The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 294
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
always been considered among [the] finest citizens" of bustling little
Springtown, located twenty-seven miles northwest of Fort Worth. The col-
lective hatred that provoked the violence remained so high in the com-
munity that no one even buried the women's bodies until several weeks or
months later when Texas Rangers collected the desiccated remains and
interred them in the local cemetery in unmarked graves. There are no
records indicating that a single one of the killers was ever indicted, pros-
ecuted, or convicted.2
Or at least the above narrative is one version of the story, encompassing
most of the essential, uncontested, grim facts of the massacre. Yet begin-
ning with the first newspaper accounts, nearly every aspect of this inci-
dent has been subject to extensive reinterpretation and revision. Local
historian Henry Smythe maintained a determined silence about the en-
tire affair in his 1877 Historical Sketch of Parker County and Weatherford,
Texas. John Grace dropped dark hints in his 1906 county history but also
refused to speak directly of the killings. The Weatherford Weekly Herald re-
counted Mrs. W. H. Brazil's very brief reminiscences about the hangings
in May 1913, but the first (known) complete version of the story of the
Hill family did not appear in print until 1920.3 It then was amplified and
detailed in a series of highly imaginative, self-defensive local histories and
narratives. Many of these accounts are not only riddled with factual errors
and inconsistent with one another on some of the major points of the
case but are refuted on important details by the histories of surrounding
counties. A comparison of these contradictory accounts and the few avail-
able facts of the case suggest that after the first attempts to suppress the
story failed, several local historians and writers appear to have embarked
on an almost compulsive campaign to "demonize" the ill-fated Hill family
and to justify its destruction.
This deliberate manipulation and transformation of the facts of a distur-
bing local incident reveal the self-protective functions of a community's
Y Henry Smythe, Hzstoncal Sketch of Parker County and Weatherford, Texas (St. Louis: Louis C.
Lavat, 1877); John W. Nix, Hstory of Springtown, Parker County, and the Tale of Two Schools (Fort
Worth- Thomason & Morrow, 1945), 25 (quotation), Ehzabeth Roe to Sheldon F. Gauthier, c.
1938, interview, Tarrant County, District #7, Works Progress Administration Federal Writers'
Project, 1936-1940, <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/amhome.html> [Accessed Aug. 17, 2oo0].
According to Jeri Echeverria, "Parker County," in Ron Tyler et al. (eds.), The New Handbook of
Texas (6 vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), V, 63-65, the last Indian raid
recorded in the county occurred in 1874. The Parker County courthouse burned early m the
morning of May 13, 1874, and all records were destroyed. "The fire was evidently the work of an
incendiary, as at the time, there was no fire used m any portion of the building," concluded
Smythe, 293. If there were any criminal proceedings against participants in the massacre, no
trace of them remains, nor is there any hint in the traditional stories that the vigilantes ever suf-
fered any legal penalty for the murders.
s Smythe, Hstorcal Sketch of Parker County and Weatherford, Texas; John S. Grace and R. B.Jones,
A New Hstory of Parker County (1906; reprint, Weatherford: Taylor, 1987), 133-134, 141;
Weatherford Weekly Herald, May 1, 1913.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/324/: accessed November 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.