the Nueces River and so the wool industry
came to compete with tte cattle industry for possession of the prairies and the thickets. Neighborly hospitality and peaceful co·existence cannot exist when sheepmen and cattlemen grow hostile over
the unfenced ranges. So, in mid-summer 1877, death rode the tradewinds from over the Gulf and pointed the finger of death at McCreery and Boothill claimed its last victim, held its last funeral and
closed the last chapter of an exceptional and tragic era in the Brush Country.
Some 80 or more years later, the Cenizo Garden Club of Tilden, McMullen County, Texas, considering the results of negligence and indifference on the part of the
preceding generations in regard to Boothill sought not only to bring a measure of' respectability and pride to these who have slumbered there for so long a time, but to try and uncover the stories of
its victims it has held and nurtured over so many decades.
That McCreery was well to do financially is evidenced from a surveyer appraisal of his estate: 3020 head of sheep valued at $3020, one gray horse and one brown
horse both valued at $25, one light wagon, wagon sheet and bows $35, pistol and scabbard $12, lamp, grubbing hoe, 2 axes, one saddle & bridle, and one balance $84, 500 lbs of wool
at 15¢ per pound $675, 24 bricks valued at $72.
McCreery was killed in his camp Aug. 19, 1877. Perhaps he had been dead two weeks when his body was discovered. But the story of his death and burial lingered through
the efforts of a friend, one of the sturdiest pioneers of the Frio Valley frontier, Green Alford. Since the body of the deceased was not found for a week or more after he was killed, it had
deteriorated s0 badly in the hot August weather, that when Green Alford went out there as an im- pr0vised undertaker for the b0dy, it exploded from foul gases. Alford became infected to the extent
that only his tremendous vitality and powers of resistance brought about his survival. As a little boy, I remember Mr. Alford, who died shortly after the turn of the century at the age of 90
As a postscript, it might be said here that a sister of Samuel William McCreery wrote the Administrator appointed by the District Court of McMullen County to know if
the deceased was wearing a ring when his body was discovered. The ring, she said, was a family heirloom and had been in the family possession lOO years.
In the year 1874, a young man by the name of Glenn Greer, with a flair for adventure, came to Dogtown. The primitive wilderness, wild and expansive, appealed to his
young heart. He came from a "f araway" place and from all indications, he came from a good home with culture and refinement seldom noted in this remote village. He loved horses and found quite a bit
cf adventure in helping cattlemen round-up mavericks for branding. But in December, that year, he attempted to ride a half-tamed horse which was too wild and irascible for taming. The horse unseated
him in a wild pitching spree, and the young man was killed. He was buried in Boothill. His people were notified by letter, and they sent a marble slab and an iron railing for his grave. The good
people of Dogtown erected the same over his grave and now, 90 years later, the grave with its marble slab and iron railing around the rock sepulture still stands unmolested as guardian over the
memories of a once happy young man.
There are many stories of men interred in Texas No. 1 Boothill Cemetery; these are just a few.
Attribute: McMullen County Historical Commission
South Texas Ranch and Heritage Center website.
Martin, Henry. "Boothill Stories". Originally compiled for Cenizo Garden Club of McMullen County-Printed with special permission to
McMullen County Historical Survey Committee from author. Date unknown.